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Should Women Preach? Part 4 -1 Timothy 2:9-15

In the last post we looked at the passage from 1 Corinthians 14 to address the question, should women preach and teach in the church?

In this post, I will look at the scriptural reference often used to teach that women should not preach but remain silent. Is 1 Timothy 2:9-15 a reason why women can't preach?

It should be noted that these passages are separate from each other. I do not see them relating or confirming each other, given the particular context of each situation. It should also be noted that they are written many years apart. Let's start by reading Paul's address to Timothy.

should women preach - 1 timothy 2:9-15

Should Women Preach?

What About 1 Timothy 2:9-15

1 Timothy 2:9-15 - In like manner also, that women clothe themselves in modest clothing, with decency and self-control, not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing, 10 but with good works, which is proper for women professing godliness. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all obedience. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to usurp authority over a man, but to be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into sin. 15 Yet she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.


Ephesus was a fantastic city. It had geographical, geological, political, social, and climatic advantages that made it a great city. The climate was beautiful, and the soil was fertile. It had a harbor and road system that made it the most accessible city in Asia.

Ephesus was also the home of the Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the world's seven wonders. The religious practice was a sexualized cult of pagan worship, prostitution, and fertility. This cult brought tremendous wealth to the Ephesus citizens because the temple of Artemis became the world's largest bank in that day.


When reading through the address of Paul to Timothy, it makes sense in light of what Timothy would've been facing in Ephesus at that time.

The city had an excessive number of prostitutes. The prostitutes and city inhabitants believed that fornication brought the worshiper into direct communion with the divine. They had been taught that the goddess would protect them in pregnancy.

The Artemis cult taught the superiority of the female and encouraged female domination of the men. In Ephesus, there was a contingent of Jewish Gnostics who represented the first century's equivalent of the New Age movement. These Gnostic's believed and taught that Eve was the "illuminator" of humanity. They taught that Eve was the first to receive "true knowledge" from the serpent. The Gnostics saw this serpent as the savior and revealer of truth. Gnostics believed that Eve taught this new revelation to Adam, and being the mother of all, was the originator of the human race. This belief reflected the Gnostic doctrine that a female deity could bring forth children without male involvement.

In this passage, Paul is helping Timothy deal with some of the problems this young pastor was likely facing. The men and women had a lot to unlearn. So Paul instructs Timothy on what to say and do. He says that the women should be instructed to dress modestly and decently. They were not to look like the women of the city (prostitutes). Their conduct was to be with good works, not sinful, to behave as one who professed godliness.

Verse 11 makes a lot of sense given the background; women were to learn in silence, listen, and obey. They had to unlearn much of what they had been taught and their lived traditions. The key to this passage is in verse 12, which mentions the usurping of authority. This is the only time this phrase is used in scripture. The Bible does not say that women cannot have a place of authority over men. There are examples of it throughout scripture. The context here is essential and comes out of the historical background related to Ephesus.

The problem Paul was addressing was women/wives who dominated (thrust themselves) into places of authority and who may have even used sexual means to rule and have authority over men/husbands. The phrase "usurp authority" means to dominate, to thrust oneself, take by force. When the city's culture encouraged female domination of the men, it made sense what was happening. It also has a very sexual overtone present in its original use.

Nobody should dominate. Nobody should use sexual means to manipulate or control anyone. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul rightly opposes this. He is instructing Timothy that he should not permit this to happen.

Then Paul reaches back to Adam and Eve to confirm his point about the wife being subject to her husband. This was not about whether should women preach in church but about correcting errors taking place in the church.

He corrects the idea that Eve was the first when he says Adam formed first, then Eve. His correction speaks against the doctrine of Eve as originator as taught in the Ephesus cult, especially by the Gnostics. He says, "Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into sin." This statement directly contradicts the idea that Eve was the "illuminator" and carrier of new revelation.

We can agree with everything Paul writes here. Given the context of the situation and what was happening in Ephesus, the teaching that he gives Timothy is very wise. Here is another truth: to remove it from that context and use it to dominate or subdue and have authority over women is just as wrong.

Too often in the church, we want to emphasize the problem and not the solution. We remind each other who failed, and we forget the price for sin has been paid, and if we are saved, that sin is forgiven.


If God is so opposed to women leading or teaching, we have some contradictions in the Bible to figure out. After all, how can God say women learn in silence in one portion, or say women should not preach or exercise authority and yet have examples of the opposite in other areas of the Bible.

It was God who first chose a woman in John 20:17 to proclaim one of the most critical messages and doctrines of Christianity, that Jesus has risen. It is also interesting that Jesus told Mary to proclaim this message to men.

John 20:17 - Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ ”

In another story, the Samaritan woman at the well went and testified of Jesus in town, causing many to believe. Here are some other examples.

Deborah - During the violent and turbulent aftermath of Joshua's conquest of Canaan, "the Lord raised up judges" to provide leadership for the kingless people. Judges 4 records that Deborah, a prophet, led Israel at that time. As both prophet and judge, Deborah exercised total religious, political, judicial, and military authority over all of Israel. She was essentially Israel's commander-in-chief. Under Deborah's ongoing leadership, the people of Israel enjoyed forty years of peace before the cycle of violence began again.

Miriam - Micah, the prophet, identifies Miriam as one of the three leaders sent by God to bring Israel out of Egypt. Miriam is recognized as a prophet, and it appears that she fulfilled her responsibilities in leading Israel in worship.

Huldah - Josiah, being a good king, reigned for thirty-one years. About halfway through his reign, Josiah learned the lost Book of the Law had been discovered in the temple. When he heard the words of the Torah read aloud, Josiah ripped his robes in repentance and summoned a prophet because he saw how far Israel had strayed from God's ways. He chose Huldah, a woman, and prophet who lived in Jerusalem. Huldah was not chosen because no men were available. This is the excuse some use when they see women being used by God in the Bible. They say that it is because there were no men able. But during this time, Jeremiah was alive and available. Huldah first confirmed the scroll's authenticity and then told Josiah that the disobedience of Israel would indeed lead to its destruction but that Josiah himself would die in peace. Huldah interpreted and authorized the document that would become the core of Jewish and Christian Scripture. Her prophecy was fulfilled thirty-five years later (2 Kings 22).


In Acts 21:8, Philip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who were prophets.

In Luke 2:36, there was Anna, a prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of great age and had lived with her husband for seven years from her virginity.

Verse 37-38 - And she was a widow of about eighty-four years of age who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayer night and day. Coming at that moment, she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Then there is Priscilla, who was one of the teachers of Apollos. Romans 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: both taught Apollos – Jew, mighty in the scriptures. She also helped found the Corinthian church.

In Philippians 4:2, Paul refers to two women, Euodia & Syntyche, as active coworkers in spreading the gospel.


It is really unfortunate that today there are still many who hold these views and promote these teachings in the church. They have taken scripture and manipulated them to keep women in a place of bondage and question whether should women preach. Which is wrong!

If we take these passages in their context and look at the whole of scripture, I believe it is evident that God can and will use women to preach, teach, and lead both men and women.

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