-1 Tim. 2:12-13 and women pastors and elders.

1 Tim. 2:12-13 and women pastors and elders.

"But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet, 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." (1 Tim. 2:12-13).
Should women be pastors and elders?  There are those who would answer yes.  But Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:12 that he doesn't allow a woman "to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." Paul anchors his reason in the created order, "For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." In other words, this is not a culturally based opinion.  It is a doctrinal statement. Nevertheless, there are counter arguments about these verses held by some Christians who assert that women can teach and exercise authority over men.  Let's take a look at some of the arguments -- right after we examine the context.

Context of 2:12-13 is in the epistle of 1 Timothy

It is always a good idea to examine a verse in its context. But, is also extremely helpful when we find a statement declaring the purpose of the right.  We find just such a statement in 1 Tim. 3:15, “I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” Therefore, the issue of authority that we are looking at here is meant to be in the context of the church.

Alright, now that we know the purpose of the letter, let’s briefly outline the context of 1 Tim. 2:12-13 by looking at the beginning of the epistle.

  1. 1:1-2, Paul gives his introduction.
  2. 1:3-11, Paul warns Timothy about those who were teaching strange doctrines and that such people (he lists unholy and profane examples in vss 9-10) were ungodly.
  3. 1:12-14, Paul thanks Jesus who is using him, though he was once a persecutor of the faithful — even though Paul was ignorant during his persecution (1:13).
  4. 1:15-17, Paul writes about how Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul was the foremost, yet he found mercy.  Paul then gives glory to God.
  5. 1:18-20, Paul commands Timothy to fight the good fight against those who have suffered shipwreck of their faith.  He specifically names Hymenaeus and Alexander who have been delivered over to Satan.
  6. 2:1-2, Paul urges people to pray for kings and for a tranquil life.
  7. 2:3-6, Paul speaks about God our Savior who desires all to be saved, that there is one mediator, that Jesus gave himself was a ransom.
  8. 2:7-8, Paul says he was appointed as an apostle and that he wants everyone (men specifically) to lift up holy hands in prayer.
  9. 2:9-15, General instructions to women (plural)
  10. 3:1-10, Instructions regarding the requirements to be overseers (plural) and deacons (plural).
  11. 3:11, Paul again gives instructions concerning women (plural).
  12. In 3:12-13, Paul gives instruction concerning deacons.
  13. 3:14ff, Paul speaks about coming to see them, etc.

So, we have the context, and, of course, you should read the chapters for yourself for verification. But we can see that several different topics are addressed by Paul before we get to the verses in question.  We, therefore, must be careful not to pick and choose which particular topic that precedes 2:12-13, and interpret in light of that extracted topic. We must look at the flow of what he is saying and do our best to understand the verses contextually.

“A woman” means a particular woman, not women in general

Some say that say that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not referring to women in general, but to a particular individual that Paul had in mind that had been teaching false doctrine.  Does this view work?  No, it doesn’t, for several reasons.

