How do you reconcile 1 Tim 2 which says that a woman is not to teach a man and Acts 18:24-28 which is account of Priscilla and Aquila teaching a man, Apollos?


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How do you reconcile I Tim 2 saying that a woman is not to teach a man and the account of Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos who was a man?

The words used for "woman" and "man" may also be translated as "wife" and "husband" respectively. Thus, rather than Paul using such a broad brush forbidding a "woman" to teach a "man," his prohibition is for "wives" to teach their own "husbands."

This thought remains consistent with other passages of Scripture such as Ephesians 5:23-24 (AV) where we are told—

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

With the wife being in submissions (subjection) to her own husband, he will have the rule over the doctrine she teaches.

Paul commended the ministry of Phebe, a woman who brought his epistle to the Christians in Rome (Romans 16:1,2). Phebe was a servant of the church at Cenchrea. "Servant" may refer to a deacon, which is a term that sometimes designated administrative responsibilities in the Early Church. In his epistles, however, Paul most often applied the term to any minister of God's Word, including himself (1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21)(AV). He also called Phebe a "succorer" or "helper" of many (Romans 16:2); this term technically designated her as the church’s patron or sponsor, quite possibly the owner of the home in which the church at Cenchrea was meeting. This entitled her to a position of honor in the church.

Paul also acknowledged the ministry of prophetesses (1 Corinthians 11:5), following the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:13,14) and early Christian practice (Acts 2:17,18; 21:9).

With the number of women commended by Paul in Romans 16 (eight or possibly nine) it is doubtful that Paul idea was to exclude women from ministry in general but instead to preclude them from usurping authority over their own husbands.

  • This is written as if Paul were the author of 1 Timothy, but it's widely recognized that 1 Timothy is deutero-Pauline.
    – user39728
    Mar 16, 2021 at 1:26

The same reconciliation is made with Deborah in the Hebrew Bible, who was a judge of Israel, who prophesied under the authority of Barak the son of Abinoam, whose faith "conquered kingdoms" (Heb 11:32-33). That is, both Deborah and Barak sang the song of victory together (Ju 5:1-31). Priscilla taught in tandem and under the authority of her husband, Aquila. The New Testament never mentions the one without the mention of the other.

  • @Joseph-Basically, I agree-but the OP's question is out of the NT-could you address that?
    – Tau
    Mar 23, 2014 at 7:25
  • 1
    @ Joseph I dont think the NT says anywhere that Priscilla was under Aquila's authority, nor Deborah under Barak's authority. Can you please provide proofs for your statement?
    – tina
    Mar 24, 2014 at 12:17
  • 1
    @tina - in Hebrew הֲלֹא indicates a rhetorical question or politeness. Deborah uses the word when addressing Barak (Ju 4:6 & Ju 4:16), which has the force of "please," and so she was not commanding Barak, but deferring in respect. Please see Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990), p. 684, fn. 48. Finally, she includes him among those who "led" Israel while excluding herself (Ju 5:9). Please see the lexicon discussion, ref. para (3), of פָּרַע here; she was among those who "followed."
    – Joseph
    Mar 24, 2014 at 18:00

One can not easily dismiss 1 Timothy as a fraudulent letter (i.e. deutero-Pauline). Paul is named as the author in the text (1 Timothy 1:1).

The genuineness of Pauline authorship for 1 Timothy was accepted by the early church as evidenced by the surviving testimony of Irenaeus and the author of the Muratorian fragment. Possible allusions are found in the letters from Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (95 A.D.), Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians (110 A.D.) and Polycarp to the Philippians (130 A.D.).

The 19th century legal scholar, Simon Greenleaf, known for his three volume work on "A Treatise on the Law of Evidence" writes:

Every document, apparently ancient...and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise. (Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by Evidence Administered in Courts of Law, pp. 33-34, 1874)

Many of the early church fathers took 1 Timothy 2 as applying to large group settings. For example, Chrysostom writes in his "Homily 9" the following:

Great modesty and great propriety does the blessed Paul require of women,…To such a degree should women be silent, that they are not allowed to speak not only about worldly matters, but not even about spiritual things, in the church.

