Observations on life; particularly spiritual

The role of women in the church

hillary-clintonFor the first time, a major political party has a woman, Hillary Clinton, as the front runner for President of the United States. Gains in educational achievement and advances in the economic and social standing of women have been noticeable over the past 50 years. Their changing roles and status has an impact on the family, the church and society.

This blogpost is a survey of what some key passages in the Bible teach about the role of women in the church. These passages are commonly used to determine whether there are any limits to this role. After looking at what they meant in the first century, we present the range of meanings taken to apply today. These notes relate to a church meeting when men are present. So they don’t apply to an activity where men are absent, such as women’s ministries or children’s ministries.

  1. Galatians 3:28 (written AD 50)

ESV: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
HCSB: “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
NET: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.
NIV: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Context

The letter to the Galatians is about the contrast between the law of Moses and faith in Christ and whether new Christians needed to follow Jewish practises such as male circumcision.

The paragraph (3:26-29) is about all Christians about being children (or “sons” in ESV, HCSB, NET) of God through faith in Christ. Paul describes how it happens (v.26), when it happens (v.27), what is changed from being under the law of Moses (v.28) and the resultant inheritance (v.29). Consequently, they share a kind of unity and the inheritance promised to Abraham which was fulfilled in Christ.

Meaning then

In Christianity there is a unity between people that was absent under the law of Moses. The diverse believers in Galatia were united in oneness in Christ. Regardless of race, social class or gender, now they all had the same spiritual status before God.

Note that as human role distinctions have nothing to do with our spiritual significance before God, these aren’t being addressed in this verse. However, because of belief in gender equality, today some people include gender roles in the scope of this verse.

Universal principle

Because they are united through their common relationship with Christ, God does not recognize human distinctions amongst true believers. All true Christians are equal with regard to salvation, our position before God and our inheritance. Every Christian, regardless of race, social class or gender, has the same spiritual status before God.

Those passionate about gender equality, extend the spiritual unity to equality in gender roles in the church.

Meaning now

The following options have been suggested as to how this verse applies in the church today.

  • Accept all fellow Christians without showing bias, discrimination or favoritism. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15:7NIV). In this case, the role of women in the church is outside the scope of this verse.
  • Or, a more recent application is that women can take the same roles in the church as men. This assumes that women and men are equal in all respects, including participation in all church meetings.

Link to more detailed article
https://georgesjournal.net/2016/03/02/what-does-galatians-328-mean/

  1. 1 Corinthians 11:5 (written AD 55)

ESV: “but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven”.
HCSB: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved”.
NET: “For if a woman will not cover her head, she should cut off her hair. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should cover her head”.
NIV: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.”

Context

The letter of 1 Corinthians addresses the problems in the church in Corinth and answers their questions. It addresses topics such as factions, sexual immorality, marital difficulties, lawsuits, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, and misuse of spiritual gifts.

The section (11:2-16) is about whether the head should be covered or not during prayer or prophesy (See Appendix). Paul describes their practice (v.2-5), and the reasons for it (v.6-16). He begins with a biblical principle (v.3) and then applies it to men (v.4) and women (v.5).

Many assume that the context is a church meeting, but this isn’t clear. Maybe “prayer and prophesy” imply a church meeting. The next section deals with the meeting of the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34). And a church meeting involving singing, teaching, prophesy, speaking in other languages and interpretation of these is addressed in 14:23-39.

Meaning then

When they pray or prophesy (see Appendix), women were to honor their man by having their head covered (11:5). In those days the man could be their husband or father or head of the household. To not do this would be to dishonor (disrespect or disgrace) him. It indicated that she respected the man’s authority over her.

The corollary for men was that when they pray or prophesy, they were to honor Christ by having their head uncovered (11:4).

Some say that the covering is long hair. But the covering in v.15 (Strongs #4018) is a different word to that in v.6-7 (#2619). If the covering was long hair, then v.6a wouldn’t make sense, “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off”.

Universal principle

The principle behind the practice of head-coverings is said to be, “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (11:3NIV). This means that a man is the head (in terms of leadership and authority) of a woman as God the Father is the head of Christ.

Verse 5 addresses the need to show respect to leaders and those with authority while engaged in spiritual activities.

