Part FOUR: “To Teach” in Verse 12 not Referring to “Teaching Men”

The verse begins with the Greek ‘didaskein’ (“to teach”), one of the activities that 1 Tim 2:12 is prohibiting women from doing. Interpreters usually connect “a man” from later in the verse to this verb, thus yielding “to teach a man.” However, this interpretation does not hold up grammatically. For “a man” to be brought forward to connect with “to teach” in this way, the Greek word would need to be spelled ‘andra. However, it is actually spelled ‘andros here, indicating it is not intended to connect with “to teach”, but rather, is intended to connect with the verb ‘authentein’ appearing later in the verse (the meaning of this Greek word is in dispute, and so, is left untranslated here; part FIVE will take a detailed look into this word).

If ‘didaskein’ is not being used in the sense of “to teach a man,” in what sense is it being used? Just as ‘didaskein’ forms a doublet with ‘authentein’ here in 1 Tim 2:12, it forms a doublet with another verb every other time it is used in the letter of 1 Timothy as well:

not to teach another doctrine nor to become preoccupied with myths” (1:3-4)
proclaim [God is Savior of all] and teach them” (4:11)
teach these things and exhort [slaves to respect their masters] (6:2)
teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with wholesome words” (6:3)

Note how the verb paired in each case with ‘didaskein’ provides some indication of the content of the teaching. Therefore, when we see the pattern of “’didaskein’ + another verb” in 1 Tim 2:12, we should expect the other verb (‘authentein’) to provide some indication of the content of the teaching Paul is here prohibiting. A finding by Philip Barton Payne supports this view. He points out that Paul usually uses the Greek word ‘oude’ to bring together two closely related ideas. In this case, it is “to teach” at the beginning of the verse and the Greek word ‘authentein’ that are being linked, and together convey the meaning of Paul’s prohibition. In other words, ‘authentein’ designates what sort of teaching is prohibited to women.

This understanding fits better with the witness of the New Testament than does seeing in 1 Tim 2:12 a universal prohibition against women teaching men. 2 Tim 2:2 instructs, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful persons [‘anthropos’ = ‘human being’, either male or female] who will be able to teach others also.” Also, Acts 18:26b reports that Priscilla “explained to Apollos the way of the Lord more accurately.” Further, 1 Cor 11:5 explains what women should do when prophesying which, according to 1 Cor 14:3, consists of “edification, and exhortation, and consolation,” these elements containing basic elements of Christian instruction.

John Toew’s examination of the Greek verb ‘epitrepo’ (“I allow, permit”) used in the first half of verse 12 provides evidence that 1 Tim 2:12 is not intended as a universal prohibition. He notes that when this word occurs in the Septuagint (Greek translation of Old Testament), it is used to address a specific and limited situation (not a universal one); this fits with the idea that Paul is here addressing a particular circumstance, not laying down a universal prohibition.

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