Biblical Patriarchy and 1 Timothy 2:12

My wife and I have a friend from college who has asked some insightful questions in the comments section of my previous post, “Postscript on Women in Ministry.” Our friend’s questions bring to the surface some of the practical issues upon which Complementarians have yet to reach consensus. One of the chief issues that Complementarians disagree on is whether it is ever appropriate for a woman to teach Christian doctrine to men in the church.I am posting my response to my friend below. This response does not comprise everything that needs to be said on this issue or this text (1 Timothy 2:12), but I hope it can serve as a spark to ignite a conversation that needs to take place among Complementarians.

For a broader treatment of this topic see Russell Moore’s “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate.”


Dear Friend,

Thanks for your comment. You have hit a point upon which complementarians have not reached consensus. What complementarians agree on is summed up in the Danvers Statement that I alluded to earlier. But they are not in agreement upon everything.

In short, complementarians agree that the Bible teaches a principle of headship that must be observed within the church and within the home (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3; Ephesians 5:21ff). For most, the practical implications of this principle are twofold: (1) the office of pastor/elder is only to be held by qualified male believers, and (2) the husband is the leader in his home.

Nevertheless, many Complementarians continue to disagree concerning how this principle of “headship” should be observed within the church. While there is agreement that pastors/elders should be male, there is disagreement concerning what the Bible says about women teaching mixed audiences. Some complementarian churches do not allow women to teach mixed adult audiences, while other complementarian churches do allow it. On this particular point, there is agreement in principle (observing headship), but disagreement in practice (teaching mixed audiences).

To some extent, I’m sure the disagreement is probably driven by pragmatic considerations. But to some degree, the disagreement is also due to conflicting interpretations of the Bible, especially 1 Timothy 2:12. Commentators point out that 1 Timothy 2:12 has at least two possible translations/interpretations:

Translation #1: “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.”
Translation #2: “I do not allow a woman to teach with authority over a man.”

Notice that the first translation prohibits two things: teaching and exercising authority. Notice that the second translation only prohibits one thing: a certain kind of teaching.

Complementarian churches that allow women to teach mixed audiences tend to favor the second translation. The idea seems to be that a woman can teach a mixed audience as long as she does so under the “headship” and authority of the pastors/elders and her husband. When she teaches under the auspices of those “heads,” she is not violating the command in 1 Timothy 2:12 which prohibits “teaching with authority,” because she is teaching while under authority. You mentioned Beth Moore’s ministry in your comment. I know, for instance, that this “headship view” is what is practiced at her church, the First Baptist Church of Houston. FBC Houston claims to be a complementarian church, but Beth Moore and other women frequently teach mixed audiences at that church.

What is my view on this question? I agree with the first translation that I listed above. The best I can tell, Paul teaches that women cannot be pastors/elders (a la “exercising authority”), and they are not to teach Christian doctrine to adult male believers. The dispute over the proper translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 does not come down to what is the most literal rendering. All sides agree that the literal rendering is the one reflected in Translation #1. The question is whether or not Paul is using a figure of speech called hendiadys.

A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which an author expresses a single idea by two nouns instead of a noun and its qualifier. I can give you example of this figure of speech in English. Consider the following sentence.

“He came despite the rain and weather.”

Doesn’t this sentence really mean this:

“He came despite the rainy weather.”

In other words, by separating the term “rainy weather” into “rain” and “weather” the speaker accentuates the adjective by transforming it into a noun.

Some commentators think that this is what is happening with 1 Timothy 2:12. Therefore they translate it so that “authority” modifies “teach.” So “to teach or to exercise authority” becomes “to teach with authority.” My main problem with this translation is that I am convinced that the words that are used in the Greek text of 1 Timothy 2:12 are not the kinds of words that ever get used in this figure of speech called hendiadys (see Andreas Kostenberger in Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15). So my reasons for rejecting Translation #2 are exegetical.

The result of my understanding of Paul’s teaching is that gifted women teachers do need to exercise their teaching gift. I think there are innumerable appropriate contexts in which they can and should teach (e.g. Titus 2:3 and the list in my previous post). But in the church, they would want to be careful not to violate the scripture’s command not to teach Christian doctrine to men.