The Greek words used in v.5 may mean man/husband or woman/wife, with the translation being chosen from the context. The ESV uses “wife” in verses that deal with wearing a veil, because they say it was a sign of being married in first-century culture. So their translation is “the head of a wife is her husband” (11:5).

Meaning now

The following options have been suggested as to how this verse applies in the church today with regard to prayer and prophesy.

  • Whether women can pray and preach and teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in church meetings when men are present is determined by other passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12.
  • Or, assuming the context is a church meeting, women can pray and preach and teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in all church meetings

The following options have been suggested as to how this verse applies in the church today with regard to head-coverings.

  • Because of the range of interpretations of this verse, whether a women wear head-coverings whenever they pray or preach or teach (or there is prayer or preaching or teaching) is best left up to each woman’s personal conscience/conviction.
  • Or, because head-coverings are no longer related to dishonor or shame, the application in the first century can’t be transferred to our modern world.
  • Or, the principle of respect and honor is essential when people are involved in spiritual activities such as praying, preaching or teaching but because the culture is different, the way this is shown can be different to the first century.
  • Or, women should wear head-coverings whenever they pray or preach or teach (or there is prayer or preaching or teaching) as the application is universal because some of the reasons are universal (v.7-9).
  • Or, some say that the covering is long hair. But the covering in v.15 (#4018) is a different word to that in v.6-7 (#2619). If the covering was long hair, then v.6a wouldn’t make sense, “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off”.

Link to more detailed article
https://georgesjournal.net/2015/12/09/how-do-we-show-respect-for-authority/

  1. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (written AD 55)

ESV: “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church”.
HCSB: “the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church meeting”.
NET: “the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands”.
NIV: “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.”

Context

The letter of 1 Corinthians addresses the problems in the church in Corinth and answers their questions. It addresses topics such as factions, sexual immorality, marital difficulties, lawsuits, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, and misuse of spiritual gifts.

The section (14:26-40) is about correcting disorder in their church meetings. In this case the meeting involved singing, teaching, prophesy (see Appendix), speaking in other languages and interpretation of these (14:23-39).

Paul addresses speaking in foreign languages (v.27-28, 39), prophesy (v.29-33, 39), and women (v.34-35). Then he emphasises that these were God’s commands (v.36-38).

Meaning then

As the “silence” in v.28 and v.30 is conditional and temporary, so the “silence” in v.34 is also conditional and temporary. What is prohibited? From the context, some say critiquing (judging) prophecies (v.29), or it could be the main topic of speaking in other languages (v.27-28, 39) and prophesy (v.29, 39). And not disrupting the meeting by asking questions (v.35).

As the speaking in v.27, 28, 29 and v.30 was public speaking, the speaking in v.34 was public speaking, not chatting (or conversation).

“The law” may mean Adam’s leadership over Eve (Gen. 2:18), which Paul quoted in 11:8-9.

Universal principle

The passage placed some conditional and temporary restrictions on women’s participation in church meetings so as to keep the meetings orderly. Several options have been suggested as to what was restricted.

Meaning now

The following options have been suggested as to how these verses apply to church meetings today when men are present.

  • Women shouldn’t preach and teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in these church meetings. This is similar to the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:12, which was written at another time to another place.
  • Or, women shouldn’t speak during the evaluation of prophecies at these church meetings
  • Or, wives shouldn’t ask questions at these church meetings
  • Or women shouldn’t speak authoritatively at these church meetings.
  • Or, women shouldn’t speak publicly at these church meetings.
  • Or, women shouldn’t chatter in these church meetings.
  • Or, the passage had a particular meaning in Corinth that can’t be applied today. This interpretation relies on extra-biblical sources, such as the nature of pagan worship in Corinth.
  • Or, because 11:5 overrides 14:34-35, women can pray and preach and teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in all church meetings.
  • Or, because Galatians 3:28 overrides 14:34-35, there should be no restrictions on women’s participation in church meetings.

Link to more detailed article
https://georgesjournal.net/2015/12/11/order-and-disorder-in-the-church/

  1. Acts 2:17-18

ESV: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
HCSB: “And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.”
NET: “‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and 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.”
NIV: “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”.

Date written 

AD 63. But reports an event that occurred on the day of Pentecost about AD 30.

