Women in the Church: What is Right?
There is a huge debate in the Christian community over whether women should be allowed to teach men and hold positions of authority. Some believe it is a rule for just in the church and others believe it is to be followed outside of the church even. Then there is some who believe it is not even a rule according to the Bible. Though there are scriptures that do back it up, I believe these scriptures are misconstrued.
1 Timothy 2:11-14
11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
There are also verses in 1 Corinthians where Paul says women should not speak out in church and should keep their heads covered.
I have had long, drawn out, discussions on this subject and it amazes me there are so many men who grab onto these verses and say that it is a definitive rule from God that women should not have positions of authority in a church and should never teach a man. What amazes me even more is the fact that people who believe this always ignore other things in the Bible. They are doing nothing more than picking and choosing verses to support their personal beliefs. To put it plainly, this is wrong to do!
To know the truth, one must look at all of the Bible and try to understand the entire context. If two verses seemingly contradict each other, we must first consider who is saying them, and if that does not clear it up enough, we need to try to understand what else each verse could be meaning. If one verse cannot be understood in different ways but another can, the verse that can only have one meaning holds more authority.
In 1 Timothy, could that have been a rule from God for all churches of all generations? Sure, you could read it that way. One could also recognize that at the time the churches were dealing with some real issues and Paul wrote to them in an attempt to stomp those issues out before things got too out of hand. One also must recognize that in the first century men were considered to be far above a woman. Not according to God but according to the ways of the world. One other point I want to make is that I have noticed Paul has at times in his letters clarified when something is from him or if it is from God. He has even straight out said, this is from me and not from God. In 1 Timothy, he did not say God does not allow a woman to teach a man. He says "I do not allow...".
So one can see how this verse may or may not be a direct rule from God to all churches and women.
Let's look at Paul's letter to the church in Rome...
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Note that Paul writes in his letter asking the church to help Phoebe in any manner she has need of them. He doesn't send her to help them but sends her and asks them to help her. He is obviously putting her in a position of authority. If Paul was truly against women having authority, why would he himself put one in a position of authority?
Let's take this a step further and look at what God Himself does....
4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
If God did not want women in a position of authority, why would God put one in a position of authority? A Prophetess was no lowly position and it states she was judging Israel. There were certainly a lot of men in Israel at the time.
One thing we know for absolute certainty in the Bible is that God does not lie and God is not a hypocrite! God would never, ever, say something is wrong and then turn around and do it. So to say God says it is wrong for women to hold a position of authority or to teach men, is calling God a hypocrite for God Himself made Deborah a Prophetess.
Yet, we also know there are no contradictions in the Bible, so what are we to believe in what Paul writes?
The Greek word used in 1 Timothy for "authority" is, "authenteo". Through the entire Bible, the word "authority" (in the NASB Version) is used 26 times in 25 verses. The Greek word " authenteo" is used only once, in 1 Timothy. The problem is the correct translation should not really be "authority", but should be more in the lines of "abuse of authority". Paul’s letters regularly used a form of the Greek “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church. Another article I found mentions that the correct translation of "authenteo" would be "to instigate violence". So basically what Paul was writing in 1 Timothy is telling him that church was having trouble with women causing problems and it is wrong for women to abuse authority or instigate trouble. He was not actually saying women should not have positions of authority in the church.
As I mentioned before, the first rule to believing the Bible is to recognize the entire Bible is God's Word. Not just the verses that support what you wish to believe. We absolutely must consider all verses. In a case like this, when a verse has someone stating one thing that seems clear, and then you have verses stating God doing the opposite, God's actions must take precedence. Why?
1) Translation from Hebrew and Greek to English. English is considered the hardest language in the world to learn. Why? Because there are so many words that have multiple meanings as well as multiple words with the same meaning. Not to mention slang terms. Ancient languages have many of the same problems. They had many words that could have different meanings depending on the context they are used. Some of those we still do not know. Though the translations to English have been amazing, they still update the Bible as they find more corrections. Every so often when they have enough changes, they will issue a new update to different versions. As a Christian I fully believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. It is infallible. However, I am not a believer that the translators were inspired by God. God did not translate them to English for them and they just write it down. If it was, no Bible would ever need to be corrected or updated. It is actually impossible to translate every word perfectly because too often we don't have words that have quite the same meaning even.
2) In the case with Paul's letters, we don't know the intentions of the letters. Were the rules submitted for all churches to follow for all times, or was it intended to gain control of specific problems that a particular church was having? We have every reason to believe that when Paul wrote to these churches, it was because these churches were struggling with some difficulty or another and he wrote them to help stomp the problems down.
3) We cannot be certain if it was a rule from God for all generations or if Paul added the rule according to the standards of the time they lived in. There is no denying that in the first century men were considered well above women where as today woman are considered more equally to men. Jesus changed some of this by talking to women when most would never do that. When he rose from the dead, Jesus showed himself to Mary first. At the well, Jesus spoke to the woman first. He didn't order her to fetch the men for him to talk to first, he spoke to her and proved to her he was the Christ. When she went to the men of the town and told them, they didn't send a man to check it out, they believed her and came running.
But God's actions are 100% trustworthy. God would never say one thing then do another. So when God put Deborah in a position of Authority as a Prophetess, that is absolute proof that God is not against women being in a position of authority.
With that said, throughout the Bible, God uses men far more often than women. It is unarguable that God will usually prefer a man over a woman and does place men above women to some degree. In a household the man should be the final say on important matters, but he should not do so without clearly considering the woman's position on the matter. Yet, God will use women in positions of authority, so God is not against it. But if a Pastor chooses a man to be in charge of something only because he is a man and the other option is a woman, he will not be wrong to do so. At the same time, if he feels a woman is a better person for the job, that is not wrong either.
One last point on this subject is the Holy Spirit. Jesus, God, the apostles, nobody ever claims anywhere that woman cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come to ALL who put their faith in the Lord. So when it comes to someone being in a position of authority, and they are supposed to lead by the Holy Spirit, it makes no difference if it is a woman or a man. The Holy Spirit works the same in everyone!
When you look at the entire Bible, the verses from Paul as well as the verses of Paul and God putting women in a position of authority, there is no doubt that God is not against it. To grab onto the verses that say it is wrong and insist that women should not teach a man or have positions of authority.... well, you may as well be calling God a hypocrite. Because you are saying God says it is wrong, and yet the Bible clearly shows that God has put them in a position of authority. I don't know about you, but there is absolutely no way I am going to face God when I die and have to explain to him why I was calling Him a hypocrite.
Reference: Strong's Concordance (Click the link to view it for yourself)
Authenteo - Currently translated to "authority" In 1 Timothy 2:12
1) one who with his own hands kills another or himself
2) one who acts on his own authority, autocratic
3) an absolute master
4) to govern, exercise dominion over one
This obviously should not be translated as "should not have authority over men."
A better translation would be "should not usurp the authority of men." Keeping in mind the ways of the first century, men were far above woman. So obviously it was all men who were in control of the church. Paul was simply saying that the women who are a part of the church should not usurp the authority of the men who are in charge. He was not saying God doesn't ever want women in a position of power.
This was added on March 1st, 2019
I found more verses that are worth mentioning...
Galatians 3:23-2923 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
This is one passage that does not make any separation between men and women. In fact it seems to say we are equals in God's eyes.
9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses.
Another case where God made four women into prophetesses. How many times does God need to use women in positions of power before it is accepted that Paul was not saying all churches for all generations should not allow women to teach?