WHAT DOES 1 TIM 2:11-12 TEACH?
October 1, 1997 Issue
by Johnny Elmore
For a good many years now, we have understood that I Tim 2:11,12 forbids women teaching in an assembly of the church, including what some have called "Bible classes." Quite clearly, this passage prohibits women being preachers or public teachers in the church, but is it not more inclusive as well? It would seem that some are of the persuasion that so long as the teaching is not in an assembly of the church, it is permitted. If true, women could teach or preach the Bible on the radio, on the street corner, in a restaurant or to a group of church members assembled for Bible study.
Paul wrote: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" (1 Tim. 2 12). Here the apostle gave two negative commands concerning women. He used the word "silence" before the first negative command, and he also used the word "silence" after the second negative command. He preceded the command, "But I suffer not a woman to teach" with the first use of the word "silence." So, wherever I Tim 2:11,12 applies, women must be in silence. They are to learn, not teach.
The second negative command, v. 12, is "Nor to usurp authority over the man." This command is also followed by the word "silence." To what does the second use of the word "silence" refer? Does it refer to teaching? No, Paul has already settled that with the first negative command. It refers to the second command, "Nor to usurp authority over the man." Women must be silent in any activity that would involve exercising dominion over the man wherever this command applies. Therefore any activity that would involve them in exercising dominion over men, such as leading prayers, singing, or presiding at the Lords table, must be avoided.
Some have tried to limit this teaching to the assembly, however, Paul has in view "men praying everywhere" (v. 8), and then refers to women with the words "in like manner" (v. 9). Are we to understand that women are to dress modestly "with shamefacedness and sobriety" only in the assembly? And then are we to understand that women may teach or preach on the radio, on the street corner, to a group assembled for Bible study, or in a restaurant or some other public place, just so long as it is not in the assembly? Remember, if I Tim 2:11,12 does not apply to these situations, I Cor 14:34,35 will not prohibit it.
Ellicott comments on the Greek word for "learn," manthano, and states that it is "in antithesis to didasko." On the subject of Christianity changing the primal relationship of women to men, he also states: "While it animated and spiritualized their fellowship, it no less definitely assigned to them their respective spheres of action; teaching and preaching to men, mental receptivity and activity in family life to women. Neander. Planting, Vol. I, p. 147 (Bohn). What grave arguments these few verses supply us with against some of the unnatural and unscriptural theories of modem times" (Ellicott, p. 52). Thus, the role of the woman is "in antithesis to" or in contrast to being a teacher. Thayer defines didasko as "to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses," while manthano is defined as "to learn, be appraised." Ellicott also says, "Every form of public address or teaching is clearly forbidden as at variance with womans proper duties and destination" (Ibid.)
Alford states on I Tim 2:11-12, "Let a woman learn (in the congregation, and everywhere: see below) in silence in all (possible) subjection (the thought of the public assemblies has evidently given rise to the precept (see I Cor. xiv. 34); but he carries it further than can be applied to them in the next verse): but (the contrast is to a suppressed hypothesis of a claim to do that which is forbidden: cf. a similar de, I Cor. xi 16) to a woman I permit not to teach (in the church (primarily), or as the contest shews, anywhere else..." (Alford, p. 319).
Think about the outstanding characteristics of Bible classes and Sunday school, and then think of what we have when Bible studies, closely resembling church assemblies, are arranged by the leadership of the church and all of a certain age or class are invited and it becomes a platform for women to do some teaching. The supposed "desire for teaching" becomes a forum for these women to air their views and "show off" their Bible knowledge. Think about this, brethren! If we can have a young peoples group in a home or somewhere else, can we have an old peoples group and a ladies group simultaneously across town, with women doing some of the teaching? If not, why not? And if we can meet at 7:30 Friday evening, could we meet at 9:30 Sunday morning? Surely we could! And if our houses "joined hard" (next door) to the church meeting house, could we still have our meetings? If so, would someone please explain to me the difference in that and Bible classes, aka Sunday school? Surely the fact that the Bible classes are in a building owned by the church does not make the difference. Surely what Paul is forbidding is women leaving their God-given roles and trying to occupy the role of men.
Inconsistency of practice and a desire for a broader fellowship (perhaps) have caused the old anti-Sunday school, individual cups brethren to start referring to themselves as "non-Sunday school." In other words, they are no longer opposed to Sunday school, they simply dont have it. Of course, some have completely capitulated and have women doing things reserved exclusively for men, such as serving the communion. Let us be careful that we do not go beyond the limits of the New Testament and abandon the ground that our predecessors fought so hard to gain. Remember 2 John 8, "Look to yourselves, that we lost not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward."
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