Context

This is part of Peter’s sermon given on the day of Pentecost after the disciples were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. On this occasion they miraculously spoke in other languages. As he was speaking to Jews (2:22), he used Joel 2:28-32 to explain what had happened. Then he told them that Jesus was the Messiah promised by David and that they needed to repent of their sins and over 3,000 people did this.

The book of Joel is about the restoration and blessing of Israel after judgement and repentance. God promises to judge their enemies (Joel 2:20) and bring prosperity (2:21-27) and pour out His Holy Spirit (2:28-29). Then the signs of the day of the Lord are given, when God intervenes in history (2:30-32).

Meaning then

Peter was applying a prediction in Joel to what happened on the day of Pentecost. The point of similarity was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resulting in unusual manifestations. This was only a partial fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy because there were no signs in the heavens and on the earth (Joel 2:30-31; Acts 2:18-19). The change concerned the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit only came on particular people on a temporary basis. For example, the Holy Spirit came on prophets to enable them to bring messages from God (2 Chr. 15:1; Neh. 9:30; Joel 2:28; Mic. 3:8). But now the Holy Spirit came to permanently live in those who trusted in Christ to pay the penalty for their sinfulness. The main point is that the Holy Spirit indwells “all people” who trust in Christ, regardless of gender (“sons and daughters”), age (old and young), or social class (includes slaves) and maybe race (includes Gentile slaves).

Universal principle

The Holy Spirit indwells anyone who trusts in Christ.

Meaning now

The following options have been suggested as to how these verses apply in the church today.

  • The role of women in the church is outside the scope of this verse.
  • Or, women can preach or teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in all church meetings like men.
  • Or, women can participate in all church meetings like men.

Link to more detailed article
https://georgesjournal.net/2016/03/24/what-does-acts-217-18-mean/

  1. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (written AD 64)

ESV: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet”.
HCSB: “A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent”.
NET: “A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet”.
NIV: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet”.

Context

The letter of 1 Timothy was written to Timothy who was in Ephesus on a temporary mission to help correct problems in the church (1:3). The main topics addressed in the letter are false teachers (1:3-1; 4:1-16; 6:3-10) and Christian behavior. After urging evangelistic prayer (2:1-7), Paul looks at problems at Ephesus related to men (2:8) and women (2:9-10). Then he addresses women teaching and exercising authority over men (2:11-15). This is followed by instruction on church leadership by elders (3:1-7) and deacons (3:8-13).

Meaning then

A woman can learn Scripture (such learning is not restricted to the man) and when they do, they should be quiet and submissive. In this context it meant not teaching men and not leading men as an elder in the local church (v.12). Instead she was to be submissive/obedient to the teacher (and to the Scripture being taught) and to the elders in the same way she submits herself in marriage.

So, a woman was not to teach Scripture to a man or exercise authority over a man. From the context it’s clear that the authority mentioned here is that of an elder in the local church (eldership is the next topic in the letter). An elder is a male who can teach, and who exercises authority (3:1-7).

Universal principle

Christian women shouldn’t preach/teach men or lead the church, but respect the men that do this preaching/teaching and leading.

Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men in the context of the church. The reason isn’t because women are spiritually inferior to men, but because the Bible commands it.

Meaning now

The following options have been suggested as to how these verses apply in the church today.

  • Women shouldn’t teach men or be elders of the church. This interpretation assumes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is addressing two activities (teaching and authority), not one activity (teaching). This is consistent with the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which was written at another time to another place.
  • Or, women shouldn’t teach men or be elders of the church or take other leadership roles (including praying) in a church meeting.
  • Or, the passage had a particular meaning in Ephesus that can’t be applied today. This interpretation relies on extra-biblical sources, such as the nature of pagan worship in Ephesus.
  • Or, the passage had a particular meaning in Ephesus because the women had been deceived (v.14) by false teachers and were teaching heresy (1:3-7). However, this is speculative and the women were the victims and not the propagators of heresy (2 Tim. 3:6-7).
  • Or, because “authentein” (authority) refers to abusive or destructive authority (but most Bible translations don’t accept this interpretation), women can preach and teach men, as long as they aren’t abusive or destructive. This interpretation assumes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is addressing one activity (teaching), not two (teaching and authority). But the insistence on being quiet seems to rule out this option.
  • Or, because “authentein” (authority) has a sense of usurping authority, as long as a woman operates under a man’s (or elders’) authority, she can preach and teach men. This interpretation assumes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is addressing one activity (teaching), not two (teaching and authority). But the insistence on being quiet seems to rule out this option.
  • Or, because 1 Corinthians 11:5 overrides 1 Timothy 2:11-12, women can pray and preach and teach (modern equivalent of prophesy) in all church meetings.
  • Or, because Galatians 3:28 overrides 1 Timothy 2:11-12, there should be no restrictions on women’s preaching, teaching in the church or leading the church as an elder.

