Before some men jump the gun, this has nothing to do with women being “Pastors/Shepherds,” or leading men down the road by their nose to destruction. This has to do with letting women, filled with the Holy Spirit, function and use their God-given gifts.
There are a couple of passages used to silence women in the body of Christ, along with other passages that have the weight of philosophy and tradition handed down through the centuries for its interpretation that cast darkness over the Scriptures so that we cannot see clearly. Until we get rid of this “filter” (man-made tradition and philosophy), we will remain crippled in our understanding and remain seeing our sisters in Christ as second class citizens in His body.
I would like to go over some passages that have been used to suppress the function of women in the body of Christ. You will discover that to hold the traditional explanations (through man-made traditions and philosophy), makes other passages of Scripture contradictory and must be explained away. God is not the author of confusion.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”
There are many traditional thoughts to explain these verses and all of them are inconsistent with other passages of Scripture. No matter what explanations are given, the universal consensus is applied to all women, that none of them can speak in the assembly, period. But what is failed to be noted in the passage is that it only deals with married women! “Let them ask THEIR OWN HUSBANDS at home.”
Some important questions:
- What if that woman doesn’t have a believing husband at home?
- Does Paul assume that all the women in the assembly are married?
- If they are not all married; what about the unmarried woman, the widows and divorced women?
Prior to Paul talking about women keeping silence in the church, he talked about spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophesying for edification and exhortation. In v. 24 he says, “but if ALL prophesy.” He did not distinguish between genders. His message was to the entire body of Christ.
In chapter 11Paul allowed for women to pray and prophesy, which means “speaking,” he did not forbid the women to do so.
But when we get to chapter 14 and verses 34-35, there seems to have been a wrench thrown in the midst. Why all of a sudden is it a shame for women to speak in the assembly after what he just told them?
It’s amazing how a law is pronounced and condemns all women to silence from just two verses when throughout Paul’s letters he admonishes all male and female believers to pray and prophesy and speak in tongues and not once mentioned any restrictions until we get to these two verses. If women cannot talk in the assembly, then they have no business praying and prophesying. Did Paul all of a sudden change his mind? We need to take a closer look.
It is obvious that when Paul was writing the Corinthian letters, he was addressing questions they wrote to him (1 Cor. 1:7) and he is answering them. He hears that there were divisions among them (1:11). There were some who disputed his right to be an apostle (9:1), and he was apparently criticized about leading a woman with him (9:5). (Note that it does not say “believing wives,” but a “believing wife,” singular), and tells them that “we” have as much right to do it as “the other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas.” Who is this “believing wife,” this “woman” Paul is talking about? We know Paul was not married. It has to be Priscilla. Priscilla and her husband Aquila left Corinth with Paul and the other apostles (Acts 18:18). She was known “to all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:3-4). They were fellow workers with Paul in reaching out with the Gospel. She was not silenced, veiled, and forbidden to speak. Priscilla did not risk her neck by doing the dishes and feeding her husband or the other men.
Paul did not forbid women to learn the Scriptures, much less teach them (Acts 18:26). Priscilla was teaching a man, and Apollos did not chastise her for doing so. What right does another man have to silence a woman and say she cannot teach a man? Some will say, “Well, she was under the authority of her husband and he allowed it and he was with her.” Well, if there are sisters who have husbands who allow them to teach a man, still, what right does that give you to tell her, the woman who is not your wife, she is not to teach man? What if she is more capable than her husband to explain to a man the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26)? Furthermore, why is Aquila not charged with sin for allowing his wife to teach? The fact is – she taught a man, period.
Others will also quickly point out 1 Tim. 2:11-12 (which we’ll get to later).
Let’s remember. In chapters 1-4 Paul writes about his ministry, reproof, and his visit. In chapters 5-6 he writes about what he heard and the things going on with these believers at Corinith. Now when we get to chapters 7-14, he is responding to questions and statements of what they WROTE to him. Note:
- 1Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning things whereof YOU WROTE UNTO ME…
- 1Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning things offered unto idols…
- 1Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts… (Which does not say the nine gifts are only given to men.)
In 1 Corinthians 14, please pay attention to verses 31-36. Notice the word “all” and how many times it is used. Does this exclude women?
In verse 34 we have the sudden shift.
One of the things we must realize is that Paul was coming against Jewish legalism. Jesus’ worst enemies were the Pharisees and Sadducees because they had man-made traditions that went against the word of God. They did not permit women to teach in the assemblies or to even ask questions.
