Why women aren’t allowed to teach men in Church

If you’ve been following the comments on Elspeth’s on why the Bible was penned by men, and Donal’s selected Sunday Scriptures on the verses that prohibit women from speaking and teaching in Church then you would know there is some interesting debate going down over the course of what it means to “teach” men.

I was going to comment. However, since my comment was getting long I felt that it deserved its own post, and I haven’t discussed the full nature of this topic yet before on this blog. So let’s get down to it.

First, the verses:

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. 35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

At first glance, the problem to me extends beyond these two passages. This is because we need to know what definitions we are using with Greek words. If we don’t understand exactly what we are talking about it is easy to make mistakes.

1. First, what is the definition of “church” setting (or rather ekklesia) in which women aren’t allowed to teach? Is it only in say mass or other Sunday services? Does that include any other type of events that the Church has including classes on catechism or the like?

G1577 — ἐκκλησία — ekklēsia — ek-klay-see’-ah
From a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): – assembly, church.

It’s very difficult to discern what exactly ekklesia means because it is used in multiple different forms in the NT. The early Church which was a compilation of people meeting in houses was called the ekklesia. Likewise, the establishment of different churches within different buildings as the population has expanded is also referred to as the Church.

If we take the straigtht definition it would seem to be that in general it’s any gathering of believers. This would be my take on it. After all, Jesus Himself states that whether two or more are gathered in His name there he is with them (Matt 18:20).

2. Second, what is the definition of “teach” (didasko) compared to say “preach” (kerusso, euaggelizo) or compared to giving a testimony (matureo) and the lessons learned from it? This is much more of a gray zone because women are not allowed to “teach” but they are allowed to “preach” and spread the gospel, and they are allowed to give “testimonies.”

G1321 — διδάσκω — didaskō — did-as’-ko
A prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb δάω daō (to learn); to teach (in the same broad application): – teach.

G2784 — κηρύσσω — kērussō — kay-roos’-so
Of uncertain affinity; to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): – preach (-er), proclaim, publish.

G2097 — εὐαγγελίζω — euaggelizō — yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo
From G2095 and G32; to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel: – declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).

G3140 — μαρτυρέω — martureō — mar-too-reh’-o
From G3144; to be a witness, that is, testify (literally or figuratively): – charge, give [evidence], bear record, have (obtain, of) good (honest) report, be well reported of, testify, give (have) testimony, (be, bear, give, obtain) witness.

What distinguishes teaching from preaching and giving a testimony? Pure explication of the Scriptures? But where exactly is the line between teaching and sharing the gospel because the gospel will also be told using the Scriptures?

Let’s get straight to the point then. I’ve learned a lot about God from women on what some would consider teaching. For example, they’re relating their experiences me in terms of how God is working in their life supported with Scriptures to back it up. However, in my view that would mainly be considered giving a testimony — ‘here is what God is doing in my life and showing me in these Scriptures.’ Is that fact that I learned from that make it a teaching? Or is it still only a testmony?

Let’s look at all of the variations of what it means to “teach” in given in the Greek NT:

G1317 — διδακτικός — didaktikos — did-ak-tik-os’
From G1318; instructive (“didactic”): – apt to teach.

G1318 — διδακτός — didaktos — did-ak-tos’
From G1321; (subjectively) instructed or (objectively) communicated by teaching: – taught, which . . . teacheth.

G1319 — διδασκαλία — didaskalia — did-as-kal-ee’-ah
From G1320; instruction (the function or the information): – doctrine, learning, teaching.

G1320 — διδάσκαλος — didaskalos — did-as’-kal-os
From G1321; an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.

G1321 — διδάσκω — didaskō — did-as’-ko
A prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb δάω daō (to learn); to teach (in the same broad application): – teach.

G1322 — διδαχή — didachē — did-akh-ay’
From G1321; instruction (the act or the matter): – doctrine, hath been taught.

Based on how the words are used, in my estimation the ban on women “teaching” men refers to women instructing men how to live. Women should not be telling men how to live because they don’t understand what it is to be a man. Not only have we seen this time and time again in the manosphere that instruction , but we see the same thing in marriage where women nag their husbands because they want him to basically tell/instruct him on how to live.

