Women in the Church- 1 Timothy 2:8-15, part 3

II. Hermeneutical Issues

A. Situation in Ephesus
Is it the case that complementarians pay absolutely no attention to the background of the situation in Ephesus, or do not let that information affect their exegesis? Who was Artemis of the Ephesians? Baugh argues against various egalitarian and otherwise commonly held opinions regarding who Artemis was and the situation of the cult, as well the position and status of women in Ephesus. I will not reproduce his arguments here, but only summarize them: Artemis at Ephesus was the regular Greek goddess, not the fertility goddess of the ANE; the cult did not involve cult prostitution, since the priestesses were largely prepubescent; there were educated women at Ephesus, contrary to the suggestion that Paul is merely forbidding unlearned women from teaching. The idea of the mother-goddess being conflated with Artemis is a common but highly speculative opinion, based on the interpretation of the famous statue having many breasts. Baugh indicates that this interpretation is highly suspect. Other examples have been found having such protuberances on male statues of Zeus (see pg. 31). Therefore, the position of the Kroegers (that Paul was reacting against some kind of Amazonian feminism gone awry, and that authentein means “to originate”) is untenable.

B. Creation, Fall, Redemption
The issue of Eve and the relation of her position to the Creation and the Fall is a complicated issue. Keener argues that the subordination of women was due to the Fall, and that therefore it is not prescriptive. However, this assertion does not make sense of the argument made about the temporal priority of the male in verse 13. In Ephesians, Paul notes that the man is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (never mind now the much-vexed discussion of kephale), and that this was true from the beginning. Actually, the Fall obscured this relationship such that the woman would want to rule over the husband, but that the husband would domineer over her (Genesis 3:16). In Redemption, therefore, it is possible, through a relationship with Jesus Christ, to redeem this relationship back to what it was originally supposed to be. Women need to fulfill their God-appointed roles in order to do so. This is not to say that every woman needs to be a stay-at-home mother. On the other hand, it means that such stay-at-home women ought not to be despised, as they so often are today. The Bible would say that such a calling is the most noble calling to which a woman can aspire.

What of Galatians 3:28? This verse has been used as a grid through which all the other literature in the New Testament on the question of gender relationships has had to pass. But is it to be (ab)used in such a manner? Verse 27 (usually conveniently overlooked by all who quote verse 28) says that the unity is that of being in Christ, and having his righteousness given to us. Verse 24 invokes justification by faith. Therefore, verse 28 is talking about our status in Christ before God the Father. This is said by the same Paul who said that there are different roles for different people in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Role distinction is not, I repeat, not a sign of inferiority! Just as there is no shame in being a brigadier general as opposed to a lieutenant general in the army, nor is there any inferiority of person, only hierarchy of role, so it is in the family/church.

A word must be said about the relationship of this passage to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Keener argues that if we are going to be consistent about women in the church not having positions of authority over men, then we have to have them wear head coverings as well. It is disputed, however, whether Paul refers to something in addition to hair, or not. We cannot just assume that head coverings over and above the hair (hair is called a covering (verse 15)) is what is in view. Therefore, Keener’s objection is premature. He seems also to suggest that there is absolutely no cultural relativity in applicability of the Bible in the view of complementarians. This is manifestly not the case. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” is not usually interpreted to be universally binding in terms of its particular expression. Our equivalent today would be hugs or handshakes. However, in 1 Timothy, Paul argues from something that is not culturally bound, namely, the creation order of Adam and Eve, and the headship of Adam as male.

Another issue that must receive treatment is the issue of female prophecy. Several authors note that prophecy is just as authoritative as teaching. Prophecy is allowed to women. Therefore, teaching should be allowed as well. This involves a blurring of the distinction between office and function. Paul is talking about office in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (see the immediately following context). Schreiner’s contention that prophecy is more vertical, and teaching more horizontal does not convince me. Corinthians does not force the conclusion that the prophesying women held an office of prophet. What holds true for all the biblical examples of women teaching or holding a position of leadership is that such examples were exceptions to the rule. In the New Testament, prophecy was supposed to come upon women, because of the prophecy in Joel. Prophecy, therefore, is not a continuing entity in any case. Schreiner argues more convincingly that women could exercise prophetic gifts without disturbing male headship, whereas women could not teach men without disturbing male headship.8

III. Conclusions for Ethics

A. Goal, Motive and Standard of the two interpretations
The goal of the complementarian position (despite immense pressure from the culture to conform to the egalitarian position) has been, and should continue to be faithfulness to the biblical witness about the role of gender in the church. The motive has too often been a desire to keep the reins of power within the grasp of the men, without encouraging women to participate in ministry at all. This has resulted in the current backlash against tyrannical rule in the church, which rule has been based all too often on a view of women as inferior. However, to the extent that modern complementarian interpreters of this passage have discarded such unworthy motives, they are to be commended. Everywhere women are allowed to serve Christ, they should be encouraged to do so.

