Can Women Teach the Bible?

Of course, I would choose one of the most controversial topics in Christendom to address; however, it is one in which we need to take a close look.  Certainly, there are scriptures stating that a woman should be silent and should not teach in mixed company.  Those scriptures are in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 2 Timothy 2:12.

Not only are we going to look at these scriptures, but we are also going to take a look at a Greek word and the culture in the days of the New Testament church.  While I do not subscribe to the idea that you need to have deep knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek to understand the Bible, I do suggest that you take a moment to remember that the original manuscripts were written in these languages.  Understanding the culture and languages of the Bible days helps uncover truths that we normally overlook on the surface.

Taming the Tongue Image
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Let me say before I go any further that I am not a feminist.  I do not believe women are better than men nor do I believe women are more intelligent than men.  My husband and I will often joke about these issues, but in all seriousness, God has purposes for both genders.  I love and respect all the godly men and women in the Body of Christ.

Women Did Teach and Minister throughout the Bible

Scripture records many instances of women teaching both men and women in the Bible.  First of all, it was a woman who delivered the first resurrection message to the disciples after finding that Jesus had risen from the dead.  What message could be more important?  Secondly, Deborah was a judge over the nation of Israel during the period of the Judges.  Check out the book of Judges in the Old Testament.

In the days of the early church, Philip’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9).  Priscilla, the wife of Aquila, taught the Word of God and was highly regarded by Paul.  Lydia spread the gospel to many in Acts 16.  Phoebe was a deaconess in Romans 16.  Junia, who is also mentioned in Romans 16, was a female Apostle.  Other women are mentioned in the scriptures in similar ways, but I do not want this post to be too lengthy.

A Look at the Scriptures Forbidding Women to Teach

There are only two references in which women are given a red light when it comes to teaching the Word of God.  Those two references are 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 2 Timothy 2:12.  Throughout the remainder of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, women were not forbidden to teach, prophesy, etc.  When two instances appear in scripture that do not match other instances, it is important to understand that there is more than meets the eye.

In 2 Timothy 2:12, the Greek word that is used for authority or usurp authority (depends upon which translation you are reading) is authenteo.  This word has some interesting meanings.  They are as follows:  one who kills another with his own hands, domineering, and acting on his own authority.  Incidentally, this Greek word is not used at any other time in the New Testament.  The Greek word for authority that is used at all other times is exousia which means just what you think it does.

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Paul was letting the women in some of the churches know that they were not to be domineering toward the men.  They were not to speak on their own authority.  As a matter of fact, no man or woman should speak concerning the things of God on their own authority.

It is essential to understand the culture in the Greco-Roman world.  Before coming to Christ, many of the women in the churches had been involved in pagan worship in the temples.  Some had been temple prostitutes.  Feminism was on the rise during this time as it is now.  It just was not known by that name.  Before these women could teach, they needed to be taught just as any Christian must be taught before stepping out into gifts and callings.

The second scripture we will look at is 1 Corinthians 14:34.  A great deal of questions surround this one in many Christian circles.  Why?  In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul had just given a discourse about women prophesying with their heads covered.  A head covering  for women was a cultural practice of that time period.  Paul had said women could prophesy if they covered their heads as was appropriate for that time period.

In our Western culture, women do not usually wear head coverings except for fashion reasons.  However, I do believe that it would behoove women in ministry to have a spiritual covering.  What do I mean?  We all need people to whom we can be accountable.  If you are in a position of any type of ministry, you need someone to whom you can answer.  God designed it to be this way.  Yes, Christ is our ultimate covering, but accountability with other trusted Christians is beneficial.

Another fact that I will mention about the women in Corinth is this:  In the church, men sat on the opposite side from the women.  Some of the women had no tact and would loudly interrupt the preaching to yell across the room to their husbands asking what the minister meant by something that was said.  This makes sense in light of the fact that Paul commends many female teachers throughout his writings.

When It All Boils Down

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Personally, most of the Bible teaching I do is for women.  In our church, there are times when I do teach in mixed company.  However, they will tell you that I am not domineering.  I do not speak on my own authority.  I simply relay to them what the word says.  They are free to agree or disagree.

If you do not agree with me on this issue, then you do not agree. I love you as a brother or sister in the Lord.  My advice is to avoid churches where women teach and preach.  Frequently, I visit churches that do not believe women should be teaching in mixed company.  When in their churches, I do not push my beliefs on them.  I worship with them and love them, and I know they love me.

Ladies, if you are called to teach the Word of God, teach sound doctrine.  Rightly divide the word of truth.  Most of all, do not speak on your own authority but the authority of Christ.  If you are in a church in which women are not permitted to teach, do not sow discord.  Pray and ask the Lord for direction.  I have seen a well-known denomination split nearly into over this very issue.  God is a God of peace, and we must follow His leading.

3 thoughts on “Can Women Teach the Bible?

  1. Dear Allison,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these difficult passages of scripture regarding women. You brought up a great point about the word authenteo which is often translated as “authority” but is not the normal word for authority. You mentioned temple prostitution. I did research on the topic, and I did not find historical evidence of temple prostitution in the cult of Artemis in Ephesus. However, I did find how the cult of Artemis helps us understand much more about the whole strange and difficult passage about women in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Here is a video I made on the topic if you are interested. https://youtu.be/UYJvb0yxt8g

    Liked by 1 person

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