I have been reading a lot of bad interpretations of I Timothy 2 lately and just wanted to clarify some things. I have written on this subject before and encourage you to read more about it here.
Jesus commanded His disciples to teach others to “observe” what His Word actually says. Today, in our fast food, microwave, and Amazon modern world, we have little patience to observe the Bible text. We want to jump right to the “what does it mean” part, usually looking at other people’s interpretations instead of allowing an interpretation to reveal itself in the midst of a proper observation. I love you but, I don’t care what YOU think a passage means. I want to know what the author of the passage meant and how the original recipients would have understood the text. This is where observation is key. If you spend much sweat and energy in the observation stage, you will discover the context, which is key to proper interpretation, and then interpretation will not end up being, “here is what I think it means“. Instead, it will be, “here is what the original author meant and how the original audience would have understood it“.
I Timothy 2 is a prime example of this.
11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
12 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.
14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
15 But women will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
Here are two major mistakes that people make upon reading this without knowing the context and not doing a proper observation of the text.
- Women cannot teach in the church in a mixed group. If men are present, women are not allowed to teach the Word of God. Teaching the Word of God is exercising authority over men and women are not allowed to exercise authority over any men in the church. (V:11-12)
- If a woman is not able to bear children, she is not able to be saved. (V:15)
I have heard the second argument a few times. I have heard the first argument many times. If you believe one of them then you must believe both of them. Those two conclusions come as a result of not knowing the chapter context or the book context.
I. Teachable Spirit
In verse 11, the Apostle Paul wants the audience to understand the value of having a teachable spirit. This is not a trait that comes naturally to human beings (neither male nor female). We learn to have a teachable spirit when we become followers of Christ. Women who do not have a teachable spirit need to be confronted. Men who do not have a teachable spirit also must be confronted. In the book of Acts, having a teachable spirit is one of the main qualities of a born again, follower of Jesus Christ. Many men who arrive at the two incorrect conclusions mentioned above usually do not have a teachable spirit. It is a sad thing to see because pride just oozes out in their discussions and arguments. When a person is prideful, there is nothing to work with and that is why God opposes the proud. The proud are not open to being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Do you have a teachable spirit? Are you willing to learn, or, do you feel like you are the only one who has it all figured out and you have little patience with others?
II. In marriage
The Apostle Paul is addressing married men and married women in verses 12-14. How do we know this? There are two major pieces of evidence in the text. The first one is that Paul uses Adam and Eve (the first married couple) as his example. Their sin happened after they were married, when Adam did not step up and lead his wife like he was created to do. Instead, he allowed her to exercise authority over him and all of humanity was condemned as a result. Paul is addressing married men and married women. Secondly, in the Koine Greek language, the original language of the New Testament, the word for man and husband is the exact same word. You know the usage based on the context. The word for woman and wife is the exact same word. Once again, the rule of context is, context rules. The context of man and woman in this passage is “marriage”. When Paul qualifies the word “woman” with the indefinite article “a”, this does not mean “any” woman like we use it in modern English. It means a specific kind of woman, or, a married woman. This passage could be translated as, “a married woman is not to exercise authority over her married man“. It is a poor use of Koine Greek to translate this passage, any woman is not allowed to exercise authority over any man. That is how many interpret this today and claim that women are not allowed to teach men the Word of God. The Greek word for this is, “hogwash“.
III. Daily Occupation
We know from the Bible that men and women are not saved by works. We are saved by grace, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2)
Any other understanding is false. But, there are those who claim that verse 15 teaches that women who are not able to have babies are not able to be saved. Again, this is a terrible conclusion but, it’s the same conclusion that many make with the “women are not allowed to teach men” argument. It uses the same faulty logic. A quick check of the rest of I Timothy informs us of what Paul meant with verse 15.
14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. (I Timothy 5)
The Apostle Paul does not refer to eternal salvation in chapter 2 verse 15. He is referring to “rescue” from the snare of the devil, in the present tense. Once again, the rule of context is, context rules. Getting married and having children will keep women out of trouble because they will be too busy raising a family to chase after the pleasures of this world. Many young men and women today would do well to pay attention to this advice because they are delaying getting married and raising a family. This leads to all kinds of temptation, like Cohabitation.
Are you running around telling women that they are not allowed to teach the Word of God to men in the church based on a misunderstanding of I Timothy 2? Are you willing to learn from the Lord’s Word, i.e., have a teachable spirit? If you do not have a teachable spirit then you have disqualified yourself from teaching others. Based on this, there are many men who should not be teaching other men in the church today. May the Lord help us be humble and understand His Holy Word and be quick to learn from Him and from others.