The term “silent” (σιγάω) here is used two other times in this context.
- He instructs those who speak in tongues to remain silent unless they have an interpreter (1st Cor 14:28).
- Next Paul tells prophets to each take their turn; when the time comes for the next prophet to prophesy then the first must be silent (1st Cor 14:30).
Notice that he gives a qualifier for prophets and tongue speakers as to when to be silent but for women they are simply “not permitted to speak”. Also, an often forgotten passage in Titus 2:3-4 which tells us older women do not teach in a mixed (men and women) assembly but are instructed to teach women. If we want to practice good hermeneutics we will interpret the hazy through the clear (am I being too repetitive?). Titus 2 is about as clear as it gets.
But what if women have been gifted by God to teach? There is no doubt God has gifted some women with the ability to be good orators. Let them use their gifts in their proper contexts
- teaching younger women
- training children.
Therefore, whatever 1st Corinthians 11 is saying we must preface it through that which is clear in Scripture.
- Women are instructed to teach women (Titus 2:3-4),
- Women are prohibited from teaching men (1st Tim 2:12)
- Women are prohibited from speaking (using prophetic gifts) in the church at all (1st Cor 14:34-35).
Therefore, we must round out 1st Cor 11 through “the principle of harmony”. Thus, it would seem that Paul is instructing women to keep their heads covered (a sign of submission) at all times, even when teaching other women, but to remain quiet in the assembly where men are present (1st Cor 14:35-36) because it is improper for them to teach men (1st Tim 2:12).
I too know the Greek language. I do not wish to boast but I do however feel that one must establish credibility in order to speak authoritatively on such issues since I am hardly known as any sort of an authority. I have translated 1st John, 2nd John, Gospel of John, Gospel of Mark and Ephesians and various other passages. I have completed over three years of Biblical Greek training and have continued the usage of it for the past few years in my ministry. That is basically to say I am familiar and knowledgeable with the Greek language.
The definitions given for the Aorist and Present tense by some who want to interpret these clear passages into ways that allow women to teach men found wanting. A true definition of the Aorist is, “it presents an occurrence in summary, viewed as a whole from the outside, without regard for the internal make-up of the occurrence.” The Present tense is summed up as, “basically represents an activity as in process (or in progress)”. The aorist is actually used in 7 different ways according to Daniel Wallace, who is one of the world’s foremost Greek scholars. Therefore, we should not restrict the definition of the Aorist to simply meaning a close up photograph of a momentary event. In regards to the Present Tense Wallace lists out 9 ways it can be used. Not all 9 ways have the idea of a progressive action like you are watching a movie (Instantaneous, Gnomic, Historical, Conative). So again, we shouldn’t restrict the all progressive verbs we come across to a certain way in which only certain present tense verbs function.
How does this apply to our teaching on 1st Timothy 2:12? Some argue that since the infinitive διδασκειν (to teach) is in the Present tense then it means a “progressive teaching” is prohibited but occasional teaching is allowed. Thus, they are taking the present tense to be a progressive present. But since there are 8 other ways the present tense can be used we need to examine those as well as the context to see which fits the best. We have already examined the context of other relevant NT passages which, if I am correct, instruct women to remain silent in the churches. Therefore, our first impressions of 1st Tim 2:12, that women cannot teach nor have authority over men seems to be correct. But we must dig deeper to develop our point. Let us look at the other present tense infinitives in 1st Timothy to see if this same hermeneutical rule applies.
- In 1st Tim 1:3 Paul said he left Timothy there in order that he would instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines. Does this mean it was ok for it to happen on occasions?
- Paul handed two men over to Satan so they would be taught not to blaspheme (1:20). Does that mean Timothy should allow occasional blaspheming?
- In 1st Tim 6:17 Paul charges Timothy to teach the rich not to be conceited. So is a sporadic conceit permissible?
These examples should show that the hermeneutic used by some in 1st Tim 2:12 is not satisfactory. The whole point of my argument thus far is to show that just because the Present tense can be used progressively doesn’t mean it always will be used progressively. Furthermore, even if the Present tense is rendered as a Progressive Present that does not at all mean that “occasional” exceptions are favorable.
On a final note we are actually focusing on the wrong words in 1st Timothy 2:12
- We must realize that the controlling verb is a present active indicative επιτρεπω (I permit).
- The two infinitives διδασκειν (to teach) and αυθεντειν (to have authority) are complementary infinitives.
- That means that the sense of the controlling verb will carry over into the infinitives not vice versa. In other words we are really trying to examine the indicative, not the infinitives, for the infinitives will piggy-back off the controlling verb.
Therefore, out of the nine options on how the Present tense is used which option is the best for 1st Tim 2:12? Let us first examine other problems with taking this to be a Progressive Present.
- Without other temporal qualifies such as ἄρτι (now, henceforth, hereafter) or νυν (now) we seem to be begging the question.
- 1st Tim 2:12 holds a command, “I do not permit…” If we were to use this same hermeneutic with other present tense commands our exegesis would become ludicrous. Does Μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐν τῷ θνητῷ ὑμῶν σώματι in Romans 6:12 mean “Do not let reign in your mortal bodies right now so that you obey its lusts”, imply that the moral restriction might change or allow exceptions in the future?
- Contextually, as we will elaborate later, the command is rooted in creation, which would imply a universal principle not to be subverted.
- The normal use of the present tense in moral literature is not progressive but a gnomic.Therefore, it is best to take this as a Gnomic Present, that is, a present tense which makes an axiomatic statement.