This seems to be the correct context in which the word is used. When the sinners, tax collectors, Pharisees, and even the rich young rule come to Jesus they are coming to Him for more than just teaching. They want to know how His teaching affects the way they live. For example, in a large portion of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus leads off all of His teaching with the phrasing “You have heard it said ____, but I tell you ____.” This seems to be the context of what it means to teach versus all other forms of learning — in practical application.

There is a stark difference from a woman sharing her experience about what God has been teaching her (testimony), from the experience of preaching the gospel (kerusso, euaggelion), and instructing/teaching a man about how to live their life. The difference I see in where women are giving their testimony it is first and foremost an encouragement. Secondarily, men can glean principles from that woman’s life in order to incorporate that into their own lives. However, it is not teaching where a woman is instructing men how to live.

When it crosses the line from the woman relating her own experiences (about her) to being about the men she is talking to (to instruct them) then it ceases to be a testmony and it becomes teaching.


edit: thanks also to jonadabtherechabite for some commentary on theology that changed the conclusion here.

Given the context of some exegesis and more research into what other theologians taught on the topic including Chrysostom, the prevailing thought is that the passage in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 hinge multiple specific matters:

  • The fact that women tend to be more easily deceived means that it would be questionable to let them teach.
  • Women are to keep silence in the church which is predicated on eliminating gossip thus encouraging modesty of the mouth just as earlier in Corinthians Paul other outward appearance of modesty such as veils for the hair.
  • The subjection of women to men in the church (ekklesia setting) brings about order much like in the marriage relationship in Genesis.
  • Chrysostom has an interesting interpretation parallel of Romans where since Adam fell into sin the mankind fell, and to where Eve fell into deception so also women. This manifests in that Adam was deceived by another human whereas Eve was deceived by a lesser, and women are banned from teaching because her salvation is not of herself yet rather of childbearing.

Overall, it seems as if the Scriptures do not ban women from sharing testimonies or spreading the gospel outside of the Church setting (e.g. Samaritan woman at the well, Mary after the resurrection, etc.), and it doesn’t seem to give a prescription on women teaching outside of the church setting. However, it would be wise to follow the Scriptures in the Church setting due to all of these reasons.

In general, I think the majority of men can tell that when they are being “lectured” or “taught” by women on how to live that uncomfortable feeling you get that signifies that something is wrong probably means it is wrong even if their message is right. It’s also possible that nudging is your conscience and/or the Holy Spirit, but I haven’t thought about it too extensively yet to make a declaration.

When women start instructing men how to live, run far far away. Unfortunately, this is what feminism tells men, and men unknowingly or knowingly accept it to their own detriment. There is a reason why single mothers cannot effectively raise men, and why it is the father’s role to discipline and instruct the children of the house.

Effectively, I would say that it is “at your own risk” for men to accept teaching on how to live from women. Feedback is always good, but implementing practical advice is haphazard at best.

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25 Responses to Why women aren’t allowed to teach men in Church

  1. donalgraeme says:

    This all makes a lot of sense. Interesting thoughts about the role of the Holy Spirit as well. Hadn’t considered that before.

  2. hearthie says:

    Makes a great deal of sense. Thank you! Love a good word study. 😀

    I don’t think it’s sinful for me to teach you to sew a fine seam (should you wish to do that) or allow you to read my blog of exhortation (not sure how I’d stop you) but I don’t want to come mind your business.

    FWIW “momming” people is something I have to remind myself not to do, NOT something I think about doing. This is why we are so careful about the teaching roles that women take.

  3. @ hearthie

    I don’t think it’s sinful for me to teach you to sew a fine seam (should you wish to do that) or allow you to read my blog of exhortation (not sure how I’d stop you) but I don’t want to come mind your business.

    Yeah, if a man is coming to specifically to learn from a woman about a particular skillset that’s definitely different than a man going to church and finding out that he’s learning about how to live life from a woman.