A great contrast between the ethics of the complementarian position and the ethics of the egalitarian position exists. The goal of the egalitarian position has been either explicitly or implicitly to conform to culture. Culture has the upper hand in hermeneutics in the egalitarian position, and culture interprets the Bible, rather than the other way around. This is demonstrated by the fact that the egalitarian position only became viable after about 1970. The motive might be many things. It is much easier to get a job at a main-line seminary or church, if one holds to egalitarian views. On the other hand, many “evangelical feminists” are not acting out of such impure motives, but are rather seeking to end inequality. The standard has been consistently to appeal to the current cultural situation as the definition of how we are to interpret the Bible. The Bible is effectively muzzled. There is a fear of the radical feminist wing that straight-jackets any opposition to their agenda. One is immediately labeled a misogynist if one holds to any difference in role (regardless of one’s view of the alleged ontological differences). Any difference in role is immediately seen to be an attack on the worth of a woman. We cannot let them win.

The definitive argument of this sort on the complementarian side (distinguishing between role and worth) is that of Charles Hodge. Jesus Christ is not one iota inferior to God the Father. He is God. And yet, there is a difference in role, one of subordination. Subordination is necessary in the world as a whole, for the world to “work.” Therefore, there is no dishonor at all in women being subject to male headship. Earle Ellis notes that only in the modern period are class distinctions viewed as evil per se.12

IV. Conclusion
If there is any more pressing issue in the conservative church today, I am at a loss to find it. Consistently, even in the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the issue of whether women should be allowed in ministry crops up just about every year in general assembly. A friend of mine recently said that it was only a matter of time before the GA voted to allow women into the ministry. I hope earnestly that he is wrong. I would be disappointed to have to leave the denomination in which I was baptized as an infant, and in which I grew up physically and spiritually (PCA). But the denomination would have left its moorings in the historic view of male headship as symbolized by Christ and the church, as well as any claim to see abiding principles in the Bible, rather than totally culturally determined “advice.” In this case, the slippery slope argument does work. Denominations that ordained women eventually ordain homosexuals, since Romans 1 and Leviticus 18 also become culturally relative. It is impossible to stop on such a slippery slope, as so many denominations have more than adequately demonstrated. Let us rather seek to be faithful to God’s Word.

1 See the irritatingly patronizing comments of Keener in Two Views, pg. 55.

2 See Köstenberger, Schreiner, Baldwin, 1995, pp. 13-52.

3 See Kroeger and Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman, 1992.

4 op. cit. pg. 63.

5 op. cit. pg. 62; see also Liefeld, 1999, pp. 109-110.

6 See Garland, 2003, pg. 505.

7 Women in the Church, pg. 129.

8 Women in the Church, pg. 130.

9 See Yarbrough, in Women in the Church, pp. 170-171.

10 See further Mounce, 2000, pg. 148.

11 Quoted in Women in the Church, pg. 255.

12 ibid. pg. 255.


Note: many more resources were consulted than are here listed. These were found to be the most relevant to the study at hand.

Commentaries on 1 Timothy:

Clark, Gordon H., The Pastoral Epistles (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1983)
Knight, George W. III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992)
Liefeld, Walter L., The NIV Application Commentary: 1&2 Timothy/Titus
               (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999)
Lock, Walter, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1924)
Marshall, I. Howard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles
             (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999)
Mounce, William D., The Pastoral Epistles (Dallas: Word, 2000)
Quinn, Jerome D. and William C. Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy
             (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000)

Other books and articles:

Bauer, Walter, Frederick William Danker, William Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich,
              A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
              Literature, 3rd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)
Beck, James R. and Craig L. Blomberg, editors Two Views on Women in Ministry
            (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001)
Garland, David E., I Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003)
Gruenler, Royce Gordon “The Mission-Lifestyle Setting of I Timothy 2:8-15.” JETS 41
             Fall, 1998, pp. 215-238.
Köstenberger, Andreas J, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, Women in the Church (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1995)
Kroeger, R.C. and C.C. Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992)
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
               (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991)
Wilshire, L. E. “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to AUQENTEW in I Timothy 2:12.” NTS 34 (1988) 120-134.



  1. November 21, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    This has been a good series of posts. And there are many underlying factors that contribute to this issue. The gross abuse of the text in Gal. 3:28 is one. This is one of the most misapplied passages in all of Scripture used by egalitarians to justify all types of wickedness.