I’m not a perfect man or a perfect exegete. But I have been looking at this issue for many years, and this is the best I can make out of what Paul is teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12. This isn’t, by the way, the view that I had when we were in college. To be quite honest, back then, I hadn’t really even thought about this verse or these issues very carefully. When I started college, I was more or less a default egalitarian. So now you know that I have come to this view rather late in my Christian walk.

I hope that I can rally other complementarians to this point of view because I think it is the correct understanding of the text, not just of 1 Timothy 2:12 but also of the Bible’s comprehensive vision of complementarian values.

Well, that’s a long comment, and if you made it this far, you deserve a medal. Thanks for reading my blog, and thank you for your comment.

Denny Burk


  • dennyrburk

    1. Suzanne McCarthy Says:

      Do you want the comments brought forward? Here is what I posted on your previous post.

      Is this the Köstenberger you mean?

      “The wife, on the other hand, is to present her husband with children, manage her household with integrity, and provide her husband with companionship.”

      To continue,

      Köstenberger believes that women need to stay within their domestic boundaries so as not be tempted by Satan.

      (This he concludes from the synecdoche BTW. LIterary devices are a signature feature of his writing. When I go to discuss with Dr. Köstenberger a legitimate issue on the translation of ορθοτομεω (does this blog accept Greek codepoints? – we shall see.) He deletes me because I have mistaken the genre of his blog, it is not an academic blog but just a place for him to publish editorials and let others know about the books he writes. He refuses to engage in an academic discussion with me as if I were unlearned.)

      I conclude from his discourse on the synecdoche in 1 Tim. 2:15 that he believes that women are of weaker moral character than men, and more vulnerable to sexual sin.

      Dr. Packer also expresses this view. He says that men are the guardians of morals and women are for the nurturing of their fellows.

      So they do not believe that women are morally equal, but are more vulnerable to sin than men. Men can have jobs and learn and teach but women ‘present children to their husbands’.

      And single women, they too must remain within the synecdoche, by looking after other people’s children.

      But women who study the scriptures must remain silent while Drs. Poythress and Grudem spend years discovering the standard Greek lexicons.

      I was asked to review their books. I did not want to at first. But actually I had no idea what I would find.

    2. Nace Says:
      I think a foundational stone we must build on is Christ’s love and dignity to all regardless of gender. I think that last comment hits a very good question. Why does God give different instruction to the genders at all? I think this is the root of alot of contention. Because if one thinks it is because of an innate weakness/strength of one gender against another there should be much discussion. My understanding is based on the Trinity in the submission and love between a coequal eternal God.
    3. Suzanne McCarthy Says:
      Then you must denounce every major complemenatarian theologian who implies that women are less moral, less capable, less suitable, less sexually attractive, ask Grudem about that one, I am dying to know …

      And find out who is left. John Piper believes that women are to receive male strength, and nurture it in the secular workplace. Can you think of how much trouble a women supervisor in a office would get into ‘nurturing male strength’! Is male strength not validated unless some woman receives it?

      These authors should be removed from Christian bookstores and men should repent about speaking of their fellow creatures in such terms. That is the main point that John Stackhouse was trying to get across. That is where this thread began, with Stackhouse. But none of the particiapnts want to read his book, or Grudem, Piper, Köstenberger, Packer, or any other book of this sort.

      They just tout the platitudes, while women who read these books, if they are complementarians find themselves described as ’sexually attractive’, more so than egalitarian women, so they acquiesce.

      And others, egalitarians, are so distressed they cannot finish reading these books.

      When all of this is denounced, then proceed with the scriptures.

    4. Mike Bird Says:
      My question is, are these complementarians who allow women to teach under the auspices of their elders/husband, just as much a threat to “inerrancy” as egalitarians said to be! This is the part of the debate that bugs me.
    5. dennyrburk Says:

      I know what you are saying, and it’s a valid point. This inconsistency among Complementarians is precisely why Russell Moore says Egalitarians are winning the evangelical gender debate (see link above in my post).

      I can’t speak definitively to anyone’s motives, especially when they base their views on the Bible.

      What I will say is that to the extent that one lets pragmatic considerations or secular ideologies dictate what the Bible can or can’t say, that person is compromising the authority of scripture. In the post that started this series, that was the point I was making about William Webb’s redemptive movement hermeneutic.


