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Twisted Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:12

• Greg Boyd, Nikole Mitchell

1 Timothy 2:12 has been used over the years to keep women from teaching or preaching theology and being in positions of leadership within a church. When looked at within its historical and cultural context, however, we find Paul’s restriction on women was due to specific cultural problems that no longer apply to educated women today.

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1 Timothy 2:12 continues to cause a huge divide in churches. This one verse seems black and white at surface level, but when read in context, we realize something more was going on to cause Paul to restrict Ephesian women from being in teaching positions or positions of authority over men.

When wrestling with a difficult passage, one must determine if the teaching is a timeless principle or if it is part of the cultural times in which it was written. A couple ways ways to distinguish between what is timeless and what is cultural is to ask: What was the cultural context that conditioned the author to say things that no longer apply today? And is the Bible consistent on the teaching?

Greg compares 1 Timothy 2:12 with the verses where Paul and Peter encouraged slaves to obey masters. Paul and Peter weren’t teaching slavery as something that ought to be practiced but were acquiescing to the culture as they taught masters and slaves to view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Over time, this kind of living would overthrow slavery. Furthermore, Paul explains in Galatians 3:26-29 that if our identity is Christ, then the male/female and slave/free and Jew/Gentile identities are rendered null and void.

Due to the temple of Diana, which was a highly unique, woman-run enterprise, Ephesian women were inevitably associated with false teaching and religious prostitution. The Ephesian women were also uneducated due to cultural restraints and particularly uneducated in the things of God. So Paul here is temporarily prohibiting newly converted Ephesian women from being in teaching positions until they were educated in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Another way we know this statement from Paul is cultural and not timeless is because Paul commends women in leadership and consistently describes women as co-laborers without ever making reference to subordinate positions due to gender (see Romans 16, I Corinthians 11, Philippians 4:2-3). We also see women in leadership throughout the Bible (ie: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna), which is another indication that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a cultural restraint and not a timeless teaching.

Additionally, when we look at the broader context in which this verse is found (1 Timothy 2:9-10), we find that it includes cultural taboos that we don’t apply today (ie: women should not wear gold, pearls, fancy hair, or expensive clothing). This leads us to see that Paul’s prohibition on women teachers was part of the broader teaching on how Christian women in this particular culture were to behave and contrast with the priestesses at the temple of Diana.

So the timeless principle is that in Christ, there is neither male nor female. So Woodland Hills’ conviction is that if women feel gifted and called to teach/preach/be in leadership positions, and are willing to get the necessary education to do their calling, then we say, “Go for it!” The church needs you, God needs you, and you need you to step into your calling! Just as we outgrew slavery, we need to now outgrow what is essentially another form of slavery: keeping women from using their gifts.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, Leadership, Role of Women

Sermon Series: Twisted Scripture: Season 1

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Timothy 2:12

    12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.

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24 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:12

    Christine Lukashow says: Wednesday March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Wow! This is just what I have been waiting for! Unfortunately it is also a parents weekend at my son’s college and I am already committed to that event- I sure hope you will have this available on podcast, I have been a podrishioner for years and a friend and I are seeking how we can be all in- a most timely conference offering. I will be praying for you all.
    With love and joy in our Lord,

    Jim LePage says: Monday April 2, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Christine: While WH is hosting the conference, it’s actually being put on by Lutheran Renewal and they should know more about that. You can check with them using the contact info listed above.

    Maggi says: Tuesday April 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Sounds great! Sorry that I will be out of the state.

    Sarai Foss says: Monday June 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Yikes, it stopped at 15:17 please upload the rest of the sermon. This is why I shouldn’t miss church on Sunday 🙂

    Trent Sims says: Monday June 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Is homosexuality another example of something that was rejected by the culture but over time should be embraced by the church? Does monogamy and the concept of marriage make it okay?

    Nikole says: Monday June 16, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    The video is now stopping at 33 minutes. Hopefully it can be fixed so I can pass this link onto others!:)

    Jacob says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 7:04 am

    Go to the “down load” at the top right of this page load and watch… it plays all the way with no stopping

    Connor Unger says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Hey all, sorry about the technical difficulties! You should be able to watch the video through to the end now.