Now, what a majority of males have done is twist this to mean that all women are to learn from the males and zip the lip. They keep telling us we should know our place, and that if we teach a man we are nothing more than Jezebels, rebellious, and disobeying God. This attitude is not only found among some men in the ecclesia, but also among the unsaved.
Before v. 34, Paul had been speaking to the women and men and how ALL believers are to function in the body of Christ where it concerned spiritual gifts. He did not exclude the women.
Then the sudden shift – “It is not permitted . . . as also saith the law.” I challenge anyone to tell me where in the OT law does it say women have to be silent?
In the OT women were permitted to speak in public (Numbers 27:1-7). Christ let women speak in public and did not rebuke them (Luke 8:47, 11:27, 13:13).
What LAW forbids women to speak? Since it cannot be found in the Law of Moses, it can be none other than Oral Law. It was this law Jesus renounced as the traditions of man (Matt. 15:3; Mark 7:3). It can be found in the Talmud.
When Paul made the comment about women keeping silent in the churches, he was not giving a command but quoting the Judaizers in the Corinthian church who were teaching that women must “keep silent” because it was oral Jewish law that taught this. Look it up yourself. The Talmud affirms the silence of women and their view of them:
- “A woman’s voice is prohibited because it is sexually provocative” (Talmud, Berachot 24a).
- “Women are sexually seductive, mentally inferior, socially embarrassing, and spiritually separated from the law of Moses; therefore, let them be silent” (summary of Talmudic sayings).
- “The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness” (Talmud, Berachot Kiddushin)
- “The birth of a girl is a sad occurrence.”Baba Bathra 16b, p. 83
- “Scholars should not talk to women in the streets” [This is apparently the reason the disciples were surprised in John 4:27]. Berakoth 43b, p. 266-267
- “Walking behind a woman on the road is sinful.” Erubin 18b, p. 125
- “It is permissible to divorce your wife if she burns your dinner, or if you see a prettier girl.” [Jesus opposes this in Matt. 19:3] Gittin, 91a, p. 436-437
- “A woman may be divorced if she uncovers her head in public, if she exposes her arms in public, or if she speaks aloud on sexual matters.” Kethuboth, 72a, p. 448-449
- “Teaching a woman the Law is evil.” Sotah, 20a. p. 101-102
It is no doubt that Paul is quoting the Judaizers and oral law. For Paul to make a direct command as women keeping silent is in direct conflict with what he wrote elsewhere.
What I believe in v.34 is that Paul continued to address the letter written to him, and he is shocked. In other words, what he said in verse 34 did not originate with him! What he has just quoted was not a command of God to Paul to the assembly. He was reading something these Judaizers made up! How do we know? After Paul finishes reading he says,
Has Paul all of a sudden gone mad, or he is questioning what he just read?
“What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” (v. 36-37)
Paul read what they had to say about women and is asking if this commandment (“Also saith the law.”) came from them. He knew it came from them and not God. In v. 36 Paul says what he writes is from God and that they should listen to him rather than spread this false teachings of keeping women silent. He was defending the women, not coming against them.
The Jewish converts were bringing with them their traditions into the Church and trying to pass it off as the word of God. This is why there were contentions in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:11). Paul needed to correct the confusion.
It is no secret that throughout the ages men are commonly portrayed as good and women as evil. Aristotle, for example, taught that women were “little more than a deformed man.” Many have been affected by his teachings. Plato was Aristotle’s disciple. Males were looked upon as superior physically and intellectually, which made women basically worthless. This idea, besides what has been handed down orally, has infected the church as well. Proof? All we have to do is look at the writings of some of these Scholars and the Preachers who keep propagating their ideas and continue to point out certain passages of Scripture to fit those opinions as though it were Biblical truth. There are many men in the body of Christ who think of women as basically worthless, whether they realize they have this attitude or not.
The women of God were highly regarded in the Old Testament as well in the early church. No one tried to silence them except for the Judaizers. It is sad for men to take 1 Cor. 14:34-35 to deny women to exercise and utilize their God-given gifts so they can edify the body of Christ as well.
Taking the traditions of the Judaizers to enforce what does not pertain to the body of Christ is to nullify other passages of Scripture throughout the whole Bible. Their error creates fallacies and inconsistencies that cancel out reason as well. It gives the wrong attitude towards their sisters in Christ. This may offend some men, but they are acting no differently than the Judaizers. Jesus said these type people nullify the word of God by their traditions.
It appears the devil is very angry with God’s anointed woman vessels. Because we join our faithful brothers in contending for the faith, the enemy has come up with another destructive plan to divide the body of Christ – to silence the women.
