The context of Paul’s letter to Timothy is specifying particular aspects of the role of an overseer. Context is determined by reading the overall passage, and not by chapter and verse. In 1 Timothy 2:2 Paul mentions that prayers should be made for all who are in authority. Later in 2:7 Paul speaks of his own role in the church, being, “appointed a preacher and an apostle.”
Next, in 1 Timothy 2:8-3:1 Paul distinguishes the role of men in prayer (2:8), women dressing modestly, and making their primary adornment “good works” as befits women making a claim to godliness.
Paul then addresses what must have been, from all appearances, questions asked in previous communiqués by Timothy regarding how women function within the church, and how they relate to men, who are the ones chosen for the role of an “overseer.” I believe 1 Timothy 2:11 & 13-14 are KEY to understanding 2:12 (the verse you asked about).
1 Timothy 2:11-14 Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.
Apparently Timothy had been wrestling with issues in the church with women, who, being equal heirs of the grace of life in Christ, found the transition and new identity difficult to exercise without some cause and effect. I don’t know the historical aspects of this, not do I believe most commentators have a very good grasp of what actually transpired to motivate Paul’s words to Timothy.
Key word phrases stand out in the text above:
Paul’s instructions for women, while in the church, emphasize receiving instruction with “entire submissiveness.” The point is not whether a woman can, or cannot teach in the church…it is an attitude of heart that is being identified. Women are instructed not to “exercise authority OVER a man.” This is a study all by itself, and I cannot address it sufficiently in a short post.
Paul’s reasoning for having the woman be this way is not a condescending or chauvinistic statement. He points out it was the woman (Eve) who was first deceived, and emphasizes this point saying she was “quite” deceived (some translations say, “thoroughly deceived”).
Apparently Timothy had dealt with a significant problem with regard to the function of women, and perhaps some that had become undignified and had become “unfeminine” (help me here ladies), because at the end of 1 Timothy 2:15 Paul tells Timothy the woman should, “continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
The REAL Key to understanding this entire passage lies within the next verse, in
1 Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do…” Hence, Paul is addressing the leadership role in the church, specifically that of an overseer, which is to be a man in good standing before God and man.