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Chapter 10


Assault on I Timothy is Vain, Unnecessary and Irrelevant


I Timothy 2:9ff. has been subjected to amazing distortion. When cultural mandates interfere with the divine one, this sort of thing is to be expected.

Thus a quibble that the Greek, concerning a woman in this passage, is to the effect that she is not permitted to "have authority over" man is in some doubt, is typical. True it might conceivably be rendered in the abstract, "to domineer" rather than to "have authority"; but it is not in the abstract. That is the point. SHE is not singled out for the fault of domineering, so that the poor man should be protected; nor is she excluded for some unjust and unethical quirk by the apostle in this area of authority. On the contrary, the case is strenuously differential at the gender level, has no current censure and is based on historical data, in the words of the apostle.

The context is abundantly clear. To start with, let us look at this "domineer" option for the translation. NO ONE is allowed to domineer over ANYONE (I Peter 5:3). Hence for a differential approach to those of different genders which is incontestably the case here, the only point is this: in WHAT is there differentiation? In what way is what is denied the one, not declared in all equality, denied to the other? There is no relevance in any translation which dwells on sin as such, for Paul dwells on woman as such; whereas sin is equally available to all sinners, and to be distanced by all.

Paul is not shepherding just one gender of sinners away from a sin, as if it could perhaps not relate to the other! He is not saying, For these reasons, YOU sub-set of people, women, may not do this! as if THEY needed some telling, when if it were a generic sin, ALL may not. In II Cor. 12:20, it is not WOMEN who alone or markedly inherit the blame for the tumultuous carnality.

He is not giving REASONS for NOT sinning in a way ANY may fall for, when the stated ground is an error applicable to ONE only! Otherwise, he would be deceitful or confused in his assertion, in his STATED reason; for if such were the case, that would NOT be the ground. On this basis, ALL would then be prohibited for a very different reason: namely that it is simply wrong, unholy; and the exclusion would be applicable to all. Neither is this the reason given, nor is this the result bound by the apostle.

It is rather a waste of time so to quibble; it is not even good for the conscience to move the special and particular, the differential and the partial, to the general and the all inclusive. Paul is doing the exact opposite, quite explicitly.

However, lest any be misled, let us analyse it in some detail.

2. PARALLELS in specialisation

Thus Paul would of course not say:

Now relative to women in church, I do not allow a woman to kill her husband before the public eye, for women were at the first misled (as he goes on to say). There is no application in forbidding in terms, and on grounds indeed, of differentiation, those sins which are in any case forbidden to all at all times.

You have exactly this point illustrated in I Peter 5:5, where young people, as is fitting, should be submissive to their elders; BUT, Peter proceeds, while the young should be submissive to their elders, yet ALL should be submissive, the one to the other. That is a qualification as to the WAY in which ALL are to execute their duties. Just as it is fitting for the young to respect those older (though for that matter, God is older than all, and NONE should EVER submit to rebellion against Him, or any of its ways, as Peter and John so well showed in the presence of the priests who interfered with true doctrine, in Acts 5:29 - indeed, the apostles spoke with eclat!): so it is also fitting for mutual respect all round. There is a specific group, and there is a general spirit; but the latter does not obliterate the former. The specialised inheres in the general, without being cancelled in the least. BOTH are simultaneously true; just as EACH is asserted.

THIS then is NOT to retract what Peter has JUST said: God's word is not obscure and self-contradictory (Proverbs 8:8-9). He is ADDING, not subtracting, extending not retracting. ALL should have a spiritual grace with their functions, but specifically, the younger have an obligation to seek a right attitude of propriety to the due authority of their seniors. For them there is a specific specialisation, which is over and above the general. Peter does not contradict himself, and those who wish to diverge from him in this simply would contradict the apostle.

So here in I Timothy 2: women are OF COURSE to have a seemly attitude to their husbands. Peter makes this abundantly clear in the directest of manners in I Peter 3:1-6. In I Peter 3:1 
(a companion verse in one respect to I Timothy 2:11),
he specifies the requirement of godly subjection (that is, within the word and its rule and the requirements of sin-avoidance). THAT in no way is contrary to the next advice in I Peter, that husbands are to "dwell with their wives with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel". THAT is specialised. The GENERIC spiritual approach is NOT to be DROPPED because of a specific, a specialised spiritual duty. Women do NOT reject their special feature because men have theirs, which includes an honouring of them.

