What The Bible Says About

[Editorial Comments Bracketed in Bold]

The Role of Women

Isa 3:12 — As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

1 Tim 2:8-11 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [Men are to lead; women are to be modest, learning quietly, and in submission; in this way, they prove their claim to godliness.]

1 Tim 3:14,15; 2:11-15 — These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:  But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. [What follows are God’s instructions for a woman’s functioning in the formal services of the local church, which would include Sunday School] ... Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I [Paul, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, with full authority of one inspired by God] suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [A woman cannot teach with authority; e.g., in Sunday School classes, Bible conferences, etc. When a woman stands before a mixed crowd that includes men and opens the Bible and preaches or teaches, she is taking authority.] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [The woman was created after the man to be his helpmeet, not his head. Obviously, this is NOT a cultural matter, but is based upon the order of creation; this establishment of the principle of order transcends culture!] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived [quite deceived” (NASB—Gen. 3:13)] was in the transgression. [Therefore, the woman was not spiritually qualified to teach because of (1) the order of creation, and (2) the facts of the Fall.] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, [i.e., she will be occupying herself with the duties of the home and family (as evidence of her salvation given through the birth of the Messiah), and will receive her fulfillment/purpose in life in that arena] if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety [“self-restraint” (NASB)].

1 Tim 5:9,10,14 — Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. [Faithful service in “home-related” activities necessary to qualify widows to receive church support.] … I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, [be the “ruler” or “despot” of the home, but under the leadership of her husband] give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Titus 2:3-5The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; [See further: women teaching “home-related” activities to younger women, not Biblical doctrine.] That they may teach [“encourage” NASB] the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children [agape love, since a person can not be “taught” to have “feelings”], To be discreet, chaste, keepers [“workers” NASB] at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, [this alone would preclude a married woman from working outside the home, because outside work necessitates her to be under someone else’s authority, man or woman, other than her own husband] that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Prov 6:20; 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [The person teaching becomes the authority; since the parent is already the authority, as God intended it to be from creation, there is no problem in women teaching doctrine to their own children.]

1 Cor 14:33b-35,37 —  As in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. [Not a cultural factor, but established by God thousands of years ago.]  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame [“improper” (NASB)] for women to speak in the church. [Women are to look for input and leadership from the man.] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

Eph 5:18, 22-24 —  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; ... Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [Can’t submit to husband if don’t submit to Christ.]  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

1 Pet 3:1-6 —  Likewise, ye wives, [same as in submissiveness to government authorities (1 Pe 2:13-17)] be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [God is saying that even for an unbeliever, submissiveness to God-supported authority is a hard and fast rule, not situational, circumstantial, or cultural.] ... Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time [i.e., not “cultural”] the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, [Outward adornment should not be the focal point of a woman’s life—rather her life is to emphasize godliness.] being in subjection unto their own husbands:  Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (Gen. 18:12) [2000 years earlier; therefore, not cultural]: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

1 Cor 11:3-10 — But I would have you know, that the head [i.e., authority (Jdg. 11:10; Eph. 1:22)] of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. [Therefore, no inferiority is implied in submissiveness, only different God-ordained roles.] Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth [direct revelation (which is no longer an active gift for anyone, men or women), not normal preaching/teaching (prophesying and teaching were two distinct gifts—Eph. 4:11)] with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head [an abnormal situation for woman to pray or prophesy in public, and therefore, she must have a visible sign of authority over her]: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause [the created order] ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. [Paul again refers back to the order of creation, and that the angels are watching (Eph, 3:10), for his authority, not because of the curse of the Fall as some so-called “Biblical feminists” contend.] [Paul is speaking here of conduct in meetings outside the church; he doesn’t speak to church conduct until verse 18; 1 Cor. 6:12-11:17 deals with personal conduct outside of corporate church meetings.]  