Women in the Old Testament
Let’s take a look at some women in the Old Testament. Not that they were just women, but Prophets as well! Let’s see if these women were forbidden to speak.
What is a prophet? A prophet is a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God.
What does a prophet do? Zechariah 1.6 gives the following information…
- A prophet is a servant of God
- A prophet speaks forth the words and commands (“statutes”) that he or she receives from God
A prophet could also foretell the future. In the New Testament God is no longer revealing future events to His present day prophets. (Rev. 22:18) If a prophet says anything that is inconsistent with and contradicts God’s word, then he or she is a false prophet. They can also be recognized because they sow discord, confusion, useless disputes and divisions within the church.
Within the body of Christ Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:28,
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”
There is nothing in the text that says it applies to men only. Note also that we are not talking about Bishops/elders/shepherds.
Where There Woman Prophets?
A prophet, whether male or female, (prophet, prophetess) are God’s servants and anointed by Him. Prophecy consists in speaking God’s word, calling people to repentance, warning people of the judgment to come, and praising God. Women do the same. As far as women preaching, there is no prohibition against such. Being a preacher is not the same as being a shepherd/elder. Does not a woman “preach” every time she witnesses? Shouldn’t a woman with knowledge of the scripture be allowed to teach ANYONE who is willing to learn whether she is talking with a male or female?
Women Prophets in the Old Testament
Miriam: Miriam was a prophet (Ex. 15:20), along with Moses and Aaron. They were sent by God for Israel.
Micah 6:4 states:
“O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”
Miriam led the women of Israel in praise, and exulting with the men of God for the victory over Pharoah’s armies at the Red Sea. Miriam is placed besides Moses and Aaron as a leader at the time of the Exodus. To most men, this would be silly of God to choose a woman to lead with men.
Deborah: She was a prophetess, a wife, mother, singer, judge and military leader in war. She was dedicated to the Lord. King Jabin, of the Canaanites, “had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel” (Judges 4:3). God had chosen Deborah as judge over Israel. Deborah dwelt under the palm tree and is where Israel came to her for counsel and judgment (Judges 4:5). Deborah feared God, and not man. Because of her faithfulness, courage, and obedience to God, the nation was set free and had forty years of peace. But like the other women, she is ignored or explained away because it does not fit with one’s own theology.
Huldah: Another prophetess explained away is Huldah. It is claimed that God ran out of men to use so He used a woman. However, what they fail to notice or choose not to believe is that during the time of Huldah, Jeremiah was already around for about five years prophesying in Jerusalem. Jeremiah is her contemporary. God was not out of men!
God used this woman to confirm the book of the Law. She was a woman who knew the Law and judged Israel at the time. Huldah also predicted the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people.
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Say to the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord: I will bring upon this place and upon its inhabitants all the evil that is threatened in the book which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and have burned incense to other gods, provoking me by everything to which they turn their hands, my anger is ablaze against this place and it cannot be extinguished.”
Some of our modern day Christian men would probably have Huldah to zip her lip and go to her husband if she has any questions. But the people listened to Huldah and accepted her counsel as coming from God.
There are other women such as Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3) and Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14).
Woman prophets mentioned in the New Testament.
When we get over into the New Testament women prophets are still mentioned such as Anna (Luke 2:36), daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:8-9), Elizabeth (Luke 2:41-45 She recognized Christ in Mary’s womb), Mary, through inspiration of the holy Spirit, predicted future events concerning herself and Christ, along with Zechariah’s prophecy (Lk.1).
These women enjoyed God’s blessing, but there are men who would ignore these women. Just as God used women in the Old Covenant, He can do the same under the New Covenant. Instead, we constantly hear that women have no right teaching, except to younger women of course, because they are easily deceived. We are associated with Eve every time. If women are so easily deceived, we would think that men would stop the women from teaching other women because all they would end up doing is deceiving them! So what we end up with is just a bunch of deceived women walking around on this planet! Why have them teach at all if they are so easily deceived and can pass deception on to others? Are we really led to believe that men cannot be easily deceived as well? It doesn’t take much to see this truth.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is obviously something that did not originate with Paul otherwise we might as well disregard all the women in the Bible God ever used. Men who are so against women in the ministry ignore these facts how God used these women in the Old Testament. They try to explain them away. No matter how much explaining away they do, God is not finished. We come to Joel’s prophecy.
