(1 Tim 2:11-14) A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
Notice a few interesting things here.
* Paul instructs that “a woman should learn.” This was contrary to the cultural norms of the day. The Jews offered a limited education to their daughters, but girls didn’t study Torah. In some surrounding cultures, women were left altogether illiterate.
* “Quietness” in v. 11 is the same word that’s translated “silent” in v. 12 and “quiet” in 1 Tim 2:1-2 —
(1 Tim 2:1-2) I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
“Silent” is an indefensible translation. Strong’s definition is —
keeping one’s seat (sedentary), i.e. (by implication) still (undisturbed, undisturbing) — peaceable, quiet.
The real meaning is “peaceable.”
* The KJV translates “have authority” (authenteo) as “usurp authority,” which quite a different thing. This translation is very controversial nowadays, but “usurp authority” is correct.
First, authenteo is phrased in contrast to “be in quietness.” “Domineer” better suits the evident contrast.
Second, standard Greek dictionaries confirm this conclusion. Strong’s Dictionary defines authenteo –
to act of oneself, i.e. (fig.) dominate:-usurp authority over.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines the word –
to exercise authority on one’s own account, to domineer over, is used in 1 Tim. 2:12, A.V., “to usurp authority,” R.V. “to have dominion.” In the earlier usage of the word it signified one who with his own hand killed either others or himself. Later it came to denote one who acts on his own authority; hence, to exercise authority, dominion.
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996) translates,
one who acts on his own authority, autocratic, … an absolute master … to exercise dominion over one … 1 Tim. ii.12.
Spiros Zodhiates The Complete Word Study Dictionary-New Testament (AMG International, Inc.: 1992) translates –
to use or exercise authority or power over as an autocrat, to domineer (1 Tim. 2:12).
The Revised Standard Version translates “have dominion.” Many other translations are similar: New English Bible: “domineer over”; American Standard Version: “have dominion over”; Living Bible: “lording over.” Of course, many other translations, including the NIV, translate “authority over.”
Third, other Greek sources use the word in this sense. Carroll Osburn, a professor at ACU, comments in Women in the Church 2, p. 82,
Both from the first century BC, a papyrus in Berlin clearly has the meaning “to domineer,” as does Philodemus, who mentions “dominating masters.”
Osburn points out further examples of the meaning domineer in the writings of early Christians, pp. 217-219, John Chrysostum (4th Century) and Hippolytus (3rd Century).
And so, we re-translate —
(1 Tim 2:11-14) A woman should learn in [peaceableness] and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to [domineer] over a man; she must be [peaceable]. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
Now, as we see “teach” contrasted to “peaceable,” we must presume that Paul saw a woman teaching a man as somehow interfering with the peace of the church. Osburn argues,
Both “teach” and “domineer” have “man” as a direct object (here in the Greek genitive case because “domineer” takes that case). When, in Greek, two verbs are joined in this way, the nearer qualifies the farther. Hence, the lack of quietude/peacefulness that is stressed both before and after this admonition is countered by “not to teach in a domineering way.”
Page 112, relying in part on Herbert W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (rev. G. Messing; Cambridge, Harvard University Press 1956), pages 364-365. Osburn provides several New Testament examples in this construction where the second clause (”domineer” in this case) defines and limits the first clause (”teach”), p. 221, including Acts 4:18, Gal. 1:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; and Acts 16:21.
Greek scholars call this construction hendiadys.
Thus, the translation becomes,
(1 Tim 2:11-14) A woman should learn in [peaceableness] and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach [in a domineering way] over a man; she must be [peaceable]. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
We need to add one more wrinkle. The word translated “woman,” gune, is completely ambiguous and can mean either “wife” or “woman.” As Paul is arguing from Genesis 2, “wife” seems to fit the context better. Moreover, Paul concludes the chapter with v. 15, which says,
(1 Tim 2:15) But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
This is tough verse under any theory, but Paul surely has wives in mind, not unmarried women!
And the word translated “man” is equally ambiguous and could just as well refer to husbands.
Thus, our translation becomes,
(1 Tim 2:11-14) A [wife][ should learn in [peaceableness] and full submission. 12 I do not permit a [wife] to teach [in a domineering way] over a [husband]; she must be [peaceable]. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the [wife] who was deceived and became a sinner.
Thus, Today’s New International Version translates,
11 A woman [a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; [b][c] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women [d] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.Footnotes:
- 1 Timothy 2:11 Or wife; also in verse 2
- 1 Timothy 2:12 Or teach a man in a domineering way; or teach or to exercise (or have) authority over a man
- 1 Timothy 2:12 Or over her husband
1 Timothy 2:15 Greek she
The case isn’t made yet, but by now you should understand that the translations are sometimes biased and not nearly as clear as some would like to have it.
