Generally speaking, to understand what it means to teach and the role of women in the Church it requires a broad look at the Scriptures as a whole. The main verse(s) in contention are:
1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, [g]modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 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 [h]created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, [i]fell into transgression. 15 But women will be [j]preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with [k]self-restraint.
Women not having authority over men in the Church body is fairly obvious. I don’t think we need to go there. The dispute is almost always over what “teaching” means.
The case of Timothy
As you know from reading my previous post on Lessons from Ephesus, Timothy presents an excellent example of what we are talking about. Both of these letters are written to Timothy from Paul. As a refresher, the timeline is thus:
- 54-57 AD — Paul’s stay in Ephesus
- 60-62 AD — Epistle to the Ephesians
- 64 AD — Timothy becomes leader of the Church of Ephesus
- 62-64 AD — 1 Timothy
- 64-67 AD — 2 Timothy
- 95 AD — Revelation, specifically Revelation 2.
- 97 AD — Timothy tries to stop a celebration in honor of Diana by preaching the gospel. He was beaten, dragged through the streets, and stoned to death.
Paul is essentially Timothy’s father figure and as he traveled with him on at least one missionary journey before being commissioned to be the leader at the Church in Ephesus. This is the back drop for the passage from 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience [c]the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my [d]prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 [e]For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of [f]timidity, but of power and love and [g]discipline.
And likewise, from Titus 2:
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may [b]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
From this we can gather a few things:
- Mothers/grandmothers are not prohibited from raising their children up in the faith. This is also why I think women Sunday school teachers are fine, even though I believe Sunday school is superfluous or only a supplement.
- Women are not prohibited from evangelism. Women in the Scripture in Church settings are only prohibited from leadership positions and teaching. They can receive all of the other spiritual gifts. Thus, women are permitted to preach the gospel.
- As Dalrock mentions, older women are to model behavior and encourage good behavior along sound doctrine. (Note: the passage does not say teach).
Number 2 may be a bit confusing. Preaching is sometimes synonymous with teaching, which is why I think it confusing. Not all preaching is teaching. Specifically, preaching the gospel is evangelism, which women are permitted to do.
Therefore, the question is: what exactly does the Scripture mean when it says “teach.”
What does it mean to teach
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. Total KJV occurrences: 97
From my study of the word “teach” in the Scriptures — as best I can define it — it means:
Biblical teaching is “authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures on how to live.”
In other words, authoritative teaching on how to live is essentially issuing principles, commands, and doctrine to apply in the lives of those who hear it. Jesus distinguishes this with the Pharisees:
Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
Jesus taught in the synagogues and when people came to hear him preach/teach (in crowds, feeding the 5000, etc.). For instance, the Sermon on the Mount, exemplifies this: “You have heard it said… But I say to you…”
Matthew 5:33 “Again, you have heard that [ag]the ancients were told, ‘[ah]You shall not [ai]make false vows, but shall fulfill your [aj]vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or [ak]by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is [al]of evil.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your [am]shirt, let him have your [an]coat also. 41 Whoever [ao]forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
This agrees specifically with Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2: women are not allowed to have authority over men or to teach men. It is this “authoritative interpretation on how to live” that is specifically prohibited. Authority and teaching go together.
Generally speaking, as we’ve gone over before, women cannot teach men about how to live. Paul commended Timothy’s mother for bringing him up in the faith, but he also wrote the two pastoral letters to help him grow a backbone and learn how to be a man in the faith, including said teaching in 1 Timothy 2. Single motherhood is the obvious example of this. Women cannot teach men how to be men. Mothers can raise their children in the faith, but they often fail to become men without a father figure or mentor like Paul to Timothy. Mothers generally coddle their sons, while the father figure prepares the son for life. Timothy being an example of this.
1 Corinthians 14:34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is [n]improper for a woman to speak in church.
36 [o]Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he [p]is not recognized.
Indeed, this agrees with 1 Corinthians 14. Authority and teaching go together.
Teaching, preaching, sharing, and so on
Sharing is an interesting case because it’s not teaching.
Sharing testimonies of how God is working in your life or how a passage of Scripture helped you through a season is faith building. This is why I have no problem with women sharing a testimony or how a passage of Scripture affected them, given it’s not disorderly as the rest of 1 Corinthians 14 states.
The problem is mainly when “sharing” becomes “teaching.” I think it should be clear that women don’t know what it’s like to be a man, and therefore cannot teach a man how to live. “Teaching” from a woman on how to be a man is expressly forbidden not just in the NT but in the OT. One of the reasons for this is that it almost always inevitably comes off as nagging or contentiousness. Proverbs expressly warns against dysfunctional relationships like this. God, in His wisdom, organized both the Church and family to be led by men to prevent such things from occurring.
