Biblical Sexism and Submission


Hi everyone,
What do we do with the seemingly sexist verses like 1 Timothy 2:11-12, which says that women can not have authority over any man and can not teach any man? Also, what about the verses that tell slaves to submit to their masters, regardless of whether or not they are nice?

I know a lot of people will say that it was a different time and that everyone was sexist back then so do we just totally disregard these verses?

Thanks ahead of time.


Well it seems to me that this is the sign of the times. How about female Theologists or other experts in the faith. Even Pope Francis has said that we need more women theologians and other learned women in the Church. Hopefully we have moved away from the dominant submissive paradigm prevalent in former times. On the other hand, expertise and authority should be respected no matter if a man or a woman. IMHO


you seem to take the bible too literally and simplistically. the bible is not a novel or magazine. to understand it you must use approved commentaries which will give you the background and intended audience of each biblical author. as Christians we also have to guide against popular fanatistic ideologies like radical feminism, human rights and liberty etc.


God bless Sister Anne Marie, wherever she is.

She was great.


Or we could just take God at His word guys.


Here I am trying to figure out which of those 2 ways is more offensive to my conscience.


owwwwww. I’m sorry. I recommended commentaries because I thought you wanted to understand better.

but to determine which part of the bible or it’s concept is more offensive to you I really have no idea.


It’s definitely not that I’m trying to interpret the bible “literally or simplistically,” it’s just that how do we know which bible verses to ignore because of the context in which it was written and which to hold on to?


When we encounter difficult Bible passages, the first thing to do is to realize that anything “bad” that we perceive is due to a problem with us, not a problem with the Bible. Pray based on the supposition that it is easy for us to misunderstand stuff like this.

Here is an excerpt from a Catholic apologetics question-and-answer document that touches this topic:

15. Please recite 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in their entirety.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 - “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 - “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

16. Forbidden from teaching, submissive, and silent – that’s what you quote to prove that women can’t be priests? Don’t be ridiculous – you can’t fool anybody into thinking the Catholic doctrine is of God with passages like that.

To those who love God and believe the Bible is His Word, passages like these are all the authority they need to conclude that our teaching is of God. And if you accept that God’s Word cannot be in error, and if you accept that sexism is an error, then you will also conclude that there must be nothing sexist in this passage – except when it is read superficially.

17. Men are allowed to say what they please, but women must shut up and “be subordinate”!

Men are not allowed to say what they please. St. Paul teaches that assemblies of the Church are to be conducted with order (1 Cor. 14:37-40), and part of that is being subordinate, both men and women, to the ordained authorities. Women, not being able to exercise the ordained ministry, are told generically to be subordinate in Church and not to presume to speak in a teaching capacity, for that is the job of the minister. This is all perfectly sensible, granted that they cannot be ordained; there is no hint of sexism unless one assumes beforehand – falsely – that women have a right to be ordained and are being denied that right.

18. How is it not unjust to deny women equal right with men to speak in the Church?

Equal right to speak? Nonsense. We are not talking about speaking of just anything; this is speaking as an officiate, as the homilist, as the minister – that is all. And nobody has a right to that, as I have shown elsewhere. You speak of rights being denied, when in fact there is no right there to be had. If ordained ministry was selected for on the basis of worth or justice, then there would be a question of rights violated, by telling women at large to be silent at Mass, and not to teach; but God calls whom He wills, and He does not call people on the basis of worth or justice. Women are generically told to be silent, in this regard, for the simple and not at all unreasonable fact that they just cannot be ministers, who are the only ones allowed to speak in a teaching capacity at Mass.

19. I have heard that Paul only excluded women from ministry as his own habit. “I do not permit them to teach,” he said; not “God does not permit them to teach.”

That interpretation does not account for the data given us in the passage. Paul tells us precisely why he does not permit women to teach, and he does not base it on his own opinion; for him, it is bound up with the order of creation: “for Adam was created first, and then Eve.” (1 Tim. 2:12-13) Any interpretation which makes his doctrine subjective and mutable, violates that reason. Furthermore, in another passage where St. Paul expresses the same thought, he says that his teaching is not his own, but the Lord’s: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. … [And] acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:33-37) Therefore it is not only his own private practice to forbid women to the ordained ministry, up to the discretion of churches; he lays it down as a law for all churches, based on the law of God, on the order of creation, and on a command of Jesus.

20. Paul cites “the law” – the Old Testament. Where does the Old Testament say that women must be silent?

Paul does not command women to be silent at large, but only when it comes to teaching as a minister in the Church. That is no burden – everyone who is not ordained has to be silent in that regard. But as for the Law, the Old Testament taught that only Aaron and his sons were to be selected for ministerial duty – Exodus 28. As far as conducting the assemblies of the Israelites went, then, only men were allowed to serve, and everyone else had to be silent. Things are no different now. This is because the Old Testament priesthood was also an image, a picture if you will, of the true Priest, Jesus Christ. And He was a man. So God decreed that only men should be His priests, and in the modern priesthood this same requirement remains, for the same reason: priests are images of Jesus Christ. And therefore God takes, for the sake of that supernatural image, men, since they are already natural images, in our race, of the Son of Man.

