Re: 1 Tim 2:12

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Tue Jun 30 1998 - 01:44:53 EDT

At 11:05 98/06/29 EDT, Charles Powell wrote:
>In a message dated 6/28/1998 7:08:31 AM, wrote:
><<I published an article entitled "Women in the Church: The
>Interpretation of 1 Tim 2:8-15", which argued that the meaning of GUNH in
>this passage was "wife", and similarly that ANHR in the passage means
>"husband", and moreover that the passage was thus referring to the
>husband-wife relationship, and the context was home and family, and not the
>man-woman relationship more generally: certainly Paul is not addressing the
>question of men and women in Church.
>I have questions concerning the context of this passage. It seems to me that
>Paul is addressing questions related to men and women in the church. 1 Tim 1
>concerns instructions Paul's instructions to Timothy concerning how to handle
>false teachers in the church and this is in accordance with Timothy's
>and gifts. 1 Tim 3 concerns qualifications for elders and deacons (and
>deaconesses), officers in the church. Chapter 4 concerns apostasy and the
>behavior and responsibility of a church leader. Chapter 5 concerns elders and
>widows and how the church is to care for widows and how they should
respond to
>good and bad elders. Now Chapter 2 is concerned with prayer and teaching,
>which, lo and behold, are two of the primary functions of the church. So it
>seems that men and women in the church fits better with the broader context
>(and OUN IN 2:1, 8 seems to suggest a natural transition). There would
need to
>be stronger transitional and contextual issues than the use of ANER and GUNH
>and parallels in 1 Pet 3. One could suggest parallels in 1 Cor 11 and 14 that
>would argue the case for the church context. In addition to this, the command
>for TOUS ANDRAS to pray seems to apply a bit more broadly than simply
>husbands, especially since the exhortation in 2:1-2 seems to apply to
>everyone. Likewise, the GUNAIKAS adornment seems to apply to all women and
>simply wives. This would also apply to the women learning. The sinngular does
>not enter the picture until 2:12, but there is no suggestion of a transition
>from a plural women to a singular wife, especially since the text reverts
to a
>plural with MEINWSIN in 2:15.


The points you make are well made, and I am in agreement with almost all of
them in toto. However, a shift in meaning often takes place in these
discussions which slips past unnoticed, and yet which is very significant
for understanding and applying biblical teaching. It concerns the meaning
of the word "church".

In English the expression "in church" or "in the church" is ambiguous - it
can have several meanings.

1. It can mean "inside the church building" or even "on church premises".
Thus there are some who hold that a woman cannot teach "in church" and
would not allow a woman to preach or teach in the building, but who see no
problem with a woman leading a Bible Study evening in a private home.

2. Again it can mean in a meeting together of the congregation, with the
sense of "in a church service" - so in the practice of some, a woman cannot
address the congregation in the actual service, but can be a speaker to
them (for example) afterwards, over morning tea/coffee. A slight extension
of this: I have seen a woman missionary allowed to address the congregation
from the chancel steps (but not from the pulpit); and then after she has
spoken her husband mounts the pulpit to speak from there. In the mind of
the person responsible for this distinction, a difference exists between
the "authority" of speaking from the chancel steps and from the pulpit,
even seriatim to the same congregation of people.

3. Yet again, "in the church" can refer to a local congregation in its
totality, whether meeting formally or not, as in a context such as,
"couples just living together has been accepted for years in the community
generally, and now we are even beginning to find it in the church". Part of
this meaning includes the structure of the church which exists outside an
actual meeting of the congregation, as in "the elders have responsibility
for the running of the church".

4. Further, the term can be used with reference to a particular denomination.

5. And also the expression can be used of the whole company of all
believers, on earth and in heaven.

The Greek word EKKLHSIA does not occur with meanings 1 or 4 of the above
list, but can be found used in the NT with meanings 2, 3, and 5.

In the widest sense, 1 Timothy is written about what is happening or to
happen (or not to happen) in the church. This is the point which Charles
makes, and I doubt that anyone would seek to disagree with him on it.

But what meaning of "church" is intended in the epistle? Thus false
teachers may be teaching in a church service (if they have been granted
that access) or influencing members of the church (Meaning #3, above)
outside actual meetings of the church e.g., by calling at their homes, or
by speaking to individual members of the church one to one when they get
the chance. Whichever of these, or all of the above, the false teaching is
challenging the true teaching of the church (Meaning #5) and Timothy is to
counter it.

The appointment of elders and deacons in the church relates to Meaning #3
(and in our present day structures, to Meaning #4). Such people are elders
and deacons in relation to the congregation outside of its actual
gatherings for worship services.

Similarly with the question Charles raises, of "how the church is to care
for widows and how they should respond to good and bad elders": again, this
is referring to matters in the wider context, outside a church service.

And similarly prayer and teaching has a wider connotation than only what
occurs in a gathering of the congregation for worship. And how women dress
is not concerned just with what women do in, or even for attending, a
worship service.

Thus in discussing the relationship of GUNH and ANHR (in 1 Tim 2:11ff.)
Paul is discussing an issue in the church in the Meaning #3 sense, for the
people whom he is discussing are members of the EKKLHSIA, i.e., Christians.
Thus this passage is totally understandable as referring to husband and
wife (and home, marriage and family), and in keeping with how Paul deals
with other groups within the church in this letter. All these are examples
of "how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of
the living God" (1 Tim 3:15).

However, if we take it that 1 Tim 2:11ff. is referring to what takes place
during the meeting together of the congregation (i.e., women ought not to
teach or preach to men), then one has shifted the meaning, and the
reference. We should note that what takes place in public worship is not a
theme of this epistle (though there is a reference to it, in relation to
Timothy, in 4:13).

So (IMHO) it is much more in keeping with the flow and intent of this
epistle to see 1 Tim 2:11ff. as addressed to how one section of "the
household of God, the church of the living God" (i.e., each married couple)
"ought to behave" (3:15), just as attention is also given to other sections
such as elders, deacons, widows, etc., than it is to see it as concerned
with whether women can teach or preach in church.

Oh, yes, Charles: and I take it that MEINWSIN (plural) in 2:15 refers to
husband and wife, in keeping with the reference to Adam and Eve (the first
husband and wife) in the preceding two verses, and husband and wife in the
two verses before that.



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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