May Women Teach the Bible?
By Lance Mosher
May women teach the Bible? This is a question that has grown in popularity in the past century. It’s a great question, so long as someone sincerely interested in God’s answer is the one asking it. Let’s explore Scripture together.
After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His apostles. He gave them what many people know as “The Great Commission.” He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). All of Christ’s apostles were men. However, we must note that Jesus told them to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that Jesus had commanded them. The Great Commission never ends, because included in all of Christ’s commandments is the commandment to teach others. Therefore, while the apostles were going to all the nations, both men and women, they would have taught them how to become and disciple of Christ and teach others how to do the same. Jesus did not tell them to differentiate between genders, but instead told them to teach “every creature” (Mark 16:15). So, is a woman commanded to teach Jesus’ commandments? Yes, she is. Men and women are not only allowed to teach the Bible, but they are also commanded to do so!
Let’s look at an example of that commandment being obeyed by faithful Christians. In Acts 8, we can read of a great persecution breaking out “against the church in Jerusalem,” which included both “men and women” (Acts 8:3). The persecution caused all the Christians to be “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). “Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Both men and women went about preaching the word. According to biblical commandment and example, women may teach the Bible.
One thing, however, that we must note about the Great Commission and the example of the Jerusalem church is that, in these situations, the women would have been teaching people who did not already know about Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, who was the current preacher for the church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:1-3). Paul spent a lot of his letter instructing Timothy on how to deal with false teachers (chapter 4), what to look for while appointing elders and deacons (chapter 3), how to treat fellow Christians (chapter 5), and the different roles for genders in the assembly (chapter 2). Concerning the public assembly of mixed genders, Paul told Timothy, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). By the ordinance of God, women are not allowed to “teach or exercise authority over a man.” Paul, while being inspired by the Holy Spirit, was not being a sexist beast. He explains why this is God’s commandment concerning women. “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). This ordinance has been part of gender roles ever since the Garden. As will be explained soon, God is not saying that women are less important than men. Paul, inspired by God, was reminding Timothy and the church that men and women are to follow the pattern of gender roles that have been set since the beginning. God’s gender roles supersede what any culture might say.
According to Scripture, a woman cannot teach or assume a position of authority over a man. Who is a “man”? The Greek word, ἄνθρωπος (anthropos), is the general word for “mankind” (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1). In the passage where Paul writes, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12, emphasis added), the Greek word is ἀνήρ (aner). This word is the general word for male (as opposed to female). In Matthew 14:21, the word, ἀνήρ (aner), is used in contrast to women and children. Therefore, women are forbidden to teach male adults, but are still allowed to teach children and other women. For example, in the same letter to Timothy, Paul instructs women to “bear children” and “guide” their households (1 Tim. 5:14, KJV). Also, when Jesus was twelve years old, Luke tells us that He was “subject” to His mother, and with that, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom” (Luke 2:42, 51-52).
To sum up, any sincere Christian who is trying to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), in seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), may and should teach the Bible. However, Scripture adds qualifications on how different genders are to go about teaching others. Male Christians may and should teach the Bible to everyone. Female Christians may and should teach the Bible to children, other women, and those who do not know the Bible. When there is a male Christian present in an assembly, it is his job, and not the woman’s, to teach the Christians and non-Christian because the Bible says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:12).
The Bible is clear on gender roles. The Bible is also clear that God does not view either gender as more or less important than the other. He says that males and females are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). God says the reason why there are different roles for men and women is because of what happened in the Garden of Eden (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Read the first three chapters of Genesis. You will notice that because of sin, God gave both men and women some very specific roles. Both Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, but God still loved them both very much. God be praised for His love, grace, and mercy! Let’s respect God and His divine word as He tells us the organization of the home and the church.
The religious world today surely cannot be described as “perfectly joined together in the same mind.” Instead, it can be described the exact way that the Corinthians were described.
Except where noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation