Teaching Men on the Internet: A Lesson on Authentein


Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, Public Domain

Today, someone shared an article with me that made my stomach ache. It was a post written by a complementarian female blogger asking other female bloggers to respond to the assertion that blogging about theology on the Internet violates 1 Timothy 2:11-14, which forbids women to teach men. While a couple of the women boldly affirmed the ridiculousness of said assertion, some of the other statements outright saddened me [bold emphasis added]:

“In honor of Christ, I want to avoid teaching men through this blog without avoiding my responsibility to substantiate my assertions (or, when necessary, recant them) with Scripture. Sometimes, I may cross the line, in which case I’ll eagerly repent. If I had a way to guarantee an all-female readership, believe me, I’d be teaching a lot more boldly! Alas, I can’t control who reads this blog.”

“In the forum that we were in with Naomi’s Table, it was made clear that this was intended for women not men. Could I stop a man from listening on the radio? No. But, especially when teaching anything that directly related to men (i.e. husbands love your wives…) I put so many disclaimers around anything I said, pointing any men listening back to Scripture, re-stating that I was not trying to teach them, that they should not be using me as their teacher, etc.”

“Vince is the leader of this ministry and Lori serves in a supportive role helping with the administrative aspects of organization of materials, responding to women who email the ministry…and any other help-mate role that Vince needs in fulfilling other aspects of the ministry. Lori will never be speaking in front of a group that consists of a mixed audience of both male and females.”

What saddens me about these statements is that these women feel limited in how boldly they can publicly proclaim gospel truth because a man might choose to listen in. And this limitation is occurring because of a gross misunderstanding of 1 Timothy 2:12.

 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Now, all of the women claimed that this verse was written in the context of teaching within the church. But while 1 Timothy 2 does address worship, it doesn’t explicitly state or even imply that said worship is occurring only within corporate gatherings. To say that Paul is only addressing worship within the church is to read something into the text that isn’t there. When he says in verse 8 that “I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing,” should we believe that’s an instruction limited only to corporate gatherings? When he says in verse 9 that women should dress modestly, without “gold or pearls or expensive clothes,” is that only for Sunday morning? Of course not. We don’t stop worshiping God once we leave a church building.

Obviously, this does a demolition job on those who want to limit 1 Timothy 2:12 to corporate settings only. But the verse’s universal context is necessary to really unlocking its power.

You see, there appears in 1 Timothy 2:12 a unique word that does not appear anywhere else in the whole Bible. That word is authentein. It is the Greek word translated into English as “authority.” Complementarians teach that this authority is a type of spiritual authority–or headship or leadership–granted to men only. But they are wrong about that, too.

Authentein is a difficult word whose meaning has evolved slightly over time. But a close study of the word reveals that it is an abusive type of authority, where one person dominates and oppresses the other. Its meanings include “to usurp,” “to murder” (both others and one’s self) and possibly even “to instigate violence.” Historically, it also has a sexual connotation, which could be translated as “to seduce” or “rape.” The noun form of the word means “master” or “autocrat.”

So here are some other, more accurate ways of reading 1 Timothy 2:12:

  • “I do not permit a woman to teach or dominate a man.”
  • “I do not permit a woman to teach violence against men.”
  • “I do not permit a woman to teach a man licentiousness.”
  • “I do not permit a woman to teach a man to kill himself.”

Any of those things would be inappropriate for a Christian woman to do, inside or outside of the church. And guess what? They’re inappropriate for men to do as well!

Authentein refers to a form of authority that no Christian is permitted to exercise. Just because Paul says he doesn’t permit it for women doesn’t mean that it is, by default, authorized for men. Jesus had a lot to say about authority, and he was pretty clear that domination, murder, abuse and licentiousness were off the list.

No, women teaching scripture on the Internet does not violate the spirit of 1 Timothy 2.

Women teaching scripture in church does not violate the spirit of 1 Timothy 2.

Women teaching scripture to men does not violate the spirit of 1 Timothy 2.

