Special Study Regarding Women and 1 Timothy 2:11-12

Neil Short

This presentation is an analysis of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 in context. I will conclude that the point of 1 Timothy 2:12 has nothing to do with keeping women out of leadership roles in the church.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 (HCSB)
11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.

Most Bible students will agree that this passage is difficult to understand. What use are Paul’s three supporting points?

1. Adam was created first, then Eve.
2. The woman was deceived and transgressed.
3. The woman will be saved through childbearing.

I believe we can get a pretty clear understanding of point #1 and begin to understand points 2 and 3 if we dig into the likely heresies Paul was attempting to put down in his letter to the Ephesians and two letters to Timothy.

The two letters to Timothy are more than just personal letters. They are intended to be used by the church in a church context. We obviously look at those personal letters when we are looking for guidance in the selection of elders and deacons, for example. Most of us look at 1 Timothy 2 to attempt to glean some guidance about the proper role of women in a church context. While the letters to Timothy are written as open letters, we must accept that some things that are said in those two letters are very personal and refer to earlier conversations and/or sermons. I suspect the three supporting points above fit that context. They refer to points that were defended in previous sermons or Bible studies.


We look at the beginning of the Ephesian church as is documented in Acts 19.

Acts 19:9 – There were many Jewish Christians in Ephesus.
Acts 19:10 – There were many Greek Christians in Ephesus.
Acts 19:19 – Witchcraft was practiced in Ephesus.
Acts 19:23-28 – The goddess Artemis was worshiped in Ephesus. Ephesus was home to a major metal smith guild of idol makers.
Acts 19:33-34 – A man named Alexander lived in Ephesus. He was pushed forward by the rioters. He was supposed to say something with which (at least) some of the crowd would agree. He was not able to speak because when the people saw him they could see that he was a Jew. This man was possibly the coppersmith mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 4:14, who sided with the Jews against Paul.

That is the basic background. The rest of the information will need to be gleaned from the epistles.

There were various influences in the Ephesian church. When they came together they gave birth a new and unique heresy.


It is not difficult to spot Jewish influences in Ephesus. Ephesians 2:11-3:6 betrays the usual Judeo-centric heresy that salvation requires conversion to the Jewish religion.


Ephesians 5:3-20 is a reminder to avoid pagan practices.


There was some kind of weird eschatology being taught in Ephesus as evidenced by 2 Timothy 2:18.

“They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are overturning the faith of some.”


There is strong evidence in the epistles of John that heresy strongly resembling later Gnosticism was on the loose in the church. For example,

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! (2 John 1:7)

There is evidence of Gnosticism influences in Ephesus as well, such as,

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

The suspicion of Gnostic influences in Ephesus is consistent with several features of the Ephesian heresy. There was advocacy of forbidding marriage (1 Timothy 4:3) and apparent attempts to avoid conceiving children (1 Timothy 5:14; 2:15). To Gnostics, bearing children locked their souls into the physical world and prevented them from their anticipated spiritual ascent (Bob Edwards, Other 1st Century Jewish Writers Who Used Greek Words Like “Authentein," https://equalityworkbook.wordpress.com/ , accessed 20190429).

2 Timothy 2:18 is right next to 2 Timothy 2:19 which charges believers to turn away from wickedness. It seems the former claim (the resurrection had already taken place) was being used as justification for practicing wickedness.

There was a teaching (post-eschatology) in Ephesus that was being forwarded as justification for sin.

Ephesians 5:3 warns against fornication.

In Thyatira (an Asian church mentioned in the book of Revelation), there was a woman (nicknamed Jezebel) who was teaching that fornication was alright (Revelation 2:20).

One more passage and we can start to see a picture.

1 Timothy 4:1-5 (HCSB)

1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 3 They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.

Our knee-jerk reaction here is to understand the above teaching is an outgrowth of Jewish influences; but it is almost certainly the teaching of a pagan or Wiccan influence. Evidently the post-resurrection teaching led to a set of doctrines based upon what life should be like in a post-resurrection environment. People would no longer marry or be given in marriage (Mark 12:25 = Matthew 22:30 = Luke 20:35); and they would eat like humans did before “the fall.” That is, food for people post-resurrection would be the same as the food for people in the days of the Garden of Eden. They would eat only vegetables. Thus, Paul gives defense that anything good for food is God blessed as long as it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4-5). Paul reveals that the immediate teachings of forbidding marriage and certain foods is connected with myths and wives’ tales (1 Timothy 4:7).