That is the constant message; and it is so here in Timothy. Paul has not somehow become inane, telling wives that in a distinction between men and women, they should not domineer in a way always per se sinful for all. That NEEDS no distinction. He is instead telling them that the office of teacher is relevant to authority (without sin, for otherwise it would be fitting to tell them all not to sin in their offices in life), and that authority is restricted to the man in this realm. Here it is not the general which is being spelt out, but rather the particular. It is all particular, all directed to distinctions between genders in functional attributes.

What was general was given in 2:1-7 in terms of Christ and HIS functions, and people and their response; and it moved in the area of the formal, of meetings of worship. In 2:8ff., we come to particulars for gender groupings, and what one is not permitted to do is not in line for the other at all, but rather is there is a division of labour spelt out. At this point, there is an exclusion barrier, applicable only to one of the two parties in view. Specialisation within the general is the topic; exclusion the result. (Cf. Biblical Blessings, pp. 110-111.)


The next thing we might note is the context a little further on. Paul gives a REASON for his statement just made. This, one might hope, would appear as relevant to what he meant. The reason for this prohibition to women? Is it that they should not sin in a generic way? Not at all: it is BECAUSE a woman DID sin in a SPECIALISED way when first provoking the Lord by disobedience in Eden. THAT is the reason stated. Hence the reason is specialised, NOT applicable in the same way to men and women, but directly specifically to women as such, because of an event in which a woman, but not a man, acted - that is, INITIATION of the disobedience at Eden. Despite this, Paul says, women have good expectations in child-bearing, "if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control." This too indicates most pointedly that to woman is there a result of the first action, here attenuated.

Like it or detest it, the apostle is making a difference based on a difference, and is stating the exclusion to result from this difference; and to treat this differently is to differ from the apostle. Women are disenabled because of the past, not because of the present: because of their difference and not in spite of their similarity. It is a DIVERGENCE between the two which is in mind, and the 'NOT', the negative command concerning authority, is a disenabling for this purpose based on error, not in the overall scale of human action, but in the gender. The reason for the disenabling is express, explicit. It may neither be discounted nor added to, if God is to be heeded.

How you choose to interpret WHY the Lord has so willed: that is not to the point here.

Thus :

a) You may indeed say that women have a highly specialised and decisively created POWER to help man, in terms of the very nature of the purpose for which God created them; not as if they were inferior, or less than in God's image in the least: but rather, in God's choice there are subtle differences.

b) These may make for things incredibly beautiful when well done by all in specialisation, but less so when the now sinful nature of both participants realises itself differentially. You may urge that women have this marvellous contribution; but that when sin enters in, then this, their very capacity has the specialised liability which is not acceptable. This, here expressed and reviewed, is prone to express itself in a way which is unwise in one phase of human conduct in church: namely that where authority, leadership of all enters in. On this understanding, this liability is in view when a contrary approach is taken by the apostle relative to women-in-authority over men in the church.

That is possibly what lies within the basis; but whatever the perspective, the reason of Paul is express, clear and historically based, unambiguous and specialised in the extreme. The whole history of the race is involved in a pivotal point given a pivotal application. It results in one specialised gender differential, just as man's stressed requirement to sacrifice is a specialised application that augments his generic requirements on the other side (Ephesians 5:25).

Thus whatever may be said, the point at issue in I Timothy 2:11ff. is not influenced. The prohibition which God through Paul implements is what remains. THAT is what God has SAID. Its outcome is this.

The outcome? In the major meeting, women are silent as to learning, not in leadership as to speech. This is not very hard to understand, if understanding is our goal... That leads on to our next consideration.


