Women May Not Teach Men

Joseph Francis Alward

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Evangelical feminists refuse to accept the Bible's plain words which forbid teaching of men by women, and are unable to adequately explain why Jesus himself did not appoint any women as apostles before his crucifixion, or after his resurrection.  

In this article we refute claims that Priscilla was a minister, Phoebe was a deacon, and Paul didn't really mean it when he said that women weren't allowed to teach men.

     Jesus with sisters Martha and Mary


 A related article dealing with subservience of women in the Bible is at Women Are Not the Glory of God.


Paul Said Women Are Not Allowed to Teach Men


In his address to the Corinthians, and in his letter to Timothy, Paul makes it clear that women are not allowed to teach men, and it is the man who is to do the instructing:

 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."  (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach [didaskein], nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

             Ruins of the Corinth Paul visited in 51 CE




In other words, Paul is saying, "I'd never let a woman teach man; don't forget it was a woman who was so foolish that a garden snake was able to trick her."  Paul emphasizes in his Corinthians letter that women are not allowed to teach men--or to have any kind of authority of men, and states in his Timothy letter that the reason for this is that Adam was first, and since he was not deceived, he is the one who should have authority.  Clearly, Paul didn't want women to teach men anywhere, any time; that's just as perfectly plain as any Christian doctrine can be, but the plain truth is hard to for some people to see--especially those who embrace evangelical feminism, pretend not to see what's there for all to see, and deliberately engage in false teaching to promote their own social agenda.

False Teachings Alleged

Catherine Kroeger, author of I Suffer Not a Woman, argues that Paul's remarks don't have universal application; Paul, she claims, only forbids women teaching men false teaching. This notion is soundly rejected in a review of Kroeger's book (the author of the review is unknown):

Kroeger contends that when Paul tells women not to teach (didaskein), he is forbidding them to teach false teaching. But if this is what Paul had meant he had a much better verb to use to forbid false teaching, heterodidaskalein, which literally means "teaching something different." Two other times in this very letter when his intent to forbid false teaching, Paul uses this verb heterodidaskalein not didaskein [see below]. When Paul forbids false teaching in his pastorals letters, there is a clear indication in the verb which he chooses or in its object that false teaching is his concern: 

 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines [heterodidaskalein] any longer" (1 Timothy 1:3).

 If anyone teaches false doctrines [heterodidaskalein] and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching [didaskein]...(1 Timothy 6:3).

 [These false teachers] must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching [didaskein] things they ought not to teach" (Titus 1:11).

                                              [end review]       

The only time Paul uses didaskein when referring to teachers who are teaching falsely is in Titus 1:11, where he  twice makes it clear that he's speaking of teachers who are teaching false things and ruining households, that they should be silenced, and if that's not clear enough, he tells us that they're teaching things they should not teach.  Thus, Paul knew how to describe false teaching in two ways:  Using the word heterodidaskalein without further qualification, and by using didaskein unambiguously with triple qualification.  Paul's use of didaskein without qualification in 1 Timothy 2:11-12  in referring to women makes it perfectly clear that he meant that women weren't to try to teach man anything, period.

Here is one more nail in the coffin of Kroeger's claim that Paul only meant that women weren't allowed to teach false teachings. Isn't that obvious that Paul objected to anyone teaching false things, men or women? If he really was referring only to false teachings, why didn't he say men were forbidden to do it, too?