Link to more detailed article
https://georgesjournal.net/2015/12/13/respect-and-disrespect-in-the-church/

  1. Male leadership

Jesus selected and trained 12 disciples who were all male. He sent them out to preach to the Jews and heal the sick. Did Jesus only choose men to do this because He was following the cultural practices of that era? No! In fact, during His ministry He broke many social customs by mixing with tax collectors and prostitutes, speaking to women in public, eating without ceremonial hand washing, condemning Pharisees, and condemning merchandise at the temple. He also corrected teachings of the religious leaders on divorce and the Sabbath. So, Jesus was willing to break social customs.

The 12 apostles were the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:2; 9:27). When churches were established in other places, elders were appointed to lead them (Acts 14:23). As the church grew in Jerusalem, elders were added to the leadership team (Acts 15:4, 6, 23). The qualifications of such an elder include being “a husband”, so women are excluded from this role (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:6)   So, the leaders of New Testament churches (called elders or overseers) were all men. This means that although Hillary Clinton is the front running Democratic candidate for the US presidency, as a woman she couldn’t be on the eldership team of a church that functioned according to biblical teaching.

  1. Discussion

From the above summary it is evident that, according to various interpretations, some of these biblical passages seem to imply no restrictions on women in the church (Acts 2:17-18; Gal. 3:28), while others seem to imply some restrictions (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 1:12). These two viewpoints are called “egalitarian” and “complementarian”, respectively.

Of course some people also use extra-biblical sources to develop their viewpoint on this topic. For example, feminists tend to reject bible passages that they claim are based on a patriarchal system. In this case, the biblical meaning can be modified and over-ruled according to tradition, reason, experience or post-biblical revelation. I don’t use this approach because of the dominant impact of the extra-biblical factors.

Because of the clear biblical instructions on male leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:6) and male leadership in the family/marriage (Eph. 5:22-24), I take a complementarian viewpoint. Here’s a link to more detailed article on this topic:
https://georgesjournal.net/2016/01/25/gender-roles-in-the-family-and-the-church/

But there are a range of options within the complementarian viewpoint. For example, in a church meeting where men are present, should a women be allowed to:

  • Chair/Compere/Lead the meeting?
  • Lead the singing?
  • Preach and teach the sermon?
  • Pray?
  • Read Scripture?

The only one of these that is clearly prohibited in Scripture is preaching and teaching the sermon (1 Tim. 1:12). So there are plenty of other opportunities for women’s participation. What do you think?

  1. Appendix – What about “prophesy”?

Prophesy is mentioned in the book of Acts up to AD 57 (Acts 21:9-10). Paul mentions prophesy in his books written in AD 55-60 but not his last six books (written AD 60-66). The only biblical record of prophesy after this time is the apostle John (Rev. 1:3; 10:7, 11; 19:10; 22:6, 9, 10, 18-19). He also mentions false prophets (1 Jn. 4:1). Therefore, it seems as though the prevalence of prophesy decreased significantly after AD 60. We now have the record of God’s revelation to the prophets in the early church in the New Testament. These truths are now communicated to us by preachers and teachers who also build up (strengthen), encourage and comfort believers and convict unbelievers. Therefore, today we apply the biblical principles for prophesy to preaching and teaching.

The revelation given to the writers of the New Testament finished in the first century AD (Jude 3, Rev. 22:18-19). Just as the close of the Old Testament canon was followed by a 400-year silence (no prophecies from God), so the close of the New Testament has been followed by a 1,900-year silence. Since the book of Revelation was completed, no new written or verbal prophecy has ever been universally recognized by Christians as divine truth from God. The Scriptures are final and complete. According to Scripture, God will speak again with new prophecies, visions and revelations after the rapture, during the tribulation and Christ’s millennial kingdom (Acts 2:16-21; Rev. 11:1-13).