    6. Suzanne McCarthy Says:
      I would like to take this back to the issue of teaching in a seminary for a bit. I am concerned that hiring is gender based, and not based on qualifications and achievment.

      It is said that a woman can write a book, but if she cannot hold a position in the Christian academy she has to support herself in some other manner. She must moonlight, and support herself in a secular position and be a Biblical scholar after a full day of work. Then she can particpate without remuneration in the Christian community by writing.

      So a Christian woman is discriminated against.

      Either God says a woman cannot teach a man, anything ever, or she can. Either segregate women from the adult male society or don’t. Does God look at the world in terms of the sacred and profane? Does God have different domains and economies. A woman may teach French but not Greek. Where does that put German?

      Can a woman teach Latin in a seminary but she cannot teach Hebrew? Could a woman teach the Septuagint? How far from the sacred must she be removed?

      Or would you ensure that women teach rememdial writing to those young men who have not yet learned grammar. Maybe media, or arts, or music. Christian music, music but not prophecy?

      How do you propose that an educated woman be fulfilled in the Christian community? Obviously the answer is that they must give their best somewhere else. And that is not so hard to do.

      But will you get up in the pulpit and teach that? Women, give your best to the world, we want your second best.

    7. Gim W Anderson Says:
      Professor McCarthy writes with such restraint and wisdom; always a joy to read.
    8. Suzanne McCarthy Says:
      Thank you. ;-)
    9. Suzanne McCarthy Says:
      S. E. Hutchins writes,

      “Slavery in the New Testament is another one of these relations so offensive to egalitarians because it is not . . . egalitarian–in fact, it is the earthly perfection of everything that is not. They are not concerned to inquire as to what Christian slavery (such as Paul admitted to Christ) looks like any more than they wish to inquire into what Christian marriage is.”

      I would be interested in hearing more about how Hutchins envisages Christian slavery.

    10. Peter Kirk Says:
      Denny writes (sorry about the loss of formatting):

      Commentators point out that 1 Timothy 2:12 has at least two possible translations/interpretations:

      Translation #1: “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.”
      Translation #2: “I do not allow a woman to teach with authority over a man.”

      I am glad to see this translation #2 recognised as a possible alternative, even if it is eventually rejected.

      But there is another important point which needs to be made here. In both these translations the Greek word authentein is translated “(exercise) authority”. But, despite the superficial (but misleading) resemblance between the Greek and English words, there is little justification for this translation. The meaning of authentein is debatable, but it does not seem to mean simply “exercise authority”. In fact the word is a very rare one, but it does seem to have definite negative connotations which are entirely lost in both of the translations above. In fact in this case KJV seems to have captured well the most likely nuance of this word: “usurp authority” (cf. TNIV “assume authority” or, in a footnote, “in a domineering way”). Thus, if the hendiadys is recognised (and the argument given above against it, “not the kinds of words that ever get used in this figure of speech“, is extremely weak), the verse should be understood as meaning something like:

      Translation #3: “I do not allow a woman to usurp authority by teaching a man.”

      Of course any kind of usurping authority is wrong. But presumably Paul chooses to condemn this particular kind of usurpation because it was a problem among the people Timothy was ministering to. Similarly, we read in verse 8 that men should pray “without anger and disputing” (TNIV). Should we conclude from the lack of such instructions to women that it was OK for women to pray with anger and disputing? Of course not! The point is that in the particular situation anger and disputing were problems for men, whereas very likely the problem for women was that they would not accept and submit quietly to the proper authority in the church. But there is nothing in this verse, if authentein is understood as I believe it ought to be, to prohibit women from teaching men, even authoritatively, as long as they are properly authorised to do so by the church.

    11. dennyrburk Says:
      Peter (in #10),

      Thanks for reading the blog and for taking the time to comment. I just thought I’d drop in two rejoinders to your argument.

      (1) The meaning of the Greek word authentein is disputed by egalitarians. The usual sense of the word is given in Bauer’s lexicon, “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.” This definition has none of the negative connotations that egalitarians have tried to assign to authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 (i.e. “to domineer,” “to usurp authority,” or “to kill”). The problem with refuting egalitarian claims, however, is that authentein is not used by Paul in any of his other writings. Moreover, authentein is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or the LXX. Establishing a range of meaning for authentein in biblical literature is well-nigh impossible since it only occurs in 1 Timothy 2:12.