There is a fascinating extension of the post-resurrection heresy that Gnosticism almost certainly influenced. The Gnostic had their own Creation Myth ("On the Origin of the World." The Nag Hammadi Library. ed. James M. Robinson. HarperSanFrancisco: 1988. 171-189). The Gnostic tradition has the woman being created first (109:20-25; 113:20-25) and later the man was formed out of the earth by seven rulers and animated by a celestial named Sophia Zoe (115:11-14). The first human, who was a woman, was called "the instructor" (113:21-28). She (Eve) was given the task of teaching the man (Adam) everything necessary that he needed to have children who could contain light (have souls). Her first task was to teach him how to walk. Essentially, Adam was an full-grown infant and needed to be taught everything beginning with the basics. In Gnostic fashion, the more knowledge Adam gained, the stronger his spirit. More knowledge, to a Gnostic, means more like the gods. A sufficient amount of divine knowledge permitted a person's soul to ascend to the level of the gods.

I hope you can imagine that a doctrine that advocated a return to Eden included forcing men into the role of children who must be taught by women who, by definition, are the grownups. If this Gnostic heresy was on the lose in the Ephesian church, would not 1 Timothy 2:12-13 be a clear refutation of that false doctrine. Furthermore, a heresy that believed people's souls could not ascend to heaven if they were trapped in their children would advocate non-procreation. Such a heresy would be refuted by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:15.

There is an important myth in Ephesus that bears on this topic. That myth is that Artemis was born before Apollo! If the believers in Ephesus blended the Adam and Eve account with the Artemis and Apollo myth then there would be an even stronger basis for the claim that Eve was created before Adam! That false doctrine further supports a motive for women to assume preeminence over men. They were created first (according to myth) and Artemis has preeminent authority over god’s (Zeus’) people.

It is neither Artemis nor Apollo nor Eve nor Adam who lead’s God’s people. It is Christ, as is the point of Ephesians 1:4. Christ preexisted the creation (and thus, any myths about Artemis and Apollo).

Immortality is a basic feature of the doctrine of Christ (2 Timothy 1:10, 13-14). If the resurrection has already taken place, then people should be immortal; but clearly, mortality is still a feature of earthly life.

If there is no longer any marriage, then (by logical extension) there is no need for sexual fidelity; so fornication is just fine in a post-resurrection setting (according to this heresy).

Paul says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (vs 12). The Greek word that is translated “authority” here is rare. It appears only one place in the entire New Testament. Right here. On the other hand, the other Greek words that are typically translated “authority” (there are four) are all over the New Testament. They all mean “authority” in a regular, privilege/delegated sense. For example, Pilate had “authority” to crucify Jesus (John 19:10). In 1 Timothy 2:12, the word means to dominate/usurp authority. It refers to a person who exercises dominance, often without delegation. The word is negative and often (in Greek literature) refers to somebody who is taking it upon himself to do something illegal (Strong). That’s the word employed here that women should avoid doing. Nobody should act in this kind of authority. Nobody has regular authority to act with this kind of authority (Luke 22:24-27; Matthew 20:25-28).

Someone was supporting the right of a woman to dominate a man by claiming that Eve was created before Adam (as in the Gnostic Creation Myth). Paul refutes this point by reminding the church (through this letter to Timothy). Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Timothy 2:13). Someone in Ephesus was using Gnostic creation myth or Greek myth about Artemis' birth to authorize a woman to assume a role of dominance. That means 1 Timothy 2:13-15 are Paul’s arguments in support of the woman toning down her dominant posture.

Eve was deceived. That is, she was insufficiently learned in the subject of her relationship to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This deception reminder supports Paul's point that "a woman [should] learn in silence with full submission" (1 Timothy 2:11). That is, she should be a student first and a teacher second. One woman in Ephesus was teaching but she was unwilling to first be properly taught. That attitude is the ticket to deception.

A woman in Ephesus was teaching an error—likely an elaborate corruption of Genesis 2-3. She was also lording herself over someone, a man in the congregation. She was to be stopped from teaching her false doctrine and from mistreating church members on the basis of her role as teacher (inherited from the Gnostic version of Eve) of the child-like man. She should be taught right before she is permitted to teach.

To be explicit, 1 Timothy 2:11-12 does not

* put men in charge
* ban women from teaching in any capacity (unless they are teaching heresy)
* ban women from teaching Christian men in any context
* ban women from any public leadership role in the presence of Christian men
* ban women from any public non-leadership role

The above investigation concludes my examination of 1 Timothy 2:12. It is a correction of a teaching that Eve was born first and then Adam. First Timothy 2:12 has nothing to do with leadership. It has to do with overlording. A particular woman (that everybody in the church knew) should not overlord (but neither should men) and she should stop teaching the associated heresy.


Most likely, this statement confronts the Gnostic fear that a person cannot ascend (go to heaven) if she/he has had children. The Gnostics reputedly went to great lengths to avoid procreation in order to avoid losing portions of their souls to their children. Paul says salvation is not jeopardized by having children; but salvation is jeopardized by faithlessness, lovelessness and unholiness.

Bob Edwards says:

Even the passage about being “saved through childbearing” begins to make sense in this context. Some Gnostics believed that a woman would lose her salvation by bearing children. Giving birth to a child, in their eyes, was an act that imprisoned another soul in a corrupt body. It was viewed as a terrible sin. Through childbirth a woman might lose her life (death by childbearing was common) and even her salvation. (Other 1st Century Jewish Writers Who Used Greek Words Like “Authentein," https://equalityworkbook.wordpress.com/ , accessed 20190429)

Alternatively, Paul may have been confronting a habit of expecting couples to appeal to Artemas, the goddess of childbirth, for a safe delivery of their child. In that case, Paul is telling these couples to quit appealing to Artemas but instead, appeal to God for a safe delivery.


First Timothy 2:13-14 are not a correction of corrupted teaching about Genesis 2-3. The verses explain that women are to be ruled by men and that is what 1 Timothy 2:11-12 teaches.

The Biblical reference to the above objection is Genesis 3:16

To the woman he said,
I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

Some observations are in order.

There is no "curse" language in what God says to the woman, yet there is a penalty.

The woman’s penalty is her primary hardship: the difficulties and dangers of conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to children (Genesis 16:1; 30:1; 35:16-20). The TEV’s “trouble in pregnancy” is closer to the Hebrew than is the NRSV’s pangs in childbearing. (Theodore Hiebert, New Interpreter's Study Bible)

He shall rule over you.

It is important to note that this is not notice of a new pecking order. The rule of the husband "is neither a divine right nor male prerogative" (Terrance Fretheim, New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Volume 1, 363, quoting Tribble, Rhetoric). It is a consequence of the woman's (and man's) sin. God is not notifying the woman of her new social "place." Compare the reference to pain in childbirth, toil of labor in making a living. These consequences are shared by both the husband and the wife.

Now, it appears that Paul may be making the "woman's place" argument in 1 Timothy 2:13-14; but it is unlikely that Paul is arguing for the subjugation of women by appealing to Genesis 3:6, 16.

These consequences are not a new human order where the husband's new role is to dominate his wife!
Stuart Briscoe:

If we come to the conclusion that the lot of woman prescribed by God is to be dominated, we should still seek to alleviate the consequences for her in the same way we seek to alleviate her pain in childbirth through anesthetic. If, on the other hand, as seems far more likely to me, we are being told that one of the awful consequences of sin is the abuse of women, we should do all in our power to seek to help women in any area of abuse and distress. Either way the callous and careless subjugation of women should be resisted, particularly by those who know how the Lord Jesus treated women during His brief life. (Preacher's Commentary on Genesis)

The point is this: In a world of sin, men will by nature try to subjugate women.

I have to say, I find it confusing that those who want 1 Timothy 2:11-12 to define a sex-based church authority order keep going to passages about marriage to support their desired conclusion. Genesis 3:16 is one of those passages. It is about marriage only. The method of argument may work if it is true that God put the husband authoritatively over the wife. It would follow that it must be true also at church and for the same reasons. The Genesis passage does not support a pecking order in the church or in a family. It explains that there are going to be new difficulties in marriage characterized by power struggles. Such struggles should be resisted in marriage and they definitely should not be embraced in Christian marriages! In fact, I believe we have misinterpreted Paul's instructions about marriage incorrectly and applied them in the exact opposite way Paul intended! Following Paul's instructions about marriage incorrectly has caused the Christian marriage severe damage. I will touch on those passages below.

