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To Teach Or Not To Teach

The conservative Evangelical understanding of Paul’s instruction to women in 1Timothy 2 fares no better than the view espoused by its liberal camp. Beside misogynistic motives, this is due to three things: 1) failure to understand the larger context into which the relevant verses fit, 2) ignorance of the Ephesian backstory, and 3) poor vetting of their proposed application. This short study will present the position that not only passes all tests w/respect to application but also agrees with Scripture and the backstory of Ephesus itself.   1. The reason Paul gives the instruction found in chapters one, two - and the beginning of three, is for the purpose of securing proper “conduct” in the “church” (or “household of God”) (1Ti 3:14-16) (15 “conduct”) = Based on what follows (v16), the behavior Paul is concerned with addressing is not things related to etiquette (e.g., no food or drink in the sanctuary, no disruptions or sleeping during the sermon, everybody needs to participate in the singing, etc). It is instead related to the subject of authority. (16a) “great is the mystery of godliness” = Spiritual devotion or authority (Grk. eusebia). Support for the semantic range of eusebia including also the idea of spiritual authority: 1.1. The majority of the word’s usage is found in the pastoral epistles whose main focus is spiritual authority in the church (i.e., pastors, elders and deacons). 1.2. Certain passages in the NT make more sense when esuebia is translated this way (Act 3:12; 1Ti 6:3-6 [some NAS Fn on v5, “religion”]; 2Ti 3:5 [some NAS Fn, “religion”]; Tit 1:1 [the spiritual authority given to Christ and His apostles – See 2Pe 3:1-2; e.g., Act 15:1-31]). 1.3. Paul’s “common confession” w/respect to Jesus (“the mystery of godliness”) is all about spiritual authority (i.e., the mystery of spiritual authority given to men as exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ) (16b): 1.3.1. “revealed in the flesh” w/Phi 2:5-8 = Jesus became a lowly man (someone without spiritual authority).   1.3.2. “vindicated in the Spirit” w/Phi 2:9-11 = Though a man, Jesus was shown to possess spiritual authority by the Spirit at His baptism (Pauls’ reference in Timothy w/Mat 3:16-17) and His exaltation/resurrection (Paul’s reference in Philippians w/Rom 1:4). Hence (Mat 12:22-32).   1.3.3. “seen by angels” w/Psa 8:5 and 1Co 6:3 = The mystery witnessed by angels is that men - who are physically inferior them are nonetheless their spiritual authorities.   1.3.4. “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world” w/Mat 28:18-20 = The basis of Jesus’ great commission is His spiritual authority to proclaim salvation to all peoples/nations (Jew and Gentile)   1.3.5. “taken up in glory” w/Act 2:32-36 = Jesus (the guy the majority of Jews took to be nothing more than a man) is actually the boss of the universe. 1.4. Paul’s instruction just prior to (3:14-16) and immediately following our primary text (2:9-15) are the qualifications for those functioning as spiritual authorities in the church (elders and deacons, 3:1-13). 1.5. spiritual authority –or dealing w/those functioning at that capacity, is also where Paul begins his address to Timothy (1:1-3 w/6-7 “teachers of the Law”) = Certain individuals in the Ephesian church had self-styled themselves the authorities on the Law (i.e., those authorized to determine right doctrine) – even though they did not “understand…matters about which they make confident assertions” (and as a result were teaching “strange doctrines”).   2. What (then) can be safely concluded about our primary text (2:9-15): Paul is giving instruction as to what constitutes proper behavior (conduct) for not just anybody, but those possessing spiritual authority in the church. In this case, women deacons (1Ti 3:11).   3. Notice the word “godliness”(spiritual authority) is equally present in (v10). Paul’s point? Women “making a claim to” spiritual authority – i.e., operating in the office of deacon, will prove their fitness for office through their “good works” (or deeds) which (according to what surrounds this verse) includes works/deeds that demonstrate their authority to be under (or in submission to) the church’s male and ordained pastors/elders – those deputized by Christ w/the authority to determine right doctrine (Joh 20:21-23). And this they will do in two ways: 3.1. through their refusal to adorn themselves in authoritative (religious) clothing (i.e., vestments) (e.g., Exo 39- the robes worn exclusively by the priests; e.g., pastor Scott’s robe) (9) = Central to the city of Ephesus was the famous temple and cult devoted to the Greek goddess, Artemis (Roman goddess, Diana) (Act 19:27 w/35). Seeing that their god was a woman, this religion not only employed priestesses rather than priests as its highest spiritual authority, but taught that Eve was created first and women were the heads or authorities of the human race. Hence (2:13). As a sign of such authority, these priestesses would adorn themselves in vestments (religious dress) which included “costly garments”, jewelry and special hair arrangements (“braided hair”). That these things in and of themselves are not wrong is confirmed by Peter’s mention of similar female adornment in (1Pe 3:3) without strict prohibition. As such, Paul’s main concern – or reason for mentioning these things is not aesthetics but their communication of authority. In a city filled with women who claimed to be the highest human authority (estimates are that over one thousand priestesses attended to the Temple of Artemis)—including in spiritual matters, such carefulness as to a woman’s adornment in the church would be necessary to avoid confusion – especially in relation to those women who did carry some level of authority in the church (i.e., women deacons). 