Only one verse prohibits women to teach men?

Only one verse prohibits women to teach men?

In my continuing review of CARM and Matt Slick’s articles on women in ministry, this post is about Matt’s article titled “Only one verse prohibits women to teach men, so it doesn’t apply to the whole church

Matt writes:

First of all, if it is true that the Bible teaches women shouldn’t teach men, even if it is only once, then the argument is settled. Once should be enough.

The first thing should be obvious in that the scriptures don’t say “women shouldn’t teach men”. The bible says the prohibition is concerning “a woman” and “a man”. If this is taken to be universal it would stop not just a woman from teach men but a woman from teaching a single man.

Secondly a prohibition is always stated more than once in scripture because the law states that a person cannot be charged with only one witness. As a result every single universal prohibition by God is stated with at least the “two or three witnesses” that are required. So if we see that God is forbidding any woman from teaching any man (using the generic) then we have a problem because this would make a prohibition unlike any other prohibition in the bible. For more information see my 4 articles on “Does God have one unique law?”

If God made a gender specific prohibition that is only stated once and not repeated as all the other prohibitions are repeated, we need to ask why? Does God make an exception for women so that he doesn’t care if women understand the prohibition so that they can obey? These are important questions and deserve to be answered.

Matt continues:

First of all, 1 Tim. 2:12 is within the context of Paul’s comment in 1 Tim. 3:15, which says, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” So, the context of 1 Tim. 2:12 is within Paul’s instructions for the church, the household of God.

What Matt fails to tell us is that Paul’s comment throughout the entire book is to Timothy, not directed to the church. The verse that he quotes from 1 Timothy 3:15 is in the singular not plural. To see this for yourselves you can go to web site for 1 Timothy 3 and scroll down to verse 15. The singular grammar is marked by the sg. Here anyone can clearly see that Paul is not saying “I wrote so that you all (plural) know how to act” but rather “I wrote so that you (singular) know how to act…” It is written to Timothy so that he is to know how he should conduct himself in the family of God (not in a building but in the body of Christ). Since the grammar is singular and not plural as to multiple people, then 1 Timothy 3:15 is consistent with a letter to an individual (Timothy). Matt does not explain that the grammar is singular, not plural as he hints it is. What Paul is doing is writing a personal letter to Timothy that we can learn from, but it is written specifically to Timothy and not to the church. It is for Timothy (singular) to know how to act with deceived teachers, widows, elders, etc. Matt should know this since he claims to know Greek grammar.

Matt continues:

Third, how many times does God have to say something for it to be true? Since the command is given, admittedly only once, and since it is in the context of how we are to conduct ourselves in the household of God, then we can conclude that once is enough.

Matt admits that the prohibition is only given once. If there was a universal prohibition that was only repeated once Matt certainly would have included it in his argument. The fact is that there no such universal prohibition that is not repeated so there was no universal prohibition for him to quote. Matt does not address the oddity of a universal prohibition that goes against the norm. Instead he says that God only needs to say a prohibition once. I refer back to my articles on “Does God have one unique law” for the reasoning why God always repeats his laws. Even in the 10 commandments when God gave the prohibition to Moses and Israel, he did not give it only once. God gave the 10 commandments verbally once, written on stone twice and then it was repeated throughout scripture again. God is a God who repeats his prohibitions because he loves us and wants us to know what sin is. God is a God who repeats his prohibitions not because he needs to but because he loves us and wants us to know what sin is, to be convicted of sin and to stay away from sin.

While refusing to stick with my contention that a universal law must be repeated, Matt changes the issue to a universal command. Matt says:

Fourth, if something must be mentioned twice for it to be applied to the church universally, then what do egalitarians do with Hebrews 10:25 which says, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” If a universal command for the church needs to appear more than once, then Hebrews 10:25 is not for the whole Church. Is this a sound principle on which to derive doctrinal truths? Not at all.

Hebrews 10:25 is a command but not a universal prohibition. Yet even as a command, there is much in scripture that encourages Christians to come together and to encourage one another so it is repeated in different ways but with the same encouragement. One example is 1 Cor. 14 where Paul gives freedom for all to prophesy so that all may learn and all may be edified.

Matt writes:

Also, what about Matt. 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is only given once by Jesus. Does there need to be a second witness for it to apply to the Christian church as a whole? Of course not.

Here Matt gives another example which is not a universal prohibition. The fact is that every single universal prohibition is stated more than once and Paul says that the repetition is for our safety (see my articles above on “One unique law”).

Once again Matt has not proven his point. On the contrary, he is stuck with having to admit that there is no universal prohibition that is only repeated once except for what would certainly be an oddity if it indeed was a universal prohibition (1 Timothy 2:12). His examples are not universal prohibitions and it is our conclusion that 1 Timothy 2:12 fails the test of all universal prohibitions.

But God’s ways are consistent. God warns and warns and warns us of sin because God loves us. He does not give universal prohibitions from a man saying “I am not allowing” nor does he use obscure language that our generation is struggling to understand (authenteo), but he lovingly guides by sending his messengers over and over again to warn of sin. Is it God’s way to repeat the warning of sin? Absolutely! We can see this over and over again in the Old Testament. God is merciful and kind and it is his desire not to confuse people about sin, but to make the charge of sin clear and understandable. He sends his word to us many times so that we can be convinced of sin. This is our God and he is a gracious and merciful God. He is not the God who says I told you once and I am not repeating myself. No our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, teaches and instructs and loves us over and over again so that we do not sin against him.

