“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (1 Timothy 2:11-15, LITV).
The next question in my Juggling Life’s Responsibilities study guide is regarding these controversial verses from 1 Timothy 2.
“Do you think it’s fair to say women are more vulnerable than men to being deceived?”
My first reaction is that no, it doesn’t feel one bit fair. I don’t feel deceived! Not any more than anyone else, anyway! In fact, I jotted a note on my study page that “It feels like a woman sometimes sees things first in God’s Word. Then later, God opens her husband’s eyes to the same truth.” That’s what it feels like, but it disagrees with what the Bible says.
The Bible says a woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
This compares to what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:
“…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, NIV).
This absolutely defies our culture! In fact, these verse defy what happens in most of our churches each week. For instance, in the local church, how many of us have been conditioned to participate in Q&A times, classes, and small groups, freely answering and discussing theology with the men? Is it okay, just because all of us do it? And what about testimony times? What about the public reading of Scripture? What about teaching children? What about special music? How do these verses apply?
I cannot even pretend to have all the answers. I just don’t have them! I’m as befuddled as the next woman.
Except… what does the Bible say?
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission… she must be silent…”
“Women should remain silent in the churches… They are not allowed to speak… it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
I’m quoting here from the NIV (1984 edition), so for the sake of being thorough (or maybe because these verses make me feel ornery), I decide to look these verses up in the original Greek (using the Majority Text, with a Strong’s Concordance, from e-sword.net.)
silence (1 Timothy 2) – hēsuchia (Greek #2271): stillness.
silence (1 Corinthians 14) – sigaō (Greek #4601): to keep silent, to be hushed.
to speak (1 Corinthians 14) – laleō (Greek #2980): to speak, to utter words.
Yup, looks like these are pretty literal translations. Hmmm…
The Bible says this is because of the order of creation.
Adam was formed first, then Eve. For this reason, God places Adam over Eve, and she is to be in submission to him. This agrees with 1 Corinthians 11:9-11.
“A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (NIV).
In fact, if you look back at Genesis, you’ll read this:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…” (Genesis 1:27, NIV).
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him… She shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:18, 23, NIV).
This is why women are commanded to keep their heads covered, because she is made in the image of her husband and is his glory.
Whew! Tough theology today, huh?
The Bible says this is because Eve was deceived and became a sinner.
All I can figure is that Eve removed herself from the covering protection of her husband when she spoke with the serpent that fateful day (Genesis 3). The serpent questioned her understanding of what God had said, and she was deceived.
Note how this compares to what Paul says:
“If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home” (1 Corinthians 14:35, NIV).
I think that it has always been God’s intention for a man to lead his wife, to guide her, and to teach her about the YHWH God who had made him. Man was to nurture and protect his wife, showing her great respect as his completer, helper, and mother of his children. When the first man didn’t do these things, his fellowship with God was broken. Great calamity fell on his wife, because he wasn’t covering her with protection and care(1 Peter 3:7). I mean, really — where WAS Adam when that serpent was talking to her?!
So what is a woman to do?
Well, we can follow our culture. We can follow God. We can speak. We can be silent and submissive.
It’s a choice God asks us to make.
Not only women but men have been so brainwashed about this that often men take extraordinary pains to involve women in leadership and speaking roles in the local churches. My husband is on the deacon board in our local church and women are actively recruited for these roles and the men feel this is very natural and normal. Being gifted in presentations, I used to speak in previous churches, until I was influenced at the last church we attended by several ladies (despite the fact that they shared their views in a rather dogmatic unloving way Ha ha). But I still have given several presentations on mission work (joint with my husband but independent of his portion). I don’t know if this is appropriate or not.
Anne Elliott says
I want to post a little “P.S.” in the comments. I’ve been asked,
What about 1 Corinthians 11:5, which says that a woman may pray and prophesy? How can she do this, yet be told to be silent only a few chapters later?
I searched through the Bible for examples of women who prayed and prophesied. I couldn’t find an example of one who prayed or prophesied out loud in the temple, the synagogue, or any other assembly of believers. Yet I did find examples of women praying and prophesying. Either she did so silently (see 1 Samuel 1:9, 12-13) or in the privacy of her own home, with her husband or father present (see Acts 18:26 and Acts 21:8-9).
Am I missing any? Feel free to comment if I have!
Perhaps the prohibition of “speaking” concerns only the teaching/preaching part, leaving women free to pray or prophecy? In my church, they follow that rule – that women can pray from the pulpit, but not teach. It seems pretty balanced.
One thing I’ve noticed is that churches which ignore biblical law and permit female pastors are generally those which, shortly thereafter, take a nose-dive into false belief, heresy, and apostasy. That’s enough evidence for me!
Thanks for your blog!