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An ugly truth or a pretty spin, that’s what I meant.


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21. Well, Catholics don’t exactly respect St. Paul’s doctrine anyway. They allow women to teach and hold authority over men – in classes, in television ministry, and in other ways too.

St. Paul does not forbid women to teach and hold authority over men just in any matter at all; he forbids it only in regard to ordained ministry. And we can know this for several reasons. Firstly because, besides forbidding them to exercise teaching authority over men, he also forbids them even to speak; and this shows that he was talking about doing these things in the Church alone – for he would not forbid women to speak just at any time at all; that would be ridiculous. Secondly, because he says “let a woman learn in silence.” Where was the faith learned? In Church! Thirdly, because of the context, which is that, the letter to Timothy is a pastoral letter, in which St. Paul explains to the young bishop Timothy how to run the churches in his area; and immediately after these verses where he forbids women to the ministry, Paul goes on to explain whom he should ordain, listing the qualities of good bishops and deacons. Thus he was teaching whom to ordain to the bishopric and the diaconate, and started by saying not to admit women to the ministry. And finally, because the Church has declared, in the document Inter Insigniores, the proper interpretation of this passage, which is that St. Paul was speaking of the ordained ministry alone, as a thing that women are not allowed to exercise teaching authority in; and this means also that they cannot be ordained, because to teach the faithful as an officiate at Mass is a fundamental part of ordained ministry, and women are forbidden to do that.

Let me know if that helps.

The main one that says that is 1 Peter 2:18-19 – “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly.”

One thing that I like about this quote is that it recognizes the abuse of slaves as an injustice. A lot of people think the Bible writers were “okay” with slavery, but this indicates that they were aware of its injustices and knew that at least some parts of the slave system were unjust.

To your specific question, though, my understanding of this is based on the Church’s opposition to revolution. The Church has many members who are slaves and I don’t think it has ever told them to revolt against their masters. Since they aren’t supposed to revolt, they are supposed to obey, at least in everything that isn’t sinful. The Church tries to liberate slaves by eliminating the causes of slavery – the sinful attitudes and laws that allow people to make slaves of others in the first place. But to my knowledge the Church has never encouraged open rebellion against masters, and that is why St. Peter tells the slaves to be obedient.

Does that help answer your questions?

Catholics are taught not to ignore anything in the Bible because every word of it is the Word of God. The Catechism says: “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.” (CCC 106) There’s nothing “extra” in the Bible. All of it is what God wants us to believe.


[SIGN][/SIGN]Thanks dmar198, that did help. This command only applies to the Church, right? Since Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos even though Priscilla was of course a woman.

Also, was this command actually somewhat counter-cultural and progressive for its time? Were women even allowed to be taught and educated in that time?

So if revolution is wrong and we must submit ourselves completely to the authority above us, was the American Revolution wrong and unjustified?

And did Jesus violate the command to submit ourselves to and respect the authorities over us when he cleansed the temple and constantly challenged the Pharisees?


The first thing I do when reading the bible is decide not to read it with what is considered a modern “enlightened” mind. Just this one simple step saves me more problems than one can imagine. It’s a big step, but necessary if one wants to conduct any sort of sincere study of the Holy Scriptures. The second step is to conduct studies of history in the same way. There is so much more, but these two things pave the way. If you would like to know more, I learned a wonderful method in college which I would be more than happy to share with you. Just shoot me a PM if interested.


Priscilla and Aquila are a great example. Another one is something St. Paul says in Titus 2:3-4 – “Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”

St. Paul acknowledges that women can teach under the right circumstances. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is talking about teaching as ministers of the Church. In that regard, not only the women, but all the men in the congregation are to remain silent too, because only the deacons and the priests are permitted to exercise the teaching function during Church services. Even today, only priests and deacons can give the homily. Laypeople are forbidden because that is part of the ordained ministry.

Also, Christianity is very “progressive” on this point, in the sense that the early Catholics accepted women as spiritual equals where the pagan culture did not. Jesus taught Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and when Martha suggested that Mary was supposed to be “in the kitchen,” Jesus emphasized that it is better for women to be educated. The early Church Father Tatian, in his Address to the Greeks Chapter 33, criticized the pagans for disregarding women and said, “[You] treat the women with scorn who among us pursue philosophy.” (180 A.D.) That shows that very early on Catholic women were getting educated and mastering philosophy. The Catechetical School of Alexandria was an early Catholic school of higher education that accepted women as students along with men as early as the 200s A.D. It was really over 1500 years ahead of its time.