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.” (Joel 2:28-29)
And repeated in the New Testament:
“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘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.’” (Acts 2:16-18)
Are we going to deny female vessels God has chosen and tell them to keep quiet and go home to their husbands? It is sad to say, but the church is full of misogynistic leaders who teach that women must not teach (except to younger women), exhort, prophesy, preach, and even pray in their midst in the assembly. This rule is also trying to be enforced in public settings. For example, If a woman happens to be preaching the gospel to a man in a public place, say a bus station where both of them are waiting for the next bus, and should that man start asking doctrinal questions, she is to refer that man to her husband to answer the questions! But what if the husband it not saved? No problem! Just run to any godly man you can find, because he supposedly has authority over you too, he’ll take care of the situation.
Are we disobeying God if a man happens to ask us a doctrinal question and we answer him without our husband there to handle it? And if a woman is not married, has she broken the rule of not getting the next godly man to handle the situation? If neither husband or godly man is around, do we simply tell the man, “I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to talk with you about your questions because I don’t have a Christian man handy to answer them, for I am to keep silent.” Ludicrous indeed. Don’t be afraid to spread the gospel to anyone, man or woman, if you are alone. It is better to obey the Holy Spirit, not man.
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Tim. 2:11-12
To usurp authority one must go against the will of another. When a husband recognizes the anointing on his wife to teach (as with Aquila recognized with Priscilla), and the husband allows it, then there is no authority usurped, it is granted.
We must look at the context of the letter. This is a personal letter to Timothy, not a letter to the church at Ephesus or to pastors/elders. Timothy was not a resident pastor/elder. Timothy assisted Paul and Paul had told Timothy at one time to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). He was giving Timothy personal instructions because this church needed to know how to handle false teachings that were infiltrating the church at Ephesus, which was creating evil suspicions, friction, slander, and envy (6:4-5). It seems this church was in chaos, rebellion, and the false teachers needed to be silenced (1:3-7, 18-20; 4:1-8; 5:20-22; 6:3-10, 20-21). He talked about the age of widows and how to take care of them (5:3-7). There were widows who were spreading gossip and being busybodies and saying things they should not (5:13), what he thought about those who did not provide for their family (5:8), and even about the elders who persisted in sin that they needed to be publically called out and confronted in front of the entire body (5:20). There were men who were quarreling (2:8), and women who were dressing provocatively (2:9), because they were dressing with clothing similar to the dress of pagan temple prophetesses.
Furthermore, the passage is not a pronouncement on ALL women. Earlier (in the book of Corinthians) it was made clear the men and women could prophesy and pray. We also saw that Paul did not prohibit all women from teaching. Not only that, if we look up the word “prophesy,” that is a form of “teaching.” So prophesying is really teaching! The person who is prophesying is relaying a message, which is teaching another. Prove it? Paul says, “For you can ALL [men and women] prophesy one by one, so that ALL may learn…” (v 31) And don’t forget the book of Acts where there was a prophecy related back to Joel how God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and that men and women would both prophesy.
Now either Paul is off his rocker and very contradictory, or we are not diligently studying the Scriptures.
So what about a woman to “remain silent” and not “teach”? When we read through the whole Bible, we certainly do see where women were allowed to teach, even rule. Women didn’t just clean house and take care of the kids and husbands. They also helped Paul in the Gospel of Christ (Romans 16). God used women, as well as men, to preach, teach and prophesy.
When it comes to the church at Ephesus, there was obviously a problem, just as there was with the church in Thyatira. In Revelation chapter 2 where a letter was written to them, we find in verse 18 that they were commended for their works, their charity, service and patience. But then we come to verse 20,
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.”
Note that Jesus did not rebuke this church for the “sin” of having a woman teaching. He was rebuking for what she was teaching. It wasn’t a gender issue. Her teaching was causing the saints to sin.
Jesus uses the word “Jezebel,” which there is a story of her in the Old Testament. This woman corrupted the morality of Ahab and others. This Jezebel is not the same woman, but she seduced servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
Also note vs 21,
“And I gave her space to repent of her fornications; and she repented not.”
Does it say that this repentance had to do with her being a teacher? Did Jesus give her space to repent from teaching? No, it had to do with what she was teaching and doing. Jesus tells her to repent of her fornications. Teaching is not sin of fornication.
All teachers, whether male or female, are capable of giving false teachings. There are men today, as well as women, who seduce God’s servants to sin. One prime example of this are those who teach unconditional eternal security. It is not a sin for these men and women to teach, but it is WHAT they are teaching that is leading people to continue in sin. When we get rid of all the fluff and swelling words in their teachings, the bottom line is that one can be in sin and still have eternal life. This is the teaching of Jezebel! These are the Jezebels out there whether male or female.
Paul had to monitor what was being taught and gave instructions to Timothy how to handle it. This is not to mention that we must look at the era of that time and what was infiltrating in that city and in the church. For a little background information, the following is from Tia Lynn and worth repeating:
Ephesus was a decadent Asian city, whose focal point was the fertility goddess, Artemis. The Romans called her Diana. Artemis is said to be the twin of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and Leto. The cult of Artemis was particularly alluring for women because Artemis was believed to protect her female worshippers during and after childbirth.
We know from indisputable historical findings (such as ancient temple ruins, writings, and graves) and the biblical account in Acts 19:11-41, that the city of Ephesus was dedicated to the fertility goddess, Artemis. The passage in Acts reveals the exact brand of paganism running rampant in Ephesus, even causing confusion among believers. The teachings of this goddess-cult caused so much confusion and hostility among the assemblies and the city that violent riots broke out. People were fiercely passionate about The Lady of Ephesus and flew into a blind rage when Paul rejected her divinity. Artemis was the fertility goddess and protector of women (keep that in mind for later). The female-focused cult of Artemis taught female superiority and dominance based on their claim that women were descendants of mythological Amazon women. These women enslaved the men and forced them to build the city. In order to prove this myth, followers would create lengthy genealogies in attempt to prove they were true descendants of the goddess herself or the amazon women who supposedly founded the city. Could this be what Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 1:3-4? Artemis’ temple was so stunning and brilliantly designed that it became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. So, this is no little unknown, undocumented cult with gaps so wide that it would be impossible to reconstruct the culture and setting of Ephesus at the time of Paul’s letters.
Entering into the Ephesian cultural-mix is Gnosticism. Gnostic teachings ran rampant during the first century, which were famous for infusing Christian and pagan beliefs together to comprise one of the first heretical teachings to infiltrate the early church. As Christian and pagan beliefs intermingled, Gnostics taught that Eve, contrary to the Genesis account, actually liberated the world by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They called Eve “the illuminator” because they believed she became enlightened when she ate the fruit and paved the way for others to become enlightened, too. They also taught that Eve was created FIRST and Adam received life from her. For the Gnostics, Eve became a salvation-figure.
Between the cult of the Artemis and the Gnostics, it was widely believe that:
- Eve was created first and received special knowledge when she ate from the tree of knowledge.
- Women prophetesses or mediators could share or pass on their “divine knowledge” through rituals mixing sex and worship.
- The legend claimed that ancient amazon-warrior women, far superior to any man, founded the city of Ephesus and erected Artemis’ temple. Therefore Ephesian women were these amazon-warriors’ descendants and inherited their special knowledge and superiority.
- Artemis’ name means “safe.” Allegiance to her meant she would keep women safe during and after childbirth.
Coincidentally, the passage in question (as well as other parts of 1 Timothy) refutes all of these teachings. When you look at these four beliefs in relation to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, suddenly we can see that Paul is not citing creation to teach women’s inferiority, to put more blame on Eve, or to justify an all-time exclusion from teaching, but to correct the bizarre false teachings some Ephesians had embraced with the truth of scripture. He retells the events of creation to reveal what really happened so believers could easily recognize these false teachings circulating about the creation account. These verses do not mean all women must not teach because Eve was created second or because she became deceived, as the church has taught for centuries.
Verses 9-10 admonishes women to dress modestly and appropriately for women professing godliness. He tells them to avoid braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothing. This is another context clue that hints toward the women of Ephesus being influenced by the cult of Artemis, for the priestesses would wear elaborate, braided hairstyles and adorn themselves with extravagant jewelry and attire. Paul makes a curious statement when he classifies this type of extravagant attire as inappropriate for women “professing” godliness, which could mean he questioned the sincerity of these women’s faith to begin with.
Verse 11 is particularly liberating for women at this time. Most modern readers take “Let a woman learn…” as Paul granting mere permission for women to learn, but the original Greek is phrased as a command that women BE TAUGHT. This was a major battle in the first century, since traditional male Jews and Greeks did not find any value in educating women and viewed it as a disgrace. Paul insists that they be allowed to learn (this would be imperative if false teachings were to ever be overcome, too). Of course, women, who have never before learned the scriptures, would not be qualified to teach and would be more susceptible to deception and false teaching. It’s not because they are women, but because of the patriarchal prejudices that kept them in the dark for centuries.
