Difficult Texts
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."

First it is good to understand that the word for silence in the original Greek does not signify total silence but rather "quietness" and "peacefulness." It is quite clear from Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that women were encouraged to pray and prophesy along with others in the congregation.

In his epistle to Timothy, Paul is addressing the reason for women to exercise only a supportive role in the church as far as speaking was concerned. Paul cites the creational model of Adam's primacy in the home and church. Because of being first in the order of God' s creation, only the man was to be the authoritarian spokesman to the church.

Some have assumed that this counsel was based only on local cultural practices, but the text establishes God's own order at the time of Creation, before the resulting "curses" were pronounced on Adam and Eve. It is also important to notice that this epistle is specifically written to explain how things should be done in the church. Paul wrote, "These things write I unto thee ... that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God." 1 Timothy 3:14, 15.

The words of 1 Timothy 2:12 indicate that no teaching or speaking of women in church should "usurp authority over the man." Verse 11 says that they should be in "subjection." Again, this order of authority is not rooted in culture or natural abilities or inferiority but rather upon God's own order of creation. In verses 11 and 12 we have an inverted parallelism. What is stated positively in verse 11 is restated and amplified negatively in verse 12.

In summary, these verses teach that God established an order of authority for the church, where the man was to be spiritual director and teacher. Women would have important roles involving prayer, prophesying, and worship but were not permitted to exercise spiritual authority, which had been specifically assigned to the man.