When it comes to interpreting difficult passages in Scripture, it can often be helpful to juxtapose the views of a number of different views and see how they understand the passage before one develops their own position. Below you will see a number of possibilities when it comes to 1 Timothy 2:12 — each of the following views I have heard argued. As Dr. John DelHouseaye said, “it must be admitted that the sense is far from clear. So we should be charitable towards one another as we seek the truth.”
- ESV 2001—I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man
- NIV 2011—I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man* [*footnote: Or over her husband]
- NASB 1995—But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man
- KJV 1611—I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man
- NLT 2015— I do not let women teach men or have* authority over them [*footnotes: teach men or usurp their authority]
#1 – Plain Reading
This view takes 1 Timothy 2:12 at face value — Paul does not want any women teaching any men or having authority over any men.
#2 – Specific Type of Authority
This view looks closely at the word “authority” and sees its negative connotations in the lexicons (see especially BDAG). The KJV, NIV, and NLT all incorporate that lexical data. Paul is not objecting to women having authority over men, rather, he is objecting to women taking authority that isn’t theirs — “usurping authority.”
#3 – Specific Type of Teaching
This view takes two verbs in verse 12 — teach and authority — and reads them as a hendiadys (two words creating one meaning). Thus, Paul is prohibiting authoritative teaching or the teaching that is included in eldership. Paul isn’t objecting to women teaching men or to women having authority over men, rather, Paul is objecting to having female elders who hold a teaching position of authority.
#4 – Only Applies to Ephesus
This view sees a crisis in Ephesus that involved overzealous and undereducated women. These women would speak their mind in rude and obtuse ways despite not having good theological training. Paul is specifically seeking to reign in these women in Ephesus who need to learn humility.
#5 – Only Applies to First Century
This view acknowledges the way in which women were not given educational opportunities in the first century, but now, because women are educated with the same prevalence as men, both genders have the capacity to teach doctrine and hold positions of leadership.
#6 – Households, not Church Government
This view looks at the words “women” and “men” and points out how in Koine Greek the words for women and wife are the same and the words for husband and man are the same. Thus, this view claims that Paul here is giving instructions with regards to households and marriages (see also Ephesians 5:22-25, 1 Cor 14:34-35). Paul isn’t objecting to women teaching and having authority in the churches, but rather in the home.
- Acts and the Letters of Paul by Dr. John DelHouseaye (available to those who take BL506 at Phoenix Seminary)
- Hearing Her Voice by Dr. John Dickson
- Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller
- Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Dr. Wayne Grudem