Written, May 2016

Also see: What does Galatians 3:28 mean?
What does Acts 2:17-18 mean?
How do we show respect for authority?
Order and disorder in the church
Respect and disrespect in the church
Gender roles in the family and the church

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14 responses

  1. It is interesting to note that the word translated into ‘silence’ when referring to women is the exact same word translated into ‘settle down’ when referring to men.
    Let’s not forget that Jesus had a second set of disciples – the women (Luke 8:1-3); it’s very important to remember that when the male disciples were scattered at the Garden of Gethsemane, it was these women who continued to stick by him and witness the crucifixion and prepare him for burial while the men hid and locked themselves into the upper room.
    Neither Paul nor Timothy were mentioned as having been husbands, would they have been qualified to be elders or leaders in the church? Probably not. Were they exceptions? Why not women?
    Extra-biblical is in the eye of the beholder. Do you know what a triclinium is? The word itself doesn’t appear in scripture, but the object is referred to in a few places in scripture. To understand what it is and how it was used, you could use an extra biblical source to understand how ancient Jewish and Roman cultures used the object. The thing is, there’s a lot in the Bible that points to something cultural and if we don’t go to extra-biblical sources, then we won’t always know the point or purpose – same with head coverings. The Oral Law said that any Jewish woman who went out in public without a head covering or talked in public or conversed with strangers could be divorced. This wasn’t so in Greek and Roman regions. If we ignore how culture plays into head coverings and order women to wear them because it’s in the Bible, we miss out on what they were there for in the first place before there was any need to mention them in Scripture.
    If Prophesy = Preaching and Teaching and Phillip had four daughters who prophesied, then would that not mean that women today may freely preach and teach?
    What about the ‘trajectory’ teaching of Scripture? Case and point: Slavery … God regulated it in the Old Testament and redefined it in the New Testament, in the same verses where wives are told to submit to their husbands, slaves are told to submit to their masters. Did God want humanity to continue to be slaves and own slaves until the end of time? Or did he hope that we would continue on the trajectory to treat slaves better and better, more equal until there were no slaves and no masters? Until the institution could be ended? Couldn’t it be the same with male headship and complementarianism? In a world of patriarchy, it was a ‘band-aid’ meant to correct rampant abuses, like stitches in a wound, but also temporary, something that would have to be removed so that a full healing could take place – husbands and wives would be put on the same trajectory to treat each other better and better, until they’re more equal to the point where there is total equality and the institution of male headship is no longer required to fix what went wrong? Or is God’s ideal for the human condition exactly as it was in year 55 a.d., slaves and all, male headship and female submission until the end of time?

    May 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

    • Thanks for the long comment Jamie.
      The word translated “silence” in 1 Cor. 14:34 is siago (Strongs #4601). It occurs 10 times in the New testament. Are you referring to when the blind beggar was told “to be quiet” (Lk. 18:39NIV)? I can’t see the term “settle down” used in this context in any of the common Bible translations that I use.
      Yes, although they weren’t appointed as disciples, the women were more faithful than the men.
      The qualification for an elder includes “faithful to his wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:6). In the Greek it means “the husband of one wife” or “one woman man”. According to the NIV Study Bible “Since elders, by definition, were chosen from among the older men of the congregation, Paul assumed they already would be married and have children. A qualified unmarried man was not necessarily barred. It is also improbable that the standard forbids an elder to remarry if his wife dies (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39). The most likely meaning is simply that a faithful, monogamous married life must be maintained.” I think it means being free of sexual immorality, such as adultery, polygamy, or any other sexual relationship outside biblical marriage (between a man and a woman). Therefore, Paul and Timothy would be excellent elders in a local church.
      “Why not women” elders? Because God says so in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6.

      May 15, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      • In 2 Thessalonians 3:12, men are exhorted to settle down and earn the bread they eat. But the exact same word translated as settle down when it refers to men is translated as be silent, or keep silent in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 12 when it refers to women.

        If unmarried men can be an exception to the ‘husband of one wife’ rule, then would it not stand to reason that woman can be an exception to the ‘only men’ rule? I read in “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” that a man attended a pastor’s conference in Indonesia. He looked over the audience and he saw a few women in the crowd. He asked the guy running the conference about it – pointing out that only men may be pastors. His friend’s response was: “Yes, and most of them are.” Even he understood rules as flexible, some don’t apply to everyone equally or are binding upon everyone.