      Authentein is used in Greek literature outside of the New Testament, so that’s where we have to go to find out what it means. The most comprehensive study of authentein in Greek literature was done in 1995 by a scholar name H. Scott Baldwin (“A Difficult Word: Authenteō in 1 Timothy 2:12” in Andreas Köstenberger, Women in the Church, 65-80, 269-305). Baldwin found 82 occurences of authenteō in ancient Greek literature and found that there are no negative connotations attached to this word in its appearances in literature around the time of the New Testament. In literature contemporary to the New Testament, authenteō mean “to exercise authority,” not “to dominate,” “to usurp authority,” or “to kill.” Since his study, no other examples have been found in Greek literature to counter his conclusions (see Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, pp. 307-318).

      (2) You wrote: “But there is nothing in this verse, if authentein is understood as I believe it ought to be, to prohibit women from teaching men, even authoritatively, as long as they are properly authorised to do so by the church.” Yet, isn’t it true that Paul roots his prohibition in the creation-order that was established before the fall in Genesis 2. Therefore, you cannot relativize his prohibition as only relevant to a situation in Ephesus. Paul says his prohibition is growing out of the structure of God’s creation, and that structure is still in place today.


    12. Peter Kirk Says:
      Denny, I am amazed that in a church context you consider that “to assume a stance of independent authority…” has no negative connotations. Would you suggest that it is OK and desirable for a man “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to” a woman when teaching her? In the church there is no room for independent authority or anyone dictating to anyone else.

      It is not surprising, of course, that this standard dictionary definition, and the historic understanding as reflected in KJV, is disputed by complementarians and so that a different view is found in Köstenberger’s and Grudem’s books. I make this ad hominem point only in response to your ad hominem point “The meaning of the Greek word authentein is disputed by egalitarians.” But on this one you can’t deny that traditional renderings and dictionary definitions provide more support for egalitarians than for complementarians.

      I have seen other recent studies of this word which have come to very different conclusions from Baldwin’s. For now I can only go on memory as I don’t have time to look for the sources, but if I remember correctly all of the examples of authentein meaning “to exercise authority” without negative connotations were from many centuries after the New Testament, and the most closely contemporary references (of which there were very few) had a variety of meanings of which all were negative or at least could easily be understood as such.

      I am not attempting to relativise this teaching. I consider the teaching “I do not allow a woman to usurp authority by teaching a man” to apply to all people at all times. Of course it also applies to men, and to teaching of women as well as men. The relationship of verse 13-15 to verse 12, and the meaning of verse 15, are separate and very difficult issues which I don’t want to go into here.

    13. Peter Kirk Says:
      I have just turned up some June 2006 discussion about this on Justin Taylor’s blog. Here is a quote from Köstenberger himself:

      while Baldwin surveys a total of eighty-two instances of authenteo in ancient Greek literature, only two (!) date prior to the writing of First Timothy, a sample size so small as to preclude any certainty regarding the meaning of the word at the time the epistle was written.

      Taylor also provided a link to Baldwin’s list of examples of authentein.

      At that time I looked through that list, and here is part of the comment I made there, including a reference to yourself, referring to the two examples from before the time of 1 Timothy:

      As for Baldwin’s research into contemporary use of αὐθεντεῖν, while I can accept that neither of the two allegedly attested occurrences certainly mean “domineer”, the simple fact is that neither of them certainly means “exercise authority” in a positive sense either. The example from Philodemus does not in fact clearly read αὐθεντεῖν at all, for the text has been conjecturally reconstructed, and one translator seems to have understood it as more like “domineer” than “exercise [proper] authority”. Baldwin doesn’t give enough context to the 27 BC quote to determine whether there are any negative connotations. [September 2006: I note that Baldwin understands the meaning here as “compel”, which would clearly be a negative sense in the context of 1 Timothy 2:12] The 2nd century AD Attic lexicon’s “to have independent jurisdiction” may be the best guide to how Paul used the word, and this would of course be a misuse of authority in a Christian setting. The only other occurrence within several centuries of Paul’s time (leaving aside Ptolemy’s astronomical speculations), that in Hippolytus, can also be translated in a positive or a negative sense. 4th century and later occurrences are irrelevant in my opinion. Well, you say that Köstenberger accepts that Baldwin’s study “falls short of absolute proof“. That sounds to me like a very British understatement!