Prov 12:4; 14:1 —  A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. ... Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Prov 31:10-31 —  Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoilShe will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.  She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.  She considereth a field, and buyeth it [in order to plant and grow food for her family]: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. [providing wine part of the provisions of the home, just as is providing of the food; i.e., she was not a “real estate lady” as the so-called Biblical feminists teach today—she barters food, wine, garments, and sashes (vs. 24)]  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good [bartering food and drink, not real estate speculation]: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.  She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple [a wealthy household, yet she works hard—no idleness]Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. [Her faithfulness in the home and with the home is very significant in her husband’s success.] She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. [The issue of working women is not income; the focus must be the home, and income generated through the home, not outside of it.] Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. [She has made provision for the future.]  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindnessShe looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. [The real credit comes to a woman from her children and from her husband.] Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Does God’s Word Allow a Woman to Serve as a Pastor in the Church? A Study in the Pastoral Epistles

by Matt Costella
©FOUNDATION Magazine, Jul-Aug 2001

The Proliferation of Female Clergy Within the Christian Church

The role of women in local Christian assemblies has been a matter of debate within Christendom for many years. Yet within the past 25 years, this issue has risen to a climax, not only in several mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations, but also in evangelical churches as well. The issue of the role of women in the church served as a matter of contention at the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare, Zimbabwe, in December 1998 when the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches voiced their displeasure of the fact that the majority of the WCC's member churches and denominations ordain women as ministers and priests.1 In the United States, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Episcopal Church USA, The United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Reformed Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Church of the Brethren and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are only a few of the many mainline denominations that ordain women into ministry and encourage them to serve as pastors and bishops of local congregations.


In a recent study of denominations that ordain women, researchers found that the number of ordained women ministers in 15 large Protestant denominations grew exponentially between 1977 and 1994. A Hartford Seminary study discovered that within this time period, the number of female clergy increased from 157 to 712 in the American Baptist Church USA, from 94 to 1,394 in the Episcopal Church USA, from 388 to 988 in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), from 73 to 1,519 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, from 350 to 2,705 in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and from 319 to 3,003 in the United Methodist Church.2 It is also interesting to note that approximately 25 percent of the female clergy and 19 percent of the male clergy who participated in the study were divorced. The survey concludes as follows: "Clergy women are reinventing ministry for the future, refusing the old definitions and expectations. Clergy women are expanding the very essence of Christian ministry and guiding the whole church to rethink and renew its leadership and membership."3


Not only are clergywomen growing within liberal denominations in the United States but also within Evangelical and conservative churches and denominations as well. Notice the following facts about these popular denominations and associations:

  • Southern Baptist Convention -- According to one source, the Southern Baptist Convention has approximately 1,130 ordained women filling various roles of ministry.4

  • The Association of Vineyard Churches -- This group only allows men to fulfill the office of elder and pastor, but allows women to "preach, teach, evangelize, heal, prophesy, counsel, nurture, administrate, and build up the flock of God."5

  • The Church of the Nazarene -- One researcher reports that this denomination "has ordained women to the ministry since its founding in 1908 and supports the right of women to use their God-given spiritual gifts within the church. Nazarenes affirm the right of women to be elected and appointed to places of leadership at all levels of the church."6 It is important to note that some churches within this denomination have shunned their denominational title (Church of the Nazarene) for a more generic, community oriented name (e.g. New Life Community Church, etc.).

  • Assemblies of God USA -- The Assemblies of God believes women can serve in all roles of church ministry including that of pastor. In a position paper entitled "The Role of Women in Ministry as Described in Holy Scripture," the authors conclude, "We cannot find convincing evidence that the ministry of women is restricted according to some sacred or immutable principle. ... The existence in the secular world of bigotry against women cannot be denied. But there is no place for such an attitude in the body of Christ. We acknowledge that attitudes of secular society, based on long-standing practice and tradition, have influenced the application of biblical principles to local circumstances."7

  • Free Methodist Church of North America -- This is the denomination in which the previous president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Kevin Mannoia, is an ordained bishop. This denomination believes that "the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... knows no distinction of race, condition or sex. ... With these beliefs, women should be encouraged to take their place in all areas of church leadership and ministry. "8

  • Many other churches, fellowships and denominations including the Open Bible Standard Churches, Inc.; International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; The Church of God (Anderson, IN); and others allow women to hold positions of pastoral authority within the local church.

