Women in preaching roles in Church

The debate over women teaching finds its centre in 1 Timothy 2:12, one of the most contentiously disputed passages in the bible, and most especially in recent decades as part of the women’s ordination debate and feminist theology issues.[1] The rationalisations behind the passage are almost as diverse as the [i]number of theologians who explain them. Although there appears to some prejudiced hypothesis from some quarters, both sides of this debate raise clear points that require further investigation.  The core question pertaining to this argument really is whether this is a cultural issue that is uniquely Ephesian or conversely, an issue that is universal and precludes women from teaching in mixed congregations.

 

There is a vast array of conjecture on this debate: NT Wright proposes that the reason for the commotion surrounding this verse was that in Ephesus, they worshipped the Goddess Atemis (known to the Romans as Diana). Her priests were female and perhaps Paul was trying to avoid similar politics in the new church there. His inference then is that this is a local issue. In his discussion he sidesteps the issue of women preaching altogether. He insists that the emphasis should be “a woman should learn….”[2] If this issue is cultural, then the culture of Ephesus appears not to be tainted by Judaic patriarchal society but more truly by Greco Roman society that, in this town at least, has a large temple to their Goddess.

 

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart remind us of the false teachers prevalent in Ephesus who were leading astray the young widows who are allegedly attributed to Paul’s rationale for forbidding women teachers in this instance. (2 Tim 3:6-7;Cf 1 Tim 5:11-15).[3] David M. Scholer lends support to this view. “Therefore,…” Scholer states “1 Timothy should be understood as an occasional ad hoc letter directed specifically towards Timothy and the church to avoid and combat false teachers and teaching in Ephesus” thus limiting the text for Ephesian application only. [4]

 

John Stott emphatically refutes this stating that if it has only local, synchronic implications, then “…it opens a door to wholesale rejection of apostolic teaching since virtually the whole of the New Testament was addressed to specific situations.” [5] His point is that all the epistles were chosen for the canon and as such were considered, by the early church, relevant for universal teaching (2 Tim 3:16-17).

 

Scholer attributes the reason for such explicit instruction concerning Ephesian women to the church’s reputation in wider society and the need for self control from the women and the church. (Cf: 1 Tim 3:7; 6:1; ). [6] Daphne Key suggests that some overcome the entire issue by suggesting this is a Pauline opinion ”do not permit…” [7]

 

The most distinctive catalyst to this issue is found in 1 Timothy (2:11) ”A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” The word translated here as quietness: ἡσυχία hesuchia,[8] may give the false impression that a woman was not allowed to speak at all. The word is similar to the word in verse 2, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  ἡσύχιος hesuchios,[9] infers a manner in which they were to live.[10] Typically: inward calm or tranquillity,  attentive quietness.[11] Submission ὑποταγή hupotage, [12] translates as obedience, subjection.[13] However, the language of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:34-35) is much stronger, apparently suggesting a more extensive restriction on women speaking in church.

 

That being said, proponents for women teaching use this same passage[14] (1 Cor 11:3ff) to argue that Paul allows women to pray and prophesy in public worship and therefore are teaching. We then need to clarify the nature of prophecy. Certainly it edifies the church (1 Cor 14:4). Is prophecy, or any other form of edification, teaching? The word Paul uses in the passage for prophesies: (προφητεύω) prophēteúō which “…declare truths through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit…” [15]  edify is (οἰκοδομέω) oikodoméō[16]  which is a building term. This suggests that, rather than teaching it is a building up or encouragement in growth. Paul lists teaching and prophecy separately on three occasions (Eph 4:11; Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29) so it stands to reason they serve different functions within the church. This does however; support the point that silent does not mean a woman cannot speak and contribute to worship. The prophesy in 1 Corinthians is reminiscent of Acts 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit where Peter quotes Joel 2:28ff. There is every likelihood that the women who were closest to Jesus during his ministry and possibly even first witnesses to the empty tomb were there when those tongues of fire came down and fulfilled the “daughters” portion of that prophesy. Hence, in Corinth, women are able to prophesy in the Holy Spirit as part of worship.

