I Do Not Permit A Woman

November 30, 2012 in Theology · 44 comments

In 1 Timothy 2.12 Paul says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (NIV2011)

What’s up with that? Is Paul really issuing a definitive command regarding women’s roles that’s binding upon all Christians today? Is this a clear directive that severely limits women’s ministry in the Church? That’s certainly how most complementarians understand this verse. But is that where the discussion ends? Paul said it, I believe it, that settles it?

But wait a second. Do all Christian women avoid gold and pearls? (1 Tim. 2.9) Do they cover their heads when praying? (1 Cor. 11) Should we always greet each other with a holy kiss? (Rom. 16.16) If we’re visiting the island of Crete should we assume that the people we encounter are all “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons”? (Tit. 1.12) Should we always carry a cloak, scrolls and parchments with us on our journeys? (2 Tim. 4.13)

In short, how do we understand the words of Paul? What ones do we choose to apply to our modern Christian practice and what ones do we disregard — and more importantly, why?

2 Timothy 2.8-15 is a notoriously difficult passage. Part of the problem is that we’re only hearing one side of the conversation — we’re listening in on one end of a two thousand year old discussion that wasn’t directly intended for us. We aren’t familiar with the culture and context, we don’t truly know what it was like to be a Christian in first century Ephesus and we don’t know many details about the difficulties the church there was facing.

Of course there’s the “easy” way out: Paul didn’t write 1 Timothy and/or these seemingly misogynist texts are later interpolations. While such a suggestion may be anathema to conservatives, it’s not an option we should dismiss outright. Even conservative scholarship generally accepts the possibility of a corrupted text — as in the case of the ending of Mark (Mk. 16.9-20) or the pericope adulterae (Jn. 7.53–8.11) or the final line of the Lord’s prayer (Mat. 6.13b).

We should seek the text in its original form and pursue the textual evidence where it leads us — even if that path questions long-held tradition. Of course we shouldn’t disavow Pauline authorship just because we don’t like the message; we can’t pick and choose what Paul wrote based on our agreement with it. But the majority of modern scholars do reject Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy for a variety of reasons, many of them very good. However, for the sake of this discussion I’m going to assume that Paul did write this letter. Why? Because in this case, authorship is essentially a moot point: Christians accept the New Testament canon as we have received it and we all recognize it as being in some way normative in matters of faith and practice.

There is another possibility that we must consider: that Paul really was a misogynist — that these verses and similar ones elsewhere represent a truly misguided and antiquated notion of women’s roles. Paul was ensconced in a patriarchal culture and was merely reflecting those ideas, and now, in hindsight, we can recognize the error of his ways and reject such notions. Again, I think this is an option that needs to remain on the table. If, in exegeting the text, we determine that Paul was advocating something we know to be clearly immoral, we must be willing to face those consequences. However, this touches on issues of hermeneutics that are well beyond the scope of this modest post. Paul did make some enormously affirming statements regarding women and gender equality (Gal. 3.28, Rom. 16), so I don’t think we can dismiss his views of women as simply being representative of patriarchal first century culture.

So then, what’s to be done with this tricky text?

Walter Liefeld, in the NIV Application Commentary on 1 Timothy, proposes asking the following questions about this passage:

  1. Does the use of the verb authenteo in this context restrict women from authority of any sort, or is a stronger meaning of controlling, dominating, or assuming authority on one’s own in view here, narrowing the scope of restriction?
  2. If a woman teaches a mixed group today, does that imply the same authority that the teaching of the early apostolic traditions about Christ had in the first century?
  3. Would a woman’s teaching men or being part of a leadership team to which men are accountable violate moral standards of decency today as it would have in Paul’s day?
  4. Was Paul’s description of his apostolic practice (“I do not permit”) a command for all time and circumstances, even though it was not expressed as an imperative?
  5. As we address our biblically illiterate society, is it meaningful to reflect Adam’s chronological priority and Eve’s deception by forbidding women from teaching men and from participating in leadership?
  6. If we require women to refrain from teaching or participating in leadership, should we, for the sake of hermeneutical consistency with Paul’s instructions about head-coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 (given the eight biblical and theological reasons for that practice), also require that practice today?

Liefeld goes on to state that if we are uncertain about the answers to any of those questions, we should be extraordinarily hesitant to restrict women’s roles in the church on the basis of this passage. These questions defy easy answers, and in our understanding of the text we should also avoid quick and easy conclusions.

But are there any alternative understandings of this passage?