By this measure, preaching differs from teaching in that preaching is mainly stating what the Scripture says without authoritatively interpreting it. For example,
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [e]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; [d]though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified [e]by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved [f]by His life. 11 And not only this, [g]but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
As you can see presenting the gospel message does not require any authoritative interpretation. It’s so simple that children can understand it. We do bad. Bad separates us from God. Jesus Christ came to die so that we can reconnect with God. We can now reconnect with God by repenting of our sins, and following Jesus.
Preaching a sermon from the pulpit usually includes teaching because there is exposition on how to interpret the passage and by extension how to live because of it. This is where many Protestant Churches go off the rails. For one, women are not to have authority over men. Strike one. For two, women are not to be teaching men, and sermons usually include some type of preaching plus teaching associated with passages. Strike two. Churches are expressly rebelling against Scripture by even allowing such situations in the first place. Strike three.
Titus 2 goes off the rails when we get into wives teaching — authoritative interpretation on how to live. The problems with intelligent submission is but one example. If you recall, the problem with intelligent submission is that Christians wives are “authoritatively interpreting” what “submission” means to other wives and thus “telling them how to live” instead of encouraging submission like Titus 2 says.
In the case of the above link, a Christian wife lists out a number of things that her and her husband agreed upon that would be questionable to submit to. This is, of course, fine because she is under her husband’s authority and they can agree to whatever they want in terms of what constitutes not obeying him if there is a potentially sinful situation.
However, this list was used by other wives to cultivate rebellion in their hearts. Their husbands did not agree to such a list, and hence they are rebelling against their husbands based on what another wife was “teaching” if their husband is “sinning.” This is problematic because the Scriptures, such as in 1 Peter 3, state that godly wives should obey even unbelieving husbands (which means they sin!) to win them to Christ.
This “intelligent submission” business is basically teaching against what the Scriptures are teaching. It should be clear that such practices are wrong.
The “right” way for wives to use their own experiences as an example is to say: “this is how we do things under the authority of my husband, you should ask your husband how he wants to do things. If he doesn’t want to do things like us that’s fine. Your marriage may be different from ours. Comparisons only breed jealousy.”
Outside of the body of Christ
Now, the Scripture only forbids teaching within the context of the Church body. I may differ from some on this, but I don’t think this precludes women from teaching outside of the Church.
The vast majority of “teaching” of Christianity outside of the Church body is not actually teaching how to live but rather looking at the Scriptures and Christianity from an academic perspective: how did Christianity arise, how were the Scriptures compiled, what and/or why did Jesus teach and how is it different from other religions, and so on. This is not authoritative interpretation of Scripture on how to live.
Likewise, I don’t see a problem with women attending seminaries, as long as they are not doing it to lead or teach in a Church. If the seminary is teaching sound doctrine such as 1 Timothy 2 (which is questionable given the state of seminaries and pastors in the western hemisphere now), more learned Christian women are only a good thing under authority.
For example, a wife who is learned and better understands what the Scriptures state on headship-submission and love-respect should be able to be a more effective helpmeet and wife to her husband. Yet, unfortunately, this is not the case in most instances. The evil heart purposes all things, even education, for evil. The good heart purposes all things, even education, to glorify God in obedience to His commands.
If more godly women went to seminary that were obedient to the Scriptures it could only be a good thing. They would admonish women from desiring to have authority over men and teach men in Church. It’s one thing to hear it from men in the Church, but it’s another thing to hear it from other women. This is perhaps a stark truth in the manosphere that is oft recognized. Perhaps there will never be a day like this though.
I think it should be clear now that women should not have authority or teaching over men, and that it is an eternal Truth. Psalms and Proverbs really lay it out.
Psalms 111:10 The [n]fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who [o]do His commandments; His praise endures forever.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
If Christians actually feared the Lord and understood what He said in the Scriptures, this wouldn’t be a question.
Women aren’t prohibited from evangelism, preaching the gospel, sharing their testimonies, sharing how passages of Scripture spoke to them, all of the many spiritual gifts within the Church aside from leadership and teaching, and many other fruitful things. However, human nature is human nature. The 10th commandment in the Law of Moses is there for a reason: Do not Covet. Humans have a coveting issue.
Women covet positions of leadership and teaching in the Church, despite the Scriptures clearly teaching the contrary.
In the end, it really goes back to the garden of Eden. This is why Paul makes the argument in 1 Timothy 2 to prohibit women from leadership positions and teaching positions in the Church.
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from [a]any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. […]
12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
- Eve was taught — by Adam and/or God — the contrary, but was deceived by the devil’s teaching to eat of the tree.
- God commanded — taught — Adam by “authoritatively instructing him on how to live” to not eat from the tree. Adam didn’t listen to God but instead listened to his wife.
Human nature straying from God’s commands at work in the Church today.