Book Reviews,  Christianity,  Theology/Bible

A must-read about the evangelical gender debate

Without question, 1 Timothy 2:12 is the most contested verse in the wider debate among evangelicals about women in ministry. The most contested clause within this most contested verse is “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” And the most contested word within this most contested clause is without a doubt authentein (often translated as “exercise authority”).

The meaning of this term and even of its syntax has been the subject of no little dispute. And it has long been a crux interpretum among those engaged in the debate between complementarians and egalitarians.

For two decades now, the most important book on this crucial text is Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, edited by Andreas Köstenberger and Tom Schreiner. The entire volume is devoted to explaining in rigorous exegetical detail what these words mean in their historical and literary context. The first edition appeared in 1995, the second in 2005, and now the third has come out just a few weeks ago.

There are many changes in this new edition which make it into the definitive work on this text. Probably the most important change is a brand new chapter written by Al Wolters on the meaning of authentein. I agree with Köstenberger that “Al’s chapter alone warrants the production of this third edition” (p. 20). Marshalling an enormous amount of scholarship, Wolters shows that authentein is neither pejorative (“domineer”) nor ingressive (“assume authority”). Thus egalitarian renderings of this text are really without exegetical warrant.

I have a chapter in this new edition about authentein in English translation. What I seek to show is that the egalitarian renderings of this text are at best a minority report in the history of translation and that the mainstream of English translation has favored something like “exercise authority.” I also explain why the NIV’s rendering of this text is not in fact a “neutral” rendering but reflects the very interpretation favored by leading egalitarians.

There is also a new chapter devoted to application featuring a roundtable discussion including Rosaria Butterfield, Gloria Furman, Trillia Newbell, Mary Kassian, Darrin Patrick, Tony Merida, and more.

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what is really at stake in the interpretation of this text. Readers should know that this book is tough-sledding. It is a technical work. You are going to get really deep in the exegetical weeds if you choose to take-up this book. But that is precisely what makes it so valuable. And that is why it is a must-read for anyone wishing to weigh-in with any seriousness about the evangelical gender debate.

Table of Contents

  1. A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century
    S. M. Baugh
  2. The Meaning of AUTHENTEO
    Al Wolters
  3. A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12
    Andreas J. Köstenberger
  4. An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9–15: A Dialogue with Scholarship
    Thomas R. Schreiner
  5. Familiar Paths and a Fresh Matrix: The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9–15
    Robert W. Yarbrough
  6. New and Old Departures in the Translation of AUTHENTEO in 1 Timothy 2:12
    Denny Burk
  7. Application: Round Table Discussion
    Theresa Wigington Bowen, Monica Rose Brennan, Rosaria Butterfield, Gloria Furman, Mary Kassian, Tony Merida, Trillia Newbell, Darrin Patrick


“A pivotal text behind a major problem deserves a major book. The pivotal text is 1 Timothy 2:9–15. The major problem is how men and women relate to each other in teaching and leading the Christian church. And the major book is Women in the Church. There is none more thorough or careful or balanced or biblical. The appearance of a third edition is added confirmation of the book’s abiding value.”
John Piper, Founder,; Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary

“In an age when ideological dogmatism and sheer speculative fancy often displace sober exegesis, it is refreshing to read a book that tries to wrestle with what the text is saying without cleverly domesticating it. This book needs to be read by all sides in the current controversy.”
D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition

“Read it to the end! These chapters unfold the biblical text in depth; they connect us with a world of scholars on all sides; and they interact with a rapidly growing layer of women’s voices writing and speaking on the subject. I’m thankful for a book focused both on academic precision and on loving care for the church, Christ’s bride.”
Kathleen B. Nielson, Director of Women’s Initiatives, The Gospel Coalition

“The third edition of this outstanding volume of integrated essays about the ministry of women in the Christian church (particularly in relation to 1 Timothy 2) is the most comprehensive treatment to date on the subject. At significant points this series of grammatical, linguistic, exegetical, hermeneutical, and theological essays takes us beyond earlier editions and makes a fresh contribution to our knowledge. The contributors have interacted extensively and courteously with contemporary scholarship as they have sought to grapple with the teaching of God’s Word on this vital issue of women’s ministry and to work through some of its implications. Highly recommended.”
Peter T. O’Brien, Former Vice-Principal and Senior Research Fellow and Emeritus Faculty Member, Moore Theological College, Australia

“In an age when assertions abound concerning the meaning of this text, the contributors have not only presented the most thoroughgoing and decisive case for the traditional view of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 now available but have also provided a handbook of solid interpretive methodology. Whether or not one agrees with their conclusions, the reader will find the issues clarified, the evidence evaluated, and the text carefully analyzed and applied. I heartily recommend this book to all who are willing to confront and be confronted by the biblical text once again.”
Scott J. Hafemann, Reader in New Testament, University of St. Andrews


  • Joseph Randall

    Thankful for this book! But how sad is it when you need a whole scholarly book like this to argue for words that are so clear and plain, even to a 5th grader?

  • Christiane Smith

    I know I come from a different theological tradition, but I would have thought the most discussed gender verse in sacred Scripture would have been Galatians 3:28

      • Christiane Smith

        Hi SCOTT,
        I do not know the meaning of ‘justification’ from evangelical theology, so I am not able to answer your question properly.

        But I can share what comes to my mind when I think of the ‘justice’ of God, this:
        ““Mercy is all we know of the justice of God.” (St. Isaac)

        And when I think about God’s Mercy, this comes to my mind:
        “The Name of God is Mercy” (Pope Francis)

        As for whatever is found of meaning concerning the sacred Scripture verse in question, I would say it is something that lies deeper in the essence of our humanity than either man-made distinctions, or natural distinctions we use to establish ‘differences’ among our humankind. And the ‘something’ in our humanity that transcends all these differences is found only within the great mysteries of Christ.

        I hope this answers something of your question, Scott.

        In general, the verse Gal. 3:28 is best taken in the wider context of the whole chapter, and eventually even within the wider context of the Holy Kyrios (Lord of the Cosmos) that St. Paul served and was martyred in witness to.

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