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1 Timothy 2:12 - "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."

Here's an often tricky subject, depending on who you speak to about it.

Before I begin, it should be noted here that these words ("woman" and "man") could also be translated as "wife" and "husband", which then changes the thrust of this command quite drastically.

This verse, and others similar, are often taken by people to mean that it only applies in a church setting (ignoring the fact that we are the Church - 1 Cor 12:27; Rom 12:5). A little while ago when discussing this topic, an argument was put forth about the 'Woman at the Well' preaching to others (men especially) as she, after speaking with Jesus, went back to her town and proclaimed the Gospel to everyone (Jn 4:39-42). Though the opponents argued that she was permitted due to the fact that she was in a town and not a church.

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Despite that, the argument about the woman at the well being "permitted" to teach the Gospel, because it was in a town and not a church building, fails because Paul is basing his logic on the Genesis creation order - which would surely apply universally. We can see this in the very next verse and sentence in 1 Tim 2:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

So if Paul's logic and subsequent command comes from creation-order, then either everyone is subject to it in every situation, or they aren't at all.

You can't say "do it this way because Adam and Eve, God said so" and tag it with "but only here, here and here" if the argument it based on how God originally designed everything to be. The whole marriage debate is also based on a creation-order logic that God 'made them male and female' (Gen 1:27; Mk 10:6), therefore man/man, woman/woman can't marry - and the church is fighting its hardest to make that apply to all people, secular or otherwise - despite Paul saying judging those outside the church is not our business (1 Cor 5:12). So why in the instance of women being silent, should this same creation-order command from Paul be only situational and the other not?

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Leaving aside the silence issue for a moment, those women out there who do keep to this non-authority, staying quiet thing - do you follow the preceding verse as strictly?

 ...also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes... (v.9)

Do you men who follow the silence of women strictly, also follow this? How many of you make sure your wives don't have a new hairstyle, or wear jewellery or buy nice clothes? Are any women reading this wearing jewelry? Or have their hair styled? Or are wearing expensive designer clothes Surely you should cast all your personal ornaments and fancy clothes away lest you break Paul's command about modesty! Men you should stop your wives, and any woman in the church you may lead, from wearing jewellery, or doing their hair in nice styles - and you better make sure they only buy drab, second-hand clothes from charity shops so as not to fall into the trap of getting immodest, expensive clothing!

But now lets look at 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, where Paul issues a similar command, yet this time it's translated as "husbands" and "wives" rather than generic men/women:

As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

OK, so, same line of thinking here from Paul it would appear. But before you say "but this is a different situation!" - see how he begins: "As in all the churches of the saints" - ALL the churches. It would seem that this is speaking of the same type of situation as in 1 Timothy, yet this time it's only directed at the married (which the 1 Tim verse could also be, due to the Greek words).

First thing though - "as the law also says": what law? Where is this in the Torah? Even if it is, why is Paul suddenly enforcing the Law when his other letters take so much time to explain our freedom from it (cf. Gal 3:1-14; Gal 5:1-15)?

Cultural and historical explanations of this aside - and common explanations such as men and women sitting separately in Jewish synagogues which then followed through to the early church, (and women/wives then trying to shout across to their husbands causing havoc and Paul calling for order, not submission) - if some men and women, and some denominations in general, are taking Paul so literally on these points, do they sit in silence? And I mean TOTAL silence? Do the wives wait to get home to talk to their husbands about the service? Because remember, it's shameful otherwise (though, interestingly, not a sin per se).

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What if you're not married? Do single women just have to go with their questions unanswered? Why is this passage only directed at the married, whereas the other one isn't?

What if 1 Timothy 2:12 was translated with the same marriage logic as 1 Corinthians 14:

I permit no wife to teach or to have authority over her husband; she is to keep silent.

Where does the argument against women leaders go then? She could lead a church as long as her husband isn't present?

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Do you think that maybe there's a little more going on in the background to Paul's commands here that we miss due to the time distance since its writing, and the way societies have changed, making these commands say something different now in the 21st century than they would have ever been intended in the 1st century?

Just some thoughts to ponder on. You've got to try and follow the logic of the texts, rather than pulling isolated verses out of various letters to make a point or doctrine.

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