3.2. through their refusal to be in authoritative teaching positions (12) = Given that women can function as deacons, it should be assumed that some would also function as teachers since this is one of the roles historically associated with office of deacon. According to Paul however, their role in this capacity must also demonstrate their submission to the church’s higher authorities, her male ordained pastors. As such, all teaching done by women deacons would need to be by proxy (i.e., teaching w/o authority or approved by the authority of another). This is what Paul means by “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (Literally, “no to teach, not to exercise authority [in teaching] over a man”). In this respect, she must “remain quiet” (i.e., not be given the authority to determine right doctrine/interpretation thru her teaching). What she teaches must instead be pre-approved or consistent w/what has already been established by the church’s male (ordained) pastors. That this is indeed what Paul is prescribing in verse 12 is confirmed when one considers: 3.2.1. the close parallel that exists between Paul’s instruction in verse 11 (“quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness”) and 1Co 14:34 (“the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak”). What this almost identical instruction tells us: whatever Paul is communicating to the Corinthians, the same is being communicated to Timothy and the Ephesian church. Further unpacking of the Corinthian context helps us to understand exactly what that is (1Co 14:29-35) = Paul’s concern is that all special revelation proposed by those speaking or prophesying in the church (which included women -11:5) was done in an orderly way (v40) and received its proper judgment (as to its validity- v29). Hence then his prohibition against women speaking (or call for women to “keep silent”). The “Law” only allowed priests (or ordained pastors) to function as judges in such matters and priests were never women (e.g., Deu 17:8-12 w/Exo 28:1; Num 3:10). The point (then) not miss w/respect to Paul’s prohibition in 1Ti 2:12: it is not against women speaking/teaching God’s Word but doing so w/authority –or as one who has the authority to determine what is the right interpretation/doctrine. Similar to those men who fill the pulpit when the ordained pastor is away, women teachers (once more) are relegated to teaching by proxy -or teaching only what has already been approved as orthodox by the ordained pastor (versus being the ones- who through their teaching, are establishing that standard)[1]. 3.2.2. the explicit and implicit support for women as teachers found in the NT: 1) explicitly (1Co 14:1 w/9 “instruct” w/1Co 14:31 “learn” = prophecy is teaching[2]), 2) implicitly (2Ti 2:2 and Eph 4:8 [“men” = anthropos NOT andros/aner = humans]; Eph 4:11 = Women were evangelists, prophets, and teachers – Act 21:9 [prophets]; Act 18:26 [evangelist, teacher]). 3.2.3. teaching by proxy (or under authority) is exactly what Paul teaches in (1Co11:5). 3.2.4. interpreting Paul’s words in 1Timothy 2:11-12 as a prohibition against women ever teaching or speaking Scripture (notice again, speaking is included in Paul’s prohibition) when men are present creates a myriad of practical problems: 1) Scripture declares itself to be teaching without the need for someone to engage in the exercise of teaching (e.g., Rom 6:17 “teaching” [didaxe – noun]). As such, a woman would be forbidden from ever reading Scripture out loud or quoting Scripture in the presence of men. 2) women would also be forbidden from writing books discussing scripture, biblical topics or theology (or at the very least, it would be forbidden for men to read those books) since this too is a form of teaching (e.g., Nancy Pearcy’s Total Truth or other books). 3) no talk w/respect to men and Scripture wb allowed (e.g., Paul Oljker is sick, and when Mindy comes home he asks her to give a summary of the teaching. Mindy would not be able to tell Paul what the sermon was about. Instead, Paul wb required to get the recording or ask a man to summarize the sermon for him. Mindy would need to remain silent on all such matters). 4) it wb forbidden for a woman to give any instruction to a man if that instruction was backed by Scripture (especially if she is queried to support her instruction) (e.g., Kris is helping Sam w/the principles of budgeting. If those principles come from the Bible, she would be guilty of teaching God’s Word over a man). 