Linda Belleville translates 1 Timothy 2.11-12 this way: “Let a woman learn in a quiet and submissive fashion. I do not, however, permit her to teach with the intent to dominate a man. She must be gentle in her demeanor.”

N.T. Wright, in The Kingdom New Testament, give this translation for the same verses: “They [women] must study undisturbed, in full submission to God. I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; rather, that they should be left undisturbed.”

Both these translations offer intriguing and insightful possibilities for these verses. But, I fear they interpret too much, injecting theology and interpretation into the translation to an extent that isn’t supported by the underlying text. Just as the NIV, ESV, and NET translations seem to fall too far in the direction of absolute and severe limitation on women, Wright and Belleville seem to provide “easy” interpretations that obscure the hermeneutical difficulties.

To be fair, both back up their understandings with impressive scholarship. But I think that scholarship should inform our reading of the text, not our actual translation. Perhaps this is a verse that should be accompanied by a very large asterisk that directs the reader to Liefeld’s questions and encourages the reader to investigate the matter more fully.

In the end, we must be content with more questions than answers. We must seek to address the full context of the passage, historically and grammatically and theologically and place it in its appropriate position within the Pauline corpus and the New Testament as a whole. Any understanding of 1 Timothy 2.12 that reduces it to a universal restriction on women’s roles in the church is, consciously or not, promoting a misogynistic and harmful view of women. But any understanding that simply dismisses the passage as being a product of an ancient culture that now has no relevance to our modern life has also run roughshod over the text. The complexities of the issues raised by this verse and its surrounding text are enough to fill volumes. We must be content with a less-than definitive conclusions about this passage, but that also shouldn’t prevent us from coming to any conclusion at all.

Returning to Liefeld’s questions, I think the answer to most, if not all of them, is “no” and that given such uncertainty regarding this text, women should have full inclusion in all aspects of church ministry. To settle for anything less is to fail to fully embrace the true message of Christianity.

And, for an example of a woman in the New Testament who had teaching authority, one need look no further than Paul’s commendation of the Apostle Junia.

44 comments… read them below or add one

Pastor Paula December 1, 2012 at 8:44 am

See Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry by Aída Besançon Spencer for an extensive study, including context with instructions for rabbinical students of the age, and careful note of the tenses of the verbs, “focus on study now, and then have authority.”


Dan December 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks for that recommendation…I’ll check it out!


Sara December 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm

The possibility exists that this is a quote–ancient Greek had no provision for setting off a quotation from another author. The rest of the passage–and several translations–support this idea. It is also supported by most of the rest of the passage–since Paul seems to contradict it.


Dan December 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I don’t know Sara, I don’t see any signs in the text that this is actually quote. It doesn’t say “You have heard it said that ‘I don’t permit a woman to teach’…” or “You have been taught they saying ‘I don’t permit a woman to teach…'” It seems pretty clear that the “I” in the “I don’t permit” is Paul.


Rebecca Trotter December 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I’m too lazy to look it all up now, but years ago I read an explanation which made a lot of sense to me. Timothy was leading the church in Ephesus and the argument goes that some of Paul’s writing is in response to the specific issues faced by the church there. The speculation of some scholars was that as new converts entered into the church in Ephesus, they naturally brought with them their pre-existing assumptions and ideas about what was normal and good – presumably including religious leadership by women. Specifically, the local cult in Ephesus was lead by women. The idea that this is the issue Paul is addressing is given credence by the fact that his instructions regarding how not to dress correlate closely with descriptions of the dress of priestesses in the cult (wearing braids, etc). There are also the seemingly odd instructions regarding childbirth. Other sources record that childbirth was seen as a bad thing which diminished a woman’s standing in the local cult..

The word used with regard to authority in this passage of 1 Timothy is unusual – this is the only instance of its use and carries with it ideas of usurpation and domination. So it may well have been that Timothy found himself facing claims to leadership by women who believed that this was proper. No doubt practitioners of the local cult had developed some compelling arguments in favor of this position over the centuries. Therefor, Paul may well have been advising Timothy not to give into the presumption among the locals that women had a rightful claim to leadership by virtue of their sex. It may well have been that due to the particular difficulties faced while working with converts in this setting, Paul thought that it would be best to disallow women from holding positions of authority in order to allow for the men in the congregation to develop their own talents and calling without the women lording over them.

At any rate, it’s an argument which I thought was very plausible given the context and the seeming conflict which this verse creates with other parts of scripture.