Verse 12-14 Paul says he does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. This makes perfect sense, if women are indeed the targets and spreaders of these false teachings consuming and dividing the Ephesian church. Paul follows his ban on women teachers by reiterating sound teaching that counters the false teaching. For Adam was formed first, not Eve, like the cult of Artemis and the Gnostics taught. He then points out that Eve became deceived and sinned. This is hardly the basis upon which to claim female-superiority and divine knowledge. Eve did not do a noble thing or liberate the world; she was tricked into violating the command of God. It’s important to note that Paul is not arguing for male superiority, just refuting female superiority by pointing out the facts of the creation account. He is not implying that because Eve was deceived all women are prone to deception or because she was created second that women may never be entrusted with the ministry of the word. Directly after refuting this false teaching, he moves onto the childbirth subject.
Verse 13, This strange verse about women being “saved” through childbirth should actually read a woman shall be “preserved” or “kept safe” through childbirth. It becomes especially meaningful and relevant in light of the fact that the women of Ephesus looked to Artemis to keep them safe through childbirth. In a time when massive amounts of women and babies died in childbirth, we can easily see how the cult of Artemis would be tempting, even among Christians. Here, Paul admonishes women to continue in the faith of Christ and to put their lives in His hands.
Now, since women were obviously the primary targets of this pervasive teaching and the most vulnerable members of the church (since new Christian female converts, whether Jewish or Greek were not schooled in the scripture), it makes perfect sense for Paul to forbid women from teaching at a church that was overrun with false teachings, false teachings that just happen to be tailor-made for attracting women. Of course, women who had never received proper teaching would first have to learn before they could teach. The requirements were the same for men. They had to be trained in “the way” and then were sent out to teach others. Women had been shut out from such learning under Judaism and most Greek religions. When we consider the “catch-up” game women had to play under their new found freedom in Christ, is it any wonder why Paul would command the Ephesian women who “wanting to be teachers of the Law….they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:6-7) to first learn in total submission to sound teaching and stop teaching themselves? One cannot teach before they have been properly taught themselves.
While Paul’s words are inspired, they were inspired for this particular situation at Ephesus. It distorts the inspired words of scripture to rip them out of their specific context, the crisis at Ephesus, and transform Paul’s disciplinary solution to a culture-specific problem into a blanket prohibition against all women teaching for all times in all places.
When we get the historical background, it helps us to understand a little better of why Paul wrote what he did. I would also recommend a book by Jon Zens titled, “What’s With Paul and Women?”
Women Were the Primary Witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection
God’s attitude towards women under the Old Covenant did not change under the New.
“The Lord gives the Word. Great is the host of women who proclaim it.” (Ps. 68:11)
“O woman who is herald of good tidings to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, 0 woman who is herald of good tidings to Jerusalem, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God”‘(Isa. 40:9).
It’s amazing those passages taken from 1 Tim. 2:11-15 would be a proclamation against ALL women not to teach a man. God used women to proclaim the GOOD NEWS!
When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, women were the primary witnesses.
There were many women who followed Jesus throughout his ministry. Some of them are named. There was Mary of Magdala, Joanna, wife of the steward of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, Susanna, Mary, the Lord’s mother, Mary, the wife of Cleophas described as the mother of James and Joses, there is Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, a sister of Jesus’ mother.
The Bible infers there were many women who accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry, for it says “many others” (Luke 8:3). They followed Christ and gave up their possessions, to commit all that they had. In the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) describe all these women as followers of Christ. The word “follow” is used over 75 times, and that means being a disciple of Christ (ex. Matt 4:19, Mark 1:18, Luke 5:11, 27-28). Some of these women must have been women of means who were able to “provide for them out of their resources” (Luke 8:3).
Before Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, He gave His disciples instructions not to do anything, but to wait for the Spirit that was to be given to them. They will witness with “power”. In Revelation it is said that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The Holy Spirit was not yet poured out on them until the day of Pentecost. It was given to those who were witnesses to His birth, life on earth, resurrection and ascension. The number gathered were one hundred and twenty people, not just men, but with women as well (Acts 1:15, 2:3). All of these people had some part to tell. The women especially could also, along with the men, share of the miracles Jesus did while on earth. They could repeat Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, his discourses and the miracles he performed.
Let us also not forget the crucifixion. When Jesus was arrested, the eleven who were with him forsook him. None of them appeared at the crucifixion except for John. The only eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus where John and the women, but John was not there for the whole time. Matthew 27:56 speaks of Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome as “beholding afar off,” but when Jesus spoke to His mother and John, it is then we see that they “stood by” the cross (John 19:25). When Jesus committed his mother into the care of John, it was then John left the scene with Mary and took her home (John 19:25-27).