Chrysostom also writes about his own cultural view of women in his work, "The Kind of Women Who Ought to be Taken as Wives" (4):

To woman is assigned the presidency of the household; to man all the business of state, the marketplace, the administration of government...She cannot handle state business well, but she can raise children correctly...

But times have changed. John W. Haley, back in 1874, wrote a book in defense of the Christian faith entitled, "Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible." In the book, after surveying ways of harmonizing various narratives where women were involved in leadership over men, he examined both the texts from Corinthians and also 1 Timothy and came to this conclusion:

...with fitting deference, we may ask whether after all the texts from Corinthians and Timothy may not have been intended for a local and specific, rather than a general application.

Writing after the time of the civil war, John Haley was exegetically ahead of his time. Just like how the Apostle Paul deals with slaves in other passages, so there is a cultural adaptation that lies behind his exhortation:  “I do not allow, at this time, women to assume authority over men.” 1 Timothy 2:12 (οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, a temporal present). The context of the passage with the stronger imperative, "let her learn," implies that the situation under discussion is local and, therefore, the prohibition is restricted in scope.

As the culture around us changes it illuminates the nuances of that passage, that for many years we’ve failed to see, in the original language and context.

Paul alludes to the curse, that fell upon women as the result of the fall. This is reflected in Aristotle’s natural observation that “the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female [is] subject [to him]” (Pol. 1254.b.13–15). Aristotle also writes that “the male is by nature better fitted to command than the female” (Pol. 1259.b.2–3, b.10).

The order of creation related by Paul, in his letter to Timothy, was not done in order to argue for an ontological view of the inferiority of women. Rather, Paul wrote it to highlight how to best live as Christians with the cultural consequences of the curse upon females as an aspect of the (economic) order of the fall.

In the Genesis account, there are two descriptive facts which, when combined, combine as an issue in God's decree. It should be read in the context of this post-fall statement:

I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Gen. 3:16b)

Martin Luther writes about this egalitarian view of prelapsarian humanity, in his commentary on Genesis:

Hence it follows that if the woman had not been deceived by the serpent and had not sinned, she would have been the equal of Adam in all respects.  For the punishment, that she is now subjected to the man, was imposed on her after sin and because of sin, just as the other hardships and dangers were:  travail, pain, and countless other vexations. Therefore Eve was not like the woman of today; her state was far better and more excellent, and she was in no respect inferior to Adam, whether you count the qualities of the body or those of the mind.

The earliest known commentary on 1 Timothy 2:12 is by the church father, Origen. After quoting 2:12, Origen describes it as “concerning woman not becoming a ruler over man in speaking” (περὶ τοῦ μὴ τὴν γυναῖκα ἡγεμόνα γίνεσθαι τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ ἀνδρός ). Origen speaks of certain disciples of the women, who had become pupils of Priscilla and Maximilla, as not heeding this commandment. Priscilla and Maximilla are known to us as the leaders, along with Montanus, of what was called the Montanist movement. It was a movement in the early church that had women in leadership.

It is significant that Tertullian (after his conversion to Montanism) reproached Pope Zephyrinus (198-217 A.D.) with having initially issued letters recognizing Montanism and than revoking them at the institution of one by the name of Praxeas.

It is difficult to know if Tertullian changed his view of women leaders in public. However, Tertullian writes this beautiful statement (202 A.D.), in his work Ad uxorem (emphasis added):

... How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together; they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not.


They do contradict one another. There are lots of contradictions in the bible, and this is one of them. 1 Timothy is deutero-Pauline. The authors of the deutero-Pauline epistles frequently showed extremely negative attitudes about women. It's not just the author of Luke/Acts who disagrees with the author of 1 Timothy. Paul himself actually didn't share the misogyny of the author of 1 Timothy, as you can see in Romans 16, where he discusses these same individuals, Prisca and Aquila.

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