Just off the top of my head,…as far as women praying or prophesying in public…at the birth of Christ…”there was a prophetess, Anna …and she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers…and at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
Anne Elliott says
Oooh, that’s a good one. And off the top of your head? 😀 I’ve been wracking my brain for days and totally missed that one!
I feel like there is something major I’m missing in these passages — but what?
Beth Werner Lee says
Anna was a widow and she served daily in the temple. Prophets are anyone the Lord chooses, they are not rabbis or priests or kings. They speak God’s word as he tells it to them, to the people he sends them to. Prophecy is not covered in these passages. Their speaking of worship (our response to God) and teaching (person to person work).
I am married to a man who is more private and from what is generalized as a shame based culture although he is American born. Although he sees nothing wrong with women pastors (he’s public school educated, a believer and brilliant, ladies), when we are together at church or in Bible study I have to be very careful not to say something that shames him (and I may not be aware what that will be, since I come from a half Greek home!). So I have found myself obeying this verse and saving up things to ask my husband at home and sometimes my question to him in private can change his mind. He’s the one I vowed to love, live with and bless. So waiting for time alone to ask him things works well.
How I wish Eve had turned to Adam (who was with her) and asked, “What exactly did God say?” getting Adam involved and seeing if together they could have withstood temptation.
I do think those of us who have husbands are called to make our own husband our priority. God wants us to live in love, so his commands are for that purpose even if we don’t understand until after we obey.
Nicole Bartell says
Well, I can only speak from personal experience of course, but I do have to admit that when I wasn’t obeying these verses and turning to my husband, but listening to the voices of others rather than his, I WAS deceived and we spent many years in an oppressive and legalistic church, all under the guise of being “Biblical”. There was a whole lot of truth, but not a whole lot of life or Spirit, and my husband hated it, but I was the “strong” one spiritually (or so I thought), so we stayed. When the Lord finally opened my eyes to see what He was doing in my husband’s heart, and that I needed to trust God BY following my husband (1 Peter 3), I found freedom and joy and life in Christ again. So, I do believe that while it may seem that we “feel” things more readily than men (and sometimes this is true: think Sarah, Abraham and Hagar here), I think that if we step outside of the boundary of Scripture and start leading, then we will very often be deceived and let astray. Just my opinion, but I have walked it out. Thanks for writing this.
How does this affect women who are divorced or widowed. I can understand how a woman should go to her husband in private when she has question. However, When a woman is a believer and the father is either not a believer, or is no longer of sound mind, or has passed away and the husband has left the family, where is she to turn when she has question.
Ok, what about Deborah. She was a prophetess and a judge. Judges 3 and 4 talk about how God used her to deliver the children of Israel.
The Bible also tells us of several other prophetesses: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:8-9)
I read someplace that God uses women when men aren’t stepping up to the plate.
I find it very annoying when women (in S.S.) are the ONLY ones speaking up and/or answering questions. There was one woman in particular, she would not be quiet…kept anwering every question like she knew it all. It really seemed to dampen the spirit of the room. I think women get too opinionated and involved in discussions. We are also too vulnerable and sensitive.
But my main opinion is this: MEN need to STEP up to the plate and BE MEN. Lead us!!!! Motivate us. I’m so thankful that my husband is this way, but we need a lot more manly men in our Christian circles.
In reading these verses – it seems to me that verses in Cor are stronger than those in Timothy. The context of those two passages is a bit different, too. Timothy is speaking generally of how things should be run in the church. Corinthians was written to a church were they were already out of control and disorderly in their conduct.
Thus, in Timothy, the Bible says that in issues of authority and preaching, a woman should be silent and not usurp a man’s authority or be in that authoritative, teaching position when men are present – and it is in the context of a church setting, or in anything relative to Biblical teaching. We live and work in a Moslem setting. At our church here, a woman would never initiate… but when asked to answer a question, to share a testimony of something God had done… under the cover of a pastor, preacher, husband, man’s authority, it is perfectly accepted and even encourages. For example – ladies’ bible studies take place on Saturday afternoon. It is quite common for the next morning during Sunday School for the pastor or Sunday School teacher to ask one of the women to briefly share what God was having her apply in her life or what she learned or something… based on the Saturday study. Women singing, sharing a testimony, even praying… as a submissive response to the male authority leading the church does not seem to me a violation of that Scripture although I would be very interested to hear what the rest of you think.
In Corinthians, because of the disorder present… just like with our children when things get disorderly and out of control, the boundaries have to be very strict and tight until new habits and behaviors are well ingrained, until attitudes and hearts are gently following God-given authority. Hence, Paul’s more rigid and inflexible words.
This also seems to fit with the original language words – stillness in Tim – which indicates to me a general demeanor or attitude, whereas keeping from uttering words or being hushed indicates a more specific response.