  • Not only have denominations and local churches advanced the cause of women clergy, but notable religious figures have done their part to popularize this trend as well. Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, is now one of the most popular woman preachers in the world. Lotz recently told one television news program that her parents used to disapprove of her ministry until they heard her preach. "They saw that my home was clean, my children were well-behaved, my husband was happy and very supportive," she said, "And they just backed off and could see that God had called me."9 One group of prominent "evangelical" theologians has formed Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), an organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that zealously promotes equal roles for women in the church and home. Notable theologians who comprise CBE's Board of Reference include [radical, left-winger] Tony Campolo, Vernon Grounds, Roberta Hestenes, Millard Erickson, Gordon Fee, Myron S. Augsburger and John R. Kohlenberger III. The Dallas Morning News, which recently featured a story on the CBE, reported that Charisma editor J. Lee Grady is also a supporter of CBE.10 The article also noted that Promise Keepers, another "evangelical" parachurch organization, has refused to take an official stance on the role of women in the church and stated that, in turn, "CBE leaders are cautious about criticizing Promise Keepers."11

    Clearly, with the growth of the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements, which advocate female clergy and the increasing ecumenical inclusiveness of many evangelical churches, it is vitally important for the Fundamentalist Christian to know what God's Word teaches regarding this issue so that he might know how to answer those who question his position concerning the role of women in the ministry of the local church. It is evident that the majority of professing Christians and Christian churches today allow women to fill positions of pastoral leadership in the local church. This serious issue will remain with the church and continue to permeate all realms of Christian thought and practice as women's roles of pastoral leadership in churches and denominations continue to become more accepted and commonplace in the [professing] Christian community.

    A Brief Historical Look at Views Concerning the Role of Women in the Local Church

    In their simplest form, the views concerning the role of women in local church ministry are most often broken down by scholars into two distinct groups: those who believe women should be permitted to hold positions of pastoral authority in the church and those who believe that only men are permitted to hold such positions in the local church. Those who believe women should be restricted from holding an authoritative, pastoral role in the church embrace what is known as the "historic" or "traditional" view. On the other hand, those who believe women should possess the ability to occupy all positions of leadership within the church embrace what is referred to as the "egalitarian" or "progressive" view.


    Obviously, pastors and theologians do not always subscribe solely to all aspects of one view or the other. Various nuances of these views exist among those who have studied the issue. For example, some might hold to the position that women cannot serve in the local church as senior pastors, but are permitted to serve as assistant or associate pastors. Others might believe that women should not serve in any form of pastoral role in the local church, but are free to teach men and women in an adult Sunday school class. In any case, for the purpose of clarification within this article, and due to the limitations of space and content, this article will simply define those who permit women to hold any form of pastoral role within the local church as ones who hold the progressive or egalitarian view, and any who forbid women to hold a position of teaching authority over men as those who hold to the historic or traditional view.


    According to author Daniel Doriani, those who hold to the historic view of women in ministry can claim the support of traditional Christian thought and teaching throughout church history.12 In fact, one author, Robert Yarbrough, has conducted an insightful study on the hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, in which he concludes that the "progressive" view has been shaped more by the social climate of the mid-20th century rather than the Biblical text itself.13 He cites, "It strains credulity to the breaking point to maintain that it is mere coincidence that 'progressive' readings of I Timothy 2, which were virtually unheard of in church history prior to the women's movement of the 1960s, are not indebted to that movement in fundamental respects for their plausibility."14 Although Doriani did cite three feminist writers from the 19th century who pioneered a progressive understanding of women's role in the church (Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Katherine Bushnell), clearly the majority of the shift from traditionalist to progressive writings and beliefs concerning the woman's role in the church appeared during the 20th century.

    The Biblical View of Women's Role in the Local Church

    While a variety of arguments promoting the progressive view exist, the scope of this article does not allow room for an extensive examination of each view, nor will it attempt to provide a rebuttal for every argument. Rather, this section of the article will simply, but carefully, determine the intent of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 within the confines of the Pastoral Epistles (First and Second Timothy and Titus) while referring, as necessary, to other New Testament texts regarding the Bible's teaching concerning the role of women within the local church setting. Several principles will be set forth and supported by the Biblical text, as well as by theologians who have carefully studied the Biblical text and arrived at what the writer believes to be a sound conclusion.

