A recent topic du jour has been the role of women with regards to teaching. Given this, I think it appropriate to quote from some of Saint John Chrysostom’s homilies on the subject. First we have 1 Timothy 2:
Let the women 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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in [through the] child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Great modesty and great propriety does the blessed Paul require of women, and that not only with respect to their dress and appearance: he proceeds even to regulate their speech. And what says he?Let the woman learn in silence; that is, let her not speak at all in the church; which rule he has also given in his Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says,It is a shame for women to speak in the church1 Corinthians 14:35; and the reason is, that the law has made them subject to men. And again elsewhere,And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.1 Corinthians 14:35 Then indeed the women, from such teaching, kept silence; but now there is apt to be great noise among them, much clamor and talking, and nowhere so much as in this place. They may all be seen here talking more than in the market, or at the bath. For, as if they came hither for recreation, they are all engaged in conversing upon unprofitable subjects. Thus all is confusion, and they seem not to understand, that unless they are quiet, they cannot learn anything that is useful. For when our discourse strains against the talking, and no one minds what is said, what good can it do to them? To such a degree should women be silent, that they are not allowed to speak not only about worldly matters, but not even about spiritual things, in the church. This is order, this is modesty, this will adorn her more than any garments. Thus clothed, she will be able to offer her prayers in the manner most becoming.
But I suffer not a woman to teach.I do not suffer,he says. What place has this command here? The fittest. He was speaking of quietness, of propriety, of modesty, so having said that he wished them not to speak in the church, to cut off all occasion of conversation, he says, let them not teach, but occupy the station of learners. For thus they will show submission by their silence. For the sex is naturally somewhat talkative: and for this reason he restrains them on all sides.For Adam,says he,was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? It shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority.Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.1 Corinthians 11:9 Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband.Your desire shall be to your husband?Genesis 3:16 This had not been said to her before.
This brings us to Titus 2:
The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness.
That is, that in their very dress and carriage they exhibit modesty.
Not false accusers, not given to much wine.
For this was particularly the vice of women and of old age. For from their natural coldness at that period of life arises the desire of wine, therefore he directs his exhortation to that point, to cut off all occasion of drunkenness, wishing them to be far removed from that vice, and to escape the ridicule that attends it. For the fumes mount more easily from beneath, and the membranes (of the brain) receive the mischief from their being impaired by age, and this especially causes intoxication. Yet wine is necessary at this age, because of its weakness, but much is not required. Nor do young women require much, though for a different reason, because it kindles the flame of lust.
Teachers of good things.
And yet you forbid a woman to teach; how do you command it here, when elsewhere you say,I suffer not a woman to teach? 1 Timothy 2:12 But mark what he has added,Nor to usurp authority over the man.For at the beginning it was permitted to men to teach both men and women. But to women it is allowed to instruct by discourse at home. But they are nowhere permitted to preside, nor to extend their speech to great length, wherefore he adds,Nor to usurp authority over the man.
Ver. 4.That they may teach the young women to be sober.
Observe how he binds the people together, how he subjects the younger women to the elder. For he is not speaking there of daughters, but merely in respect of age. Let each of the elder women, he means, teach any one that is younger to be sober.
To love their husbands.
This is the chief point of all that is good in a household,A man and his wife that agree together.Sirach 25:1 For where this exists, there will be nothing that is unpleasant. For where the head is in harmony with the body, and there is no disagreement between them, how shall not all the other members be at peace? For when the rulers are at peace, who is there to divide and break up concord? As on the other hand, where these are ill disposed to each other, there will be no good order in the house. This then is a point of the highest importance, and of more consequence than wealth, or rank, or power, or anything else. Nor has he said merely to be at peace, butto love their husbands.For where love is, no discord will find admittance, far from it, other advantages too spring up.
So the teaching here seems to be that:
- Women cannot preach or teach as part of the Liturgy
- Women may teach at home, principally to other women
- Women may not teach in a way such as to usurp authority over man
Part of me thinks I’ve mentioned these before, but since it has been a while a refresher seems appropriate. If I get a chance I will look for other writings by the Saints and Church Fathers on these matters and post them as well.