  1. First, it doesn’t fit the context.
    1. In 2:1-8 he is dealing with prayer for a tranquil life, God’s desire to save all, Paul as an appointed apostle, and he wants men (andras) to pray.  In verses 2:9-14, Paul switches to give instructions to women (plural) about adornment, submission, authority, the created order (Adam first), and Eve being deceived first.  Verse 15 deals with women and childbearing.  Paul then continues with more instructions.  In 3:1-10, Paul gives instructions regarding the requirements to be overseers (plural) and deacons (plural). 3:11, Paul again gives instructions concerning women (plural). In 3:12-13, Paul gives instruction concerning deacons (plural). 3:14ff, Paul then stops giving instructions for a while and speaks about coming to see them, etc.
    2. Question:  Why would 2:12 suddenly be dealing with a single, unnamed individual woman when it doesn’t fit the contextual pattern of dealing in the plural with groups such as women, bishops, deacons, and women again?
  2. Second, if it is “a woman” specifically prohibited from teaching heresy to men, does this mean she can teach heresy to women?
    1. It is not dealing with heresy, but teaching men — which makes the most sense.
  3. Third, in chapters 1 through 3, Paul repeatedly uses the plural when describing those who teach error, not the singular except in 1:20 where he names the individuals.
    1. Question:  If 2:12 refers to an individual woman, why did Paul not name her as he named Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1:20?
      1. Note:  Paul mentioned Hymenaeus and Philetus in 2 Tim. 2:17 as as men who have gone astray from the truth.
  4. Fourth, the word “quiet” in verse 12 is hesuchia not sigao.
    1. Hesuchia (used four times in the NT — see notes below) means to be subdued, to be quiet and but not necessarily completely silent.1
      1. Hesuchia
        1. Acts 22:2, “And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet”;
        2. 2 Thess. 3:12, “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
      2. Sigao (used nine times in the NT  — see notes below) means absolute silence.2
    2. Question:  If it is an individual woman Paul had in mind, is he telling her to speak her heresy a little more quietly instead of remaining completely silent, after all, Paul didn’t command complete silence in teaching heresy?
  5. Fifth, the word “teach” is from didasko, not heterodidaskaleo which would be to teach heresy, to teach a different doctrine.
    1. heterodidaskaleo is used two times in the New Testament, both in 1 Timothy.
      1. 1 Tim. 1:3, “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.”
      2. 1 Tim. 6:3, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness.”
    2. Question:  If Paul is referring to a certain woman in 2:12 who is teaching false doctrine, then why does he not use the word heterdidaskaleo when referring to her?
  6. Sixth, didasko “to teach”, is used four times in 1 and 2 Timothy.  Aside from 1 Tim. 2:12, the passage under discussion, each time it appears it is in reference to teaching sound doctrine.
    1. “teach” is from didasko
      1. 1 Tim. 2:12, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”
      2. 1 Tim. 4:11, “Prescribe and teach these things.” (teach sound doctrine, avoid fables, discipline yourselves for godliness, etc.)
      3. 1 Tim. 6:2, “And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.”
      4. 2 Tim. 2:2, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
    2. Question:  If “didasko” (teach) in 2:12 is referring to teaching false doctrine, why is the implied use of the word not consistent with how Paul uses it in both epistles to Timothy?
  7. Seventh, verse 11 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”
    1. The Greek adversative “de” (“but” in English), links verse 12 back to 11.  Paul wants women to learn in the entire submissiveness.
    2. Question:  If verse 11 and 12 both refer to an individual, unnamed woman who was teaching false doctrine and not to women in general, are we to conclude that women in the church need not receive instruction with submissiveness, but that only heretical women need to?
      1. Doesn’t this go against the headship of males?
        1. 1 Cor. 11:3,10, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ….10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”‘
        2. 1 Cor. 14:34-35,
          1. Context including making spiritual judgments.  Verse 29 says, “And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”

It makes no sense to teach that 1 Timothy 2:12 is referring to an individual woman who was preaching false doctrine.  It doesn’t fit the context.  The woman isn’t named even though Paul names at least two false teachers.  Paul consistently uses the plural when referring to heretics, not the singular.  Hesuchia is used instead of sigao which would mean that the heretical woman should teach her heresy in a subdued manner — and this makes no sense in light of the argument.  Paul doesn’t use heterodidaskaleo (false teaching) when referring to this supposed woman’s false teaching even though he uses the word before and after 2:12 in the same epistle to refer to heretical teaching.  Didasko (teach) is used three additional times besides here in 2:12, in 1 and 2 Timothy and each time it means to teach good doctrine.  Why is it different in 2:12?  And, if “a woman” is a single person and not women in general, then should we conclude that only heretical women should learn with submissiveness?  Of course not.  Therefore, for these reasons, we cannot conclude that “a woman” is in reference to particular individual female who is teaching false doctrines, but to women in general.

The truth is that women in general, married or not, are to learn in submission in the church and are not to hold authoritative teaching positions such as pastor and elder which are repeated stated to be held by men.

1 Tim. 2:12 refers to a Wife and Husband

Another argument offered concerning 1 Tim. 2:12 is to say that the Greek words “gyne” (woman) and “andros” (man) mean wife and husband.  This would render the verse as, “But I do not allow a wife to teach or exercise authority over a husband, but to remain quiet,” (1 Tim. 2:12). Supporters of this argument then conclude that this would not prevent a woman from being a pastor since this is not speaking of women in general, but only wives in relation to their husbands.  Is this argument sound?  No, it isn’t.

  1. If a wife were a pastor and her husband were in the congregation, then when she taught she’d be teaching her husband.  This can’t work — unless the husband has to leave the church each time his wife teaches. Ridiculous?  You bet!
  2. In all of the 17 English translations of the Bible I have (Darby, ASV, ESV, HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB95, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, WUESTNT, RSV, GNB, WorrelNT, YLT), none translate the verse as wife and husband, so why do people assert that it is about a husband and wife?
  3. The context of 1 Tim. 2:9-15 is dealing with all the broader context of all women in the church.  That is, Paul wants all women to adorn themselves with proper clothing.  Following the address to women, he then expounds on the issue of teaching and authority and then later in 3:11 he addresses women in the plural again.
Usurp Authority

Only the King James Version translates verse 12 as “usurp authority.”  To usurp means to take the authority by force, or without legal right.  The logic goes that if this woman, or any woman, were to teach in the Christian congregation, she should do so without usurping her authority.  That is, women can teach men in an authoritative context, as long as they do so properly.  Of course, defining what is proper would be a problem since opinions abound.

The problem with this is the Greek word here “authenteo” is used only once in the N.T. and is translated as “usurp authority” only in the KJV.  Of all the translation I examined, none other uses “usurp”.

  1. “exercise authority”, Darby, ESV, NASB,
  2. “have dominion”, ASV
  3. “have authority over”, HCSB, ISV, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, GNB,
  4. “usu”usurp authority”, KJV

If the broader context of 1 Timothy is a warning against false teaching, then it would follow that Paul is warning against the position that women can teach and exercise authority over men in the church.

But, Paul tells us why he’s writing his epistle. “I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15). So, in proper conduct in the church, a woman is not to teach (didaskolos – sound teaching) a man or exercise authority over him.

Is preaching in the pulpit authoritative?

Some have said that preaching from the pulpit is not authoritative.  This way, they can have women be preachers but without them exercising authority over men who might be listening in the congregation. But is it rational to say that when the church gathers together for the purpose of fellowship, participating in the church ordinances of baptism and communion, and to sit quietly as the inspired word of God is faithfully presented, that somehow the preaching therein does not carry authority?  Of course not!

The word of God, by nature, is authoritative.  When the word of God is preached in the church context, from the pulpit, as the body of Christ has gathered to hear the word of God, such preaching is authoritative.  It is the exposition of the inspired word of God.  If it isn’t authoritative, then what is it, a bunch of suggestions?

Only those who do harm to the text and the meaning of the text would then turn their attention to the pulpit and the preaching of God’s Word and lesson its authoritative proclamation in order to elevate women to an office to which they do not belong.

Still, there is a verse that sheds light on this issue.  The New Testament church is modeled after the Old Testament synagogue.

  • Nehemiah 8:4, “And Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose (of presenting the law)…8 And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”

Presenting the law from a wooden podium/pulpit was, of course, authoritative.  Are we to say that there is no authority when the teaching elder (1 Tim. 5:17) ascends to the pulpit, opens the word of God, and faithfully declares what God says to God’s people?  Such an idea is ludicrous.

1 Tim. 2:13 “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.”

Paul tells us that the reason women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church is because Adam was created first, then Eve.  The statement clearly removes the previous verse (v. 12) from being culturally motivated.  Paul equates the issue of authority with the created order.

It is in the created order, and in the fall of Adam and Eve, that the curse is given to Eve. “To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.  In pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” (Gen. 3:16).  The word “desire” is “teshookaw”.  It is used only one other time in the Pentateuch in Gen. 4:7.

  • Gen. 4:7, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Notice that the word “desire” in Gen. 4:7 speaks of the desire of sin to control.

We see that Eve’s desire shall be for her husband, but it is he that will rule over her.  It would seem that the context is dealing with the desire of the woman to be in control — just as Eve did not seek her head, Adam, but took it upon herself to interpret and apply God’s Word.  Her proper place was in support of Adam, with Adam’s role being of higher priority.

