Listening to Spotify yesterday, i stumbled across a brand new Christian rapper I had never heard of before. His name is Result. The song i heard contained a very catchy hook that chanted, “We got sixty-six books and the Koran ain’t one!” It’s a great tune, and i highly recommend it:
However, the more i thought about that song, the more i thought of the post i planned on writing next. I could rewrite the hook of the song by saying, “We got sixty-six books and First Timmy is one!”
You see, because of a certain passage in 1 Timothy 2, too many writers, scholars, and pastors want to attribute it to someone other than Paul. Paul writes as follows in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, “A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment” (emphasis added).
By the time i have finished writing this article, i hope that you see and are convinced that “Paul cannot be accused of being a woman-hater.” In fact, i would like to argue today that Paul’s primary purpose in his statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is to show incredible love, grace, and protection to women, based both on the first three chapters of the Bible and another New Testament passage.
David Platt writes, “First Timothy 2:11-15 represents one of the most controversial passages in the New Testament.” And i will admit at the outset that my interpretation that follows is not explicitly found in any author i have ever read. To me, though, it does not follow that Paul (who said there is no male or female in Christ [Galatians 3:28]; who placed a woman’s name ahead of her husband’s most of the time [e.g. Romans 16:3]; who encouraged women to teach in certain settings [ Titus 2:3-4]) is misogynistic. There has to be a more basic reason to the shocking verse in 1 Timothy 2:12 than that the author (whether Paul [as i believe] or someone else) hates women.
Donald Guthrie writes, “Paul cannot be accused of being a woman-hater, as is sometimes alleged, on the strength of this evidence, since he acknowledges some women among his own fellow-workers, such as Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5) and Euodias and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3).” And i would add another woman to that list: Junia.
Romans 16:7 says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and fellow prisoners. They are noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles, and they were also in Christ before me.” A footnote in the HCSB adds, “Either a feminine name or ‘Junias,’ a masculine name.” In addition, a better translation of the first phrase of the second sentence in the verse would read, “They are of note among the apostles,” as in, “they are noteworthy as apostles.”
I bring Junia up because i read a book on her yesterday. Throughout the past century there has been some debate as to whether or not Junia/Junias was a woman or a man. John Chrysostom (fourth century A.D.) wrote, “Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” Epp presents a very convincing (and an extremely fair and balanced) argument for Junia being a woman and an apostle—not just known by the apostles. However, in my understanding, Epp’s argument takes an unfortunate logical jump when he writes, “Numerous scholars will accept [the exegesis presented in the book] and will declare that the assumed Pauline restriction on teaching in the church by women has disappeared.” I would simply counter by saying: the pastoral epistles in talking about offices in the local church never mention the office of apostles. They do mention pastor-teachers/elders and deacons though, and the first of these is specifically limited to men. Even though Paul had female coworkers, even though churches met in some of these women’s houses, even though Paul explicitly referred to one woman as an apostle, it does not therefore follow that women were allowed to be pastors or elders in churches. “The specificity of the application does not relegate the principle to the halls of cultural relativity.”
Another reason why we cannot relegate Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12 to a specific cultural situation in Ephesus in the first century is because of his argument in verses 13-14. Paul writes, “For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.”
David Platt explains about verse 13, “The basis for what Paul says goes all the way back to Genesis 1-2 when God created man before woman, a reality that undergirds the headship of man. Paul is not basing his view merely on human opinion, which changes, but on divine revelation which never changes.” And several pages earlier, he had helped us in our personal understanding of headship by explaining, “Male and female are equally valuable before God. Therefore, to demean men or women is to sin against God.” However we personally view the complementary relationship between men and women (specifically in the husband-wife relationship), dignity, respect, and love must dominate or it is not truly a complementarian, Biblical understanding.
To say that women are not permitted to teach as pastors does not mean that women are less valuable in God’s eyes than men, and it does mean simply that the church is to promote the created headship model of men to women. And this headship model (as we will see) was not to prevent, but to protect.
In verse 14, Paul brings up the fall from Genesis 3. He specifies that Eve was the one who was deceived. Platt again is helpful: “Satan subverted God’s design by approaching Eve instead of Adam, thereby undercutting Adam’s responsibility as the leader of his home.” He further writes:
In turn, Adam sat back and did nothing, and God’s design was distorted. In short, sin entered the world when man abdicated his God-given responsibility to lead. Man didn’t step up with godly, gracious leadership. Paul used this truth to say to the church that God’s design in the home and in the church is good. God’s design for qualified men to lead as elders is good, just as God’s design for godly men to lead as husbands is good. (emphasis added).
The second half of the “curse” that God pronounces on the woman in Genesis 3:16, is directly related to what Satan undermined here. Genesis 3:16 reads, “I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” One commentator explains,
The phrase your desire shall be for your husband (RSV), with the reciprocating he shall rule over you, portrays a marriage relation in which control has slipped from the fully personal realm to that of instinctive urges passive and active. ‘To love and to cherish’ becomes ‘To desire and to dominate’. While even pagan marriage can rise far above this, the pull of sin is always towards it.