As for the notion that it is the duty of the church to perpetuate the consequence of Eve's deception we must ask if the cross of Christ means anything! Cynthia Long Westfall explains.

In Romans 8:1-17, Paul says that the process that renders us captive to sin and humanity's union with Adam are subverted by the righteous act of Jesus Christ and the law of the Spirit. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ the law of the Spirit has freed the believer who is in Christ and in the Spirit from the law of sin and death. Those who have the Spirit may be led by the Spirit instead of their own selfishness. Consequently, the effects of the process are reversed: when a believer puts to death sinful actions, the believer is alive (8:13). Therefore, believers have a choice to identify with the life and righteousness of Jesus Christ instead of Adam. Though the body is still dead because of sin, it will be given life, which refers to the promise of the resurrection (8:11). (Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vision for Men and Women in Christ, Baker, 2016, 122)

The work of Christ constitutes the turning back of the consequences of sin that began at Eden. It is a mistake for the church to seek to perpetuate them.

I will make one obvious observation before we move on. First Timothy 2:13-14 is not invoking Genesis 3:16 in support of the teaching in 1 Timothy 2:11-12! The writer is invoking Genesis 2:21-22 (showing that the woman was formed after the man) and Genesis 3:1-6 (detailing the woman’s deception). There is nothing in 1 Timothy 2 that references the consequences of the woman’s deception as mentioned in Genesis 3:16!

What about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Doesn't that passage also silence women at church?

These two verses seem to contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5, 11-12. Possibly, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 does not mean what we think it means.

These two verses follow closely upon the heels of verse 29, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what was said.” This verse suggests that following a word of prophecy, there was a customary question-and-answer period. Maybe another member would supplement the word of prophecy with some passage from the Old Testament. Since the women in verses 34-35 were not teaching, but rather, they were learning, it appears the problem with these women was manifesting itself during this after-prophecy discussion. They were learning, but too loudly. They had questions that could have been better asked of their husbands at home. The fact that these women are instructed to ask their husbands shows that it was not all women who were to follow Paul’s injunction, but only the married women were supposed to follow it. Strictly following 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, single women could have hogged the question-and-answer period all they wanted with simple, basic questions.

I suggest the problem that Paul was attempting to solve involved the young married women. They were using up too much church time by asking basic questions that their husbands could have easily answered at home. Why not ask the easy questions at home (if the young married woman’s husband has sufficient education) and free up the question-and-answer period for a stronger, critical evaluation of the spoken word of prophecy?

Imagine a husband and wife sitting together and the husband is asking substantive questions born of whatever education he has received up to that point, and next to him, his wife is blurting out questions of a basic nature... questions she could easily ask her husband in private. The sentence, "For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" should be understood as speaking to any wives that fit the context. This scenario would not apply to every couple, such as if the husband is uneducated and/or the wife is very learned; but encouraging the less-educated wives of learned husbands to tone it down would certainly enhance the “decently and in order” worship tone Paul promoted (1 Corinthians 14:40).

That interpretation is in full agreement with 1 Corinthians 11:5, 11-12. There are several other ways to understand 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, none of which come close to a general gagging of women. The two verses, thus, do not work as a proof text for silencing women at church. Paul is trying to minimize disruptions in the church's worship assemblies. A woman prophesying is not a disruption. A woman asking simple questions that her husband is able to answer at home is a big disruption.

Doesn't 1 Corinthians 11:3 teach that the man is head of the wife? Paul's point in 11:12 that "woman came from man" explains Paul's meaning in 1 Timothy 2:13 that "Adam was formed first, then Eve." Both statements prove that men are the heads of women.

The support of what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 is partly derived from the marriage relationship and it is applied to a church worship situation. The objection assumes that the metaphor of "head" in Greek means the same thing as it does in English. In English, "head" means "authority." It rarely means "authority" in Greek. It is possible that “head” never means “authority” in Greek but Ephesians 1:22-23 is difficult to read with any other meaning for “head” (but see the readings of Common English Bible, God’s Word Translation, International Standard Version and Contemporary English Version). The usual meaning is "source, origin, provider, sustainer." Furthermore, if a Greek speaker wanted to say someone had authority over something he would say that he is “lord” of it. So Jesus is lord of the sabbath; but he is not "head" of the sabbath. I hope the following examples will help to support the meaning of “head” as a provider/sustainer.

