This article describes and quotes 20 Bible passages telling women to speak to, teach, preach to, lead, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere.
Many, if not all, of the passages contradict the interpretation of scripture urged by some that women and girls are prohibited from speaking to, teaching, preaching to, leading, or having authority over men in a worship service or elsewhere.
This article also briefly explains the meaning of the approximately 3 sentences used to exclude women and girls from serving in all or some ways in a worship service or church class (in 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12). In addition, it points out that virtually no congregation follows those sentences’ “plain meaning” (“women should remain silent in the churches” they say, but hardly anyone does, for example, as women sing), how virtually no Biblical scholar—conservative or liberal—says they have their “plain meaning,” and how their alleged “plain meaning” and the assertion that they prohibit women and girls from speaking, leading, or preaching in the assembly conflicts with scripture.
Finally, the article addresses why women were generally excluded for centuries and some reasons why that means very little now, and the conclusion asks some questions.
20 Bible Passages
Each passage or set of passages is introduced by a red-lettered introduction pointing out its relevance to women and girls speaking to, teaching, preaching to, leading, or having authority over men in a worship service or elsewhere:
Women—part of “the whole church,” “everyone,” “brothers and sisters,” “each of you,” and “all”—are to prophesy, have a hymn, lead, teach, preach, and speak in a mixed worship assembly:
(1) The Apostle Paul said, when “the whole church comes together … if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin …. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:23-25; see also 1 Cor 11:5, 14:6, 20)
(2) Paul said, when “brothers and sisters … come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. …” (1 Cor 14:26) (see first question in the comment section below on why some form translations say “brothers” or “brethren” in v. 26 and on the general recognition that they encompass males and females)
(3) Paul said “you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14:31; see also 14:23-25, 26, 39-40; 11:5; 1:1-2)
Women (included in “one another”) told to speak to, teach to, and admonish men (and women) with scripture (psalms), etc., in a mixed assembly; women given authority over men, to admonish men and speak to and teach them with scripture, etc., in a mixed assembly:
(4) Paul said, to women and men, “… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord ….” (Ephesians 5:18-20)
(5) Paul said, to women and men, “… teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God ….” (Colossians 3:16; see also Luke 24:44; Colossians 1:28)
Women told by Christ to go and preach to an assembly of men — to go and tell men what the Word reveals to those women (e.g., the good news of Christ’s resurrection and more) and what the Word wants the men to know and do (e.g., about the resurrection, that God is their God, where to go, and more); women having authority over men (e.g., told to tell men what the Word wants the men to do):
(6) The first people to which Jesus, the Word (John 1), revealed the good news of Jesus’s resurrection were women, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” (John 20:16-17; Matt 28:9) He revealed his resurrection to them, spoke Mary’s name, said “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father,” and told them “Do not be afraid.” (John 20:16-17; Matthew 28:10). Jesus said to them: “’Go … to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘ (John 20:17) “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee ….” (Matt 28:10) Mary Magdalene went to the assembled disciples with the good news and proclaimed to them: “‘I have seen the Lord!’ … she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:16-18; Matt 28:9-10; see also Luke 24:9, 33; John 20:10, 19)) (the Biblical meaning of preacher is herald (messenger bringing news), messenger, announcer, proclaimer, or the like).
Women and men told to teach everyone, everywhere (not just their own sex and not just outside an assembly — the Great Commission):
(7) Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ….” (Matt 28:19)
Women—included in “each of you” and “anyone”—told to serve all, including men, with their speaking and other gifts (no exclusion as to time, place, manner, or audience) and to speak “as one who speaks the very words of God” (who of course would not be excluded from anywhere, including a worship assembly) and to serve “with the strength God provides” (which would include their strength to stand, speak, preach, lead singing, lead prayer, teach, etc.):
(8) The Apostle Peter said, to women and men, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. ….” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Example of a woman praying, prophesying, preaching, and teaching before a mixed assembly including men in the temple:
(9) Joseph and Mary “marveled at what was said about [Jesus]. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel ….’ There was also a prophet, Anna …. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:25-38; see also 1 Cor 11:5, 16)
Women —included in “every one of you” and “you”— told to speak, including prophesying and praying, in a mixed assembly:
(10) Paul said, to women and men, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy … so that the church may be edified.” (1 Cor 14:5) Speaking in tongues included prayer. (e.g., 1 Cor 14:14 (“For if I pray in a tongue ….”)) (see also 1 Cor 1:1-2; 11:5; 14:23, 26, 39-40)
Women — included in “you” and “your” — told to lead prayer out loud in a mixed assembly (note that praying out loud “with my understanding” and “giving thanks” is praying the regular way, not in tongues):
(11) Paul, recommending his example to women and men, explains that when the whole church comes together, he would “pray with my understanding; …. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.” (1 Cor 14:5, 12-17; see also 1:1-2; 14:6, 23, 26)
Example of a woman having authority over men and teaching an assembly of men about scripture and God’s message:
(12) The King’s men came to prophet Huldah for instruction and prophecy about scripture: “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest [and others of his men]: ‘Go and inquire of the Lord … about what is written in this book that has been found. ….’ [They] went to speak to the prophet Huldah, …. She said to them, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me … [teaching of prophecy given, speaking for God].” (2 Kings 22:11-20; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33)
Example of women speaking, praying, and prophesying in the churches, in mixed assemblies:
(13) Paul said, “I praise you …. 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 …. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? … For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” (1 Cor 11:2, 4-5, 13-16) “In the following … I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. … I hear that when you come together as a church, … [discussing challenges then with their practice of the Lord’s Supper in the assembly]. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. ” (1 Cor 11:17-34)
Example of a woman teaching a knowledgeable man about the way of God in a mixed assembly:
(14) “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:24-26)
Female elders encouraged to teach what is good, not limited to other women and not limited to a particular time or location and thus including assembled men (Titus 2:3). One of the things those female elders can then do is urge the younger women to do certain things, including loving their husbands and children (2:4-5):
(15) “3 Likewise, teach the older women (presbytidas) to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5) (presbytidas is the feminine version of the Greek word that is translated elders in Titus 1:5)
Example of a woman, Deborah, who was the ruler of Israel (ruler of men and women) and a prophet, teaching, leading, and “having authority” over assembled men:
(16) “Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. … She sent for Barak … and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him. … Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.” (Judges 4-5)
Prophets proclaim God’s word, declare departures from God’s will and God’s word, explain scripture, preach, teach, speak, tell others what they should do, etc., thereby speaking to, teaching, leading, and having authority over men, and there were lots of female prophets:
(17) Female prophets include Anna, who prophesied in the Temple to men (Luke 2:36-38), Deborah (Judges 4-5), Philips’ daughters (Acts 21:8-9), Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Noadiah (Neh 6:14), and many others (e.g., Isaiah 8:3; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 11:5; 1 Cor 14:1-39).
Husbands are to submit to wives, just like wives are to submit to husbands (it is a two-way street), and husband’s submission includes loving his wife as himself, becoming united and being one flesh, and giving himself up for her:
(18) “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) This includes meaningful acts of submission by husbands to their wife, for example: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … as their own bodies. … [Being] “united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” … [E]ach one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself ….” (Ephesians 5:21-33)
A wife has authority over her husband:
(19) As to sexual relations, a husband ‘does not have authority’ over his body—his wife has authority over him. (1 Cor 7:4)
Women are to prophesy (and thus are to have authority over, teach, and speak to men):
(20) Peter said “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”
(Acts 2:17-18 (see Joel 2:28-29))
(21) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
(22) The first evangelist was a woman, the “woman at the well,” the first person Jesus, our savior, chose to proclaim that he was the Messiah. She proclaimed to men and women, exhorting them to take action towards Jesus, to consider Jesus, to consider the Word, pointing them to the Word, and told them her own experience. She went to her village (men and women) “and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” In response many “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.'” And many believed, not “just because of what [she] said” — including telling them what the Word said to her — but also because of what the Word said.
(23) “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”
(1 Corinthians 14:39)
(24) Abigail spoke to and taught David about needless bloodshed and God’s will for David, and, having been sent by God to David, having authority over him.
(1 Samuel 25:14-35)
(25) “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.”
(Romans 16:1-2; see also 1 Tim 3:11)
(26) “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
(27) God orders Abraham to “listen to” — harken unto — “whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
(28) Paul tells women and men that when a person (women and men) eats the Lord’s Supper, they are preaching (proclaiming) about Jesus. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus … took bread, … broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
(29) Women praying in a mixed assembly: “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. …”
(30) The Apostle Luke explains that all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and after, preached (“proclaimed”). There were female prophets who spoke after Samuel, including in mixed assemblies (see, e.g., 2 Kings 22:11-20; 2 Chronicles 34:14-33; Isaiah 8:3; Neh 6:14; Luke 2:36-38; Acts 2:17-18; Acts 21:8-9; 1 Cor 11:5; 1 Cor 14:23-25, 31, 39). The Apostle Luke says, for example, “And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.”
(31) Paul indicates that admonishing and teaching constitutes preaching and asks women (and men) to admonish and teach men and women through scripture (psalms) and hymns and songs.
(Col 1:28, 3:16)
(32) Paul relayed that Christ commanded that those who preach should be supported by those who benefit from the Good News (that is everyone). Women preached in the Bible. (see, e.g., many of the 20+ passages discussed above; Acts 3:24 discussion above; discussion about women preachers below) Women preach today. Yet, today, women who preach are not supported by some people, despite Christ ordering them to do so. “In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.”
(1 Cor 9:14)
The Bottom Line
In sum, there are multiple passages throughout the Bible asking women to speak to, lead, preach to, teach, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere.
The Bible asks women to do this, yet people support blocking them from doing so?
The First New Testament Preachers: Women
Indeed, the first proclaimers — preachers — of the good news of Christ in the New Testament are women.
At multiple points for Jesus, women are the first preachers—the first proclaimers of the message: Elizabeth and Mary for the good news of Christ’s pending arrival (e.g., Luke 1:39-56), Anna for the good news of Christ’s coming redemption of Jerusalem (e.g., Luke 2:25-38), the Samaritan woman at the well for the good news of his status as Messiah (e.g., John 4:1-42), Mary and others for the good news of his resurrection (e.g., John 20:16-17; Matthew 28:9-10)), for example. The Apostle Luke says female prophets preached about the good news of Jesus (Acts 3:24).
