First, the context of our verse tells us a whole lot. Here it is in context,
8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.1 Timothy 2:8-15
Paul’s immediate justification, because I assume he thought his readers would ask that question, is to point to the Creation order. Recall, (from Tom Shipley’s Man and Woman in Biblical Law, linked on our Resources page),
- God created Adam first.
- God created the woman from Adam.
- God brought the woman to Adam.
- Adam named the woman in her general characteristics: “Woman”
- Adam named her in her specific person, “Eve.”
Clearly, from the beginning, God instituted a patriarchal order which Paul affirms in our cornerstone verse,
3 But I want you to understand that Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Messiah.1 Corinthians 11:3
Paul’s justification for a woman not teaching stems from the Creation Order, not from a specific command. But, he further gives a particular reason for that predated the Fall. He says,
13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.1 Timothy 2:13-14
Modern egalitarian Christianity regards Paul as just being mysogynistic here and forgets that this is the Word of God being cited. And, Paul is not inconsistent in his message concerning headship and the roles of man and woman. Ever heard the phrase, ‘wives, submit to your husband…?’
Paul clearly understands and is teaching the authority structure found throughout the whole of the Tanak.
God => Messiah => man => woman
If at any point woman is teaching, then by definition she is in an authority position over the man. Consider the parallel.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.Ephesians 5:22ff
The parallel is Messiah and the Assembly. Messiah is in the parallel role of man and the Assembly in the role of woman. Does the Assembly, aka ‘church’, ever teach Messiah??
That may seem like a stretch, but it is the natural progression of inverting the order of the authority structure. But, there is another avenue we must explore.
There is no Torah command, but what is the example we see from Torah?
God gave Adam the command regarding the Tree of Knowledge and it was Adam’s responsibility to teach that to Eve. See Genesis 2:17-18.
God commanded Abraham and it was Abraham’s responsibility to teach his house. Genesis 17:23; 18:19, etc
All Torah commands were given to the sons of Israel to implement in their respective houses as we have previously revealed. I.e., men teaching their women and children. The lone exception is the command of Passover, given to the edah, instead of bney Israel which exactly parallels Paul’s instruction regarding salvation to all equally in Galatians 3:28. Cf. Exodus 12:3ff, 43-49 and Galatians 3:26-29.
But we have the further example of God choosing Levite men as teachers and scribes and a man as the High Priest. In fact, the teaching role always goes to men, over and over. Even in the Brit Chadashah, Yeshua did not choose any women as disciples or apostles. None.
No author of Scripture, that I know of, was a woman.
Every one of Paul’s ‘job description’ lists for elders and overseers lists the qualification of ‘husband.’ Last I checked….
God, nor Paul or Moses, are mysogynistic. They simply adhere to the ‘order’ of authority. God equipped imperfect men in a certain way and decreed that they are in authority. Period.
So, what do we do with the several seeming ‘odd’ cases, or rule breakers like Deborah the Judge or Lydia in the New Testament? Or, Sarah and Miriam, referred to as prophetesses.
First, I do not see where any wrote or recorded Scripture. That should be instructive. Further, in most cases (excepting Sarah and Miriam), it seems pretty clear they filled a gap that men were supposed to be filling, but had shirked their duties. In any case, it is very clear, they are exceptions and God acknowledges them in Scripture, but there is not much more than that.
Paul, on the firm foundation of Creation Order, the example of Yeshua, and 4000 years of recorded history, draws the obvious conclusion that woman is not to be teaching man. That is inverting the order.
We can write it off to culture or ancient times, but we do so to our peril. I’ll stand with Paul, Moses and Abraham. I am responsible for my house and I look to Scripture and the Messiah for instruction.
When women can teach…
It is important at this point to acknowledge that many women have teaching gifts and have much knowledge to share. Paul addressed this when he says,
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.Titus 2:1-5
Women have a teaching role. Once mature, an ‘older woman’ is to ‘train the young women’ in a number of duties and attitudes related to the proper roles and responsibilities in the home and in support of the husband.
Paul specifically tells Titus, ‘This is sound doctrine….’
Proverbs additionally portrays wisdom as a woman and specifically tells the hearer,
Hear, my son,your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Torah).
My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching (Torah) of your mother.Proverbs 1:8; 6:20
Clearly, part of a mother’s role is to be teaching in the home. During the formative years of a child, the woman is to be teaching all manner of wisdom regarding not only life and health, but the basic principles of Torah! She is the primary initial conduit through whom the father instructs the child.
The church laments its internal collapse. The divorce rate mirrors that of the world. Children act like hellions and leave the fold as soon as they set foot on a college campus. Women don’t marry and the ‘baby rate’ is below the replacement rate. Various other ills and inhabit the church leading to its demise.
Why? Because we insist on doing things the ‘world’s way’ in an effort to be palatable to the masses. The result is that the salt has no saltiness. One of those areas is disobeying 4000 years of Scripture and Creation Order codified in Biblical culture by handing the teaching reins to women.
Restoring the Foundation
One great challenge faced by kol Israel, the congregation of the righteous, is the lack of men in teaching roles. Because of this shortage, a number of good and even gifted women have stepped into Torah teaching roles, however, this ought not be so. Men must fulfill their responsibility to lead from the front and women must resist the urge to step into any gap simply because a man isn’t doing what (she thinks) he is supposed to be doing.
I will not listen to, or place myself under the authority of, a woman teaching Scripture. There is a reason Paul says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…” We disregard his advice to our own peril.
Teaching v Sharing
Some may ask if there is a difference between teaching and ‘sharing,’ and this author believes there can be. Granted, this is a very fine line, however the attitude of the speaker, the subject matter, and the tone of delivery all can factor into how the material being shared it received. There is a big difference between authoritative instruction and offering a perspective. There is also a big difference between leading or guiding a discussion and asking a few questions or adding a thought. Generally, the difference maker is in how the material being added is presented.
Paul appears to take the matter of women speaking in the congregation a good bit further when he says,
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Torah also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper (shameful) for a woman to speak in the assembly.1 Corinthians 14:34-35
While we can debate the details of this verse and attempt to circumvent the instruction using cultural and temporal arguments, the clear point we can deduce is that it is pretty hard for a woman to teach if she is not supposed to talk. Therefore, this passage functions easily as a second witness to Paul’s words, “..I do not allow a woman to teach…”
Paul affirms over and over that wives are to be in submission to their husbands, and the entire Scripture affirms again and again that the created order, to which we are to be restored, is one of loving interaction and support between the genders while each operates within their assigned area of responsibility.
Man and woman are to be a reflection of Messiah and the Assembly (Ephesians 5:22-33). By God’s design and decree, man is the head of woman and therefore is to be the leader and teacher. Woman is designed as the helper and imager of the Assembly and is to learn and grow that she might be presented as a righteous and holy bride. The picture and purpose that God designed in the genders is broken when we invert the order by placing woman in a teaching role and/or giving her authority over a man. For this reason, Paul, speaking with the authority of God, says, “…I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…”