This makes sense if you look at the nature of the fall.  Adam is the one who is the head of mankind (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12), for it was through Adam that sin entered the world, not through Eve, even though Eve sinned first.  Satan violated the proper authority structure in the family of Adam and Eve and first went to the woman.  Eve listened to the lies of the enemy, as did Adam.  Then God cursed Eve with childbirth pain and the proclamation that Adam would rule over her even though her desire would be for her husband.

Notice the contrast.  Eve will desire her husband, and he will rule over her.  By extension, but primarily because Adam was created first, man rules over women which is why the husband is the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23).  There is definitely an authority structure established by Paul in Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.”

So, 1 Tim. 2:12-13 is not merely a culturally determined truth that can be altered by transferring the verse to the 21st century and stripping away its cultural context.  Since Paul dealt with the issue of teaching authority and related it to the creation of Adam and Eve, we can see that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church.


It is indeed an unpopular notion that the husband is the head of the wife, that authority in the Church rests in the male, and that women are to learn in godly submission.  But this does not mean that the Christian church should listen to the wisdom of the world, for it is not wisdom at all. Like it or not, the Scriptures teach that eldership, and pastor ship, is to be held by males. This is not to say that women aren’t talented or even able to do their jobs in the church better than some men. But practicality does not trump doctrinal truth.  We need to be faithful to God’s Word.

Women are, unfortunately, underappreciated, underused, and undervalued   In the church. They contribute so very much to the smooth running and well-being of the sacred community.  Nevertheless, whether men like it or not, they are the ones responsible in the church to teach sound doctrine, to refute error, and to lead an a godly manner.  But, when they don’t, then women pastors and elders are evidence of their failure.

————— NOTES ————-

hesuchia – quieter

The problem is that the word for “quiet” here is “hesuchia”. It means to be subdued, to be quiet and but not necessarily silent.1 It is used four times in the New Testament:

  1. Acts 22:2, “And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet”;
  2. 1 Tim. 2:11, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness”;
  3. 1 Tim. 2:12, ““But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet”;
  4. 2 Thess 3:12, “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”

Notice Acts 22:2 where it says that they became “even more quiet.”  If they were already silent to begin with, they could not become more silent.  This means that they were speaking though in a more subdued manner and then became even more quiet.  1 Tim. 2:11-12, are under examination in this article.  2 Thess. 3:12 is not as descriptive and in its context to tell us if those who work are absolute silent or just quietly subdued in their work.

The conclusion is that the word “hesuchia” does not mean absolute silence.

sigao – absolute silence

There is a word in Greek for absolute silence. It is “sigao” and it is used 9 times in the New Testament.2 It means “to keep silence, hold one’s peace, to be kept in silence, be concealed,3 It means “to keep silent, to keep secret:— became silent(1), keep silent(3), kept secret(1), kept silent(2), quiet(1), silent(1), stopped speaking(1).4

Sigao is not used in 1 Tim. 2:11-12.  So, if we understand 1 Timothy 2:12 to mean that there was only a single, individual woman that was to keep quiet, then we must conclude that Paul was telling this woman to be silent (hesuchia, not sigao) about her false teaching, then we can conclude he wanted her to tone it down, to be subdued about it. In other words, Paul was saying something like “just teach your heresy a little more quietly.” He didn’t use sigao which would mean complete silence, to entirely stop teaching the false doctrine.  But this makes no sense.

  1. Luke 9:36, “And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.”
  2. Luke 20:26, “And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and marveling at His answer, they became silent.”
  3. Acts 12:17, “But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.”
  4. Acts 15:12, “And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.”
  5. Acts 15:13, “And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.”
  6. Rom. 16:25, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.”
  7. 1 Cor. 14:28, “but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.”
  8. 1 Cor. 14:30, “But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.”
  9. 1 Cor. 14:34, &”Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry


1 Comment on -1 Tim. 2:12-13 and women pastors and elders.

  1. Here is a well researched article on this topic that may shed some light

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