Paul's Teachings Were Universal in Scope

Not wishing to give up so easily, liberal Christians insist that maybe Paul's remarks were directed only to certain women in that church, not to all women everywhere...that he was addressing a temporary problem of a local nature at the church at Corinth having to do with women chattering during services, or interrupting services with emotional outbursts, or speaking about certain specific things in church. However this is a transparent contrivance that's hardly worth rebutting, especially since there's no evidence from the first century that any such condition existed.  If this situation had occurred, and this was what Paul was referring to, who could imagine that Paul would not choose words that would allow us to know what he really meant? After all, he allegedly was a writer inspired by an omnipotent and omniscient god--an all-powerful, all-knowing god, who  would have known that you and I would take Paul's words in their natural state--at face value, without having to twist them.  If Paul was only concerned with a local problem with muttering women, he would have made that very clear to us; neither he, nor the Bible's God, if it ever existed, would have wanted the Bible's readers to be in any doubt about that, especially since the consequences of our misunderstanding would be that women would be kept away from the pulpit for 2000 years.  In any case, there can be no doubt that Paul's message was a universal one. Near the end of his first letter to Timothy, Paul explains (below) the purpose of his letter, and makes it clear that his comments applied not just to one church, but to "the household of God....the church of the living God," that is, all churches for all time:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought [dei ] to behave [anastrephesthai ] in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Samuele Bacchiocchi, writing in Women in the Church, explains:

The precise wording used here by Paul indicates that he considered his instructions to be normative beyond the local situation of the Ephesus church. The impersonal verb dei ("one ought") generally emphasizes a strong necessity, usually deriving from a divinely established moral obligation. Similarly the present infinitive form anastrephesthai ("to behave"), which takes no person or number, suggests a general rather than a restricted application...Paul’s use of this generic language indicates a general application of the instructions...This conclusion is also supported by the fact that Paul’s explicit purpose is to give advice on how to order and direct not merely the church at Ephesus, but "the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth"... The implication is clear. Whatever is said about church order in the epistle applies to the universal church.

Samuel Koranteng-Pipim concurs. Writing in Biblical Obstacles to Women's Ordination, he explains:

Paul pointed back to the pre-fall creation ordinance of headship, reiterated after the fall. By appealing to the divine arrangement from creation as the reason why the woman is not to have authority over the man, the apostle dispelled any suggestion that his instruction...was culturally conditioned or time-bound.

Reasonable persons will conclude that the liberal spin is simply not credible--it's completely incredible. The only thing left for objective persons to conclude is that Paul didn't want women to teach men, and neither did God--if the Bible is to be believed.

Prophesying Women


In their continuing struggle to extract egalitarianism from the Bible, some Christians claim that Paul's teachings have been misinterpreted; they point to the passage below in which we find women "prophesying":

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered,dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5)  

Proponents of women in the ministry say that this shows that women were allowed to serve in the role of teacher. We will show, however, that prophesying by women was commonplace. For proof of this one only has to look at 1 Corinthians above, where we find Paul referring very cavalierly to "every" women who "prophesieth": these persons, who some wish to make out to be quite special, better be sure to keep their heads covered. This is the only time Paul refers to women who prophesy; if this prophesying is to be an indication that women were to be accepted as teachers of men in the first century, God would have known Paul's condescending words about head-coverings would be misunderstood, and therefore would have had him at least say there--or elsewhere--that women were accepted as teachers. God--and therefore Paul--evidently didn't mean for us to believe what the evangelical feminists want them to mean.

Prophesying in the New Testament often means nothing more than showing signs of being possessed by the Holy Spirit, or speaking the words of the Lord.  It doesn't mean "teaching," or foretelling the future; prophesying was relatively ordinary and commonplace.  The few examples below show that  "prophesying" was something that everyone would do in the last days, as well as servants and handmaidens before then.

"And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people…" (Luke 1:67-68)

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17)

 "And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-1)

"And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. (Acts 21:8-9)

Liberals say that the "prophesying" passage above shows that women were allowed to express their opinion, and that this is evidence that women in New Testament times were considered to be the equal of men. However, this is nothing but hopefulness.   Allowing women to speaking out in praise of the Lord--prophesying--is something that ALL people were allowed to do; it was like speaking in tongues.  The women mentioned above are merely those who are possessed by the spirit of the Lord and singing the praises of God. Being possessed with the Holy Spirit can happen to anyone and doesn't connote status: it happens to sons, daughters, servants, and even handmaidens, and virgins, and the acceptance of this in women cannot be taken to mean that they were accepted as ministers; if that were the rule, then anyone who had the Holy Spirit would be accepted  as a minister.   


