What is the right understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 based only on grammar. Should it be understood as "I don't let any woman teach other man (adult male gender) or to have power over man(adult male gender)"

or "I don't let any woman to teach other human beings (woman+man+children) or to have power over man(adult male gender)"?

Or can it be understand in both mods, depend of how we choose?

  • The (English) ambiguity does not exist in Romanian (whose native speaker you appear to be), so I am not able to understand why you even had to ask the question in the first place.
    – Lucian
    Dec 22, 2018 at 0:20

3 Answers 3


Understanding 1 Tim 2:12 is complicated by the fact that the central verb, “authenteo”, translated “assume authority over” occurs only here in all the New Testament.

It is an unusual choice if Paul simply intended the idea of “authority” for which a variety of more common words are available. Indeed, the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek NT (Friberg et al) entry is, “strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over”. The BDAG entry is even stronger: “assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to, … practically = ‘tell a man what to do’”.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (400 AD) translates this word as “dominari” = domineer.

A very impressive study by Albert Wolters [Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, JBMW vol 11-1, p44, 2006] clearly shows that this verb (and its cognate relatives) means to “have mastery over”. (See also its use as a noun in Wisdom 12:6, “murderer”, and 3 Macc 2:29, “master”.) Cynthia Long Westfall agrees, “In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō [which includes the infinitive authentein] refers to a range of actions . . . . However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden, because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.” [Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 292]

Such behaviour is out of place in both the home and the Christian congregation for anyone including women. Indeed, Jesus and the apostle Peter specifically forbade Christian leaders (or anyone else) “lording it over” other members of the congregation (Matt 20:25, 26, Mark 10:42, 43, 1 Peter 5:3). Thus, a domineering attitude is inappropriate behaviour for both men and women, but presumably, Timothy had particular problems in his congregation(s) with some difficult and bossy women that Paul advised him to address.

Further, Paul’s advice in Eph 5:21—28 gives authority to husbands over wives, but only consistent with the loving, self-sacrificing attitude of Christ to the Church. Again, complete mastery of anyone over another is out of place in the Christian community and home (Eph 5:21) by both men and women.

It is very instructive that that the immediate context of this instruction is 1 Tim 2:9, 10 where Paul instructs women to dress with modesty and decently (ie, not provocatively or to call attention to themselves). It appears that he then expands upon this point about how women are to teach – without being domineering; and to learn in calmness.

In verse 12 there is a Greek construction, often used by Paul, called “hendiadys”. In 1 Tim 2:12, the construction, “neither teach nor domineer”, idiomatically means, “do not teach in a domineering way”; “do not ram your ideas down men’s throats in an overpowering way”, or similar.

The final sentence of this tricky verse 12 contains Paul’s injunction, “she must remain quiet” (NIV), or, “she is to keep quiet” (NRSV), or, “but to remain quiet” (NASB), or, “but to be in silence” (KJV & NKJV), or, “she is to remain quiet” (ESV), etc, with similar results for v11.

We first observe that the phrase in v12 begins with the conjunction, “but” which necessarily introduces a related but opposite idea. Again, it is clear that Biblical women were NOT required to be silent and this is clear by a simple comparison of the translation of the same word, hesuchia, earlier in the same passage, verse 2, which applies to all Christians to be “peaceful/tranquil and calm”. As used here, this obviously does not imply that Christians are to remain silent or quiet!

Therefore, for consistency we should use a similar idea in verse 12, thus rendering the latter part of verse 12, “but to be calm”, without implying quietness or silence.

Up to verse 10, Paul uses the plural, “women”, presumably applying to all Christian women. However, in verses 11, and 12, he switches to the singular, “woman” or “wife”. I am inclined to think that Paul specifically has wives in mind here, hence his change of grammatical number. However, whether this is true or not does not alter the point – silence is NOT advocated so much as calmness.

Therefore, I would translate 1 Tim 2:11, 12 as: "Let a wife learn in calmness and subjection. I do not permit a wife to foist her ideas on the husband, but to be calm.”

  • Maybe you don't undetstand my question. I wanna know if the verb "to teach" reffered to "a man"(adult one) only, like in the "authentein andros" or is a general restriction on any human being(man+woman+children). Is there any grammatical proof that the restriction is not general but only refers to the man? Paul teach us "i don't let a woman to teach a man but i let her to teach a woman and childrens"? Or what? Dec 14, 2018 at 21:36
  • It is answered above - the noun is Andros = husband (singular). The verb to teach is part of the hendiadys "not to teach nor domineer the husband"
    – user25930
    Dec 15, 2018 at 6:53

The previous answers have value generally, but I'm not sure that they address the specific question asked in the OP. My understanding of that question is: What is the object of the verb "to teach"?

My answer to that question is that the Greek syntax probably has the same level of ambiguity as the syntax of the English translation, which looks like this:

  1. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.

And in English that sentence can be read two ways. This is brought out if we use brackets:

  1. I do not permit a woman to (teach or have authority) over a man.
  2. I do not permit a woman to teach (or have authority over a man).

In English there is no way to definitively decide between those interpretations. If the writer wanted to make his meaning clear he would have to specify the scope, perhaps like this:

  1. I do not permit a woman to teach a man or have authority over a man.
  2. I do not permit a woman to teach anyone, or have authority over a man.

But in the absence of such elaboration it's impossible to choose between those options grammatically. Either are possible.

In the Greek original I believe the same ambiguity exists. The only additional points to note are punctuation and word order. If we had this English sentence...

  1. I do not permit a woman to teach, or have authority over a man.

...we would probably infer that the comma is guiding us to read sentence (6) with the same meaning as sentence (5). But of course the punctuation was not in the original text so that too will be a matter of interpretation and will probably follow the meaning we have assigned to the text on other grounds.

As for word order, an English translation would look something like this if we followed the Greek order:

  1. A woman being a teacher I do not permit nor having authority over a man.

In English that word order would lead us to read sentence (7) in the same way as sentence (5). But that is because in English the word order determines the meaning of a sentence in a way that is not true in Greek. In English "The dog bit the man" is different from "The man bit the dog." We learn who did the biting from the word order. But in Greek it is the ending of the word "Man" (its form or declension) which tells us if the man was victim or perpetrator. As a result the Greek writer is free to mix up his man-dog-biting words any way he likes, and they will all mean the same thing.

So my overall conclusion is that there is no way to tell from the syntax alone whether the object of the teaching is just men, or whether it's a blanket prohibition on teaching all human beings. My personal view is that the biblical texts generally give women and men equal freedom to teach, but that comes from a much more detailed study of this and other passages. This OP is a good but narrow question, and the danger lies in reading previously determined views on women and teaching back into these narrow elements.


An insight to the answer to your question on 1 Tom. 2:12 can be found in the following X-ref text by Paul:-

NWT 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 "As in all the congregations of the holy ones, 34 let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak. Rather, let them be in subjection, as the Law also says. 35 If they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the congregation."

So as with 1 Tim. 2:12 it would seem the the above restriction is only with the limits of congregational teaching.

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