Dan December 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Wonderful points Rebecca…and I think this is a very plausible explanation. Ephasus was the location of the Temple of Artemis and it is likely that the Christian church there faced numerous “challenges” from women associated with, or formerly associated with that cult. But, since we only have one side of the conversation, it still remains speculation that this is actually what Paul is addressing. It would have been nice if Paul had used less ambiguous terms…but since he didn’t, any explanation, even an enormously plausible one such as you outline, will always be less than definitive.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm

‘Paul thought that it would be best to disallow women from holding positions of authority in order to allow for the men in the congregation to develop their own talents and calling without the women lording over them.’

OK but it’s perfectly reasonable for men to deny women the right to their own talents and calling and lord over them?? Yes that makes perfect sense!

Paul’s advice is clearly misogynist and to try and defend it by saying that the men had the right to subjugate the women because the women already had power does not make it any less so.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm

“perfectly reasonable for men to deny women the right to their own talents and calling and lord over them”

No, that’s not perfectly reasonable. There’s a good argument to be made that Paul isn’t advocating that at all, rather, he’s trying to prevent flagrant abuse of power by women and simply asking everybody to chill out. Take a look at Belleville’s translation again…


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I just read Belleville’s translation again. Honestly, it still sounds like a man ruling and not allowing women an equal level of authority.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I just don’t see how you can arrive at that conclusion without completely ignoring the context and reading an anti-female prejudice into the text. For me, such a wooden hermeneutic not only does an extraordinary disservice to the text, it is exactly the problem I’m trying to bring attention to. Treating the Bible as a rule book, arbitrarily plucking verses out of their context, and letting our preconceptions and biases flagrantly color our interpretations limit Christianity to a mere reflection of our weaknesses and shortcomings, rather than allowing it to blossom as a true reflection of God’s love.


Rebecca Trotter December 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Soooo not the point I was making. The theory is that the women in question weren’t seeking to use their own talents – they were assuming a right to authority based on their sex. Think of it as the mirror image of the idea that men have a natural and God ordained role as leaders, teachers and authority figures. Only in this case it was women making the claim. Paul said not to allow this. I SPECULATED that perhaps he was even saying that until these presumptions had worked themselves out, it would be best to keep women out of leadership altogether. Frankly, there are churches I’d like to see put under female leadership until they were able to see and accept that God can and does gift women to lead, teach and hold authority. If this was part of Paul’s intent, that makes sense to me. God’s not particularly concerned with our “right” to do much of anything, imo. If this was a way of addressing a particular situation in order to prevent further harm or the perpetuation of unequal practices in the church, that’s a very worthwhile cause.

Rather than following your gut level reaction, perhaps you could go a little deeper. Long ago I was taught that the ancient Hebrew method of meditation was to hold seemingly contradictory ideas in one’s head until the truth and connections between them became clear.

“God gifts both men and women for ministry.”
“All scripture is God inspired and useful for instruction.”
“Paul told the leader of the church in Ephasus these strange things about women and authority over men.”

This hypothesis allows for all three of these statements to be true. It seems like a much more fruitful (and hopefully faithful) path to understanding than just tossing things you don’t like without taking the time to see if there isn’t a better way to understand them.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Well said Rebecca!


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm

What makes you think that I don’t think deeply about religion and the words of the Bible? In fact i spend a great deal of my time reading scriptures from all religions, thinking about the words within them and discussing and debating them with several different people in my life. Just because I don’t think there is another way of interpreting Paul’s words (not to mention there is also much more evidence in the Bible to suggest that he hated women) and I think your speculation does nothing to disprove his misogyny doesn’t mean that I have thought about it any less than you. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean I haven’t ‘taken the time to see if there is a better way to understand them.’

My point is that it is quite clear how Paul felt about women, from this passage and many others in the Bible, and I don’t think trying to square the circle with your own speculations about people and situations from centuries ago is worth it.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Also, yes I WILL always toss away misogyny, because it is NEVER OK.

It seems your goal is to find a way to accept these words of Paul’s no matter what, and that you believe if a person hasn’t found a way to accept these words then it’s just because they haven’t tried hard enough. That’s absurd.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I agree that misogyny is never ok. I disagree that it is “quite clear how Paul felt about women.” I think anyone that is absolutely sure they know what Paul meant in a passage like 1 Timothy 2.8-15 is either ignorant of the interpretive difficulties or deliberately choosing to ignore them.


me December 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

what is you peoples problem? what dilusional world d you people live in? why are you arguing moot points? woman are and have been teachers for a very very long time! and even some are children ministry leaders. why are you guys makign a huge fuss for nothing?
kinda like gay marriage, only there to shove beliefs down other peoples throats.
except with the woman case, there is no point to your argument


