“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:12-14
My inner feminist cringes at that passage.
I am a Christian, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ at age 9, and yet this passage still makes me flinch. I admit, I have a tiny little feminist voice inside me, demanding to be heard; I like to call her “Wilhelmina.” You have one too. Every American female born after 1970 has one. We were indoctrinated with the feminist agenda from birth. We grew up in a world saturated by feminist ideals. Our childhood dreams and ideals were shaped by feminism, influencing us to grow up demanding our rights, asserting our independence and screaming “girl power”. Does this passage bother you?…. that would be the feminist agenda speaking.
My inner feminist demanded to be heard at a very young age.
At age of 10, I knew in my heart that girls were just as good as boys. I knew that Jesus loved ALL the little children. So every time my brothers and their friends taunted me with insults, well, I took care of matters and whopped them a good one.
By the age of 12, I had taken a very vocal stance against jokes and taunts that put down women. I was openly rude, to the point of ruining my witness as a believer to claim my rights as a woman.
At 17, I was struggling with the concept of becoming a godly woman and all that entailed. The idea of submission rankled. The idea that I was not good enough to lead, but only to be a helper, had me spitting nails in fury. Yet I still loved God and desired to serve Him. So how did I plan to avoid the icky passages in the Bible?…. just not get married.
At 19, I had a crisis of feminist belief. My inner feminist was telling me one thing, while the Bible clearly said another. Who was I to trust? It took a lot of soul searching, but when push came to shove, God won out over “Wilhelmina.” After all, Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross so that I could live free of sin. What had the feminist agenda ever sacrificed for me? Jesus loved me. The feminist agenda used me.
At 23, I entered seminary, confident that my Lord loved me and had a good reason for denying me positions of authority and teaching men. I didn’t understand God’s reason on the matter, but I trusted His goodness. Since then, I have learned how to really dig into Scripture and God’s magnificent plan for women is made clear through this passage! “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:12-14
What 1 Timothy 2:14 Does NOT Mean:
Misinterpretation #1: This passage is written to address a specific sin issue in Ephesus and is not a command for us today.
Egalitarian authors Pierce and Grootheus wrote that this passage spoke to the specific cultural situation in Ephesus, because the women were influenced by the cult of Artemis, in which the female was exalted and considered superior to the male. For them, the cultural circumstance explains away the controversial statements in verses 13 and 14. In their words, Paul is refuting the idea of that culture that Artemis appeared first and then her male consort. Kroeger, another egalitarian author, explains verses 13-14 by blaming the false teachings of the Gnostic sect. The Gnostics taught that Eve pre-existed Adam; in one account she was actually a hermaphrodite from whom Adam was created. The true story of the Bible is the exact opposite. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, (v. 13). And Eve was deceived to boot (v. 14) – which was how Paul proved that women have no basis for superiority over men.
The egalitarian explanation, or rather dismissal, of this passage is not an adequate argument. They are saying that it is okay to ignore commands of Scripture because it was written to a specific issue in the Early Church. What happened to, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”? (2 Timothy 3:16) The truth is that the majority of Paul’s writings were written to address specific issues/circumstances faced by the church, but that does not mean that Paul’s teachings apply only to those circumstances within that culture. ALL scripture comes straight from the mouth of God and is good for training believers in righteousness!
Misinterpretation #2: Women are more easily deceived, more easily led to sin, and because of that would make terrible leaders in the church.
This is a view called “Male Dominance,” which promotes a man asserting his will over the woman’s will, heedless of her spiritual equality, her rights and her value in the site of God. The Male Dominance view is the antithesis of the Biblical understanding. The Male Dominance view holds that women are unfit to serve as leaders in the church because they are more likely to sin. But if this is true, then why are women allowed to teach other women…or children? Wouldn’t they just corrupt the next generation? According to this view point, women are good for nothing but cleaning bathrooms and cooking Sunday lunch. You are allowed to get upset at this view, because it is not of the Bible! Both Adam and Eve sinned! The Male Dominance view completely ignores huge chunks of scripture. A few examples: Romans 3:23, which tell us that ALL have sinned. Romans 16:17-18, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 2:8, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 warn both male and female believers against being deceived by false teachers. And Romans 5:12 says that sin entered the world through Adam, and does not mention Eve.
So, are women more easily deceived?
Are women more easily deceived? I think the answer is yes. Now hold on, before your inner feminist jumps up on her soapbox and does an outraged little jig, do me a favor- slap your hand over her mouth and just listen to God’s Word.
Let me ask the question a different way – How does Satan tempt a woman to sin? Does he flash pornography before her eyes or dare her to defy God’s commands? No. Most godly women would see right through those blatant temptations to sin. So how does Satan tempt women to sin? Let’s look at Eve in Genesis 3 for a step-by-step example. In verse 1, the serpent said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” He asked a supposedly innocent question with an undertone of doubt. Then in verse 3, the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan caused the woman to doubt God’s motives. He did this by reinterpreting the intention behind God’s command. Never once did the serpent come out and blatantly attack God. No, Satan was subtle and crafty in his temptation of woman. Instead of directly attacking God, Satan asked a series of deceptive questions that led the woman to justify the sin. But what happened to Adam? Genesis 3:6 says, “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” With Adam there was no elaborate temptation, no lies or trickery. Adam had received the command directly from God, and yet when offered the forbidden fruit, he ate. Adam was not deceived, and sinned. Eve was deceived, and sinned. The end result is the same (sin…separation from God), which is why this passage cannot mean that Eve is a worse sinner. But the fact remains that, in general, women are more easily deceived into sin.
