God's revelation is so beautiful; so marvelous. Its bits and pieces so entwined that every partial of it fits harmoniously together to make one complete embodiment of truth. If this were not true, we could never determine when one was teaching the truth, but since every jot and tittle of the truth harmonizes, we can know the truth and expose error. Any position taken on any Bible passage that does not perfectly harmonize with every other passage on that subject must be identified as a false position.
In this study, I want us to take a good look at 1 Timothy 2:11-12 in its context, and its relationship to other passages which deal with the same subject, in order that we might harmonize it with all that the Bible says on the subject, and be consistent in our conclusions. Paul said, "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. 2:11-12).
Those who would forbid Christian women from teaching classes of other women or children quote this passage loud and long. It is their sugar stick. They want to leave the impression that Paul is saying, "I suffer not a woman to teach, period." They know as well as I, that it cannot be so. It must be qualified. If it were not qualified, Christian women could not sing (Col. 3:16), be teachers of good things (Tit. 2:3), teach their children (2 Tim. 1:5), or even teach as Priscilla did in Acts 18:26. If Paul was saying, "I suffer not a woman to teach period," then we have Christian women doing what Paul forbid. You can see that Paul's statement must be qualified, but there is only one way to qualify it and harmonize it with all other passages on the subject, and that is to believe the Truth. The false teacher will never harmonize it by his position.
Some try to qualify it by qualifying the word didasko (to teach). Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon is quoted to try and prove their contention. Thayer defines didasko, "(a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses. (b) To be a teacher. (c) To discharge the office of teacher, conduct oneself as a teacher" (p. 144). Now, it should be remembered that though Thayer is an authority in his field, he is not an infallible authority, and when he cites a text as an example of the use of a word according to a given definition, as he cites 1 Timothy 2:12 in conjunction with (a), he is giving his personal opinion as to its use in that given text. Thayer did not understand 1 Timothy 2:12 any more than any other false teacher. By giving this restricted meaning to didasko in this text, he sought to solve his problem. But Thayer understood that didasko meant more than the above definition. He further defines it, "to impart instruction, instil doctrine into one. . . . Col. 3:16; to explain, expound, a thing; to teach one something." You see, didasko means all of this, and Thayer knew this, but he seeks to give the meaning of words as he understands them to be used in given texts. It should be noted, however, that if Thayer misunderstood a text, he might well misunderstand the use of a given word in that text.
I suggest that the majority of the world's greatest Greek scholars have not agreed with Thayer's use of didasko in 1 Timothy 2:12. There are hundreds of them in the translations and more than two-thirds of them recognized that the rendering of didasko as "to teach" was the correct rendition in this text. Surely, if didasko had had the restricted meaning that Thayer gives it for this text, they would have known it, and would have translated it accordingly, but they did not so translate it. The word means "to teach" and that is the way they translated it.
Look at Thayer's definition again. Note (a) "to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses." One would get the impression from that definition, that Thayer is talking about preaching a sermon. Maybe he intended to leave that impression, but if you will check the words "didactic" and "discourse" you will find that these words identify any logical line of reasoning that is "intended to instruct." Now, think about it. Isn't that what we do when we sing spiritual songs (Col. 3:16)? Isn't that the way Eunice and Lois taught Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5), and the way Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26)? Surely, all of that leaching was "intended to instruct."
Thayer's second definition is (b) "to be a teacher," The very thing that Paul commands the aged women to be in Titus 2:3. He said they were to be "teachers of good things." You see, you cannot qualify 1 Timothy 2:12 by Thayer's definition. The same is true of his third definition.
When false teachers use Thayer's definition to qualify the passage, they realize that they have forbidden women to be teachers in the Public School System, so they must qualify it even further. They then say 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are parallel passages and both apply "in the church." We sing in the church, don't we? So, therefore, according to this false position women cannot sing "in the church." Also, since false teachers seek to qualify the text by in the church, they leave the door open for women to teach and usurp authority over men at any time and place that is not described as in the church. I tell you, they cannot harmonize 1 Timothy 2:11-12 with the Bible. They cannot harmonize it with their own teaching.
To further qualify their false position on 1 Timothy 2:12, false teachers will say that a woman is not to be a teacher in "any class the church may arrange." This is supposed to permit women to teach by example, teach her children, be a teacher of good things, and even teach as Priscilla did in helping to teach Apollos, as long as the church does not arrange it. The problem with it is, (1) Paul did not say it, and (2) it still will not permit women to sing in any grouping "the church has arranged."
Recognizing that the above qualifications would not forbid Christian women from teaching any group that would not be described as "in the church" or "class the church may arrange," false teachers are forced to further qualify it. They usually add in public or in worship. Even that addition will give them no comfort for it too prohibits women from singing (worship) in the public assemblies of the church.
All of these and other qualifications are put on 1 Timothy 2:11-12 in an effort to sustain a false doctrine. Recently, in public debate, I charged my opponent with changing God's Word to read: "But I suffer not a woman to teach (that is: be a teacher, deliver a didactic discourse), in the church, or in any class the church may arrange, or in public, or in worship; nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." He accepted this and his and Mr. Thayer's rendition of the passage. It certainly is not what the Bible says.
There can be no substitute for the truth. As stated in the first paragraph of this article, the truth perfectly harmonizes with every partial of it. There is no lie of the truth (1 Jno. 2:21). When the truth on 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is found, it too harmonizes perfectly with every other passage. Let us consider the context.
In the first seven verses of the chapter, Paul talks about God's will for all men to be saved through Jesus Christ who died for all, and that he had been ordained to preach the gospel to them. In verse 8 he says, "I will therefore that men (Greek; andras, males) pray every where." 'The nature of this statement in view of its context shows that women cannot pray every where. Why? The same reason women are told in verses 9-12 to (1) dress modestly, (2) "learn in silence with all subjection," (3) not "to teach," and (4) "nor to usurp authority over the man." The reason is her relationship to man. She cannot pray everywhere because of her relationship to man (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1-16). She is to be in subjection" (v. 11), and she is "not to usurp authority over the man " (v. 12). She cannot pray or teach in any capacity that causes her to violate her submission to man, but when she does not sustain a relationship to any man, she cannot violate the passage. That is why she does not violate it when she teaches a class of other women or children. In these classes she does not have a relationship to men when teaching.
Paul then gives the reasons for the regulation. (1) "Adam was first formed," and (2) "Adam was, not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (v. 13-14). The first reason is as old as Eve, and the second nearly as old (Gen. 3:16). From the beginning it was not so that woman should violate and ignore their submission to man and she must not do so even today, but let us not dare to forbid Christian women to do what they are commanded to do.
Women are commanded to sing (Col. 3:16), and they can do so as long as they do not violate their submission to man. Likewise, they can be teachers of good things, teach the younger women (Tit. 2:3-5), teach by example, teach their children (2 Tim. 1:5), and. teach like Priscilla (Acts 18:26), and do it all without violating their submission to man and without' exercising authority over man. That is the truth about it, and it is the only way 1 Timothy 2:11-12 can be harmonized with those passages teaching women to teach.
Next article: "Wells Without Water."
This article originally appeared in Truth
Magazine, November 4, 1976.
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This page was last updated on Monday, June 15, 1998.