The next aspect of the context is this. Women are NOT TO TEACH in this the church meeting; NOR are they to exercise a directive role over men. (Actually, it is found the Greek oude used here to join the forbidden items, normally joins companionable items, here the allied 'teaching' and 'having authority', the latter the correlate of instruction. If we had some horrid sin being gratuitously forbidden, we should expect not a conjunction of alliance, but a sign of differentiation of a cardinal degree.*) The learning is to be in SILENCE with ALL SUBMISSION. What she is NOT to do is contrasted with what she IS to do: the former is to have an authoritative or directive role, the latter is to have a SILENT, NON-TEACHING and submissive role, relative to men. The third option if 'domineer' were in view, would be omitted: that is, to speak without overreaching self-will, to teach without self-imposition. The negation however is ENTIRE, not qualified. Does then God direct concerning this entire aspect of women - joint heirs - in church, because of the omission of a logical option? Scarcely, He GIVES HIS REASON IN HIS WORD, and it is far otherwise. It is distinctive and selective. It is not an abuse of justice but a grounded divergence for differentiation of which the word of God speaks.

Silence is not very ambiguous and does not allow much manoeuvre. NON-teaching is rather direct. Both are apostolically bound for this context of Scripture, and in the context in view for women.

Now ANY supervisor must be able to supervise and this INCLUDES whatever element is in view, and ALL elders without differentiation are SUPERVISORS as stated expressly in Acts 20:28. EACH elder is deemed in a collection from a whole city, to be correctly addressed as in SUPERVISION, by the apostle there. Nor is there stated here to be an ELDERSHIP which has this power. It is ELDERS, in that context. What they MUST do, women MUST NOT: that is the teaching in the Bible.

What elders MUST have, freedom to act with due (and of course not UNDUE) authority, supervisory authority (cf. Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:17 - the term in the latter being related to a root involving ruling, being a prince, presiding, governing, resolving), women MUST NOT HAVE. In the crucial and formal church setting, where doctrine appears, they are to be SILENT (hard in supervision), NON-TEACHING (difficult in oversight), and SPECIFICALLY as a group, not to exercise authority over the men, to be managerial. They are not to act as if the matter in any sense were depending on them, in the sense of actions they might or might not take, at the OFFICIAL level, in the DIRECTIVE sense. They cannot, in short and of course, be elders where the EXACT requirements of eldership are SPECIFICALLY excluded.

To repeat the point: Paul is NOT excluding a generic sin like murder in addressing children - as at times he does - or women differentially; but excluding what is specifically declared, with grounds attached, to be not fitting to women in a selective sense for a selective reason.


The Greek here used in I Timothy 2 is NOT hard to determine. It can mean domineer, it can mean exercise authority; but in this context, it is an exclusion of ONE party in relationship to a total of two possible parties, from a special action or attitude in differentiation, and this in a structure of differentiation which Paul is erecting. He then gives a reason in terms of the historic basis for the differentiation. No way of making rational sense of what is said exists, except to take the context as it comes: that women are specifically excluded from some items to which they might otherwise have aspired; and they are so barred in terms of their historic specialty of behaviour in a former time. It is therefore best to understand that the no-speech, and non-teaching and non-authoritative are all required, not because the alternatives are in themselves sin, for they are not: there is nothing in any of these activities which may be proved to CONSTITUTE sin, as the Greek stands.

Rather it is because these roles are for stated reasons inapplicable to women, in a differentiation of roles, in an apportionment. The authority concerned PER SE excludes both speaking and teaching at the overall level and in the authority-relevant situation in view. As to the relationship of elders to such authority, Acts 20:28 merely confirms this absolutely, that elders must be supervisors with supervisory authority, leadership and capacity for government; but it seemed good to consider what Paul is saying in I Timothy 2 as well, lest mutiny abound and folly erupt.

This passage in Acts independently and forcibly requires of elders to the uttermost, precisely what I Timothy denies to woman to the uttermost, in the church government situation.

Women are denied in KIND what the eldership REQUIRES in kind. They are denied MORE than is required in the denial of eldership; for someone might indeed speak with persuasive impact and directive intent in a church setting, who is no elder. Women then, are DOUBLY removed from the eldership. THAT is not in derogation either of their equality with men GENERICALLY, or of their capacities; it is in DENIAL as in Eden, and this time in this area, exclusively, of ONE aspect in official church government which elders must have eminently.

