1 Timothy 2:11-14 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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
This is an incredibly difficult passage to interpret for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the sometimes incendiary rhetoric found in the literature discussing the topic of women in ministry. And this passage has generated a massive literature. An excellent introduction to the problems in this text is Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (Edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995). The last thing I want to do is step into this firestorm, but since we are moving through the Pauline letters, it is important to at least mention several factors in the debate.
This passage appears to prohibit women from teaching in church or “having authority” over men. Since these functions are to be carried out by an elder, this passage can be read as a ban on women in the role of Pastor / elder. On the other hand, if Fee is correct in his assessment of the intention of the Pastoral epistles, then what may be in view is a specific situation in which a woman is a leader of false teachers in the church at Ephesus. In that case, this text is not a general ban on women in ministry.
In his Systematic Theology, Grudem responds that the context does not seem specific at all, there are no persons mentioned who are teaching, therefore this is a general statement about the problem of women teaching in the church, not a specific ban on a specific woman teaching false doctrine. Grudem also points out that the reason Paul gives is the Fall, and the reversal of gender roles as a result of the fall. Since the prohibition is tied to such a pivotal text, it should be taken as a general statement. This is analogous to the use of Genesis 2 in establishing a principle of marriage. “Men as the leaders of the home” means “men as the leaders of the church.”
Sometimes writers will state that women were not well educated in the ancient world and therefore should be prohibited from teaching. Once women are allowed to read and are formally trained, there is no reason to prohibit their ordination as pastors. Yet there are several examples of trained women or a command to train women in the biblical texts (Acts 4:13, 18:26, Romans 16:1, 1 Tim 2:11, Titus 2:3-4). There were opportunities for women to receive education in the Greco-Roman world. This strategy is therefore based on an inadequate view of education in the ancient world.
The key word is normally translated “have authority.” H. Scott Baldwin studeid this word in depth for is article in the Women in the Church volume (“A Difficult Word: authentew in 1 Timothy 2:12.”) After surveying the multitude of word studies on aujqentevw , Baldwin argues that the methodology of the studies have been flawed. We ought to study the verb and the noun separately since there may be a difference in meaning (logos vs. logizomai, for example.) This reduces the database of occurrences to 82, all of which he includes in his article. He then sets up a semantic range for the word, and summarizes his findings in several broad categories. These categories are then distributed chronologically, so we can see the development of the word from the earliest occurrence (first century through the fourteenth century A.D.)
Baldwin’s conclusions are that the root of the word involves the concept of authority and that the context of 2 Tim 2 makes the idea of “to rule” impossible. But the ideas of “to dominate or to control” are quite likely. “To play the tyrant” is possible if we argue Paul is making a hyperbole (which few people do, since it isn’t all that clear that he might be.) Several possible translations are dismissed simply because the are not in evidence until the late medieval period. He does note that the verb is intransitive, therefore a translation of “assume authority over” is possible.
Taken along with what Fee says about the purpose of the letter, it is entirely possible then that this difficult text refers to a female leader who has taken control of a congregation. If she (and her group?) are also the false teachers of 1 Timothy, then it is possible that the order to silence ought to be read as a silencing of a false teacher.