What John does not see, he cannot tell. They had to go by the testimony of the women who stayed behind. John does witness the crucifixion, but did not witness the last words that came from our Savior’s mouth.
The women left behind are the ones who witnessed the events that took place when passers-by railed on Jesus (not recorded by John), how the thief on the cross was penitent; and the giving of vinegar to Him. John returns after these events had taken place.
The last seven words (or phrases) of Jesus were not witnessed by any of the apostles but by women only. Only one is witnessed by John (Jn. 19:26), but the rest solely rests on the witnesses of the women only.
- “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Lk. 23: 34
- “This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise Lk. 23: 43
- “Woman, behold thy son.” Jn. 19:26
- “ My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mk. 15: 34 (Mt. 27: 46)
- “I thirst.” Jn. 19: 28.
- “It is finished.” Jn 19: 30
- “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” Luke 2:46
When evening came, the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, linger to watch the burial with intentions to anoint Jesus’ body with spices and perfumes (Luke 23:55,56). They watched how the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb (Matt. 27:59-61).
In summation, the witness recorded in Scripture depends wholly on the word of the women coupled with John’s. There are no other witnesses cited.
In the Bible one witness is not sufficient to establish testimony (Deut. 19:15). In Matthew it also says, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matt. 18:16; John 8:17).
We know that among the disciples, John alone witnessed part of the crucifixion. His testimony would not be enough, nor would it be accepted. The Gospels accept the witness of the “women from Galilee.” This means that without the witness of the other women, we would not have the story of the crucifixion. So a major part of the crucifixion rests on the testimony of women.
But it’s not over yet! Now we get to the resurrection. Here is what Matthew 28:1-2 states,
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.”
Women are the first to see the risen Christ and commanded to carry the good news to the disciples.
There were three women (Mark 16:1) at that grave (Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome) who came to anoint Jesus’ body. Then there was a great earthquake and the stone was being rolled away from the grave. When the stone was rolled away, the keepers fell as dead men from fear. The angel did not talk to these men, but rather to the women announcing Jesus is risen!
In Mark’s gospel, we read that the women saw a young man (angel) “sitting on the right side, clothed in a long, white garment.” Luke gives the account of “two men in shining garments.” Basically what we have on that resurrection morning are seen, not by the apostles, but by women only. It is the testimony of the women that is cited. God could have waited for the men to be around so they could be the main witnesses, but this is not the case. God chose these women, the two Marys instead. They are the meat and marrow of His Gospel.
It also appears the men have a hard time believing women. Mary Magdalene “went and told them…And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not” (Mark 16:9-11). Luke records, “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” (That seems to be the way most women are treated today when communicating God’s word.)
Let us not forget the road to Emmaus where it says, “Certain women of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher…saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said He was alive.” Even these men did not receive the women’s testimony. Jesus rebuked them for being fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Jesus took them through the Scriptures that testified of Him and opened up their understanding. Then they knew that what the women saw was true (Luke 24:22-27).
Though different women are named, it is Mary Magdalene whose name is constant in the four gospels. She is the first person to whom Christ reveals himself after the resurrection. The other Mary is weeping by the tomb. She looks into the tomb (John 20:11) and sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. They ask her why she is crying. She thought his body was taken, but when she turned around, she saw Jesus standing there, but even then she did not recognize him. She had mistaken him for the gardener. But when Jesus called her name, she recognized him!
Jesus tells Mary to tell of his resurrection, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (v. 17). Mary returned to Jerusalem and proclaimed to the fellow disciples what she had seen and heard.
Imagine that! The first to preach the resurrection of Jesus were women!
We must not forget the attitude and oral teachings of the Judaizers concerning women at the time (and to this day). They were considered hysterical and could not be trusted (cf. Luke 24:11). Jesus was putting the women in the position of having the “testimony of Jesus” which is the “spirit of prophecy.” Contrary to popular belief, women were preaching the gospel to men.
What does “preach” mean? Because of the traditions of man, this is mostly seen as men behind a pulpit. Back in Jesus’ day no one had special buildings erected, stained glass windows, and pulpits from which to preach. The Greek word for “preach” means, ‘Proclaim, herald, announce,’ and it doesn’t have to be done behind a pulpit, nor does it have to do with yelling in the streets. We can proclaim, herald, and announce the gospel with our neighbors, one-on-one, or with a group of people. Also, if one is preaching, one is teaching. And nowhere in Scripture does it say a Christian brother has to be there if a woman is going to preach the gospel in order to answer any questions a male might have. All disciples of Christ are anointed and all are to preach the Gospel, and it is very unbiblical to say that a woman cannot preach the gospel unless a male is present.