I’ll be very interested to hear what you think.
Very interesting post and “conversation”. I was thinking about it all, and if women are answering all the questions and doing all the teaching, it’s hard for a man to step into his natural position. So many women are brainwashed (as I was) into thinking that if the man doesn’t do what we think he should, we just need to step up and do it for him (because we can do it better anyway… ha, ha!). That only makes men quieter (those that would be quiet in the first place). The key to letting them take their proper role is stepping back into our proper role. I see such a difference in my own husband when I quit trying to be the spiritual leader, or a nag. He has grown so much in Christ, and has become the spiritual leader in our home. There is so much more harmony doing things God’s way.
For women, we are supposed to teach the “younger” women (younger may be age or in our walk with God), Titus 2. I do believe a young man can be feminized by women teachers. The enemy has done a great job of messing up the family unit.
I am throwing out something to you just as another thought to consider. This is a very difficult subject to consider 2000 years removed from the culture & the language. These articles by Tim Hegg have helped me a lot in sorting this out. They confirmed what my Phil was coming to on his own, which is comforting (especially if you’re wondering if you’re crazy). 🙂
Please know _this_: I am not submitting these to you to be argumentative in any way. I promise. No, I swear. This is a subject that is so emotional. There are so many areas where YHWH does not tell us the details on what obedience looks like that we gravitate to the ones where He appears to be more specific…it is easier, and it feels more secure (we can think, “Well, at least I know I am doing _this_ part right.”)
It is a very emotional issue for me personally. I am in a situation where in real life two of my closest friends are living lives of quiet desperation…and I do mean quiet…because they do not feel permitted to speak of their husbands serious sins.
I *so* hope that something, anything in these articles can help you sort out these passages.
Anne Elliott says
Hey, everyone, I’ll be offline for a couple days, and I’m going to be way behind on this fabulous discussion. But THANK YOU to all of you. I think the spirit of this discussion is just amazing, very Christ-honoring and kind, and it makes me so thrilled and encouraged. I’ll be back on Monday!
Hugs to all of you,
Might I just add one more verse and a few more thoughts!
1 Corinthians 11:3 (King James Version)
3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
I have been reading created to be his help meet, by Debi Pearl. So my insights on this are probably a bit bias to her book, however I have been opened to a whole new, line of thinking lately, and I love it! One thing she mentions in this area, is that nearly all spiritualists, past and present are women, women are usually the palm readers, crystal ball gazers, forune-tellers and torot card readers. Witches’ covens are headed by women. Most mediums (those contacting the dead) are women, as was the witch of Endor whom King Saul consulted concerning long-dead Samuel. When Jesus spoke a parable about the kingdom becoming corrupted it’s was illustrated by a women. Jezebel!! Interesting enough!! I do think a women has a great power, and if that is not used correctly it can easily become evil.
Now I am not saying a women can not be spiritually minded, or even given spiritual encounters. I believe a women is given the same “gifts” as a man, but there is one key difference, she does not, and can not hold the priesthood. This is a strong difference. Something eles I never thought of was that maybe God made man to be strong and able to, well be a man, able to make it in such a tough world. He gave man a strong Armour of God. I believe the women was not given this “strength” (though I believe many women today have become “tough”) Women need to be more emotionally minded, able to care for children, mother, and take care of others. Women typically are lead by their emotions and therefore, might be more willing to think that something is from God, quicker than a man… who must question and be cautious in such a wicked world?
What about Ruth or Esther? These women were very righteous. THese women were definitly lead and guided by God. Yet they were not teachers, or leaders. They were godly women and helped through example. What about women helping teaching and leading other women? A Tutus women.
As for Deborah… the fact that the men were shamed by allowing a woman to take such a leadership place, is very clear. Not only that but Deborah herself knew this. She knew that because the men allowed a women to do a man’s job, it was a shame, a shame to Israel.
I still believe the word is very clear a women needs to be silent, and submissive. I believe men these days are simply boys in mens bodies, and part of that is the feminist movement. Women definitly know how to through their weight around, and when a man is not able to be a man, he will feel he is not worthy, nor spiritual. If a women is having great spiritual revelations, and he is questioning his feelings… he feels lowly. I believe this goes even further into the key that a man is a man and the leader of the house. A women is a help meet. By know means is this making a women lower, it’s simply a different calling, a different nature… Men are supose to be be strong, leader and take care of his family, his house. A women should be a care giver to those around her, a helper to other women and those in need looking for ways to serve and help. She should be submissive to her husband, no matter what. It’s a chain of command, and sadly now a days, that chain of command, along with so many other elements of a Godly lifestyle is diminishing. The Feminine Women is simply disappearing, and it’s sad. I highly reccomend the book Created to be his Help Meet. At first I didn’t like it, I didn’t want to read it, but the more I read the more I got “addicted” to it, I wanted to know more.