If God in His wisdom wishes so to enact, then those who love Him have the opportunity to obey, to heed, without either expanding the matter by some kind of imagined "implication" which is not really there, or contracting it so that it is minimised to the point of disobedience. In AUTHORITY, the women must not so act in the church, just as men in CHILD-BEARING are likewise excluded. As women MAY not bear authority over all in the church, so men CAN not bear children. In COUNSEL, however, for women there is NO prohibition at all.

Let us now revert to the topic of not-sinning in its requirements here, in the operative area of concern.


Paul is NOT telling women not to SIN because Eve sinned in an epochal manner involving leadership. He is NOT saying,

That is NOT the reason for not sinning. It IS the reason for not being in line for certain specified duties, which Paul does not condemn, but simply excludes from them by name. He is selecting for them in terms of possible functions, and excluding on this ground one of these. Differential exclusion is STATED and it is stated in terms of a differential GROUND: not of a COMMON one for all. He is enjoining SILENCE with SUBMISSION. Indeed, in the area of teaching-learning in the public domain, it is with ALL submission in terms of NOT having authority over a man. Agreement is NOT specified, nor is speech prohibited in individuality; it is the PLACE of it in the determining meetings of the church, in the area of authority which is excluded. In that place, however, it is decisive.

"All submission" in any realm is a contrary to any leadership. Thus, if some objected in some point: then women in this, if elders, while practising all submission would be unable to speak, to act, to diverge, to deliver; but would yet be at the helm of a self-determining body for which their oversight would therefore be nil. Oversight, however, is precisely what Paul attributes to the elders without differentiation in Acts 20:28. All submission is not submission in sin, for He who rejects sin is giving the order; but it is submission in terms of all else, and governing is not in itself, sin.

Is SILENCE necessary in order to be submissive? Obviously not, or children could not talk. Or is speech a matter of usurping authority? Can it not be with grace? Hence silence in TERMS of submissiveness, is not required because the alternative option is sin; but for another reason. Is it wrong to seek this reason in what Paul actually says? One would hope not! He states the reason: woman in Eve sinned, and she is hence excluded from these three facilities in the church meeting. A category of action is deemed inappropriate because of history in which woman as such and statedly figured. Or should we say that the apostle really meant to give another reason but happened to get stuck on this! Whatever such imaginings may dream, however, what is written is what he said. Only blasphemy against the word of God, the word inspired by the Lord (I Corinthians 2:9-13, and see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Appendix D) can stand in such a case.

Adding to the word of God is the prerogative of - guess whom? Yes, of God. It is after all, HIS word.

Such blasphemy as to re-write His grounds and divisions is for the time available for those who want it. We however merely interpret, and we interpret this: when silence is bound on someone statedly because of something done, a matter which affects that party and not another when the two are being contrasted, then the reason determines the nature of the prohibition. SPECIALISED SIN is the stated ground for DIFFERENTIAL action and function in the church. Specialised consequences have resulted from it.

The general character of sin is THEREFORE NOT the reason. It does not mean that men MAY OF COURSE sin, since women sinned; that indeed would be inducement to sin! Let us then be content, if the apostle's meaning is our quest and goal in this. Nor does it mean that women may not sin because Eve did; for the grounds for not sinning are far beyond any such thing as this: that someone sinned!

In fact, BE YE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY, is what is written on this point : and not, Don't sin because someone else did! It means what it says: women may not do these things since their past excludes them. To add to the word of God is prohibited (Proverbs 30:6), and Paul here gives HIS reason, in the Lord. Not current but past sin is the stated ground of exclusion. The case is not one of kind but of selection of those to whom it is and is not applicable.

Again, let us be clear: IS silence necessary in order to be submissive, decorous, fitting? To ask is to answer, but let us nevertheless say it: No, it is not! for speech can be filled with grace and true. Speech is no more sinful than is woman allowed to exercise authority. The whole category of involvement at this level is excluded for, and in this: that where teaching is concerned and speech in these circumstances, it can have a due and proper, and indeed sensitive role, as James showed in Acts 15, a role which can be leadership indeed. It may affect the outcome categorically. The reason for exclusion rests in a specific initiative and leadership in the past; and that is the apostle's mind on this point.

