You’ve probably heard it said that women aren’t supposed to teach men or even speak in church (or maybe it was dismissed as a sign of how Paul hated women or some such thing). The text referred to is I Timothy 2:12.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Now, the first thing to notice is that the phrasing uses the wrong verb tense for it to be the command that people say it is. That verb form is explicitly personal perspective, not a command. Commands require an imperative verb tense, which is incompatible with the entire “I suffer not” thing unless the “I” is God. But the “I” of I Timothy is the author, Paul.

The second thing to notice is the Greek: “I suffer” is epitrepó, a verb that explicitly has to do with permission and allowance.

The third thing to note is that Paul does not say “Women are not to teach” (which would be a command). He explicitly says he doesn’t allow a woman to teach—but he calls a woman (Junia) an apostle in Romans 16:7 and another woman (Phoebe) a deacon ("servant”, but Greek is same word as “deacon") in Romans 16:1. Both those positions involve the teaching of others. Therefore, either Paul changed his mind at some point in his ministry, or there is significance missing in the common interpretations for I Timothy 2:12.

What is that missing context? I don’t know. It’s on my list of things to investigate.

But I do find it concerning that the common support cited for complementarianism relies on an abuse of language. “I suffer not” is not “an explicit command from God” unless Jesus says it, and He isn’t the narrator of I Timothy.

Do you have any thoughts or references to share about women as teachers?