The reason this passage is so central to the “spiritual leadership” and paternalist positions is the obvious reliance of Paul on Genesis 2. As he’s building his case on Genesis 2, surely his commands are not merely referring to temporary, cultural concerns, it is argued.
But by now, we should already be suspicious of this argument. There is nothing in Genesis 1 – 2 that says women can’t teach men or have authority over men. (And it’s very unlikely that Genesis 2 tells us that Christian women may not have authority over men in church but may have authority over men in the world — which is how we normally interpret this passage. Where is that?)
I’d like to suggest that Paul was making a chiastic argument, which is a form of argument that was common in the First Century world. I suggest outlining the passage as follows (with a’ explaining point a and b’ explaining point b):
a women should learn in quietness and full submission
b do not teach or exercise authority (in a domineering way), but be peaceable
b´ For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
a´ Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
This structure is called a chiasm and was commonly used by the ancients in their writings. (The idea for a chiastic reading is from Osburn. My interpretation is a bit different from his.) In a chiasm, the arguments are arranged in the symmetric order shown, which would be unusual in our culture but not in Paul’s culture.
a. The reference to Eve being deceived makes the point that women should learn so as to avoid following Eve’s bad example in being deceived. When women do not study, they allow themselves to become victims of false teaching, and they can’t count on their husbands’ learning to protect themselves, any more than Eve was protected by Adam from the serpent’s lies.
This is exactly what was going on in Ephesus (the destination of 1 Timothy) at the time, and it continues to be sound advice (1 and 2 Timothy are filled with warnings against false teaching, especially against false teachers taking advantage of women). Paul’s first command is that the women “should learn.” Only by learning can the women avoid following in Eve’s footsteps.
Paul uses the account of Eve’s deception to make essentially the same point to all Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:3 –
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
As in 1 Timothy, Paul sees Eve’s sin as a warning to Christians against being led astray by false teachers.
b. The argument from the creation order does not indicate subordination. After all, in Genesis 1, man — male and female — was made last, but that hardly argues for subordination of the man to the animals! Moreover, we’ve already seen that the subordination of women begins with God’s curse of the Creation.
Thus, the point must be found in the purpose behind the order of creating men and women. Man was not good alone. He needed a suitable complement. God made women to complement their husbands.
Therefore, if a wife domineers, she fails to be the complement that God intended. The order-of-creation argument therefore is about duty of wives to be suitable complements for their husbands.
Thus, Paul says that women should learn because Eve was deceived (and women should not follow her bad example) and that wives should not domineer over their husbands, because they were created to be suitable complements, not dominators.
Nothing in this passage teaches that women are gullible or more gullible than men. Indeed, if being compared to Eve’s sin makes a gender gullible in God’s eyes, then both genders are gullible because both men and women are compared to Eve in 2 Corinthians 11:3. And Paul blames Adam for the Fall of Man in Romans 5.
The point isn’t whose fault the sin was or some odd notion that women inherit the sin of Eve. The point is that a wife is called to complete what’s lacking her husband, to be his companion, supporter, and friend. And therefore she should not do anything that might bring shame to him. And it was unthinkable in Jewish and many other cultures of the day for a woman to teach a man.
This interpretation has a lot going for it.
* It fits the Story. Paul is reminding wives of their role — defined in Eden — as suitable complements to their husbands. They should not bring shame to their husbands.
* It avoids the absurd notion that all women are more gullible than all men. That can’t be Paul’s argument.
* It avoids any implication that women are innately inferior to men.
* It’s avoids the idea that women gifted to teach cannot teach men even when the women are more knowledgeable in the subject.
* It restores us to the doctrine of gifts taught in 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12.
* It show Paul elevating women by assuring that they’re educated, just as Jesus had female disciples — contrary to the Jewish traditions of the day.
* It avoids the need for modern church leaders to rationalize. For example, it’s fairly common to ask a woman to run the preschool department and to then put a deacon between her and the elders, so there’s a man able to speak for her (poorly, as a rule) at the deacons meetings. There’s no need to limit church business meetings to just the men.
* It submits to God as giver of the Spirit and the Spirit as giver of gifts. It allows the church to use its talents where God is best served.
* It allows churches to have more balanced leadership. Does anyone believe that the Churches of Christ would be as divided and hateful to each other as they are today if women had more say so?
You know, when the US took over Iraq, they insisted that there be at least 25% women in the Iraqi parliament, because the presence of women would reduce the infighting. Now, there’s a gift our churches could use.