Dan December 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Unfortunately it’s not a moot point at all. A huge swath of Christians completely prohibits women from having any meaningful role in ministry. Recent examples that come to mind are the Anglican vote against women bishops and the Bristol University Christian Union’s ban on women speaking, though there are many, many more. To say this discussion isn’t relevant is to deny the present fractured state of Christendom.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm

The fights for women to be allowed the same rights as men, and gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples are fights for equality and nothing at all to do with ‘shoving beliefs down people’s throats.’ Maybe if you had ever had to fight to be considered equal to the rest of society you would understand that.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

‘In short, how do we under­stand the words of Paul? What ones do we choose to apply to our mod­ern Christian prac­tice and what ones do we dis­re­gard — and more impor­tantly, why?

2 Timothy 2.8–15 is a noto­ri­ously dif­fi­cult pas­sage. Part of the prob­lem is that we’re only hear­ing one side of the con­ver­sa­tion — we’re lis­ten­ing in on one end of a two thou­sand year old dis­cus­sion that wasn’t directly intended for us. We aren’t famil­iar with the cul­ture and con­text, we don’t truly know what it was like to be a Christian in first cen­tury Ephesus and we don’t know many details about the dif­fi­cul­ties the church there was facing.’

Why should Christian beliefs and practices change over time from the ancient to the modern? If God is so true and powerful and right wouldn’t his teachings be timeless?

Paul said what he meant. He was a misogynist.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I think it’s overly presumptuous to claim to know precisely what Paul meant in this passage. The literature alone on the word authen­teo is enormous and far from definitive.

The issue isn’t whether or not God’s teachings are timeless. The issue is what Paul is actually saying and how it applies (or doesn’t apply) to us.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I think the statement “I do not per­mit a woman to teach or to assume author­ity over a man; she must be quiet.” is pretty self explanatory. What makes you think that Paul is ‘actually saying’ anything different to what he is quoted as saying?

The quote I chose from the main article specifically asks how to apply the words of Paul and his teachings to ‘our modern Christian practice.’ So I think the question, ‘why would modern Christian practice be any different to ancient Christian practice?’ is relevant.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Do you really think “διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ᾿ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.” is self explanatory? I don’t, nor do a great many Greek scholars. If you can tell me precisely what αὐθεντεῖν means, and more importantly, why it means that, then you can begin to build a case regarding what Paul may or may not be saying.

There are countless reasons why we should practice Christianity in ways different from the past. The Bible is not rule book designed to dictate the minutiae of Christian orthopraxy. Should Christian women not wear gold and pearls or cover their heads when pray­ing? Most Christians would say no…those were guidelines applicable to a certain time and culture, but not intended to establish normative practice. The Epistles were written to specific Christian communities to address specific problems and issues. We must understand who is writing and why they are writing before jumping to present-day application. Most of the Bible wasn’t written to us, though much of it may still be beneficial for us.


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I told you what I thought was self explanatory, which was “I do not per­mit a woman to teach or to assume author­ity over a man; she must be quiet.” Is that not the passage we are discussing? I thought it was, seeing as it’s the opening sentence of the original article.

Actually the Bible is in fact a rule book, which Christians are meant to adhere to as they believe it to be the infallible word of their Almighty God. Why is the statement above any less misogynist just because it occurred in a different time and place? Just because Paul’s words may have been addressing ‘specific problems and issues’ doesn’t make them any less sexist at all. Also, if God still exists now as he existed then, then his words and commands in the Bible are absolutely written to us.


Dan December 4, 2012 at 9:38 pm

1 Tim 2.12 is “διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ᾿ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.” It is not necessarily “I do not per­mit a woman to teach or to assume author­ity over a man; she must be quiet.” That’s an English translation that makes interpretive assumptions.

A great many Christians, myself included, would disagree with your assertion that the Bible is a rule book that we are “meant to adhere to” or that it is the “infallible word” of God.

As to how context might mitigate accusations of misogyny: if the cult of Artemis was advocating the superiority of women and encouraging their dominion over men because they were women, then it is entirely appropriate to say, “no, wait a second, women do not have authority over men, they need to learn in submission to God.”


ClarityK December 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Also, THIS is your example of how Christianity isn’t misogynistic:

‘Junia has fallen on hard times since the Reformation: her gen­der has been changed (to the male Junias in the NASB, NIV1984, RSV, UBS4 and NA27) and more recently her apos­tle­ship has been ques­tioned.’ ???

