Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:12 – The role of women

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in [through the] child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Great modesty and great propriety does the blessed Paul require of women, and that not only with respect to their dress and appearance: he proceeds even to regulate their speech. And what says he? “Let the woman learn in silence”; that is, let her not speak at all in the church; which rule he has also given in his Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says, “It is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. xiv. 35.); and the reason is, that the law has made them subject to men. And again elsewhere, “And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.”  Then indeed the women, from such teaching, kept silence; but now there is apt to be great noise among them, much clamor and talking, and nowhere so much as in this place. They may all be seen here talking more than in the market, or at the bath. For, as if they came hither for recreation, they are all engaged in conversing upon unprofitable subjects. Thus all is confusion, and they seem not to understand, that unless they are quiet, they cannot learn anything that is useful. For when our discourse strains against the talking, and no one minds what is said, what good can it do to them? To such a degree should women be silent, that they are not allowed to speak not only about worldly matters, but not even about spiritual things, in the church. This is order, this is modesty, this will adorn her more than any garments. Thus clothed, she will be able to offer her prayers in the manner most becoming.“But I suffer not a woman to teach.” “I do not suffer,” he says. What place has this command here? The fittest. He was speaking of quietness, of propriety, of modesty, so having said that he wished them not to speak in the church, to cut off all occasion of conversation, he says, let them not teach, but occupy the station of learners. For thus they will show submission by their silence. For the sex is naturally somewhat talkative: and for this reason he restrains them on all sides. “For Adam,” says he, “was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? it shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority. “Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” (1 Cor. xi. 9.) Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband?” (Gen. iii. 16.) This had not been said to her before.

Homily IX. on 1 Timothy ii, 11-15 From the homilies of St. John Chrysostom archbishop of Constantinople,on the epistels of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.The Oxford Translation Edited, with Additional Notes, byrev. Philip Schaff, d.d., LL.D.

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