Briefly here are some of my thoughts on how to deal with 1 Timothy, women, and the subject of teaching elders.
Firstly, Timothy was having a problem with wrong teachings. We see this in Paul’s first responses in chapter one. Men and women were trying to teach about things they really knew little of. Here is where some scholars believe Paul is referencing gnostic ideas being taught which may have come from the teachings of the Diana worshippers. New converts. Of those people Paul only names two whom he handed over to Satan because he thinks they are not teachable, and they have rejected good conscience. And one wonders if they were true believers.
At least one of these debaters was “a woman”. Paul has more compassion for this person as he first reminds others about his own ignorance before He believed. He reminds Timothy that God treated him with mercy and patience. So, while he admonishes the whole group of debaters to cease fighting and to pray, and to the women in general to dress more modesty (possibly relevant to the flamboyance of Diana worshippers), he speaks of this one woman (or perhaps a few women) differently. In a different tone of emphasis Paul says to LET the woman learn. Paul uses a common phrase applied to learners, that of learning in quietness and full submission – yielding their attention to the teacher. And the woman is not to attempt to teach or usurp the teacher’s position of teaching.
The word translated as “exercise authority” is more complicated than that. Exousia means simply to exercise authority as in giving permissions, etc. Authentein, the Greek word used here, is only used this one time and is an old term possibly having a narrow audience of use. It was used of forceful activities including murder, forcing another to one’s will and the like. While this can seem like referring to exercising authority over another, it is harsher. The question comes up as to why he used it. Perhaps, that is the way the woman or women were behaving; with forcefulness, pushiness, pressuring and intimidatingly. Perhaps, they acted a lot like Paul did before Jesus stopped him. And Paul thought he had the higher road. But he found out he was mistaken. This woman or women needed to find out they were mistaken, by learning. Because like Eve, they had been deceived. One of the many gnostic teachings about creation taught that Adam was deceived, not Eve. And they taught that women could not be spiritual unless they forsook bearing and raising children. (Paul mentions again in chapt. 4 verse 3) This then makes sense of verses 13-15.
So, then the question becomes why did Paul then start talking about being elders/overseers. Firstly it is likely that elders were a primary source of teachers. While it is understood that a special anointing of more scholarly and spiritual teaching was only given to some who would be willing to spend most of their lives researching Scriptures prayerfully, like Paul; yet there had to be others who would spend time and effort mentoring and sharing the apostolic teachings in many venues. These would be the elders who in supervisory caring ways would be easily available to the community in teaching, caring, counseling, etc. Paul served in many areas: apostle, teacher, elder and servant. :)
I believe that Paul progressed from warning about gnostic teachings, to admonitions to pray and not fight, and to strongly urging Timothy to let the status seeking, Thunder Brothers type woman (or women) learn, SO THAT they might in time qualify to be an overseer or deacon at some point in the future. Overseers and elders are sometimes referred to in the same ways. This points to them being older people who minister in supervisory works.
Contrary to what traditionalists and patriarchalists have trampled the Word to say, chapter 3 is not to men only. It starts out with “some” or “someone” (Greek, tis), which is highly inclusive. So, it is acceptable if someone aspires to the work of overseer, as that one desires a good work. I’ve always loved Paul’s writing style. And here it is notable that he starts off with “the saying is trustworthy”, and then his first qualification is to be “above reproach”, I.e. Trustworthy. And then the second qualification is to be trustworthy in marriage. Aner heis gyne, is a common phrase meaning “man of one woman”. We still use this phrase today when referring to someone who is a faithful. He is a one woman man. Or she is a one man woman. When used generically the gender falls back to masculine. We see this in verse 12 where Paul is referencing both male and female deacons, but still says they must be a “man of one woman”. Unknown or mixed audiences typically default to the inclusive masculine.
This phrase was found on the tombs of both men and women in Asia and surrounding areas by a Frenchman, Lucien Deiss, his notes to the French Bible, TOB, edition Integrale. It is noted in a book, “Familiar leadership Heresies Uncovered” by Bruce C. E. Fleming. He also wrote a series of books called “Think Again”, which are excellent.
Verse 7 is often thought to be only pertaining to men. However, the word is tis, which mean anyone, just like verse one says “anyone who desires”. One of the qualifications is that anyone who desires to be an overseer must manage his or her own home, household, business, etc. The rest of the qualifications of being a deacon or an overseer/elder are undisputedly good advice for both men and women.
This is a short version of how I see Paul progressing his instructions on the subject of handling disorderly people with compassion and firmness. He points out their errors, dispenses with those who he sees as unteachable, encourages Timothy in how and what to teach the rest. And Paul does it all while reminding Timothy that he, Paul, was like them at one time, and look at where he is now. There is indeed redemption and new life in Christ.