    Yet before noticing what God's Word says about this important issue, the reader must decide whether or not he or she will accept the very words of Scripture as the inspired and inerrant words of God. Many who espouse a progressive view of women in ministry hold a low view of Scripture, viewing the Biblical text as the ideas, philosophies and musings of men (such as the Apostle Paul) rather than the very words of God given to men by the direct act of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. If one concludes that the words of the text under consideration simply reflect the cultural milieu of the apostle Paul and therefore cannot be considered authoritative for the 21st century, then no other argument or investigation into the topic can proceed, for one's beliefs are subject to the conclusions and judgments of men rather than the absolute and unchanging truth of God Himself.


    However, if one accepts the Bible as inerrant, authoritative and "God-breathed," then he will know that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine and he will refrain from discarding those portions he does not believe to be relevant or applicable to his own situation.

    Principle #1: Women Are to Teach Other Women

    Paul's New Testament epistle to Titus contains instruction concerning Titus' need to "set in order the things that [were] wanting" (Titus1:5) in the local church and his need to "ordain elders in every city" on the island of Crete. Paul specifically instructed Titus to "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" (Titus 2: 1), the very "things" that were being perverted by the false teachers influencing the church at Crete. Within the confines of the local church ministry, one area of "sound doctrine" that Titus was to emphasize was the truth that the older women of the congregation were to be "teachers of good things" (Titus 2:3). Specifically, these women were to "teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands" (Titus 2:4-5). Such teaching concerning obedience and morality was vitally important to the health of the body of Christ. Why? So the Word of God would not be "blasphemed" or reproached (Titus 2:5).


    From this text, it is evident that women are to teach other women and that God has prescribed an order of conduct for women which, if followed, glorifies Him and causes His name to be glorified rather than reproached or blasphemed. The exact nature of this "teaching" ministry of women is not explicitly stated, but certainly this ministry could be advanced in either a classroom setting or on a personal discipleship arrangement. Thomas Oden, one who holds an egalitarian view of women in ministry, notes, "Mature women were specifically designated in Titus 2:3 as teachers (kalodidaskalous, teachers of what is good). Mature women are the natural counselors of the young. Their teaching of virtue is best done by example."15 Whether women teach other women at the local church (as is the case in many of today's Sunday school class arrangements) or whether they teach them outside the confines of the local church, the command remains the same: Women are to teach other women [and then only in godiliness, NOT doctrine], at the very least by their own example, if not also by verbal instruction as well.


    Principle #2: Women Are to Adorn Themselves With Good Works

    In 1 Timothy 2:1-15, Paul gives instructions for public worship by believers. Within this context, Paul instructs women in the congregation to dress modestly rather than in an ostentatious or ornate manner (vv. 9-10). But rather than writing simply a legalistic style manual for women, Paul penned these verses by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in an effort to lay down a Biblical principle for corporate worship in the local church. The principle is this: A woman's character is more important than her apparel. Homer Kent writes, "She is to adorn herself with good works. Her adorning, that which gives her attractiveness, is not to be costly array but exhibitions of Christian character ... Every Christian woman should prize more highly a testimony to her Christian labors than a reputation as the best-dressed woman in the congregation."16 Kent cites the Scriptural examples of Phoebe, Lydia and Dorcas as those whose works were edifying to the body of Christ and left lasting impressions, not only on those with whom they came into contact, but also upon the entire church unto this very day.


    Even today, women have a responsibility within the local church to minister to others through their good works and to be known for who they truly are through their Godly Christian character. Women can demonstrate their good works within the local church body through a variety of ways. Showing hospitality, encouraging others, teaching other women and keeping believers up-to-date on the ministries of the church and the church's missionaries, are just a few ways in which good works and Godly character can be revealed in the local assembly on the part of Christian women.

    Principle #3: Women Are to Be Active Learners

    Not only are women in the local church to teach other women and maintain good works and Godly character, but Paul also commands them to be learners. In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul states that the false teachers had influenced some of the women in the Ephesian church (2 Tim. 3:6-7). Ann Bowman notes that "it seems [Paul] knew it was important that they be well grounded in the Scriptures."17 Of course, in order to be grounded in the Scriptures, it was imperative that the women learn sound doctrine and obey that which they had learned.