    Doug says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 8:21 am

    It seem like every video uploaded in the past couple months stops halfway through…

    Dave Pritchard says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 8:44 am


    Why do I get the sense that either way one answers this question, they’re going to get jumped?

    Richard Beck over at “Experimental Theology” recently had a fascinating discussion going on the cultural the theological dynamics of this topic. Well worth checking out the opinions and posts!

    “Born This Way: On Gender and Sexuality As Social Construction.”


    Connor Unger says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Hey Doug, you’re right, we’ve been having some technical difficulties on our end. We hope to have switched over to our new servers soon, but meanwhile we’ve found a way to make sure our most recent sermons are available. Unfortunately, the process takes a little time and the sermons are still cutting out the first day we post them. After that, though, they should be good to go! Apologies for the inconvenience.

    M85 says: Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hi, Trent. If you want to read a good book on homosexuality and Scripture check out Stanley Grenz’s: “Welcoming but not affirming.”
    He also wrote a brilliant one on women in ministry called “Women in the Church”.

    ARoles says: Wednesday June 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

    As a woman who went through this struggle of call to ministry in direct opposition to the teaching and preaching of her conservative evangelical pastor and with some remaining reservations on the part of family (although my younger sister took the brunt of the family opposition) 21 years ago, it saddens me greatly that we are STILL having to deal with this issue!!!!
    Yet this struggle continues to provide a great opportunity for faithful and gifted women to provide a powerful witness of what it means to truly and humbly discern, trust and be obedient to God and His call upon their lives even in the face of opposition from those who have been in the past some of their most significant supporters and spiritual teachers and helpers. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate the power of continuing to love and pray for those who oppose you, or cannot or will not support you in your walk, and in entrusting those relationships to God to care for as you continue to walk forward in faithfulness. Abide in the love and peace of Jesus, walk in trust and obedience to Him, and let Him take care of the relationships as your journey in ministry unfolds. God bless you my dear sisters in your ministry journeys! Praise God for your faithfulness and courage!

    Tzong-Huei Emily Li says: Wednesday June 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Amen to what ARoles said! It is truly “kingdom” to view this challenge as an opportunity while fixing our eyes on Jesus.

    Jerry Hillyer says: Wednesday June 18, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I will say this, those things embedded deep in our hearts and minds by years and years of teaching and preaching are very difficult to let loose. I’m not sure I buy all he is saying. Strange that so many people have overlooked that who Rabbinic argument concerning Adam and Eve.

    That said, I’m open minded so I will do some more research and see what happens. Furthermore, I find it extremely difficult to listen to female preachers. But in full disclosure, I will continue to listen and learn from the Holy Spirit.

    Dave Pritchard says: Friday June 20, 2014 at 10:31 am


    For discussion sake (and I mean d-i-s-c-u-s-s-i-o-n) not argument, I wanted to offer up the following thoughts. I too am curious about the “Rabbinic” argument concerning Adam and Eve and I’ve caught wind of this several times but have not looked into it at any great depth. However, Steven Kepnes has posted a great article on JSR – Journal of Scriptural Reasoning – “Adam/Eve: From Rabbinic To Scriptural Anthropology.”

    As we know, often opposition to women in the pulpit/teaching, starts with those foundational texts found in Genesis that supposedly demonstrate the female propensity to be duped by a forked tonged Lucifer. The thing that has always troubled me about the situation as described in chapter 3:1-7 (“if” taken literally and sequentially) is what happens in the middle of verse 6, – then followed by the consequence in verse 7.

    From their dialog, it’s fairly clear, that Eve is either “tricked” or “implanted with doubt” by Satan, which then causes her to do what she already knows is plainly wrong (her response indicates that she has prior knowledge of this prohibition, so either Adam or the Lord must have clued her in at some time – yes, and she adds the “touch” thing) So, when this “Rabbinic argument” might imply or infer that Adam was somehow lackadaisical in his responsibilities to share and to teach his wife the proper deportments of “The Garden”, is in all probability inaccurate (maybe?).