Some of these are discussed above. As another example:
Elizabeth proclaims that Jesus is Lord: “… Mary … entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)
Part 2: Meaning of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12
Scriptural analysis reveals it is highly likely the verses said to exclude women are instead Paul saying to the church at Corinth and to Timothy about his trip to the church at Ephesus, respectively:
- 1 Cor 14:34-35: Married women are not to speak disruptive (non-submissive) questions in the assembly; instead they should ask those to their husbands at home. To do otherwise causes a disgrace.
- 1 Tim 2:12: I do not permit a woman to teach false, authoritative doctrine while uninformed in a way that domineers over a man; instead, any teaching, etc., must be peaceful.
In other words, these verses address specific types of speaking, teaching, and authority, not all types or types asserted by people arguing that women and girls should be barred from speaking to, preaching to, teaching, or having authority over men, in an assembly, in a Bible class, or elsewhere.
And the speaking, teaching, and authority addressed in these two passages is a disruptive, non-peaceful type. That is the type Paul is asking the women of Corinth and Ephesus not to carry out. That is not the type involved with the usual type of preaching and speaking. It does not prohibit women preaching, teaching, speaking, or having authority in a normal manner.
Interpreting These Two Passages to Prohibit Women from Speaking, Preaching, etc., Conflicts with Many of the 20+ Passages Above
Many of the 20+ passages set out above conflict with an interpretation of either of these two passages to exclude women or girls from such service.
Consideration of those two passages relied on to exclude women reveals the passages do not have the plain meaning of their typical English translation.
The main challenge people have with understanding that 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 have the meanings described above is that their minds keep going back to “plain meaning.” As the scriptural analysis linked below indicates, we know with great confidence that these passages do not have their plain meaning.
Virtually no one with credibility who has studied these passages says they have their plain meaning. Otherwise, for example, you would have to prohibit women from singing in church and from asking about baptism for herself or asking for prayers (women must “remain silent in the churches” and “if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home”).
Everyone Credible Knows This and Asks a Deeper Question
Instead, everyone asks silence as to what? And what kind of teaching? And what kind of authority?
A sure sign of acting negligently towards girls and women is to just quote 1 Cor 14:34-35 or 1 Tim 2:12 or both and say little or nothing more or assert it is plain.
Plainly Wrong to Rely on “Plain Meaning” to Exclude Girls and Women
So, stop relying on “plain meaning” to justify excluding girls and women. When your mind goes to “plain meaning,” remind yourself “plain meaning” is one essentially everyone who has studied the matter agrees is wrong. And then ask yourself what it really means.
Thus, regardless of whether you consider the passages to be Paul giving instructions for a particular time period, he was only addressing “speaking out” with disruptive questions and teaching in a domineering, non-peaceful way, not the normal speaking and teaching in the worship service and classrooms.
Indeed, as seen in the 20+ passages, God asks all to speak and teach. And as seen in the Greatest Commandment, Jesus asks for all to love (worship) God with our all and to love (serve) others will our all. To block women from speaking and teaching men is to block them from doing what God asks and to block them from worshiping and serving with their all.
Cultural, For That Time and Place
As explained above, 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 do not mean that women and girls are not to speak, preach, lead, and have authority over men in the church today. They essentially ask married women not to speak out with disruptive questions during the assembly and a woman not to seize authority and domineer over a man by engaging in false teaching of authoritative doctrine while she does not know what she is talking about.
Regardless of what one thinks the passages mean, there are plenty of indicators that 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 are addressed specifically to the situations in Corinth and Ephesus for the particular situation for the particular time. For example, 1 Cor 14:34-35 is accompanied by directions for women to have head coverings when they pray and prophesy (1 Cor 11:5) and 1 Tim 2:12 is surrounded by instructions that are clearly not meant to apply for all time or to all people, etc., such as:
- “I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands ….” (1 Tim 2:8)
- “I also want the women to dress … not with … gold or pearls …” (1 Tim 2:9)
- “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, … [and] washing the feet of the Lord’s people ….” (1 Tim 5:9-10)
- “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.” (1 Tim 6:1) (also see, e.g., Colossians 3:22 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything ….”); Ephesians 6:5 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”)).
Why insist that whatever 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 mean must be adhered to today by women and girls, all the while refraining from a mandate of men must lift up holy hands, allowing women to wear gold and pearls, aiding widows who did not do good deeds or wash feet, and opposing slavery? It is highly inconsistent. Comfort with the tradition of discriminating against women, sexism, and pride are among the likely explanations.
Even More Signals 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12, Whatever They Mean, Are Cultural, For That Time and Place
Both mention things to which some point to argue to bind the commands for all time for all people. One is “let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” (1 Cor 14:37). But acknowledging that something is the Lord’s command does not, of course, tell you to whom the command is directed or for how long, much less what that command means.
Another is “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (1 Tim 2:13-15).
Note that a binding command for all time that little girls cannot read scripture in a worship service because Eve was created after Adam does not make sense. Nor does a binding command for all time that little girls cannot pray out loud in the worship service because Adam sinned knowingly while Eve was deceived by the most cunning and evil creature, Satan himself. And since everyone is saved by belief in Christ, the plain reading that women will be saved through childbearing likewise does not make sense.
And God would have highly likely have discussed binding half of those made in God’s image with silence in more than one or two sentences towards the end of the good book.
1 Tim 2:13-15: Telling Timothy Reasons for Women of Ephesus Not to Rely on the Artemis Cult to Feel Like They Can Domineer Over Men
Absent sexism and the tradition of silencing women and girls, seeing that 1 Tim 2:13-15 does not make sense as reasons for silencing women in such a manner would be easy. But folks look for ways to defend — defend — what they and their friends and family are doing to girls and women.
There is a reason 1 Tim 2:13-15 does not make sense as reasons for silencing women for all time: That is not what it is.
It is relatively straightforward to see, for example, that Paul was likely in 1 Tim 2:13-15 simply asking the women of Ephesus not to use one of their normal reference points of pride to domineer over men.
He was explaining that their normal, non-Biblical reference point of pride is not correct.
Ephesus was the home to the Temple of Artemis, a dominant goddess.
A normal reference point of pride for women then was Artemis (aka Aphrodite), this dominant female goddess.
Legend had it that she had been born before her male twin, Apollo, and helped deliver him, showing her power over males. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and young girls and was considered their protector. She was also the goddess of childbirth, protecting women in childbirth.
Women of Ephesus might think they could domineer over men because they had Artemis, who came first and helped birth Apollo, on their side and Apollo was the one who was thus weaker and Artemis was dominant and powerful. And they were going to be resistant to abandoning Artemis because Artemis had been their protector, through childbirth and otherwise.
But Paul said in 2:13-15 that such thinking by them is not right. Instead, “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” That, Paul said, is why women of Ephesus should not domineer over men, etc.
Notice Paul did not say Adam or Man is Better or Greater
Notice that Paul did not say that Adam or man is better or greater or better equipped to speak than Eve or women—indeed Adam sinned without being deceived and brought sin into the world (see, e.g., Romans 5:12).
The typical assertion going along with 1 Tim 2:13-15 — that women are told not to lead because of what Eve did — makes no sense when realizing scripture points to Adam’s sin and when realizing it would mean Paul is telling only men to lead because Adam sinned intentionally and knowingly.
But if one reads 1 Tim as a letter, including its opening paragraphs in 1 Tim 1:1-8, and realizes the context of the Temple of Artemis, then 1 Tim 2:12-15 makes sense for reminding Timothy to be particularly careful not to let women who have not yet been educated about Christ (who do not know what they are talking about) and who might be emboldened by their Artemis culture to domineer over men and disturb the peace relative to men.
Thus, it is relatively straightforward to see that 1 Tim 2:12-15 does not bind a command for all time for all women not to teach, preach, exercise authority, or carry out any other peaceful activity when men are present.
Once the passages are studied, it is apparent they do not exclude women from speaking in the assembly.
The Crutch of Plain Meaning
At this point, people who have engaged in, supported, or gone along with discrimination against girls and women often revert to justifying their action based on “plain meaning” of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 — women must remain silent in the churches and are not to teach or have authority over men.
But, of course, “plain meaning” of those is one of the meanings that essentially no one with credibility says is correct.
Actual Practice Suggests 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 Don’t Have Their Plain Meaning, Too
And no congregation follows their plain meaning. They are:
- “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Cor 14:34-35)
- “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (1 Tim 2:12)
Hardly a single woman remains silent in the churches. Women sing. They greet people. They say “good morning” and “Amen.” They give confession to the assembly before baptism. They respond to the invitation and speak to the preacher or an elder in the assembly. They talk to their kids and sometimes other people during preaching. They make comments in Sunday School.
When women want to inquire about something in the church, they don’t wait to ask their husbands at home. They ask questions in Sunday School or Wednesday night class, of other men or women. They ask their own preacher. Women go forward in the assembly to ask about being baptized or about prayers for themselves or others. They sometimes ask the person next to them (“what verse?” “what did he say?” “what is their name?”). They don’t do as the verse says, “if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home.”
Women teach men. They teach men in the assembly when women sing. Men are taught in the assembly by women most Sundays when the congregation sings hymns written by women. Women teach men through their words and actions in the assembly, at church, and in daily life, too. They teach men with their comments and questions in Sunday School. They teach men with their very presence. Women teach men as teachers in high schools. They teach men during church projects. They teach men things in the workplace and in society regularly. Women teach men in online Facebook groups, with books women write, and in a variety of ways.
Notice that 2:12 says nothing about it being only for “in the churches.” Indeed, for centuries and centuries, church leaders interpreted it as applying nearly everywhere, not just in church.
And women have authority over men all the time. Women are often in charge of Vacation Bible School, church activities (food drives for needy families, etc.), and most of the kids’ programs. Men work on those. Women tell men what to do in the church kitchen. Women teach and admonish men with hymns sung in church. Moms have authority over their sons. Women are supervisors over men at work. Women are police officers. Women are governors and military officers. Women have authority over men in the church and elsewhere in a variety of ways.
Scriptural Analysis of 1 Cor 14:34-35
Reading 1 Cor 14:34-35 in context makes it apparent that (1) it is speaking to married women (“their own husbands”) and (2) like the scriptures that come immediately before it (1 Cor 14:26-33) the word silent (sigato) is used to refer —- not to complete silence for all purposes —- to silence as to the particular thing referenced (tongues, prophecy, non-submissive questions).
That is, sigato (silence) is used to refer to the particular subject immediately referenced, not to all subjects. When Paul says sigato in 14:28 with reference to tongues, it does not mean that a person must not read scripture, teach, prophesy, sing, etc., if there is no interpreter around. It just means sigato as to the specific subject referenced, tongues. When Paul says sigato, in 14:30 with reference to prophecy, it does not mean that a person must not read scripture, teach, speak in tongues, sing, etc., after someone else prophesies.
By the time the reader or hearer of Paul’s letter gets to 14:34-35, they know how he is using sigato to refer to the specific subject referenced. So, when Paul says sigato in 14:34 and gives the specific subject (disruptive (non-submissive) questions asked by married women), the reader and hearer know what he means, not silence for all subjects for all time, but silence as to that subject when they want to ask a disruptive question. It was probably one to their husband.
Scriptural Analysis of 1 Tim 2:12
Reading 1 Tim 2:12 in context makes it apparent that (1) Paul tells us at the very beginning of 1 Tim what kind of “teaching” he is referring to— uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace. He tells Timothy to to “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer …” (1:3) because it disturbs the peace (1:4) and those folks “do not know what they are talking about …,” (1:8-11), and not just any uninformed, false teaching, but that kind of teaching that is done as “teachers of the law” (1:7) (i.e., authoritative, above-the-scripture, “final say”-type teaching) that is done in a domineering way that breaches the peace, and not to normal teaching; and (2) the kind of authority referred to in 2:12 is authority that is seized (aka usurped) and domineering (authentein), not to simply having authority, teaching, speaking, reading scripture, leading prayer, etc., in the normal fashion.
Indeed, 2:12 is the only time in the New Testament the rarely used word αὐθέντ (authent-) is used. Paul uses it in the infinitive, using it to function a noun.
Paul’s “Old Testament” scripture, the scripture Paul used, uses αὐθέντ-. The Wisdom of Solomon 12:6, which Paul used, uses it. Also, 3 Maccabees 2:27-29, which Paul might have also read, uses it.
Each time, it is used there in the sense of force and a master-subject relationship, of murder, killing, force at threat of death, restrictions imposed via force, a master-subject action, etc.
αὐθέντ-ας (Wis 12:6)
αὐθεντ-ίαν (3 Macc 2:27-29)
αὐθεντ-εῖν (1 Tim 2:12)
Thus, 1 Tim itself and these other uses indicate Paul had in mind some kind of domineering, non-peaceful, negative action when he used αὐθέντ- (authent-) in 1 Tim 2:12, not just a general kind of authority or teaching authority. In other words, this indicates Paul was not referring to the general kind of preaching or teaching, but to something forceful, seized, unpeaceful, or the like, likely also false and uninformed.
Want More Detail on 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12?
This article introduces analysis of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12.
An example of more detailed scriptural analysis of 1 Cor 14:34-35 is here and here.
An example of more detailed scriptural analysis of 1 Tim 2:12 is here and here.
Scripture noting that women can serve as elders / pastors is discussed here.
Part 3: The Current Complementarian Interpretation Excluding Women is New
Many Christian groups, including the Churches of Christ, for example, as recently as the late 1800s and early 1900s interpreted scripture to exclude women from teaching men and from having authority over men virtually anywhere and everywhere and in any context—in public, in the workplace, in government, anywhere except in some home settings, in private.
That interpretation was based on the idea that women were inferior and that they must not do anything except raise children. It was a patriarchal society for centuries.
David Lipscomb, a Churches of Christ foundational leader, said in the late 1800s and early 1900s, for example:
- “It is wrong for a woman to become a leader or public teacher of men in any place or on any occasion.”
- “[A]ll public teaching and speaking on any subject at any place puts woman out of place, out of her God-given work.”
- Women’s “unfitness to lead and teach arises from her strong emotional nature causing her to be easily deceived and to be ready to run after anything or body that might strike her fancy against reason and facts.”
It became clear at some point that the concepts that women are inferior and must be limited to raising children are wrong and could not support the continued interpretation of scripture to exclude women.
But churches kept excluding women at church while eventually mostly stopping using scripture to exclude them in the workplace and government. The basis for the interpretation disappeared and most of its application (to workplace, government, public, etc.) disappeared, but its application to one place (church) held on.
The current hierarchical-complementarian or patriarchal-traditionalist interpretation is thus not the same as the way scripture has been interpreted for 2000 years. Or even 100 years ago.
Little Room for Change for Centuries, but Shortly After There Was …
And it was almost all the Catholic Church until after Martin Luther kicked off the Reformation about 500 years ago, in 1517. The interpretation was what the elite in the Catholic Church said until then and literacy rates were low. The printing press was invented not that long before and scripture became accessible to the masses.
Then, not long after, there were female preachers ordained beginning at least in the 1600s.
In the U.S. (est. 1776), Quakers, the Restoration Movement from which the Church of Christ springs (look up Clara Celestia Hale Babcock, for example), and others ordained women at least by the 1800s.
Today we have much better insight into Biblical languages, manuscripts, history, and context than they did over those centuries. If we interpreted the same way as those centuries now, folks would insist that slavery is Biblical, the world is flat, and the sun revolves around the Earth.
Part 4 — Conclusion
A Duty: Time, Close Consideration, and Discussion With Others
That the passages traditionally cited to exclude women from speaking in the assembly are much narrower in meaning becomes clear when time is spent studying them, rather than just reading them quickly and relying on “plain meaning,” a meaning that is plainly wrong.
Any care at all for women requires spending substantial time considering the issue yourself.
And not just trying to justify your past view—it includes closely reading and honestly evaluating arguments on the other side. It involves talking with people who hold a different view and specifically identifying to them anything that gives you pause regarding the conclusion that scripture does exclude women from speaking in the assembly.
Time spent studying while remembering that those two passages do not have their plain meaning reveals that they do not exclude women from speaking in the assembly.
And there are lots and lots of passages that ask women to speak in the assembly (see above).
Conclusion: God Asks Women to Speak and Preach and You Block Them?
Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ … ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31; see also Matt 22:36-40; Luke 6:31; John 13:34-35)
Prohibiting a woman from fully serving in the assembly and elsewhere blocks her from loving—worshiping—the Lord her God with all her heart and with all her soul and with all her mind, as Christ asks her to do. And it blocks her from loving her neighbor as herself, from actively serving her neighbor in the assembly as herself. And it blocks her serving others in the assembly as she would have done as to her and from loving others in the assembly as Christ has loved others.
All of these things God asks her to do.
And you support prohibiting her from doing them?
Such a prohibition blocks young girls — your daughters, grand-daughters, and great grand-daughters — from loving the Lord her God with all her heart and with all her soul and with all her might. It blocks her from serving her neighbor in the assembly. And it blocks their moms from doing so, too, and forces them to sit and watch their moms and friends be discriminated against.
Again, from things that God asks those girls and women to do. You have decided to support blocking them, despite what God asks? Please read Matthew 18:6-7.
It is way past time that any prohibitions on girls and women in the church come to an end.
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Sources & Notes
Note Jesus can be read as saying that we ought not exercise authority over one another within the body of Christians. He notes high officials “exercise authority over” Gentiles, but “Not so with you,” he tells his disciples—-indicating none of his disciples should exercise authority over others of his disciples. Instead, we must all serve, per Jesus. (See, e.g., Mark 10:24-25 — “42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”).
I mention Churches of Christ. It is almost alone among denominations that have most of their congregations excluding women from active service in the assembly to such an extreme and total extent. This article also notes an increasing number of Church of Christ congregations and most Church of Christ colleges no longer exclude women from speaking in the assembly and provides cites.
Why do some people think women should not teach and speak to men about Christ in the church when God tells us otherwise in the Bible?
These passages are at the forefront of change relative to excluding women from preaching, teaching, and speaking in the assembly in the Churches of Christ and other denominations.
When one actually studies the scripture for themselves, rather than relying on tradition, it is apparent that excluding women from teaching and speaking to men in the church is wrong. That is, it is contrary to God’s word to prohibit women from preaching, leading singing, reading scripture, leading prayer, making communion remarks, helping with communion, and otherwise teaching men and speaking to men in the church.
An increasing number of Churches of Christ congregations, for example, have concluded after study that their previous application of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 to exclude women from actively serving in the worship assembly is following man-made tradition and not scripture and is wrong. An (incomplete) list of Churches of Christ in which women serve in the worship assembly is here. Some of those churches published studies explaining why scripture does not prohibit women from actively serving in the assembly, including the Oak Hills Church, the Glenwood Church, the Providence Road Church of Christ, the Sycamore View Church of Christ, the Springfield Church of Christ, the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, Southern Hills Church of Christ, and Meadowbrook Church of Christ. Also note “The Inclusion of Women in Worship: The Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas.”
Most Church of Christ colleges no longer exclude women from speaking and actively serving in the worship assembly.
For sources and notes on this subject, see the Sources & Notes for my prior posts, including, for notes on many of the 20 scripture passages quoted, Steve Gardner, “13 Church of Christ CENIS Authorizing Women to Speak in the Worship Assembly (Commands, Examples, Necessary Inferences),” AuthenticTheology.com (June 6, 2018). For notes and sources on interpretation of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12, the historical interpretation of those scriptures, and similar matters, see parts 2, 3, and 4 of the series beginning here: Steve Gardner, “(Part 2) Most Church-of-Christ Colleges No Longer Exclude Women From Leading in Worship Services: Scriptural? and a College Visit,” AuthenticTheology.com (May 16, 2018). For a later article on 1 Tim 2:12, see Steve Gardner, “10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: 1 Timothy 2:12, “Teach or Usurp Authority” (Part 3),” AuthenticTheology.com (April 9, 2019).