 

There is no doubt that women are good teachers. Paul himself alludes to this in Titus 2, when he acknowledges that Timothy’s own grandmother Lois and mother Eunice instilled the faith in him. The ability to teach is not the issue here. Those that see this verse as prohibitive to women teaching cite 1 Tim 2:3 & 14) as the reason for Paul’s assertion. This leads to a further debate on the creation and fall account: This side of the debate advocate that there is a creation order that is the defining factor. “13For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” That doesn’t allow that men are in some way above women. The creation account of Genesis 1 makes that abundantly clear: (Cf :Eph 5:21)

27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
(R) male and female he created them.”

They assert that Adam had the right of primogeniture. He was the firstborn and inherited the rights pertaining to that position. [17] So verse 14 would then propose Eve was deceived but Adam responded with open eyes and was influenced by her. Both were equally guilty. So that means when the woman is allowed to take the lead both are more vulnerable. [18] And it is not just Ephesian men that are susceptible to the suggestions of women, it is a common feature of biblical history whether by intentional deceit or not. (Cf: Gen 3:6; 16:2; 21:10; 29:25; 38:15; Judges 16; Mark 6:25). Stott disagrees with this viewpoint and ascertains that she had usurped Adam’s authority and reversed their roles.[19] Paul’s allusion to Genesis 2-3 account is that women are more easily deceived and as teachers could be deceived and in turn mislead.

 

The result of the sin on Eve’s part led to a submissive role for women. (Cf: Eph 5[20] The curse laid on the woman was threefold: firstly increased pain in child birth; next she would have desire for her husband and finally she would be subject to him.[21] This may even be “harsh domination.” [22] This has been overcome by the assurance we see in Galatians 3:28, which clearly states we are all equal through our faith in Christ and His work. Some assert therefore the gender factor of 1 Timothy addressed a cultural issue pertinent only to Ephesus. Howerver, the Galatians still maintained their roles as slave or master, Jew or Gentile, male or female. To claim any different would have to be considered an over realised eschatology. Otherwise the instruction relating to the issue in 1 Timothy, or any epistle, is futile and renders the authority of the apostolic writing invalid. It is that Kingdom value that we must strive for but we are constricted to these earthly roles until that Kingdom comes. [23]

 

David M. Scholer insists the answer to the 1 Timothy 2 puzzle lies in verse 15 ”But women will be saved through childbearing.”  [24] A commonly accepted view is that the childbearing the woman is saved through is foretold in part of the serpent’s curse in the fall account [25] “he will crush [b] your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15) This is widely accepted as the earlier mentioned “offspring” in that verse being the Messiah who defeats the serpent through the cross and resurrection. (Lk 23-24). Scholer denies this on the grounds of the meaning of the Greek word τεκνογονέω teknogoneo which relates to child bearing.  Scholer suggests that the word implies more than the actual birth but involves rearing the child as well. This would make sense from the perspective of a woman fulfilling all her maternal duties as her part in her divinely appointed role. However it infers a suspiciously works based salvation.

 

An extension of this idea is that Childbirth may be being used as a synecdoche which uses the related term “childbearing” to refer to the much larger issue of how a woman conducts herself in maternal duties, and: her modesty; her apparel; hair and good works.[26]

 

The final idea is that the mother will be kept safe in child birth. This has less textual support than the other ideas as salvation is from sin in the pastoral letters.[27] The most widely accepted view is the birth is that of Christ as salvation for women and in fact for all.

 

The debate of 1 Timothy 2 concerning women teaching may be considered ambiguous. Though we should work hard at seeking an answer, it should be sought in grace and the truth of the scriptures. It would appear that whatever this passage tells us about women teaching in a mixed gathering for worship, it does not extend to women in ministry. Women have fulfilled some of the most important roles in biblical revelation notably being the first witnesses of an empty tomb and much more besides. As we struggle with these issues we must never allow it to interfere with the message of the gospel. Above all this it may be worth asking ourselves: what, if any, are the consequences of allowing a woman to teach in a mixed congregation? And what could be the consequences of prohibiting that?

However, it seems clear that Paul is in fact not referring to an isolated pattern of behaviour in Ephesus as he points us to creation and the fall in Gen 1-3. Each of us should weigh this with the utmost care and be carried by their convictions. I must go with mine of which I am convinced that women should not preach in mixed congregation accept for in extenuating circumstances. That said women should and must fill vital teaching roles for other women and children and the many and varied roles they so readily fill.