    But real crux of the matter though is what happens immediately after she “eats of the fruit”. At that point, the text says nothing about her physical appearance and or her spiritual condition. It does say however, that Adam was there “with” her – but that does not mean that he either heard the conversation with the serpent and or saw what exactly went on.

    It is my speculation or hunch (and it’s only that!!!) that he didn’t overhear the discussion and that shortly afterwards, when he approaches Eve and sees her standing or sitting there with the fruit in her hand half-eaten, he immediately realizes that she has taken it from “The Tree”. But simultaneously, he notices no physiological or spiritual differences in her appearance – there “seems to be” no negative effects! Or if there are, they are not mentioned. She then hands it to him at that point.

    Adam then weights in scales of his mind what God has clearly told him will happen if he does in fact eat it, and…. what his eyes are currently seeing right in front of him at the moment, with Eve apparently not affected – the two simply don’t line up! He potentially reasons then that either God was lying or concealing from him the truth (again, Satan’s strategy to implant doubt stealthfully) or…… that God didn’t know what he was talking about. Therefore, it is at this point that he trusts in what his “Eyes” are telling him (his senses) and his own rationalization of it, rather than his “Faith” in what God has unmistakably said beforehand. And then, somewhat naively and wantonly disobedient, he too then takes a bite, assuming there will be no pejorative effects.

    Now, I realize that this is all sheer conjecture and the details of the text do not mention the specific moment-by-moment machinations that occurred, but I don’t believe this is a wild and way off speculative tangent into heresy. Many others have entertained variations on this theme.

    Well….anyway, that’s when all “Hell breaks loose” and verse 7 spells it out clearly that it is at that point where “Both of their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked” viz. “The Fall”- in a general sense.

    The point of this hypothetical diatribe is that it potentially shows how Satan “used” Eve to get to Adam and knew there would be no way he could have ever convinced him (Adam) to do otherwise. I don’t buy into the trite romantic idea that Adam loved Eve so much that he too was then willing take a bite, so that they could then harmoniously “spiritually die” together as if he were somehow struggling between true love and obedience to God. This Romeo and Juliette idea makes man appear chivalrous and noble, sacrificing his eternal life for the love of his Eve – consequently however, it paints God as being the tyrant in the situation, rather than Satan.

    Also, this idea doesn’t hold much water because of the “finger pointing” that immediately follows that event. If Adam was so willing to co-conspire for her benefit and take “The Fall” (i.e. die with her), why then does he so quickly blame his disobedience on her actions when confronted?

    Recently, another blogger on the subject said –

    “Eve listened to the serpent rather then the Word of God given through Adam, and Adam followed not after Satan’s tempting directly against God, but after Eve’s corruption.”

    Now he’s using this in correlation with 1 Timothy 2:14 –

    14 “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”

    This is true; Adam was not deceived directly by Satan….. But rather, was circuitously manipulated. We could easily look much deeper into the Hebrew and Greek of these verses and discern greater levels of subtly and nuance but one of the things that comes to the surface, especially when a woman is effectively preaching the Gospel to a man and helps lead him to the Lord, is that she symbolically & spiritually is in effect, stepping between the “two bites” if you will of (verse 6) and reminding “Adam’ of his covenantal promise in the mists of his sin dilemma. So, seen through the gender lens, she is lovingly getting him to think with his head, rather than with his eyes or his stomach or his…. – well you know what I mean, Ha! Anyway, it’s a beautiful and profound gender thing that reminds us that we not only “fell” together as species but that we can “rise” together into Glory of His Presence!