      So, Justin, while like Denny I accept that the meaning of αὐθεντεῖν is controversial as well as debatable, it is quite clear that my interpretation is based on solid scholarship, that of IH Marshall among others.

    14. Tony Esolen Says:

      There are a couple of dubious assumptions being made here — and I’d like to see what Professor Burk thinks of them.

      First, it is assumed that the Pauline stricture against women’s preaching in the assembly is not connected to his instructions on family order, or to Peter’s instructions on the same, or to Christ’s choice of the apostles and of the seventy two. These are all of a piece.

      Second, some of the interlocutors are treating “preaching in the assembly” or “teaching Greek in a seminary” as a personal right, linked to a supposed right to be “fulfilled,” whatever that may mean. Let’s back up a bit. Nobody has a right to the ordained ministry; nobody has a right to exercise any ministry in the Church. Nobody, none. These ministries are all of them gifts of God, who gives them to whom He chooses. I am not a minister, and I presume that it is a great good for the Body of Christ that I am not.

      Third, it is assumed that women in fact can exercise the same ministry as men — that the Pauline strictures, at most, were necessary for the unenlightened rubes back then, and are not necessary now. I ask everybody to take a hard look at what has happened in other communions when this apparently unimportant and outdated stricture was overridden. A little humility here would go a long way. To the extent that our institutions have become “matriarchal” — I am thinking here of schools and libraries, but you might also think of the neighborhoods in our cities — to that same extent they are dying. The teenage boys check out and seldom return. Robbie Low has written about what happens to children in families where the mother brings them to church but the father stays home. Right now our boys are in a tailspin — and who has been responsible, in the main, for their failure to be educated? Or am I to believe that the same cryptofeminist women who have failed so miserably, en masse, at teaching boys, will become, in this crisis of our civilization, leaders of men? I hate to write this — because I love women. But do women who insist upon these “rights” really love and affirm the manhood of men? Are they thinking about the men at all?

      Fourth, it’s assumed that this question is completely unrelated to the disintegration of the family that we are seeing all around us. The feminists, who want to undermine the family, would not make that mistake.

      Fifth, it’s assumed that in some way God owes us a gift, or that we are less than human if God withholds from us this or that gift. That attitude, however, is deeply unchristian; think of who Christ was, that most despised of men. Charity never speaks of equal rights. We know we are progressing in the faith not simply when we thank God for the gifts he has given us, but when we thank Him for the gifts he has withheld from us, and for the excellences he has granted to others and not to us.

    15. dennyrburk Says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, and I agree with you 100%. At the end of the day, there is so much more to God’s revelation on this question than the grammatical details of 1 Timothy 2:12.

      Feminist egalitarianism constitutes a worldview that is set against the total revelation of God in Christ and in His Scriptures. All the unspoken assumptions that you have identified bring the worldview of feminism into the light and expose its opposition to scripture.

      It is important to note that being male doesn’t qualify one for leadership or teaching in the church. Ultimately, the qualification is a charis of God.

      Thanks for the good word.

      Denny Burk

    16. » Touchstone Editors Weigh in on the Gender Conversation Says:
      […] I would like to thank two of the editors at Touchstone magazine who have taken the time to participate in the conversation that we have been having on this blog. Of course the conversation that I am referring to is the one about gender (here, here, and here). Two posts have appeared on the Touchstone blog that refer to our debate. […]
    17. Peter Kirk Says:
      Tony wrote:

      Robbie Low has written about what happens to children in families where the mother brings them to church but the father stays home. Right now our boys are in a tailspin — and who has been responsible, in the main, for their failure to be educated? Or am I to believe that the same cryptofeminist women who have failed so miserably, en masse, at teaching boys, will become, in this crisis of our civilization, leaders of men?

      So it’s the women’s fault that the men don’t go to church or educate their sons, is it? Or is it their fault that they don’t submit to their husbands by staying at home with them and leaving their boys with no Christian upbringing at all? What do you expect the women to do? Take over authority in their homes and force their husbands to get off their backsides?