That does not make women more sinful than men. It means that Satan has a different strategy to tempt women than he does to tempt men. Satan preys on women in their weakness, just as he preys on men in their areas of weakness. In Eve’s case, Satan subtly tricked her, deceived her, seduced her to sin by making an offer that sounded reasonable and desirable. Satan deceived Eve into eating of the Tree of Knowledge through a clever combination of half-truths and falsehoods disguised as truth. A woman is drawn into sin through a subtle series of little deceptions. As women, it is the little lies, the nagging doubts, the questioning of God’s goodness that leads us down the pathway to sin. For men, sinning is one big step: they are tempted and they sin or they don’t sin. For women, sinning is a series of tiny steps and small justifications that lead her down a winding gray pathway that ends in sin. Paul is not slighting women in pointing out that it was the woman who was deceived. He was making a point about gender roles. In case you haven’t noticed, men and women are D-I-F-F-E-R-E-N-T! If you have ever lived with a father, brother, husband or son, you are well aware of this fact. God explains this in Genesis 2:15 and 2:18 when he outlines His purpose for men and women. Man was created to protect, provide and lead. Woman was created as a helper and supporter. Both were created to fill the earth and subdue it. But the fact remains that men and women are fundamentally, astronomically different beings. So….it makes complete sense that men would be tempted one way and women would be tempted in a completely different way.
So, are women more easily deceived? Yes. Does this make her more sinful than men? No. Does this make her less qualified to serve God? No!
So Eve was deceived, but what does that have to do with her ability to teach men?
Before I can answer that question, we need a brief Greek lesson. Now don’t zone out; I paid good money to learn Greek, so take advantage of this free gift! Now, in the original Greek, verses 12-14 are all one grammatical thought, which means that we can’t just look at vs. 14 alone to find out the meaning of “Eve was deceived.” We have to look at the whole group of verses. In the Greek text, vs. 12 is the main clause, which means that it expresses a complete thought; it is Paul’s main point. Verse 13 begins with the preposition “for” (gar) indicating that vs. 13 is a dependent clause. What is a dependent clause, you ask? A dependent clause is a phrase that does not form a complete sentence and serves to explain the main clause. The verse in question, vs. 14, is also a dependent clause that refers back to the main clause in vs. 12. Paul issued a command in vs. 12 and now he is giving two reasons to back it up. Verse 14 begins with the conjunction “and” (καὶ), which shows us that both of Paul’s reasons (vs. 13 and vs. 14) were equally important in explaining vs. 12. So, what does all this Greek grammar mean in English? Paul is saying, “I command (vs. 12) for this reason (vs. 13) and for this reason (vs. 14).
Why does all this Greek grammar matter? Because it reveals the pattern of Paul’s argument and helps clear up this confusing passage! Paul gives a command in verse 12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. He gives the Scriptural foundation for this command in verses 13 and 14. Paul offers two reasons why the women were to receive instruction quietly and submissively in the worship assembly rather than teaching or exercising authority over men. In verse 13, Paul gives the positive reason for the command in verse 12; his reason was, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Paul’s first reason for the command is found in Genesis 2: God created men and women equal, but with very different gender roles. God created men to protect, provide and lead their families; He created women as helpmeet. In verse 14, Paul gives the negative reason for his command, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Paul’s second reason for the command is found in Genesis 3: Adam and Eve sinned – they defied what God told them to do and who He created them to be. Eve asserted her independence, stopped being Adam’s helper and became his boss. Adam made no effort to protect, provide for, or lead his wife; he chickened out. Both of their actions were sin. Eve was deceived and Adam was not, yet both sinned. Both abdicated their God-given gender roles in favor of the fleeting promises of sin. Here in 1 Timothy, women are cautioned of the danger of rejecting their God-ordained role as helpmeet. In Romans 5:12-14, God holds Adam alone responsible for the actions of the couple, because Adam was appointed head by God, and through this passage men are warned not to reject their God-appointed role as leader, protector and provider. Paul is commanding women not to teach or have authority over men in the church because to do so would require them to abdicate their God-ordained gender role….and lead to sin.
Eve was deceived so now I’m paying with silence?
I am not “paying” for anything; Jesus saved me from everything. Paul’s command in verse 12 is not a disciplinary sentence, but a calling. Jesus is calling women to embrace the way He created them to be and operate within His design, so that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords might be glorified through mere sinners.
It’s not about your inner feminist getting on her high horse and taking an offense. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 is about women, as equal members of the Body of Christ, behaving in such a way that Christ is glorified to the world. This prohibition on women teaching or having authority over men has absolutely NOTHING to do with talent, abilities, gifting, or education. It is about obeying Jesus so that the world can see Him in me … and in you.
I will willingly not teach or have authority over men, simply because my Jesus asked me to glorify Him in this way. My inner feminist can pitch a hissy fit all she wants – the feminist agenda is not my savior. Jesus loves me. The feminist agenda uses me.
I choose Jesus.
- Greek Grammar by Wallace
- Biblical Commentaries on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch Vol. 1 by Keil and Delitzsch
- Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 46, Pastoral Epistles by Mounce
- The International Critical Commentary; The Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus)
- Women’s Evangelical Commentary of the New Testament by Dorothy Patterson
- Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
- Discovering Biblical Equality by Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Groothus (Egalitarian)
- I Suffer Not a Woman by Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger (Egalitarian)