    According to Kepnes, Midrashic reflections on the text paint Adam as being distracted by the Glory of Creation and was not as interested or as inquisitive as Eve. He also points out that in Genesis 5 –

    “The use of the Hebrew word with the definite article Ha-Adam, “the Adam,” seems to suggest, as the NRSV translation has it, “humankind.” This translation means that God is creating, not a man who is androgynous, but the basic qualities of “humankind.” One of the qualities of humankind is that we are created both sexually embodied and sexually differentiated. This leads Phyllis Trible to make a good case that male and female are created, at first, in sexual equality. She points us to the summary statement about the creation of humankind in Genesis 5: “When God created humankind ( adam )….male and female created he them.” Trible states, “the parallelism between ‘ ha-adam [humankind] and ‘male and female’ shows, further, that sexual differentiation does not mean hierarchy but equality.”

    There are those adherents of male hierarchy out there who won’t like where this is headed but what I’m suggesting is that a more equanimical view of those verses in Genesis can seriously lay the foundations for greater acceptance and respect for women in the pulpit.

    M85 says: Friday June 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Dave, interesting stuff.
    From what i’ve read on the subject i would be more inclined to say that Paul is countering Gnosticism in 1 timothy. In the passage in question one possibility is that Paul is correcting the gnostic creation account and saying the biblical one. In the gnostic account Adam had been tricked by the “demiurge” of this world and was trapped in the material world whereas eve was more “spiritual” (i’m not sure if they said she was also created first) and that is why she listened to the serpent who is seen as positive (bringer of knowledge). One possible translation of “teach” in this passage is “dominate over” so perhaps certain women in Ephesus were using the gnostic myth to dominate over the men. Paul therefore would simply be correcting the gnostic version of creation: “for Adam was created first and then Eve…”
    Paul mentions myths and fables at the beginning of the letter and then gnosticism at the end of the letter: “gnosis”.
    just some thoughts.

    Leah says: Friday June 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Hey Trent and anyone else interested, there’s a wonderful book called “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals” by William Webb that teaches on the progressive revelation that is mentioned in this sermon and directly addresses the interpretation of scriptures on homosexuality. If you don’t want to read the entire book, he wrote a chapter summarizing his argument in the book “Discovering Biblical Equality.”

    Tania Harris says: Saturday June 21, 2014 at 1:54 am

    Beautifully presented Nikole! May God continue to open wide the doors for you to use your gift and may he provide family who will support the fullness of who God has called you to be!

    Dave Pritchard says: Saturday June 21, 2014 at 2:34 am


    Interesting title – Ha! The ever-pressing issue of cultural relativity versus the transcultural application of scripture is often problematic. Greg has frequently alluded to the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” where what seems harsh from our vantage point, actually represented liberating advances over other practices commonplace to that day.


    Marg Mowczko says: Saturday June 21, 2014 at 4:12 am

    It’s lovely to hear Kate Wallace’s wonderful post from The Junia Project being quoted at the 28 minute mark.

    As it happens I will be speaking on 1 Timothy 2:12 next week in a public setting. I’d love your prayers.

    In case anyone is interested, much of my message is based on these notes:

    Nikole says: Saturday June 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Good luck, Marg! I too came upon newlife.id.au during my studies and loved what was written there. Blessings on you as you teach and preach!

    Gail says: Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for mentioning http://juniaproject.com and for quoting co-founder Kate Wallace in this powerful message. So appreciate your voice!

    Lisa says: Tuesday July 1, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    There is no secondary atonement for women!

    The spirit of God dwells in both sexes.

    The full expression of who God is and what “he’s” doing in the world is impossible without both male and female.

    Truth doesn’t stop being truth just because a woman speaks it.

    God’s truth must be submitted to regardless of the age, gender, title, race, and location (pulpit, home, work, etc..) of the speaker.

    The Bride (which includes male and female) is the active role and expression (face) of God in the world here and now.

    Not allowing women to hold leadership positions shows that pride is alive and well and that many within the church are living out the curse of the fall!

    God is not a man up in the sky (as mormons claim).

    Mary, second to Jesus would have suffered excruciating emotional pain watching her Son tortured (bone of her bone flesh of her flesh) and crucified. On this side of eternity, only a mother knows the pain of childbirth, the joy of giving birth, and the absolute devastation of loosing a child that you carried within you for 9 months! At times, God describes “his” relationship with Israel using this feminine terminology.


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