“Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
In considering a challenging passage like 1 Timothy 2:11-12, we should carefully note the words that are used and what those words mean. This is especially true of phrases like dominion or authority (NIV) within these verses. We can gain a better understanding of these words if we take time to consider their definitions…
- “to exercise authority on one’s own account, to domineer over.” (1)
- “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.” (2)
- “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic.” (3)
One Biblical scholar builds upon these definitions with the following observation: “This Gk. word appears only here in the NT and is used by Paul to refer to some level of judicial or governing authority.” (4) With these things in mind, we can ask the following question: “What position allows someone to teach and/or exercise this level of authority over men and women within a church?”
When presented in this manner, the most reasonable answer would be a Bishop or the Pastors who lead a local congregation. These titles find their origin in the word “episkopos” in the original language of the New Testament and refer to someone who is an overseer or superintendent. Paul the Apostle will detail the qualifications for this position later in 1 Timothy chapter three but for now, we can turn to the following commentator for additional insight into this term…
“The context here has to do with church order, and the position of the man and woman in the church worship and work. The kind of teacher Paul has in mind is spoken of in Act_13:1, 1Co_12:28-29, and Eph_4:11, God-called, and God-equipped teachers, recognized by the Church as those having authority in the Church in matters of doctrine and interpretation.” (5)
Once again, it’s important to reiterate that this passage does not universally prohibit women from engaging in a teaching ministry. In fact, Paul will later go on to instruct women to engage in that very practice (see Titus 2:3-5). Nor do these verses necessarily preclude women from holding positions of subordinate oversight within the church. (6)
However, it also seems clear from this passage that men who are called of God should fill the role of a primary congregational leader. While this is a controversial position in certain circles of the church, we’ll examine the Biblical argument for that position over the next two studies.
(1) G831 authenteo Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(2) NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:12 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2
(3) G831 authenteo Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g831
(4) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2158). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(5) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 2:11-12) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(6) However, this view is open to debate in a mixed group setting given the injunction against a woman “having authority over a man” in 1 Timothy 2:12.