    I think we can look no further than the schools which have become primarily a woman’s teaching role. No surprise that boys being raised by women in school are being feminized, and the school system itself with tests and homework is becoming more about completing assignments than actual test results. The school system reflects that feminization.

  4. Jacob says:

    Even women who share the gospel message from the pulpit are teaching men how to live. After all, what is the gospel message? It is teaching men how to live…in Christ. There is no other “life” but eternal life – the new life in Christ – so, if we are to take this approach, all gospel ministry in church should off limits to women, including reading from Scripture. It would have nothing to do with a woman’s capacity to teach, as many women are capable, but because we don’t know exactly what God meant and therefore have only the Scriptures to guide us.

    You argue that women should not be telling men how to live because they don’t understand what it is to be a man, which is fair enough, but this could also be said of men. Yet there’s no teaching restriction placed on men when it comes to women. Paul exhorts the older women to “teach the younger women what is good” (Titus 2: 3-5), but that doesn’t exclude men from teaching the younger women. If men don’t know what it’s like to be women, how can men teach women how to live? The only way that can happen is if the ‘life’ this refers to is eternal life in Christ – i.e. the gospel?

    While it may seem reckless and hurtful to women, I propose that these passages mean what they say, that women are to remain silent in churches. About everything to do with the gospel. By “church” I mean “wherever two or three gather together in His name” (Matt 18:20). Without further revelation from God, we have no basis on which to believe otherwise. While it undoubtedly helps to read these passages in Ancient Greek, this is not the only way to interpret God’s Word on this matter.

    If I were to speculate on why women are not to teach in church, I’d say it was because of hormones. God knows that the average woman’s menstrual cycle affects her emotions in ways that are not conducive to reliable teaching. Unless she is totally controlled emotionally (which must surely harden her heart) she can never be fully predictable to the men she might seek to teach in church. The Alpha Fux Beta Bux hormonal dynamic playing itself out internally makes her an unreliable witness to any but those who can sympathise and synchronise with her menstrual emotions. No man but her husband has a hope of doing this, unless she publishes the key dates of her cycle in the church calendar, which of course she shouldn’t. Of course, NAWALT, but it must be so for the everywoman for whom the Bible is written.

    How can a woman teach the gospel to men when her cyclic emotions cannot be fully known to them? How can she teach love to men she herself might have rejected as unworthy of her womanhood? I don’t know of any woman who can separate her feelings about a man she has rejected from the love he needs to receive from a gospel teacher. I suspect this is why God saves women through childbirth – cleaved to one man and his issue.

  5. jonadabtherechabite says:

    It is a shame in your study of koine, you have not also studied the disciplines of historical theology, applied theology and systematic theology. You might have then considered two millenia of thought across the whole of christianity, and the thoughts of the best theologians in all history. But what is that compared to a lexicon?

    The first principle of good theology is humility.

  6. @ jonadabtherechabite

    Where is the lack of humility? I’m always ready to learn more and admit if I’m wrong.

    If you have a more theologically accurate point of view why not offer it up instead of being condescending?

  7. @ Jacob

    In the context of women teaching men versus men teaching women we have the knowledge of the impact of fathers versus mothers:

    If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

    If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

    Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

    Before mothers despair, there is some consolation for faithful moms. Where the mother is less regular than the father but attends occasionally, her presence ensures that only a quarter of her children will never attend at all.

    Even when the father is an irregular attender there are some extraordinary effects. An irregular father and a non-practicing mother will yield 25 percent of their children as regular attenders in their future life and a further 23 percent as irregulars. This is twelve times the yield where the roles are reversed.

    Statistics from Swiss study in 1994, article about it here: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v

    Basically, the study shows that impartation of the father’s faith to the children is the most important indicator of whether children will grow up to be in the faith. Fathers convey identity to their children.

    Though I would agree with you there are probably more things aside from the impartation differences in fatherhood vs motherhood and hormones as well that determine why God has said that women shouldn’t teach men in church.

    Finally, I want to distinguish, however, that convey the gospel message is something that women in the Scriptures have done albeit it not in the ekklesia. What’s the difference then in that circumstance? I can’t think of any.