I remember belonging to this little church here in Florida. I got to know the pastor and he knew of my testimony and of coming from a Catholic background. Instead of giving his usual “sermon,” he invited me to speak to the congregation about my testimony and comment how Catholic theology goes against the grain of Scripture. A man got up and took his family out of the service because his belief was a woman should not teach a man. It was bad enough that I was nervous since I had never spoken in front of a group of people and got the courage to do so, but was totally crushed to think that what the Lord had shown me through study of the Scriptures, and to warn others, had made me to feel like a second class citizen in the body of Christ.
In Maryland I belonged to a Baptist church. Chuck Burke was our pastor. There was a male member who made sure his wife wore something over her head at every service. But I also noticed he would not let his young boys be taught Sunday school by women. Though he was wrong, I can at least say he was consistent in what he believed because he didn’t give any exceptions about women teaching.
Christ broke the cultural biases of His time, but men still cling to them. I am thankful Paul did not cling to the cultural biases. Paul did not whisk women off to a corner or in the shadows of their husbands, not to mention this leaves no place for the unmarried woman.
Paul recognized many gifted women and did not forbid these women to teach. One such woman was Phoebe. She is categorized with men like Stephen and Philip. She is referred to as a “deacon” (diakonon in the Greek) which is the same word that describes Philip and Stephen. Paul expected the Roman church to follow her instructions when she arrived.
Poor Lois and Eunice did not know their proper place when it came to teaching Timothy. However, by them teaching Timothy the Scriptures, they helped shaped his ministry. Paul commends Lois and Eunice for teaching Timothy the faith, not rebuke them for teaching it.
Regardless whether one is male or female, all God’s children have full access of the Spirit to speak the utterances of God without strict limitations. Men do not have the right to make a blanket prohibition against all women teaching a man by taking such a passage as 1 Tim. 2:12 for its proof text while ignoring the rest of God’s counsel and examples of how He used women throughout both testaments. By taking two passages of Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:12) to make a pronouncement upon all women is to ignore the context and culture of that time. It also makes Paul a man who could not make up his mind, contradicting himself and God’s use of women in the past and present. Not to mention that this makes Joel’s prophecy null and void and him a false prophet! He made a big mistake by adding women in the prophecy. What most men would have us to believe is that Joel really meant this, “In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit, and your sons will prophesy while your daughters will serve quietly in the background and pray for the men.” Is this not what is happening?
Jesus told his disciples to teach and make other disciple and to obey everything they were commanded. (Matt. 28:19-20) They were to teach everything Jesus told them. Jesus also said,
“…whosoever practices and TEACHES these commandments will be called GREAT in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).
Did Jesus put restrictions? He did not say, “…whosoever practices and teaches these commandments, except for women, will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven.” Whosoever is whosoever.
In Acts 8, before Paul came to Christ, it seems he saw the women as a threat along with the men. He set out to destroy the church. He hunted these Christians from home to home and dragged the men AND women and committed them to prison. The Christians were scattering, but it did not stop them (men and women) from preaching the word. (Acts 8:3-4) These Christians obeyed the command as found in Matt. 28:19-20
When it comes to women teaching or preaching, it is very dangerous to just take 1 Tim. 2:12 and make it a blanket statement against all women (1 Cor. 14 is not worthy of discussion since we can clearly see the fallacy of private interpretation and not considering its surrounding text). Paul’s writings would never contradict the words of Jesus. Understanding the culture and traditions of that era might help us comprehend a little more clearly (See for instance about Veils and Hair Length).
We need to consider the WHOLE counsel of God and not just take a Scripture here and a Scripture there to sustain man-made traditions.
Now I understand there may be men reading this article and accuse the author of being a feminist. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen where women are accused of being a Jezebel, accused of usurping authority over a man, of witchcraft, a lesbian, and being in rebellion. Why? Because it is a last-ditch effort to preserve waning power over women who may disagree with their brand of theology. The same verses discussed in this article will be once again displayed to try and prove their point when all Paul was doing was correcting abuses and disorders, which were causing confusion. By resorting to name calling and quoting a couple of Scriptures, the men accusers will hope to get everyone reading to recoil and dismiss anything that a woman has to say from that point on. Let them accuse, but I will not let the burning and zeal in my heart cease because of men who would want to keep me silent.
As Paul said concerning Alexander the coppersmith who did him much evil, “the Lord will render to him according to his works.” I will continue and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands.
May the men of God let the women of God have their God-given place within the body of Christ.