      Let’s accept the blame for ourselves, men, that it is we who have failed in this, who have failed to lead our families and our churches. And let’s accept that maybe it is partly because of the failure of men to respond to God’s call that more and more women are filling the places of leadership. Even those who don’t accept that women should normally lead accept that Deborah was right to take the lead because of Barak’s failure to do so. If today’s Baraks are failing so badly, God needs to raise up a few more Deborahs.

    18. Suzanne Esolen Says:

      Jim Packer acknowledged in private conversation with me that I had a similar background to his own in Greek. He also volunteeered that the men he worked with had only studied Greek to ‘do’ the New Testament – they did not know Greek ‘as a language’. This was oddly an unsolicited reaction that he gave me. I am not a longstanding ‘egalitarian feminist’ by any means. I went to Jim, a member of my congregation, to ask him about certain things and was surprised at his answers – it was a revelation to me and opened my eyes.

      Is knowing Greek ‘as a language’ a gift given only to men? That was not Jim’s answer. Is it a different gift, to know Greek well enough to teach it at university than it is to teach it in a seminary?

      And yes universities do teach Koine/Hellenistic Greek.

      Is teaching in a secular setting vs a seminary a different charis? The separation in domains is recent. There was not this secular/sacred divide through most of history. I attended classes in a university alongside seminary students – we were all in the same class, and the professors marked the women’s papers along with the men’s.

      I never once heard a professor indicate that men had the gift of languages and women did not. If anything, the contrary. I am surprised to find that you feel this is self-evident, Tony.


      I was not aware that the charis were given differentially by sex. In fact, there is a great deal of disagreement here. Many acknowledge that women are equally gifted by God, and that it is the ‘offices’ that are not equally distributed.

      In fact, this is how I was brought up, in a very conservative denomination which believed that men had the office of speaking, but women had the gift of languages. So my great aunt, who was one of the first women in Canada to teach Greek in a university, a century ago, was married to a Brethren preacher, who acknowledged her gift.

      Incidently I received this email below from a man in my family a few days ago. He writes,

      “I’m back to Hebrew and finding it very, very difficult. Debby finds it easy, of course, with her linguistic background.”

      This is a more typical response to language learning. However, maybe Tony has evidence that women have the gift of learning languages but not teaching them. Is this a differential gift?


      I would also like to add that I have read Hutchen’s review of Stackhouse’s book. Since I know Stackhouse and Packer both personally, I am sure you must appreciate that the tone of the review surprised me. I am concerned that you would consider that kind of writing worthy of your recommendation.

      I am also surprised, Denny, that you reference the ‘worldview of feminism’ in this debate since I wrote to you privately a few days ago to explain my background. I implied, although perhaps I was not completely clear on this, that I have lived within the ‘worldview of fundamentalism’ my entire life.

      On charges of cryptofeminism, I don’t know anything at all about families where the mother takes the children to church and the fathers stay home. I have no experience at all with this kind of Christianity.

      Speaking again to Tony’s last point, is the gift of teaching languages truly withheld from women? I certainly don’t remember implying in any way that God owes anyone a gift that they don’t have. I was however, taught Greek solely by women who had learned Greek from women.

      It was my experience in the Christian faith to belong to this tradition which had been carried on by many generations of women. Then Dr. Packer looked me in the eye and said that men today do not share this classical education, that we two shared. (Please understand that I studied classical and hellenistic Greek along with Hebrew, and that this comprises a qualification in NT Greek.)

      This is the origin of my conviction that women have the gift of languages alongside men. I realize that some have taken offense at my sharing my personal story. It is not easy for me to share these personal details but it is the way I was brought up from childhood, to study the Biblical languages. I did not seek this training as an adult.

      Attacks of ‘feminism’ are tangential.

    19. Suzanne McCarthy Says:

      Are you really saying that women do not have the gift of teaching Biblical languages? I was brought up in a fundamentalist family where traditionally the gifts were considered as equally distributed to women. Women were equally gifted, but not equally ‘permitted’ by God to speak ‘in the assembly’.

      So my great-aunt, one of the first women in Canada to teach Greek at a unversity, back in the days when seminaries and universties were not separate academies, was married to a Brethren preacher.

