|Volume 25 Number 9 September 2023
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Various translations render 1 Timothy 2:12 as follows.
The Greek word translated “teach” in each of the Scripture citations above can mean “instruct by word of mouth” (Complete Word Study Dictionary) and possess an “authoritative element” (Theological Dictionary). Obviously, “teach” pertains to providing instruction, but the manner in which instruction is dispensed and with what authority instruction pours forth can also be a part of the Greek definition of “teach.”
Usurp Authority Over
The Greek word translated “usurp authority,” “have authority,” “have dominion” or “exercise authority” here corresponds to these definitions: “absolute master… one acting by his own authority or power… to domineer” (Complete Word Study Dictionary); “to govern” (Abbott-Smith); “to have full power over” (Liddell and Scott) and “‘To control in a domineering manner’ is often expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to shout orders at,’ ‘to act like a chief toward,’ or ‘to bark at’” (Greek-English Lexicon). Definitions in additional Greek reference works agree with these definitions for “usurp authority over,” and their inclusion here merely would amount to surplus citations.
The word “man” here refers to a male, or it can refer, depending upon the context, to a husband. “And a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness” (YLT). Definitions for the word here include “1. As opp. to a woman, Acts 8:12, 1 Tim 2:12; as a husband, Matt 1:16, John 4:16, Rom 7:2, Titus 1:6. 2. As opp. to a boy or infant, 1 Cor 13:11, Eph 4:13, James 3:2… In general, a man, a male person: Luke 8:41, Acts 6:11” (Abbott-Smith); “an adult male person… Males as distinguished from females” (Complete Word Study Dictionary); “emphatic sexual differentiation” (Theological Dictionary); and it “is never used of the female sex; it stands in distinction from a woman” (Vines).
“Silence” means “desistance from bustle or language” (Biblesoft’s) and “to keep it quiet, not speak of it” (Liddell and Scott). The context in which 1 Timothy 2:12 appears pertains to worship (v. 8) and agrees with other New Testament passages regarding the differing roles of Christian men and women in worship (1 Corinthians 14).
Teaching, though, is not confined to Christian worship assemblies, for it can occur in other formal or informal settings. In any case, a sister in Christ is not permitted to teach men religiously with an authoritative attitude (which would preclude her from being the teacher of a class in which men were present, from taking over a class from her seat or from preaching to an assembly in which men were in attendance), and in worship among men, she must refrain from speaking (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12) – “to say nothing” (Greek-English Lexicon). Yet, informally as a class participant or during informal conversation a sister in Christ can say things that may be instructive to men who are present – as was the case with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26). Incidentally, the KJV and NKJV list the husband of that union first, but the ASV and the ESV list the wife first in that team who taught the preacher Apollos “more accurately” (NKJV). Perhaps Priscilla’s readiness and appeals to God’s Word were more persuasive for Apollos.
Modern technology brings to light new questions concerning the proper ways to act out the differences between the roles of Christian men versus the roles of Christian women. Can Christian women author articles appearing in printed magazines or journals on the Internet? If so, do such articles need to be accompanied by disclaimers to discourage men from reading them? Can Christian women publish teaching videos on the Internet that may be viewed by men without violating the doctrine of 1 Timothy 2:12 and similar verses? If so, do such presentations need to be accompanied by disclaimers to discourage men from viewing them?
In either the case of articles or videos, neither a man nor a woman has the capacity “to control” readers or viewers with whom he or she is not present. In one’s absence from readers of articles or viewers of videos, neither a man nor a woman can be “absolute master” of the users of it. Instead, the readers and the viewers are in complete control of whether they access the media and whether they read or view it. However, to acknowledge insecurities regarding the use of such modern technology, one might well preface magazines with a disclaimer, acknowledging the biblical distinction in roles between men and women. Videos might verbalize a similar disclaimer. Both kinds of media could also relegate their appearance to sections implemented especially for Christian women.
However, sometimes we implement practices to accommodate onlookers, not because they are necessary or stipulated in Scripture, (e.g., verbally stating that the prayer prayed was in the name of Jesus Christ – though it was in any case, reciting aloud a baptismal formula that defines Christian baptism – Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38). Disclaimers and dedicated sections for articles and videos fall into this realm and may be helpful but optional.
Abbott-Smith Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators. 2010.
Complete Word Study Dictionary, The: New Testament. Revised Edition. Electronic Database. Chattanooga: AMG, 1993.
Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain. Electronic Database. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988.
Liddell and Scott Abridged Greek Lexicon. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Electronic Database. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans P., 1989.
Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Electronic Database. Nashville: Thomas Nelson P., 1985.