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In light of 1 Tim 2:12, when Paul states that women should not teach or exercise authority over men, do you feel that women should not preach in church, other than to a group of women or children? How about young men teaching?

As to 1 Tim 2:12, here's my take: It seems that Paul is definitely restricting the role of women in terms of roles of leadership. 1 Tim 2:12 says that women should not teach or exercise authority over men. The passage almost surely is not addressing only wives, but women in general. The notion that women can exercise such authority or teach men IF they are doing so under the authority of their husbands or the pastor is a view that is based on a faulty translation of the key verb in this verse. It goes back to the King James Version. In that version, the verb authenteo is translated "usurp." Hence, the KJV reads here, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." That rendering for the verb was somewhat novel (for example, in Tyndale's translation, done almost a century earlier, he rendered the verb as 'exercise authority' or something similar). The KJV translators mistranslated this very because they knew Latin better than they knew Greek. And in the sixteenth century, Erasmus of Rotterdam--the man who was the first to publish a Greek New Testament--rendered authenteo this way. He produced five Greek New Testaments, and all of them were Greek-Latin diglots. That is, Greek was on one page and his Latin translation of the same was on the facing page. By the fourth century AD, authenteo had come to mean 'usurp.' But it didn't have this force earlier. Consequently, Erasmus translated the verb as usurpare (from which, obviously, English gets 'usurp'). His translation was based on Greek usage that was 300+ years after the time of the New Testament. Remarkably, Erasmus produced his Greek New Testament as a way to correct Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Jerome was the fourth century scholar who brought uniformity to the Latin versions of the Bible by gathering them up, along with several Greek copies, and trying to discern what was the original wording. In other words, Jerome was much closer to the time of the original than Erasmus was. And in Jerome's Vulgate (which became the official "inspired" version for the Catholic Church), he translated authenteo as dominare. This Latin verb means, principally, "to exercise authority." Only secondarily does it have a negative force. It was probably the best Latin verb to use for authenteo.

OK, if you're still tracking with me, let's go back to Erasmus. He based his translation on his reading of Greek writers who lived during or after the time of Jerome. And because of this, he didn't grasp the actual meaning of authenteo in 1 Tim 2:12. And since authenteo is a rare word in Greek literature, the KJV translators simply consulted the Latin in their Greek-Latin diglot to discern the meaning of the verb. And what did they find? Usurpare. Hence, an illegitimate translation made its way into the translation of the Bible. But today, the vast majority of English translations understand the term to be neutral. Even the NKJV, which attempts to retain the wording of the KJV as much as possible, only updating its language and correcting places where it really went bad, has here "have authority." But when women wish to teach men, they usually refer to the KJV translation, as least implicitly. For example, they will say, "I'm not usurping anyone's authority. The authority to teach has been granted to me by the elders." But that viewpoint is based on a wrong translation of this verse! If Paul meant that women could teach men as long as they did not usurp such authority, it would be a curious thing for him to say. Shouldn't any male teachers also get the authority of the elders? Why would women be singled out? If I want to teach a class at my church, the elders must approve. Thus, the view that women can teach IF they get permission by the church leadership really doesn't handle this verse logically or lexically.

Now, concerning the issue of what age men are considered men, I believe that the issue has to do with independence. When a person becomes financially and geographically independent of his parents, he's considered a man. For the most part, this would mean today post-college. So, I would say that women could teach college classes, but not beyond.

Finally, you raised the issue of women's competence in understanding the Bible. I'm not sure what you mean by "revelation of scripture"--that is, you said that people today have a revelation of scripture. Nevertheless, all I can say is that as much as it might be true that certain women know the Bible better than men, Paul does not allow for this option. He bases his viewpoint on creation. In v. 13 he says, "For Adam was first created, then Eve." In the least, this argument shows that Paul is not restricting his treatment to the church; it's a matter that is grounded in the constitutional differences between men and women, or at least in the order of authority that God had ordained. In Gen 2-3, we see an interesting phenomenon relevant to 1 Tim 2. God teaches man, man teaches woman, the devil is out of the picture. That's Gen 2. But in Gen 3, we see the devil teaching woman, woman teaching man, and God is out of the picture. And this is Paul's argument: there is a divinely ordained order to things that, if disturbed, could bring ruin.

I have found that often women who wish to teach men are actually restricting their ministries. Frankly, many of them disdain other women. And they feel that men are the only ones who are worthy of being taught! My wife can smell them a mile away. She's the receptionist at a Christian school. And certain women treat her like dirt. Almost without exception they are women who would disagree with what I'm saying her about 1 Tim 2.

Much more could be said on the issue. I would encourage you to read my essay called "Biblical Gynecology, Part 1" and Douglas Moo's article on this passage.

Related Topics: Teaching the Bible, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

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