        I once read that a copy of a letter written to Clement was to be given to Grapte so that she may exhort the widows and the orphans. She complemented Clement’s male leadership as a female leader in her own right. Which made sense in a world where the talmud said that husbands could divorce their wives who spoke with any man in public. That’s why Paul mentions that Euodia and Syntyche contended at his side (Philippians 4), when Paul was in a situation where he had to preach to the men, these women could go speak to the women without causing scandal. Without these women teaching, then those women could only hear from their husbands if their husbands believed in it. This way, they could become believers in their own right and not through their husbands.

        I don’t understand why complementarianism doesn’t believe in much the same thing, for every male pastor, a female pastor. For every male deacon, a deaconess (like Phoebe). For every male elder, a female elder.

        May 15, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    • Jamie commented on Philip’s daughters. The biblical reference is, “He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9NIV). Presumably, they prophesised in accordance with the instructions given in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 discussed in the above blog post. As these included restrictions, they didn’t “freely” prophesy. Therefore, it is incorrect to say “that women today may freely preach and teach”.

      May 15, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      • But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. – 1 Cor. 14:3
        What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. – v.26
        For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. – v. 31
        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. – vs. 34, 35 (Which law says that women must be silent? Whom do single daughters ask? Must they wait to marry so they can ask their husbands?)
        If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. – v. 37
        Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. – vs 39, 40
        Depending on how one interprets this chapter, not only can women prophesy, but they can instruct (teach) and speak in a church setting. Some manuscripts even have verses 34 and 35 at the bottom of the letter or in the margins and not a part of the text itself.

        May 15, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    • Jamie commented on slavery. Biblical marriage (between a man and a woman) and slavery are different. Biblical marriage was invented by God, whereas slavery was invented by humanity. So it’s not surprising that slavery has decreased in many countries. But it still exists in some places and countries as the exploitation of fellow human beings is a part of our sinful human nature (A retail chain in Australia has been exposed for paying staff at half the award rate, or less, and if they complain their boss threatens them with deportation).
      By the way, the Bible doesn’t prescribe slavery. But it recognizes slavery when it exists and advises slaves and masters of their responsibilities to each other.
      I don’t know any Scripture that indicates changes to biblical marriage before we get to heaven. Likewise, for “male headship and complementarianism”. Can you give a Scripture that supports this idea?

      May 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      • Let’s look at marriage from the start: Adam and Eve’s. Then sin entered the picture. Lamech married two wives, Adah and Zilhah. The sons of God married the daughters of humans. Abraham had concubines. By the time the new Testament was written, it had to be a rule that leaders were the ‘husband of one wife’ – ruling out having multiple wives for leaders, but non-leaders are under no such rule. The trajectory shows increasingly better treatment of women, but does God want it to stop where the Bible stops, or to continue to improve the status of women beyond that? Look, the complement of a master is a slave. The complement of a king is a subject. The complement of a leader is a follower. In all these relationships, an unequal hierarchy remains. It’s a great deal for the master, king, and leader as they’re never the one who isn’t in charge. It’s a terrible deal for the slave, subject and follower as they’re never in charge and are dependent on the goodness of their complement for their own well-being. In Ancient Rome, where society was stratified, free-born is better than slave, citizen is better than foreigner, male is better than female, wealthy is better than poor, and so on, male headship was the norm as the society was essentially a patriarchy. Complementarianism became a softer, kinder version. But is that were it ends? Or did God intend for it to be replaced with another teaching for an egalitarian society that doesn’t depend on gender hierarchies? That’s the trajectory idea of Scripture. That God wanted us to keep on improving, getting better, more christ-like as opposed to the Biblical constant, where the Bible serves as an anchor in time, telling us that the morality of 55 a.d. was the human ideal, in which case, slavery was an accepted norm and should be brought back and all women ought to be required to wear head coverings because the Bible says that short hair is shameful, so pixie hair cuts have to be banned on women and long-hair country boys have to have their hair cut because it’s shameful on men. Because the Bible says so.