A female apostle they changed into a man and then questioned whether or not s/he should even be an apostle?
What a great example of the acceptance of female teachers!


Dan December 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Junia is a great example of Paul commending a female! That later Christians intentionally obscured that message is misogynistic and wrong. But that hardly means that Christianity is inherently misogynistic!


ClarityK January 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

So what Christians do is no reflection on what Christianity is? Hmmmmm……..


Dan January 23, 2013 at 10:21 am

Of course action has a bearing on what we understand Christianity to be — and Christianity certainly has a checkered past in this regard.


Kyra January 11, 2013 at 12:57 am

I am well late to the party here, but I came via John Shore and read through this (having just discovered his thoughts on Paul’s views of homosexuality, I was interested in what an article he recommended would have to say about my least favorite Bible verse), and another possibility occurred to me.

Perhaps the passage in question, being in a letter to someone, rather than a speech or writing intended for mass publication, was meant as a reassurance to its recipient, perhaps someone who was uncomfortable with the extent to which women were taking active part in sharing the Gospel, and had worries that they would overreach their authority? Not quite the same as someone who was weary of the gender-based authority of pagan priestesses, but as someone who was used to the patriarchy of Judaism, used to women who stayed home and deferred to their husbands and fathers instead of going about the countryside proclaiming the Gospel to strangers in public, and who was perhaps worried that these bold Christian women would take their freedom and use it to take over and dominate men.

(The fear of an oppressed or subordinate class inducing a role reversal and condemning their former superiors to the status they’d been forced into is a common one when a subordinate group makes or seeks gains in their social status, and if the high-status pagan priestesses factor into his worries, that’s a classic “our women will become like their women” type of fear that the women with high status, being visible to the women with low status, will contaminate them with “ideas above their station.”)

Perhaps what Paul is saying, in the full context of the conversation he’s taking part in, is “don’t worry; the women may seem surprisingly visible and bold to you, but I won’t let them dominate or take over.” The preceding verse, then, with “submission” taken to mean to God rather than to men, would be a reminder that the women work under the authority of God, and are neither freewheeling about lawlessly under no authority, nor authorized by their God to take over and dominate the new faith. “Don’t worry, they may seem like they have cast off all authority and are running amok without law or shame, but this is not the case; they act as faithful servants of the Lord, and do His work. I will not allow them to dominate/control/exercise tyranny over the men.”

I’m not sure what to make of the double use of “silence.” Given Paul’s zeal for sharing the Gospel far and wide, and his commendation of Junia, I suddenly find myself having trouble seeing him placing “keep women in their place” ahead of “share the Gospel with all possible fervency and speed” in his priorities, as depriving Christianity of so many missionaries and means of sharing the Gospel would have served to accomplish. Possibly “learn in silence” as in “study the Word in silence—study, rather than teach, and thus let the others (including women) they convert do the same—study it on one’s own and let others study it on their own, rather than telling others what it means—once you’ve shared the faith with them, let them study it.”

I’m not sure to what extent context would support that, but it’s my understanding that Judaism, from which many new Christians came, placed emphasis on personal reading and study of the holy texts (Jesus discussed theology with the Temple elders as a child, and while they thought Him wise, there’s no indication that they found Him presumptuous to venture opinions of such things), and if that tradition was brought into early Christianity, the converts of other backgrounds might need it explained to them. If they came from a faith where the priests held and studied the sacred knowledge and explained it to the rest of the populace, they might need reminders to keep silent and let people make their own study.

And then as time passed and “my, how these Christians love each other!” shifted into bitter fights over what was the true and proper set of beliefs, the context of support for individual study would have been lost along with the tradition of support for individual study, as the church became something where the priests were the only people authorized to read and study and interpret the Bible, and tell the faithful what to believe. And without that, and without the letter to which Paul replied, the verses become “obviously” a standalone assertion that Paul didn’t let women have authority, and insisted that they be silent. Whereas I could easily see the prior letter to Paul asking a series of questions to a more experienced religious leader: “how should I decide who should be bishops? how should a bishop act? how about a deacon? what about these brazen, forward women? won’t they try to take over if they are let to go about like this?” and various other questions that Paul answers in the letter.

Amazing what context (or the lack of it) can do.


Dan January 11, 2013 at 5:51 am

Thanks for this extremely thoughtful comment! I certainly agree that context is everything here, and you nicely present another possible nuance to the conversation.


ClarityK January 22, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Well it’s great you guys are here, as Paul was so clearly unable to communicate his true feelings that he really needed it to be reinterpreted all these years later.

