If we don’t like what God’s Word has to say, why not change the message? God won’t mind, right?
That could be the philosophy behind one of the newest English translations of the Bible, the Passion Translation. The Passion Translation (TPT) hails itself as is “a new, heart-level translation, using Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts, that expresses God’s fiery heart of love to this generation, merging the emotion and life-changing truth of God’s Word.” It comes from Bill Johnson Ministries and its two primary translators are Brian and Candice Simmons. I first heard of the TPT from Pastor Mike Winger who seemed to express some concern, so I thought I’d check for its take on female church leaders. Lo and behold, I can see why Pastor Winger is concerned. Below I’ve pasted several English translations of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. It is clear that the TPT translators prefer that women have higher level pastoral roles, however, several verses in the Bible indicate God has ordained men in those positions.
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” – ESV
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” – NIV
“Let the woman 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.” – KJV
“Let the women who are new converts be willing to learn with all submission to their leaders and not speak out of turn. I don’t advocate that the newly converted women be the teachers in the church, assuming authority over the men, but to live in peace.” – TPT
Below I’ve pasted the original Greek verse, along with Strong’s Lexicon:
γυνὴ (A woman) ἡσυχίᾳ (stillness) μανθανέτω (to learn) πάσῃ (all, every) ὑποταγῇ (obedience; subjection) ἐπιτρέπω (to turn to; to trust; to permit) γυναικὶ (a woman) διδάσκειν (to teach) οὐδὲ (and not; neither) αὐθεντεῖν (to govern; exercise authority) ἀνδρός (a man) ἡσυχίᾳ (stillness).
Since the verse mentions that the women will be learning prior to teaching, the TPT translators have taken that to mean that early converts cannot yet teach because they haven’t learned all they need to know but after some time, they can both teach and exercise authority over men. My take using Strong’s Greek translation is that women are encouraged to learn and are permitted to teach, but they are not to exercise authority over men.
N.T. Wright has noted that this verse was written in Ephesus, where there was one big Temple (in ruins today), the Temple of Diana, or Artemis (in Greek). The cult of Artemis was a female-only cult with female priestesses and a female goddess, so followers from this cult may have assumed that women should take over the leadership and domineer in the (Christian) Way. Paul was correcting them.
Recent scholarship has examined ancient Greek works, finding “lexical fallacies” in the translation of αὐθεντεῖν as exercising authority. (Belleville, 2019). Rather, αὐθεντεῖν has been exclusively translated as “to murder” or “perpetuate a murder” in the ancient Classical and Hellenistic literary materials and as “to domineer” or “to originate” without exception in the nonliterary materials (Belleville, 2019). Belleville (2019) further states that the translations “to exercise authority” or “assume authority over” do not have ancient support.
N.T. Wright has also focused on the Greek word for stillness, ἡσυχίᾳ, by drawing comparisons between 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and the time that Jesus instructed Mary while Martha was cooking. Mary sat in stillness, or in leisure, listening to and learning from Jesus. Accordingly, women were instructed by Paul to take the leisure time to learn.
In Ephesians 5:22-25, Paul states, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” 1 Corinthians 11:3-5 states, “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.”* These verses make it clear that God has created a hierarchy and ordained males as originators and senior leaders of His Church, rather than having women domineer over them. Domineer is defined as asserting one’s will over another in an arrogant way.
To my fellow females, these verses shouldn’t discourage you. We have plenty of support for Jesus’ consideration towards women. Indeed, Mother Mary was the first person to learn of Jesus’ arrival via her meeting with the angel Gabriel. Mary Magdalene and other women were the first to discover Jesus’ empty tomb. Along with her husband Aquila, Priscilla traveled with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-4), Rome (Romans 16), and Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16). In Romans 16:3, Paul stated his appreciation and the appreciation of all of the churches for the way they risked their lives for him. Phoebe was a church deacon whom Paul entrusted to deliver his letter to the Romans (Acts 16:1-2). Delivering the letter to the church would also customarily involve reading the letter to the church, as only a relatively small percentage of the ancients were literate.
In conclusion, rather than reinterpret God’s Word to suit our desires, we should desire to know God’s Word based on His intentions. Like the Newly Revised Standard Version, which has been written to reduce gender references (e.g., replace “fishers of men” with “fishers of people”), the Passion Translation has been written to eliminate the hierarchy God has established for His Church.
*Note the Passion translation completely alters the text of 1 Corinthians 11:3-5 by deleting the hierarchy, specifying women as church leaders, and modifying what Paul said about head coverings.
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the source of every human alive, and Adam was the source of Eve, and God is the source of the Messiah. Any man who leads public worship, and prays or prophesies with a shawl hanging down over his head, shows disrespect to his head, which is Christ. And if any woman in a place of leadership within the church prays or prophesies in public with her long hair disheveled, she shows disrespect to her head, which is her husband, for this would be the same as having her head shaved.”
The phrases “who leads public worship” and “in a place of leadership” have been added, though the original Greek translation only refers to praying or prophesying (προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα).
Belleville, L. (2019). Lexical Fallacies in Rendering αὐθεντει̂ν in 1 Timothy 2:12: BDAG in Light of Greek Literary and Nonliterary Usage. Bulletin for Biblical Research, 3: 317-341