    First Timothy 2:11 delineates how the women were to learn in the local assembly: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection." It is important to note that this statement does not imply that the woman is to completely keep silent within the entire public worship service of the local church. Rather, the woman is to keep silent only in the process of learning, that is, when the male leader of the church is authoritatively teaching the doctrine found in the Word of God. Schreiner says, "The focus of the command is not on women learning, but the manner and mode of their learning."18 Bowman describes the manner of learning as having two parts: First, women are to learn in silence, or quietness, which denotes outward manner. Second, they are to learn in all submissiveness, which denotes the attitude of the heart that must accompany leaming.19


    This injunction demonstrates Christianity's high regard for women in contrast to much of the New Testament culture, as well as the Judaic tradition. In many cultures, women were prohibited even from learning, much less teaching or reading in public. Donald Guthrie writes that "the equality of the sexes ... received little recognition in ancient times. Not only was the prevailing Greek attitude against it, but Hebrew thought was equally unsympathetic."20 For example, Guthrie states that "Rabbinic prohibitions were much more severe than the Christian prohibitions," for women were not even allowed to teach small children. In contrast, the apostle Paul commands women in the local assembly to listen attentively and to quietly submit their thoughts and hearts to the teaching of the Word of God.


    It is evident from the aforementioned principles that women possess a role and function in the church that brings glory to God and benefits the entire body of Christ. In his book, What's a Woman to Do In the Church?, David Nicholas lists a variety of ministries that women could fulfill, not only in the church, but also in the community as they teach other women, learn God's Word, and adorn themselves with good works. Such roles could include:

  • A Ministry in Christian Education
  • A Ministry in Personal Evangelism and Discipleship
  • A Ministry of Child Evangelism
  • A Ministry in Missions
  • A Ministry to Women
  • Certainly a woman can fill a variety of roles that would bring honor to God and would edify the entire body of Christ. Yet while women can serve in a variety of areas in the church, the Word of God sets forth a final principle that forbids women to exercise one particular function in the church.

    Principle #4: Women Are Prohibited From Exercising Authoritative Leadership or Teaching of the Word of God Over Men in the Local Assembly

    An accurate understanding of 1Timothy 2:12-14 is the key to a proper understanding of a woman's role in the local church. Verse 12 states, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." At this point it is necessary to note two prevalent, but inadequate, arguments that promote an egalitarian view of women in the local church. First, some claim that this verse is simply an opinion of the apostle rather than an authoritative proclamation of God for all ages. However, as previously noted, such a view falls short and must not be tolerated by those who accept the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. Nicholas does a superb job addressing this issue in his book, What’s a Woman to Do … In the Church?, and concludes by stating that "what really is at stake in the evangelical egalitarian controversy is not women's liberation" but, rather, "the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, since the most ardent advocates of egalitarianism in marriage and the church reach their conclusions by denying the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible."21


    A second argument prevalent among egalitarians is that Paul was simply giving a temporal, local command only for the church at Ephesus, due to the culture in which this church was enveloped. In other words, this injunction only applied to the local church at Ephesus. Some argue that Paul's command was issued to the church as a result of the status of women within the Ephesian culture and the prominence of the pagan fertility cult within the city. S. M. Baugh answers this argument in an article entirely devoted to the question of whether or not Ephesus was as "feminist" as many think. He compellingly debunks this view of Ephesus and the egalitarian argument by concluding,

    Paul's injunctions throughout 1 Timothy 2:9-15, then, are not temporary measures in a unique social setting. Ephesus's society and religion -- even the cult of Artemis Ephesia -- shared typical features with many other contemporary Greco-Roman cities. ... Hence, we have every reason to expect Paul to apply the restriction of women from teaching and exercising official rule over a man to "every place" (v. 8). ... Exegetical treatments can proceed with the assumption that Ephesus was not a unique society as we read today .... 22

    Another author agrees and notes that the context itself reveals that Paul's statement is not directed only to a local assembly, for Paul supports his command regarding a woman's role in the church by way of a universal principle. T. David Gordon writes,

    It is crucial to note the causal relation of verses 13 and 14 to the preceding verses. Paul grounds his comments in a reality that exists outside of Ephesus: "For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." This is sufficient reason to recognize that some enduring principle is applied to this specific situation. The convergence of norm and occasion that we expect to find in Paul's letters is expressly communicated in the present passage. There is a command, and there is a norm, and these are connected by a causal particle (gar).23

    So what does 1 Timothy 2:12 mean? The answer lies in the word teach (didaskein). Bowen writes that the word "refers almost exclusively to public instruction or teaching of groups."24 She cites a study by Roy B. Zuck in which he found that out of approximately 100 occurrences of the word in the New Testament, only three times does the word refer to the teaching of individuals (Jn. 8:28; Rom. 2:21; Rev. 2:14). So in this instance, to "teach" involves the public pronouncement of the Word of God.


