- 1 Tim. 2:12 I do not permit. Paul self-consciously writes with the authority of an apostle (e.g., 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:6), rather than simply offering an opinion. This statement is given in the context of Paul’s apostolic instructions to the church for the ordering of church practice when the church is assembled together. In that context, two things are prohibited: (1) Women are not permitted to publicly teach Scripture and/or Christian doctrine to men in church (the context implies these topics), and (2) women are not permitted to exercise authority over men in church. (The reference for both “teaching” and “exercise authority” here is within the context of the assembled church.)
Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not in view here, and both are encouraged elsewhere (on women teaching women, cf. Titus 2:4; on women teaching children, cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Nor does this passage have in view the role of women in leadership situations outside the church (e.g., business or government).
The presence of the word or (Gk. oude) between “to teach” and “to exercise authority” indicates that two different activities are in view, not a single activity of “authoritative teaching.” “Exercise authority” represents Greekauthenteō, found only here in the NT. Over 80 examples of this word exist outside the NT, however, clearly establishing that the meaning is “exercise authority” (not “usurp authority” or “abuse authority,” etc., as sometimes has been argued).
Since the role of pastor/elder/overseer is rooted in the task of teaching and exercising authority over the church, this verse would also exclude women from serving in this office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). Thus when Paul calls for the women to be quiet, he means “quiet” with respect to the teaching responsibility that is limited in the assembled church. Paul elsewhere indicates that women do speak in other ways in the church assembly (see 1 Cor. 11:5). See also note on 1 Cor. 14:34–35.
- Second, H. S. Baldwin takes up the matter of the likely meaning of authentein. The KJV translates this word “usurp authority,” and more recently many feminists, such as I. H. Marshall, have argued that the word has a negative connotation. If so, they say, Paul prohibited only women’s negative exercise of authority in the church, as well as women’s false teaching, not their exercise of these functions, properly conceived. Baldwin’s study shows that authentein was an exceedingly rare word in NT times that occurs in the NT only in 1 Tim 2:12 and elsewhere only once or twice prior to the writing of 1 Timothy.
3. So, then, in the case of 1 Tim 2:12, is the word study method by itself inconclusive?
Yes, I believe that’s right. The fact that lexical study in this case, owing to the limited data, of necessity remains inconclusive leads naturally to the next chapter in the book,