An Exegetical Study of 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Mojmír Adámek


Are women allowed to teach and exercise authority over men? This has become one of the most controversial questions in the modern era (i.e. last 200 years) of the church. For the most part, women have played significant role in church life during the whole church history. Even in the earliest New Testament times they had occupied significant roles or positions. Among these positions we see:[1] women to be part of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3), they were part of the early core of believers (Acts 1:13, 14), prophesied (1 Cor. 11:5), served probably as something that modern scholars recognize as “patroness” or “benefactors” of house churches which means that they likely provided their homes as place of hospitability, ministry and church meetings (Rom. 16:2; Acts 16:15, 40). Women also taught (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3-5). It is possible that they occupied role of a missionary (Rom 16:7).[2] They were working on the advancement of the gospel (Phil. 4:3; Romans 16:6; 16:12); and maybe served in positions of deacons (Rom. 16:1)[3]. Given the cultural conditions of the ancient world, the position of women in Christendom was rightly observed to be quite contra cultural.

However, despite these truly significant roles that women played in the early church, did they occupy every office or was there any restriction on ministry roles they could perform? When we survey the biblical data about women’s ministry in New Testament the question comes down to the office of an elder / overseer / shepherd[4]. Were women in the early church allowed to occupy this position? Even though orthodox Christians for the vast majority of church history have unanimously answered this question negatively (i.e. the church understood women to be restricted from such office) for the past hundred years this understanding has been challenged by many scholars. Biblical scholar Thomas Schreiner observes that “the role of women in the church is the most controversial and sensitive issue within evangelicalism today”[5] One of the key texts dealing with this question is found in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. This paper thus will only briefly chart out what is, according to the author, the most plausible interpretation of these verses.

In order to understand Paul’s[6] instruction here the first part will briefly deal with the occasion for the writing of this epistle (since it directly effects the interpretation of given passage), secondly, we will look at the immediate context (that is verses 2:8-10); thirdly we will focus mainly on the verses 2:11-12; fourthly, we will look at Paul’s rationale for his instructions (found in 2:13-15) and at the end we will draw conclusion and summarize.

1. Occasion for writing of First Letter to Timothy

In what is considered to be core of this epistle, Paul spells out the reason why he wrote this letter: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15, ESV). When reading this epistle it is apparent that church in Ephesus, where Timothy has been left to continue the work (1 Tim 1:3), was in unrest due to an influence of false teachers (see 1 Tim 1:3; 4:1; 6:3). Paul says that these people taught “different doctrine” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω). The situation was so serious that two leaders had to be expelled for promoting this heresy (1Tim 1:20; c.f.: 5:15). Timothy is commanded to battle (1 Tim 1:18) these false teachers, beside other things, by teaching a „sound doctrine.”[7]

Thus, contrary to popular opinion Paul is not writing to Timothy to give him a church manual. He is concerned with well-being of the Ephesian church. However, he uses this situation to instruct Timothy and the whole church concerning the way they should conduct their church life.

The identification of the nature of these false teachers has been crucial for many interpreters, especially in explaining the meaning of 1 Tim 2:8-15. However, the reconstruction of the precise nature of the false teaching is not an easy task. It does not appear to have been “a well-thought-out, cohesive system of belief.”[8] Therefore, one has to be cautious before unwarranted speculations about the precise nature of these false teachers and especially before reading extra biblical data into the text which are not clearly related.[9]

 Interpreters have historically seen these false doctrines as having been influenced to some degrees by Jewish Elements (Law, genealogies, etc. c.f. 1 Tim1:3-10; 4:7), Proto-gnostic elements (obsession with “knowledge c.f.: 1Tim 6:20) as well as some other elements (e.g. Hellenistic).[10] It is likely that the nature of the false teaching was syncretistic. In other words, it was probably a blend of various thoughts, philosophies and influences (likely some amalgam of Jewish and Proto-gnostic thought).[11]

However, when we limit ourselves to the knowable data presented in the Pastoral epistles we can summarize the content of the false teaching as follows[12]: 1) It produced disagreements and quarrels concerning trivialities (1 Timothy 1:4-6; 6:4-5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:14, 16-17, 23-24; Titus 1:10; 3:9-11); 2) It stressed asceticism and abstinence from foods and marriage (1 Tim 4:1-3); 3), the false teachers persuaded many women to follow disseminate their teaching (1 Tim 5:15; 2 Tim 3:6-7).

This likely involved some in emphasizing on discarding the traditional female male distinctions of God-given roles. The Ephesian women were probably encouraged to espouse more or less an egalitarian approach to relationships (c.f.: 1 Tim 2:8-15).[13] As Douglas Moo observes, it is not explicitly stated in the text but it is “an inference with high degree of probability.”[14] Paul therefore is combating this unrest caused by false teaching by reasserting God’s created order according to which Ephesian Christians are to conduct themselves. 1 Tim 2:8-15 is thus occasioned by the influence of false teaching which offset the proper balance between men’s and women’s roles.

