In this essay I will engage with Paul as he has traditionally been handed down to us, paying attention to only the most relevant texts to our question.
The Cultural and Societal Context
In Paul’s day, ‘women nowhere enjoyed the social freedom recognized as their right today.’ Keener cites various sources’ depictions of women, including: Jewish teachers branding them ‘evil;’ Josephus insisting that they should be subordinate for their own good and dismissing the trustworthiness of their witness; and Philo declaring that they have little sense. Under Roman law only the ‘paterfamilias,’ (male heads of household) were recognized as a full person in Roman law and society.  Accountability for family members came with this. Moreover, teaching roles ‘were, with rare exceptions, limited to men.’
This letter addresses certain specific issues. Paul addresses husbands & wives on equal terms, preaching reciprocity (1Cor.7:2-5) and advocating female head-covering (1 Cor.11:2-16), as to have it uncovered was often a sign of being sexually available. This could easily have flared into a major controversy. Therefore, Paul’s purpose was undoubtedly church unity.  However, ‘Paul nowhere in this text subordinates the woman.’ Regarding 1Tim.14:34-35 perhaps Paul was addressing Corinthian women who were abusing the gifts of the Spirit or who had problems discerning prophesies; or more likely, addressing the problem of ignorant questioning during teaching. Interrupting with a question was culturally acceptable in the ancient world, but it was considered rude if the question was ignorant. As women were seldom educated they could have been the ones predominantly guilty of this. Thus Paul suggests that they should remain quiet during services whilst also promoting improved female education. Furthermore female head-coverings ‘indicated commitment to her husband but also respected the Jewish obligation for a man to divorce a woman who appeared in the street with head uncovered (m. Ketub.7:6)’  and, like Jesus, divorce was something Paul held strong views against. Moreover, Paul is not telling women to remain silent altogether in church, for he has already mentioned that he expects them to pray and prophesy publicly along with men (1 Cor.11:4-5), nor is he clearly referring to the teaching of scripture.
Paul was asking Timothy to deal with the growing problem of false teaching (1 Tim.1:3). For Paul ‘they must be stopped, and Timothy was left in Ephesus to do it,’ it was his ‘overriding concern.’ 1 Tim.2:8-15 remains the most contentious passage to our question. Regarding v9 Winter reaffirms that ostentatious dress often sent seductive signals. Moo confirms this. Paul then prohibits women to teach (didasko) in such a way as to take authority (authenteo) over men. If Paul is using authenteo in its strongest sense, he may merely be objecting to the practice of women attempting to seize authority from men. This is Belleville’s view and she suggests that the Ephesian Artemis cult may provide the key backdrop to understanding this verse. For in the Artemis cult ‘the female was exalted and considered superior to the male.’ Acts 19:28-37 corroborates the impact and significance of the cult to Ephesus, which indeed held the temple to her, in its time one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Winter agrees that ‘here the term carries not only the connotation of authority but also an inappropriate misuse of it.’ Many of the oldest translations understood the Greek in this way. (eg The Old Latin, Vulgate and KJV). Belleville observes that Lexicographers Louw and Nida record twelve entries for ‘rule’ and forty-seven for ‘govern.’ If Paul had this in mind he could have made this clear. Instead he chooses a phrase unique to the entire New Testament. The most obvious reason being that he intended the word to be heard in its strongest sense. Indeed, Belleville outlines the extensive tradition within ancient Greek culture that saw the word often used in very sinister (often murderous) contexts. She concludes: ‘there is no first century warrant for translating authentein as to exercise authority…rather the sense is the Koine ‘to dominate, to get one’s way.’
1Tim.1:4-7, 1:20, 6:3-5, Tim 2:17; suggest that, for Paul, as women ‘were most susceptible’ to the false teachers they might provide a ‘network’ for their worrying expansion. Thus Paul offers both a ‘short-range’ and ‘long-range’ solution: women should not be ruling the teaching; and they need to be actively learning.  Paul, in addressing the women, is no less simply being governed by the social situation, than his prior address to the men to stop quarrelling. Furthermore, Payne has made a crucial observation regarding verse 12: “the verb here is ‘I am not (now) permitting’. There is not a single instance of the use of this verb in Greek literature where this form means ‘I am permanently banning women from teaching etc.’” On the contrary, it implies a temporary restriction because of an immediate problem. Paul could have said ‘I will never permit women to teach… but he did not, and for a good reason. He is correcting a problem.’ Therefore, Paul is probably being a lot less misogynistic and a great deal more Christ-like than perhaps many today realize, exploring these passages in isolation, through a contemporary lens.
Paul’s Affirmations of Women
Paul refers to Phoebe as a ‘servant,’ (Rom. 16:1-2) possibly in the sense of being a deacon and a minister of God’s word like himself, and also a ‘helper of many.’ Paul does not grant this title (prostatis) to anyone else in his correspondence, indicating: ‘that he holds this woman in high esteem.’ For Macdonald, ‘Phoebe’s activities offer perhaps the most important evidence for women’s leadership in the Pauline churches.’
In the proceeding list (Rom 16:3-16), although Paul lists about twice as many men as women, he commends twice as many women as men! This may indicate his sensitivity to ‘opposition women undoubtedly faced.’ Here he also mentions Priscilla, naming her before Aquila, something most unconventional. Her significance is also corroborated by Luke (Acts 18:26). Keener declares that, ‘These passages alone establish Paul among the more progressive writers of his culture.’
Paul also mentions ‘Junia,’ a common feminine name and as Keener and Macdonald argue: the proposal that Junia is not a woman rests on the assumption that a woman could not be an apostle, rather than on any evidence inherent in the text itself.
As well as Prisca (Priscilla) the Pauline epistles include references to Nympha, who hosts an ekklesia (church gathering) in her house (Col 4:15). Meanwhile, Acts suggests that the house of Mary (12:12-17) and that of Lydia (16:14-15,40) also ‘served as bases for the movement.’ Paul also refers to Euodia and Syntyche, women who ‘struggled beside me in the work of the gospel’ (Phil 4:2-3) which is very apostolic language!
Evaluating the conservative position
Moo (clearly also representing the views of Piper and Grudem) acknowledges that women have been endowed with spiritual gifts; and that Ephesus was beset by false teaching, something that gave rise to Paul’s instructions in 2:9-16; and he accepts that the educating of females ‘was not generally encouraged by the Jews.’ Yet he concludes: ‘For any woman in any culture to engage in these activities (teach or have authority) with respect to men means that she is violating the Biblical principle of submission.’ He maintains that this would be Paul’s ‘position in any church.’ But this stance isn’t supported, for Moo simply feels that the burden is upon others to show that this wouldn’t be Paul’s instructions to every church in any context. Witherington disagrees and supports his argument that, ‘Paul is not laying down first principles here, he is correcting an existing problem’ Moo’s interpretation of quiet submission, teaching and Paul’s citing of God’s ordering of Adam and Eve in creation and Eve‘s falling into sin (1 Tim 2:13-14), drive him to this conclusion.
However, the context of the prior use of the Greek word (hesuchia) indicates that we should interpret 1 Tim 2:11 in the same way as 2:2 – that we have a quiet peace and serenity about us as we seek to learn. Indeed, 1Peter 3:4 reveals the virtuosity of ‘quietness,’ in contrast to outward ostentatiousness. It articulates the beauty of the quiet and humble-hearted, something ‘precious’ to God. Secondly, Paul’s use of hupotasso (v11 submission) elsewhere, strongly suggests that he viewed this as an innately Christian virtue, and not just confined to females within a gender-role directive. For in 1st Corinthians he implores them to submit to the visiting household of Stephanas. (1Cor16:15-16) Paul also points out how all things are under submission to Christ and then God Himself. (1Cor15:27-28)
Moreover, in his previous letter to the Ephesian church he uses hupotasso to describe how slaves should submit to their masters and, astonishingly, vice-versa; (Eph 6:5-9) and how all within the household should submit to one another (Eph5:21) and how a wife should submit to a husband just as the church should submit to Christ (Eph5:24). Kroeger notes:
As Christ the head brought growth and empowerment to the body of believers (Eph 4:15; Col 2:10), so the husband should be the enabler of the wife for personal growth and empowerment in a society that afforded her few opportunities.
These examples illustrate how Paul’s view of hupotasso is not about submitting meekly to a domineering autocrat, something that we might associate with ‘submission’ today. No, it’s about a harmonious sense of belonging. This sharply deviated from the common household code, and was altogether more radical. ‘Householders were sometimes called to be sensitive to their wives, children and slaves, but they were never told to submit to them.’
Thirdly, Moo defines teaching as: ‘the careful transmission of the tradition concerning Jesus Christ and the authoritative proclamation of God’s will to believers in light of that tradition.’  Should we believe that Phoebe, Priscilla or Junia weren’t involved in any of this? They clearly sound like servants of the Gospel! Moo argues that it is ‘manifestly not true’ that if local or temporary circumstances are identified against which a passage is written then one can conclude that it has only limited application. Again, he offers nothing to substantiate this dismissal, Keener and Fee disagree entirely! Regarding 2:12 Moo bemoans that the lack of educated women ‘isn’t stated, or even hinted at, in the text.’ He argues, ‘is it not a dangerous procedure to import such factors without clear warrant in the text?’ Well, this would be to ignore the social and cultural context, through which we ascertain those things that simply weren’t necessary to say. That women were not as well educated as men is clearly one such example. To confine our hermeneutic to literally only that which is explicitly stated directly by a text should leave us wondering whether Paul actually believed the sky is blue or not. After all, nowhere does he comment on this!
Finally, though verses 13-14 do seem to push us towards thinking more universally than particularly, when we view them in tandem with v 5:15 we get a sense that Paul is not citing Eve’s deception by Satan to highlight some innate idea of female foolishness or inadequacy, but more acutely to point out that history was repeating itself. Satan was at it again in Ephesus! Moreover, Paul had given the exact same warning to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:3). Taken together we see that Paul’s motive is the latter (fear of Satanic deception) rather than the former (subjugation of women within the church). And Rom. 5:12 compounds this point, for there Paul identifies Adam as the originator of sin! Context and intended audience is the key to understanding Paul and his focus. In Rome it was primarily concerning men. In his letter to Timothy his concern is regards women. Indeed, he doesn’t then go on to condemn women, (1 Tim 2:15) but points to the Christ-like virtues that are the way to redemption and salvation. In mentioning child-bearing, he may even be alluding to Mary as the great example (Gal 4:4). Additionally, 1Tim 4:3 may go ‘a long way towards explaining the comment,’ Paul is citing the virtuosity of childbirth because of, and in response to, the false teaching being propagated against marriage.
In both 1Cor14:34 and 1Tim2 Paul may just be saying: ‘everyone in worship should be silent in the presence of those who are speaking the Word of God…The Lord is in his holy temple and will speak.’ For both just talk about “silence and submission in the presence of authoritative teaching and teachers.” Moreover, Fee warns that a literal, instructive reading of Timothy, ‘would do the Pharisees proud.’ If we don’t consider 1Tim in isolation, then we see that Paul is dealing with a particular problem and is not talking universally. For Paul declares (1Cor12:28) that teachers are third on the list of importance, behind apostles and prophets, both of whom included females with Paul’s expressed blessing and gratitude. (1Cor.11:5) Thus, it’s hard to believe that Paul had an intrinsic stance against female teachers while affirming them as apostles and prophets! Witherington asks: ‘Paul a misogynist? On the contrary…(He is) someone that supported by implication, the new freedom and roles women may assume in Christ.’ Keener is equally convinced that Pauline texts ‘addressing the roles of women in both church and home suggest that Paul be ranked among the most progressive of ancient writers.’ For it was Paul that declared emphatically: ‘There is no longer male and female.’(Gal.3:28)
What contribution can his perspective make to the life of the Church today?
Moo maintains that a woman’s submission is violated if she ‘teaches doctrine or exercises authority over a man.’ Even having sought to challenge and expose the deficiencies of this view in this essay, still other problems and questions arise: When does a boy become a ‘man?’And when should his doctrinal education begin? Is that not culturally relative? Has God not gifted mothers naturally to be maternal guardians and ‘teachers’ of their children? Fee reflects, ‘It is hard to imagine under any circumstances how the denial of one half of the human race to minister to the other half brings glory to the gospel.’ He concludes that believing that God has never gifted women to teach would be to have ‘your head in the sand.’
Regarding roles of ‘authority’ within the Church episcope, are those positions really about dominating over others, or even just exercising authority? Or are they not as much about shepherding and leading by humble example as anything else. There was no example of domineering or being authoritarian towards others by our true leader. He washed feet, sacrificed Himself completely and preached that the first should be last. In short, there simply was no authentein about His leadership and His is obviously the model that the Church should aspire to.
Belleville, L. ‘Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15.’ In Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, ed. R. W. Pierce and R. M. Groothuis. 2nd ed. (IVP/Apollos, 2005)
Fee, G. ‘The Great Watershed—Intentionality and Particularity/Eternality: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 as a Test Case.’ In Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1981) Online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/44680321/Fee-Gospel-Spirit-Issues-in-Newtestament-hermeneutics-0943575788
Keener, C. S. ‘Man and Woman’ In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin. (Leicester: IVP, 1993)
Kroeger, C. C. ‘Head’ in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin (Leicester: IVP, 1993)
MacDonald, Margaret Y. ‘Women in the Pauline Churches’ In The Blackwell Companion to Paul, ed S. Westerholm (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)
Moo, D. ‘What Does it Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?’ In Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, eds Piper & Grudem (Wheaton: Crossways, 1991)
Winter, B. W. Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)
Witherington III, B. Women in the Earliest Churches (Cambridge: CUP, 1988)
— — ‘Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention– 1 Tim. 2.8-15’ (Blog-February 25th 2006)
<http://benwitherington.blogspot.co.uk/2006/02/literal-renderings-of-texts-of.html > [accessed October 20 2014]
Kroeger, R. & Kroeger ,C. I Suffer Not a Woman. Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in the Light of Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001)
Perriman, A. Speaking of Women: Interpreting Paul (Leicester: Apollos, 1998)
 Keener, C.,‘Man and Woman’P.587
 Kroeger, C.,‘Head’p.376
 Keener,‘Man and Woman’,p.589
 Fee, G.,‘The Great Watershed’p.55
Belleville,L.,‘Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15’P.206
 Winter,B.W.,Roman Wives, Roman Widows,p.121
 Moo,D.‘What Does it Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?’p.182
 Winter,‘Roman Wives, Roman Widows’p.119
 Keener, ‘Man and Woman’p.591
 Witherington,B.,‘Literal Renderings..’(Blog)
 MacDonald,M.,‘Women in the Pauline Churches’p.269
 Keener,’Man and Woman’p.590
 Moo,D.‘What Does it Mean?’p.183
 ibid p.180
 ibid p.179
 ibid p.191
 ibid p.189
 Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)
 Moo,’What Does it Mean’p.179
 Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)
 Keener,’Man and Woman’p.588
 Moo,‘What Does it Mean’p.186
 Keener,‘Man and Woman’p.591
 Fee,‘The Great Watershed’p.61
 Moo,’What Does it Mean’p.193
 Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)
 Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)
 Fee,’The Great Watershed’p.63
 Witherington,Women in the Earliest Churches p.218
 Keener,‘Man and Woman’ pp.591-2
 Fee,’The Great Watershed’pp.64-5