Phoebe Wasn't a Minister


Proponents of the notion that Paul's message was egalitarian cite a verses about Phoebe which they say--if properly translated--would show that Phoebe was a minister, not a "servant". They point to the word diakonos, which they note is translated 20 times as minister or deacon in reference to men, but the one time it's used for a woman, it's translated as "servant," or "helper". However, we will provide evidence below which shows that in every case where men were described as ministers or deacons with the word diakonos, the naming follows a word pattern which is absent in the case of Phoebe. Here is the verse about Phoebe:

I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant  (Greek:  diakonos) of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.  (Romans 16:1-2 KJV)

I want to tell you good things about our sister Phoebe. She helps in the church in Cenchrea. I want you to take her in because she is a Christian. That is what God's people should do. Help her in any way she needs help. She has helped many people and has helped me too. (Romans 16:1-2 Worldwide English Translation)

The word diakonos is used 27 times in the New Testament: 18 times it's translated as "minister", twice as "deacon," and seven times as "servant".  Wherever it is translated as "minister" or "deacon," it applies to a particular man, and always with words that indicate greatness or divinity--or some sort of intimate connection to Jesus or God.  The single time diakonos is used to describe a woman, it's used to describe a "servant of the church" [diakonos ekklesia]; in the 20 times it refers to a man, the man is never described as a diakonos ekklesia of the church; instead, the diakonos is qualified with words that connote divinity, or greatness. This diakonos-greatness naming pattern is absent when Phoebe is described. The evidence is given below:   

Diakonos Used as Minister for Men

Reference to Men
    as Ministers

Divinity or Greatness

Reference to Men
    as Ministers

Divinity or Greatness

Mathew 20:26

Great among you

2 Galatians 2:17


Mark 10:43

Great among you

Ephesians 3:7

Grace of God

Romans 13:4

Minister of God

Ephesians 6:21

Of the Lord

Romans 15:8


Colossians 1:7

Of Christ

1 Corinthians 3:5

By whom ye believed

Colossians 1:23


2 Corinthians 3:6

Of the new testament

Colossians 1:25

Paul according to God

2 Corinthians 6:4

Of God

Colossians 4:7

In the Lord

2 Corinthians 11:15

Of the righteousness

1 Thessalonians 3:2

Of God

2 Corinthians 11:23

Of Christ

1 Timothy 4:6

Of Jesus Christ

The word “diakonos” is translated as “deacon” in two places; once again, we see that the work "diakonos" is used in conjunction with descriptors which connote greatness or divinity--attributes which are lacking in the description of the "diakonos" Phoebe.

Diakonos as Deacon

Reference to Men
   as Deacons

  Divinity or Greatness

Philippians 1:1

Saints in Christ

1 Timothy 3:8-13

Great boldness in the faith
which is in Christ Jesus.


In the single place where "diakonos" is used to describe a woman, Phoebe, there is no suggestion of divinity or greatness; all that is said of Phoebe is that she gave aid and comfort to people.

In summary, the phrase “servant of the church" occurs only in reference to Phoebe.  If the Bible writer wanted us to believe that Phoebe was a minister  or deaconess, he would have followed the minister-naming pattern used in 20 verses to describe the men as ministers or deacons; he didn’t do that, which strongly suggests that "diakonos" as applied to Phoebe didn't mean minister or deaconess; it meant "helper" or "servant".

If one wishes to advance the argument that Phoebe was a "minister," one must explain why the 20 examples of men described as "ministers" or "deacons" don't include the phrase "of the church"--a phrase which is used ONLY with Phoebe, and why the Phoebe verses don't allude to the type of greatness or divinity that is in virtually every single case attached to the verses about men.

 Why Not Pais or Doulous?