Also, if the Bible isn’t a Christian rule book OR the word of God, then what is it?


Dan January 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

As I said in the post: “we’re listening in on one end of a two thousand year old discussion that wasn’t directly intended for us. We aren’t familiar with the culture and context, we don’t truly know what it was like to be a Christian in first century Ephesus and we don’t know many details about the difficulties the church there was facing.” I assume that Paul was communicating his true feelings and that his immediate audience understood him. We don’t need to “reinterpret” him — we need to properly interpret him in light of the social and historical context that his original readers would have taken for granted.

I don’t think the Bible is “a Christian rule book”. I think Jesus is the Word of God. What then is the Bible? It’s a collection of writings written by a variety of authors to a variety of audiences for a variety of reasons over the course of thousands of years. I think the Biblical authors were inspired by God, but I don’t think the Bible is God.


Jeff T January 23, 2013 at 12:12 am

You have got to be kidding me. The original post starts with a one sentence quote St. Paul clearly stating his misogynistic opinion that women should be silent and then people have the audacity to somehow know the mind and intention of this man disregarding his blanket statements.
I couldn’t agree with Clarityk more in her responses. How it is that any of you feel you know more about this mans mind, this so called saints intentions and meaning, as if any of you have ever spoke to the man. This is beyond absurd. He meant what he said and its nothing but male dominance over women.
Its so easy for people in our current time to claim we don’t know he meant this or that, but under what facts or reasoning do you account for this? Some other fluffy God loving words that just miraculously negates his previous hate filled comments? For me and every other logical minded person of this supposed brilliant statement, one that has made it into this century, says more than all the massive, baseless speculation. Speculation that attempts to soften and correct his ignorant words to progress into a more acceptable modern version of Christianity.

Well Guess what? This human misogynistic piece of work said what he said and to have a thousand of Christian apologists make excuses, and try to down play his words is pathetic.
Christianity is misogynistic and immoral at its core. You want ad up the amount of verses that equals women to men lets do the damn thing. You cant.

Please do me a favor and call it cultural. We can debate that too and using your own holy text, the infallible word of your God, is easily shown to be utterly despicable and immoral. If its not the word of God them who is it…man? Then why in holy hell are people dieing and fighting wars over the words of ignorant millennial deceased MEN as something to live, raise our children by, or even take with a grain of salt. If its the word of God, then the death of millions is even more absurd than what was at least for the reasons of a perceived infallibility of the one true God. Btw there are over a thousand other gods longer worshiped that one of you believe in today. So to think…ahhh now ,we got the right guy is absurd considering mans historical need to create a deity to explain the horrors and mysteries of our times. Its simply history repeating itself over and over but because Christianity has the backing of millions doesn’t make it any more plausible than the millions that worshiped the God Bael, Zues or Thor.

O, but that’s just absurd huh? well tell me…what other proof other than the masses do you have to show your God is the right one. Present day? That’s a great reason to devote your entire life to an self evident idea just that feels good.
The bible, St Paul and his beliefs are the epitome of immoral cruel un justice wrapped up in your modern re interpretations to make it socially acceptable, to gain more sheepish believers to make you all feel yore justified in believing what deep down you all know is baseless and without evidence or reason.
Condoning slavery, ownership of humans, the rape of women …all in the name of God new and old testaments, but im quite sure you apologist can put a fancy modern spin on the the very words of the holy text you would all swear to and die for.
DISGUST. Thats the best word I could describe for the defense and justification of a supposed saint, a ,man deemed righteous to sit at the right hand of God my some infallible elected man to say these words. Words so important and relevant to your faith that some ignorant writer here would quote them i his opening statement and then argue that we…such stupid sheep cant read between the lines and haven’t done our research.

Its one sentence and says it all. Misogynist, pathetic, prick. Go ahead and make excuses for him and all the scriptures filled with hate and in morality.

If you’d like fire your best shot. refuting this sinister Abrahamic god, its is the easiest one to show as the totalitarian Psychopathic, egotistical, insecure vengeful tyrant at of all the supposed Deitys.


Dan January 23, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thanks for that enthusiastic response — but it seems to me that not only have you strayed far from the topic of my original post, you’ve also failed comprehend what I wrote.