For a close look at the historical interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 and surrounding scripture, see Kevin Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part I,”, Evangelical Quarterly 72:2 (2000), 151-167; Kevin Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part II,” Evangelical Quarterly EQ 72:3 (2000), 195-215.
David Lipscomb quotes: Steve Gardner, “David Lipscomb, Church of Christ Foundational Leader: ‘All the Teaching of the Bible is Against Women Speaking in Public’ (It Gets Worse),” AuthenticTheology.com (April 12, 2018). Alexander Campbell had similar views. See Steve Gardner, “Alexander Campbell, Church-of-Christ Denomination Progenitor: Women’s Domain “Rightfully Only House Wide,” AuthenticTheology.com (March 23, 2018).
Note also that Lipscomb allowed for women teaching Sunday School to men because he considered Sunday School not to be a “public” setting, considering it more like a private, home setting.
For examples of other scripture passages that do not have their “plain meaning,” see Steve Gardner, “15 Bible Passages That Don’t Mean What They Say, That Don’t Have Their ‘Plain Meaning,’” AuthenticTheology.com (September 3, 2018).
Also, the first proclaimers — preachers — of the good news of Christ are women. Elizabeth proclaims that Jesus is Lord. Mary proclaims the glory of God, the coming of the Lord by her. (Luke 1:39-56) This makes them have the first and last word, here and at the resurrection. Credit to Rev. Paul Justice Snyder for pointing this out.
I use the term “having authority” and the like in this article in the way used by others to succinctly make my point and I do not mean to imply that I think that reading scripture or leading singing in the assembly, teaching Sunday School, etc., is “having authority.” I think of what a lot of people call “leading worship” and some argue is “having authority” as serving others instead. See 1 Cor 12:2. I often refer to what other people refer to as “leading” in the worship service or as “having authority” as “actively serving” instead to try to make that point.
On serving being appropriate, rather than having authority or even teacher, and only God having authority, etc., see Matthew 23:1-12:
“23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteriesa]”>[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Elizabeth and Mary are preaching in Luke. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. She is speaking with a loud voice. She is exclaiming / proclaiming. Her subject is Jesus, proclaiming Jesus Lord, declaring blessings, ….
Mary proclaims the glory of God, the coming of the Lord by her: “And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. …”
For additional passages showing women as speaking in the assembly and leading and having authority over men, see, e.g., Romans 16:1-2 (“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require …”); 1 Tim 3:11 (now recognized as probably “women deacons”); Romans 16:7 (female apostle Junia); Micah 6:3-4 (God said to all of his people (men and women) “… I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.”); Num 12:1-15 (same); Gen 1:26-31 (women and men equally charged and given equal authority, “God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image …; and let them have dominion … over every creeping thing … upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over … every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ … God saw everything … he … made, and indeed, it was very good.”); Genesis 5:1-2 (male and female, image of God); Isaiah 8:3 (female prophet, Isaiah’s wife); Nehemiah 6:14 (Noadiah, female prophet); Psalm 68:11 (“The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:”); Acts 9:36 (female disciple of Jesus); Mark 15:40-41 (same); Luke 8:1-3 (same); John 4:28-29 (first evangelist of Christ as the Messiah was a woman); Matthew 27:1-7 (women leading in courage after Christ’s death); Phil 4:2-3 (women co-workers with Paul); Acts 1:13-14 (women praying in a mixed assembly, including the 12); Acts 12:12 (women leading men and women and having authority over them by being responsible for them in their homes, Peter “went to the house of Mary … where many had gathered and were praying.”); Col 4:15 (same, “greetings to … Nympha and the church in her house”); Acts 17:1-9 (homeowners responsible for guests’ actions); Luke 8:2-3 (women leading, women supporters/patrons); Romans 16:2 (same); Acts 16:14-15 (same); Rom 16:7 (women risked their freedom for the kingdom of God, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, … who were in prison with me….”); Rom 16:3-4 (women risked their lives for the kingdom of God, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life ….”); Esther 9:29-32 (Queen Esther, having authority over men; “So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance— to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.”); 1 Corinthians 11:26 (Engaging is communion is preaching: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”); 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11 (Hannah prays before men); Hosea 2:16 (all are wives of the Lord); James 2:1-13 (favoritism forbidden); Luke 8:1-3 and Luke 23:27, 49, 55 (more re female disciples); Proverbs 1:20-33 and 9:1-6 (Wisdom); Proverbs 31.
See also these:
Genesis 30:22 (God listens to Rachel. “Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.”)
Exodus 15:19-21 (Miriam shown here leading singing, the “them” referenced is probably the Israelites, rather than just the women)
Judges 4:6 (Deborah proclaiming the Word of God to men, telling them what God wants the men to do)
Esther 9:29-32 (Esther exercised authority over men, issuing a decree to men and women for a holiday, Purim)
Psalm 68:11 (many women preached, proclaiming God’s word and command)
Psalm 68:25 (women actively participated in the worship service, including playing timbrels)
Luke 8:1-3 (women engaging in the act of worship of giving their own money)
Romans 15:14 (women told to instruct men — “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”)
Romans 16:1-2 (Phoebe declared a leader of many and a leader of Paul. Paul uses the term prostatis to refer to her. Young’s Literal Translation translates it “leader.” Some other translations translate it “patron” or “helper.” The term, properly translated, appears to mean a leader set over other people.)
1 Corinthians 16:15-16 (men and women instructed to submit to fellow workers, which include women, see Romans 16)
Hebrews 10:25 (women are to exhort to men (and women)
Mark 16:9-14 (other ending of Mark; Jesus rebukes the disciples “for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen” (which includes Mary Magdalene and other women))
Matthew 20:25-28 —
“25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
This is not a “I am fine with either way” situation. God asks women over and over and over again to speak to, lead, teach, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere. It is straightforward to see that the small number of verses to which people point to block women and girls from speaking do not mean that they should be blocked.
It is a sin — contrary to the will of God — to support blocking women and girls in such a situation.
A sure sign that a person supports blocking girls and women without having given it much or any thought is when the person just quotes 1 Cor 14:34-35 or 1 Tim 2:12 and either says nothing more or says “it is clear.”
It is negligence and a failure to love others to support blocking girls and women — blocking other people — without having thoroughly studied the issue with resources that present all viewpoints and without being able to articulate in clear terms why the support, besides quoting those two passages and relying on a tradition of man.
All scripture quoted is from the NIV, except for (6), which is from the KJV and Acts 3:24, which is from the ESV and 1 Cor 9:14 which is from the NLT. The KJV’s expression of (6) is much more memorable and melodic than the NIV’s expression. The translation used makes no difference to the substance. The NIV is easier to read than the KJV and some others. There are some ** form-leaning ** translations (as opposed to what some refer to as function or meaning) that use a form term for the Greek word adelphoi (brethren or brothers) and people who do not know any better argue that the NIV and other translations “feminize” the Bible by translating adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” or something similar. But it is Bible 101 that form translations translate for form and leave meaning to the reader to figure out. And it is Bible 101 the Greek language used adelphoi to *mean* either “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” In other words, adelphoi was used to mean either a group of males or a group of both sexes. The ESV makes it clearer which term refers to proclaiming — κατήγγειλαν there — which is a term that is translated preaching. The NLT contained a meaning-based translation of the last part of 1 Cor 9:14.
The Greek word adelphoi is a bit like how ‘guys’ is used today, either a group of males or a group of both males and females. The form is “guys” but the meaning is not just you male folks.
Even conservative, evangelical Bible translations that provide original ** meaning ** (as opposed to just form), like the NIV, NLT, CSB, NET, etc., translate it to mean “brothers and sisters” in those verses I referenced.
10/3/18: Added Southern Hills Church of Christ link.
Updated: Edited for clarity; added passages in bonus and notes; added cultural section; rearranged order for better flow; edited descriptions to be clearer.
Christians met in homes in the 1st century and for centuries, so that Elizabeth spoke at home is not a factor on whether it was preaching, authoritative, teaching, etc. That just one person was present would also not be a factor, it would not make it any less or more preaching, authoritative, teaching, etc. either. If any male preacher today stood at the pulpit and preached with only one person in the audience, no one credible would then argue it was not preaching.
The basic Biblical terms of prohibition (translated into English) are forms of speak, teach, and authority. I considered them to have roughly the meanings as the scope of prohibition by most Churches of Christ in section 1, even though their Biblical definition is much narrower than the Churches of Christ generally apply (e.g. teach/authority is narrow in 1 Tim 2:12 but they interpret and apply it broadly).
The definitions of such terms are in part 2 above. The Biblical meaning of speak, teach/authority in the relevant verses (in part 2) is narrower than that the Churches of Christ generally use.
Added: When Miriam summons the assembly to sing to YHWH in Numbers 15:21, is the “them” in verse 21 masculine such that it indicates she is not just leading women but both men and women? Also note Micah 6 says Israel is led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam — it doesn’t say women are led by Miriam but “you” are?
“A middle path between the extremes” is what some have called a Southern Baptist Convention-like approach to women and girls, calling it a “middle path between the extremes” of what the CoC does and egalitarianism.
That path is not very different than what the CoC does. That path is controversial, highly criticized, and has rendered some awful things. That path includes: women must be under the “headship” of men in the home and church; women must be excluded from certain church offices and roles on the basis of sex; men are the heads and have authority from God; women and girls might be able to do some things (or they might not), depending on what the men in charge decide, depending on whether those men decide to delegate (or take back) authority to those women and girls; women and girls operate under authority “delegated” by men; ambiguous on whether male-headship requirement also applies in society, in the workplace, in public, etc.
First, egalitarianism is not an “extreme.” It asks that people stop discriminating against women and girls in the church. That’s not an “extreme.” That’s a pretty modest ask. Asking that you bring a stop to sex discrimination is not an extreme.
Second, women’s and girl’s bodies are not things to be bargained or compromised over to come up with a “middle path.” They are images of God. They are not to be bargained or compromised over, either with other people or within ourselves. Many people do so out of fear, a desire for peacefulness, out of exhaustion, out of trying to find an easy way, out of relief just to have some restrictions lifted, …. It can also come from over-relying on a foundation and framework that is unhealthy for girls and women.
If 1 Tim 2 context is in an assembly, then so is 1 Peter.
