1 Timothy 2:12
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
The expression “a woman” is in the singular form. The article “a” cannot be used with plural nouns and cannot be used as a blanket expression of all women. Here it is dealing with one individual, a woman. Most conservative teachers such as Jacob Prasch and John MacArthur consider this expression to be a generic term describing all or any women. That commentators and men of higher learning approach this text with such casual interpretation is alarming.
Grammatically Paul was referring to one individual, one specific women. Twice Paul uses the singular form for this women. This is demonstrated by Jesus when he taught in Matthew 5:28; “but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on “a woman” to lust after “her” hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Emphasis mine). Notice the double singular expressions used here, “a women” and “her.” Paul in 1 Timothy 2:15 again refers to “a women” as “she” another singular form used.
It must be noted that the expression “the man” used here is also in the singular form and both terms “woman” and “man” in the Pauline epistles are most often translated “wife” and “husband.” The text then demonstrates these singular forms then are only applicable to marriage and is unrelated to single women, widows, and such. The understanding that “a woman” and “a man” is being spoken in 1 Timothy 2:12 fits well with 1 Timothy 2:15 and the singular verb, which is correctly translated as “she will be saved,” followed by the plural verb meaning “they continue.” “She” refers to the women; “they” refer to the couple (Husband and wife).
It is quite possible that Paul is referring to a specific married couple in the Ephesian church who are spoken of anonymously. We see him do the same in 1 Corinthians 5:1; “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles that “a man” has his father’s wife.” It is demonstrated in 1 Timothy 2 that Paul in verses 8-10 uses the Plural form of men and women then switches to the singular form in verses 11-15. The switch from the plural to the singular must be taken into account when interpreting this context.
Verse 15 makes more sense when we take verses 11-12 to mean one woman and one man understanding that verse 15 contains a singular verb meaning “she will be saved” (referring to the women) and a plural verb meaning “they continue” (referring to the couple). That is, when (the woman in verses 11-12) will be saved…provided they (the man and women in verse 12) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.1
Oude (nor), however, often has a particular flavor as it is used by Paul. Philip Barton Payne points out that in the Pauline corpus oude is usually employed to bring together two closely related ideas. Oude is a conjunction which adds emphasis to or contrast to the subject. Payne maintains that its use falls into three major categories:
- To join two expressions which are roughly equivalent in meaning. Galatians 1:1 has “Paul, an apostle, not sent from man, nor (oude) by men.”
- To specify with greater clarity the meaning of one word or phrase by conjoining it with another word or phrase. Romans 3:10 reads, “There is no one righteous, not even (oude) one.” Oude emphasizes the total absence of a righteous human being (other than Jesus) who can meet God’s standards.
- To join together a naturally paired expression, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, “We have nothing to do with night and (oude) darkness.”
Payne argues, then, that the two expressions didaskein (teach) and authentein (dominance), linked as they are by oude, together convey the meaning of the decree. The oude indicates that authentein explains what sort, or what manner, of teaching is prohibited to women. For instance, if we should say, “I forbid a woman to teach or to discuss differential calculus with a man,” it becomes clear that the subject in which she should not give instruction is higher mathematics.2
We must then understand what authenteō most often mis translated usurp authority means. This word is what is known as a hapax legomenon, a term used only once of all of Scripture. This is not an ordinary word for authority but carries a more sinister meaning. According to a study published in 2010 by Leland Wilshire, the verb authentein had a number of meanings in Greek literature other than “to exercise or usurp authority.” Between 200 B.C and 200 A.D the word had one of the following meanings:3
- “doer of a massacre”
- “author of crimes”
- “perpetrator of sacrilege”
- “supporter of violent actions”
- “murderer of oneself”
Authority was just one of the possible meanings but was by no means the most common meaning. Another word used to describe this unusual Greek word is dominate. When you understand that oude (nor) connects the two expressions teach (didaskō) and authenteō together and that authenteō explains what sort, or what manner, of teaching is prohibited to women, women are forbidden to teach dominance over the man. There is no evidence in the context that women teaching men in a public forum is forbidden, only that women are not permitted to teach dominance over men.
One might say, that’s a strange restriction upon women teachers. And the answer is also in the contexts.
1 Timothy 2:13
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve”
Just as Adam was the source of Eve, the husband is the source of the wife, this is known in Scripture as headship.
Paul to the Corinthians said; “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.” Headship has little to do with authority and is primary speaking of source. Eve was formed from Adam’s rib and in the creation account we see both had equality.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man (mandkind) in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man (mankind) in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Emphasis Mine)
From the beginning equality between husband and wife was determined but God. We see this also in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman, but all things of God.” Equality was something God instituted in the marriage from creation and was restored in Christ by the death of Himself on the cross in our behalf.
Some might argue here that verse 9 says; “Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” But Grammar is of the upmost importance. The Greek word dee-ah’ translated twice in this text means “through,” denoting the cannel of an act. Again, Adam was the source of Eve as God took his rib and out of it formed the women. Through Adam came Eve, this defines the term headship, Adam was Eve’s head in that he was her source. Together they had equality and dominion over all living creatures on the earth.
- Kroeger, Richard Clark. I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence (Kindle Locations 1088-1099). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- Edwards, Bob. A God I’d Like to Meet: Separating the Love of God from Harmful Traditional Beliefs . Unknown. Kindle Edition.