Feminists Christian apologists sometimes argue that Paul would have used one of the other Greek words meaning servant, such as pais, doulous, and oiketes, in  reference to Phoebe.  But, if one checks the context in which these words are used, one finds that they are usually in the context of a servant-master relationship, as in the following verses:

"Lord," he said, "my servant pais lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." (Matthew 8:6)

It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant doulos like his master. (Matthew 10:25)

Since Phoebe clearly wasn't a "servant" in the sense of having a master, or being a maid, these words would have been inappropriate for her. Evidently, diakonos means "one who serves or is supportive of a cause," and is the word which would have been much more appropriate for Phoebe than pais or doulos.

Junia Wasn't an Apostle

Those who want to believe that Christian fathers allowed women to occupy positions of power think that Paul said that a woman name Junia occupied the exalted position of apostle. We first present the verse in which this alleged statement was made, then we will show that the claim is false.

I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:  That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. [Paul then introduces about twenty other Christians and the rest of the saints.]  (Romans 16:1-15 KJV)

Notice that before Paul even gets around to mentioning Junia, he first introduces a string of ordinary Christians: Pheobe; Priscilla; the worshippers who gather at Priscilla and Aquila's house; Aquila; Epenetus; Mary, and Adronicus.  Only then does he introduce Junia,  who Paul says is well known to the apostles; then he introduces about twenty other persons by name and "all the other saints in the crowd".  

Hopeful proponents of women in the ministry assert that the phrase "of note among the apostles" doesn't mean just that the apostles merely took note of the good Christian, Junia but that Junia herself was an apostle, a notable apostle! At least two translations make it perfectly clear that Junia was not an apostle,  just well known to the apostles, and at least one even thinks that Junia was a man:  

 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my compatriots and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles and they were in Christ before me. (New English Translation)

 The apostles thought they were good men. (Worldwide English Translation)


For the sake of argument, we shall not dispute that Junia was a women.

In order to force the interpretation they hope for, the feminists have to have Paul saying that the "apostle" Junia is not just an apostle--as exalted as that position is, but an apostle more "notable"--more distinguished--than even the average apostle. This is simply not credible: How could it be that this Junia, who is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, be one of the better-known apostles?  If that were true, surely someone besides Paul would have mentioned this; no one did, so Junia most likely was not an apostle, and almost certainly not a  "notable" apostle; she was only a good Christian whom the apostles noted.

Furthermore, if this person was an apostle, why in the world would Paul show such disrespect as to introduce her only after he'd mentioned several other ordinary Christians first, then follow her introduction with introductions of many other ordinary Christians? And this is doubly problematic if the apostle was a notable apostle: At the very least he would have introduced the notable apostle first, or last, saving the best for last.  

In conclusion, we see that in order to force the hope-for interpretation from the words of Paul, the feminists have to insist that the words "of note among the apostles" mean that Junia was a notable apostle, instead of meaning only that the apostles took note of her.  Then they must overlook the fact that even though one must believe that this was an above-average apostle, in the sense that "she" was better-known, she was never mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.  Then, they must ignore the fact that Paul's reference to her is quite ordinary--contrary to what one would expect would be befitting a "notable" apostle:  She's introduced as just one of a few dozen other Christians somewhere near the middle of the list, not at the beginning as would be expected for one who is an exalted servant of God, or alternatively at the end, saving the best for last. Finally, for those who believe that Paul's words were inspired by God, we have to wonder why, if God and Paul wanted us to know that women were apostles, they didn't make an unequivocal statement to that effect somewhere in the Bible?  Why did they force us to jump over several hurdles of implausibility before we're in a position to speculate that Junia was an apostle? They would have know then would happen, wouldn't they?  We conclude that there are just too many implausibilities for one to give serious attention to the claim that Junia was a woman apostle, or even an apostle.