A couple of items as food for thought.
1 – We need to be careful not to confuse Scripturally directed worship with culturally engrained times of fellowship and study (e.g., Bible studies, Sunday school). Thus, we may be overstepping the bounds of Scripture to say that women cannot speak in Bible studies or Sunday School. However, if there is teaching involved, then women should not be the one(s) in charge if men are present. There is a fine line to walk there. Scripture clearly does not condemn women *discussing* theology with men other than their husbands (c.f., Rom. 18:24-27 – Priscilla was quite involved with her husband Aquilla *in their home* while ministering both to Paul first and then Apollo). It is the interruption of worship with questions and the “… but it seems to me …” sort of comments which lead to disorder, the issue which is being addressed in I Corinthians.
2 – There is vast continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
a: Women, such as Anna the prophetess, could be in the temple courtyard and speaking with many, but her prophesying was not part of a worship service or even a spiritual ritual such as the circumcision of Christ; her comments came after the circumcision service.
b: The tabernacle, temple and synogogue were not laid out to be the one room building that most of us are acquainted with in today’s sanctuaries. Anna was speaking and prophecying in the equivalent of our modern foyer/vestibule/narthex, not in the sanctuary. Women and “lay” men were restricted to the courtyard. Priests, male only, were allowed to enter the tabernacle itself for specific acts of worship and the high priest only would enter the Holy of Holies. Not until the crucifixion was the curtain rent and then we, believers of any gender, allowed to enter all parts.
c: When the congregation was gathered together to hear a divine message in the courtyard, the congregation listened. By implication, they did not speak while God was speaking nor while Scripture was being read. I don’t think we need to take it personally if God says we as women are not to speak. Not all men are to speak, either.
3 – Deborah was a prophetess within the context of being a judge of Israel and definitely not involved in formal worship as set by God’s Law. She very clearly speaks the Lord’s thoughts to Barak regarding his reluctance to do the Lord’s work: because Barak would not heed the Lord’s command to lead Israel into battle, the Lord would give the victory and the honor to Jael. She is speaking a judgement, a correction. This has nothing to do with the sacrifices and the formal worship God proscribed. However Deborah, along with Barak, does lead Israel in joyous *informal* rejoicing after the victory outside the parameters of the tabernacle. (Judges 4-5, especially 4:4-6)
BTW, all the translations I’m familiar with indicate (in Genesis 3:6) that Adam was WITH Eve when she took the fruit. Adam did not correct her incorrect statement of God’s instructions nor did he remind her of God’s standards when she offered/handed him the fruit. Eve was deceived; Adam knowingly transgressed and is held as the one causing sin to enter the world. (Rom 5:12-14, I Cor 15: 21-22), thus the second Adam was needed to redeem us, not the second Eve.
You people that think the bible brainwashed us. Look at our society now. Nobody follows the laws of the bible – not even religious groups like Christians and our family structure has collapsed. Our society now is a complete failure. The divorce rate is about 50% and many of those divorced with children. Mother’s claim to love their children so much yet didn’t love them enough to trust the bible for guidance. Sure, go into the world and be selfish and speak your mind and get your nails done and whatever else you want including destroying the most important building block of your child’s life.
That’s love? No it is not.
Ok. So, that’s the TRUTH of what is written. And to fully put it into practice, that would mean that women are to be SILENT. As in: no singing, no talking, no whispering. Period. Silent in the church. But you need TWO witnesses. The SPIRIT behind the passage is NOT that women should never speak out in church. So, if the 2 witnesses seem to not agree where do we go? Directly to the Lord in prayer and, maybe, fasting. The Lord gives gifts of the Spirit not based on gender, but based on His perfect knowledge and His Will. The gifted female prophet does not dishonor her husband by publicly prophesying WITH her husband’s blessing. Women may also be elders — with their husband’s blessing. Women can be very gifted teachers to teach our young men and women maturity in the Lord, but it should be as one who is humbly submitted to her authority and who remains teachable. No husband? Her father or – if he’s no longer her authority- the elders of her church are her authority. I’m blessed to be part of a ministry led by an Apostle whose wife is a very gifted teacher. And our Body has many wonderful, Godly men who know their role as husbands/fathers in the Lord. I really enjoy reading your blog. I look forward to finding it in my inbox!
I read this when you posted it and have been thinking about it ever since! Here is the outcome! (Skim to the second part of the article.)
p.s. When you have time, please keep blogging!
Wow, Diana, that was a *powerful* blog post! Really!
Everyone, go read it! 🙂
You’re so sweet, Anne! Thanks! 🙂
While I completely agree with scripture here. What if the wife is submissive to the husband but the husband does not take any spiritual lead. What if he never reads scripture, won’t talk about it, or anything?