Regarding preaching: https://margmowczko.com/preaching-words-new-testament-women-preached/ (re preaching)
Added: Analyze — Female singers were part of the choir and helped lead singing. Ezra 2:64-65, 70; Nehemiah 7:66-67. The singers of Ezra 2:70 (masculine term) includes the female singers of Ezra 2:65. 1 Chron 25 is about lineage, not about who participated in the choir. The writer of Chronicles includes women (see, e.g., 2 Chron 35:25), which appears to relate to the singers in 2 Chron 35:15. “Sons of Asaph” may mean descendants of Asaph. See, e.g., 2 Chron 5:12 (brothers and kindred includes women?). “All” relative to 1 Chron 25:5-6 appears to include the daughters. Ezra 2:64-65 and Nehemiah 7:66-67 indicate women participated. Young women were with the singers and instrument players in the procession of Psalm 68:25 (singers and instrument players could have included women) Was there a Court of Women in the original Temple? Women proclaimed the word of the Lord in Psalm 68:11 (“The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:”). Prophesying was done accompanied by musical instructions. See 1 Chronicles 25:1. See also 2 Samuel 19:35.
Miriam led Israel (women and men). Also see Miriam’s song, Exodus 15.
For more on the scripture relating to this issue, see:
Start here for a discussion regarding scripture on this issue: Steve Gardner, “20 Passages Asking Women to Speak, Teach, Lead, and Have Authority Over Men, In the Assembly and Elsewhere,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 3, 2018).
For a discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, see Steve Gardner, “Most Church of Christ Colleges No Longer Exclude Women From Leading in Worship Services: … 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 …,” AuthenticTheology.com (May 22, 2018).
For a discussion regarding 1 Timothy 2:12, see Steve Gardner, “10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: 1 Timothy 2:12, “Teach or Usurp Authority” (Part 3),” AuthenticTheology.com (April 9, 2019).
For a discussion regarding 1 Timothy 2:11-15, see Steve Gardner, “Most Church of Christ Colleges No Longer Exclude Women From Leading in Worship Services: … 1 Timothy 2:12 …,” AuthenticTheology.com (May 30, 2018).
For a discussion regarding female elders, see Steve Gardner, “10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: Female Elders (Part 2),” AuthenticTheology.com (April 3, 2019).
For a discussion regarding Christ’s example, see Steve Gardner, “One of Largest Churches of Christ Opens Preaching Role to Women — And Some Questions,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 17, 2019).
For scriptural discussions from various Churches of Christ, see these three articles: Steve Gardner, “10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: List and Links (Part 1),” AuthenticTheology.com (March 26, 2019); Steve Gardner, “Another 10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: Their Reasons & a Quiz,” AuthenticTheology.com (April 24, 2019); and Steve Gardner, “4 More Churches of Christ Open Speaking Roles to Women,” AuthenticTheology.com (November 26, 2019).
Hey Steve, thank you for your comments. When using the scriptural references above…many, if not all, of them that say “Brothers and Sisters” are interpreting Masculine singular or plural Greek words, that would correctly only say “brothers”, into Neutral Singular or Plural words, that are not in the original Greek. What does one say to that criticism? Thank you for your time.
Thank you for your comment and question.
The Greek word used in those verses — adelphoi — is set out as ‘brothers’ in some Bibles because that is its *form* translation, but the Greek language used the adelphoi to *mean* either “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” In other words, adelphoi was used to mean either a group of males or a group of both sexes.”
adelphoi is a bit like how ‘guys’ is used today, either a group of males or a group of both males and females. The form is “guys” but the meaning is not just you male folks.
Even conservative, evangelical Bible translations that provide original ** meaning ** (as opposed to just form), like the NIV, NLT, CSB, NET, etc., translate it to mean “brothers and sisters” in those verses I referenced.
I hope that helps. Thanks much.
I’ve put together a study sheet on “brothers and sisters” and how adelphoi is used in 1 Corinthians. See https://tinyurl.com/brothers-sisters-in-1Cor
Anyone can take a concordance and see how Paul uses the word throughout his letters.
Why would the Apostle Paul, when challenged about women leading in a Church, condone it and reference God’s created order as a reason why?
It’s also interesting to note that when church leadership is established by Paul, they are to be elders and only men. It’s also interesting to note that this was done in a city that worshiped women (Diana). Paul was obviously not worried about social pressures.
Hi Gene, Thank you for your questions. (1) First, on why would Paul condone women speaking and teaching in a church (I assume that is what you are referring to since that is what is discussed in my article)? That’s easy. God condones it, Jesus condones, scripture condones, ….. I lay this out with 20+ scripture passages in the article.
(2) Second, as to your question of why “reference God’s created order as a reason why?” 1 Timothy 2:11-15 says this: “A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
Remember this appears in a letter from Paul to Timothy, as Paul is giving Timothy some instructions and advice on how to handle things in a city called Ephesus.
(a) The explanation that “Adam was formed first” as an explanation for barring women from reading scripture in the assembly, from praying in the assembly, etc., is not rational. If women were supposed to defer to men to that extent (don’t teach them, don’t even read the scripture, don’t even stand to pass the plate, don’t even ….) simply b/c Adam was formed first, it would have come up in the Bible before 1 Timothy, which is pretty close to the end. In other words, if that was some kind of general reason for such a general rule, we would have heard about it before then!! Plus, the first shall be last …. Plus, read all the 20+ passages in the article and the concept that women can’t speak contradicts those. Plus, the “Adam made first” makes no sense as a reason for them for being prohibited that way.
(b) But, for what 1 Tim 2:12 probably does mean, as I said in the article —
it probably means “I do not permit a woman to teach uninformed, false doctrine that disturbs the peace and that involves an exercise of seized power in a domineering way that creates conflict with a man; instead, any teaching, etc., must be peaceful.” —
the “Adam was formed first” makes some sense as an explanation *** in context of who Paul was writing to / about. ***
(c) In 1 Timothy, Paul gives Timothy directions for Ephesus, a city in which some women felt superior to men. Legend was that it was founded by a tribe of female warriors. At the time, first century, women in Ephesus worshipped the goddess Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo. *** She was born first *** and helped deliver him. Artemis was the goddess of childbirth, fertility, chastity, and other things.
Paul, by saying Adam was born first, was probably trying to get the women who are now Christians (but who used to worship Artemis) to understand that what used to be a source of feeling of superiority over men (Artemis was born first and women were smarter and superior) is contradicted by reality (Eve was not formed first and Eve was deceived).
(d) In conclusion, Paul was not saying that men were better or smarter. There is no suggestion that men are better than women here—indeed, Adam sinned without being deceived!—- but Paul was explaining that Eve was not born before Adam and thus the former-Artemis-worshiping women should not feel superior to men, like some of them had felt, and thus should not try to exercise seized power in a domineering way (like they might if they felt superior).
(3) Third, You say “when church leadership is established by Paul, they are to be elders and only men.” You seem to take an awfully narrow view of church leadership, as Paul tells women to teach, speak in the assembly, pray in the assembly, prophecy in the assembly, etc., refers to Chloe as a deacon, etc. Again, this is outlined in the article above. You didn’t address the scripture in your comment at all. And if you read your Bible closely, particularly most study Bibles, you’ll see that when 1 Tim 3:11 says “In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” it is ambigious as to whether it refers to women deacons, the deacons’ wives, other women (overseer/elders?), etc. And keep in mind, as you indicated, Paul was dealing with a particular situation in Ephesus. We don’t know what Paul and Timothy discussed relative to “the men” or “the women” or “a woman” or …. to which Paul referred when he wrote to Timothy. We don’t have the background or the other parts of the conversation.
(4) You can read more about it and other aspects of 1 Timothy 2 at my article here:
And you can read about Artemis, Ephesus, etc., some here:
On Ephesus and Artemis: Linda Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, edited by Robert W. Pierce and Rebecca Merill Groothuis, Downers Grove, Illinois: Zondervan (2005), page 219 (https://books.google.com/books?id=G68mDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA219&dq=artemis+superior+ephesus+gordon+fee&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4nonKx6bbAhWDzFMKHSJdDJUQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=artemis%20superior%20ephesus%20gordon%20fee&f=false);
Mark Cartwright, “Artemis,” in Ancient History Encyclopedia, May 29, 2012, last accessed May 28, 2018 (https://www.ancient.eu/artemis/);
Joshua J. Mark, “Ephesus,” in Ancient History Encyclopedia, September 2, 2009, last accessed May 28, 2018 (https://www.ancient.eu/ephesos/)
Steve, Good work! Thanks for this article! At first ‘perusal’ it seems solid—I am studying closer (and, don’t expect any major problems… ) 🙂
I was hoping for a way to save the text (like a print to pdf option, or such). Am I missing it? Can you post a link or send an email with such?
I want to get back with you on your list of churches (of Christ) (or affiliates) where women are encouraged to be more active. I think it can be substantially longer. Is yours just a sampling?
Thanks much! I appreciate the compliments. Made my day!
I think the only way to do the save/print is via your browser. If you use Chrome, there is a three-dot button in the top, right-hand corner and when you click on it, it gives you several options, including print, and then clicking on print let’s you (or at least mine) print to PDF instead of the printer.
Sounds good re the list. Wiley Clarkson keeps the list at http://www.wherethespiritleads.org/gender_inclusive_churches.htm . The list in my article is a list of ones with their study materials that I could find online. I would appreciate hearing about more if you know of / spot them.
btw—for a lawyer (or maybe because of that, as opposed to many of us preachers) the logic of your rhetoric is very user-friendly.
When the sister of Moses wanted to preach over Moses God turned her into a leper. When Moses brother wanted to preach nothing was done to Aaron. When men became wicked in the book of judges God raised Debra as a judge to shame the man. The woman was not in design to lead men under normal environment. The responsibility of them woman to bear children and care for her. Husband was a full time job. If she did not have a husband she was to help other women. The machine age of affluence may change the environment but never change responsibility God has placed on both the man or the woman.
Hi Will, Thank you for your comment.
You said “When the sister of Moses wanted to preach over Moses God turned her into a leper. When Moses brother wanted to preach nothing was done to Aaron.”
That’s not true. That’s not what scripture says. Neither sought to “preach.” You made that up. Plus there is a very good reason that Aaron was treated differently.