Practice of Jesus Confirms No Women Apostles

When reminded that even Jesus appointed no women apostles, feminists assert that Jesus was concerned that if he had done so, people would discount his message, that accepting women as apostles would be a cultural change too radical --to revolutionary--for people to accept, and that they would have turned away from Jesus and his message.  That's preposterous, given the fact that Jesus' activities and teaching were already so revolutionary; who would worry about the women helping Jesus? Furthermore, Jesus as the son of an omnipotent God had the power to do whatever he wanted, and that included making anyone accept as truth anything he wanted them to believe; if Jesus had appointed women as apostles, he would have found a way to make a woman apostle acceptable to the people to whom he preached, that's a certainty. Bruce Waltke makes a similar point in his article, The Role of Women in Worship in the Old Testament:

Jesus...was a revolutionary in his age own with regard to the role of women in worship...[but he] confirmed the Old Testament patriarchy by not appointing a woman as an apostle, though women followed him, ministered to him, and were his close friends. It is nonsense to argue that the counter-cultural Jesus appointed only male apostles because he was culturally conditioned. Is it not plausible to think that had he intended to empower women to have equality with men in leadership he would have called a woman to be an apostle, either before or after the resurrection?

The Husband of One Wife

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2)

If women were allowed to be bishops in the first century church, then where is to be found a parallel statement about women, stating that they must likewise be blameless and the wife of one husband?  There isn't such a statement. If the Bible writers wanted us to know that women could be bishops in the church, they would have know that readers would wonder why they didn't say that the wife as bishop must only have one husband, and likewise be vigilant, sober and of good behavior. The absence of such a statement is strong indication that women as bishops was unthinkable. This evidence, when placed alongside all the other evidence, makes it obvious that Gods' message to us is that women are not to teach men. Naturally, this doesn't deter those who practice a kind of Biblical "analysis" known as evangelical feminism, who the evidence shows are teachers of false teaching.

The liberal response to this is to point to Jesus' statement, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).  They say that even though there's no reference to women hating her husband, nobody believes that the Bible teaches that women cannot be a disciple of Christ.  Therefore, they argue, if the statement in Luke must not be interpreted to mean that women cannot be disciples, why should we interpret the statement in Timothy to mean that women cannot be bishops?

This argument is easily rebutted: no matter how much one might wish for it to be true, it's simply not true that the Bible teaches that Jesus had women disciples.  The word disciple [mathetes] is used 268 times in the New Testament, and not once does the word clearly refer to a woman.  And, of all the women one would think Jesus would accept as a disciple, one would have to count the women who went to the tomb to minister to Jesus; who else in the Bible were of greater help to him? Yet, these women are never referred to as disciples, and it's clear that the angel who spoke to some of them didn't consider them disciples at all; the angel tells the women to "go tell his disciples" (Mark 16:7) what had happened to Jesus.  If the Bible writers wanted us to know that these women were disciples, they would have had the angel say, "Go tell the other disciples."

House Churches

Proponents of women in the ministry point to four women who lived in houses used as churches as examples of women who occupied high positions in the church and were even accepted by Paul as ministers. We will discuss these women now, and show that there's zero evidence that any of these women were thought of as ministers.

Lydia's "Church"

The first woman is Lydia, about whom nothing of significance is said other than that Christians met at her house.  This doesn't even come close to showing that Lydia occupied a high position; Christians may have met there only because her house was spacious, or because she served good wine; we will never know.  Here is the Lydia story:

On the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the river. We thought this was a place where people met to talk with God. So we sat down and talked to the women who had come there. One woman named Lydia listened to us. She was from the city of Thyatira, and she sold red cloth. She worshipped God. He worked in her heart and she believed what Paul said.  She and all the people in her house were baptised. Then she begged us and said, `If you really feel that I believe in the Lord, come and stay at my house.' And she would not allow us to say no. (Acts 16:13-15 Worldwide English Translation)....When Paul and Silas came out of prison, they went back to Lydia's house. They saw their Christian brothers and talked to them. This helped the Christians to believe more strongly. Then Paul and Silas went on their way.  (Acts 16:40 Worldwide English Translation)

      Paul Meets with Lydia

Priscilla's "Church"

In Paul's addresses to the Romans and the Corinthians, he tells us that Christians met in the house of Aquila and his wife Priscilla, and Luke tells of one time Priscilla and her husband spoke to a visitor about the ways of God. Feminists want us to believe that speaking  in their home with her husband to a guest about God makes Priscilla a minister, but common sense will tell us this is a ridiculous exaggeration.