    Yet the word teach is even further confined to its meaning within the Pastoral Epistles. Robert L. Saucy penned a helpful article detailing the meaning of teach in 1 Timothy 2:12, and its meaning within the entire context of the Pastoral Epistles .25 Although Saucy falls short of actually concluding that women should refrain from any pastoral role in the church, he aptly argues that to "teach" in this verse involves the passing down, guarding and keeping of the doctrine that had been entrusted to the church. That which was to be taught is described in the Pastorals as "doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:10), a "faithful saying" 1 Tim. 1:15; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8), a "true saying" (1 Tim. 3:1), "faith" (1 Tim. 4:6; Titus 1:13), "sound doctrine" or "good doctrine" (1 Tim. 4:6; Titus 1:9; 2:1), "wholesome words" or "sound words" (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13), "the truth" (2 Tim. 2:18; 4:4), "the word" (2 Tim. 4:2) and "the faithful word" (Titus 1:9). It is important to note that these vital truths from God Himself were to be taught "with all authority" (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:15). Saucy writes, "The emphasis on teaching and the vital importance of its function in maintaining true Christian doctrine already suggest that considerable authority is attached to this ministry in the pastoral letters."26 He adds, "The strong relationship of the function of teaching to the leaders in the pastorals clearly suggests that there is an authoritative element attached to it."27 Kent agrees, yet broadens the scope of the term to relate to its context within the entire New Testament. He writes, "The role of teacher in New Testament days was an authoritative office."28 This understanding of "teaching" in the pastoral epistles is tied to the further injunction to refrain from "[usurping] authority over the man." It is evident, then, that women are prohibited from preaching, that is, exercising the ministry of authoritative proclamation of the Word of God over men in the local worship assembly. This would, however, allow for women to fulfill a variety of ministry opportunities in the church as long as they did not authoritatively teach the Word of God to men.


    First Timothy 2:13-14 gives the reason why this command is set forth and necessary in the local church: "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." The Divine command in no way denotes any form of inferiority of women. Rather, this text reminds the reader that God has determined an order for the institutions that He has established. Paul's reasons for prohibiting a woman from authoritatively teaching the Word of God to men in the local assembly were based upon two historical events: the creation and the fall. Concerning creation, Kent writes, "The very chronological order of creation proves that Eve was not intended to direct Adam."29 Bowen agrees, noting that Adam's "chronological primacy in creation carried with it some degree of authority."30 Notice Brown's observation concerning the theology of the Progressives in relation to their view of women in the church:

    The rejection of the special and separate creation of man and of woman is so common in our day that many may not even notice the ... pressure placed on them to deny every principle of order derived from it. It is in this climate that rejects (or ignores) the fundamental doctrine of creation in which egalitarian (re)interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12 have flourished. It seems hardly promising to dispute the details, for it is often the fundamental principles that effectively control the outcome of one's interpretation.31

    Such is certainly the case! If the Progressives do not even accept the literal, special, and separate creation of man and women, then the very underlying principle of why men hold a position of authority within the home and church is worthless, and no practical implications can be built from it.


    Yet, not only are women to refrain from authoritatively proclaiming the Word of God to men due to the very order established by God from the time of creation, but they also must heed God's order as a result of the very nature of the fall. Again, verse 14 does not in any way denote the idea that women are less intelligent or even more easily deceived than men. Such is obviously not always the case, for men and women are equal as individuals in the sight of God, though each has been entrusted with a differing function or role. Rather, this verse relates the fact that Eve usurped authority over her husband by partaking of the fruit in disobedience to the clear command of God. Kent writes, "Thus the fall was caused, not only by disobeying God's command not to eat, but also by violating the divinely appointed relation between the sexes. Woman assumed headship, and man with full knowledge of the act, subordinated himself to her leadership and ate of the fruit (Rom. 5: 19)."32 Bowen calls this the "reversal of roles" and says that "Paul's point is that this role reversal that caused such devastation at the beginning must not be repeated in the church."33 While such a standard of male headship might not be popular or politically correct within today's culture, such are the norms God has established for His church, and those who are His children will only honor and glorify Him by subscribing to His standards with a willing heart and mind.


