Posted by: mattcolvin | February 3, 2007

N.T. Wright on 1 Timothy 2:11

N.T. Wright, attempting to explain 1 Timothy 2:11 says (in this report):

In fact, the primary exhortation of I Timothy 2:11 is ‘let the women learn’ (the Greek manthano means ‘learn, especially by study’), and is qualified with a phrase which can mean ‘in silence’ but equally ‘at leisure’: in other words, women must be given the space to study for themselves, an obviously revolutionary proposal in that age as in many subsequent ones, not least because, in Paul’s world as in Jesus’, to ‘study’ would not be for one’s own benefit alone, but in order to become a teacher of others.

The words for “in silence” are ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ. But Wright is uncharacteristically translating without regard for context. While the phrase could mean “at leisure” if verse 11 appeared in a vacuum, such a meaning is impossible for the same phrase in the very next sentence, 2:12: “διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.” – “I do not allow a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but… to be ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.” The use of the phrase in verse 12 should norm our translation of it in verse 11. In both sentences, the most natural meaning is “in silence,” not “at leisure.”


  1. I think the real mistake both accusers and defenders do is to believe that Paul is talking (in 1 Tim 2:11) about women behavior at church instead of what their behavior should be before the unbelievers. Quoting A. Duncan: “Besides human tradition, what is the basis of believing so? There are no titles in the Greek that say that Paul speaks here about instructions for behavior in meetings. On the contrary there are clear indications that he is talking about everyday behavior, not special worship.
    What he is teaching here is no more and no less the same as in Eph 5:22-24, Col 3:18, Titus 2:3-5, etc.: How Christian women must behave in order to “adorn the Gospel”.” (True Christianity, Andrés Duncan)

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