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What does it mean that a woman should not teach or take authority over a man?

Does this mean a woman cannot share the gospel with male unbelievers, or cannot share Bible verses with men?

1 Timothy 2:11 - 15

ESV - 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Clarify Share Report Asked December 04 2015 Data Elizabeth D'Andrea

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

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Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
There are a few verses in the Bible, like I Tim 2:11-15, that are subject to wildly varying interpretations. As such, it is important that when we go to study them we pay particular attention to the context of the passage, the Greek text, other scriptures, etc.

Other scriptures

Studying other scriptures will help us narrow down what is meant by the text, for scriptures will not contradict:

In Judges 4-5, we are introduced to Deborah, a female judge of Israel who 'judges disputes'. While not a teaching position, this is a type of authority. It is not clear if Deborah was married or not. In Rom 6:1-2, Paul mentions Phoebe who has been a 'commander of many' or a 'presider before many', including Paul himself, which indicates some form of position of authority. It is quite likely that Phoebe was a widow. In Col 4:15 and Acts 12:12 we see women opening their homes and hosting churches. While not positions of spiritual authority, this would carry with it some administrative and financial authority.

[For more information on Phoebe and the greek word prostasis, see http://www.sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?ArticleId=830.]

In Acts 18:18-28, Priscilla is mentioned as a teacher alongside of her husband. In II Tim 1:5, Prov 31:1, and Prov 31:26 scripture speaks of women teaching their own children, including male children. Several verses speak of women testifying to Christ (John 20:18, Luke 2:36-38, Luke 19:37-40), evangelizing (John 20:18, Luke 2:36-38, Luke 19:37-40, Rom 16:7), praying in the assembly (Acts 1:14, Acts 2:41-42),and prophesying (II Kings 22:15-20, Acts 2:17-18, Luke 1:16-55, I Cor 11:5).

[More on Junia, a female apostle: http://ebible.com/answers/17031?ori=167400]

With these scriptures in mind, it becomes clear that I Tim 2:11-15 cannot be a blanket prohibition against any form of teaching or any form of authority that any female might have over any male.

This leads into the next topic of study, which is what this passage is saying in Greek.

 Greek text 

In greek, the word for woman is the same as the word for wife. Context usually narrows down which is meant. As the very next two verses mention Adam and Eve (husband and wife) and childbearing (mothers only), the strength of the context leans towards I Tim 2:11 being written to wives, not women in general such as widows.

The greek phrase 'teach and have authority' is a Greek hendiady; an idiom that joins the two terms together, much like the English phrase 'hit and run' joins two concepts. As such, the terms are meant to be taken as a whole, not separately. A wife is not to teach AND take authority over her husband. This does not exclude her from teaching her children, having a position of authority over men out in the world (like CEO of a company), etc.

A third point in the Greek text is the word for authority itself that it used, authenteó, denotes an agressive or self-appointed, even violent taking of authority. Authenteo means to unilaterally take up arms, to act as an autocrat, to self-appoint oneself to a position of authority, to take dominion over, to usurp authority - in essence to act without submission. This follows well with Paul's early command that wives learn in submission. To usurp authority is the exact opposite of willingly placing oneself under authority.

Delegated authority, such as a board of elders appointing a woman as head of Children's ministries, a wife teaching alongside her husband like Priscilla, women speaking up in a Bible study, women sharing a verse or testimony, a woman being asked to speak at a convention, a woman appointed as deacon or courier, etc. Would not classify as a woman seizing authority.

There is much more to be said on the topic, but those are a couple things to think on when beginning a study. Here are some related eBible topics:
https://ebible.com/questions/2146-can-a-woman-be-a-pastor-or-preacher#answer-15056
http://ebible.com/answers/14663?ori=167400 [God's purpose for women]

December 10 2015 6 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Timothy Trusty
Timothy was writing to inform the church that it is of no Spiritual gain that a Christian Man, not child, be taught by a woman or his wife. God set forth from Genesis that the man is held responsible to God for the spiritual well-being of his Home and to let only God guide him on this calling.

September 24 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini A F
It is my opinion, and possibly not by biblical authority, that God established this relationship in marriage between men and women in order that women could be the leader in showing children respect for authority. By the woman submitting to her husband she is becoming an example for children to follow their leader. However, this does not mean that all authority is godly. So there must be discernment between which authority is followed and which is just honored for that position. 

This discernment should be taught to children by their parents and of course is a gift of God.

February 14 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini R Mais
Paul said he doesn't allow women to teach or hold authoritative positions in the church. That's not to assume God felt or feels the same way. He seems to stating his preference in this verse.

February 16 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini James Kanniakonil Sebastian
I believe statement in 1 Timothy 2:11 is a revelation pertaining to a unique situation in the Greek culture, and not a universal revelation barring all women from teaching or being in positions of authority. Since we can see women leaders and teachers (king Lemuel or king Solomon received the teachings from his mother, Proverbs 31) in both the Old and New testaments, my submission is to study this passage in the context of the first century Greek culture..

February 17 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Oche Jeremiah
My opinion is that... Paul was writing in respect to the people's tradition which sees women as a lesser being. To avoid social cultural noise toward the gospel, Paul had to put the people's culture into consideration but most importantly the gospel should be preached.

February 17 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Kenneth Heck
Paul's prohibition apparently only applied to the churches established by Paul himself and his companions. Otherwise it would have been said to apply to all Christians. We know that many of his churches eventually fell away from his leadership (2 Tim 1:15). Teaching is one of the five-fold ministries (Eph 4:11), listed last in order. If modern-day evangelists can be female, it is not unreasonable to presume teachers may also be. 

In the listing of the 33 doctors (Latin for 'teacher') of the Catholic church, there are four females: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen. 

Also, Rev. 2:20-23 describes a woman, Jezebel, who teaches the Thyatira church to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols. Christ gives her time to repent of her false teachings, but nothing is said about repenting of her teaching function itself. This may imply that teaching by females was acceptable in the early, non-Pauline, church.

March 29 2017 2 responses Vote Up Share Report


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