 

 


[1] John R W Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus: The Life of the Local Church (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 74.

[2] NT Wright, Paul for Everyone: The pastoral letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, (London and Westminster: John Know Press, 2004), 23-27.

[3] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Boo: A Guided Tour, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002), 375.

[4] David M. Scholer, “1 Timothy 2:9-15 & The Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry” in Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickleson, (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986),197-199&200,218.

[5] Stott, 77.

[6] Scholer, 198.

[7] Daphne Key, “Women in the Church” in The Role of Women (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 146-152.

[8]James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible  (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.,1996), G2271.

[9] The Exhaustive Concordance, G2272.

[10]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Ti 2:9.

[11]Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000), 193.

[12]Robert L. Thomas and The Lockman Foundation, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, c1981, c1998).

[13] The Exhaustive Concordance, G5292.

[14] Gilbert Bilezkian, “Beyond The Sex Roles”; Linda Belleville, “Women Leaders and the Church”; Aida Spencer, “Beyond The Curse” in Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah,2005), 227-8.

[15]Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G4395.

[16] contracted oikodomó̄. (Zodhiates), 3616.

[17] Stott, 80.

[18] G. L. Bray, “The Fall Is a Human Reality,” Evangelical Review of Theology 9 [1985]: 338.

[19] Stott, 81.

[20]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Ge 3:16.

[21]James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed. (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Ge 3:16.

[22]D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Ge 3:9.

[23] Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Galations 3:28: Conundrum or Solution” in Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickleson, (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986), 179.

[24] Scholer, 196.

[25]K. A. Mathews, vol. 1A, Genesis 1-11:26, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995), 248.

[26]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, vol. 34, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992), 102.

[27] Stott, 87.


[i]

  1. Belleville, Linda. “Women Leaders and the Church .” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah,2005.
  2. Bilezkian, Gilbert. “ Beyond The Sex Roles .” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth , by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  3. Bratcher, Robert G. A Translators Guide to Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. London: Stuttgart, 1983.
  4. Bray, G. L. “The Fall Is a Human Reality.” Evangelical Review of Theology 9, 1985: 338.
  5. D. A. Carson/ Edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. “ New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, Rev. Ed. of: The New Bible Commentary. 3rd Ed.1970, 4th ed.: .” Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  6. Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. “How to Read the Bible Book by Boo: A Guided Tour, .” Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002.
  7. Friberg, Timothy Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller. “vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library .” Grand Rapids, Mich : Baker Books, 2000.
  8. Grudem, Wayne. “Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth .” Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  9. Jamieson, Robert A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments . Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
  10. Key, Daphne. “Women in the Church .” In The Role of Women. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984.
  11. Lea, Thomas D. and Hayne P. Griffin. vol. 34, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary . Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992.
  12. Marshall, Chis. “Let a Woman Learn: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in Context.” Journal Unknown 43-51.
  13. Marshall, Chis. “Women in Ministry.” Today’s Christian, July 1990: 25-28.
  14. Mathews, K. A. vol. 1A, Genesis 1-11:26, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tn.: Broadman & Holman, 2001, c1995.
  15. Oden, Thomas C.1989. Interpretation: a Bible Commentry for Teaching and Preaching I & II Tim & Titus. Louisville. KY : John Knox, 1989.
  16. Scholer, David M. “1 Timothy 2:9-15 & The Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry.” In Women, Authority & the Bible, by ed. Alvera Mickleson. Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986.
  17. Smith, James E. The Pentateuch, 2nd ed. . Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co., 1993.
  18. Snodgrass, Klyne R. “ Galatians 3:28: Conundrum or Solution .” In Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. , by Alvera Mickleson. Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986.
  19. Spencer, Aida. “Beyond The Curse.” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  20. Stott, John R W. “The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus: The Life of the Local Church.” Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, UK, 1996.
  21. Strong, James. “The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible .” Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996.
  22. Thomas, Robert L. and The Lockman Foundation. “ New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Updated Edition .” Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998, c1981, c1998.
  23. Wiersbe, Warren W. In The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books., 1996, c1989.
  24. Wright, N.T. “Paul for Everyone: The pastoral letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.” London and Westminster: John Know Press, 2004.
  25. Zodhiates Spiros. “ The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed.” Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993.

 

~ by timmywarner on August 9, 2012.

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