“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2: 12 – 13, ESV)
Women being pastors has been a controversial topic for over the past one hundred years, or at least since Anne Semple McPherson. I remember in my Bible college days, in an institution which believed in the sole authority of Scripture, the subject was highly debated amongst professors as well as students. Among the several arguments proposed to support women as pastors, the most convincing are “the passages are completely cultural,” and “look at exceptions like Deborah and Huldah”.
I found many fellow students unable to answer those arguments. How can you prove those passages are not cultural? How can you deny that God used women to proclaim His Word? Yet, with a little bit of context, I was able to find those answers.
If 1 Timothy 2: 12 is cultural, then Hillary Clinton is a Republican. Here is the passage in context:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:11 – 15, ESV).
The surrounding context refers first to men to pray “lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (v. 8b, ESV). The only cultural part of this passage is the lifting hands in prayer. This was how Jews and early Christians used to pray. The next verse compels women to dress modestly, exercise self-control, and do good works (vv. 9 – 10).
The next section tells the women to learn, be submissive, and not exercise authority over men (vv. 11 – 12). The reason is not cultural. It is rooted in the Old Testament creation narrative (vv. 13 – 15). Adam was created to have authority over all living things, including his wife who was a helpmate (1 Timothy 2: 13, Genesis1: 26 – 31; 2: 2: 18 – 25). Paul reminds his readers Adam wasn’t deceived by the serpent, but Eve was, giving the one with more authority more responsibility (1 Timothy 2: 14, Genesis 3). This should have reminded his hearers Adam’s authority was strengthened after the fall over the woman (Genesis 3: 16). Eve was also literally saved though childbearing because she gave birth to the ancestor to the Messiah who would save her from her sin (3: 15).
The final nail in the coffin is the next chapter when referring to elders only refers to the elder as a male (1 Timothy 3: 1- 9). He is to be in charge of and manage himself and his family well (vv. 2 – 7). He is also to be “the husband of one wife” (v. 2a, ESV).
When correlating this passage with other passages of Scripture, one finds Titus also refers to males as the ones who are to be leaders and teachers in the church (Titus 1: 5 – 9). These characteristics are similar characteristics which are found in 1 Timothy 3: 1 – 9. There is no room for female overseers in the church for the reasons listed above.
While women cannot be leaders over men, it is clear they can lead other women in being submissive to their husbands, share the gospel, and minister to the body in many ways (Titus 2: 3 – 5). Women are co-heirs in Christ and equal in value (Galatians 3: 28). Women were considered valuable in Christ’s ministry, including being the first ones to witness the resurrection and tell the brothers (Matthew 28: 1 – 10).
That being said, this does not contradict the clear teaching of Scripture that men are to be the heads of their families (Ephesians 5: 22 – 33). Men are to be leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1: 5 – 9).
What About Deborah and Huldah?
In response to this, many pushing feminism argue for seeming exceptions to the rule. The two most prominent are Deborah and Huldah. It is important to deal with those two figures when regarding this topic.
First off, both Deborah and Huldah are Old Testament figures who God used to help curb the sinful ways of Israel and Judah in their respective periods (Judges 4 – 5, 2 Kings 24: 14, 2 Chronicles 34: 22). Israel is not the church. It’s structure and government are not the same.
Second, prophets are not pastors. Prophets were mightily used by God to warn his people of impending doom, prepare his people for the Messiah, and call for repentance to sin. Prophets were also uniquely inspired by God to communicate to His people and write sacred Scripture. Pastors are called by God to pray, preach, and equip the people of God using the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3: 15 – 4: 5).
Third, God used these women when Israel and Judah were at their worst. Deborah was at the time of the Judges when everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 4 – 5, 17: 6). This was a period marked by rebellion against God’s Law. Thus, Deborah was used as a judgment on God’s people for not listening to Him. Then the judge Barak would not go to war without her, she rebuked him and said he would not get glory (4: 8 – 9).
Huldah was a prophetess who apparently was not teaching anyone, for no one followed the LORD until Josiah read from the book of the Law (2 Kings 21 – 22: 13). Huldah was used to declare destruction of the people of Judah for their flagrant disobedience of God’s Law since the times of Manasseh and pronounce the peace which would exist because of Josiah’s repentance (22: 14 – 20). These female prophets were judgments against God’s people.
If feminists want to use these women as exceptions to the rule, then they would say women can be pastors to judge the church for its sin. If that is how they want to interpret those passages, and they do not, then they would have support for only woman pastor mentioned in the New Testament:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works (Revelation 2: 20 – 23, ESV).
The examples of Deborah and Huldah do not destroy the clear teaching of male leadership in the church. They have nothing to do with New Testament leadership. They were used by God to judge His people for their sin.
Female pastors are a judgment against a sinful, rebellious church. It clearly shows the church does not hold to the authority of Scripture. The church needs to repent and submit to the clear teachings of God’s Word. This includes male leadership in the church.
If you want to dive deeper in your understanding in biblical interpretation, check out the resources section at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are tons of biblical resources to help you grow in your faith. Lord bless you.
 Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, Volume 34 of The New American Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1992). 95