Domineering Women: 1 Timothy 2:12–14

domineering women

e) 1 Tim 2:12–14: Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, successfully taught Apollos in Corinth. Therefore, Paul did not endorse a universal ban on women teaching (Acts 18:24–28).[1]

We must consider whether the low level of women’s religious education prompted Paul’s command for them to learn as well as the imposition of restrictions upon their ministry (1 Tim 2:11).[2]

The apostle’s instructions elsewhere indicate that the issue arose with these specific women in Ephesus (Acts 18:26; 1 Cor 14:26; Tit 2:3).[3]

When Paul reminded Timothy of what he already knew, he typically wrote “we know” (eidon) (1 Tim 1:8), referred to “a trustworthy statement” (pistos ho logos) (1 Tim 1:15), or pointed to Timothy’s recollection of Paul’s experience (2 Tim 3:10–11). Instead, the apostle’s instruction indicates that Timothy was not already aware that the women of Ephesus should not teach others.[4]



Paul wrote, “But to teach, I am not permitting a woman, nor to dominate a man, but to be in quietness.”

The Ephesian women’s ignorance of the Scriptures coupled with their social influence enabled teachers to spread false doctrines (1 Tim 4:3; 1 Tim 5:14; 2 Tim 3:6–7).[5]

Paul had already compared the entire church in Corinth with Eve due to their potential for being misled (2 Cor 11:3–4).[6]

According to Greco-Roman mythology, the birth of Artemis occurred nine days before that of her twin brother. She then acted as her mother’s midwife to deliver Apollo.[7]

This may provide the rationale for Paul’s reminder that “Adam first was formed, then Eve.”



The verb typically used for “having authority” (exousiazō) appears four times in the New Testament (NT);[8] the related noun exousia has 103 occurrences.[9]

One of these instances of the verb exousiazō concerns a wife’s authority over her husband’s body (1 Cor 7:4).[10]

With the exception of 1 Tim 2:12, whenever “to teach” and “to have authority” appear together in the NT, the word employed for wielding authority is exousiazō or exousia (Matt 7:29; Matt 21:23; Mark 1:22, 27; and Luke 4:32).



However, in this passage Paul dictated the word authentein, the infinitive of authenteō, a verb which occurs only here in the NT.[11]

It has the connotation in extra-biblical sources from that era of domineering and violence,[12] such as “to murder” or “to perpetrate a crime.”[13]

For example, Philo (30 BC–40 AD) used a noun related to authenteō to describe someone who committed suicide, noting, “It is of yourself that you have become the murderer (authentēs).”[14]

Josephus (37–95 AD) also employed a term related to the verb when he wrote, “The Samaritans were the beginners of the disturbance, on account of that murder they had committed…Cumanus had given occasion to what had happened, by his unwillingness to punish the original authors of that murder (authentas).”[15]

According to the second century AD astrologer Ptolemy:

If Saturn alone is ruler of the soul and dominates (authentein) Mercury and the moon…he makes his subjects lovers of the body, strong-minded, deep thinkers, austere, of a single purpose, laborious, dictatorial, ready to punish, lovers of property, avaricious, violent, amassing treasure, and jealous.”[16]



Leland Wilshire conducted important research which examined 314 references to authentein and its cognates from the Classical Period (4th–5th century BC) into the Byzantine Era (4th–15th century AD). He discovered that not until after Paul’s lifetime did the term lose a violent, abusive aspect,[17] and come to mean “hold authority.”[18]

In a rigorous semantic study of authenteō, Cynthia Westfall identified the closest parallel to this verse.  It appears in a homily from John Chrysostom (347–407).[19] Concerning Col 3:19, he wrote to husbands, “Do not therefore, because thy wife is subject to thee, act the despot (authenteō).”[20]

That great preacher forbade even men to behave in the way prohibited by Paul.

Consequently, it appears that some Ephesian women were domineering over men when engaging in forms of instruction permitted in other congregations (Eph 4:29–5:2; 1 Cor 11:5; 1 Cor 14:1–4; Rom 16:1–12). Hence, Paul resorted to drastic measures to combat their tendency.[21]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read 1 Tim 2:12–14.

What made Paul’s choice of the verb authenteō—rather than exousiazō—significant? Why aren’t women to domineer over men? How were even the men in Corinth like the Ephesian women? Given what we have read regarding the women of Ephesus in The Cult of Artemis (False Teaching in Ephesus) and She Must Learn (1 Tim 2:11), why do you think Paul forbade them from teaching? How can you apply this passage to your life?






Go to Saved through Childbearing (1 Tim 2:15)

[Related posts include The Cult of Artemis (False Teaching in Ephesus); Prayer without Anger (1 Tim 2:8); Adorned with Good Works (1 Tim 2:9–10); She Must Learn (1 Tim 2:11); Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14); Saved through Childbearing (1 Tim 2:15); Partners in Ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 18–20, 24–26 and 2 Ki 22:11–23:4); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); Women Praying and Prophesying (1 Cor 11:4–6 and 1 Cor 14:34–35); Having Authority over Her Head (1 Cor 11:7–10); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12);  Falling for Deception (2 Cor 11:3–4); Difficult Times in the Last Days (2 Tim 3:1–4); and Having a Form of Godliness (2 Tim 3:5); A Minority Religion (1 Pet 3:1–2); In the Spirit of Sarah (1 Pet 3:3–6); Living Together with Understanding (1 Pet 3:7–9); Exegesis and Hermeneutics; and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]


[1] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 123.

[2]Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 104.

[3]Marshall and Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 455.

[4]Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 112.

[5] Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 606.

[6]John Jefferson Davis, “First Timothy 2:12, the Ordination of Women, and Paul’s Use of Creation Narratives,” Priscilla Papers 31, no. 4 (1 September 2017): 17,

[7]Apollodorus, The Library, 2 Vols. (trans. James George Frazer; LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; Heinemann, 1921), 1.4.1, Http://

[8]William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 50.

[9] Result of Logos 8 word study on “ἐξουσια” (exousia).

[10] Danker et al., “ἐξουσιαζω” (exousiazō), BDAG, 353–4.

[11]Leland Edward Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1Timothy 2:12,” NTS 34, no. 1 (January 1988):120–34, 130–1,

[12]Ben Witherington III, “Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention–1 Tim 2:8–15,”

[13]Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1Timothy 2:12,” 130,

[14]Philo, “That the Worse Attacks the Better,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus, Vol. 1 (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1854), 21, 261, Italics mine.

[15]Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, in The Works of Flavius Josephus, 2.240, Italics mine.

[16]Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos (trans. F. E. Robbins; LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press, 1940), 3.13.137–9, Http://*.html#13. Italics mine.

[17] Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to ΑΥΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1Timothy 2:12,” 123–4,

[18] Harris, “Why Did Paul Mention Eve’s Deception? A Critique of P. W. Barnett’s Interpretation of 1Timothy 2,” 342,

[19]Cynthia Long Westfall, “The Meaning of Αὐθεντέω in 1 Timothy 2:12,” JGRChJ 10 (2014):138–73, 162,

[20]John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom on the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Oxford; London: Parker; Rivington, 1843), 294, Https://

[21]Marshall and Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 459, 466.