6 thoughts on “Only one verse prohibits women to teach men?

  1. I’ve written before that if something is a law, then there must be penalties for breaking it. This is of particular importance on the issue of legalism and whether the old Levitical Law applies to Christians. The fact that there are no penalties in the NT for, say, failing to tithe, tells us it is not a law for us.

    Likewise, if something is a sin, then there must be prescribed penalties for committing it, or remedies for forgiveness. No such penalties or remedies exist in the NT for a woman preaching correct doctrine, so it cannot be a sin. And if it is not a sin, then we must ask whether it applies under the general principle of being considerate of the “weak in faith” or the surrounding culture, per Romans 14. This is exactly the case with head coverings, especially for Christian women married to unbelieving men.

    I think this argument is even tougher for male supremacists to circumvent.

    Slick again commits a logical fallacy in this case, trying to equate the non-repeating of Heb. 10:25 as proof that God doesn’t have to repeat a law. His error lies in calling this a law at all. Is every grammatical command in the NT to be called a law? Hardly. Does he actually think Paul, the great liberator from the old law, went about making up new ones that were on the same plane as the old? Hardly.

    The fact is that Heb. 10:25 is not a law, and there is no law against women teaching true doctrine either. Neither is repeated; neither carries penalties for violation. Slick apparently does not understand why you’re making the point about repeated laws at all. You’re saying we know it’s not a law because it’s not repeated, but he thinks everything is a law.

    Paul prescribed actions to take against the man who had his father’s wife, and against false teachers, and John wrote strongly against “proud Diotrephes” who put people out of the church. But where is the penalty for women teaching the truth? What does the NT tell us to do as punishment? If the NT gives instructions for other things then why not for this? The answer, of course, is that it isn’t a sin, a law, or even an impropriety.

  2. Very good case, both of you. It would be good if you could write a post about this (minus M.Slick references) for the EqualityCentral Blog. 🙂

    These points need to be spread around the internet. YES! o/o/o/

  3. What is amazing about this is that he claims this is a definite prohibition for all women to teach all men but then ignores so many other passages that are obvious ‘exceptions’ to this supposed rule. Even one exception in the NT would negate the ‘rule’ or prohibition. At the most, they could argue this is the rule from ‘Paul’ for the Ephesian church. That is it. But since the grammar is singular, that does not work.

     The only problem Paul had with women prophesying was whether their heads should be covered or not while doing so! He assumed they were doing it within the Body in 1 Corin 11!

    We have too many examples of women prophesying (including the fulfillement of prophecy at Pentecost) publicly that cannot be ignored or explained away easily. They simply are ignored and all focus on this one verse. It really is ridiculous when one thinks about it.

    As my step dad says, if you want to know what Paul thinks of women in the church, read Romans 16. :o)

  4. tiro3,

    I will see about writing a post.  It may take a bit since I am about done for the day and may not get back to this for a day or two.  Thanks for prompting me!


    Good thoughts!  You are so right in that this one verse taken out of context conflicts with so many other scriptures.  We either have to make all kinds of “exceptions” to the rule but even then verse 15 doesn’t fit the idea that Paul is restricting all women because we then don’t know who “she” and “they” are.  Paul was a master at his language.  He was very deep and with the Holy Spirit’s leading, he was very precise with his grammar.  In fact he made verse 15 so precise that there is no other that “a woman” to attach the “she” to and that causes all kinds of problems with our hierarchy theology.  When we drop the hierarchy things start falling into place and we can allow Paul to define his own terms.


  5. Hey ya’ll, a lot of what many comps. out there rely on, is Grudem’s book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. On page 362 he says:  “The Bible has to say something only once for it to be true and God’s word for us.”  He goes on to cite examples that on the surface seem to be sound and that the conclusion necessarily follows that women are not permitted to teach or hold leadership positions in the church.
    I’ve noticed a pattern with these guys, Grudem, Slick, MacArthur et al. , they rely on preaching to choirs of rubes, undecideds, and people afraid to think critically for themselves.  They win by intimidation.  If they had to face somebody like Cheryl, Paula, or Greg Koukle, they’d turn tail, bail and spout something to the effect of “may God have mercy on your soul”  Maybe they’d throw holy water too? like in the old Dracula flicks?

  6. Greg,
    I just read the page you quoted on-line in Grudem’s book and he completely ignores the “two or three witnesses” rule concerning a charge of sin.  None one of the verses that he quotes is a charge of sin.  This is a very weak point as he then has to explain why God would pick a book written to an individual instead of a church to create a brand new law that forbids women from teaching the bible to men.  It would then become the only law that is spoken as a law coming from a man instead of God, only law that isn’t repeated in scripture, only law that has an obscure word in it uniquely used in this passage and extremely rarely used outside the NT that has had theologians puzzling over it for years.  On top of that we have the end result of the prohibition given as the salvation of women if we take what some say is the “clear” meaning.  I think it is about time that these men are challenged with the inconsistencies that their charge of sin creates and then have them explain why God has given women who do not see this passage as forbidding all women from teaching men, a second witness so that they can be sure of their “sin”?  Is God prejudiced against women?  I would like to see these men in the hot seat having to answer the really hard questions.  I didn’t find any explanation in Grudem’s book why there is just one sin that doesn’t have a second witness.  Perhaps he is unaware that this is a requirement and he might have to be taught. 😉

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