What concerns me most is not so much your vitriolic attack upon the entirety of Christian belief, but rather your unwillingness to approach the Bible with anything other than a literal and fundamentalist understanding. You think Christian belief is consistent with your reading of the Bible. But thankfully such an unnuanced, uncritical and uninformed understanding, though still too pervasive among many Christians, is not normative for Christian belief.


jeff January 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

I agree with you Dan my rant did go off topic so I apologize but i dont think my vies expressed have no relevance. This holy text, which btw I feel your grossly exaggerating how the vast majority of Christians don’t feel are the words of their God, is constantly cherry picked for the good. When its about love thy neighboor, well thats God, but whens its about stoning an impure woman on her fathers door step, well thats man. Yopu cnat have it both ways.
The Bible is filled with disgusting immoral acts and terrible treatment of woman but these are never pointed out by christian apologists. Have you read Leviticus for gods sake!? have you read the condoning of slavery and how God explains how the master should beat them,and for how long? The list is endless.

So back to on topic, you can say were only reading one side of the conversation and times were different then. With the quote by St. Paul to me knowing the culture is meaningless. because woman were seen as property and persecuted in that time doesn’t make his words ok. Do we really need to know the pulse of society to say the censorship of woman was wrong then as it is now?

Thank you for your reply.


Dan January 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

I agree that how we understand and interpret the Bible has enormous relevance to a wide variety of issues. And I agree that many Christians have some very distorted and dangerous views about the Bible. Do the “vast majority” hold such views? Certainly an extremely vocal segment do, but I don’t think such views are nearly as common as one might think — though it’s tough to get a firm grip on the exact numbers. But I don’t think the precise numbers really matter in the end — far more important is how we act on our beliefs, and for far too long Christians with more progressive understandings of the Bible have been cowed into irrelevancy by the self-proclaimed arbiters of orthodoxy.

As to the Paul’s views regarding women: I discuss a range of possibilities in my post, from “Paul really was a misogynist” to “Paul didn’t really write that” to “Paul was addressing a specific, limited set of circumstances” to “our modern English translations don’t accurately reflect Paul’s intent.” Which of these is correct? Just as I don’t think we can simply dismiss his words as an irrelevant product of his culture, I also don’t think we can simply assume that our immediate 21st century Western understanding of an English translations of the relevant text is necessarily the correct one. There are a variety of interpretive issues involved, and I tried to draw attention to some of them in my discussion of the topic.

I heartily affirm that women should enjoy full equality in Christian ministry (and in life in general) — but I don’t think that position necessarily stands in contrast with the teachings in the Bible. Indeed, many Christians feel the same way — this is hardly a fringe position. I understand your general disdain for Christianity, especially in regards to its perceived moral failings. But at least when it comes to this passage (1 Tim. 2.12), I think there are sound arguments to be made that universal subjugation of women was not Paul’s authorial intent.


jeff January 23, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thank you for this discourse i do enjoy a good debate as I have focused my personal studies on Theism of all types and the damage beliefs based on faith rather than evidence or reason cause this world. Thats not to say no good things comes from religion but I question which outweighs which. As even you admitted, great atrocities have, and are happening right now to woman in the name of God and holy texts
Its my supposition that religious moderation helps the justification of the extremist views of woman whether they mean to or not. I say this because when it comes to faith based beliefs and God moderates, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew alike all seem to agree that people are wrong and immoral, having no right to question or ask for a defense to their beliefs but then have no problem voting and supporting ideas with religious intentions therefore grossly affecting the secular world with your individual faith based beliefs such as the obstruction of Stem cell research. All because you are the majority. However science isn’t done by popular consensus so if your beliefs are affecting my paralyzed cousins life, or womans rights to not have their genitals mutilated in Africa by Christians adopted dogmas, i have every right to expect and ask for evidence of your God and to attack his immoral disgusting teaching from the bible. below are just the tip of the iceberg.

Now back on topic-

Dan said-“I heartily affirm that women should enjoy full equality in Christian ministry (and in life in general) — but I don’t think that position necessarily stands in contrast with the teachings in the Bible.”
And also
” I think there are sound arguments to be made that universal subjugation of women was not Paul’s authorial intent.

Now here is why i whole heartily disagree with both these statements. I’ll let the bible do the talking for me here showing how God feels about women’s equality or as you assert the men speaking for him.

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16)

“Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)

That’s just a sample, trust me I can spend pages from my notes on this topic. So If your very holy text, the one the majority of Christians, and this is statistical fact I can cite if you wish, either believe the Bible is the direct word of God or God worked through man to create the text, then why are you spending so much time reading between the lines of St Pauls meaning and intention. Your holy book say’s much more misogynistic and evil things about woman than this letter but you feel we need to look so deep to understand the mans meaning. The man meant what he said and got it from the teachings of where? The Bible!