3.2.5. interpreting Paul’s words in 1Timothy 2:11-12 as a prohibition against women ever teaching or speaking Scripture in church or during church (with or without men present) is also not without its problems: 1) take the example of Mindy and Paul, but this time Paul shows up late for church and misses most of the sermon. Given this understanding, Paul would not be able to ask Mindy to “catch him up” on what he missed until after church or until they left the church property. 2) this kind of thinking makes location the issue rather than who possesses the proper authority. But why would God care about that? Or what exactly does that say about women? (e.g., they are not smart/holy enough to teach in the church/men in the church). A biblical example that might help bring additional clarity to this issue: consider the high priest and the holy of holies which only he could enter. The reason for such exclusivity was not the place but the authority (or clearance) granted only to him. The principle is the same for women w/respect to teaching.   4. What this new (more accurate) understanding does not mean as it relates to women: that God has extended to them the office (and authority) of the priest/judge/elder/pastor (ordination) since this would: 4.1. be a direct violation of God’s created order and design (13 “first” = As the head or authority of humanity [i.e., for determining God’s creation mandate for humanity]). The woman was created as helper [i.e., a supporting role] – Gen 2:15-23; Contra: the beliefs of the cult of Artemis). It should also be mentioned that by allowing women to function as pastors, you are essentially supporting lesbian marriage since a woman has now taken the place of husband in the marriage - something also represented in the relationship between the pastor and the church [i.e., he is Christ’s earthly representative as husband to the church][3]). 4.2. expose the church to weakness since God has not equipped women w/the emotional fortitude to persevere against the fear and manipulation used by Satan to deceive women (“Eve”) (14 “deceived” = Taken by fear – Gen 3:1-6; 1Pe 3:7; 1Co 16:13; Isa 29:26; To say that God has not given any woman such fortitude is not the same as saying all men have been given the fortitude necessary to function as pastors/priests. Not all men possess it as sb clear from the example of Adam.) 4.3. be viewed by God as a damning forfeiture of the oversight roles women have been called to by God (15 “preserved” = Literally saved [Grk. sozo]. IOW: women pastors will go to hell; “the bearing of children” = An example of an oversight role given to women: being a mother—having oversight of her children).   5. Lastly, it must be said that given the vast misunderstanding surrounding this subject and the risk of others misinterpreting our practice, it is wise for us to limit the venues where we would (currently) allow a woman to teach (with men present), most especially the pulpit on Sunday since this is the time most associated with hearing from God’s ordained pastors – the man He has given the right to speak w/authority from His Word. [1] At least one evangelical pastor (John Piper) holds to this interpretation. On his website, Desiring God, woman teacher Mary Kassian, makes the following statements, “I believe the question of how to honor Christ through the exercise of my teaching gift revolves around the issue of whether I’m acting like a church-father [one speaking w/authority]. Am I doing something that is, or will likely be construed as, setting the doctrinal and spiritual direction for my entire church family? It says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Even if we don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or don’t understand it, the boundary is quite clear. Having the church-fathers authoritatively teach and instruct the congregation is God’s standard for the regular public meeting of the local church.” [2] For those viewing prophecy as different than teaching consider: the word prophecy is quite often used to refer to what we would normally call teaching/preaching since, most often, the prophetic message contains nothing fantastical or new (e.g., the majority of OT prophecy is simply a reiteration of God’s laws, promises and curses). As such, when interpreting the term prophecy in Scripture, we should assume what is being communicated-unless otherwise stated, is simply impromptu preaching – or a message given to the speaker not previously planned. If prophecy was always of the supernatural nature, then how could the church judge (in the moment of reception) whether the speaker’s words were true? [3] “The pastor represents Christ, the Husband, to the Church, His Bride…When he reads and preaches the Word, he symbolizes Christ, the Husband, speaking to His holy Bride (which is, by the way, one of the main reasons women cannot be pastors: they cannot publicly symbolize Christ the Husband to His Bride, the Church).” – Jeffrey J. Meyers (The Lord’s Service).