1 Timothy 2- Women Ministers
Note: This study of words about women in ministry was written in my last church context regarding me having a woman come and preach. A few of our deacons thought I overstepped my bounds because of 1 Timothy. I then wrote this paper to address the Greek in that passage. I went through and edited it a bit to make it apply to a broader audience for this post. But, its application is a bit focused on the words in Timothy and what exactly Paul is outlawing.
1 Timothy 2:8-15 –
Exegetical Study with Application
Any Scripture quotations will come from the NIV unless noted. The Greek however will come straight from the ancient sources and has nothing to do with a modern translation.
A short thought on Jesus and women
Let’s begin with a simple look at Jesus (from memory). In the Gospels, Jesus’ interaction with women are positive, which was scandalous in his time. Women in the society of the past were second class citizens (in most but not all cultures) but Jesus often treats women as part of his inner circle of disciples. Remember Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet (Luke 10:39)? The reason this is so scandalous to Martha is not primarily because she was in the kitchen working, but rather that Mary was acting like a disciple of Christ, “sitting at his feet” and listening to all he said. Women were not supposed to be disciples of Rabbi’s, yet Jesus welcomed her and corrected Martha. Jesus himself never sets down any specifics about church order and women speaking, all of this is left to Paul and other Apostles. He does however address organization in the home in line with Genesis, but not in reference to the Church offices.
Paul and 1 Timothy 2
Paul says a lot about church order. Let’s begin by going through the passage in question covering the key. The best place to begin is actually before our passage in question. What is 1 Timothy talking about in the first place and can it help shine biblical light on the passage in question? Some of my study will focus in on the context of the passages in general, such as the whole book, but it will also focus in on key words through the text that matter to this study. Words like “man” and “authority” will be helpful for us to see in the original language.
1 Timothy 1:3-4 “So that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith.”
1. The word “men” in the passage above is the Greek word “tisin” which in this case means “Certain people who had conspired to cause trouble.” This word does not mean males, but rather people generically. It is similar to how if I see a group of people I may call out “How are all of you guys doing” even if there are many women in the group. It is generic.
Conclusion: Even in the beginning of the letter to Timothy those who cause trouble or conspired to cause trouble are in view and they are commanded not to teach false doctrines any longer. We are not sure if Males or Females are in view because it is Generic in Greek. The point is that some people are teaching false things and they are causing trouble and Paul wants to stop this.
1 Timothy 1:6 “…Some have wandered away and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the Law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
1. We can continue to see early on in this letter that Paul is wrestling against
a. False Doctrine
b. Usurpers of authority or those who conspire and cause trouble.
2. Does this fit well with Chapter 2 and our passage on women not having authority over a man? YES! This is exactly what Paul has to deal with in Chapter 2 as well.
1 Timothy 2:1 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…”
1. The word “everyone” comes from the Greek words “pantone anthropone.”
2. Who is everyone? The word “everyone” is referring literally everyone, both males and females and 1 Timothy 2:2 tells us the specifics.
1 Timothy 2:2 “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
1. The greek word for “authority” is “hyperoke” which means “anyone in prominent places or eminent stations of life.”
2. Men and women must be in view here together and not just males. Even though males held the vast majority of spots of authority there were periodically eminent females and even some in authority, in the society at large. There were even many females who headed up the house churches, or rather hosted the house churches because they were wealthy and had large enough homes.
1 Timothy 2:4 God “…who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1. “All Men” in Greek is “pantone anthropone.” Who does God want to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? ALL PEOPLE. Not just males, but all people. The word in English is “men” but in Greek it is generic, and contextually it is certainly is generic. Jesus died for all, not just males.
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
1. The same greek word is used for “men” and “the man” in the underlined above. Both come from “anthropos.” Even though we clearly know that Jesus was male, this passage is not highlighting that fact. Rather, it is saying that all people have Jesus, the human representative before them going to God. Humanity is the focus, not gender.
1 Timothy 2:7 “And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, not lying – and a teacher of the truth and faith to the Gentiles.”
-Many of the underlined words above needs some looking at
1. Appointed – is the greek word “etaythayn” – The meaning is pretty straight forward. Appointed or set in place is the meaning, but the key here is that Paul (as he always does) makes his argument that his appointment has come from Christ and not from humanity (See the whole book of Galatians). God is the one that appointed Paul, not some human authority, although human authorities do end up validating Paul’s call.
a. What is also significant about this word is that it shows up again in the book of 1st
Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 12:28 it reads “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, and third teachers,” etc.
b. What is significant about this passage in Corinthians and Paul’s own use of the word
in Timothy is that God does the appointing! Not we humans, although of course we would say that we should discern those who actually do have calls.
c. Moreover, 1 Cor. 12:31 tells all Christians (not just males or not just females, but all)
that they are to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” How are women supposed to desire the public gifts of apostle, prophet, and teacher if Paul is against women using them?