    As you mention, this is the place where modern culture is attacking the Church. They are determined to strip men and women of their biblical roles and have instituted patricidal warfare. The Church has not been immune. Conservative and Reformed Churches have been compromised. Often times postmoderism comes in under the guise of egalitiarianism, other times it is called “multiculturalism”. The Emerging Church movement plays right into the hands of the postmoderns attempt to destroy the Church. I know of professors at presbyterian & reformed seminaries who wholeheartly embrace this stuff. The institutional church, as a whole, is lost. There are groups of Christians who see the coming doom and are preparing now to equip their families, but they are a gross minority crossing many denominational lines.

    Until we are willing to return to the biblical model of godly patriarchy and embrace the Scriptual view of the family with men and women (and children) fulfilling thier respective roles, doing thier respective duties, I fear we are still lost in a postmodern, egalitarian mindset. And until churches are willing to teach, preach and hold men and women accountable to the biblical precedent set before us, I fear we cannot expect to see His blessing.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    November 21, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks, David. I think you and Fr. Bill have both put your finger on some very serious issues in the church today.

    At the same time, feminists need love as well. Fr. Bill pointed out that many stop at different points along the path to feminism. It behoves us not to make many generalizations about where such and such a person might stand. Some believe that the Bible is true, and that it is a matter of interpretation. Others outright reject the Bible. In some, the issue is more of practice than it is of belief. We need accurately to describe the feminists and their position. I’m not saying you haven’t done that, David. But accuracy and precision is always one of my chief concerns in dealing with any issue, especially one that involves God’s infallible Word.

  3. Seth McBee said,

    November 21, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    I currently reading “The Forgotten Trinity” by James White and your thoughts on Galatians 3:28 and also 1 Corinthians 12 ring in my ear on how Dr. White draws comparison to the Godhead. He states that different roles and responsibilities of the Godhead does not equal inferiority between the Father, Son and Spirit. If people, and I believe most who adhere to egalitarianism (those who are Christians) do, if they say that different roles in the Godhead doesn’t equal inferiority then how do they equate our roles as Christians as making distinction in importance? Just because you preach doesn’t mean you are more important, it means you serve a different role.

    1 Peter 3:7-9 calls the wife “the weaker vessel” which really means to take care of her as you would a fine vase. She is called a fine vase! Does that make her more important? No, she is different in her role.

    If we look to the Godhead as being equal yet different in their roles, then why can’t we look at the roles of men and women as being the same?

  4. November 21, 2006 at 12:29 pm


    I understand what your saying and I agree with most it. But please allow me to quibble a little. The word “feminism” itself is a capitulation to the “other side” of the debate. I try to refrain from using it. This is not a movement towards being femine. Rather it is just the reverse. Women are seeking to be as men. And as a result of an effeminate culture, men are losing their place as men. Likewise, often times subversive language is being imployed to decieve the uninformed person as to what is actually taking place. That is why abortion is a “women’s choice” rather than calling it what it is, murder.

    Secondly, you speak of loving the feminist. But I ask, what does it mean to love them? Our culture teaches love is ambigious and blind. It tells us we should not only tolerate ungodliness, but embrace it. Yet I contend, true biblical love demands we call for the repentence of the wicked. We cannot settle for less than the Scriptural teaching on this matter. If we truly love our fellow man, we will not allow them to continue in willful disobedience to God’s standard without calling them out of it. This is not a time for equivocation and half measures. Sin is sin and we only truly love our neighbor with a biblical love if we desire to see it removed from thier lives.

    I know the things I say are difficult. Ours will be a difficult and costly task to bring about the restoration of the biblical home. But our very families are at stake. Our very faith is at stake. As Martin Luther once said, if we aren’t fighting the war were the battle rages, we really aren’t fighting the war at all.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    November 21, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    I agree with what you say. The only reason I said what I said is that many will look at what you said, for instance, and be completely confirmed in their suspicion that we hate them. They would be wrong, of course, since it is actually unloving of us not to call them to repentance. However, the truth can be spoken in a way that takes away any offence in the *manner* of speaking, and makes any offence to the unbeliever reside only in the *truth* of the matter. I wouldn’t say that you have erred here. I just prefer to avoid intentionally inflammatory language.