 I send greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, who worked with me for Christ Jesus. They almost died to save me. I am not the only one who thanks them. All the churches who are not Jews thank them also. Give my greetings also to the church in their house. (Romans 16:3-5  Worldwide English Translation)...Aquila and Priscilla and the Christians who meet in their house send you many Christian greetings. (1 Corinthians 16:19 Worldwide English Translation)

  After this Paul left Athens and went to the city of Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus. A short time before this he and his wife Priscilla had come from the country of Italy. They left Italy because Claudius the ruler had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. This was the big city in Italy. Paul went to the house of Aquila and Priscilla. Paul's work had been the making of tents, and that is what they did. So he stayed with them.

....A Jew came to Ephesus. His name was Apollos. He was born in Alexandria. He spoke with power and was able to explain the holy writings well. This man had been taught the way of the Lord. He was strong in spirit as he talked to people. What he taught them about the Lord was true. But he knew only about the baptism of John. He began to speak without fear in the meeting place. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him to their house. They explained the way of God so that he knew more about it. Apollos decided to go into Achaia. The Christian brothers wrote to the disciples there and asked them to receive him. When he reached Achaia, he helped very much those who believed. They believed because God was kind to them. He talked strongly with the Jews before the people. He proved to them from the holy writings that Jesus is the Christ  (Acts 18:1-28  Worldwide English Translation)

The fact that Priscilla her husband once told someone in their house what they knew about God doesn't mean that Priscilla either formally or even informally held office as a minister; if we were to reach this conclusion on "evidence" of this nature, we'd  be forced to believe that any woman who ever spoke to anyone about God in her house was automatically a minister.  Thus, we see that feminists are grasping at straws in their fervent hope of finding in the Bible the evidence they need to show that it teaches that women were accepted as ministers in first century Christianity.

Richard and Catherine Kroeger, writing in Women Elders, have a different--and far more heroic--view of Priscilla's activities:

We find that Paul himself allowed women to teach in the ministry of the Gospel. Priscilla, for example, seems to have been more instrumental in setting Apollos’ theology straight than her husband, Aquila, and with Paul’s blessing (Acts 18:24-28). .....one of Paul's six major associates in ministry was Priscilla. She instructed Apollos "more perfectly" (Acts 18:1-4, 18-28) so that he preached Christ with great power.

Translation: "We'd really like to believe that Priscilla took the lead here, but we have no evidence of that; it just seems like a good thing to believe." The Kroegers show they have quite an active imagination as they offer a view of Priscilla which greatly--and unjustifiably--amplifies and glorifies her role in "teaching" of Apollos; they see things in statements by Paul and Luke that others cannot. The reader will see that there's nothing in the above verses which can be used to justify the Kroegers' claim that Priscilla was a great teacher of Christian doctrine, as the Kroegers seem to claim.  Luke says that Aquila and Priscilla together explained things to Apollos; there's no indication whether Priscilla's role was anything other than minimal, but since Luke doesn't say that she didn't do most of the explaining to Apollos, the Kroegers charge through this opening and assert without evidence that Priscilla did almost all of  the "teaching" and therefore deserves most of the glory.

