Egalitarians reject the view that women are not called to be pastors. They believe that since women are gifted with every spiritual gift and men and women are equally qualified to lead, there is no reason women should not be pastors.
It is true that women are gifted with every spiritual gift and that women are qualified to lead but only in appropriate contexts. We need women to lead other women and all children. We need women to do things men cannot do. But we do not need women to be the fathers of the church. We need them to be the mothers of the church.
Still, egalitarians reject this view. The most common way they do this is to claim that Paul’s prohibition in 1 Tim. 2:12 is because of a cultural situation in Ephesus and that Adam and Eve serve as an analogy to the problem in Ephesus. They claim that the women in Ephesus were uneducated and teaching false doctrine. Here’s why this view is unconvincing:
1. While Paul is concerned about false teachers, there is no reason to believe the false teachers are women (the women teachers were probably teaching sound doctrine!). Some claim that 1 Tim. 5:13 reveals that women are going from house to house teaching false doctrine. That is a stretch coming from a passage specifically about young widows. In that passage, Paul is targeting unmarried “gossips and busybodies”, not false teachers. Elsewhere, Paul in fact names three men who were teaching false doctrine: Hymenaeus, Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20) and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17). Paul could have easily named a woman if it was indeed a problem.
2. The prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority is explicitly in relation to men. Why would Paul prohibit women from teaching false doctrine to men and not also to women? Is it okay for women to teach other women false doctrine? Of course not.
3. In order to make 1 Tim. 2:12 fit their view, they require that the word “teach” is not connected to the object of “a man” at the end of the sentence (not likely) and that the word “teach” refers to teaching false doctrine. However, in the Pauline epistles, the word “teach” mainly refers to teaching sound doctrine. Paul has a word for teaching false doctrine and fails to use it here (heterodidaskaleō is used in 1 Tim. 1:3, 1 Tim. 6:3).
4. In order to make 1 Tim. 2:12 fit their view, they prefer the translation “usurp authority” over a man (a negative action) rather than “exercise authority” over a man (a positive action). But research has convincingly showed us that in Patristic Greek, “authenteō“ is most likely a neutral or positive verb to mean “have authority” or “exercise authority”.
5. The main reason why the egalitarian view is unconvincing is because the creation and fall of Adam and Eve (1 Tim. 2:13-14) are not meant to serve as an analogy to any situation in the church. Paul brings it up as the reason they are not to do something, just as he does in 1 Cor. 11:8. Egalitarians tend to glance over verse 13 and go straight to verse 14. Verse 13 teaches: it is because Adam came first, that women are not to lead the men, referring to Adam’s headship. Adam has a role that Eve does not (and vise versa). As for verse 14, it is claimed that the women in Ephesus were deceived and leading people astray just as Eve was deceived and led Adam astray. But Genesis 3 doesn’t teach that Eve’s failure is typological and that other women will fail in the same way. There’s also no reason to believe Eve was uneducated and teaching Adam anything as some claim. Someone (presumably Adam) educated Eve on the forbidden fruit. She knew not to eat or even touch the fruit. And Eve didn’t seem to teach Adam any doctrine. She simply took the lead, handed Adam the fruit and Adam followed. The role reversal was the problem, not the teaching of false doctrine.
The most natural reading of 1 Timothy 2:12 is that Paul does not permit a woman to teach men or exercise authority over men because Adam was formed first, then Eve. Adam alone had the leadership role and so do the men of the church.
Keep in mind, this controversy doesn’t rest on the interpretation of just one verse. There are other questions egalitarians should consdier:
- Besides a focused exegesis on 1 Tim. 2:12, what about the teachings on male and female roles in other parts of scripture? What about Genesis 2? What about Ephesians 5? 1 Cor. 11?
- What about the parallels between the Christian home and the church?
- How is the husband of a woman pastor supposed to fulfill being the head of his wife (Eph. 5:22-24) while his wife has authority over him in the church?
- Why did Jesus, who was pro-women and counter cultural, only appoint men to the office of apostle?
- Why are the qualifications for an overseer in 1 Tim. 3 aimed specifically at men?
I sense that most egalitarians fight to defend their position in an effort to defend a woman’s worth. They feel women are equal to men and therefore should not be barred from the pastorate. But that’s a false premise. Again, our value is not tied to our roles. Connecting our worth to our roles in the church would be anti-gospel.This is a 7-part series. For a comprehensive study, see Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem