Must women never teach or lead men in church?

            ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman            to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.  For Adam was not       the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived’ (1 Timothy 2:11-18).

  1. The expression ‘to assume authority over’ occurs only here in the entire Greek version of scripture. It is not the regular term for authority.  One of the few examples in secular Greek texts refers to courtesans (high society harlots – ‘escorts’) who gave lectures in and around Ephesus; this word authentein is used for their ‘soliciting’ men for their sex trade after the lecture session. That example is local to Timothy’s mission field; if that is a typical use of the word, it means ‘influence over’ with overtones of manipulation and seduction. Had Paul intended to forbid women from ever sharing in an eldership team he would not have chosen this unusual word. 
  1. When ‘not permit[ting] a woman to teach or [have influence over] a man’ Paul did not use the aorist (or ‘point’) tense which would have implied a once-for-all decision; instead he used the present tense which could legitimately be rendered ‘I am not permitting’ – implying, ‘for the time being I am not allowing women to teach or influence men’.  His reasons for doing so in that place at that time will become plain as we continue.
  1. Galatians 3:26-29 conveys Paul’s fundamental gospel charter of liberty. Prior to the fall of mankind there is not the slightest hint of a hierarchical structure in the marriage of Adam and Eve.  It was as a result of Adam’s rebellion and her own deception that Eve was informed that her husband would ‘rule over her’ (Genesis 3:16).  In Christ that curse was removed.  Hence: ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek [no racial favouritism], neither slave nor free [no social favouritism], neither male nor female [no gender preference], for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ you are Abraham’s seed [offspring] and heirs according to the promise [= the promise in the prophets of receiving the Holy Spirit].’ Christ restored the pre-Fall order of man and woman. 
  1. Christians were foremost in the abolition of slavery. However, Paul’s writings only hint at its later abolition (eg Philemon). There were well over 50 million slaves throughout the Roman Empire.  Had slaves all been granted their freedom in that one generation, the whole order of society could have collapsed! Similarly, Paul was dealing with the widespread lack of education of women in Ephesus particularly.

[] Younger widows should remarry and have babies, he tells Timothy later (1Timothy 5:11-14), lest they start circulating nonsense and getting trapped by Satan.

[] Heresies were rife in the Ephesus district.  When Paul first taught there, converts brought their books on occult practices as fuel for a colossal bonfire (Acts 19:19).

[] This re-educating was a main reason for Timothy’s ministry there (I Timothy 1:3-7; 4:1-5; 3-5).  In appointing new elders, he must be sure they were not recent converts unskilled in the truth of the gospel (1 Timothy 3:6).

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