I think it is very interesting, given that as a result of the fall women are more likely to try to usurp man’s created role, that Paul says two things. First, he has—based on the story of the fall—said that he does not permit women to teach. Second, he makes a strange statement about childbearing in verse 15. “She will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.” What Paul here shows is hope for women despite the fall into sin. He points out that the created order before the fall was to be male-led, so after the fall for a woman to honor God she must not try to usurp that authority. Second, he also points out the beautiful truth that despite the pain involved in childbirth, ultimately our salvation (Jesus) would come through a woman giving birth. And every Christian woman who has children can be reminded of Mary and Jesus and future freedom from the curse of sin during the childbearing agony.
But to return to verse 12, Paul does “not allow a woman to teach, or to have authority over a man.” At the end of this verse he writes, “Instead, she is to be silent.” If we look back at verse 11, we read, “A woman should learn in silence with full submission.” This does not mean that women are to be silent in church. That would be heavily sexist. Rather, Paul’s request for silence is explained by verse 12: when it comes to exercising the role of teaching elder they are to be silent, because that role is not for them according to the creation order of Genesis 1-2. Sproul has a helpful note on submissiveness. “Submission does not mean that one is inferior in being to another. Elsewhere, Paul applies the concept to wives (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34), husbands and wives (Eph. 5:21), children (3:4), slaves (Titus 2:9), prophets (1 Cor. 14:32), Christians (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Cor. 16:16; Titus 3:1), the church (Eph. 5:24), and even Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:28).”
And this is where the other New Testament passage comes in play. James 3:1 says, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.” James was more than likely the earliest book of the New Testament to be written. For this reason i do not find it hard to believe that Paul may have had a copy of it during his ministry. In addition, since it is Scripture, and since James was an apostle and leader in first century Christianity, Paul could very well have utilized this book in his other writings.
More could be written but suffice it to say that James’ point in 3:1 is to discourage “his readers from becoming teachers.” The Greek word here for teachers is from the exact same root word that Paul does not permit women to carry out. I want to see Paul’s refusal to allow women into the pastorate as a protection to them, much like Adam should have protected Eve from the deceit of the Serpent. “God’s original intention was no mere convention but a reflection of His protection.”
Moo goes on to say, “Teachers, because their ministry involves speech, the hardest of all parts of the body to control, expose themselves to greater danger of judgment. Their constant use of the tongue means they can sin very easily, leading others astray at the same time.” John MacArthur says, “It is important to note that James includes himself [we] with those who are subject to that stricter judgment. Not even the apostles and writers of Scripture were exempt.” For this reason, it is not just that so long as we make sure our messages are sound beyond reproach (Titus 2:8) that we escape the judgment. Just the fact that pastors teach and lead means that the judgment for them will be a closer, more thorough affair. Paul wanted to protect women from facing this more intense judgment, and for this reason did “not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.”
And it is in a moment like this where i think, “Man, how i would love to pull an Adam and abdicate my role to women. I don’t want to face judgment for my teaching.” The problem is that if i do that, then i am much more of a woman-hater than those who correctly say that women cannot be pastors will ever be, because i am saying, “You face God’s judgment for me. God called me, specifically, to a task, but i want you to take it from me.”
For this reason, men must man up, get off their video games, and chase after the call that God has placed on their lives. Women should never be able to say, “The men are not stepping up, so I guess we’ll have to.” If this is ever a legitimate argument, we as men have utterly failed in our role as men. Let’s sacrifice ourselves for the good of the women in our churches. Let’s step up and accept the mantle of leadership that will eventually be passed down to us. We must be willing to assume the responsibility for teaching/authority in our churches, and not abdicate that to women in a cowardly way. The stricter judgment must fall on men; we should not push women out into the path of this stricter judgment; and we should lovingly and respectfully plead with female “pastors” to step down and avoid the judgment that is sure to come.
In conclusion, i must quote David Platt again in an effort to encourage women to not just throw out their desire to teach the Bible in every capacity. He writes,
Scripture mentions a number of instances where women played a significant teaching role. Consider the following:
- Timothy received instruction from his mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14).
- Pricilla and her husband Aquila both took Apollos aside and “explained the way of God to him more accurately” (Acts 18:26).
There is also a more general teaching role in the New Testament, applying to both men and women. For example:
- Men and women both make disciples, which involves going, baptizing, and teaching people to obey everything Christ has commanded us (Matt 28:19-20).
- Paul told the whole church—men and women—to be “teaching and admonishing one another” as the word of Christ dwelt in them richly (Col 3:16).
- Paul seemed to allow for women praying and prophesying in public worship, though with proper humility and submission (1 Cor 11).
Women who are gifted at teaching should use their gifts to build up the body of Christ but not in the role of elder.
May God use you greatly—men as you pastor, and women and men as you teach in various non-pastoral roles!
I love you!
Soli Deo Gloria
 E.g. Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: the first woman apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 81.
 Donald Guthrie, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – The Pastoral Epistles, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2009), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 90.
 David Platt, “1 Timothy,” in Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Christ-Centered Expositions (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), 40.
 Donald Guthrie, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – The Pastoral Epistles, 89-90.
 Quoted in Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: the first woman apostle, 32.
 Ibid., 81.
 William D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 130.
 David Platt, “1 Timothy,” 47. Emphasis in original.
 Ibid., 42.
 Ibid., 47.
 Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries – Genesis, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 76.
 R. C. Sproul, ed., ESV Reformation Study Bible, Condensed Edition (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2017), 1819.
 Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 148.
 John A. Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2009), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 114.
 Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, 149-150. Emphasis in original.
 John MacArthur, James (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998), 150.
 David Platt, “1 Timothy,” 44-45.