    What I am talking about in terms of conveying the gospel message of the good news and Jesus does not require teaching with interpretive prescription for life. For example, what does it mean for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church? That is part of Scripture interpretation that only men should teach other men about… if we’re saying “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” then that’s surely a life message but it’s not exactly interpretive. That’s where I would draw the distinction based on my current knowledge.

  8. trugingstar says:

    Here’s the thing: you’re a condescending prick with a moral superiority complex.

    By the way, I need help. An older married woman on Elspeth’s is telling me that she doesn’t use sexual jokes any more, so I shouldn’t either. She needs you to tell her what you shared with me, that lewd talk is actually okay, and in fact, a great witnessing tool.

  9. @ trugingstar

    What are you talking about? I’m confused.

  10. trugingstar says:

    I’m sorry, I think you’re just doing the best you can. Bear in mind, it’s very difficult to have a deadline. There isn’t a lot of time for women to waste, and pairing-off is more important to us than it is to men. Please keep that in mind when dealing with women and try to be more careful. Your actions are like a butterfly effect and they have an impact on other people.

    This is to everyone: it was wrong of me to explode the manosphere, but on the other hand, I don’t like the competitive attitude going on here. A lot of people leave church because the people are mean. If you all want to be an effective tool, you need to stop being so prideful. Calling people names, making fun of the way they talk, making people look stupid and/or villianizing them is counterproductive. Why are you wasting all of your time on here? You might as well leave. You’re not selling your philosophy very well to people. Another thing I recommend is reaching out to new bloggers. It was done for all of you, and you can take a few minutes to help other people. It’s not a competition, if you actually care about growing your cause. These aren’t secular blogs, and you’re not going to get Heartise traffic.

  11. jonadabtherechabite says:

    @ Deep Strength

    I apologize for my patronizing comment. I often go off with too much force when I see the ongoing Christian syncretism with feminism, especially the hubris that disparages the honor of our fathers of the faith. As background, I see the feminist revolt as the greatest obstacle to the advancement of the gospel and the greatest threat to western civilization. The church has acquiesced and continues to repeat the sin of Adam in Gen 3:17 by heeding the voice of the woman. Thus I often am not gentile and come out swinging in the chaos of the battle. But let me answer your request with a snip from John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Timothy 2. I could provide the same from practically all the great theologians of history.

    …He (Paul) adds — what is closely allied to the office of teaching — and not to assume authority over the man; for the very reason, why they are forbidden to teach, is, that it is not permitted by their condition. They are subject, and to teach implies the rank of power or authority. Yet it may be thought that there is no great force in this argument; because even prophets and teachers are subject to kings and to other magistrates. I reply, there is no absurdity in the same person commanding and likewise obeying, when viewed in different relations. But this does not apply to the case of woman, who by nature (that is, by the ordinary law of God) is formed to obey; for γυναικοκρατία (the government of women) has always been regarded by all wise persons as a monstrous thing; and, therefore, so to speak, it will be a mingling of heaven and earth, if women usurp the right to teach. Accordingly, he bids them be “quiet,” that is, keep within their own rank. — “He therefore commands them to remain in silence; that is, to keep within their limits and the condition of their sex.”

    Please also meditate on what one of my professors taught: “Many a good sermon was ruined by etymology”. His point took years for me to really accept; word studies are useful, but never apart from the other disciplines of exegesis. BTW – the historic church has spoken univocally on this right up until modern feminism was assimilated into the church culture.

  12. eclipsed says:

    @ Trugingstar:

    What happened to your blog? I read that you would keep it up. I liked your style.

  13. @ jonadabtherechabite

    Thanks. Revised the conclusion to more accurately reflect what the Church has taught on this subject.

    I think it’s mostly the conclusion that needs revision as that is where the offending statements were made but if you catch any others I may have missed I’d appreciate it.