2. Immediate context: 1 Tim 2:8-10

Before interpreting our focal verse (v. 12), it is important to look at its immediate context, especially at verses 8-10. Because, as biblical scholar A. J. Köstenberger rightly argues, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is coherent unit of the whole letter.[15] Paul begins the whole literary unity in 2:1-2 where he begins with the topic of prayer. He urges Ephesian Christians to pray for all people. Then in verses 3-7 he goes on short detour explaining a theological reasons for prayer, namely that God wants all people to be saved. That is also subject of Paul’s mission and that is therefore reason why Ephesian need to pray for all people. Then he returns back to the topic of prayer (v. 8).

At the beginning of verse 8 Paul expresses his (emphatic apostolic) will[16] (Βούλομαι) that every man in every Christian congregation should pursue holiness (“lift up holy [ὅσιος] hands” c.f.: Exod 30:19–21; Ps 24:4; Isa 1:15; 59:3; Jas 4:8) and pray without anger and quarreling. By designating the role of prayer to men (ἄνδρας is articular whereas γυναῖκας is anarthrous)[17], many interpreters point out that it is possible that by this Paul designates leadership of the worship service only to them (this becomes even more probable in light of following verses).[18] It does not mean though that only men can pray during the worship (see 1Cor 11:5); the question is who should lead the worship.[19]

Then Paul says that this (prayers) should be done “in every place” (ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ). This is an important phrase. It is important to point out that by this phrase Paul denotes that his instructions are not limited to a local congregation (or particular event, culture, time, etc.) but they are pertaining to every Christian assembly and church worship (c.f.: 1Cor 1:2 perhaps influenced by OT usage Ex. 20:24; especially Mal. 1:11).[20] Scholar of early Christianity, Everett Ferguson, says of the phrase ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ following:

Although it is often taken to mean “everywhere,” there is another Greek word that means “everywhere,” (πανταχοῦ) and this phrase “in every place” often appears in Jewish and Christian usage with an almost technical meaning of “in every place of meeting.” This phrase would be equivalent to the phrase “in church,” or “in assembly” in 1 Corinthians 14.[21]

In other words, Paul’s instructions in this passage pertains to the whole universal church wherever it gathers.[22] It is likely that the presence of false teaching disturbed ordinary church services and caused men to be angry.[23]

 In verse 9. Paul uses comparative adverb[24] (ὡσαύτως) to show the parallels between instructions he gave to men and instructions he is going to give to women now. One question that arises is to whom is Paul referring when he speaks of women (γυναῖκας). This Greek can mean both women in general as well as wives.[25] The context has to be our guide. When we look at some other New Testament passages which are dealing with husband-wife relationships we always see some clear contextual indicators that the terms Greek words γυνή and ἀνήρ should be understood as wife and husband. For examples 1 Peter 3:1-7 gives instructions to women how to be submissive and how husband should live with their wives in understanding way. Or in Col. 3:19 husbands are exhorted to love their wives. Similarly in Eph. 5:25-30, 33 husbands ought to love their wives and they ought to obey their husbands. Since in given context it would be absurd to apply all these commands to generic male-female relationships it clearly ought to be understood as husband-wife relationship. For that reason biblical scholar Thomas R. Schreiner concludes that: “It is precisely this kind of clarifying evidence that 1 Timothy 2:8-15 lacks, which is why most scholars detect a reference to men and women in general.”[26] Paul’s subsequent instructions about how should and should not women adorn themselves and that they should pursue godliness and do good works is also an argument for understanding γυνή as addressing generically all women (rather than wives).

In verses 9-10 Paul speaks on how women should outwardly manifest their godly attitudes. When he is elaborating on women’s modesty he is rather specific. He says how they should and how they should not (μή …ἀλλά relation) adorn themselves. It has been argued by some[27], that if verses 11-12 are to be understood literally and as biding not only for given situation in Ephesus but for all Christians in all ages, that also women of all cultures and all ages should strictly avoid all the jewelry and decoration that Paul prohibits to wear. In other words, Christian women of all cultures and all ages should not ever wear pearls or gold (including wedding rings) or have braided hair or expensive clothing.[28] To say then that verses 11-12 are to be followed strictly in all ages whereas verse 9-10 are cultural seems to be inconsistent.

However, this alleged inconsistency is readily explained when one follows basic hermeneutical principles here. Namely that is that we have to interpret Scriptures in their historical and cultural context. They were written to specific situations, specific cultures (with their own customs and practices) and in specific times. There are plenty of things in the Scriptures that by virtue of their cultural context cannot be emulated today. However, that does not mean that they are useless for Christians outside of that particular context. We have to understand why given commands were given so that we can see principle which supersede given situation. In other words, we have to distinguish between the principle and the cultural outworking of a principle.[29]  For instance, Paul commands Timothy to drink wine because of his indigestion problems (1 Tim. 5:23). It does not mean though that all Christians must drink wine if they have stomachache. The principles behind Paul’s command is to take available medicine (e.g. antacids) when we have health issue. Or other famous examples can be Paul’s command to greet one another will holy kiss (1 Cor 16:20). It would be very inappropriate to do so in many cultures today. But we recognize a principle that we want to obey, namely that Christians ought to greet one another warmly (however it may be manifested in given culture).

Such is the case with Paul’s instructions in verses 9 and 10. Wearing excessive jewelry and inappropriate hairstyles were something part of given culture. E. Ferguson says that: “Portrait sculpture of the Flavian period gives specificity to the type of hairstyles and jewelry forbidden in 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3. The braiding of the hair was very elaborate and ostentatious, quite unlike the simple braid of modern times.”[30] Therefore, when proper hermeneutics are applied it does not follow that women cannot braid their hair, wear jewelry, look good, etc. But Christian women (and men) of all time do want to emulate the principle behind such command. Namely that women should dress modestly and without ostentation (c.f.: 1Pet. 3:3). The same interpretative approach has to be applied even in following verses.[31] We have to discern from those them (vv. 11-15) what is Paul’s overarching principle that ought to be applied by Christians today.[32]

3. Interpreting Focal Verses: 1 Tim. 2:11-12

Now that we have set the context we can approach the focal and most controversial verses. In verse 11 Paul utters an imperative[33] that a women should learn (μανθανέτω) quietly (ἡσυχίᾳ) and with all submissiveness (ὑποταγῇ).[34] Paul switches from plural (v. 9) to singular anarthrous noun when referring to woman. He does so probably to show the generic nature of his instructions[35]. In this verse we find, strictly speaking, the only imperative verb form in this passage. Paul here clearly shows how contra cultural Christianity was back then. As opposed to his Jewish background where women were not esteemed highly and were not allowed to learn[36] (not to mention that it was given that they could not teach), Paul clearly commands that women should learn. This has led some to speculate that the reasons for the prohibition to teach spelled out in next verse (v. 12) was caused by an uneducated and thus doctrinally easily swayed women. This is however founded on speculation and not something that would actually be spelled out in the text. As a matter of fact, if Paul’s prohibitions would be stemming out from the fact that women’s problem was lack of education he could easily say so.

Paul evidently commands that women are to learn but he also stresses a manner in which they are to learn. Namely quietly and with an entire (ἐν πάσῃ) submission. Again, we see here that Paul was concerned for the well-being of congregational life. He does not forbid women to speak but he instruct them about the attitude (or manner) with which they ought to learn (c.f.: Ecc. 9:17; 1 Tim 2:2). Verses 11 and 12 need to be taken together because they contain literary inclusio. In verse 11 Paul says that women should learn quietly (ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ) and in verse 12 he repeats it again. Also Köstenberger and others[37] observed a clear correspondence between μανθανέτω (command) and διδάσκειν (prohibition) as well as between ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ (command) and αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός (prohibition).[38]

Verse 12 is probably the most debated verse in the all Pastoral Epistles. Conjunction δὲ introducing this verse is probably continuative conjunction[39] (or so called development marker). It connects one sentence with another. In other words “verse 12 follows on the heels of v. 11 and clarifies its meaning.”[40]

In this verse Paul prohibits women from teaching and exercising of authority over men. Some say that the verb “I do not permit” (οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω) being in present, active, indicative verb form indicates that this prohibition is only temporary.[41] But we see in New Testament multitude of instances where the same verbal form is used to express a universal command. For example, in Rom 12:1 Paul exhorts (Παρακαλῶ) believers in Rome to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. It would hardly follow that since the verb is in present active indicative form that Paul wants only those believers back than to live in this way (see also Rom 15:20; 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10; 4:16; 7:10; 2 Cor 10:1; Eph 4:1; Phil 4:2; 1 Thess 4:1, 10; 5:14; 2Thess 3:6, 12; 1Tim 2:1, 8; 5:14; 5:14; 2Tim 1:6; Titus 3:8).[42] So an appeal to this verbal form won’t do for those who do not see these verses as universally limiting women’s ministry.

Paul prohibits women from two activities: teaching (διδάσκω) and exercising authority over [man] (αὐθεντέω). Both verbs are infinitives. The verb διδάσκειν means to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting[43] and in Paul’s usage involve an authoritative and public transmission of tradition about Christ and the Scriptures (1Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11; 1Tim 2:7; 2Tim 3:16; Jas 3:1). It is true that NT contains examples of women teaching (e.g. Acts 18:25; 26, 2Tim 3:14; Titus 2:3-5) but here Paul prohibits and authoritative teaching in context of church congregation. As Paul will argue in chapter 3, this task is appointed for overseers (elders) who are to be “man of one woman” (1Tim 3:2).

Second activity that is prohibited is “to exercise authority over [man]” This word (αὐθεντέω) has been probably the most disputed word not only in this verse but in the whole epistle. Its understanding often determines the interpretation of the whole passage (and that in turn often determines one’s view on women’s ministry). The difficulty is that it is a hapax legomenon.[44] There is not any other NT usages of this word. The dispute is over whether this word is understood by the author as a negative activity or positive (or neutral). Accordingly, various Bible translations and bible interpreters translated this verb in somewhat different ways. The two most prevalent and most probable translations are “to have / exercise authority” [ESV, HCSB, NAB, JB, NJB, NASB, RSV, NKJV, NET, LEB, NCV, NIV1984, GNB, CJB, NLT, etc] and to “domineer / usurp authority” [AV, KJV, ASV, CEB, ISV]. The former is by itself viewed as a neutral / positive (non-pejorative) action whereas the later has negative (pejorative) connotations. In case that the word should be understood as something intrinsically negative it might follow that Paul wanted to prohibit that particular behavior manifested in church of Ephesus. Whereas in case that this word has neutral / positive meaning it would remove any indications that this prohibitions is tied only to Ephesus and thus should be understood as universally applicable. Many interpreters over the years have, in combinations with quiet speculative theories about Ephesus and its Artemis cult, proposed various renderings of this phrase, such as: “I do not allow women to…engage in fertility practices” or “I do not allow women to…proclaim herself the author or originator of a man” or “I do not allow woman to…instigate violence.”[45] Nevertheless, virtually all of these unlikely interpretations were by now disproven.

In his recently published essay (2016), Al Wolters has meticulously documented not only all of the works that have been published on the meaning of αὐθεντέω in past years but he mainly investigated in detail the use of this word in Greek literature from 100 B. C. to 312 A.D. (namely 8 occurrences) and then also about 114 occurrences after 312 A.D. till middle ages when the word died out from being a part of a living language. In this exhaustive study he shows conclusively that the virtually exclusive the word had been used with positive / neutral (non-pejorative) sense and that its meaning should be rendered as “exercise authority over.”[46]

Wolters’ study showed a semantic range of disputed word. Nevertheless, the context is determinative in choosing proper meaning. Therefore another important piece of evidence in understanding this word has been exhaustive syntactical study by Andreas Köstenberger.[47] He investigates the relationship of following syntactic construction: 1) a negated finite verb (οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω) + 2) infinitive (διδάσκειν) + 3) οὐδὲ + infinitive (αὐθεντεῖν) + 4) ἀλλά + infinitive (εἶναι). He surveys the whole New Testament and all of the extant Greek literature from the first century and shows that the conjunction οὐδὲ (mhde) always joins activities that the writer or speaker views either both positively or both negatively.[48] The implication for 1Timothy 2:12 is that both “teach” (διδάσκειν) and “exercise authority” (αὐθεντεῖν) have to be either both rendered intrinsically negative or positive. Either both are viewed pejoratively or both are viewed non-pejoratively. Therefore: “determining how Paul views διδάσκειν is pivotal for determining the connotation of αὐθεντεῖν.”[49] As shown before, unless contextually indicated (Tit 1:11), Paul always uses διδάσκειν as a positive / neutral activity. When Paul views teaching or teacher negatively he uses the verb ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω (1Tim 1:3; 6:3). But when he exhorts for sound doctrine he uses the word διδασκαλίᾳ (1Tim 1:10) or he calls himself a διδάσκαλος (1Tim 2:7). These are clearly positive connotations. Köstenberger thus concludes: “Since, the term διδάσκειν is best understood to be used positively in 1Tim 2:12 and since οὐδὲ coordinates terms that are viewed either both positively or both negatively, αὐθεντεῖν should be seen as denoting an activity that is viewed positively as well.”[50] This conclusion also further confirms Walter’s findings.

4. Rationale for Paul’s prohibition: 1 Tim 2:13-15

Thus far it have been shown that Paul’s instruction about conduct in the church has all the marks of universally applicable command. Nothing in the context signifies that his injunctions should be understood as culturally bound. His prohibition of women to teach and exercise authority have been shown to be prohibition of activities which are not in themselves negative and thus should be understood universally binding. This conclusion is further cemented by Paul’s rational that he gives for his prohibitions.

In verse 13 Paul starts with an explanatory conjunction[51] γάρ by which he introduces a reason for his prohibitions (v. 12)[52]. He refers to second creation account (Gen 2:4-25) and observes: “Adam was formed first and then Eve.” “First” (πρῶτος) indicates an absolute priority and stands in contrast to Eve. He appeals to the pre-fall, good and perfect world to justify his prohibition. This is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text: Paul validates his prohibition by maintaining that the Creation order signals an important difference in the role of men and women[53] (note the disputed question is difference in role not an ontological value of men and women).

Sometimes when it comes to an interpretation of this verse, it has been suggested that Paul’s prohibitions stem from situation in Ephesian church where women were promulgating heresy (possibly influenced by Ephesian cult of Artemis). But again, there is nothing in the text which would support this thesis. It is a mere speculation (which is imposed onto the text).[54] It is also noteworthy that for example Jesus argued in the same way, he grounded his prohibition of polygamy in created order (Matt 19:4-6) also Paul prohibits homosexuality based on created order (Rom 1:26-27).

Verse 14 introduced with copulative conjunction[55] καί bind preceding statement and introduces, in a sense, a second argument for Paul’s prohibition. It is not easy to understand what Paul exactly implies by saying that Adam was not deceived but Eva was. Because they both sinned and it is hard to understand how Adam could sin unless being deceived. Even when we admit that he did it openly (intentionally) he was still deceived because would he know fully the nature and consequences of his acts it is hard to believe that he would decide to sin anyway.

Also Paul makes clear elsewhere (Rom 5:12-21) that Adam sinned and thus is equally guilty. Eve listened to Satan and fell for the vanity of his promises. Eve let herself to be betrayed by the serpent and fell into the condition of a sinner (cf. 2 Cor 11:3).[56] So Paul is likely not saying that only Eve was deceived and that only she transgressed and that for that reason she should not teach (c.f. 2 Tim 1:5; Titus 2:4). Rather his purpose in saying this is more restricted. This is what Schreiner says of Paul’s intention: “He wants to focus on the fact that the serpent approached and deceived Eve, not Adam…In approaching Eve, then, the Serpent subverted the pattern of male leadership and interacted only with the woman… the Genesis temptation, therefore, stands as the prototype of what happens when male leadership is abrogated”[57] (see Gen 3:17).

Finally, the verse 2:15 is notoriously difficult to interpret. It is beyond the scope of this essay to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of various interpretations. Thus author will only chart out what is according to him the most plausible interpretation.

At the outset it is important to note, that this verse is not to be understood as a climax of the whole passage. But it rather provides qualification to v. 14 and rounds the argument[58] as evidenced by copulative conjunction (δέ). In previous verses Paul prohibited women from certain activities (i.e. teaching and exercising authority) now he concludes with positive God-given path for women.

Two main questions that are related to this verse are: 1) what is the meaning of the verb σῴζω (save) here? Is it to be understood as a spiritual or some sort of physical salvation or preservation? 2) What is the subject of verbs σωθήσεται („shall be saved“) and μείνωσιν („they remain“).

First, when Paul’s usage of the verb σῴζω (save) is surveyed, it becomes apparent that in most instances he uses it in a spiritual (soteriological) sense, especially in Pastoral epistles (1Tim 1:15; 2:4; 4:16; 2Tim 1:9; 4:18; Titus 3:5). Therefore, it will not do only to find an isolated instance where this word might have different meaning. Also whenever different than a spiritual sense is supplied it usually creates difficult (illogical) and unsubstantiated readings.

Secondly, when it comes to the subject of aforementioned verbs, we may safely infer that it does not refer to any unbelieving person (v. 15b). From the thrust of the whole passage (1Tim 2:8-15) it is most likely that the implied subject are Christian (Ephesian) women. As it is clear from previous instances (and) Paul fluidly changes from third person plural (vv. 8-10) to third person singular (vv. 11-15a) and back to third person plural (v. 15b) when referring to women (γυναῖκας). It is an evidence of the fact that he speaks of all women in general.

As noted in introduction, Ephesian church dealt with false teachers. A part of this false teaching apparently subverted the God-created role for men and women. They were prohibiting marriage (1Tim 4:-5) and thus likely criticized bearing of children and thus diverting the proper God-given roles of and women. Paul thus concludes that the proper role God gave to women was to bear children (τεκνογονία, c.f.: Gen 3:16). Now, it is apparent that not all women who are saved have children (1 Cor 7:34–35) and not all women who bear children are saved. Therefore, Paul’s words should be understood as a generalization / typifying of women’s role. This is transcultural and timeless maxim.

Paul is not simply saying that bearing children will bring salvation, he clarifies it more specifically. Women must have faith (in Christ) and persevere (i.e. continue) in good works (love and holiness with self-control). Bearing children simply falls into the category of “good works” because it is God-given role for women (c.f.: 1Tim 5:11, 14).[59]

Note that Paul does not say that these good works are basis for salvation or that they are in any sense meritorious. Paul’s insisting merely on Christian life which produces good works (see: 1Cor 3:9-11; Gal 5:21; Eph 2:10, etc.) – in this case in context of Christian women. Schreiner concludes: “What Paul means is that abiding in godly virtues and obeying apostolic instruction are necessary for salvation; they are necessary because they function as the evidence of the new life in Christ.”[60]

Summary and Conclusion

The role of women in the church his highly controversial matter today colored with personal emotions of all sorts. Despite that evangelical Christians have to keep their focus on Scriptural teaching and do their best to understand it and obey it. Even when the biblical commands and instructions are contrary to modern feelings.