The Kroegers also shamelessly beg the question of women in ministry by assuming as fact the very thing they're obligated to prove, which is that "Paul allowed women to teach in the ministry." Readers may look as closely as they wish, but they will not find words which show that Paul considered Priscilla a teacher, let alone a minister; the most we can conclude--from Luke in Acts--is that  on one occasion Priscilla helped her husband explaining some of the ways of God to a guest in their home.  Especially lacking are the words which would let one conclude that Priscilla  played the dominant role in the explaining--not her husband, as the Kroegers state.  Paul says nothing about Priscilla explaining anything to anybody, or about her being a teacher, and certainly nothing about her being a minister; all we're told about Priscilla is that she --together with her husband--explained the ways of God to Apollos, so that he understood the ways of God better than he did before; there's no implication by Luke that the teaching of Apollos was "perfect," or at all extraordinary, as the Kroeger's state; Apollos left knowing more about God than he knew before, that's all. 

In conclusion, the statement above by the Kroegers is the result of imaginative and hopeful speculation, wishful reading between the lines, and making things up; there's no evidence that Priscilla was minister, and there's not a single word which would suggest that Priscilla was the leader in the conversation she and her husband had with Apollos.  Priscilla is an heroic minister only in the imaginations of the people who want to believe that that the Bible teaches that women are equal to men and are acceptable as ministers.

Nympha's "Church"

The same comments above about the house of Lydia being used by Christians applies to Nympha's church: The fact that church people--Christians--meet there doesn't mean that Nympha occupies either a formal or informal position of minister.

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and also to Nympha and the church people who meet in her house. (Colossians 4:15 Worldwide English Translation)

It's often the case even today that a Christian minister will move from one town to the next, ministering to his flock temporarily in the houses of Christians who are proud to serve Jesus in this way.  None of the owners of these houses would be considered ministers, so why should anyone believe that Lydia was a minister, when there is zero evidence that she did anything other than live in the house used by Christians?  Why? The answer is, some people desperately want to believe the Bible teaches that women in first century Christianity were accepted as ministers. However this isn't taught anywhere in the Bible--quite the contrary, so these folks have to twist, massage, and squeeze Bible verses to imply something that's simply not there.

Apphia's "Church"

The comments made above in reference to Lydia, Priscilla, and Nympha apply equally well to Apphia.  Paul tells us that Christians met in Apphia's house, but this doesn't mean that Apphia was minister just because she lived in the house used by Christians.

I am Paul. I am in prison because I belong to Christ Jesus. Our brother Timothy and I send greetings to you, Philemon. We love you very much. And you work with us. We also send greetings to our sister Apphia; to Archippus who is worker in God's army as we are; and to the people who meet as a church in your house. (Philemon 1:1-2 Worldwide English Translation)


There's absolutely no evidence from these descriptions of Lydia, Priscilla, Nympha, and Apphia that any one of them did anything more than allow their houses to be used as meeting places by Christians, except in the single case of Priscilla who, with her husband, once told a visitor about God's ways, though there's no clear indication Priscilla's contribution wasn't minimal.  No right-thinking person--Christian, or otherwise--can objectively believe that these stories in any way imply that women were accepted as ministers in first century Christianity.



Women in Christianity:  PBS

What the Bible says about Women's Ordination: Both Sides of the Issue; summarizes Kroeger's position on the verb authentein.  This is a useful reference; it discusses most of the issues relevant to Paul's command for women to be silent.

The Role of Woman in the Church, Frank Daniels.  Good discussion of kephale as "source"; this is an excellent resource. Many of the issues raised in this article are discussed, including headship and veiling.

Christian Living/Human Behavior - Roles. An in-depth--and very critical--review of evangelical feminist Catherine Kroeger's book, Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence: (The following is largely verbatim, though I've done some minor editing:  JA)

Kroeger's book was reviewed in the Winter 1993 issue of the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly by Andreas Koestenberger and other Evangelical biblical scholars .  They demonstrate that both the linguistic and the historical claims in Kroeger's book are untrue.