So if revolution is wrong and we must submit ourselves completely to the authority above us, was the American Revolution wrong and unjustified?

The Church has a long tradition of just war that tells us when revolution is justified, and the Catechism summarizes it with five conditions: CCC 2243 - “Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.”

The Christian just war tradition was well-known to Thomas Jefferson and the other founders and in the Declaration of Independence they tried to show that the American Revolution was justified. The Declaration of Independence fulfills criteria 1 by listing the human rights violations of the English king, it fulfills criteria 2 by explaining that “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” The American War for Independence tried to fulfill criterias 3-5 as well, but Catholics still argue over the question of whether they were successful or not. (Especially concerning point number 4: did the Americans really have good hope of success when they had NO trained military and the English had the greatest navy in the world at the time?)

I’ll leave that opinion up to you.

And did Jesus violate the command to submit ourselves to and respect the authorities over us when he cleansed the temple and constantly challenged the Pharisees?

The Pharisees did not have authority over Jesus because His divine nature gave Him infinite authority over religious matters. This is why He could change the Covenant. The Pharisees did have authority over the other Jews, and Jesus told the Jews to respect that authority in Matthew 23:1-2 – “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

I hope that helps. God bless!


Thanks. That helped a lot. I love that you mentioned that quote. The phrase “on Moses’ seat” hints at some tradition that isn’t in Scripture and that gives the scribes and Pharisees some sort of authority. Good for refuting Sola Scriptura and justifying our beliefs.


Both of the following articles reference 1 Timothy 2:12:

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was dealing with a specific problem in the Corinthian Church but was also establishing a norm based upon the doctrinal economy taught by Christ. St. Paul was not saying that women could not speak. In fact he recognizes women speaking in the form of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 11:5. This passage in 1 Cor 14 is referring to women in the role as official teachers in the liturgy. This is made a little more clear in St. Paul’s teaching to Timothy (cf. 1 Timothy 2:12) in which he says that “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men…” In both instances St. Paul is talking about the Church assembly, the liturgy. Thus, his teaching is not a blanket teaching that woman cannot teach or have authority outside of the liturgy and Church hierarchy. It is okay, then, for women to be captains of industry with authority over men, bosses, managers, teachers in universities, teachers in seminaries, etc. The prohibition is teaching in the liturgy (e.g., the homily) and authority in the Church hierarchy (the charism of governance the belongs to the bishops).

Now to the specific issue of readers in the Mass. Technically, “lectors” are men. Those authorized to read are first clergy and then those “installed in the office of Lector.” The Installed offices of Lector and Acolyte must be men (either clergy or lay).

If there are insufficient numbers of clergy or installed officers to fulfill the function of Lector, then regular laity may do so on a temporary basis. Since women are members of the laity, that includes them.

Traditionally, the office of Lector was one of the minor orders of a man preparing for priesthood. Vatican II suppressed the minor orders in favor of the three main orders of deacon, priest, and bishop with what use to be the minor orders of acolyte and lectors given the status of “installed offices.” Since then many times bishops would appoint to these “installed offices” young men studying for the priesthood, but in actuality these offices may be held by any Catholic lay man in good standing and who is otherwise qualified.

If bishops appointed sufficient numbers of men to be lectors and acolytes, there would be no need for the extraordinary ministers from the pews. The extraordinary AGAIN have become the same as ordinary.

Extraordinary non-installed lectors are suppose to be used only when needed and only on a temporary basis. Canon Law recognizes that in some parishes there may be lacking sufficient numbers of clergy and installed officers. Thus, these roles must be filled by somebody. The laity may be temporarily deputed to fill that need. But this is to be temporary, not ordinary. The bishops need to be appointing installed officers.

I suspect that the reason bishop’s do not appoint installed officers is that the people would be in an uproar since they would no longer be able to participate as readers and altar servers (or more specifically, the women would up in an uproar).

Canonically, however, whenever these roles of reader and altar server are open to regular laity and not just to clergy and installed officers, then women may be included because they, too, are laity.

It was the same canonical technicality that allowed women and girls to be altar servers. But, as I said, if the bishops appointed sufficient numbers of installed officers (who must be men) then there would be no reason for women (or men) from the pews to serve as readers or altar servers (with the exception of boys as altar servers which Pope John Paul II said is a tradition that is to be maintained).

Anyway, that is how women can be readers.

This role of reader, for men or for women, however, is not a teaching role or a role of authority. It is merely reading the Scripture. Thus St. Paul’s comments, which refer to teaching and authority, do not apply to the role of reading.

Should Women Keep Silence in Church?


Maybe the better question is whether scripture applies at all in the 20th-21st century.

I mean if we’re going to read something in Church, shouldn’t it be pages of commentary rather than a few lines of Greek/Latin/Hebrew translations?


Yeah, seriously, who needs scripture anymore?




Is this sarcasm? I hope this is sarcasm. :hmmm:

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