Bible Classes (IV)
J. R. Pope
Question 3: DO THE SCRIPTURES AUTHORIZE WOMEN TO TEACH? IF SO, WHERE AND WHOM?
Our consideration now is not a question of another organization, or of a divided assembly. It is actually not a question of women teaching men, or of women teaching with authority over men. But since the practice of certain women teaching certain classes has been questioned, this involves the rights allowed women in teaching and the restrictions imposed therein.
Women cannot be excluded from teaching by a blanket charge that "Women are not authorized to teach" for God's word plainly authorizes women to teach! Primarily, woman's place is in the home, where she bears and brings up children (I Tim. 5:10), guides the house (I Tim. 5: 14), and keeps the home (Titus 2: 5). I Tim. 2: 15 and I Cor. 7:3ff teach that a woman cannot evade nor neglect her marital and maternal responsibilities and be saved. A part of her responsibility as a wife and mother are that of teaching God's word! A woman certainly has a responsibility in teaching, guiding and training her children in the knowledge of God and his word (2 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 3:15; Acts 16:1). But she also has an obligation along the same line toward her husband (I Cor. 7:16; I Pet. 3:1ff). In fact, a woman's teaching responsibility extends beyond the limits of her own home to teach younger women (Tit. 2:3-5) and even to teach other men (Acts 18:26).
Indeed, she may and must do some teaching! So the charge that "women are not authorized to teach" is an invalid charge, for these verses establish her authority to teach. However, her teaching is subject to whatever restrictions the Lord may have imposed. Please consider those things that would restrict a woman in her authority to teach.
There appear to be three restrictions imposed upon women in their teaching, considered now in order.
I Tim. 2:11-12, "Let the woman learn in silence (quietness, ASV) with all subjection. But I suffer not (permit not, ASV) a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority (have dominion, ASV) over the man, but to be in silence (quietness, ASV)."
These verses impose a single restriction upon women, stated from two aspects: First, she is to LEARN IN SILENCE and to BE IN SILENCE. The silence here imposed is not an ABSOLUTE SILENCE, demanding no sounds at all, for a woman could not even "ask her husband at home" in absolute silence! If a woman could not make any sound, she could not "confess Christ before men" (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10), nor, could she "speak" in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as authorized in Eph. 5:19 and Heb. 2:12. This silence is a relative or qualified silence. It is defined by authorities as follows:
"1. quietness; descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others, 2 Thess. ':12.
2. Silence: Acts 22:2; I Tim. 2:11-12" (Thayer, p. 281). "Rest, quiet, tranquillity; a quiet, tranquil life, 2 Thess. 3:12; silence, silent attention, Acts 22:2, I Tim. 2:11-12" (Bagster, p. 189). "Stillness, rest, quiet, ease, peace" (Liddell & Scott, p. 621). The same Greek word, Hesuchia, is translated in the King James Version as silence in I Tim. 2:11-12 and as quietness in 2 Thess. 3:12. It is consistently rendered quietness in the American Standard Version.
Actually, this same silence is imposed upon MEN in some cases, as concerns their relationships with others (2 Thess 3:12). Concerning the woman in I Tim. 2:11-12, this silence relates to the man and is qualified by the woman's place of subjection (v. 11, 13, 14). This passage contemplates woman's relative to the man and does not primarily consider her teaching of children and other women, which is the practice involved in our Bible classes, but restricts woman in her relationship to the man!
Secondly, the woman is not permitted to TEACH NOR USURP AUTHORITY OVER THE MAN. Here again, her not being permitted to teach is seen to be NOT ABSOLUTE, for indeed she may and must do some teaching! Her teaching is qualified by her position of subjection to the man, for which two reasons are given: Adam was first formed (1 Tim. 2:13), and woman, being deceived, was in the transgression (v. 14). Woman's place, relative to the man, is not one of authority, but of subjection, even in the matter of teaching.
It is clear that woman is not forbidden to teach AT ALL, for she MAY and MUST do some teaching. However it is argued that woman cannot teach men. What man is there who has not learned from, and consequently been taught by a woman -- one's mother, wife, or a godly sister, just as Priscilla was instrumental in teaching Apollos in Acts 18:26? Yet this teaching was done from a subjective, rather than an authoritative relationship.
Then comes the objection that woman cannot teach in a public assembly. However, the same word, in both Greek and English, appears in Col. 3:16 and in 1 Tim 2:12, by which authority a woman teaches when she sings in the public assembly. Yet Col. 3:16 is subject to the same restriction (that of 1 Tim. 2: 11-12) as is any other teaching situation concerning woman; namely, a woman may teach within her realm of subjection to the man, but may not when it necessitates usurping authority over the man. For this reason, we note that women sing, but are not allowed to lead the singing!
Since the teacher of a group has authority over that group which inheres in the position of teacher, woman may not fill that place nor exercise that authority over the man! She is only forbidden to teach IF, WHEN AND WHERE her teaching removes her from her place of subjection and she usurps authority over the man! This she cannot do anywhere!
Therefore, a woman is authorized to teach consistently with her God-appointed place of subjection to man. If and when her teaching constitutes the usurpation of authority over man, there she is not permitted to teach! However, this restriction does not exclude woman from teaching our Bible classes, for we do not have women teaching classes of men! Women teach children and other women, for which there is ample authority, and they may do so without ever violating the restriction, which concerns usurpation of authority over men. 1 Tim. 2:11-12 are not the verses to exclude women teachers from Bible classes, except those classes wherein men are present, and that is not our practice! Men teaching the men's classes; women teaching classes of children and other women. In this there is no violation of this restriction!
Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 16-17