Re: 1 Tim 2:12

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Mon Jun 29 1998 - 08:40:59 EDT

At 20:17 98/06/28 EDT, Paul Dixon wrote:
>Thanks for your input on this. I'd like to consider your claim that
>ANHR and GUNH refer to the husband and wife relationship. Perhaps
>after reading your paper, I'll do just that.
>However, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that ANHR and
>GUNH in 1 Tim 2 do refer to husband and wife, respectively.
>Furthermore, let's assume that the instruction of the passage then
>relates specifically to the husband-wife relationship.
>If so, then it seems to me that the most we could possibly infer is
>that this passage does not explicitly forbid a woman from teaching
>or holding authority over a man who is not her husband in a different
>arena, such as in the church, or in a small group setting, and that
>the door, then, might be open for them to do so.

The view which I am putting forward for consideration (and which I
personally have concluded from my own study of the NT is correct) is that
this passage is referring to the husband-wife relationship, and that in it
Paul is not directly addressing the question of authority and ministry in
the church. However, I would point out that the question of teaching in the
church is separate from the question of authority in the church. Teaching,
when engaged in correctly, is acting under authority - the authority of the
Scripture, and of the Holy Spirit who is the author and interpreter of
Scripture (I realize my doctrine of Scripture is showing here). At the
human level, the giving of teaching in the church is something to be
authorized by the elders of the church, who exercise the responsibility
(authority) for the given congregation.

>I have two observations to make. First, is there any precedent for
>saying that a woman was forbidden from treating her husband
>in a certain way, but where she could treat other men that way?
>I don't think so, but that may be neither here nor there, as this
>could a unique situation. In line with this, however, how plausible
>is it that a woman who properly obeyed this directive toward her
>husband would feel she comfortably do otherwise to other men?
>It seems most incongruous.

There is certainly a difference between the relationship of a wife to her
husband and her relationship to other men. The husband is head of his wife,
and this is within the one-flesh relationship of marriage (Ephesians
5:22-33). The meaning of KEFALH, "head", is much discussed in current
scholarship, and it is off-question to move off into examining it here. But
I would take it that for the wife to assume an authority over her husband -
which is what 1 Tim 2:12 says she is not to do - would be a violation of
his role of headship (as per Ephesians 5:23). But note: for a wife to do
something with the SUPPORT of her husband is not to violate his authority.
And so:

If a wife has received the gift of being a teacher, if she is competent in
the Scriptures, if she has the support of her husband in this, and if she
is approved by and invited by the elders of the church to preach and/or
teach in that church, I can find nothing in this situation which violates 1
Tim 2 or any other Scripture. Certainly she is not exercising invalid
authority over her husband if he recognizes the gift she has and if he
supports her in exercising it in the church; and in the situation I have
outlined she is teaching and preaching under the authority of the elders.

>Second, the reasons Paul gives (the order of creation, and the order
>of the fall) do not seem to be reasons that pertain to the marriage
>relationship exclusively. Paul does not use ANHR and GUNH in
>these reasons (vv 13-14). Rather, he uses ADAM and hEUA. These
>names are normally taken as representative of men and women
>respectively, Adam as the first man and Eve as the first woman.

1 Tim 2:13 commences GAR, so Paul is indeed here giving a biblical
validation for what he has just written. And it may well be that in verses
13 and 14 there is the implication of the headship relationship of the
husband to his wife (though some exegetes disagree with this idea). But we
must note that for his validation of what he had just said in the
relationship of an ANHR with a GUNH, Paul turns to the relationship of Adam
and Eve. And they were a married couple, not a church congregation. I
personally would add, further, that we must be careful how far we can
extrapolate from Adam and Eve's relationship to the relationship of all men
to all women (as Paul Dixon is suggesting we do, by speaking of Adam and
Eve as representative of men and women respectively). Some people (I am not
suggesting Paul is doing this) have extended this idea to arrive at the
conclusion that all women have to submit to all men as part of the
God-given relationshipo between the sexes. Such an idea is NOT taught in
the Scriptures and is indeed expressly contradicted by numbers of passages.

>In summary, if we think that taking ANHR and GUNH refer to
>the husband-wife relationship only, and conclude from this that
>the woman may teach or hold authority over another man or men,
>then we have gone too far.

Agreed. This is not a valid inference from this passage. It is not what I
have said, nor what I hold. But already I fear that we are straying rather
far afield from a strict consideration of the issues in the Greek, and I
refer those who would wish to pursue this further to my book "The Ministry
of Women in the Church", perhaps in particular Chapter 9, "The Elder in the
Church". (I see the Bible as teaching that it is the elders who exercise
authority in the congregation, and I cannot find in Scripture any evidence
for there being women elders in the early church. Those of us who would
regard the Bible as normative in such matters will therefore conclude that
there is no valid basis which would entitle us to appoint women elders today.)

>It seems the burden of proof would be
>upon those who would wish to posit such an incongruous behavior
>of women.

Fair enough.

>I am not saying you have concluded this, just making an
>observation in general.

It is difficult to compress the conclusions I have reached from a great
deal of study of this issue into the confines of a reasonable-length post
to the list - especially as our discussion on-list needs to be linked to
considerations of the Greek text. To those who hold differing opinions:
please read an IMHO appended to every paragraph above - I realize that my
own theological presuppositions are showing. To those who do not think that
Paul wrote 1 Timothy (or Ephesians, for that matter): I would aver that
what I have said will still remain valid (or not valid, as the case may
be), independent of such questions of authorship.

Best regards,


Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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