1 Timothy: Women in the Church Pt. 4

Read the rest of the discussion here.

When I study what 1 Timothy 2:12 has to say about the responsibilities of men and women within the church I’m struck by the inconsistencies of many churches.

In my last post I this topic I discussed the importance of context.  Of course, context can be applied in a lot of different ways, but in this post I want to look at 2:12 in the context of 2:8-11.

Verse 8 seems to be a clear instruction that Paul expects men in the church to pray with a posture of raised hands, and attitudes devoid of anger and disputing.  Yet I know many churches that would kick me out if I stood at the podium, raised my hands and offered a prayer.  These churches find a meaning for “lifting up holy hands” that is something other than the obvious.

Verse 9 contains a clear instruction that women should not wear expensive clothes, jewelry, or hair styles to a church service (or anywhere).  Yet many churches have an expectation that people will wear the best (most expensive) clothes in their wardrobe to church each week.  I think I could much more easily use this verse to suggest that we should all wear (cheap) jeans and t=shirts to worship, than I could argue that we should “wear our best to meet God”.  Again, we find a meaning that is something other than the obvious.

Verse 10 teaches that Christian women (I’m sure it applies to men also) should make sure that they perform good works in God’s service.  If you’re going to come sing to God, make sure you go serve God.  But I’ve never really found a church that checks up on whether or not its women are serving God with good deeds.  Although, I know of plenty that discuss hem lines.  It seems that these churches treat this verse as just a general observation and not anything the church actually needs to take any action over.

Then we come to v11-12.  Immediately these verses must be taken extremely literally, on face value, and stringently monitored.  People shudder at the thought of women leading a ministry, serving on a committee, speaking up in worship, or silently passing communion plates.  It doesn’t matter whether a woman’s doing good works, but she better not read Scripture aloud during a worship service or there’ll be trouble.

WHAT CHANGED???  In my Bible v11 begins a new paragraph, but I don’t see anything that says the two paragraphs should be applied in completely different ways.  They’re still part of the same letter by the same author.

So here’s a couple of questions for you:

  • Should all these verses (1 Tim. 2:8-12) all be read and applied in the same way?  Why, or why not?
  • If the answer is “Yes” should they all be applied literally, [and men pray with raised hands while wearing jeans and t-shirts] or should we look deeper to confirm our understanding of v11-12 the same way we do 8-10?


  1. K. Rex Butts

    Not that the NRSV is correct in all of its paragraph divisions but it does keep vs. 8-15 togetehr in one paragraph.

    Any ways, I don’t think these verses should all be applied in their strict sense. My assumption, from what I have read in secondary literature, is that there was a problem with men living in some manner that was incongruent with the faith and that was probably related to the problem of dress among the women and thus Paul provides a corrective instruction for each problem. However, in application, why Paul’s instructions were for men to pray with holy hands, I cannot see Paul saying women are free to pray with unholy hands. Likewise, though Paul corrects the improper dress of the women, I cannot see Paul saying that Men, on the other hand, are free to dress imodestly. Thus, I believe the principles in vs. 8-9 apply to both genders, Paul just mentioned specific genders because of the specific problems being created by each gender.

    Now I have a question about v. 12… Paul instructs that women are not allowed “to teach or have authority over a man…” (NRSV). I assume, teaching was a means of exercising authority which is why Paul prohibits women from teaching men. My question is this, is teaching and preaching the same activity for Paul? Paul’s does not allow women to “teach” (didaskō) but mentions nothing about the function preaching (kērussō and its cognates). Why? Are they the same funtion, similar in function, or completely different in function?

    Of course I realize that in contemporary churches, preaching and teaching are regarded as so similar in function that they cannot be separated. But I am interested in knowing what, if any or no, similarities they had in the first century which presumably would help us understand more of what Paul intended in Ephesus by restricting women from one function (without mentioning the other function).

    Grace and peace,


    • Tom

      Can you explain to me what preaching would be if it were devoid of teaching. How can you separate these two things in any context?

      • K. Rex Butts


        I can share some differences between teaching and preaching in contemporary ministry, if that is what you want. However, as I already stated, there are many similarities between teaching and preaching in contemporary ministry. The major commonality is that they both are a means of communicating the Christian faith. Perhaps a difference would be that teaching seems to be much more informative of that which has not been learned or considered while preaching seems much more of a proclaiming of that which the church already knows and believes but in a more the ‘prophetic’ (i.e., challenging the status quo) or ‘herald’ (i.e., announcing the good news) sense. But that difference is not a significant difference.

        However, that is our current situation which is not my question. My question is what, if any, differences is was there between the functions of “didaskō” (to teach) and “kērussō” (to preach) in the first century? What differences, if any, did Paul understand between the two functions? Why did Paul use one term (didaskō) in 1 Timothy 2.12 and not the other term? How, if any, did Paul’s upbringing in Pharisaical Judaism have influence on his understanding of these two terms? Or, conversely, what influence, if any, did Hellenistic thought have on the understanding of these two terms?