        May 15, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    • Jamie commented on extra-biblical sources. Whenever interpreting a biblical passage it’s important to consider the historical context and the cultural context. This background information can help us to understand the meaning of the passage. However, as the information available on the historical context and the cultural context is often less reliable than the biblical text, we must be careful not to rely on it too much. I’m wary of meanings that are driven by extra-biblical information, because if someone else discovers different extra-biblical information, then the meaning can change. Who is the authority on extra-biblical sources? Some sources are contradictory. Instead, I prefer a more robust meaning that relies on the biblical text.

      May 15, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      • The Bible was written by ancient cultures on the other side of the world, from Israel, to Turkey, to Greece, to Italy, and throughout the Mediterranean as it was under the control of the Roman Empire. Reading the Bible in a vacuum devoid of it’s cultural and historical context and meaning causes us to lose sight of the whole story. Honor and shame, patriarchy, and even pride plays a part of the narrative. It’s important to strike a balance, but also realize that cultures change and we’re dealing with at least two – theirs and our own. The authority is the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who whispers to each of us as he/she may. What might appear at contradiction is merely revelation – such as the ‘women cannot speak’ verses and the ‘women can speak’ verses in 1 cor. 14 and 1 cor. 11.

        May 16, 2016 at 12:03 am

  2. Thanks for the additional comments Jamie.
    Jamie commented on 2 Thessalonians 3:12.
    The word hesuchia (Strongs #2271) in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is translated “quiet” by the ESV, NET, and NIV and “silent” by the HCSB. According to the NET, the Greek words in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 mean, “that by working quietly they may eat their own bread”. This is translated as follows:
    ESV: “Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living”.
    HCSB: “Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ that quietly working, they may eat their own food”.
    NET: “Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat”.
    NIV: “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat”. I see that this is the version that you are referring to.
    Comparing the translation of hesuchia in these two verses.
    ESV, NET – both “quiet”
    HCSB – “silent” (Tim) and “quiet” (Thess)
    NIV- “quiet” (Tim) and “settle down” (Thess)
    So the NIV is the only version that uses the term “settle down” instead of “working quietly”.
    Jamie commented on the ‘husband of one wife’ rule for church elders (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:6). I think what this means is that if they were married (as most mature men would be married), then their marriage was to be monogamous and not polygamous, and they were to be faithful to their wife and not adulterous.
    Jamie asks, if unmarried men can be elders, then why not allow women elders? This is a good question and requires looking at the gender roles in the family as well. The Bible’s teachings about gender roles in the family and the church are based on the fact that Adam was created first and Eve was to be his helper. Because of this, in marriage and the family the wife and children are to respect and submit to the husband’s loving leadership. And in the church, the congregation are to respect and submit to the godly leadership of the male elders. These relationships enable order and unity in the family and in the church. And the roles in the church are consistent with those in the family. That’s why the bible doesn’t teach “For every male elder, a female elder”.

    May 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

  3. Jamie commented on 1 Corinthians 14. I have studied this biblical passage in “Order and disorder in the church”.
    Jamie asked, “Which law says that women must be silent?“ The verse is, “They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says” (1 Cor. 14:34NIV). I think the reference is to “submission”, not “silence”. The “law” is something from the Old Testament. It may mean Adam’s leadership over Eve (Gen. 2:18), which Paul quoted in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9. Or it may mean that wives were to be submissive to their husbands (1 Pt. 3:5-6). Also, men were the leaders in Israelite/Jewish society, religion and family.
    Jamie asked, “Whom do single daughters ask?” Probably the head of their household (e.g. their father).
    Jamie says, “Depending on how one interprets this chapter, not only can women prophesy, but they can instruct (teach) and speak in a church setting”. Unfortunately some interpretations are speculative. I try to use the Scripture as much as possible when interpreting a passage of the Bible.
    Jamie says ”Some manuscripts even have verses 34 and 35 at the bottom of the letter or in the margins and not a part of the text itself.” This is discussed extensively in the NET translation Notes. Their conclusion is “We are thus compelled to regard the words as original, and as belonging where they are in the text above.”

