Women Teaching

From BibleStrength
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ultimately there is no way to reconcile the consistent examples of women prophesying, leading, and teaching throughout the Bible with a complete prohibition on female preaching. Indeed, Paul made allowance just a few verses later for wives and widows to preach if they had continued "in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (1 Timothy 2:15) As such, women who had over time demonstrated their holiness and commitment to God through good works were a revered group in the Church.

Although Bishops, Deacons, and Elders are generally acknowledged as leadership groups in the Church per 1 Timothy 3 and 5, another group is identified in 1 Timothy 5, widows. Indeed it is an oversight by many churches that they acknowledge male elders as church leaders per 1 Timothy 5, but not widows, even though 1 Timothy 5 spends more time addressing widows then elders.

Women clearly prophesied as part of the New Testament Church (Acts 2:17; 21:9) and thus would have prophesied what God showed them in church settings per 1 Corinthians 14:26-33. The context of the controversial passages commonly brought up, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12-15 shows that Paul was addressing married women specifically in the context of a marriage relationship, not widows; and not those who had proven themselves over time through good works per his exception in 1 Timothy 2:15. However, this would arguably have been simultaneously with their husbands, as in the case of Priscilla and Aquilla, who are always mentioned together as preaching, teaching, and leading the church which met in their home. (Acts 18:2,18,26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19)

Ultimately there is no way to argue that women should be allowed to prophesy but not preach, there is no distinction. The Greek word translated "women" in these passages is gune, which is translated "wife" 92 of the 221 times it is translated by the KJV.[1]

1 Corinthians 14:34 ¶ Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

1 Timothy 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Cases of Women Prophesying, Leading, and Teaching

First of all, cases of women prophesying and teaching throughout the Bible can be readily identified. The four widowed (Grk. parthenos) daughters of one man all prophesied, per Acts 21:9. Godly women throughout the Bible prophesied. Both men and women are predicted to prophesy. (Joel 1:28; Acts 2:17) Deborah, a leader of Israel, was also described as a prophetess in Judges 4:4; and prophesied in Judges 5 following a military victory in which she was aided by God. The Queen of Sheba, who came to hear Solomon's wisdom, is another example of a woman in leadership; indeed Jesus spoke highly of her. (Matthew 12:42; 1 Kings 10:1) There are a number of cases where godly women prophesied upon giving birth, see Hannah (1 Samuel 2), Elisabeth (Luke 1:42-45), and Mary (Luke 1:46-55).

There is also the case of Priscilla, who with her husband Aquilla, instructed Apollos, who with Paul was one of the greatest teachers of the early Church. (Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 3:4-6) Priscilla is one of several women Paul describes as fellow helpers in Romans 16, indeed she and her husband stayed with Paul while all working together making tents (Acts 18:2,18); Paul also mentions Phebe, and urges the early Church to assist her in whatever business she is engaged in, (Romans 16:1) who sent the entire letter of Romans on Paul's behalf, and may have even transcribed it for Paul. (Romans 16:27; cp. Galatians 6:11) Junia may have been an Apostle in the early Church. (Romans 16:7)

Acts 21:9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

Judges 4:4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.

Romans 16:7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Other examples of women prophesying in the Bible include Miriam, Moses' sister (Exodus 15:20), Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah the prophetess (Nehemiah 6:14), and Isaiah's wife. (Isaiah 8:3) Prophetesses who were widows include Anna (Luke 2:36-37) and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist. (Acts 21:9)

Paul's Exceptions

If reading 1 Timothy 2 in context, Paul allows for exceptions (women prophesying) when it comes to women who have born children and met standards of holiness and righteousness. (v. 15) As such there is no contradiction, Paul allows women to prophesy in 1 Timothy 2:15.

1 Timothy 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Addressing Married Women Specifically?

Logically, Paul was primarily addressing women who were married and thus subject to the authority of their husbands, per the requirement that wives submit to their husbands, and husbands sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did for the Church; although both were to submit to each other. (Ephesians 5:21)

Ephesians 5:21 ¶ Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 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.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Colossians 3:18 ¶ Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

However, even then Paul allowed women to teach and to preach, as in the case of Priscilla. (Acts 18:26) Thus, Paul allowed wives who had proven themselves faithful servants of God over time to preach, per 1 Timothy 2:15.

