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I was asked, “How can I better explain 1 Timothy 2:12 to my pastor? Here are 10 Suggestions.

by Bruce C. E. Fleming, Host of The Eden Podcast (

  1. The main idea in this passage is not to stop women from teaching. It is to retrain, and then restore, these women so that they might once again teach the Word!
  2. Recognize that verse 12 does not stand alone. The NRSV and others make it look in English like verse 12 is Paul’s complete sentence. This is incorrect. Verse 12 is subordinate to the main action which is in verse 11. To read verse 12 without focusing on verse 11 takes it out of context. A verse out of context can seem to say things that vary significantly from the original text. This is what happens here. Verse 12 is NOT a blanket statement about what ALL women should not do.
  3. Recognize that verse 11 should be our main focus. Verses 11 and 12 are one long sentence in Greek. This is one sentence capped on both ends with the same words, “in quietness.” This is called an inclusio.
  4. Focus on the main idea of verses 11 and 12. It is the imperative verb of verse 11. “Let learn!” has an exclamation point. There is no imperative verb in the rest of the sentence which is numbered as verse 12.
  5. Questions about “Let learn!Who should Timothy let learn? What should they learn? How should they learn? Why should they learn? THESE questions should be our preoccupation before ever considering what is in verse 12.
  6. Who needed to learn? Part One. In chapter 1 of 1 Timothy, Paul charged Timothy to correct certain men and women who were wayward overseers. The Greek words in these verses are inclusive of both genders. These overseers had gone astray in what they taught and how they taught (1 Tim 1:3-7). When Paul listed his own three sins in 1:13 he was also giving a three-step outline for what was to come in 1 Timothy 1:18-3:16. In this section of his letter he wrote about how to deal with groups of people who corresponded to his three sins. He did this in what can be called “a jump, jump, high jump” pattern. In the first short jump he first addressed blasphemers in 1:18-20. In the next short jump he wrote about actual and potential persecutors of Christians in 2:1-7. Finally, he devoted the high jump, the longest section in 2:8-3:16 to those who had disrupted the church like he had done before his conversion.
  7. Who needed to learn? Part Two. Paul gave an apostolic command in 1 Timothy 2:8 and 9 when he wrote “I wish.” This is spelled out in verse 8. The idea is repeated in verse 9 which begins with “Likewise.” Paul had something he wished for two groups of people. Who were they? They were the men and women of 1 Timothy 1 who had been disrupting the church by their wayward behavior. To miss this is to miss the primary purpose of 1 Timothy! Were all believers in view? No. Only the overseers. Were all overseers in view? Like Priscilla and Aquila? No. Only the subgroups of men and women overseers who needed correcting by Timothy were in view. In verse 8, the group of male disrupters was to stop preaching and praying in a way that was provoking wrath and dissention. In verses 9-15, the group of female disrupters was to stop their incorrect way of teaching through extravagant dress (verse 9b) and incorrect teaching (verse 12).
  8. How should they learn? These wayward overseers needed to learn proper theology in place of the false teaching they were spreading. And they needed to learn properly, quietly and in subjection to their teachers. This is what Paul commands. Let them learn quietly and in subjection.
  9. With what goal in mind? Why should they learn at all? Timothy should let them learn so they could resume oversight. So they could teach and practice what was helpful to the believers. In 1 Timothy 3:1 the high point of the passage is reached. These students looking to resume ministry are told by Paul, “… anyone who aspires to oversight desires a good work.” The “anyone” was these men (2:8) and women (2:11) former overseers.
  10. Why should they be allowed to learn? Instead of removing them from ministry and abandoning them to Satan, as Paul did with the purposeful rebels Alexander and Hymenaeus in 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul recommended different treatment. Why? Because he himself had been treated mercifully. Who ese had received similar treatment? Eve in the Garden of Eden! In 1 Timothy 1:12-13 Paul told how God treated him with mercy. The reason? Because Paul was not a first degree rebel. He had sinned ignorantly and in unbelief. He was a second degree offender. So too was Eve. Eve had not purposefully rebelled against God. She had been deceived by the Father of Lies (John 8:44). And these women overseers who Timothy was to “let learn!” apparently were second degree offenders. God wanted to deal with them in mercy and with an eye to restoration. By referring back to Eden in 1 Timothy 2:13-15a Paul highlighted different levels of offense that justly received different levels of response. Was someone against letting these women learn? Paul’s command was to let them learn in 1 Timothy 2:11 because they were to be treated like he and Eve had been treated! These verses are not about an order of creation but about an order of restoration!

Go Deeper? Sign up to take the Back to Eden Workshop as a Tru Partner here: Ready to read the workbook now? Get your copy from Amazon of the book Back to Eden, 1 Timothy 2:8-3:16 – Corrected and Restored by Jesus the Faithful Word by Bruce C. E. Fleming.

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