Can women teach men at their home? Is it permitted for mothers to teach their children (who are male adults) from the Word of God?
This is an important question as all believers are given spiritual gifts and many women have the gift of teaching. In the New Testament, we find a number of women involved in ministry. Phoebe is mentioned as a deacon, a church met in Lydia’s home, and Phillip’s daughters prophesied. But in two specific passages, Paul makes statements about the place of women’s authority in the church.
1 Corinthians 14: 34-36 reads: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?”
And 1 Timothy 2:11-12 reads: ”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.”
In the first passage, Paul is concluding a discussion on spiritual gifts. He uses an interesting Greek term here for silence: “sigao”. The term is used with a range of meanings and typically has to do with silence regarding specific issues or in reference to disruptions. In Corinthian culture, it was inappropriate for students to interrupt teachers. It is plausible that Paul is addressing an issue of women disrespectfully challenging and interrupting their teachers. Paul tells these women in vs. 35 to ask their questions at home. At the time, women were rarely educated, so the church was already being counter-cultural by allowing women to listen to the teaching.
In Corinthian culture, it was inappropriate for students to interrupt teachers. It is plausible that Paul is addressing an issue of women disrespectfully challenging their teachers
In the second passage, Paul uses a different word for silence, but the context seems similar. The women seem to have been exercising authority to teach something that contradicted established beliefs. Paul goes on to state that Adam was created before Eve. We know that at the time this letter was penned, there was a heretical teaching that Eve was created before Adam. Perhaps this idea was being espoused by some women in the church.
Regardless of how strictly or leniently one interprets these two passages, both deal with women teaching authoritatively in the public assembly alone. In other words, the texts above are not prescriptive for making disciples, sharing the Gospel, mentoring others in the faith, or teaching at home. We see no stipulations against women teaching outside the public teaching in an assembly.
In Acts, when Priscilla and Aquila hear Apollos teaching about the baptism of John in the synagogue, they take him aside and share more about the Gospel. Acts 18:26 states: “And he [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” This verse clearly shows that Priscilla was teaching. Her name is mentioned first, suggesting that she was the main teacher.
All Christians are called to ministry. The gifts of the Spirit are not based on gender. Most of the best male Bible scholars I know are in their fields today because God used a woman (such as their mother or grandmother) to cultivate spiritual leadership in their lives through teaching the Word.
Paul’s stipulations on women’s authority do not extend outside the church. As a result, women are free to teach their husbands, their children (including grown male children), their friends, or even strangers. Like all teachers, they should seek to do so with humility, remembering that they are judged more strictly (James 3:1) because of that ministry.
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.