It turns out my post “Women teaching Women” has generated some good questions that I’d like to begin to address here. To be honest, since coming to the conclusion that teaching an inductive study on the book of Colossians to a mixed group of men and women was inappropriate (back in the 70’s), most of my focus has been on what I can teach, not on what I can’t.
After taking a short break the first few years of our marriage, I have spent the last thirty-plus years teaching Bible studies, book studies, and topical studies to women of all ages. I have felt much freedom in doing so and a great deal of contentment in the field God has given me to farm. I have spoken on biblical topics at women’s conferences, women’s workshops, break-out sessions for women, etc. I have not been yearning for other fields because this one is enormous and keeps me more than busy. Frankly, it has never occurred to me to wish I could be a plenary speaker at a Grace Agenda conference, or any other conference, for that matter!
But even so, I would like to answer some of the questions that have come up in the comments on the “Women Teaching Women” post I wrote a few days ago. I do see that even though it has seemed pretty simple to me all these years, there are genuine areas of application that call for our reflection and wisdom.
1. Women can teach Bible to their children and grandchildren. Paul says of Timothy “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:15), and in chapter 1 (vs. 5) Paul reminds Timothy of “the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.” Timothy’s father was a Gentile (Acts 16:1), and there is no mention of his conversion, so in all likelihood, these faithful women had a hand in bringing Timothy to Christ.
The last chapter of Proverbs (31:1), written by King Lemuel, is identified as “The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.” Proverbs 1:8 reinforces the idea of mothers teaching their children: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.”
2. Older women are to teach younger women. This famous passage in Titus 2:3-5 has quite a broad biblical curriculum laid out for us: “…teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” It seems to me that older women have a tremendous opportunity here. This in itself is enough to keep us occupied a life time, for there will always be young, new wives who need encouragement and young unmarried women who need encouragement.
3. Though the word teach is not used in this passage, I believe it is implied: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26). This is a description of an honorable woman who is overseeing household servants and children, and has contacts with merchants and other community members. It is apparent that she is imparting wisdom to all by her life, work, and testimony, and this certainly could have included teaching those in her own household.
4. Then we have Priscilla and Aquila, Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3-4). Given that we know “they took him [Apollos] aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26), it’s no stretch to imagine the couple ministering together to many others. Paul did not call Aquila his fellow worker, but both Priscilla and her husband Aquila.
Quite a few other women are mentioned in the New Testament, like Phoebe who was a helper to Paul (Romans 16:1-2). Andronicus and Junia may have been another husband-and-wife team. They are described as “of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me” (Rom. 16:7). I can easily imagine Paul keeping them busy “explaining the way of God” to new converts.
To summarize, these are what I can find as examples of women in Scripture teaching in a Christian context. Women may teach their children and grandchildren, and I believe by extension, they may teach other children. This could be a neighborhood Bible study or in a formal day school or homeschool co-op.
Women may teach younger women, and it turns out there are quite a lot of those. Teaching younger women is a huge blessing because it gives the older women a mission in the church even after their own children have grown, and it is useful to the younger women to learn wisdom from the older women.
Women may teach in a general way to all through their life and testimony, through their wise words and general godly and kind demeanor. This would include all those in their households, as well as business contacts in the community.
Women may co-teach with their husbands to both men and women, to build up and strengthen the church in many and various ways.
Now these are the general areas I see in Scripture, but I am not limiting women’s opportunities for teaching to these only. There may be more that I haven’t seen. But it’s a good start anyway, and I like to begin with the yes. Yes, women may teach. Yes, women are to be learners as well (1 Tim. 2:11). And there is so much to learn. So before we turn to the prohibitions, we should be encouraged by all that we are honored to do.
In my next post, I will hit the negatives.