  6. Seth McBee said,

    November 21, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    I agree with green baggins here making sure that we don’t “start a fight” with stating words we know are “hot buttons” with a group. I don’t mind calling sin, sin. But, we must know that we are called to have agape love toward them. To love and admonish them even if they don’t love us back. We must as Christians and when we use words we know will frustrate only adds to their thoughts that we hate them when that is not the case. Such as starting a conversation on abortion saying it is murder. Why not start the discussion on why it is a sin and then as time progresses you let the person know that it is murder. Just as I would start with a homosexual with speaking about how it is sin in the Bible and then migrate toward speaking about it being “sodomizing.” We have words in our english language that will start a fight no matter our goals for the conversation, even if our attitudes and goals are pure. I would just make sure that we, as Christians, are careful with our words and attitudes to those who are sinning.

  7. November 21, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    If the sinner hardens his heart towards the truth spoken in love (biblical love), then so be it. We cannot and should not try to to do otherwise. We do want to avoid unneccesary conflict. We are, as far as it is within us, to live at peace with all men. But not at the cost bolding proclaiming the gospel truth. Lane, your last sentence concerns me. You say,

    ” I just prefer to avoid intentionally inflammatory language.”

    Often times we need to inflame hearts with our words. People sometimes get angry (dealing with Truth) before they find peace with it. Jesus often times used harsher language than was neccesary in order to incite those who opposed him. Some were won over to Him, others were not. Paul was not one to mince words. He spoke the truth boldly but in love.

    One of the signs of returning to a biblical society and church will be a willingness on the part of men to “act like men” (1 Cor. 13:25) To call a duck a duck. To look other men in the eye and call them to repent of their wickedness. Are you willing to do this? The duty is ours, the consequences are Gods.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    November 21, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    I am perfectly willing, as you say, to look other men in the eye and call them to repent of their wickedness. I have done so on this blog. And you are perfectly right in saying that we cannot compromise truth in desiring to be loving. All I am trying to say is that there is such a thing as tact and a way to approach the truth that leaves any remaining offence in the bounds of truth, rather than in our manner of presenting it. Jesus did get righteously angry over many things (the defiling of the temple, the Pharisees’ false interpretations of the law, etc.). He did not mince words there either. However, we must know our audience. What experiences have they had with orthodox Reformed doctrine? Do they see us as the frozen chosen? Do they see us as arrogant? That would, hopefully, have an impact on how we decide to give them the unvarnished truth, since there is more than one way to give that truth. We should always speak the truth in a loving manner. Sometimes that manner would require righteous anger. Other times, it would try to speak the truth an a very inviting way. The situation differs, and so should our approach, while never compromising the truth. I think we Reformed people often introduce extra offence to the cross by our sometimes harsh way of presenting the truth. That is no excuse for rejecting said truth. However, we don’t need to turn people away by our mere manner. Let the offence remain in the cross, and only in the cross, not in our manner of presenting it. I think that we believe the same on this. It would seem that our difference might only be in practice.

  9. November 21, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Lane, I agree with you as long as we understand what your saying is to be done. More often than not, the things you say are used as an excuse not to confront sin, because confronting sin isn’t fun. It’s humbling and difficult. I typically believe people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. The best way of dealing with this then is to demonstrate a willingness to bear with people in thier burdens. Not confronting them and leaving them to handle it on thier own.

    In addition, I’m not suggesting we give no consideration to our manner, our own personal conduct. We are accountable for that as well. But I’d suggest, those who really understand the reformed faith know this. Yet we have so many people unwilling to deal with the plank in their own eye before pulling the splinter out of someone elses. The reason for this is that so many Christians are so ignorant. Ignorant of God’s Word, their duty to God, themselves and their fellow man. It is encouraging to see men like yourself willing to stand for God’s Truth while doing so in demonstration of a truly biblical love.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    November 21, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks, David. I agree. And I certainly agree that many would use some of the ideas I have put forth as an excuse not to confront sin. We must avoid that avoidance. It’s been a good discussion, I think.

  11. November 21, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Yes it has.

  12. Seth McBee said,

    November 21, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I understand both points, but I also know that there are issues which are better presented when you are in the middle of a discussion and not at the beginning. Does this compromise truth? I don’t think so. Does this mean that I am Joel Osteen? Far from it. Will I not call sin, sin? Not at all. I just know that I am not going to up to someone and say, “You are going to hell, deal with it.” I am going to speak to them the truth and yes by the end of our conversation they will know that if they don’t believe in the Name of Christ they will be going to hell. Make sense?

  13. Pat said,

    February 3, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I know I am jumping into this somewhat late, but I appreciate your engagement with Scripture in laying out an exegetical/hermeneutical argument.

    You say, “I will attempt to prove that Paul had a universally binding application in view regarding a prohibition of women teaching Christian doctrine to or having spiritual authority over men in a church setting.”