Authentein is an abusive, ungodly authority. All believers, male and female, are equipped by God’s Spirit to lead the way to righteousness. So, ladies, don’t be afraid to speak boldly. There shouldn’t be any disclaimers put upon the gospel simply because it came from a woman’s mouth. Truth is truth.

8 responses to “Teaching Men on the Internet: A Lesson on Authentein

  1. When our interpretation of Scripture leads us to ludicrous applications we must go back and see where we went wrong. This ridiculous teaching requireds us to round up most every book written by a woman that “teaches” and burn them up. It denies the presence of the Spirit in all Christians.

  2. You may not have heard this before, but the holy hands are to be raised in in “every place” where “place” is a short form for a Hebrew like Paul for “holy place” like a synagogue or congregation of believers. So it actually is relevant to what we now call church.

    I am egal and agree that these 1 Tim 2 verses at the least have various possible meanings, Paul might be restricting one woman at Ephesus, a small group of women, or more generally. And there are debates over authentein. How some can use such a unclear verse to restrict women is beyond me.

  3. I was tempted to leave a comment on one of her newer posts, where she denounces Beth Moore for the same reason, all the while teaching that any women who claim to teach under the authority of her husband is likewise violating Scripture. That would mean that Priscilla was being unbiblical every which way you slice it. Then I realized that it really wouldn’t do very much good because she’s so sold on her preferred interpretation, she’s unwilling to buy into the idea that other interpretations are equally valid.

  4. Very interesting post, April. I love it when Christians refer back to the Greek. What you wrote, to me, seems to fit the historical context of the time, the Greco – Roman Empire. What I’m familiar with, anyway.

  5. Good post. That blog you reference has irked me too! Not that particular post, but a couple others. I link to one in a post of mine. https://lightenough.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/false-teaching-the-lesser-issue-elevating-so-called-gender-roles-above-all-else/
    But besides the role of women, this blogger seems one of those over-the-top “discernment” types finding error and false teaching in just about everything except her own little group of Christians…

  6. I wonder how she would interpret Galations 3:28 – There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

    When interpreting Bible passages you have to look at when and why. Not all Scripture is meant to be ubiquitous. Some is for a specific time and place, and we all need to do a little exegetical research AND allow the Spirit to lead us in a little reasonable logic now and then.

    Terrific post as usual, April.

  7. Based on absolutely no evidence at all, which often works just great for me, I think 1 Timothy 2:11-14 refers to a particular woman or small group of women who were doing something (possibly something traditional to a particular Middle Eastern culture or ethnic group) highly unusual, disruptive, and “not very kind or nice” to menfolk. It would be a really bad mistake to assume Paul was using that bit of scripture to keep women from teaching men in all present and future places and times. When people make desperate global leaps like that today, I believe it is often an attempt to get the Bible to affirm a current, longstanding secular cultural tradition that demeans women.

    In particular, I would offer up my dead Christian aunt who was a very smart and capable woman in the world of business, but her husband felt that anything she might do in the world of business was a threat to his manhood and image of himself. Therefore, she sat at home all day most of her life playing the role of house vegetable (not kidding here). Early onset dementia set in at about age 57 or 58 and went full blown at 73. She had to take one 10 mg Valium tablet every day for most of her adult life. I took a 10 once, and it wasted my brain inside 10 minutes. I have always suspected that drug was necessary because of the great dissonance and related anxiety that was set up between her great brain power/skills and her almost total inability to use those gifts God gave her. When God gives gifts to people (women or men), I believe he wants those people to put those gifts to maximum effective use whenever possible. If a person has a gift of teaching, I think they should use it. And by the way, who was the jerk who said that teaching adults has to be a “matter of controlling and dominating authority”? Teachers are not authorized to hit people with baseball bats or throw rocks at them. Authoritativeness in teaching is all about how well you know the content you are teaching. It is not about who controls someone. That really only applies when you are teaching little barbarians—a.k.a. kids. Doodness dwacious!!!