First Timothy 2 Does Not Silence Women, It gives them the same opportunity men already had.

“Women must be silent in the church.” 

“Women should only teach other women and children, not men.” 

“Women must submit to men.”

These are all sentences I have heard from Christians about 1 Timothy 2. I would encourage you to read the first two articles in this series on 1 Timothy 2 before reading this one if you haven’t already. One more article follows this one. Here are the links to the first two: 



I’ve had a difficult time grappling with this passage, especially since some church leaders have somehow decided that women can only teach other women and children from a verse that...uh...doesn’t say that at all. So what’s the deal? 

Similar to the verse about modesty, I think there is a lot more to what Paul is saying than what first meets the eye. 

Let’s get one thing straight first: there were women leading these churches that Paul was writing to. There are several verses that list them. I won’t list them all here, but a quick google search will bring you right to them. Also, keep in mind that the early church seldom had just one teacher who got up and preached every sunday. Churches today simply don’t look the same as the early church. 

Verses 11 and 12 of this chapter are the ones that talk about silencing women. Let’s take a quick look at them. This is from the ESV translation. 

Verse 11: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” 

Verse 12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” 

Reading these verses on their own gives me an immediate negative reaction and perhaps it does for you too. Let’s backtrack and take a look at the previous verses. There is a pattern Paul is creating in this passage. 

Verse 9 (where the term modesty is used) gives direction. 

Verse 10 elaborates on this direction. 

Verse 11, likewise, gives a direction. 

Verse 12 elaborates on this direction.

Furthermore, verse 8 corrects wayward men. 

Verse 9 corrects wayward women. Verses 10-12 give specific ways to correct the wayward women and instead of limiting them, this “correction” sets them free and proves to be radically feminist for the time. I’ll expound on that in a bit. 

This “correction” of wayward women is being done to some of the women. The Eden podcast, hosted by Bruce C. E. Fleming (founder of the Tru316 Project) is a great resource for understanding the grammatical pattern of this passage. Bruce points out that the Greek word “woman” here is talking about a subgroup of women who were already teaching and leading. 

So who were these wayward women and what was wrong with their teaching? 

In the modesty verse, it is obvious that these women were very wealthy and used their wealth and status to influence the people in the church. Very few women could afford what these women had. It is very possible they had accumulated their wealthy status by participating in ritual temple prositituion which makes sense since Ephesus’ ruling deity was Artemis and the pagan worship of her was done through ritual prostitution. It is very possible that these women were teaching pagan practices. 

What stands out to me is that Paul does not instruct these women to be thrown out of the church or condemned. Instead, he instructs that they be corrected gently. Instead of being condemned sexually, Paul is inviting these women to be taught in the faith in the same way the men were already learning. To understand this, we need to dive into the verses about silencing. 

The “quietness” referred to here is the quietness of a student being taught by a teacher. The quietness the women were to learn with was the same quietness the men were already learning in. Paul is not silencing women; he is giving them the same opportunity to learn in the men already were. This makes sense, then, why Paul never gives specific details for correcting the wayward men. The men were already being corrected.

This is radically feminist. In a culture and time where women were not educated, Paul is telling Timothy to have this church educate the women. This blows my mind. 

This further implies that to correct them gently and as students equal to men, these women were not being forced. They wanted to learn. 

We should also pay attention to the structure of verse 11 specifically. It begins with “Let a woman learn.” Imperative verbs used in Paul’s letters indicate the point he is making. “Let learn” is the only imperative verb in the whole passage. It makes it so the words of verse 11 “let a woman learn quietly” hold more weight and authority over the words of verse 12 “I do not permit a woman to teach…” 

Both times “a woman” is mentioned here, the Greek indicates a sub-group of women already in authority. (via. Bruce Fleming.) 

“Let” allows, gives opportunity, opens up, etc. It does not limit, control, or condemn. 

Verse. 12 prevents false teaching, not ALL teaching done by women. Which again, makes sense, given how Paul starts the whole letter talking about the danger of false teachers. The Greek word here refers to pagan worship. So a better translation would be something like: 

“I do not permit a woman to (improper) teaching or to exercise (improper) authority over men; rather, she is to remain quiet (in her studying to the teacher she has consented to learn under.)” 

If you are interested in listening to the Eden podcast where I learned much of this, here is the link:

In conclusion:

The bottom line: What has been used to silence and oppress women for centuries in the church was actually supposed to give women equal opportunity to learn and to teach as the men. 

I don’t think any more conclusion is necessary. 

My next piece continues this with talking about women, godliness, and motherhood. As always, reach out if you have questions or concerns or would just like to make a comment.