2. Herald – is the greek word “Kerus” – The meaning is simply “proclaimer.” At the end of most of the Gospels all Christians are called to be proclaimers of the truth.
3. Apostle – is the greek word “apostolos” which means “sent one" and typically has some sense of authority attached to it for a particular group or region of Christians.
a. Romans 16:7 says that Andronicus and Junia were great among the apostles. Junia is
a woman. Would Paul reference a woman Apostle if he was against women leading and guiding God’s people in specific areas? Paul is grateful for her and others work and he mentions it.
4. Teacher – is the greek word “didaskalos” and simply means teacher and sometimes an official of a Christian assembly.
1 Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing.”
1. Pay attention here because this is where things get focused! The word “Men” as underlined above comes from the Greek word “andras” and means “a male person, adult man, or husband.” A MALE is in view here.
2. Why is Paul telling these adult men to lift up holy hands without anger and disputing? He is because he is dealing with men who have been disputing and angry in the wrong sort of way. We might ask why he does not deal with women on this point, but basically they must not have been having the same issues.
a. We should ask at this point, if Paul is detailing universal principles to all Christians in all times in this passage, then why on earth do not Christians take this passage as seriously and have the men lift of holy hands in church? The reason we don’t is that most of us get that Paul is applying his godly wisdom to a complex situation in the church in his time. Of course angrily disputing is wrong, and Paul begins to solve a particular problem in this particular church.
3. As soon as he deals with the males he switches to the females. This is the classic Pauline way of doing things. Deal with the males, then switch to the females. He does this in Ephesians 5, 1 Cor. 11, 1 Cor. 7. Interesting enough he always treats things this way in an almost reciprocal fashion. The males then the females. Check it out
a. 1 Cor. 7:3 “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.”
b. And EVEN MORE 1 Cor. 7:4 “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” In Paul’s day, this was partly scandalous, yet he writes it for the Church.
1 Timothy 2:9-10 “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold, or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good works appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
1. Why does Paul have to address this? Because some women were getting a little excessive and trying to gain attention. Therefore, Paul is not universally saying that women cannot wear braided hair! Rather, he is dealing with the vanity of some who used braided hair to show themselves and their status off to others.
2. Just think if Paul was in certain African countries and how useless his advice about braided hair would be to our African sisters who wear braided hair. If a woman in one of these communities straightened her hair to show it off to others, Paul would be saying “Don’t straighten your hair!!!” because the showing off to others part is the point being made.
3. Vanity and perhaps wealth mixed with vanity is in view here, and not universal prescription against braids.
***This is a key to our understanding the following verses. The underlining value or principle at work is universal (don’t show off your stuff to trump others). What is the underlining principle in the passages ahead?
HERE WE GO to a KEY PASSAGE
1 Timothy 2:11 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”
**The above words looked at in Greek will help us immensely to know what Paul is getting at.
1. Woman – This is the greek word “gune” which simply means “an adult female person.”
2. Learn – This is the greek word “manthano” and means to be “informed, comprehend, to gain knowledge or skill by instruction.”
3. Quietness – This is the greek word “esuchia” and means “a state of saying nothing or very little.”
4. Submission – This is the greek word “hypatage” which means “subordinating oneself in every respect so as not to set herself as a controller.”
***Why would Paul address this issue? He was because some women were usurping authority and were boisterously taking control over others. They were not learning or growing like they were supposed to be and instead were acting unscriptural because of their lack of knowledge.
***What’s amazing about this passage is that Paul considers women worthy of learning and growth and tells them to learn so that they can mature. This is amazing because it was countercultural in Paul’s day.
Conclusion: This passage IS NOT saying that no woman anywhere can speak before men! This passage IS saying that women (or anyone for that matter) who is conspiring to usurp authority and gain control is out of order and they need to go back and learn the Scriptures so they do not act so foolishly. Paul’s solution for these unlearned controlling women…? Stop controlling and get learning! This is made even clearer by the next passage!
