I suppose I should say right off, considering the controversial nature of this topic, that the views I express here are not necessarily the views of my church. These are my views that I have come to as I have studied the scriptures. I’ve never really discussed these things with my pastor, and to be honest don’t know where he stands on it. It’s simply never come up.
But as I look at this passage, I think it’s very clear that the leadership role in the church was meant to be taken by the men in the church. Paul says this idea of male leadership is true in the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:22-24, I Corinthians 11:3). And from this passage, it seems clear to me that this idea extends into the church as well.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (11-12)
A few points here. First, Paul wanted the women to learn. He wanted them to learn more about God and his ways. He wanted them to come to a fuller understanding of the “mysteries” of our faith. (3:16)
But they were to do so while recognizing authority in the church, God’s authority first and foremost, and the authority of those God had put in charge of the church.
Of course, men should do this as well. And there were definitely men stepping outside of these bounds of authority, challenging Paul and the other leaders of the church such that Paul had to confront them and kick them out (1:20).
Why then did Paul feel the need to say this concerning the women? Probably because the women were doing more than simply challenging the authority of Paul and the other leaders. They were also stepping outside the leadership structure God had established within the church in which the men would lead.
This is the main problem I have with people that try to say all this stuff about women not teaching a man or having authority over a man being culturally defined and restricted to this particular situation.
Men were teaching false doctrine. Yet Paul didn’t say, “All you troublemakers, you should be quiet and learn with full submission.” He said, “You women in the church, be quiet and learn with full submission.”
Nor did Paul say, “All you troublemakers, you people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, I don’t permit you to have teach or have authority.” He specifically says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.”
Further, if the problem was (as some claim) that the women weren’t well educated and therefore were not allowed to teach or have authority, why restrict it to “over a man?” Why not “I do not permit women to teach or have authority at all?”
Add to that the fact that godly women like Eunice and Lois (Timothy’s mother and grandmother) taught Timothy about God and the scriptures (II Timothy 2:1:5; 3:14-15) and the fact that Priscilla (who along with her husband in a private setting had taught a man named Apollos the Word more accurately) could very well have been in the Ephesian church when Paul wrote this letter (II Timothy 4:19), Paul could hardly have been restricting all teaching activities from the women. Rather, in the context of this passage, Paul seems to be saying that within the church service, women are not to teach or to exercise authority over men.
Why? We’ll take a look at the reasons Paul gives tomorrow.