    May 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm

  4. Jamie commented on the trajectory idea of Scripture. This idea assumes that the Bible isn’t the complete and final word of God for our time. Instead a person begins with information in the Bible and builds a story of development (like the idea of evolution) and extends it to the modern era. So trajectory hermeneutics extrapolates beyond the Bible to find a new meaning that probably wasn’t in the Bible at all. In this case who is the authority? Certainly not God’s word! It’s the person doing the extrapolation.
    But the revelation given to the writers of the New Testament finished in the first century AD (Jude 3, Rev. 22:18-19). And God promised to judge anyone who adds to the book of Revelation. As the subjects of Revelation also occur throughout the Bible, then this punishment applies to people who change the meaning of any biblical passage. Trajectory hermeneutics is dangerous because it adds human ideas to the Bible and it can be used to give a meaning to a passage that is opposite to the literal meaning. So it undermines the Bible. I think trajectory hermeneutics relies too much on extra-biblical ideas.
    So trajectory hermeneutics seems to be eisegesis (when a reader imposes their own interpretation into and onto the text). Instead the best method to discover the meaning of Scripture and apply it to today’s world is exegesis (the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author). Exegesis is objective, while eisegesis is subjective. In exegesis the meaning comes from the author, while in eisegesis the meaning comes from the reader. The sequence that I use to exegete and apply Scripture to today’s world is as follows:
    – find the original meaning,
    – find the principles behind this,
    – update the principles according to what has changed since then (e.g. we live under the new covenant, whereas the Bible passage may have been written under the old covenant), and
    – apply these modern principles in our daily lives.

    May 16, 2016 at 9:50 pm

  5. Jamie commented on understanding the cultural and historical context of the Bible. I studied this topic in “Understanding the Bible”.
    The steps I use to understand a Bible passage are:
    – find the original meaning,
    – find the principles behind this,
    – update the principles according to what has changed since then (e.g. we live under the new covenant, whereas the Bible passage may have been written under the old covenant), and
    – apply these modern principles in our daily lives.
    This is based on the approach of Duval and Hays (2012) “Grasping God’s word”.
    That’s why the subheadings of my blog post on “The role of women in the church” included:
    – Context
    – Meaning then
    – Universal principle
    – Meaning now
    So I look for the universal principle and practice it in the local culture and situation
    When you say, “The authority is the guidance of the Holy Spirit”, it sounds like this is too subjective to me. The prime authority should be God’s written word.

    May 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm

  6. A conversation with Mike
    George: When researching my post on 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (https://georgesjournal.net/2015/12/13/respect-and-disrespect-in-the-church/), I looked at relevant commentaries and journal articles. However, I was amazed at how speculative some of the interpretations were, including Fee (1988).

    Mike: Yes, I also have issue with some of this speculation. The commentaries are rife with attempted reconstructions of the gender codes of the 1st century, and our knowledge is simply limited. I am always hesitant when someone bases their argument on history, but provides a pretty thin set of references to verify their reconstruction.
    This is partly why many have recently begun emphasizing Paul’s theological image of male/female unity in Galatians 3:28 – and de-emphasizing the more historically-conditioned comments Paul makes in the Pastoral Epistles. (Even though the 1 Tim 2 texts are a bit clearer about actual functional roles than Gal 3:28).

    George: I think the cultural speculation is poor exegesis. But it’s being done by theologians who should know better! After all, they probably know more about Biblical languages and the content of Scripture, theology, exegesis, and hermeneutics than I do. I can excuse amateurs using approaches like trajectory hermeneutics, which seems so subjective that I call it eisegesis. I said, “In exegesis the meaning comes from the author, while in eisegesis the meaning comes from the reader”. In my comments (https://georgesjournal.net/2016/05/15/the-role-of-women-in-the-church/#comments) I also said, “I’m wary of meanings that are driven by extra-biblical information, because if someone else discovers different extra-biblical information, then the meaning can change. Who is the authority on extra-biblical sources? Some sources are contradictory. Instead, I prefer a more robust meaning that relies on the biblical text.”

    I don’t think any “functional roles” are implied in Galatians 3:28. My exegesis of this verse is at:https://georgesjournal.net/2016/03/02/what-does-galatians-328-mean/
    Some of my summary statements are:
    – Paul told those in Galatia that race, social class and gender were irrelevant to the way of salvation and their position “in Christ”.
    – there is no mention of gender roles in the whole letter. Therefore, to apply Romans 3:28 to gender roles or functions in the church is “cherry-picking” (in this case taking a verse totally out of context and reading in a meaning that wasn’t intended by the author).

    June 9, 2016 at 6:52 am

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