1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a women to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
1. Permit – is the greek word “epitrepo” which simply means “permit or allow.”
2. Teach – is the greek word “didaskein” which means “to teach or speak in a public assembly.”
a. Now, this is actually a distinct word from “teacher” which we saw earlier. Thus, Paul
is not saying in this passage that “women cannot be teachers” but rather he is saying that these type of women that are boisterous conspirators are not to teach in the assembly, and frankly any boisterous conspirator should not be allowed to teach in the assembly because of the damage they would do, especially because they are unlearned.
b. This passage is sanctioning specific types of women (unlearned controllers).
3. Authority – is the greek word “authentein” and it means “to have authority over, to domineer, to assume a stance of independent authority.”
a. This is a domineering sense of authority that the woman was taking, and she was
untrained at that. Paul is stopping this before things get out of hand.
4. Man – the greek word here is “andras” which actually does mean male and adult one at that.
The Aramaic from the Peshitta Text (one of the earliest translations into Aramaic from Greek) is clearer on this text and reads “I do not think it seemly for a woman to debate publicly or otherwise usurp the authority of men…”
1 Timothy 2:13-14 “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; the woman was deceived and became a sinner.”
1. My point in highlighting the words above is not to talk about the Greek this time. Rather to highlight what Paul is referring to in Genesis, or rather what he is not referring to.
a. In Genesis chapter 2 Paul is right to say that Adam was formed first. But in Genesis
one male and female are created together. The word “First” is signifying here Adam’s role as guiding and teaching Eve. In fact, some early Rabbi’s thought that if Adam had properly instructed Eve in the first place she would not have fallen.
b. What is this saying? With the verses before this passage in Timothy, the solution for
these unlearned women, is that they need to learn, just like Eve needed to learn and be trained. Paul himself said these women must LEARN!
1 Timothy 2:15 “But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness and propriety.”
*** WHAT!!! Is not this a confusing verse at face value?!
1. If we took “saved through childbearing” without a context, and without the context of the whole Bible at that, it would seem that Paul has another method for women to get saved apart from the usual road through Christ, and to make this at first glance even more
problematic he adds GOOD WORKS as a requirement of salvation (childbearing). But since
we already know that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), it is clear that
Paul is not saying that women can just have children and be saved spiritually or from their
2. So what is Paul saying?
a. I think the correct look at this passage refers to women “being brought safely through
childbirth.” The word “saved” means delivered or brought safely through. Women in
the ancient world (especially with the curse of pain in childbearing coming through
Eve) would often pray for the sparing of their life in hopes that they would live
through the birthing process.
b. Therefore the most “natural way for an ancient reader to have understood “salvation”
in the context of childbirth would have been a safe delivery.”
c. Another way of looking at this verse is that it is thinking back to the women who did
bring forth our salvation…namely Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus.
We might ask, was Eve’s curse of pain in child bearing part of God’s ideal plan? No. Now, that Christ has overcome the effects of that pain, although dramatically still present, they are or will be lifted and women will be safe from the effects of Eve’s curse if they remain with the Lord.
Conclusion: In modern 21st century culture teamed with the English language, we should have read this verse as if Paul was telling women they could get saved through having children. Yet, with 1st century eyes it was apparent and clear that Paul was obviously not saying this. Moreover, as we already know Paul has said things elsewhere which make it clear that salvation is by grace through faith and he does not have anything in mind different for one gender to the next in salvation.
NOW that we are through the text, let’s wrap up some thoughts and address a couple extra as well.
1. The universal principle in this passage has little to do with women (in a universal way).
This is easily paralleled in Timothy where men are told not to be angry, which anger in and
of itself has very little to do with males in a universal way. Paul would have dealt with the
women if they were being angry, and if the men were unlearned and usurping authority he
would have dealt with them as well. The universal of this passage is that those who are
unlearned, and those who wish to control, should not teach in a public way in church!
a. The prohibition on this passage is on incompetent and controlling teachers, not on
women because of gender.
2. Let us remember that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, and we should be
discerning about who can teach or not, especially if we are praying for laborers.
What about Males and the rest of the book of Timothy?
1 Timothy 3:1 “Here is a trustworthy saying; if anyone sets his heart on being and overseer, he desires a noble task.”
1. “Anyone” – This says nothing about Gender here.
2. “Overseer” – Greek word “episkopos” which is sometimes translated bishop in other
After this verse however he lays out requirements in such a way as with dealing with males. So how do we make sense of this? Just because he does not reference females here does not mean that there is no place for them in church roles. This will become ever clearer in the next passage on deacons.
