Every time there is a discussion about the role of women in church leadership, someone throws out this verse: I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
1 Timothy 2:12 (NIV)
They usually expect this verse to be a discussion ender. It’s very clear. The Bible says, without any uncertainty, that women are not to teach men, and they are not to have authority over men. They must be quiet. The end.
If your entire Bible is only 1 Timothy 2:12, then this would be correct. However, there are 65 other books in the Bible, and over 30,000 other verses.
I want to throw out a few of those other verses:
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time.
2 Kings 22:13,14
“Go and ask the Lord on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah concerning the contents of this scroll that has been found. The Lord must be furious with us because our ancestors failed to obey the words of this scroll and do everything written in it about us.” So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah.
1 Samuel 25:18,19, 32
Abigail quickly took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She loaded all this on donkeys and told her servants, “Go on ahead of me. I’ll be right behind you.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal. David said to Abigail, “Bless the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! And bless you and your good judgment for preventing me from shedding blood and taking vengeance into my own hands today!
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.
Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.
Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same
Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
2 Timothy 1:5
I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.
One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message. Once she and her household were baptized, she urged, “Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.
Say hello to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, along with Nympha and the church that meets in her house.
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
There are many other verses and stories of strong women who spoke up, who had authority, who were leaders, whose prayers and words are given the authority of scripture, and who were anything but quiet.
So the next time someone throws out 1 Timothy 2:12, remind them to read the whole Bible.
**Please add other stories of powerful Bible women in the comments!**
For resources on understanding 1 Timothy 2:12 read:
Kroeger, Catherine Clark, & Richard Clark. I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 In Light of Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker House, 1992.