By Elizabeth Prata
A women sent in a question recently and it was a good one. I’ll share it and my answer here. She is a writer concerned that men if read her material she would be in sin. She was also uncertain if usurping authority and teaching men were the same activity or not. Finally, she had been told that no matter who her audience is, women are to teach only womanly things and not doctrine.
1. Is it OK for men to read my material?
2. Can or should women teach doctrine or should they just teach things that are in the womanly realm?
3. Are ‘usurp authority’ and ‘teaching’ two separate things or are they the same?
1. It’s fine if men read your material. I’ve had many men over the years say to me that they read my blog in order to determine if the material on my blog is edifying for their wives. This is what husbands should do. Some men read my blog to review it. That’s fine. My elders read my blog to ensure I’m doctrinally sound. Again, fine.
2. Women should teach doctrine. The 1 Timothy 2:11-15 passage is intended to teach orderliness in the churches. In the church service, women are not to teach men. Paul appeals to the creation order in that passage to emphasize that the woman was created to be a helpmeet to the husband, not to be the leader. The church service is not to have women leading or teaching in any part of it, except to children or single-sex female only classes.
Titus 2:1 begins with Paul advising to teach sound doctrine. Paul turns to advising the men, and goes on to the women. Specifically Paul tells older women in verse 3 to “teach what is good.” What is good, what is the highest good? About Jesus. If you’re teaching or speaking about Jesus and/or the Bible, it’s doctrine. We are simply not to teach in the church service but at home or in the world, is fine. We are all told to proclaim the Good News, we are to be witnesses. Proclaiming the Gospel is teaching doctrine.
We see examples of women busy with doctrine at home or in the world in the New Testament. Lois and Eunice come to mind. Eunice was Timothy’s mom and Lois was his grandmother. They converted. Eunice was married to a Greek but was a Jewess who taught Timothy the Old Testament then about Jesus as she was raising him. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul said, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well”.
Commentators have also connected Eunice to 2 Timothy 3:15, where Timothy is reminded, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings“. Women teaching their children is a great thing. As Timothy grew and eventually became a pastor I am sure that Eunice and Lois would have left off teaching their son/grandson, and instead allowed him to teach them. There should be a transfer of power as boys grow into men.
Priscilla with her husband Aquila taught Apollos outside of church.
Philip’s daughters. Acts 21 mentions Philip the Evangelist had 4 unmarried daughters (virgins). Their virginity was likely mentioned to indicate they still lived at home. Or it could be that it’s mentioned they are virgins because there is a certain level of devotion to holy things emphasized by Paul regarding the unmarried. Perhaps Philip’s daughters, having the gift of prophecy, were devoting their lives to Jesus as unmarrieds.
Whichever it is, we know from Pentecost sermon that Peter said that ‘your sons and daughters will prophesy’ so Philip’s daughters prophesied (taught/proclaimed/foretold). Since Paul forbids women to teach in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12) it’s supposed that the daughters helped their father with women as he evangelized, or baptized them, or prophesied to them and was teaching them.
You can imagine the discussions in Dorcas’ sewing circle. Or with Lydia, the woman known for hospitality, in her home. Or Mary & Martha, those two women learned at the feet of Jesus and it would be terrible for them to keep doctrine (biblical truth) to themselves as they encountered other women.
It is expected as ambassadors for Christ and His witnesses that we proclaim, teach, speak of him wherever we go. We are not to do that during the church service over men, the headship there is established. But other places is fine such as with our children, to other women, in the marketplace as we encounter people, at work…
3. Are ‘usurp authority’ and ‘teaching’ the same? There are debates about this, but I’ve looked into the use of the original Greek and it seems to me they are two separate things. Usurp authority can be done in situations besides teaching. Women can usurp authority in the home by becoming a de facto leader. She can usurp a church leader if she is his wife by having undue influence over him at home which trickles into his teaching. It’s a fine line between advice/helping, and usurping. see 1 Cor 11:3 also.
If a woman is a writer, it is not wrong to present biblical truth in what we write. It is one way that the “good” mentioned in Titus 2:1-3 can be accomplished. As long as the writing doesn’t interfere with biblical commands elsewhere about being attentive to our own home and raising our own children, including biblical truths in our writing is a fantastic way to honor the talent the Lord has given us and a way to be His Ambassador.
For example, I learned that one of the She Reads Truth women authors, (a group that writes and develops curricula for women) had stowed her young children in daycare so she could write. No. No. No. Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Raechel Myers regularly left their young children behind as they traveled widely away from home to grow their ministries and their husbands had to pick up the slack. No. No. No. THAT’s usurping.
I think as we see the godly examples in the New Testament of women teaching other women, and teaching their children, and co-teaching as Prisca and Aquila did- outside the church- that women ARE to teach doctrine, or, biblical truth. But only in certain spheres.
If you are unsure, then rely on the scriptures that outline what a woman is to do and is not to do, and err on the side of caution in consideration of your conscience.