First Timothy 2:12, The Ordination Of Women, And Paul’s Use Of Creation Narratives -- By: John Jefferson Davis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 31:4 (Autumn 2017)
Article: First Timothy 2:12, The Ordination Of Women, And Paul’s Use Of Creation Narratives
Author: John Jefferson Davis


First Timothy 2:12, The Ordination Of Women, And Paul’s Use Of Creation Narratives

John Jefferson Davis

Spring 2009

John Jefferson Davis, PhD, is an ordained Presbyterian minister and Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is author of numerous scholarly books and articles.

First Timothy 2:11-15, and especially verse 12, has long been a focal point in modern discussions of the ordination of women. Traditional reservations about the ordination of women as pastors and elders have generally made two assumptions in the interpretation of this passage: (1) that the meaning of authentein in verse 12 is clearly known and should be translated simply as “have authority,” and (2) that the appeal to the creation narrative naming Adam and Eve in verses 13 and 14 implies a universal, “transcultural” principle that prohibits the exercise of ecclesiastical authority by women over men in all (or some) circumstances.

The purpose of this article is to argue that both of these assumptions are faulty, and that 1 Timothy 2:11-15, rightly understood lexically and contextually, does not teach any universal prohibition of the ordination of women as pastors or elders. The primary focus of this discussion will be the second assumption, regarding the appeal to the Genesis creation account of Adam and Eve.1 It will be argued that Paul’s contextual and church- specific appeal to creation texts makes it not only possible, but preferable to see the limitation on women’s teaching roles in 1 Timothy 2 as a circumstantial and not universal prohibition. Before proceeding with this analysis, however, a few observations will be made regarding the meaning of authentein in verse 12.

Authentein: “Have Authority” Or “Domineer”?

It is well known that authentein in verse 12, a hapax legomenon2 in the New Testament, has been the focus of considerable attention among lexicographers and biblical scholars in recent decades. Those who favor “traditional” understandings of male ecclesiastical leadership have tended to translate this word in the neutral sense of “have...

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