Eph 4:15-16
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Jesus is described here as the life-giving servant of the church. In this passage, too, "head" does not mean "lord." The meaning of Ephesians 3:18-19 is the same without using the word “head.”

Ephesians 3:18-19
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Colossians 2:9-10
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.
Colossians 2:19
and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Christ is their source of existence and life, as also supported by Colossians 1:15-17. I will quote 15-19 since it includes another significant reference to Christ's headship.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

These powers exist through Christ, which is why Jesus is their "head." "This text describes Christ as the source of the life of the church through his resurrection from the dead and because of the reconciliation obtained through his self-sacrificing servant ministry at the cross. Headship is not defined in terms of authority but as servant provider of life" (Gilbert Bilezikian).

If "head" meant "authority," 1 Corinthians 11:3 should say "lord" rather than "head."

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.

Headship all through 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 denotes origin rather than authority. In verse 3, if the meaning of head were "authority" then the natural reading would be "God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man, and the husband is the head of the wife." But the meaning is not rank. It is chronology. Christ is head of mankind in creation (Col 1:16; John 1:3). The woman's origin is Adam's rib. God gave human life to Jesus in the incarnation.

First Corinthians 11:7-9 are not about supporting a pecking order. They are about how a woman can dress in a way that signals her sexual availability. Paul's point is that it is inappropriate for a woman to dress that way, especially at church when she is publicly praying or prophesying.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. (NKJV)

"Glory" (NKJV) is better than "reflection" (NRSV). The idea is that Christian women wanted to wear veils at church to signal their piety. Married women, even those in a social caste that fashionably did not wear veils, wanted to wear them now that they were Christians. It signaled that they were not sexually available. It signaled their faithfulness to their husbands and to Christ. The most attractive feature of a woman is her hair. The eyes are often pretty attractive too; and if the Corinthian veil covered the eyes, it makes sense.

Cynthia Long Westfall explains:

Eve as created to powerfully attract Adam, which was the point of the positive climax of creation, but worship is not the time or place to experience that dynamic. (Paul and Gender, 68)

As for how a woman’s head is the glory/reflection of man, the reference may apply to the fact that the features of a man’s head (notably, his face) are also on the woman’s head (face) but they look a lot better on a woman than on a man. She is his reflection. Also, there may be a point that a man looks better when he is with a beautiful woman. She is his glory. In 1 Corinthians 11, women were wanting to focus on Christ and not their attractiveness to the men in the room. Thus, Paul could say,

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? (1 Corinthians 11:13)

Paul supported the women's right to veil themselves at church. The typical translation of 1 Corinthians 11:10 is incorrect.

Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (NASB)

The phrase "a symbol of" is added to almost every translation because the translators believe Paul to be correcting the church women for taking off their veils. If we understand that the corrective is to the men and upper-class who wanted some of the women to remove their veils because of a social convention that disqualified the women from veiling (because of their social caste), then Paul is defending the women's right to veil. The authority is not the woman's husband's or any other church man's. Her "head" is not her husband. The husband does not have authority over his wife’s head. The wife has authority over her own head. Thus, the proper translation defends a woman's authority over her own head.

Because of this a woman should have authority over her head, because of the angels. (Common English Bible)

With this understanding, the mention of angels as a reason for this authority becomes clear. It is not because some angels might lust. Yes, that is an actual theory. It is a reference to 1 Corinthians 6:2-3. If women will judge angels, should not they be able to have authority over their own heads and be permitted to veil? Let the women use their own judgment in the matter! Let them follow their convictions.

What about Ephesians 5:21-6:9 and Colossians 3:18-25? Those passages show there is an authority structure in the home which we can extend to the church.

Both of these passages essentially describe the Greek/Roman household. Paul's point is that a Christian household ought to be better than an ordinary Roman household. This interpretation is most obvious in the Colossians passage.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.  Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and  that without partiality.

The key point in this reading is "as is fitting in the Lord." The Greco-Roman family with Christ is more functional and more satisfying than the secular version. The Ephesians passage is an expansion of the Colossians passage and the meaning is the same. Paul is not claiming that the Greco-Roman household order is God’s command for Christians. Paul means to say that Christian families can live in the Greco-Roman system and serve Christ. If God commands believers timelessly to structure their marriages after the Greco-Roman system then God also blesses the institution of slavery. We know that God does not bless slavery.