    It is arguable that Gordon Fee knows these texts better than anyone, and I noticed that you did not consult his commentary. His exegesis is quite challenging. My question: what would you say to the following from Fee’s commentary?

    “Any exegetical analysis of an Epistle presupposes that it is an ad hoc document, that is, that it is a piece of correspondence occasioned by a set of specific historical circumstances, either from the recipient’s or the author’s side – or both…1 Timothy was occasioned by Paul’s having left Timothy in Ephesus as his personal representative in order to stop the influence of some false teachers. This is the one reason that is specifically stated in the letter itself (1:3)…The problem is that the church is being led astray by some of its own elders…It is clear from 2 Timothy 3:6-9, and further supported by 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 5:3-16, that these teachers had found a most fruitful field among some women, apparently younger widows, who had opened their homes to them and even helped to spread their teachings…

    “[Paul] is here prohibiting women ‘to teach’ in the (house) church(es) of Ephesus, although in other churches they prophesy (1 Cor. 11:5) and probably give a teaching from time to time (1 Cor. 14:26), and in Titus 2:3-4 the older women are expected to be good teachers of the younger ones…If that is what is being forbidden (and certainty eludes us here), then it is probably because some of them have been so terribly deceived by false teachers, who are specifically abusing the OT…In context it probably reflects again on the role the women were playing in advancing the errors – or speculations – of the false teachers and therefore is to be understood very closely with the prohibition against teaching…Some kind of disruptive behavior, which perhaps included boisterous affirmation of the heresies, seems to lie behind these instructions.”

  14. greenbaggins said,

    February 3, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Thanks for the comment, Pat. I would say to Fee that I agree that the letter is an occasional letter. However, that means nothing about whether Paul is using permanent principles to address ad hoc situations. Just because the *situation* is ad hoc does not mean that the *principles* are ad hoc. By that argument, nothing in any of Paul’s letters would be permanently binding, since all the letters are of an occasional nature. Actually, Paul’s referring to the creation order is proof positive, I deem, that this is *not* an ad hoc principle applicable only to a certain audience. The other passages cited by Fee have many other exegetical issues which, of course, he did not deal with in the short space of his commentary. It does not seem to me that Fee adds anything to the arguments of Kroeger and Kroeger, for instance, or to Belleville.

  15. October 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve spent several months on the topic of Head Coverings and my conclusions are on the link. But some brief points were:

    The head covering is not the hair as it’s a different Greek word and Paul was obviously not saying in v6 If a woman does not have hair then shave her? as there would be no point.

    The cultural or conscience objection doesn’t work as 1, there is nothing in the text to suggest it, plus if that was the case then why would Paul talk about God’s created order? I suggest if we take this approach to override the obvious meaning of the text with outside sources then 1, we are not sola Scriptura; and 2, we can do that with any verse in the Bible we like and have no right to criticize the Roman Catholics, emergent s, liberals, and homosexuals when we are doing the same thing.

    The reason for head coverings is given in the text. That of God’s created order and angels. Granted we don’t know what because of Angels means. But we don’t have to. It’s like when a parent says do this. The child says why? and the parent replies ‘because I said so” Well when God says so and doesn’t offer a reason why, I don’t think it’s wise to shake our fist at Him.

    Church History also supports Head Coverings because all commentators from the early church fathers through to the likes of Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, John Bunyan, A. R. Fausset, A. T. Robertson and basically everyone until recent times saw head coverings for all time. As R. C. Sproul pointed out: “Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind?”

    You rightly say it “is impossible to stop on such a slippery slope, as so many denominations have more than adequately demonstrated. Let us rather seek to be faithful to God’s Word.” but I suggest unless you just let the text on Head Coverings speak for itself and not try to override the obvious meaning with outside sources, you are already on it.

    Anyway. Good website.

  16. September 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    […] have more than adequately demonstrated. Let us rather seek to be faithful to God’s Word.”  ….read this in all of its parts in its entirety… Posted in Marriage, Home & Family, OPC, PCA, Presbyterian, Proverbs, Teaching, Titus2 Women. […]

  17. January 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    […] Professor E. Earle Ellis has said: The definitive argument of this sort on the complementarian side (distinguishing between role and worth) is that of Charles Hodge. Jesus Christ is not one iota inferior to God the Father. He is God. And yet, there is a difference in role, one of subordination. Subordination is necessary in the world as a whole, for the world to “work.” Therefore, there is no dishonor at all in women being subject to male headship. Only in the modern period are class distinctions viewed as evil per se. (https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/11/21/women-in-the-church-1-timothy-28-15-part-3/) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: