1 Tim. 2:9-15 "a woman" is representative of all women as "a man" represents all men

by Matt Slick

"Likewise, I want women [gune] to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women [gune] making a claim to godliness. 11 Let a woman [gune] quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman [gune] to teach or exercise authority over a man, [andros] but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman [gune] being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But she will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restrain." (1 Tim. 2:9-15).

This possible interpretation of "a woman" and offered by various Christians. For a more in-depth look at the text please see In 1 Tim. 2:9-15, is "a woman" is a specific individual Paul had in mind? But, in this article we are going to consider the possibility that "a woman" represents all women and "a man" represents all men.

As we have seen in the chart in the article The use of the phrase "a woman" in the entire New Testament, Paul uses the phrase "a woman" to refer to only a particular woman 11% of the time while he refers to women and wives in general 77% of the time.

This text has been interpreted in different ways, but it is CARM's position that it is in reference to women and men in general in the same way that Paul uses "a woman" generically to refer to all women in the following verses.

  • 1 Cor. 7:1-2, "Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband."
  • 1 Cor. 11:15, "but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering."

Since Adam represents mankind in The Fall (see Is Adam our Federal Head?), Paul's mentioning of Adam being created first (1 Tim. 2:13), of sin entering the world through Adam (Rom. 5:12), and Jesus, who represented us on the cross was the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), then we conclude that the mentioning of Adam and Eve and the created order is dealing with men and women in general and not with a particular woman or just wives.

D.A. Carson adds,

"If we suppose that women, newly emancipated through faith in Christ, had begun to dominate men and were in danger of bringing the church into disrepute, Paul’s advice becomes more intelligible. Women must first learn in quietness and full submission (11). Had Paul experienced unruly interruptions in public worship by women? The prohibition of women teaching men (12) seems to belong to the same context, although Paul here appeals more to what is appropriate and cites the Genesis story of creation."1

D.A. Carson supports the idea that the text is about men and women generally.  This appears to be the best interpretation.  If we reflect on Paul's comments in 1 Cor. 11:8-10 we see a similar theme.

"For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head . . . " (1 Cor. 11:8-10).

Since Paul mentions the order of creation regarding Adam and Eve in 1 Tim. 2:13 after  he mentions authority and again that mentions authority with the created order in 1 Cor. 11:8-10, we can see that there is a pattern Paul teaches that is applied generically in the church.  Women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church.

This may not be a popular view, but it is the biblical one.

  • 1. Carson, D. A., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, rev. ed. of The New Bible Commentary, 3rd ed., edited by D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer, 1970, 4th ed., 1 Ti 2:9, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.