“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
This is probably one of the most hotly debated and divisive passages in the Bible. Interpretations will varying depending upon how the relevancy of the cultural situation is factored in. While I see a timeless principle at work there is also some cultural considerations that are being addressed. Moreover, we have to weigh what Paul is instructing Timothy with the complete witness of scripture.
In that regard I think some questions are in order.
- What did “teach or exercise authority” mean in that setting?
- Did Paul really mean for women to have no voice in the church? How does that fit with the distribution of gifts for the edification of the body of Christ?
- Didn’t women prophesy in mixed settings? How does that translate to today, particularly related to a global perspective and organically developed ministry situations?
- What cultural factors if any were influencing Paul’s instruction and how does that translate into contemporary situations?
As a complementarian, I affirm male headship and do believe there are restrictions. I have no issues with learning in silence or submitting to male headship. But I also consider how this is to play out with how the whole body of Christ is edified so that it grows itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16). I think it’s unfortunate when cultural factors are given due consideration in other passages, but seem to get dismissed here under the rubric “the bible clearly says”. I honestly think there should be some tension here. It’s also unfortunate when any assertion by women for speaking is construed as self-serving, which is the chief reason I tend to stay away from the gender debate.
Well, I’ll be going back in that hole soon. But for what it’s worth, I’d thought I’d share a position paper I wrote out last summer for a required course I took on Acts and the Pauline epistles.