Question and Answer

Commentaries Written by Women

Question:

“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12, NKJV). Does this passage apply to commentaries? Should men not use commentaries in their personal study of God’s Word that were written by women?

Answer:

As you know, Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy is that Timothy “may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). So the question must be this: Does the writing of a commentary by a woman entail that woman taking to herself the prerogatives of the ordained, authoritative preaching and teaching office of the church, which is clearly limited to men in the Scriptures?

The general trajectory of the Scriptures seems to point us in the direction of liberty here and not a restrictiveness that the testimony of Scripture itself cannot support. Commentaries involve debating and exploring the meaning of Scripture and not the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word in the context of the local church. A commentary written by a woman does not exercise authority over me, and I am not bound by it in the same way as I am by the proper proclamation of God’s Word in the context of the local church by the Lord’s ordained ministers. Commentaries may be authoritative in the sense of being recognized as reliable and well done, but that does not place the writer of that commentary in spiritual oversight and authority over me. It’s because of this distinction that female commentators can do their writing (should they even be sensitive to this issue) with a clear conscience, and ministers and laity should use them with a clear conscience.


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