And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality. (Ephesians 6:9; See also Galatians 3:28; Philemon 16)

If God shows no partiality, why does God show partiality in the earthly household setup? God does not. What God authorizes, through Paul, is that believers should behave like Christians within existing social structures.

I will add that, since these passages focus on the family household and not church, they really don’t apply to properly applying 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

What about Titus 2:3-5?

This passage simply speaks more about submissiveness with special focus on the wife.

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Yet we know that the expected posture of Christians toward one another is that of submissiveness; so submissiveness is not a woman-only command. Still, Paul is speaking within the existing Roman household structure. Paul says that Christian women should be, as best they can manage, ideal Roman wives. Why? Not because it is their Christian "place" but because it is part of their mission "so that the word of God may not be discredited."

Once again, this passage does not help us to properly apply 1 Timothy 2:11-12 since it is about marriage and not church.

What about 1 Peter 3:1-7?

This passage seems to teach very similar points as the other "family order" passages; but there is a unique context.

Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.
Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.

Note that the emphasis here is on how a wife behaves towards her unbelieving (Roman!) husband. It also suggests that she submit to him even if he mistreats her ("in the same way" as Christ responded in his own mistreatment, 2:23 f, and the way slaves should behave toward their masters and Christians behave in general, 2:13). Note that the language matches the charge to slaves to "accept the authority of your masters" ("be subject to" matches the verb in Ephesians 5:21) (2:18) (NRSV and NLT are badly translated here by introducing the word "authority"). Wives should try to assume this disposition with their UNBELIEVING husbands in order to convert them to faith. Walter L. Leifeld:

The husband should not claim authority over his wife the way a Roman man used to. In that system, which underwent changes during the period of the early empire, a woman used to be under the manus (“hand”) of her father and at marriage came under the control of her husband. (IVPNTC, comments on Ephesians 5:22)

If your husband is an unbeliever, be aware that while you, the wife, are equal to your husband in the church, you cannot expect the same in a home with an unbelieving husband. As for the mention of Sarah calling Abraham “lord,” and “obeying” him, it does not mean what it looks like without looking up Peter’s reference of Genesis 18:12. Focusing on verse 6 of 1 Peter 3,

Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.

This statement refers to an the incident at Genesis 18:12 when the strangers told Abraham that Sarah would have a child.

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”

The World English Bible, favoring the Septuagint cited by Peter, says

Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Lord is just another way of saying husband. It is just a term of respect (see Genesis 24:17-18). It is a way of considering others above yourself (Philippians 2:3). In the text quoted by Peter, Sarah was definitely not being submissive to Abraham. In their long marriage, Sarah was never a pushover wife (see, e.g., Genesis 16:5).

The Greek word translated “obeyed” in 1 Peter 3:6 means to listen or to be attentive to; but not necessarily as a subordinate. See “agreed” or “listen” at Genesis 16:2; 21:12.

Peter just wanted the Christian women who had unbelieving husbands to be good wives; but Peter did not mean for them to be mousy. They can be confident and self-respect and still be model Roman wives.

This passage, again, has a specific marriage context and does not help us to apply 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

Why didn't Paul name the woman? After all, he named Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2.

This objection is not necessarily a slam dunk. Paul may not have known the name of the woman. He did know the identity of people like Alexander and Hymenaeus (1 Timothy 1:20) whom he knew personally (2 Timothy 4:14). On the other hand, he did not name the sinful man in 1 Corinthians 5:1. He may have not personally known the man or he did not think it appropriate to name him when he received the information through reports‒and when Paul is making a direct call in writing for the man’s repentance (no less). Either reason may reasonably be the case with the woman of 1 Timothy 2:11-12.


Many of the objections to the egalitarian understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 attempt to show that there is a God-approved authority tree in the family that rightly extends to the church. I believe that I have shown that the scriptures that address a family structure depend upon the standard Greco-Roman household arrangement. There is no reason to import first century secular social structures into the 21st century on the mere basis that the first century system was mentioned several times in the Bible as examples of good Christian conduct. Paul wanted his readers to be good Christians within that existing structure. God did not intend for all Christian families down through the entire Christian age to be defined by the Roman household! The Christian family is not the Roman family! Misunderstanding Paul has led Christian men to subjugate their wives because they think God authorizes them to do so. Husbands are absolutely not authorized to subjugate their wives or anyone else.

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