1 Timothy 2:12 says:

“But I suffer not a woman to teach [διδάσκειν], nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (KJV).

The word 'didaskein' translated 'to teach' has me a tad baffled. According to Strong’s concordance, the prohibition is against women functioning as teachers in the church, or giving didactic teaching messages.

With reference to didaskein, according to Greek Scholar Spiros Zodhiates, the word ‘didaskein’ is a continuous tense which he says means that women aren’t allowed to teach in a continuous manner. For example, leaders/pastors/shepherds/elders are required to teach the flock on a regular basis, so women would be exempt from this ministry because they mustn’t teach continuously. Nonetheless, they are free to teach, but not in a leadership capacity. I don’t like forming conclusions on one person’s say-so, so I wondered if any Greek experts could verify (or challenge?) Zodhiates’ rendition here?

Whatever didaskein really means, it surely can’t be a wholesale prohibition against women teaching at any time, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to contribute towards any Christian conversation just in case someone learnt something from them.


There may be some light in the expansive examination at https://www.gci.org/church/ministry/women10, including a wealth of scholarly references that provide further reading.

A few paragraphs particularly addressing this issue are:

Hurley writes: “Women were certainly free to speak in the Pauline churches (1 Cor. 11). Paul is speaking only of teaching situations here in 1 Timothy 2.”[22] In support of this interpretation, he notes that v. 12 is a conceptual repetition of v. 11. Learning corresponds to not teaching, and submission corresponds to not having authority. Just as Paul wants women to learn in a submissive manner, he does not want them to teach in an authoritative manner. [23] Hurley concludes that the verse means “that women should not be authoritative teachers in the church,” and he associates that with the office of elder. Paul did not forbid all teaching by women, Hurley claims. “What Paul disallowed therefore was simply the exercise of authority over men.”[24] Werner Neuer writes, “Paul excludes women from the office of teaching because teaching the assembled congregation would necessarily place them over men.”[25]

Moo acknowledges that the present-tense form of the verb “permit” could allow for a temporary situation,[26] but a present-tense verb can also be used for a permanent command (e.g., Rom. 12:1). Whether Paul indicates a temporary prohibition or a permanent rule cannot be decided by the grammar, but only by the context. Moo notes, “Paul’s ‘advice’ to Timothy is the word of an apostle, accredited by God, and included in the inspired Scriptures.”[27] Even an indicative verb—a statement—can be used to imply a command, as Paul does in verses 1 and 8.[28]

What sort of “teaching” is not allowed? The Greek word for “teach” can refer to a ministry that any believer might do (Col. 3:16), but it more often refers to a special gift associated with church leadership (Eph. 4:11). “In the pastoral epistles, teaching always has this restricted sense of authoritative doctrinal instruction”[29] (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:2). Teaching was an important part of the function of an elder (1 Tim. 3:2).

However, in Protestant churches, authority is based in Scripture, not in the preacher. Does modern preaching involve the same sort of authority? Moo argues that it does, since “the addition of an authoritative, written norm is unlikely to have significantly altered the nature of Christian teaching…. Any authority that the teacher has is derived…but the activity of teaching, precisely because it does come to God’s people with the authority of God and His Word, is authoritative.”[30]

  • Thanks for that Fay. I'm not sure whether the act of preaching is always authoritative. If preaching falls into the realm of exhorting brothers and sisters, comforting and building them up, then preaching is really prophecy according to 1 Corin 14:3, isn't it? Also, women are allowed to prophesy, and others will learn by it (1 Corin 14:31), so there must be situations where women are free to speak Scriptural things which some men might learn from, but which nonetheless are not delivered in the same authoritative way as a leader/elder might deliver a 'word of encouragement'. – Marisa Jul 29 '16 at 11:42
  • As I understand things, the Scriptures definitely prohibit ladies from functioning as elders/leaders and from teaching in an authoritative way, but I just wondered whether 1 Tim 2:12 prohibited all manner of teaching when men were present. E.g. if a lady had a blessing while reading God's Word in the week, is she free to share what she learnt, or would that be deemed 'teaching'. If her motive is to encourage, not to lead, and if her attitude is submission to the headship of male leaders, would it be OK to share the things she's learnt from Scripture? Thanks for your initial reply Fay. – Marisa Jul 29 '16 at 11:45

Cross-referencing the rest of the New Testament finds didaskein used mainly to describe the teaching of Jesus (Mark 4:1, 6:2, 6:34, and 8:31) and the apostles in Acts. Followers often referred to Jesus as Rabbi or Teacher, which was a position of respect & authority in a Jewish Rabbinical culture, so to teach a man was akin to exercising (or usurping) authority over him. Paul's instructions to Timothy (in Gentile Ephesus) place didasko in the present infinitive didaskein. Yes, that is from the present ongoing, but the verb tense is more due to necessity in sentence structure. Paul's use of the present tense active verb "do" is more important than the tense of didaskein.

I agree with the Hurley and Neuer quotes in Rowland's answer above, but with the caveat that I read of a female missionary in the field teaching Scripture to a chief and his village. The story can be found in And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shelter. Interestingly, upon a basic reading of 1 Timothy 2:12, the chief politely insisted that he acquire the knowledge to teach Scripture. The chief then would take what he learned and teach his people so she would not need to go against his interpretation of Paul's teaching.

