Posted in Lesson, The Christian Women

What it means for a Woman to “keep silence”

Women hold the same value in the eyes of God as men. People who claim the Bible is misogynistic haven’t read more than a few isolated passages.

Is God a feminist? Not according to the most current definition of that term. Is he patriarchal? Certainly. That’s the rub. To some people this translates as:  “God established a society in which men are responsible for the welfare of women and children; therefore, He doesn’t like women.”

This vein could continue but an earlier post discusses this topic more thoroughly. The point of this entry is to dissect a particular passage in the Bible that tells women not to talk in church.

The Context

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (1 Tim. 2:11)

The Apostle Paul is writing to his young pastor friend, Timothy. The second chapter in the letter talks about prayer. By verse 8, he’s discussing possible postures for public prayer.

Enter our text.

First of all, note this isn’t a command for women to sit down and shut up. The preceding two verses talk about a woman’s outward appearance when she shows up to pray in public and how that appearance reflects on the good deeds she should be doing.

In short, the Apostle Paul has learned that the best way for women to learn is to be silent while someone is teaching. Isn’t that true of everyone? Can I possibly hear what the teacher is saying if I’m having my own conversation at the same time?

Furthermore, the Greek word that is translated “silence” refers to slowing down in word or action. We see the same Greek word translated as “quiet” in 1 Peter 3:4: “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” In that passage, no one believes Peter is implying that a woman has a silent spirit. Instead, she has a deep stillness in her spirit that implies her receptivity to the Word of God.

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12)

In this verse, Paul tells Timothy how he handles women in a church setting. He doesn’t allow them to teach (anyone? Or just men?) or to usurp authority over men.

Defining usurp as the act of dominating another person or taking control by force, we see what Paul is trying to stop from happening. Women aren’t supposed to be snatching the reins from the men.

To me, this principle is applicable as a “best practice” method in any situation. If one person is robbing another person of their position of leadership, there will be strife and discontent. There’s no place for that in the Lord’s church, but do we want it at home or in the workplace? I think not.

Related Passage

We find a similar sounding passage in another one of Paul’s letters. This one is to the church in Corinth (and this church had lots of issues, I assure you).

“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” 1 Cor. 14:34).

This verse comes at the end of a long discourse on the proper use of spiritual gifts.  The word translated silence here is from a verb root that means to voluntarily hold your peace or keep a secret close.

In short, it means to use discretion when you talk. Some things don’t need to be said. Most things don’t need to be said by us. This is a difficult principle for many women (and men) to understand.

Also, this is not a command for silence. It’s a command for women to voluntarily submit to authority. That’s the obedience required under the law.

The Purpose

Women can scream about equality all they want. I believe they’ll find equal treatment in the sight of God to be a Biblical teaching.

They won’t, however, find an endorsement for women to be fathers (biological impossibility), pastors, or deacons. A woman’s responsibility to teach their children, teach younger women how to be godly wives and mothers, and to serve faithfully in church is plainly seen in scripture.

Paul realized that women could be gullible and lead astray by men. He warns Timothy of this in 2 Timothy 3:6. I don’t want to be a silly woman laden with sins. Do you?

Final Rendering

Just as men are supposed to willingly submit to the authority of God, employees are to willingly be in subjection to their employers and children are to be subject to the rules of their parents, women should willingly submit.

This means they should hold their peace when they would like to have an emotional outburst. If they have a question about something their pastor taught, they should discuss it with their husband first (1 Cor. 14:35). It’s a simple chain of command and when it’s followed, things run smoothly.

Does this mean women should never speak in a public worship service? I do not believe so.

Of course, as in every circumstance in life, before you speak up at church ask yourself:

  • Why am I saying this?
  • Is this an important contribution to the conversation?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Would I say this to Jesus?
  • Would Jesus say this?

Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. He will never steer you wrong.

Next week: Lean on Me



Freelance writer and editor whose background in education and BA in English Language & Literature amps her love of all things books. Twenty years of parenting and 26 of marriage gives unique insight to her preferred audiences of women, young adults, and teenagers.

2 thoughts on “What it means for a Woman to “keep silence”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s