    If one accepts the inerrancy and historical accuracy of Scripture and correctly interprets 1 Timothy 2:9-15, then all portions of New Testament Scripture that address the role of women in the local assembly will fall into place. For example, one will understand what Paul meant when he commanded women to "keep silence" in the local church (1 Cor. 14:33-34). One will also understand why the proscriptive nature of the Pastoral Epistles declares that a pastor/bishop/elder must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim. 3:2). The reader of the Pastoral Epistles must understand that Paul is giving direct, divine revelation concerning the roles and behavior of men and women in the local church, and women and men both possess certain ministries and responsibilities to fulfill. However, the woman is forbidden from preaching, or authoritatively proclaiming the truth of the Word of God, to men in a local assembly of believers. Today, this authoritative proclamation of the Word of God would include any form of pastoral ministry or the holding of any ordained office. The reasons for this divine injunction stem from God's prescribed order in creation, in the family and in the local church.

    1 Eva Stimson, editor. Together on Holy Ground. Geneva, Switzerland: WCC Publications, 1999, p. 21.
    The book which contains the citation as well as the conclusions of the Hartford Seminary study is Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling by Barbara Brown Zikmund, Adair T. Lummis and Patricia M. Y. Chang. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, p. 138.
    Ibid, p. 133.
    Ibid, p. 155.
    Bruce A. Robinson, "Women Clergy in Orthodox and Protestant Christianity, and Other Religions."
    Shelly Steig, Finding the Right Church: A Guide to Denomination Beliefs. Iowa Falls, LA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1997, p 110.
    Assemblies of God position paper. "The Role of Women in Ministry as Described in Holy Scripture." August 1990. This document can be found at http://ag.org/top/ position_papers/0000_index.cfm.
    Steig, p. 166.
    Interview with Anne Graham Lotz on CBS's "60 Minutes," June 3, 2001.
    Susan Hogan/Albach, "The Bible Tells Them So: Evangelical Group Embraces Gender Egalitarianism as the Only Scriptural Way." The Dallas Morning News, June 16, 2001.
    Daniel Doriani, "A History of the Interpretation of I Timothy 2," Appendix 1 in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, pp. 213-267.
    Robert W. Yarbrough, "The Hermeneutics of I Timothy 2:9-15," Essay in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, pp. 167-171.
    Ibid., pp. 169-170.
    Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989, p. 116.
    Homer A. Kent Jr., The Pastoral Epistles. Winona Lake: BMH Books, 1986, P. 106. 
    Ann L. Bowman. "Women in Ministry: An Exegetical Study of 1 Timothy 2:11-15," Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June 1992, p. 198. 
    Thomas R. Schreiner. "An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship," Essay in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, p. 122. 
    Bowman, p. 198. 
    Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990, p. 86.
    David R. Nicholas, What's a Woman to Do... In the Church? Scottsdale, AZ: Good Life Productions, Inc., 1979, p. 107. 
    S. M. Baugh, "A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century," Essay in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, pp. 49-50. 
    T. David Gordon, "A Certain Kind of Letter: The Genre of I Timothy," Essay in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, p. 61. 
    Bowen, p. 200. 
    Robert L. Saucy, "Women's Prohibition to Teach Men," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 37:1 (March 1994), pp. 86-97.
    Ibid., p. 88. 
    Ibid., p. 89. 
    Kent, p. 108. 
    Ibid., P. 109. 
    Bowen, p. 205. 
    Harold O. J. Brown, "The New Testament Against Itself: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and the 'Breakthrough' of Galatians 3:28," Essay in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1Timothy 2:9-15, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, p. 204.
    Kent, P. 109.
    Bowen, p. 206.

    Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 12/2003