The Greek Word Translated Woman Typically Referred to Wives

The Greek word translated woman in the controversial passage of 1 Timothy 2:12 is gune which is commonly translated wife. Of the 221 times the KJV translates it, 92 times it is translated as wife.[1] As such, the word may carry connotations related to marriage, and Paul was logically addressing those married, not widows or the unmarried.

Wives Allowed to Preach With Their Husbands

Nonetheless, God did provide an order of authority in the marriage relationship specifically. However, wives who have proven themselves with good works over time were still allowed to preach by Paul per 1 Timothy 2:15; likely in coordination with their husbands, as in the case of Aquilla and Priscilla. Observe that the church met in the house of Aquilla and Priscilla, and they are always mentioned together. (Acts 18:2,18,26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19)

1 Corinthians 16:19 ¶ The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

Romans 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

Widows Were Honored Like Bishops and Deacons

Widows in particular were a revered group of leaders in the early church similar to Bishops and Deacons, so long as they met standards of holiness and righteousness. (1 Timothy 5:9; cp. 1 Timothy 3) As such, Paul's statement in Galatians 3:28 that all Christians are one in Christ Jesus, without divisions of Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male or female should be given emphasis. The early Church provided for such widows and saw that they were specially honoured and provided for (1 Timothy 5:3,16); indeed one of the earliest recorded acts of the early Church was creating a 7-member council to oversee welfare for widows. (Acts 6:1-7)

1 Timothy 5:9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

The Controversies Paul Was Addressing

It should be observed that Paul in 1 Timothy 5 was addressing a controversy in the early Church where younger widows were abusing their speech, gossiping behind the backs of others and living promiscuously. (1 Timothy 5:11-16) Paul urged that they not be accepted among the number of elderly widows who had over many years shown themselves faithfully righteous. (1 Timothy 5:9-10)

Head Coverings: No Fancy Plaiting of Hair Above the Head

Paul was not advocating for a hijab, but for women to simply wear their hair down; which he considered more honorable and appropriate to the way they were made. Note 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, where Paul says that it is shameful for men to have long hair, but a glory for women to have long hair; Paul specifically says a woman's hair is her "covering" in v. 15.

As such, the lack of female hair covering Paul addresses in vv. 5-6 appears to be not letting their long hair cover their heads. Nonetheless, Paul refuses to enforce such a policy as God-given in v. 16, stating that there is no such official church policy, and he will not argue with those who insistently disagree; suggesting this was Paul's own opinion, not a commandment from God (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:6,25; 2 Corinthians 8:8).

Not An Issue With Hair Length

Furthermore, Paul had no problem with women cutting their hair short. Observe that the alternative he proposed to their heads not being covered was for them to be "shorn or shaven" which suggests that hair length itself was not the issue he was addressing.

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

Men Had Long Hair: The Nazarite Priesthood

The holiest of priests, the Nazarite priesthood, were forbidden to cut their hair unless they sinned. (Numbers 6:5,13,18) Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus were all Nazarites. (Judges 13:5; 16:17; 1 Samuel 1:11; Luke 1:15; Matthew 2:23) The holiest men in the Bible had long hair.

The Real Issue: Elaborate Plaiting of Hair With Fancy Hairstyles

As such, Paul was likely addressing women who put their hair up somehow artificially in buns or braided on top of their heads. This is consistent with what Peter taught as well, that there should not be "outward adorning of plaiting the hair" or a focus on wearing fancy jewelry and clothing.

1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

Equality in the Church

As the Apostle Paul says, "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God." (1 Corinthians 11:11-12) Even though woman was made from man, yet man is made from woman through birth. As such, Paul's conclusion that all are one in Jesus without divisions of Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male or female (Galatians 3:28) should be closely scrutinized for its underlying principle. God does not judge on the basis of race, social status, or gender, and neither should the Church when it comes to prophecy and preaching, separate from the order of authority in the marriage relationship.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Thayer and Smith (2019). "The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon: Gune." BibleStudyTools.
    Strong's Greek Concordance (2019). "1135. gune." Bible Hub.