She Must Learn: 1 Timothy 2:11

She Must Learn

For a printable copy of this chapter click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

Click here for a pdf of Genesis 13 in Redemptive History: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

For one of Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper



d) 1 Tim 2:11: Earlier in this chapter Paul used the same word frequently translated here as “silent” (hēsychia) to mean “free of outward disturbance” (1 Tim 2:1–2).[1]

He urged the entire congregation to pray so that they could lead lives characterized by a lack of agitation.[2]



Verse 11 contains the only command in all of 1 Tim 2:8–15,[3] where Paul ordered, “A woman…must learn” (manthanō).”[4]

This shocking admonition came from a man who had been thoroughly grounded in Pharisaic Judaism (Phil 3:4–6).

While some rabbis taught that men should teach the Mosaic law to their daughters, others asserted that doing so amounted to debauchery (m. Sotah 3.4). The Jerusalem Talmud went further, contending, “Let the words of the law be burned rather than committed to women” (y. Sotah 3:19).[5]

Eve had not been created when Adam received the command to abstain from the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16–22), nor had she been properly educated before she succumbed to deception (Gen 3:2–6).



Paul taught against the prevailing culture of his era by insisting that women should receive religious instruction. Few Jewish women were trained in the law,[6] although they did acquire some basic instruction to enable them to teach their children. Prior to Jesus’s ministry, women in Israel could never travel with or even study under a religious instructor (Luke 8:1–3; Luke 10:38–42).[7]

While praising one woman, the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 BC–40 AD) claimed:

The minds of women are, in some degree, weaker than those of men, and are not so well able to comprehend a thing which is appreciable only by the intellect…but she, as she surpassed all her sex in other particulars, so also was she superior to them in this, by reason of the pure learning and wisdom which had been implanted in her, both by nature and by study; so that, having a masculine intellect, she was so sharp sighted and profound.[8]



In terms of basic education, women in Rome and in Asia Minor—where Ephesus is located—fared better than those in Judea or Greece.[9]

The literacy rate for Greco-Roman women averaged 10% of that for men in the same social class.[10]

Nevertheless, the primary rationale for educating Greco-Roman women appeared to be so they could teach their young sons.[11]

Once children reached seven years of age, the influence upon them officially shifted to their fathers.[12]



Quintilian, a great scholar of rhetoric who lived from 35–100 AD, wrote:

I would, therefore, have a father conceive the highest hopes of his son from the moment of his birth. If he does so, he will be more careful about the groundwork of his education…

Above all see that the child’s nurse speaks correctly…Do not therefore allow the boy to become accustomed even in infancy to a style of speech which he will subsequently have to unlearn…

As regards parents, I should like to see them as highly educated as possible, and I do not restrict this remark to fathers alone…And even those who have not had the fortune to receive a good education should not for that reason devote less care to their son’s education.[13]



However, many Greco-Roman men denounced highly-educated women as promiscuous, for in their society, a bold demeanor in a woman implied her sexual availability.[14]

In 115 AD, Juvenal satirized educated women by writing the following:

But most intolerable of all is the woman who as soon as she has sat down to dinner commends Virgil, pardons the dying Dido, and pits the poets against each other, putting Virgil in the one scale and Homer in the other. The grammarians make way before her; the rhetoricians give in; the whole crowd is silenced…

so torrential is her speech that you would think that all the pots and bells were being clashed together…She lays down definitions, and discourses on morals, like a philosopher…

Let not the wife of your bosom possess a special style of her own… Let her not know all history; let there be some things in her reading which she does not understand. I hate a woman who… observes all the rules and laws of language, who quotes from ancient poets that I never heard of, and corrects her unlettered female friends for slips of speech that no man need trouble about: let husbands at least be permitted to make slips in grammar!

There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green emeralds, and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears: there is nothing more intolerable than a wealthy woman.[15]



In Paul’s era, instructors expected every male student to learn submissively and quietly.[16]

Philo (30 BC–40 AD) asserted:

Silence, then, is a desirable thing for those who are ignorant, but for those who desire knowledge, and who have at the same time a love for their master’s freedom of speech, is a most necessary possession…it is proper for those persons to be silent who can say nothing worthy of being listened to.[17]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read 1 Tim 2:11. What makes Paul’s command to the Ephesian church so surprising? Based upon what we have read, why would he order that women learn with deference to their teachers?



Go to Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14)

[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); Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14); Saved through Childbearing (1 Tim 2:15); Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); and Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6)]

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


[1]Verbrugge, ἡσύχια” (hēsychia), TDNTWA, 235.

[2]Harris, “Why Did Paul Mention Eve’s Deception? A Critique of P. W. Barnett’s Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2,” 340,

[3]Nestle et al, NA28, 1 Tim 2:8–15.

[4]Danker, et al., “μανθανω” (manthanō), BDAG, 615.

[5]John Lightfoot, From the Talmud and Hebraica: A Commentary on the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1989), 580, Https://

[6]Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 605.

[7]Ben Witherington III, “Women: New Testament,” ABD 6: 957–61, 957.

[8]Philo, “On the Embassy to Gaius,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus, Vol. 4 (Trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1855), 99–180, 169, Italics mine.

[9]Witherington III, “Women: New Testament,” 6:958.

[10]Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 605.

[11]Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, 144.

[12]Craig S. Keener, “Family and Household,” DNTB 353–68, 358.

[13]Quintilian, Institutes (trans. Harold Edgeworth Butler; LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press, 1922), 1.1.1–7, 19–23,

[14]Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, 243.

[15]Juvenal, “Satire 6,” in Juvenal and Persius (trans. G. G. Ramsay; LCL; London; New York: Heinemann; Putnam, 1928), 6:434–61, 119–21,

[16]Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 605.

[17]Philo, “Who is the Heir?” in The Works of Philo Judaeus, vol. 2 (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1854), 4, 96,