I began preaching and expounding the Word of God when I was 19 years old. My very first sermon was on - go figure - bible study! I had fallen absolutely in love with the bible and desperately wanted everyone else to know how to study it like I did! I remember I told a man how excited I was to be preaching my sermon - and he laughed in my face. The idea of a woman speaking in church was somewhat of a joke to him. He was a good man, a kind man, and a Christian man. Yet, I believe, sadly mistaken. Here’s why:
/// 1 Timothy 2:11 ///
“Let woman learn in silence and all subjection”
Silence and subjection - two pretty scary words, if you ask me. So many gloss over this scripture because - let’s be honest - it kinda sounds like Paul the Apostle is saying “shut up and learn, ladies. And by the way, do what us men say, ok?”
No. No. So much no.
We choke on the word “silence”, but remember that English sucks compared to the complex language of Greek. Like, for real. For example, Greek has 7 shades of meaning for the word “servant”. We have one. So let’s just say that at first glance, we may not always get the full meaning of scripture through our English lenses, ok? Ok cool. (For more explanation on this passage, check out DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY GIRLS CAN'T PREACH? )
That silence issue jars us - but we miss the forest for the trees!
The first part of this verse is “LET a woman LEARN”!
This is not a restriction, as some might think - but a total liberation! Previously in that culture, it was forbidden for women to learn. They were thought to be unworthy of instruction and were relegated to an inferior place in society. To have a woman in the classroom - or in any position where they could be educated - was completely foreign to both the men and the women in that world. So, Paul actually begins by RELEASING women from that restriction.
It’s actually a totally radical scripture! And I don’t mean radical in the sense of 80’s slang for something pretty cool. I’m talking GAME CHANGER, CULTURE SHAKER, HISTORY MAKER kind of radical.
Interestingly, the word “silence” here, is a Greek word “hesuchia”. When it referred to women in the New Testament, the earlier translators wrote “be quiet” or “be in silence”. When the very same word was referring to men, the translators write “quietness”. (See 1 Timothy 2:11, 2 Thess 3:12) More modern translations have accurately retained the original wording: “quietness”, “stillness” or even “agreement”. In fact, check out the ESV translation:
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.”
The ISV translation puts it this way:
“Let a woman learn with a quiet spirit, and submissively.”
So why is Paul “targeting” women? Why can’t the men learn quietly and submissively too? BECAUSE THE MEN ALREADY KNEW THE CLASSROOM CONDUCT! I say that colloquially. But in all honesty,
LEARNING COMES BEFORE TEACHING
A basic prerequisite for teaching is having something to teach, right? Since women had never before been taught, they were at a disadvantage to the guys when it came to teaching. In order to teach, you have to be taught something to teach!
Paul was releasing women to learn in quietness and agreement in a day and age where they were finally allowed to learn and be educated, right alongside the men - and he’s painting the same picture Jesus did, when he allowed Mary to sit at his feet and learn from him.
The fact that Jesus allows Mary to sit at his feet is actually a reformational statement in itself - one that Paul, I’m sure, was acutely aware of. To “sit at a Rabbi’s feet” was a Jewish picture of learning & being taught. Jesus declares that Mary has chosen what it better, over the typical domestic role that Martha (and all the women) were operating in. Jesus himself was declaring that Mary was just as worthy as the men in that world, to be a disciple - and do all the things that a disciple could and should do!
Paul is not relegating us to an inferior position - he’s lifting us up to where we were always supposed to be - equal and right alongside our boys!
The picture Paul is painting of the attitude of a learner - quietness and agreement is an attitude of humility and teachability. It was an attitude, as I’m very sure Paul knew, that any male Rabbinic scholar was to have in that day. Do you get what this means? Paul isn’t telling women to shut up and learn - he’s saying to those who were previously never allowed to be taught in a scholarly way in the Jewish synagogue system "hey you can be full on disciples! Just like the men!"
Yay for Paul. And yay for us! If anything, let this scripture be an encouragement to have a submissive, agreeable, teachable heart in all environments. Let it encourage you to retain the heart of a true disciple.
We’re not done here - I realise the rest of the verses surrounding this one brings much confusion also. If you want an answer, check out the post DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY GIRLS CAN'T PREACH? . And remember girls:
/// Psalm 68 : 11 ///
The Lord gives the message.
The women who make it known are a huge group.
Don't keep silent, girls. The church needs you. The men need you. Jesus, your Bridegroom, needs you to make His message known. So speak up!
So much love