Im very anxious to see how you are going to try to spin this one.

Honestly you sound like a very good and kind person one much, much, MUCH, more moral than the God you serve and worship.


Dan January 23, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I’m familiar with the view that those holding to more progressive religious understandings are implicitly enabling those who espouse more conservative (and often morally questionable) views and as such are fully culpable for the wrongs done by them. All I can say in response is that I speak out and act out against wrongs where I see them and I seek truth where it leads me. I think Christianity provides the best understanding of the world and humanity, and I can no more dismiss my religious belief because of those who commit evil in its name than I can disavow scientific inquiry because of atrocities done in the name of science.

I’d encourage you to examine theism not as a monolithic monstrosity bent on imposing its will on the unbelieving, but as a widely varied tapestry that reflects both the best and the worst of humanity. I, and many other Christians, think it is vitally important to question and examine our beliefs, to not merely accept traditional dogmas and to engage with the issues facing humanity in as compassionate and holistic a manner as possible. And where we fall short, I would expect you to point out our shortcomings and would hope that we can work together towards common goals.

I’m also familiar with the Biblical passages you cite concerning women. Any reasonably informed Christian will not find them surprising. And many, many Christians, including a great number of theologically conservative Christians, simply don’t understand those texts to mean that God endorses anything less than full equality for women. I’m not trying to read between the lines or exegete away the true meaning and intent of the Bible — I’m trying to understand what the Biblical authors truly intended.

One of the possibilities that I raised in my original post was that Paul really was anti-women. I provided several reasons for believing that to not be the case. You’ve provided nothing to counter those points except for a list of passages from the KJV — but that merely begs the question: what are those passages really saying? What interpretations do the grammar and language and context support? Your arguments are nothing more than bluster: “The man meant what he said.” And granted, many Christians buy into such superficial reasoning — but I’m interested here in the truth, and you’ve simply failed to offer any valid defense of your assertions.


nchoirnmind May 14, 2013 at 5:37 am

I’ve heard that the ‘tense’ of the phrase usually translated “I do not permit” is actuly closer to “I am not permitting”

Which does not at all sound like either a command from God, or even a general rule.
In fact, it sounds a little odd.
What if the apostle was answering an accusation that had been leveled against him ” I’m not letting women ‘rule over’ men – let them study in peace”


Dan May 14, 2013 at 9:12 am

ἐπιτρέπω (to allow someone to do something, allow, permit) is in the present tense, which can be either simple or progressive…and the context here does imply an ongoing action. But the fact that “I am not permitting” sounds a bit odd in English doesn’t mean it’s odd in Greek…so I’m not sure there’s much to be gained exegetically from this insight.


Jay April 16, 2015 at 11:17 am

I conclude from this, and from years of study and prayer on this matter, upon typological reflection, gender psychometric study, and sociological analysis, that what the author claims to be “misogynist”, in the absolute submission of women to men, is actually reflective of the true transcendental order, and that our aversion to it merely reflects the moral deterioration of the present day.

God bless.


Dan Wilkinson April 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Too bad for women that the transcendental order screws them over 🙁


Knut AK May 22, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Dan, I think you are saying many fine things here. You point out that there are several ways of understanding the text, and I agree that we lack so much information about the background that we cannot be totally sure of what it means. Nevertheless, I have been thinking a lot about it, and I would like to offer my own explanation. I hope it is not too late for this, although the post is several years old.

I am a norwegian, so if my english is a bit odd, it’s because I’m not a native speaker.

Actually I shall not give a long explanation, but instead present a paraphrase of the text, one that I hope will show how I understand it. I only say beforehand that I think the most important key to understanding v12 is to see it as speaking about the same women as v11 speaks of. Here is the paraphrase of v11–15:

A woman who is learning the basics of the christian faith should be peaceful and fully willing to learn.
In contrast, I do not permit such a woman to teach, or to act as superior to a man in terms of knowledge; instead she should remain peaceful.
For in contrast to what the false teachers say, it was Adam who was formed first, and only then Eve, and Adam was not deceived when he believed this.
But Eve was deceived when she believed that she would gain knowledge like God by eating from the tree, and she transgressed as a result of that.
Nevertheless, Eve’s daughters will not loose their hope of salvation by bearing children – as the false teachers also claim – but will still be saved provided they continue in faith and love and holiness with propriety.


Dan June 2, 2015 at 2:57 pm

It’s never too late to comment!
I think your paraphrase is interesting … but is it what the text is really saying? As with other interpretations of this passage, I’m not entirely convinced! 😉


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