      You assume that secular knowledge and sacred knowledge are different gifts. Or that knowing a language and teaching it are different gifts. Or that men are more gifted in languages than women. These are all hard to defend.

      When I spoke with Jim Packer on this – he is a member of my congregation – he volunteered that we two had a similar training in Greek and that men that he had worked with knew Greek only to ‘do the NT’, his words not mine, that they did not know Greek as a language.

      I did not chose to learn a man’s gift as an adult. I did not demand it as a right. In fact, Denny will acknowledge that I wrote to him privately to the contrary. I have lived my entire life in a fundamentalist worldview, in a very traditional worldview, taught Greek by women who were taught Greek by women. In fact, I learned the Biblical languages as a child and gave it up as an adult, at the age of 21. And yes, I did study Hellenistic Greek and Hebrew.

      I received this email a few days ago from a man in my family. He writes,

      “I’m back to Hebrew and finding it very, very difficult. Rebecca finds it easy, of course, with her linguistic background.”

      I am concerned that Tony seems to put forth a view that is counter-factual on the gift of languages.

      (I can’t respond to the rest of Tony’s message. I have no experience with the kind of Christianity where the women take the children to church.)

      But it can only be damaging to young men to suggest to them that God has given them a gift, for example, language learning, that women don’t have, when their experience must tell them otherwise. How damaging to the self-esteem of a man to think that he ought to be more gifted intellectually than woman. It can only haunt him all his life.

      Let men test their masculinity in other domains, where God has indeed gifted them – in rugged physical pursuit. This should be part of every young man’s training.


      Since I know Drs. Packer and Stackhouse personally, I can only say that I was surprised at the tone of Hutchen’s book review. I am surprised that you would give a positive reference to that kind of writing.

    20. Rachel Hood Says:
      I realized I am joing the game a little late but since reading all of this I am sad to see that in all the debating of Greek and Hebrew and this person and that, it seems we have lost sight of the character of God. I won’t claim to be as studied as any of you posting before me but I know Jesus Christ.

      I don’t see what exactly the point of debating the right or ability or desire or anything of a woman to teach a man. Christ is and always has been God. In every aspect. (Phillipians 2) He had every right to exercise authority yet in order to bring the most glory to God (the trinity) He humbled Himself. We as women obviously have many talents, gifts, abilities that are similar to men and many that differ. Whether or not we are equally gifted,what is a woman’s motivation for being affirmed in her authority to teach men?

      Why do you want to teach men? Do you think it to be a command of God, the only way to serve Him? Do you think it is less important to teach women or children? Do you have to teach everything you know? Do you consider yourself the only person capable of teaching men what you have learned? Can you not trust God’s plan and order and just do what you KNOW He desires of you? Are you afraid that you may not be increasing the talents (Luke) the master has given in a way that is pleasing to Him? Or is it that YOU want to make the plans and define the order and put scripture in the lines you have drawn?

      I don’t know all the experts mentioned above. I don’t know many of the terms used.
      I don’t need to. I just need to know Jesus Christ. I pray as a result of all this discussion we would desire to know Him more, our savior and Lord.

    21. Suzanne McCarthy Says:
      Hi Rachel,

      No, I don’t feel most of the things you say. However, many women comment that they are happy in their careers, being professors of English or science or law.

      But Biblical languages are also usually taught in a coed setting, with men in the class. I know of few institutions that would bar men from studying the Biblical languages just so a woman could teach the subject. So it is not the desire to teach ‘men’ but to engage in the scholarship, to participate in dialogue about these disciplines. So, my question is, why are women who study Greek or Hebrew, not to ever develop their training, when other women do?

      Fortunately, God has opened up other domains for me, but I cannot help but feel uncomfortable when I read some of what goes as Christian scholarship in Greek today.

    22. Debbie Wimmers Says:
      Speaking of leading women, Esther is probably the best. She, being an orphan, became queen and risked her life to save a whole nation. i hope you go to see ‘One Night With the King’ on Oct 13. This movie is supposed to be true to the scripture.
    23. Von Says:
      Suzanne wrote:

      However, many women comment that they are happy in their careers, being professors of English or science or law.