Scriptures present high view of women and their ministry. As noted in introduction, they served in many capacities. However, God throughout history have consistently appointed men for leadership roles. This conclusion seems to be also warranted by Paul’s instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

Paul wrote this letter because of the false teaching that was troubling Ephesian church. No matter what kind of falsehood it was, it certainly attacked God-given roles of men and women. For that reason Paul instructs Ephesian Christians how they should behave in their church meetings. Men should pray without anger and pursue holiness. And women should avoid ostentatious attire and pursue good works. When they meet for worship, Paul wants women to learn but with submissive and quiet demeanor. He prohibits them to teach and exercise authority over men during these church meetings. These roles have been reserved for male leadership. He supports his prohibition by appealing to the pre-fall created order. Man was created first and also Satan subverted male leadership by deceiving a woman. Paul’s prohibition is thus valid for all those who are descendants of Adam and Eve (i.e. this prohibition is not applicable only for Ephesians but ought to be applied universally-everywhere). Even though women are prohibited to teach they have their God-given roles which they ought to pursue, namely to bear children and live a life of faith which produces good fruit.

This passage thus presents a balanced complementarian view of the proper roles God assigned to both men and women.


Al Wolters, The Meaning of Αὐθεντέω, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Albert L. Lukaszewski, Mark Dubis, and J. Ted Blakley, The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, SBL Edition: Expansions and Annotations (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), 1 Ti 2:8-15.

Arichea, Daniel C., and Howard Hatton. A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and to Titus. UBS Handbook Series. United Bible Societies, 1995.

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Beck James R., eds. Two Views on Women in Ministry. Rev. ed. Counterpoints. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.

Bengel, Johann Albrecht. Gnomon of the New Testament. Edited by M. Ernest Bengel and J. C. F. Steudel. Translated by James Bryce. Vol. 4. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1860.

Belleville, Linda. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Vol. 17. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.

Blight, Richard C. An Exegetical Summary of 1 Timothy. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2009.

Burk Denny, New and Old Departures in the Translation of Αὐθεντέω in 1Timothy 2:12, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Dewey, Joanna. “1 Timothy.” In Women’s Bible Commentary, edited by Carol A. Newsom, Jacqueline E. Lapsley, and Sharon H. Ringe. Revised and Updated. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Douglas Moo, What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men? 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in: John Piper and Wayne A Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2006)

Earle, Ralph. “1 Timothy.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 11. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981.

Everett Ferguson, “Women in the Assembly,” Inman Forum 1998, Some Contemporary Issues Concerning Worship and the Christian Assembly (n.d.),

Kelly, J. N. D. The Pastoral Epistles. Black’s New Testament Commentary. London: Continuum, 1963.

Kittel, Gerhard, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

Knight, George W. The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds. Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Lea, Thomas D., and Hayne P. Griffin. 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. Vol. 34. The New American Commentary. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Mare, W. Harold. New Testament Background Commentary: A New Dictionary of Words, Phrases and Situations in Bible Order. Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2004.

Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. Vol. 46. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2000.

Piper, John, and Wayne A Grudem. Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2006. Accessed August 30, 2017.

Steven M. Baugh, A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Schreiner Thomas R., An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Towner, Philip H. “1-2 Timothy and Titus.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 891–917. Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007.

1–2 Timothy & Titus. Vol. 14. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series.     InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Zondervan, 1997.

Yarbrough Robert W., Familiar Paths and a Fresh Matrix: The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

[1] Note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive but merely illustrative.

[2] It is likely that Andronicus and Junia were literally apostles (i.e. “sent ones”) serving as missionaries. But this text is highly debated.

[3] This is also unclear and highly debated whether it was an official position opened for women or merely recognition as a servant.

[4] See Acts 20:17-38 for scriptural support of these terms being used synonymously denoting one church position.

[5] Linda L. Belleville and James R. Beck, eds., Two Views on Women in Ministry, Rev. ed., Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005), 265.

[6] The authorship of Pastoral Epistles have been in past two hundred years questioned by many scholars. It is beyond the scope of this paper to defend Paul’s authorship. The author of this paper adopts traditional evangelical understanding of Paul’s authorship. It is also noteworthy that those who don’t believe in Paul’s authorship often agree with complementarian exegesis of this text (but disagree with its conclusions for their prior philosophical commitments). For convincing defense of Paul’s authorship see: William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2000), lxxxiii-cxx.

[7] Mounce says: “Part of Paul’s theological response includes what later came to be known as orthodoxy. The church was always interested in preserving the traditions of Jesus’ actions and words (e.g., 1 Cor 11:23–26; 15:3).” Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, vxxiii.