Numbers 12: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. ….”
Miriam and Aaron didn’t want “to preach over Moses.” They talked against Moses because of his Cushite wife. That’s why Miriam was punished.
And Aaron was the chief priest (Exodus 27), so if he had been struck with leprosy or otherwise punished, he couldn’t have approached, confessed his and her sin and asked for forgiveness and grace etc. (Numbers 12:10-12)
Keep in mind he was later punished with the loss of both sons when they offered unacceptable incense.
So you had that way wrong.
And you said “When men became wicked in the book of judges God raised Debra as a judge to shame the man.”
That’s not true, either. That’s not what scripture says. Judges says “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.” (Judges 4:4). It says nothing about “to shame the man.” You made that up.
God appointed Debra the leader of Israel. Stop trying to tear down God’s appointed.
Then you said “The woman was not in design to lead men under normal environment. The responsibility of them woman to bear children and care for her. Husband was a full time job. If she did not have a husband she was to help other women. The machine age of affluence may change the environment but never change responsibility God has placed on both the man or the woman.”
Again—this is a pattern for you — that’s not what scripture says. That is something you just made up.
Re-read Genesis 1:26-31 —- men and women are created equal. Re-read Genesis 2. Eve was created to be Adam’s strong, suitable partner, his equal.
Here’s an article showing that “help meet” — ezer kenegdo — refers to a strong partner—- equal partners —- not someone who is to be under the leadership of a man.
All 19 occurrences of ezer in the Old Testament are about “assistance that one of strength offers to one in need (i.e., help from God, the king, an ally, or an army). There is no exception.” In other words, a ezer in the Old Testament is a helper but not one who is helping someone with authority over the helper.
Indeed, look at Ephesians 5:21, it re-emphasizes that husbands and wives submit to one another, they are for one another. It emphasizes that submission is a two-way street:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
It’s not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street. Made as equals, two-way submission, for each other.
Steve Garner, I very much appreciate this article on women’s right to speak. I was blocked and suppressed in the church and by non-believers many times for teaching and preaching the Gospel as well as defending it. Jesus is true authority in the Church and the spirit of God is the spirit behind prophecy and divine revelation. Why would God include women in the body of Christ then stifle spiritual gifts like exhortation and prophecy in people after giving Him those talents? We must interpret from God’s perspective instead of the limited perspective of people who are still growing up in God. No wonder the laborers are few. Spiritual maturity is not magic and doesn’t occur over night so why suppress someone exercising God given spiritual gifts? Did Yeshua give spiritual birth to a woman only to make her spirit mute? People should ask themselves more if they are putting too much confidence in the flesh. The spirit is higher than the letter.
2 Corinthians 3, ESV
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Thank goodness the spirit gives some people the discernment to read between the lines. Kenneth E Bailey has an excellent article online on the Theology Matters site entitled: Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern Cultural View.
1 Thessalonian 5:19, ESV
19Do not quench the Spirit.
Women expect unbelievers to persecute them but they don’t expect to be suppressed by their own brothers. It must do incalcuable damage to the body of Christ when believers fail to meditate and seek out the deeper spiritual truths in the scriptures. Women can represent God and who has the right to suppress a woman made in God’s image? Unbelievers do that to God cf. Romans 1.
Thank you, Susan. I am very sorry to hear of your suppression. I agree on the damage done and that continues to be done. May the word and knowledge of the Lord fill the Earth and may this injustice and harm be no more.
Thanks again Steven. I don’t know why people don’t recognize that a woman can make a full surrender to God and be determined to pick up a cross and follow Jesus just like a man does but the Church has a long history of letting the spiritually immature tell people how to think. As a man thinketh in his heart so he is…a woman’s spiritual role model is Jesus just as a man’s is.
He’s our pattern too. It’s better to walk closely to His pattern and let Him direct your steps isn’t it?
God bless you!
Hi there, I don’t think that many people say that women cannot teach fullstop. However, if you read 2 timothy verse 12 you would see that it explicitely says that women cannot teach or have authority over men. This could be specifically within the church but it is much more clear here than the verses you have sources that women cant teach or have authority over men. I would look at all angles, you cannot have a wordly view or bias when reading Gods word. Im not saying all your point are wrong but some are twisting the truth.
Hi Rachael, Thank you for your comment.
You said “if you read 2 timothy verse 12 you would see that it [explicitly] says that women cannot teach or have authority over men.”
It is important to note that 2:12 does not refer to teaching over men. The “over” word is attached to “have authority” only. “Have authority over” is one translation of a single Greek word, authentein.
It is important also to note what kind of translation you are using. Many translations are “form” or “form-leaning” translations, rather than “function” or “function-leaning” translations. Such form-related translations translate words and phrase into a “form” of English that reflects what Greek word being used, and often only enough to make the sentence readable. In other words, a “form” translation does not tell you the precise meaning. One has to do more work when reading a “form” translation of a verse.
Nearly all translations that translate 2:12 as “.. have authority …” are form translations —- essentially, they are saying, the meaning is somewhere within the scope of “have authority” — could be very broad, the full extent of “have authority” or it could be very narrow within that scope (e.g., having authority relative to specific things; or have a particular kind of authority, like a domineering and non-peaceful authority; or etc..
Nearly everyone recognizes that 2:12 does not refer to all kinds of teaching or all kinds of authority. You appear to recognize this, too. So, immediately, one knows that the “plain meaning” of the verse is, in fact, not the meaning of the verse.
It is a major challenge for people not to lean on “plain meaning” even though they know that is one meaning that it is clear that 2:12 does not mean. It is very difficult to make one’s brain not immediately go back to “plain meaning.”
For you to say that 2:12 “is much more clear here” is exactly that, a leaning on “plain meaning” when plain meaning is certainly not the meaning of the verse.
There are lots and lots of verses in the Bible that do not have their plain meaning, by the way. I wrote about some of them here —- https://authentictheology.com/2018/09/03/15-bible-passages-that-dont-mean-what-they-say-that-dont-have-their-plain-meaning/
In any event, once you realize this and once you keep your brain from defaulting back to trying to rely on “plain” or “clear” meaning in 2:12, then it is fairly straightforward to see that Paul tells us right at the beginning of the letter what kind of teaching and authority he is writing about (see 1 Tim 1:1-8). He is writing about teaching without knowledge (don’t know what they are talking about) done in a non-peaceful way and in a way that attempts to be above the scripture (like a teacher of the law). Paul brings this point home by using a term in 2:12 — authentein — that is a particular kind of authority, one that is domineering, non-peaceful, and even violent.
I discuss 2:12 further here — https://authentictheology.com/2019/04/09/10-churches-of-christ-where-women-speak-in-the-assembly-1-timothy-212-teach-or-usurp-authority-part-3/
In other words, Rachael, reading 1 Tim 2:12 in context, reading like it is part of a letter (as it is), makes it clear that
(1) Paul tells us at the very beginning of his letter, at the very beginning of 1 Tim, just one page-flip from 2:12, what kind of “teaching” he is referring to— uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace. He tells Timothy to to “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer …” (1:3) because it disturbs the peace (1:4) and those folks “do not know what they are talking about …,” (1:8-11), and not just any uninformed, false teaching, but that kind of teaching that is done as “teachers of the law” (1:7) (i.e., authoritative, above-the-scripture, “final say”-type teaching) that is done in a domineering way that breaches the peace, and not to normal teaching;
(2) The kind of authority referred to in 2:12 is authority that is seized (aka usurped) and domineering (authentein), not to simply having authority, teaching, speaking, reading scripture, leading prayer, etc., in the normal fashion.
Indeed, 2:12 is the only time in the New Testament the rarely used word αὐθέντ (authent-) is used.
Paul’s “Old Testament” scripture, the scripture Paul used, uses αὐθέντ-.
αὐθέντ-ας (Wis 12:6)
αὐθεντ-ίαν (3 Macc 2:27-29)
Each time, it is used there in the sense of force and a master-subject relationship, of murder, killing, governmental force at threat of death, restrictions imposed via force, a master-subject action, etc. Paul isn’t using αὐθέντ to prohibit peaceful, normal preaching and the like, but is referring to domineering, non-peaceful teaching, just like he said he was referring to at the beginning of his letter.
I really appreciate your ability to read Greek and Hebrew, Steve. I wish people would stop thinking they can argue or logicize these scriptures and stop making things so overly literal in their interpretations.
The literal is not higher than the spiritual in interpretation.
1 Corinthians 2:14
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are vfolly to him, and whe is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
It’s disturbing to realize there are some serious diehard fundamentalists who were taught by the establishment to over rely on the literal grammatical historical method and to overly contextualize things to interpret meaning when the Bible says to rightly divide the word you have to compare spiritual to spiritual using the whole Bible. Also the Old Testament is not the equal to the New Testament. The Old Testament is like the primary school of Christianity while the New Testament is more spiritually advanced. There are Judaizers over running Facebook pages and other social media sites where they discuss Christian topics. These people have a form of godliness and are so convinced they are right that it becomes frustrating to talk to them when they want to force people back under the law that Romans 7 and Galatians 3 say that we died to in Christ and had replaced with a new heart and spirit.
The more I study the scriptures the more I realize that Catholicism greatly erred in locking everything up in Latin preventing people from learning their Father’s languages in the early critical years when people can learn new languages better. It is ridiculous that in a revealed religion so few people can read the Bible in the original language. It has caused this modern doctrine of Biblical inerrancy to prevail when anyone who has bothered to check into cults counterfeiting of the Bible knows that there are people out there who seek to change the Bible to suit themselves. That is why there is a Quran, a Jehovah’s Witness Bible, a book of Mormon, Thomas Jefferson’s counterfeit translation, etc. Even Hitler took a whack at rewriting the Bible but they destroyed most of the copies of it at the end of WWII. Our current bible we use has certain verses that are “added later” by scribes. So the Bible is inerrant in spirit but God seems to leave the preservation and protection of it up to men for the most part and the Gentiles haven’t done as good a job of protecting it as the ancient Hebrews did. We have certain poor doctrines that persist in the church today from keyword translation errors made by Jerome way back in the 4th century Vulgate version of the Bible. Plus Catholicism allowed in the Apocrypha which contradicts the Bible in some passages.
