Based on the text, what is the context of 1 Timothy 2? Some say it's the home/family, others say it's the church, and yet others say it's "everywhere" (cf. v. 8). Knowing the answer would shed light on whether the instruction pertaining to men praying, women's dress, the statement that a woman is not to teach, etc. applies primarily in the home/family, in the church, or more generally. Thanks!

3 Answers 3


Paul wrote 1 Timothy directly addressing Timothy:

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy my true son in the faith:

The contents of the letter concerned not just Timothy but the local church as well.

3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer

Paul continued with not just the local church, but churches everywhere.

1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

Paul held apostolic authority. He went on to write about overseers and deacons in Chapter 3.

Finally, he ended the letter with 1 Timothy 6:21b

Grace be with you all.

What is the context 1 Timothy 2?

Paul addressed the local churches everywhere at that time.

  • Of the three answers, while this one was the least thorough, I feel it focuses the best on determining the context of Chapter 2. It notices that the chapters before and after are focused on the church and that Paul's desire in 2:8 applies to men "everywhere." I'm still open to alternative explanations, but as of now, this seems to be the interpretation best justified by the surrounding context.
    – The Editor
    Mar 3, 2021 at 15:01

The big "problem" in 1 Tim 2 is V11 & 12. As commonly translated in modern versions, the NIV is typical, but its margin offers a significant alternative.

“(v11) A woman [wife]margin should learn in quietness and full submission. (v12) I do not permit a woman [wife]margin to teach or to assume authority over a man [husband]margin; she must be quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 NIV.

This verb, “authenteo” is used only here in verse 12 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 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.”

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 vs 9 and 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.

Silence or Quietness?

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.

Singular vs Plural

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.

Again, the same word, hesuchia, is used to describe the way a wife should learn and teach; and, again, it does not imply quietness; indeed, both the Socratic and Rabbinic teaching methods involved much discussion and dialogue between the student and teacher .

Therefore, Paul simply states what modern pedagogy has confirmed: that a student cannot learn while arrogant or surly. Thus Paul says (v11), “Let a wife learn in calmness and subjection.” As such, this is a perfect introduction to what comes after in verse 12 about eliminating domineering attitudes in the family.

Of course, such advice is applicable to husbands (as shown above) as well as wives but the more urgent problem in Timothy’s parish was possibly with overly bossy wives, as further evidenced by the “reason” quoted immediately after about Adam and Eve to encourage over-confidant women to be a little more humble and less arrogant.

Translation of 1 Tim 2:11, 12

Let us now translate 1 Tim 2:11, 12 using the above principles:

“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.”

With this understanding, we have much better agreement with the rest of Scripture and a more sensitive handling of the Greek idiom. Further, it is consistent with other Scriptural instruction to be humble and imitate Christ such as Matt 11:29, Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.


The OP asks about the context of the chapter. I can’t do better on the analysis of the Greek than Dottard already has, so I’ll focus my thoughts on the context, acknowledging that I do think most English translations have been misleadingly harsh in their renderings of αὐθεντέω and ἡσυχίᾳ.

Personal or General

1 Timothy is one of the Pauline letters that is not addressed to a church or group of believers, but to a single individual:

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1-2)

A pastor today can (and in my experience often does) give specific counsel to a single individual that would never be given to a large group. This reality can help us better understand Paul’s message.

The audience of the epistle doesn’t switch partway through

Paul is addressing Timothy the entire time, even in 1 Timothy 2:8. Note that Paul does not in this verse shift to speaking in the 2nd person plural; he is expressing his desire that men in all places would do something (3rd person plural), not telling all men to do something (2nd person plural). He’s still speaking just to Timothy.

Although it is possible to extend the idea Paul begins in verse 8 into verses 9 & 10 (e.g. he wishes all men would pray and he wishes all women would dress modestly), it's a stretch to push Paul's "I will" (or "I wish") past verse 10.

What Paul said vs what we want him to have said

Many have scoured the New Testament seeking instructions on how to run a church; that’s an understandable thing to want to learn from the apostles. The trouble is, there’s relatively little in the New Testament that provides these kinds of details, so when they do show up (such as in the Pastorals) people are often so glad to find apostolic instruction on church governance that they apply generally whatever Paul said to a specific individual in a specific circumstance. That probably isn’t fair to Paul.

I confess I see nothing in the text of 1 Timothy suggesting that Paul envisioned that his counsel to Timothy would someday be circulated around the world and treated as commands to all people in all places. That’s not to say there isn’t some good general advice in this epistle, rather, it is to say that taking this epistle out of its historical context and applying it in separate circumstances can (and does) lead to conclusions Paul may never have intended.

Historical context

If 1 Timothy is a genuine epistle of Paul (see arguments that it is here and here pp.74-78), it was written sometime between Paul’s departure from Ephesus in ~AD 55 and his death which occurred no later than AD 68. My own Pauline chronology puts 1 Timothy’s composition between 63 and 65.

Timothy was leading the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), a major city in its region, where Paul himself had lived for more than 2 years (see Acts 19). This means Paul had quite a bit of personal knowledge regarding the people in Ephesus and the problems they faced. He’s able to be much more specific than he could be in writing to say, the Romans. When he wrote to them he had never been to Rome.

If, as others have suggested, there were some women in Timothy’s congregation who were disruptive or domineering, there’s a good chance Paul knows about it and is trying to help Timothy work through that particular circumstance.

Unfortunately we do not have the questions Timothy asked that led to Paul’s writing of this epistle but, based on the contents we can make a few educated guesses:

  • There was false doctrine being taught

  • Some had left the faith

  • Some had become overly distracted by money

  • Gossip has been rampant

  • There were concerns about who should hold leadership positions (Timothy was looked down upon for his youth?)

  • Some had been influenced by the cult of Diana

The cult of Diana

Timothy is overseeing the church in Ephesus, home of the temple of Diana. In 1 Timothy 2:9 Paul gives a rather accurate description of the hairstyles the prostitutes of the cult of Diana. (see here)

It seems likely that this advice, and quite possibly the advice in the surrounding verses, is specifically targeted to help the church avoid domineering and immoral practices common to Ephesus and the cult of Diana.


Paul appears to be giving targeted advice to dealing with specific issues in Ephesus—matters he is acquainted with from firsthand experience. And in particular he is counseling the church: don’t associate with the cult of Diana.

Much of the counsel in this epistle appears highly relevant today (e.g. guidance with respect to money); but we should read the document in light of the context in which it was written. This is a letter written to address the troubles faced by the man leading the Ephesian church circa AD 64.

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