To specify WHY a series of three items in a list - involving authority, speech and teaching - are excluded from women in terms of a woman, is not to specify why sins are wrong for all. If the apostle were inane, if words were meaningless, if differentiation were generality, if reasons were non-reasons, if justice were injustice, if virtue can be listed with vice in a prohibition expressly based on individuality: then perhaps we could allow such a distortion of this division of the ways text. As it is, it is better to obey it.

It is better also to regard Acts 20:28, where the same message is present: Eldership and supervision, oversight and authority, are inextricably involved. Indeed, ELDERS are there bound to these things by express usage of the apostle in this verse. Accordingly, WOMEN are excluded from the leading features of eldership without which it is in fact denied: the very word "supervision" becoming dead where its means are denied. One of the LAST things a supervisor needs is a prohibition enforcing silence and the specialised requirement of submissiveness as the role is performed.

What is the case with guardianship such as Paul specifies for the eldership role in Acts 20? It is this:

as indeed you see in the deacon, Stephen (Acts 7). This is the AREA of such action, and while a humble spirit is quite comportable with a decisive lead: the latter is not compatible with speechlessness, 'teachlessness' and silence. Specifically, and directly, women are to have nothing to do with the formal presentation and binding of church doctrine, which is for the pastor distinctively, for the elders significantly, for that group functionally. Silence does not conduce to teaching. Now of course women may have enormous impact even here in other settings, but not in this assemblage and in its direction. Though all should follow the Bible, the determinations are thus apportioned and assigned in the Lord - for the reasons which He expressly assigns.

Error by men in this function is their option; leadership in it by women Biblically is not even an option, though it is of course such a role for them that is quite common in the sects in particular. Que voulez-vous! Let us then not have any more talk as if this were in any acceptable sense an option. For the rebel, no doubt it is; but let us keep our hearts clear, and the force of the will of God no uncertain thing (cf. I Samuel 15:23). Separation is required where such rebellion occurs (Romans 16:17ff., Titus 3:10 and see Separation in The Kingdom of Heaven..., and A Question of Gifts, Section 2.

Let us not, however, like Eve, extend the rule of the word of God by our own hypothesis, where it is not given. Let us not start on a road of illicit inferences where the word does not speak. It is as dangerous to add as to subtract, and as necessary to obey as to be circumspect and just. To this, we next address ourselves.


We have been at pains in A Question of Gifts , Section XI, which covers some of these aspects, to prevent this differentiation being taken to unBiblical extremes, as if ALL meetings must abstract from women speaking, or as if they could not pray in public, or counsel with strong reasons and good in a simply conciliar setting. Indeed, just because this emphasis on anything remotely approaching authority in the church is present, this is no ground for excluding function in episodes of another kind, where discussion and counsel are concerned, and the matter is irrelevant to any kind of authority: prayer is one of these, and conferring is another.

Nor is it wrong at all for ANYONE to protest at the right time to the right parties concerning error of any kind; for a warning given by any can be timely, if presented in the bounds of seemliness and necessity. How much good is there if a godly protest lodged where the meeting in view is not occurring, should be unheeded! Sometimes it is good that it occur in public; but NOT where the authoritative decisions are made.

In all these interactions and involvements, differentials and divergences within the unity of the faith, whether consequential or elemental, there is scope for a beauty which emulation can only miss, a complementarity which blindness can only ignore, a collaboration in which grace rules, victory is found, genuine equality in reality coheres with specialisation of roles. Emulation would find it hard if not impossible to realise this; but practice is its ornament.

End-note: *Actually the context does in one and one only way give advice on the ground of bringing in this excluded, this forbidden item in the chapter context of due order and seemliness; and it is in terms of history, where the woman's false leadership lost her and cost her a privilege. Paul of course is explicit here: "for" (v.13) announcing the grounds, including implicitly the role of woman, and her action.


More and in some ways, deeper grounds yet are to hand, concerning this topic of eldership; and more on the whole array of gender matters. For this, see the next item in this pot-pourri, The Dance of Life.