Raleigh, NC is filled with highly educated, sophisticated women who assume powerful roles in the workplace, in various ministries and throughout the community. Women have a strong legacy of successful leadership in the Raleigh area, so confusion often arises when opponents of Christianity accuse the Bible of prohibiting women from teaching or leading. The most commonly cited Bible verses to support this claim include 1 Timothy 2: 11-12, Ephesians 5:22-23, and 1 Peter 3:1-4.
This series of articles will examine these Bible verses in context and look at other passages throughout the Bible to assess its overall position on the role of a married woman and the value God places on all women. While these passages have been interpreted differently by various denominations and inaccurately used by some men to justify unbiblical oppressive behavior, this series will present the prevailing interpretations of these passages by the evangelical community. This first installment will examine the often debated passage from 1 Timothy 2.
“A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12, NASB)
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, a minister of the gospel serving in Ephesus, around 66 A.D. The Jews had just begun fighting their Roman oppressors. Paul urged young Timothy to lead local believers in praying for all people, specifically the king and those in authority, and in praying for a peace to reign so that the gospel message may continue to be taught without hindrance.
Instructions on Prayer
Paul gave instructions on how to pray appropriately. Men must approach prayer with clean hearts, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing (verse 8). Women were to pray likewise but also with modesty, self-control and tranquility (verse 9). Such a demeanor would maintain proper order and promote heart-felt, focused prayer. Elaborate hairstyles and expensive dress were discouraged in verse 9 because these would have made the woman stand out and would have distracted others. Any participant who did not exercise self control or maintain a quiet spirit would have disrupted the prayer meeting.
In this time period and culture, women did not typically receive a formal education, so the fact that women were included and instructed on how to pray and on how to learn would have been liberating for women in that culture. When the gospel truths are presented, women were instructed to learn in quietness and in full submission. The Greek word for “learn” in this passage is in the present imperative tense. Not only are women allowed to learn, but they are commanded to learn the way of salvation. The Greek word translated as “quietly” refers to a state of tranquility. The passage is not saying that women must not speak at all, but rather that they should learn and ask questions as needed with a calm spirit of self control. Most any educator would agree that lessons are best received by students who are calm and attentive and in an atmosphere that is calm and orderly. (Source)
The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 provides evidence that Jesus desires for women to learn spiritual truths and come to know Him personally. Martha was distracted with all the work she thought needed to be done during Jesus’ visit while her sister, Mary, sat quietly at Jesus’ feet listening to all that He said. Martha did exactly what 1 Timothy 2 instructs women not to do. She grumbled and complained when she should have been calmly listening to Jesus’ teaching.
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Would Jesus have made learning such a priority for women only to have them keep all that spiritual truth to themselves? The gospel is so powerful and life changing that it emanates out of all a person does or says. While a woman should remain quite while learning spiritual truth, she must not remain silent forever. God’s message should be shared with others.
It is also interesting to note that the first person Jesus appeared to after the resurrection was a woman. He tenderly approached Mary Magdalene as she stood outside the empty tomb crying. He revealed Himself to her and then instructed her to go and tell his brothers. Jesus chose a woman to be the first witness of His resurrected body and to make the first announcement of His resurrection.
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17).
Please click here for the continuation of this analysis of 1 Timothy 2.
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