Deborah is another example of a female leader installed as an exception to what was a line of male judges. Yet, Deborah is conspicuously left out of the honored judges list in Hebrews 11.

  • Thanks Jeremy. Does this mean that women are free to teach from the Scriptures within mixed congregations, but only on the premise that everyone understands she submits her teachings to the male oversight, i.e. she's happy to stand corrected and acknowledges their headship role? I don't get why people who say women can't teach in church, nevertheless say women are free to teach other women. If the issue of teaching in church is linked to her susceptibility to deception and leading others astray, then there's the same chance of her teaching doctrinal error to ladies alone. – Marisa Jul 29 '16 at 11:53
  • A better scenario (perhaps?) would be for the ladies conferences to have godly men there who can oversee the things being taught by the ladies and put things straight if they're going skew whiff. But if that's the ideal scenario in a ladies conference, why can't women similarly share things from God's Word in mixed congregations, where the male headship still has oversight and can put them right where necessary? – Marisa Jul 29 '16 at 11:55
  • Good questions and points, but we are probably venturing into governmental interpretation and opinion here (not quite the design of this forum). I personally think the best women's conferences would have male oversight. To me there is a difference in sharing (or reading) an encouraging Scripture within mixed congregations and teaching, which provides interpretation and application. Paul makes it clear in multiple letters that authoritative oversight & teaching to men is a role for men. – Jeremy Aug 26 '16 at 14:34

This is a Wuest Commentary:

Paul is still dealing with the conduct of women in the assemblies. This admonition to the effect that women are to learn in silence with all subjection, is made clear as to its meaning by 1Co_14:34-35, where the women were disturbing the church service by asking their husbands questions, presumably about that which was being preached. The silence here and in our 1 Timothy passage has to do with maintaining quiet in the assembly, and does not forbid a woman to take an active part in the work of the church in her own sphere and under the limitations imposed upon her in the contextual passage (1Ti_2:12).

The correct understanding of Paul’s words, "I suffer not a woman to teach," are dependent upon the tense of the Greek infinitive and the grammatical rule pertaining to it. In the case of the infinitive, the Greek has a choice between the present and aorist tenses, and he can use either at will, since the time element in the tense of the infinitive is not considered. When the Greek desires to refer only to the fact of the action denoted by the infinitive, without referring to details, he uses the aorist. Should he use any other tense, he is going out of his way to add details, and the student must pay particular attention to his choice of the tense.

Dana and Mantey in their Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (p. 199) have this to say on the subject: "The aorist infinitive denotes that which is eventual or particular, while the present infinitive indicates a condition or process. Thus pisteusai (aorist) is to exercise faith on a given occasion, while pisteuein (present) is to be a believer; douleusai (aorist) is to render a service, while douleuein (present) is to be a slave; hamartein (aorist) is to commit a sin, while hamartanein (present) is to be a sinner." Thus, didaxai (aorist), is to teach, while didaskein (present 1Ti_2:12), is to be a teacher. Paul, therefore, says, "I do not permit a woman to be a teacher." The context here has to do with church order, and the position of the man and woman in the church worship and work. The kind of teacher Paul has in mind is spoken of in Act_13:1, 1Co_12:28-29, and Eph_4:11, God-called, and God-equipped teachers, recognized by the Church as those having authority in the Church in matters of doctrine and interpretation. This prohibition of a woman to be a teacher, does not include the teaching of classes of women, girls, or children in a Sunday School, for instance, but does prohibit the woman from being a pastor, or a doctrine teacher in a school. It would not be seemly, either, for a woman to teach a mixed class of adults.

The expression, "usurp authority," Vincent says, is not a correct translation of the Greek word. It is rather, "to exercise dominion over." In the sphere of doctrinal disputes or questions of interpretation, where authoritative pronouncements are to be made, the woman is to keep silence.

Translation: Let a woman be learning in silence with all subjection. Moreover, I do not permit a woman to be a teacher, neither to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.

  • Please break this answer into separate paragraphs, each with a main sentence. Please quote the text of the verses you cite and indicate which translation or witness you are quoting. Please use the ">" sign at the beginning of a line when you quote verses. Thanks. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Aug 26 '17 at 17:15
  • The whole of this answer is a quote from a commentary. That does not meet this site's requirement to "show your own work". If you think that a particular work is valuable as an answer, then "showing your own work" might be simply a matter of summarising the salient points of the work, and then drawing a conclusion. – enegue Aug 26 '17 at 21:47

I think using the verb teach or a verb like instruct is correct. The possible interpretations can be in a footnote, unless the translator (claims that he) is god-inspired.

It cannot be interpreted as a prohibition to teach something not related to the church outside the church though, based on the context.

Zodhiates was a Bible scholar with a Doctor of Theology degree from Luther Rice Seminary of Jacksonville, Florida.

The aspect of the verb here is imperfective indicating an ongoing, continuous, or repeated action. So, it's not about something that happens once but it is not about something necessarily continuous either.

One possible translation of "γυναικὶ δὲ διδάσκειν οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω" is

I do not allow women to instruct

But I think something about the verb aspect is lost.

If we suppose that it is about a position inside the church

I do not allow women to be instructors

So, maybe it can interpreted even as a prohibition on ordaining women

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