[8] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, lxix.

[9] S.M. Baugh surveys the culture of Ephesus and disproves many of the fanciful and unsubstantiated claims about Ephesus and its society and religion which are often read into this passage. Steven M. Baugh, A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century, in: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Third Edition. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

[10] For comprehensive survey of the false teaching see Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, lxix-lxxxiii.

[11] Linda Belleville, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews, vol. 17 (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 20; J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1963); George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 12, 29-31.

[12] Here I’m in debt to: Douglas Moo, What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men? 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in: John Piper and Wayne A Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2006).

[13] When Paul instructed men and women (some think husbands and wives were specifically in view) in his churches (see also 1 Cor 11:2–16; 14:33–35), the immediate problem was disturbances in the worship service. On the one hand, changing attitudes about the man-woman relationship led women to assert themselves in the worship service in ways that threatened unity and perhaps also reflected a disregard for biblical and cultural distinctions between men and women. Philip Towner, 1–2 Timothy & Titus, vol. 14, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 1 Ti 2:8.

[14] Moo presents these reasons for this inference: “First, an encouragement to abstain from marriage, which we know was part of the false teachers’ program, is likely to include a more general denigration of traditional female roles. Second, the counsel in 1 Timothy 5:14 to young widows “to marry, to have children, to manage their homes”—i.e., to occupy themselves in traditional female roles—is issued because some “have . . . turned away to follow Satan” (verse 15). Since Paul labels the false teaching as demonic (1 Timothy 4:1), it is likely that this turning away to follow Satan means following the false teachers and that they were teaching the opposite of what Paul commands in 5:14. Third, the false teaching that is besetting the church at Ephesus sounds very similar to the general problem that seems to lurk behind 1 Corinthians. In both situations, the problem arose from within the church, involved the denial of a future, physical resurrection in favor of a present, “spiritual” resurrection (see 2 Timothy 2:18; 1 Corinthians 15, coupled with 4:8), and led to incorrect attitudes toward marriage and sex (1 Corinthians 7; 1 Timothy 4:3), toward food (1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Timothy 4:3, although the specific issues are a bit different), and, most importantly, to a tendency on the part of the women to disregard their appropriate roles, especially vis-a-vis their husbands (see 1 Corinthians 11:2-18; 14:33b-36; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 5:13-14; Titus 2:3-5).” Moo, What Does It Mean, 181.

[15] Andreas Köstenberger  masterfully points at several features, such as connectives, inclusios, repetitions and other syntactic pattern which demonstrates considerable cohesion of this text (1 Tim 2:8-15). A. Köstenberger: A Complex Sentence In: Women in the Church, 153.

[16] “Paul begins with a virtual command: “I will it.” This is quite unusual. Paul’s typical pastoral approach is that of request: “I urge” (parakaleō [3870, 4151]), or “I ask” (deomai [1189, 1289]). He commands only as a last resort—as he did with the Thessalonian church “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” when their idleness increased (instead of decreasing) after his first missive (2 Thess 3:6). To interject his apostolic authority in this way indicates that there was a need for decisive intervention.” Belleville, “Commentary on 1 Timothy, 51.

[17] “Likewise also women.” The use of the definite article with men and not with women may suggest that the apostle was laying down the pattern that public worship should be conducted by the men

Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 360.

[18] “In ancient Eastern Mediterranean public life, men led in the political and other public meetings, such as Christian worship meetings…” W. Harold Mare, New Testament Background Commentary: A New Dictionary of Words, Phrases and Situations in Bible Order (Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2004), 348.

“In view of 2:12 it seems likely that the intention of this verse is to identify men as those who have the right to lead in worship, and to deny this right to women.” Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and to Titus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1995), 54.

“In the Jewish synagogue only men were permitted to recite the prayers; the stress on sex suggests that this convention may have been breaking down at Ephesus (for Corinth much earlier, cf. 1 Cor. 11:5 ff.; 14:33 ff.), and this is confirmed by 11 ff. below.” Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles, 65.

[19] “Therefore, Paul’s instructions to women, like the preceding instructions to men, are related to the context of the gathered Christian community but are not restricted to it.” Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 131.

[20] Everett Ferguson defends this reading by pointing at the character of 1 Timothy as Paul’s instructions (1:8) about “church order” (1Tim 3:15). Namely the qualifications for overseers / elders in chapter 3, the formal description of prayer in 2:1 with expressed hope so that “we” (the church) might be at peace. Dr. Everett Ferguson, “Women in the Assembly,” Inman Forum 1998, Some Contemporary Issues Concerning Worship and the Christian Assembly (n.d.),

Also Mounce brings attention to the fact, that prayer can be a private issue. But Paul speaks of ἄνδρας, “men” (plural) and their praying without anger which suggest that these instructions pertain public prayer (e.g. during church service). Mounce also helpfully counters interpreters who claim that these instructions are concerning only churches in and around Ephesus: “Paul’s answer gives no explicit indication that his solutions apply only to the Ephesians. One would expect that men everywhere are not to be angry when they pray. Women everywhere are to place an emphasis not on external beauty but on deeds of godliness. All church leaders are to be above reproach. In fact, the appeal to creation in v 13 explicitly universalizes at least that specific instruction. 1 Tim 2:1–7 is also closely tied to the following verses with the οὖν, “therefore,” in v 8, suggesting that there has not been a change of audience. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 107.