      And where, exactly, in Scripture does it say we should be ‘happy in our careers’? Or that being ‘happy’ doing something is any kind of guarantee that it is what we should be doing?
      As Christians our happiness, our joy, our contentment needs to come from doing what God asks of us, of honoring him. We do this by first seeing in Scripture what His will is, then following it.

      Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

      1And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. 3Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep … 14And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
      15But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: 16Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. 17Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. 18Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep… 58If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; 59Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance…

    24. Glenn Says:
      Suzanne, you said

      “As Christians our happiness, our joy, our contentment needs to come from doing what God asks of us, of honoring him. We do this by first seeing in Scripture what His will is, then following it.”
      (as you can see I used cut & paste!)

      I am glad to see that you are coming to your senses at last. I say this because God’s will in scripture is revealed as men having the leadership role in the Church and husbands in the home (bearing in mind the instructions put in place)
      If you meant what you said above then that is what you have to follow.

    25. Bryan Says:
      I think many of you who are arguing against Suzanne are focusing on the wrong part of Suzanne’s argument. You’ve latched on to a small part that wasn’t the main point she was arguing for and have ignored some of the main points (and being rude and condescending while doing it). It’s plain that either you’ve misunderstood the points she was making or you’ve chosen to ignore them and focus on something else that was easier for you to argue against (and from reading her comments in #6 many times I think you’ve even misunderstood what she was trying to say by her comment on being fulfilled in the church). If you are going to respond to what she’s writing go back and read #6 where she raises her real concerns and respond to those instead of latching on to a minor comment she made at the end. If not then please stop jumping on this fulfillment thing because it’s getting old and irrelevant and steering the conversation in a direction I’m sure she didn’t intend for it to go. Thanks.
      Bryan L
    26. Tricia Says:
      Denny wrote:

      “The best I can tell, Paul teaches that women cannot be pastors/elders (a la “exercising authority”), and they are not to teach Christian doctrine to adult male believers.”

      (Sorry – don’t know how to change the formatting…)

      The question raised seems to be about teaching in a seminary environment. I know there is controversy over this at the seminary level as to what classes a woman can teach and what she can’t.

      So, using Denny’s interpretation, carried over to the seminary, a woman can teach any class to men (and women) that does not involve teaching doctrine, correct?

      Is this determined by the course curriculum? If it covers issues of doctrine it cannot be assigned to a woman? Who determines the curriculum and how does teaching a Biblical language cover issues of doctrine?

      Denny – how would you answer these using your interpretation?

      Thanks – Tricia

    27. Von Says:
      If today’s Baraks are failing so badly, God needs to raise up a few more Deborahs.

      Or perhaps instead Barak needs to stop failing. Agreed that it is because men are failing in their leadership that the leadership vacuum is being filled by those who should not be leading. The solution, however, is for those who should be leading to do so… not for them to push others in their place (as Barak did).
      We need more Daniels, Ezekiels, Davids, and Joshuas, and Pauls… and we need more Prov 31 and Titus 2 women.

      10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. …
      23Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
      28Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. 31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

    28. Debbie Wimmers Says:
      What about Esther and Lydia?
    29. Glenn Says:
      What about Esther & Lydia?? I don’t see their relevance to 1 Timothy 2:12.
    30. Rachel Hood Says:
      No one has really touched on the issue of WHY a woman feels the need to teach men biblical languages. Are there really that many unfilled teaching positions in seminaries for Greek and Hebrew professors?
    31. debbiewimmers Says:
      I’m saying they were women of influence in their time.
    32. Von Says:
      I’m saying they were women of influence in their time.


      If you think that anyone is saying that women cannot be ‘women of influence’ then you have rather startlingly missed the point. Women, just like men, have their maximum influence for the Lord when they are operating at the center of his will. The Proverbs 31 wife can in no way be considered to be ‘uninfluential’.
      There is no suggestion in Scripture that either Esther or Lydia violated their God prescribed role.

  • Kristen Dugas

    Hello – I just have a question. One of the meanings of the Greek word “authentein” given in “Women in the Church” is “to be primarily responsible for”. I know that the word “authentein” is a verb, but “to be primarily responsible for” is not in verb form. What is the verb form of this definition? Can the meaning be “to hold one primarily responsible for an action”? Also, where can I get a complete and in depth copy of the uses of the meaning of authentein found in secular writings so that I can see how they are used for myself?Thankyou.

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