The reason I say we shouldn’t “argue” the scriptures is because knowledge or human reason (logic) does not control them. That is mainstream apologetics talk which goes around trying to exalt the natural man’s critical thinking of the scriptures at the expense of a more exact understanding of the scriptures. Scientific American wrote an article recently saying critical thinking is behind people losing their faith. People don’t always reason or analyze perfectly but it can be used to undercut one’s beliefs.
Look at John 7:17, NIV: “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Bibleref.com explains it:
What does John 7:17 mean?
The phrasing used here by Jesus is unmistakable; He literally says, “If any man is willing to do His (God’s) will, he shall know…” While Satan tempts man with limited knowledge based in disobedience (Genesis 3:5), we are meant to obtain true knowledge through obedience. Jesus essentially turns His era’s assumed relationship between knowledge and morality backwards. Ancient philosophers frequently held that morality was something produced by knowledge. Under that assumption, moral behavior and the ability to do “good” was based on whether or not a person understood moral and philosophical truths. Only those who could understand could obey, they thought. In other words, misunderstanding causes disobedience, per ancient philosophy.
According to Christ, disobedience causes misunderstanding. Rather than knowledge of the truth leading to obedience, Jesus claims that whether or not a person is willing to obey God is what affects their ability to learn the truth!
This general idea is echoed elsewhere in Scripture, both by Jesus and others (John 18:37; Romans 1:18–20; Hebrews 11:6). In fact, Jesus laid the groundwork for this idea when preaching in Capernaum, after feeding the thousands (John 6:29). The fact that Jesus was noted to be sinless (Hebrews 4:15), even by many of His own critics (John 8:46), demonstrates how a person’s spiritual life says a great deal about their knowledge (or ignorance) of God’s Word.
John 7:14–24 is a strong spiritual challenge issued by Jesus against the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Jesus makes the point that obedience is a necessary aspect of learning. The resistance of the Scribes and Pharisees is ultimately a matter of rebellion, not knowledge. In the same way, Jesus criticizes their hypocritical attitude towards His miracles. This concludes with a powerful statement about the need to use ”right judgment,” rather than shallow appearances.
Six months after the feeding of thousands, and the public debate which followed, Jesus plans to attend the Feast of Booths (Festival of Tabernacles). Rather than going publicly, He chooses to arrive privately, and after His family. While teaching and preaching there, Jesus once again comes into conflict with local religious leaders. The crowds take note of His profound words, history of miracles, and the inability of the religious leaders to silence Him. This causes the people to openly question their spiritual leaders. This embarrassment is a milestone in the effort to permanently silence Jesus. end quote
Jesus’ sheep hear his voice. How is that critical thinking? The natural mind is not born holy. It has to be made holy. Jesus Christ uses the scriptures to build the mind of Christ in people and this requires an obedience (perfect submission) as well as meditation.
People don’t all immediately understand God’s meaning and word. The deeper truths come through time, care and personal application of it. Sometimes you learn from obediently doing.
I might be too late to this conversation (just saw this page today), but see a hole in your argument I didn’t see explained, so wanted to ask:
“(1) Paul tells us at the very beginning of his letter, at the very beginning of 1 Tim, just one page-flip from 2:12, what kind of “teaching” he is referring to— uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace. ”
If this holds true, then Paul is OK with men teaching uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace? It doesn’t seem to me to hold up that he is limiting “teaching” in 2:12 to only the kind of teaching he referenced in 1:1-8… In the same way when referencing “to exercise authority over,” is it not possible the meaning from Paul here is that a woman is not to have this kind of spiritual authority over a man and she is usurping it when she takes the place of being in authority over a man?
Paul seems to have no problem generalizing gender in his letters to Timothy related to the kind of person, leader, teacher one should be.
I agree that Paul seems to be addressing a specific issue in the Ephesian church – but I don’t see evidence for making the jump you have from “teaching” to “teaching in an uninformed way with false doctrine that disturbs the peace.” If that is what he meant, given his other generalizations, it would be far more accurate for Paul to write that he “does not permit anyone to teach in an abusive manner or usurp authority over a man.”
We are all taking a little leap of faith in our interpretation here, but the wiring in my brain leaves me with problems on your assertion about Paul intending to limit his “I do not permit a woman to teach” to mean only teach in an abusive manner.
Hello Steve. Thanks for your comment and question.
You claimed that if Paul is telling women in 1 Tim 2:12 not to engage in teaching uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace, “then Paul is OK with men teaching uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace?”
The answer is no.
It isn’t logical to infer that because Paul asks one person or one group of people (here, women) not to do X means that Paul is OK with others (here, men) doing X.
For example, 1 Tim 1 says “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.”
It isn’t logical to infer that because Paul asks Timothy to command “certain people” not to teach false doctrine that Paul is OK with others teaching false doctrine.
As another example 1 Tim 3 says an overseer is not to be given to drunkenness.
It isn’t logical to infer that because Paul asks overseers not to be given to drunkenness means that Paul is OK with others being given to drunkenness’
You can see this throughout scripture.
As another example, Titus 2 tells older women not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine.
It isn’t logical to infer that because Paul asks older women not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine that Paul is OK with older men being slanderers and so addicted
So, no, that isn’t a hole in the argument.
It isn’t a leap at all to understand 2:12 as referring to teaching in an abusive manner (e.g., a domineering manner) if one reads 1 Tim as the letter that it is, rather than as a statute book.
Paul says at the outset that I want you, Timothy, to address some particular problems in Ephesus, including some people teaching in an abusive manner: “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer … Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work …. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Tim 1:3-7)
Then Paul says just a few sentences later that he doesn’t allow women to teach men in an authentein manner — authentein being a unique word, one signaling an improper attempt to assert dominion in an unpeaceful way. (2:12)
As (a) you recognize that Paul seems to be addressing a specific issue in the Ephesian church, and (b) Paul says at the outset of his letter the specific teaching issue he is addressing is teaching in an abusive manner (uninformed, false teaching that disturbs the peace, 1 Tim 1:3-7), and then (c) Paul refers to authentein teaching just a few sentences away, it seems (d) straightforward that Paul is using that unique word, one that signals am improper attempt to assert dominion in an unpeaceful way, as shorthand for the kind of abusive teaching that he said at the outset he is writing to Timothy about, rather than repeating what he just said a few sentence before all that out again.
He’s already said what he’s talking about! It’s a letter!
Early functional translations signaled this, that it refers to an abusive kind of teaching (breaching the peace, etc.) by referring to it as domineering or usurping (eg, take by force or unlawfully).
Hope that helps. Thanks for the question.
Thanks so much for the reply! (Not sure if this is going to show up as a continuation to the reply you gave me a bit earlier tonight?)
Your reply highlights two more problems for me… not sure we know the answers, but the questions point me to perhaps a different interpretation than you’re putting forth.
1. Were women the only ones teaching improperly in 1 Tim 1? I don’t think it is a logical conclusion that Paul believed only women were improper teachers in 1 Tim 1. If men and women improperly taught, and 2 is clearly referencing back to the type of teaching in 1, why was Paul only calling out women?
2. Were women only improperly teaching and taking authority in a domineering way over men? They weren’t doing it to women as well? I don’t think it is a logical conclusion that there was no improper teaching/ authoritarian treatment toward women by these same teachers. Why would Paul only call out women for this domineering taking of authority, and only call them out for taking such authority over men?
I interpret the Bible to not exclude women from teaching, prophesying, being the messenger of evangelists and elders to a congregation, being deacons… I say that to say I don’t think Paul is saying women can’t teach the assembly, period. Nor do I think Paul is saying women can’t teach in the assembly of a man is present. I think Paul is addressing a specific situation in Ephasus and advising Timothy how he would address that specific situation and some theological reasons why.
I do see in this that Paul is spelling out that while equal, there are differences between men and women (why else would Paul not say he is concerned with women usurping authority over women if usurping authority is the only thing he is addressing there?).
(As a note of explanation on the question in my first post, your answer that of course Paul thinks both men and women need to teach properly I agree with. My point is our agreement on that argument then highlights that Paul is calling out only women, not men, and calling out exerting this authority only over men, not over women. Why? I haven’t found your points on this passage to give a convincing answer to that, especially given the broader appeal Paul makes regarding the difference between men and women based on Adam and Eve… he is further focusing that this concern in particular is about women attempting to do this toward men.)
I realize you owe me no reply and given your depth of knowledge, I very much appreciate your engagement on this.
Hello Steve. Thank you for your follow-up.
Your Question 1a. Were women the only ones teaching improperly in 1 Tim 1?
No. Paul refers to himself in 1 Tim 1:13 (“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man ….”), for example, likely to his own teaching against Christ and his violent actions against Christians.
Paul refers in v3 to “certain” or “some” people in Ephesus teaching false doctrine, probably to women and men, but to whom, specifically, is unclear.
The letter is to Timothy and he has background knowledge regarding to what Paul is referring, so Timothy may know exactly to whom Paul is referring when he refers to “certain people,” just like when one of my friends refers to a situation with which I’m intimately familiar and refers to “certain people just can’t control themselves” or something like that, I know who my friend is talking about.
1b. If men and women improperly taught, and 2 is clearly referencing back to the type of teaching in 1, why was Paul only calling out women?
This is discussed somewhat in the article above. 1 Tim is a letter. As you recognized, the letter is written to address a specific issue in the Ephesian church.
In 1 Tim 2, Paul calls out men there, specifically, regarding two things, showing anger and engaging in arguments. Showing anger and engaging in arguments is a form of false teaching that breaches the peace, whether teaching by one’s actions or by spouting false things in arguments regarding doctrine.
Paul calls out women there, specifically, regarding two things, modesty and learning/teaching. This, too, is a form of false teaching that breaches the peace, both by one’s actions and by spouting false things.
As mentioned previously, throughout the Bible, a particular person or group will be called out relative to certain actions that they are asked not to do. This does not mean they are the only ones doing it and who should not do it. See notes on overseers, older women, etc., in the prior answer.
Most likely, the instance of specific problems within the ambit of false teaching / breaching the peace included certain men in Ephesus showing anger toward everyone and some engaging in arguing with everyone & certain women in Ephesus had a problem with authentein teaching toward men.