  14. trugingstar says:

    @eclipsed Aw, thank you! :} Everything about it was experimentation, so I’m glad it worked out somehow. You know what, maybe I’ll do it again some day, when I have the time. I got freakishly paranoid about leaving up personal info, which is why it disappeared. 😛

  15. Mrs. C says:

    @trudingstar – You have the ability and courage to call spade, a spade. Quite admirable. I don’t think we’ve formally spoken to each other and I have to admit I was having trouble half the time figuring out what you meant. However, the more I read you, the more I picked up on your style and especially your humor. I have LOL’d many times at the things you’ve said. I’m a serious, practical sort and you remind me to lighten up a little.

    @DS- Since you are the word study guy, the word for authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 is different from every other time St. Paul used the word. exousia? I think that’s the word that he mostly uses. Too tired right now to go searching for it. However, the Greek word for authority in this verse is different. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the only time in the NT that this word is used. You probably already know this and have an explanation but if not, it might be interesting to study.

  16. @ Mrs C.

    Correct. The word Paul uses is authenteo versus what he usually uses which is exousia which I talked about in the ‘why headship is not authority in marriage’ series.

    Basically, it’s self working/asserting themselves which is in other words rebellion.

  17. Mrs. C says:

    Chrysostom’s take on this verse is that the women were gabbing like magpies in Church during Mass and were so loud that their voices were drowning out the teaching that was coming forth from “the man’s” mouth. The man being the ordained (the priest). I guess by the definition you give above it was the effect of their loud speech asserting itself above the volume of the priest’s voice. I can see why that would require a different word than if they were the ones up there in taking the place of headship themselves.


  18. trugingstar says:

    @Mrs. C
    That’s very sweet, thanks! ^^’ It was pretty philosophical, so I thought it would be boring without humor. I’m glad you get my humor! XD

  19. trugingstar says:

    If I had to describe my humor… :/ … I’d say it’s sort of dry and situational. Most people don’t know when I’m making a joke, because it’s heavily context-oriented. A lot of people just think that I’m being annoying or are deeply confused and/or bothered about it’s potential implications. I suppose that’s a natural reaction, but I like to use my humor to sort of guide conversation toward a kinder way of communicating. If I can use my gifts to facilitate this direction, all the better! There’s nothing I’d rather do.

  20. Mrs. C says:

    It’s the dry humor….once I recognized it for what it was, that entertains me the most! Also, your brutal, no-holds barred honesty……enough of this love fest….I’m sure DS doesn’t want his thread derailed.

  21. trugingstar says:

    I want a tiny version of you for my pocket. :}

  22. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/12/10 | Free Northerner

  23. “Women should not be telling men how to live because they don’t understand what it is to be a man.”

    Then by the same token, we would see Paul saying the same thing to men not being teachers of women. Paul gave two reasons why women are not to have authority over men: Adam was formed first, and Eve was deceived.

    Likewise, in the broadest sense of the word “teach” it is apparent that women teach men. In 1 Peter 3, Peter refers to women winning over their husbands without a word. Clearly women are not prohibited from teaching men in the broadest sense of the word as your post agrees.

    The difference is the nature of “official” teachers. If someone is officially my teacher, we have an interaction such that I am compelled to do what my teacher tells like an authority figure. And the matter of authority is key, as male is synonymous with authority and female, submission (1 Corinthians 11). The principles pertaining to the order of creation (and who was made for whom) carry with them principles of authority.

    As far as Eve’s deception, one of the curses God uttered to Eve was “he will rule over you”–punishment Eve received in response to the fact that she was deceived, not Adam, as Paul states. It’s easy to see why: the one who is less easy to deceive makes a more appropriate leader figure.

    In general, women can teach men, but not in such a way as to “talk like a boss” to a man the way they are permitted to do so for women.

  24. Pingback: What does it mean to teach? | Christianity and masculinity

  25. Well, then, by the same reasoning men should not teach women on how to live. Also, it seems clear that is is exactly what Prisca was doing for Apollos (note a strong argument can be made she was the lead in teaching).

    I’d recommend a deeper look at the Timothy passage. Consider Gary Hoag’s “Seven minute seminary” clip named (tongue in cheek) “Why women should not teach men”.

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