[21] Ferguson, Women in the Assembly,

[22] Contra Belleville who unsubstantially limits this expression only to the congregations in Ephesus. Belleville, 1 Timothy, 51.

[23] Moo, What Does It Mean, 182.

[24] Albert L. Lukaszewski, Mark Dubis, and J. Ted Blakley, The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, SBL Edition: Expansions and Annotations (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), 1 Ti 2:9.

[25] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 209.

[26] Schreiner, Women in the Church, 178.

[27] Alvera Mickelsen, An Ealitarian View: There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ, quoted in Women in the Church, 180.

[29] Schreiner, Two Views on Women in Ministry, 308.

[30] Many commentators also point at the fact that ostentatious dressing had probably also sexual overtones. See Steven M. Baugh, A Foreign World, 53-57; Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. edition. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 97; Mare, New Testament Background Commentary, 348; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 135.

[31] This applies also for 1. Corinthians 11 which is often cited in similar manner: We are told that if one wants to apply Paul’s commands literally then all women of all time should wear head coverings. But again, the overarching principle of that passage is that wife should indicate through given cultural means that she is submissive to her husband.

[32] Some also say that Paul’s command to pursue good deeds and modesty is hardly confined to church meeting and therefore ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ should be understood as simply “everywhere.” Knight explains: “Paul’s instructions to women, like the preceding instructions to men, are related to the context of the gathered Christian community but are not restricted to it.” Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 131.

[33] Some tried to belittle other Paul’s injunctions (especially in verses 12) in light of the fact that the only grammatical imperative Paul gives in this text is that women should learn. But NT contains many instances where command is conveyed through present indicative verb form: 1 Tim. 2:1; Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 1:10; Peh. 4:1; Phil 4:2; 2Tim 1:6

[34] The submission is probably ought to be given to men in leadership (e.g. elders / overseer). See Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, p. 120, Schreiner, Women in the Church, 187.

[35] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1997), 253–254.

[36] e.g., “Better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman in: Mounce, Pastoral Epistles; “The men came to learn, the women came to hear” In: Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 139.

[37] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 117; Schreiner, Women in the Church, 187, 188.

[38] Köstenberger, Women in the Church, 157.

[39] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 671.

[40] Schreiner, Women in the Church, 188.

[41] Belleville, Commentary on 1 Timothy, 57.

[42] Wallace, Greek Grammar 523-25; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 122-23.

[43] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon, 241.

[44] Sometimes proponents of egalitarian view claim that Paul’s choice of this hapax instead of more common word for authority (e.g. ἐξουσία) reveals that he has distinct meaning in mind. For convincing answer see: Schreiner, Women in the Church, 196-197.

[45] Schreiner, Women in the Church, 195.

[46] Wolters concludes that: “number of converging lines of evidence have confirmed this thesis: cognates, immediate context, ancient versions, patristic commentary, and the broad usage of the verb elsewhere.” Walters, Women in the Church, 113.

[47] Köstenberger, Women in the Church, 117-161.

[48] Ibid., 123.

[49] Ibid., 131.

[50] Ibid., 134.

[51] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 673.

[52] Paul almost always follow his commands with reasons (γάρ): 1Tim 4:7-8, 16; 5:4, 11, 15, 18; 2Tim 2:6-7; 2:7, 16; 3:5-6; 4:3, 5-6, 9-10, 11, 15; Titus 3:1-3, 9, 12.

[53] Furthermore, some scholars see here a reference to primogeniture. That is the Jewish custom that the firstborn inherits rights and authority over father’s household. See: Blomberg, Two views, 170.

[54] Belleville takes this path. Belleville, “Commentary on 1 Timothy, 61-63.Schreiner also presents logical and exegetical problems these claims create. Schreiner, Women in the Church, 205-206.

[55] Lukaszewski, The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, 1 Ti 2:14.

[56] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 101.

[57] Schreiner, Women in the Church, 215; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 114.

[58] Ibid., 216.

[59] Probably historically most common understanding of this verse is that it refers to the Birth (Incarnation) of Child, namely of Jesus. Even though this interpretation has its strengths it also has serious weaknesses. Mainly “Paul never says that salvation is by the Incarnation or by Mary, and to see Mary as the agent of the salvation of women unnecessarily complicates an already confusing passage” Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 145.

[60] Schreiner, Women in the Church, 224.