2. Were women only improperly teaching and taking authority in a domineering way over men? (~Why not say he’s concerned with women usurping authority over women …?)
Probably not. In other words, the answer is probably no.
I agree with you that Paul is addressing a specific situation in Ephesus and advising Timothy how he would address that specific situation and some theological reasons why.
But the particular problem that Paul likely needed to address in Ephesus was women engaging in authentein teaching relative to men.
Why is this a particular problem in Ephesus? This is discussed briefly in the article above:
Ephesus was the home to the Temple of Artemis, a dominant goddess.
A normal reference point of pride for women then was Artemis (aka Aphrodite), this dominant female goddess.
Legend had it that she had been born before her male twin, Apollo, and helped deliver him, showing her power over males. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and young girls and was considered their protector. She was also the goddess of childbirth, protecting women in childbirth.
Women of Ephesus might think they could domineer over men because they had Artemis, who came first and helped birth her brother Apollo, on their side and Apollo was the one who was thus weaker and Artemis was dominant and powerful. And they were going to be resistant to abandoning Artemis because Artemis had been their protector, through childbirth and otherwise.
I inserted some reference links to material about Ephesus, Artemis, etc., in my response to Gene Frost’s question in the Q&A part of the article in which this can be seen.
So Paul says he doesn’t allow women to engage in such domineering over men, and explains that, their basis for thinking they could domineer isn’t right.
Hope this helps. Thanks for the comments and questions.
Hi Steve, your explanation is thought-provoking. Can you explain your perspective regarding Titus 1:6-7 and how it fits into this discussion?
To clarify I see that you mentioned Titus 1:4 but didn’t address Titus 1:6. Why didn’t you address that?
Hi Anthony, Thank you. Yes, glad to. To answer your last question first, this particular article is about women and girls speaking in the assembly, rather than about female overseers / bishops / elders / pastors, so 1:6 doesn’t have much bearing on speaking in the assembly generally. I address it in another article, cited below. (Also, it looks like you found a typo of mine, as when I say 1:4 in the article, it is supposed to say 1:5. I’ll fix that now.) On your first question —
Folks will sometimes point to Titus 1:6-7 as meaning that only men can be bishops, elders, shepherds, pastors, overseers, etc. (For the most part, people use these terms interchangeably, with different denominations emphasizing or mostly using one of them. The Churches of Christ most often use “elder” or “shepherd,” rather than “pastor,” for example, while Southern Baptists tend to use “pastor” to refer to what Churches of Christ folks would refer to as “the preacher” or “the evangelist.”).
In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus to appoint (KJV says ordain) elders in every town, as Paul directed him. The term Paul uses that is translated elders there is πρεσβυτέρους. It is masculine plural. In Greek, the masculine plural of many words are used to indicate both women and men. This is not controversial and is basic Greek (forgive me if I’m telling you something you already know.).
So, Paul could be saying appoint men elders or both female and male elders there.
Then, here’s Titus 1:6-7 from the KJV: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; …”
So, there’s nothing there that indicates these πρεσβυτέρους are to be only men except, some argue, “husband of one wife.”
There’s good reason to believe that the words and structure of verse 6 indicates that it can be women or men, as verse 6 begins by saying if “any” (KJV; tis in Greek) or “any one” (Young’s Literal Translation) and verse 7 begins “a bishop,” and neither begin by saying “he.”
Does “husband of one wife” tell us the elder must be a married male with one wife? Early church fathers viewed the answer to that question as no, instead viewing the phrase as a contingent and negative-prohibition qualification, not a requirement qualification. That is, they did not view the phrase “husband of one wife” as requiring an elder to be a married male with one wife, but instead viewed the phrase as a contingent requirement (if the elder is married) and a prohibition qualification (if the elder is married, the elder cannot be married to two or more women). In other words, the phrase is a prohibition on an elder/overseer being a polygamist.
It is reasonable, too, to interpret the phrase “husband of one wife” as an idiom meaning faithful to one’s spouse.
That it wasn’t viewed as a prohibition qualification can most easily be seen in practice in the status of bishops, priests, and the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church as single.
Some translations insert “he” and the like in Titus 1:6-7, but there are literally zero instances of the word he in the verses. “He” appearing in translations of Greek, particularly a reference to what can be a plurality of people, can signal male or female and male, depending on whether it is a form or function translation and what specific kind. (Again, forgive me if I’m saying stuff you know already.)
Bottom line is that Titus 1:5-7 does not tell us that elders / overseers must be men.
Also, Paul goes on to refer specifically to female elders in Titus 2:3-5, using the specifically female version of the word used in Titus 1:6 (πρεσβυτέρους), which is Πρεσβύτιδας (presbytidas).
He says “Likewise, teach the older women (presbytidas) to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)
So here he refers specifically to female πρεσβυτέρους, saying they should teach was is good. (Full stop, this to teach what is good to anyone, everyone). Verse 4 goes on to say “then they can urge the younger women ….” People sometimes argue that Titus 2:3-5 means older women should teach only other women, but of course verse 3 does not say that and it would make zero sense to view verse 4 as defining the scope of who older women can teach, as we know women teach children and also teach men (see, e.g., Acts 18:24-26;
Colossians 3:16; Anna, Huldah, Deborah, female prophets, etc., etc., described in the article above).
Bottom line on Titus 2:3-5 is that it could refer to female elders / overseers or to older females and that it refers to them teaching what is good (not just to women). But since it uses the same word as Titus 1:5-7 to refer to male elders / overseers, it seems that if one is going to claim Titus 1:5-7 refers to male elders, then Titus 2:3-5 would most likely refer to female elders.
1 Tim 3:11 can reasonably be viewed as referring to female overseers, too. And, of course, the attributes for overseers are referred to in relation to females throughout the New Testament.
I’ve written a lot above (more than I intended! 🙂 ). You can read more about female elders here: https://authentictheology.com/2019/04/03/10-churches-of-christ-where-women-speak-in-the-assembly-female-elders-part-2/
Thanks for your questions. If you have any others or follow-up, I’m glad to discuss them.
I am also interested to know why 1 Cor 14:33 is not addressed.
Hi Anthony, Thanks for your additional question.
1 Cor 14:33 (“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace–as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”) is addressed implicitly, in addressing the occasional nature of Paul’s letter and the thrust of 1 Cor 14:26-40 being avoiding disruption (avoiding disorder).
And then I link to articles I wrote that expands on 1 Cor 14, including this one, that address 33 and other verses in 1 Cor 14 further: https://authentictheology.com/2018/05/22/part-3-most-church-of-christ-colleges-no-longer-exclude-women-from-leading-in-worship-services-does-it-contradict-1-cor-1434-35-women-should-remain-silent/
My take is that verses 33’s indication God is one of “peace” is inconsistent with arguing that women and girls are barred from speaking, as such discrimination, harm, and oppression of girls and women is not the peace of God, as set out, for example, by Isaiah in Isaiah 11:1-9.
Hope that helps. Thanks for the question. Glad to discuss further.
By the way Steve, I must say that you have to most compelling argument that I have ever seen on this issue!
Thank you Anthony.
My wife and I have been studying and learning more about this topic for over a year now. Both of us just assumed that the strict complementarian view was the norm since we have really only been exposed to that view since becoming believers. We have become much more open to a softer view on the roles of women in the church; such as the one that you’ve laid out here. Can you help me with more a more specific understanding about the role of the head(ship) of the husband as written in Ephesians 5 verses 23 and 24? I’ve read varying views and interpretations on the word headship? Thank you so much!
Hi Rickey, Thank you for your comment and question. Glad to hear that y’all are studying scripture on this topic. Your experience (“assumed that the strict complementarian view was the norm since we have really only been exposed to that view”) sounds similar to mine.
You asked about the role of the head(ship) of the husband as written in Ephesians 5 verses 23 and 24.
I think the opening main point of the passage is Eph 5:21, for both husbands and wives, is in Ephesians 5 verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
So husbands and wives are supposed to submit to one another.
I think the closing main point of the passage re husbands/wives is in verse 31: The two are one flesh. (subsidiary points continue in 32-33)
I think kephale, translated head, in Ephesians 5 and 1 Cor 11, means head in the sense of headwater or head of a line of kids of school — i.e., kephale / head is in the sense of origin, source, or representative of. — and not in the sense of ‘authority over.’
Part of my view is because the end of 1 Cor 11:3 “… the head of (kephale) Christ is God” indicates that kephale (head of) cannot have a meaning in the sense of ‘authority over,’ as scripture establishes Christ *is* God, not that Christ is under the authority of God. In other words, interpreting kephale as meaning authority over produces a heretical interpretation of the end of 11:3, that the authority over Christ is God instead of recognizing Christ *is* God.
And the rest of 1 Cor 11 is discussing source, origin, and/or representative of (example, dishonor, image and glory of, born of, etc). And when it means authority over, it uses the usual word for authority (exousian), just a few sentences after verse 3, in verse 10. Paul knew how to say authority when he meant it.
Meanwhile, interpreting kephale (head) in the sense of “source,” “origin,” or “representative of” comports with scripture. That is, scripture (see, e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16; 2:14-17, 4:4; 4:11-13; 5:23; Col. 1:18; Col. 2:10, 19; John 17:20-23).) establishes Christ’s source, origin, and what he represents is God as Christ is God, is sent by God, etc., and that Christ is the source, origin, and/or representative of all things, including the church.
So, I think Eph 5:23’s reference to “husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” reflects on husband being the source/origin/rep of his wife, like Jesus is of the church. Both husband and wife are source/origin/rep of one another as they are “one flesh.”
Hope that helps. I write some on this in the last 3/4 of this article: https://authentictheology.com/2020/10/20/the-bible-and-gender-by-the-international-churches-of-christ-teachers-service-team-book-review/
I hope your study goes well!
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in such detail and Scripture support, Steve! I met a woman on a lunch break while attending at a leadership conference who explained the use of the word kephale as source similar to how you have here but it never fully sunk in for me. Your response definitely helps bring more clarity to it. I will follow up with reading the article that you provide in the link. Thanks again for your ministry. Have a beautiful and blessed day!