The major focus of Kroeger's book is an extensive study of religious beliefs and practices in 1st Century Asia Minor. The alleged purpose of this study is to explain Paul's prohibition of women teaching in the church as due to his desire to prevent women from teaching false doctrines of the kind taught in the Asian and Greek mystery religions. These sections, which make up a large portion of the book, are interesting reading, but they are not relevant to the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2, because the activity which Paul forbids to women in the church is not false teaching, but simply teaching. It therefore does not make any essential difference to 20th century readers what the common errors of religions found in the area of Ephesus in the 1st century may have been, since these religions do not define the limit of Paul's prohibition. Furthermore, many scholars question whether Kroeger's reconstruction are even correct (see Koestenberger).

Kroeger contends that when Paul tells women not to teach (didaskein), he is forbidding them to teach false teaching. But if this is what Paul had meant he had a much better verb to use to forbid false teaching, heterodidaskalein, which literally means "teaching something different." Two other times in this very letter when his intent to forbid false teaching, Paul uses this verb heterodidaskalein not didaskein (1 Tim 1:3-4, 6:3). When Paul forbids false teaching in his pastorals letters, there is a clear indication in the verb which he chooses or in its object that false teaching is his concern:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer" (1 Timothy 1:3).

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching...- (1 Timothy 6:3).

[These false teachers] must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach" (Titus 1:11).

There is nothing to suggest that women were particularly associated with the spreading of false teaching at Ephesus and therefore needed special admonition concerning this. The only time women are associated with false teaching in the pastoral letters they are the victims of false teaching, not leaders in promoting it ( 2 Timothy 3:6).

In the great majority of its uses in the New Testament didaskein refers to sound Christian teaching. Kroeger gives questionable outside data preference over both the nearer and more remote context of Scripture in her desire to restrict Paul's prohibition to false teaching. Her theory simply cannot be justified in the light of the context and linguistic usage of 1 Timothy. The wider context does, however, make it clear that Paul does not prohibit women from teaching women (Titus 2:3).

Kroeger has long been known for her theory that authentein in 1 Timothy 2 is a reference to some orgiastic or murderous practice which Paul is prohibiting. Here she suggests as the most likely translation "I do not a allow a woman to teach nor to proclaim herself the author of man."

She grants, however, that this is by no means certain, and that several interpretations of this passage are possible. This illustrates what is the most dangerous aspect of Kroeger's approach to Scripture. Hers is a "hermeneutics of doubt" which undermines laypeople's confidence in the clarity of Scripture by giving the impression that Scripture can only be interpreted if one has an expert knowledge of the pagan culture which surrounded Ephesus. One also must note that although Kroeger allows the possibility that authentein could mean the exercise of authority in the second century after Christ, she is less than candid or complete in presenting the evidence to her readers. Although her footnotes extend into 1991, she does not interact significantly with the important 1988 study by the Christian feminist Leland Wilshire which demonstrated that authentein could mean "exercise authority" before, during, and after the time of Paul. It is likely that the other attested meaning of authentein, "kill," is a homonym, rather than the same root. "Kill" simply does not fit the context here.

This  [Kroeger] book is enlightening reading for anyone interested in analyzing the type of biblical studies practiced by "evangelical feminism," but it is at this point that it weakness is most apparent, for it makes the interpretation of Scripture dependent on speculation and outside information, rather than depending on Scripture to be its own interpreter.

Reviewing the Kostenberger review, "Koinonia Annual", writes:

Using computer-based research, Köstenberger presents an exhaustive study of the syntactical parallels to 1 Timothy 2:12 both in the New Testament and in extrabiblical literature. He concludes that the infinitives in the phrase translated "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man" must describe two concepts or activities that are either both viewed positively or both viewed negatively by the writer. Since "to teach" is consistently viewed positively in the pastorals, authentein must be as well, and thus mean "to have (or exercise) authority," rather than "to domineer," as many progressive interpreters allege. Together Baldwin and Köstenberger have built an impressive case for the correctness of the translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 found in the NIV and most English translations. The burden of proof is now clearly on the shoulders of anyone who would dispute the traditional understanding of authentein.