1 Timothy 3:8-12 mentions “deacons” and at first glance seems to lay out things for males not females. In fact, at first glance in the NIV, after it addresses Deacons (apparently the males ones) it goes on (in the NIV) to address Deacon’s wives (vs. 11). However, the passage is not talking about Deacons wives, instead it is talking about female deacons. The NIV adds a “their” right in front of the word “wives” which is not present. The “Their” should not be present in English. In fact, at the bottom of NIV translations there is a footnote that describes the language as being “in the same way, women” which goes on to present qualifications for women who are deacons. So…..our passage reads correctly in other translations….
1. Vs. 11 “Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in
everything.” The difference is quite dramatic. If we read it along with the language as “their
wives” we would think this refers to deacons wives. Yet, instead there is no “their” in the
text and we can read it as “Women, similarly…” which seems to be saying he is giving
advice to women in ecclesiastical functions as well as men.
2. To further Prove this point.
a. Moreover, we know elsewhere that Paul clearly mentions women as deacons.
Romans 16:1 says “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in
b. The greek word for “servant” in Romans 16:1 is “diakonos.” That is the exact word
used for “deacon” in many other places. It is very clear that Pheobe was a deacon of
the Church and is very likely the person who was bringing the letter of Romans to the
Roman Church for vs. 2 says about Pheobe that she is the one traveling there and
Paul asks them to “receive” her. “I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy
of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a
great help to many people, including me.”
3. The correct translation would then be….
a. The Aramaic of the Peshitta reads in 16:1 “I entrust to your care Phebe, our sister,
who is a deaconess of the church which is at Cenchrea”
b. Even the NAB Catholic Bible reads “I commend to you Pheobe our sister, who is also a
minister of the church in Cenchreae.” Catholics to my knowledge do not even accept
women deacons in the current millennium, yet in their own Bible it makes this
c. And here comes the sticking point in an even greater way as to show why this
passage assumes much about Pheobe. Often (not always) the carrier of the letter
would be the one to bring forth the message in an assembly. It could safely be
assumed that Pheobe was therefore trained in order to adequately bring the teaching
of Romans to the Roman Church. Once again, the person who was to read the letter
would have had to have been trained in Greek Rhetoric because the letters were
written in Greek Rhetorical styles, which a learned person could then bring forth the
intentions of the author because of the rhetoric styles so regularly used in the day. We
know for sure she was a deacon. And it is quite possibly her who gave the message of
Romans to the Roman Church.
As a side subject: What about the divorced as deacons? At our meeting the other day one person pointed out that it seems that the passage is saying that deacons are to have only had one wife. The question to follow was basically, “what are we to do with that, since several on our board have had previous marriages?” Well, there is more good news. The passage in question is not saying anything about those who have been divorced. It is talking about polygamy. In vs. 12 of the NIV it says “the husband of but one wife” which could make one think this excludes those who have been in a divorce. However, once again the Aramaic from the Peshitta text makes this so much clearer….
1. Vs. 12 “Let the deacons be appointed from those who have not been polygamous, ruling
their children and their own households well.”
a. Therefore, no deacons allowed who are in polygamous relationships. I think all is well
on our part in this respect.
b. That’s all folks. : )
At the end of the day, we have to find a way of meshing all of Scripture. If Paul is for women in functions in one place of the Bible (Romans/ Corinthians) and he is seemingly against them in another place in the Bible (1 Timothy) then we have to bring those passages together in a clear way. So, if we start with Timothy and think there are no women minister’s and that is outlawed, then we are never really going to be able to grasp when Paul mentions them. If however, we start with Paul’s mentioning of them, and find a situation he addresses in one of his specific letters to a specific church, it can make clear sense that there is an abuse taking place in this particular church.
What other verses in general from the New Testament in relation to Women and Gospel work?
1. Philippians 4:2-3 “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in
the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my
side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers,
whose names are in the book of life.”
a. Women contended at Paul’s side in the cause of the Gospel and their names are in
the book of life with all the other fellow works of Paul, such as Clement.
2. Romans 16:3-5 “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked
their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet
also the church that meets at their house.”
3. Romans 16:6 “Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.”
4. Romans 16:12 “Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.”
5. Acts 21:8-9 “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip
the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.”
 BDAG, p. 1008  Lexical Aid to Greek p. 904  BDAG, p. 79  BDAG, p. 208  BDAG, p. 615  BDAG, p. 440  BDAG, p. 1041  BDAG, p. 384  BDAG, p. 150  Keener, Kindle location 2232