        WIthout a doubt, if any differences exist (and it may not), it would require a substantial essay to catalogue all the primary evidence to warrant the conclusion. There may be such essays out there in some New Testament studies journal that I am not aware of and if so, I would like someone to point me to them. I am interested in the question, not just as it relates to a correct interpretation of 1 Tim 2.12 but its bearing upon Christian/congregational ministry.

        I hope that helps clarify.

        Grace and peace,


      • James Wood

        Tom, Paul divided preaching and teaching (Eph. 4.11ff) so I feel it’s right to do so. Preaching is declaring the message of God to people, one of the Greek words for preaching is literally translated: bearing witness. Teaching, however can be done individually (preaching cannot), and teaching is about education rather than proclamation. I’m sure that Paul had in mind both the Socratic and Rabinical methods of teaching – both of which involve discussion.

      • Tom

        I am not saying that there is no difference between the these two things. My point is that you can’t preach without teaching something. If preaching is proclaiming something, it is still teaching it. Christianity is a taught religion folks. What Rex seems to be driving at is that because Paul didn’t specifically forbid women from “preaching” and only from “teaching” then it should be ok for women to preach. I’m simply pointing out that there is no such thing as preaching without teaching.

      • K. Rex Butts


        No I am not driving at that. However, even though it may be a harmless assumption, it is still an assumption we make about the New Testament. But since Paul was certainly ok with 1) women prophesying in the assembly (1 Cor 11.5ff) which certainly would have some element of teaching to it, perhaps we should not assume that because preaching might involve an element of teaching that it would then be limited to men only.

        I am actually interested in the difference between preaching and teaching in the New Testament as it relates to congregational ministry. But know the difference, if there is one (and I am tend to think there is probably some difference) then it raises a question about an assumption we make regarding 1 Timothy 2.12.

        I hope that clarifies a bit.

        Grace and peace,


  2. eirenetheou

    Some of the most effective preachers and teachers i have ever known are women. In many congregations of Churches of Christ, women do most, if not all, of the teaching that is done, formally and informally. If the women were to stop teaching in most congregations, who would do it?

    What bothers some of us, apparently, is when women stand up and teach in front of consenting adults in an assembly for worship or Bible study. Maybe it would help us to relax and enjoy the full participation of all the members of the Body of Christ in our assemblies, if we all were to remain seated. Then we could perhaps recover the biblical teaching about the Body of Christ at worship (as in 1 Cor 12-14) rather than the performance with an “audience” that is dominant in our assemblies now.

    God’s Peace to you.


  3. ozziepete

    Rex, a basic observation on this preach vs teach question is that “preach” is often accompanied by “gospel” while “teach” in the pastorals seems to often apply to christian behaviour or other doctrines.

    So “preach” might lean more toward and evangelistic message in Paul’s usage of the term, and “teach” closer to discipling. But I wouldn’t want to make a major point of it based on just those observations.

    • K. Rex Butts


      I too think those differences are present in scripture and like you, I would not make a major point out of it. It does however raise a question about the intent and purpose of a “sermon” to the church.

      Grace and peace,


  4. Jerry Starling

    The classic distinction between kerugma and didaskein is that the former is heralding the gospel to the unbeliever whereas the later is teaching the church.

    However, when we realize that the basis for teaching in the church is the gospel, the difference between these two becomes more a matter of style than of content.

    My master’s thesis was The Use of Baptism in Exhorting Christians. Every reference to baptism in the epistles is in a hortatory context with all sorts of exhortations coming out of the basic teachings concerning baptism.

    But the basic teachings concerning baptism all flow directly from the cross, i.e. from the gospel. So when exhortation appeals to baptism as the reason for doing something, it is (indirectly) an appeal to the cross.

    This means that teaching (exhortation) flows from the cross much more than most preachers and teachers, in practice, do. That is why so much of our teaching becomes moralistic without the power of the gospel in it.

    Jerry Starling

    • K. Rex Butts


      You make a great point and reminder…everything we do as ministers must flow from the cross. That seems to be the difference between a practice that is thuroughly redemptive rather than mere relgiousness.

      Grace and peace,


  5. Hisbeauty4ashes

    Humm I love hearing the conversing back and forth. This has been a huge thing in my family with the women preaching/teaching in the church. That women are to remain silent and have babies.

    I want to share this because the nature of Christ is to redeem set free because He paid the ultimate price at the cross.

    Just look for a second at the women at the well Jesus encountered her and after she received who He was Jesus said now go share this with your people. Here the women at the well was commanded to testify of His greatness.

    Now I want to share with you a death experience I had back in 2007 while in Africa. Now words I feel cheapen what I experienced so I will just be real basic. I went to heaven and I felt no pain I was amazed at how good I felt and in my mind I said, ” I feel so good I do not ever want to go back.” Long story short the Lord blinded me and a loud voice said this, “Your purpose and your destiny is not fulfilled yet Now go back!” The next thing I know I slammed back in my body and I was totally healed from Malaria.

    I knew that encounter was more then just having babies and being quiet in the church. I knew I was called to preach and teach the very word and heat of Christ. When I go back and look at the history of what said in Timothy it had to do with a church where women were participating in witchcraft.

    Anyway thanks for listening and God bless.

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