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.
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. Hide Extended Summary