What I believe about women preachers…

Third, in Paul’s writings there are doctrinal statements of eternal truth and then there is the application of ideas to the current issue he was writing to address. One important thing when studying the writings of someone is to figure out what they believe (the eternal truth) so that you can understand the application (how that eternal truth applies to today). If you believe that “I do not allow women to teach or have authority over a man” is a doctrinal statement, an eternal truth, then that will shape how you interpret other passages. This is why people who hold to this view want to describe Phoebe as a server of food and drink instead of a very high official in the Church, and why Junia was changed into a male and the female surname “must be a mistake”. Yet there are several reasons that I do not believe this one statement from Paul is a doctrinal statement of eternal truth. For one, Paul is VERY careful to differentiate where he is stating Truth and where he is stating his opinion. You see this in 1st Corinthians 7 where he says “(this is me speaking and not the Lord)”. In the 1st Timothy verse he says “*I* do not allow” so even if Paul himself never allowed, that is not saying that God does not allow. I am confident in the churches that Paul set up he did not allow women to teach or to have authority. As I mentioned above, the 4 groups coming together would not have qualified women to teach or to have authority. He does not say that he never allows women to move into positions of authority or teaching. In fact there *are* women of authority mentioned in his other letters so we must assume that happened as women studied in the way he tells them to–in submissive respect to the meeting place and by asking their husband at home. However, it is clearly a doctrinal eternal truth when Paul proclaims in Galatians that there is neither “male nor female, slave nor freeman, Jew nor Gentile” at the foot of the Cross. This means all obstacles to studying God’s Word have been removed! And all barriers of social order have been done away with! Because these are the three things that social order were based on in the Jewish community. Once you were a Jewish man you could do pretty much any role depending on what family you’d been born into–because only the Levites were Priests, but anyone else studied and approved could become a Rabbi. So take away the barrier of male/female; slave/free; Jew/Greek and anyone can study and can show themselves approved. Often the people who want to focus on women not being allowed to teach don’t understand how revolutionary it was for them to study! And until you’ve studied you can’t teach. In fact, a lot of what Paul writes to women and slaves, etc., makes the most sense when understood in light of the fact that he wanted a gospel revolution, not a social one! Women who were now socially equal to their husbands were admonished to continue to submit to them. And Paul uses ideas from Scripture to show why this idea is not inconsistent with the new freedoms of the believer’s heart. Paul admonishes all believers to submit to one another so it’s not inconsistent to tell women to submit to their own husbands.

Fourth, because Paul is addressing actual issues within the churches when reading the letters it can be understood that when Paul talks specifically to men it’s because it was an issue with the men and when he talks specifically to women it’s an issue with the women. There are many times Paul talks to the men alone. One of the times he talks to the women it is about the issue of yelling out in services and being disruptive. Women were doing this. The answer is to tell them to be silent and ask questions at home. This seems simple enough. That doesn’t mean he’s telling women to never talk in church–in fact he gives instructions for how women are to pray and prophesy! The first chapter (and, remember, the chapter and verse numbers have been added because it was just a letter–these are attempts to help people follow Paul’s change of thoughts and they aren’t always accurately placed–sometimes a thought is supposed to continue but he’s talking about a different topic so they put a new chapter heading on it). So we go to the infamous Timothy letter and we start not at this one verse, but at the beginning. Paul starts out talking about false teachers and the women being swayed by them. This is a problem *because* now that the social barriers have been broken down the women are trying to be leaders, but they are not yet soundly trained in true doctrine. He uses the reference to Eve to show that this is a situation just like that one where women are being led astray and then bringing the men with them and Timothy needs to put a stop to it! In these fledgling churches Paul has explained he’s found it important to not let women teach and take over. They aren’t solid in their doctrine yet! And then when he has excluded the women he goes on to explain the qualifications for the men who are allowed to teach because not just any man should be in leadership–not a new convert, someone who’s homelife represents living by the Word. In fact, in the very new churches it would only be the Jewish men in leadership.

Fifth, where the issue of patriarchy and a higher order is concerned it’s important to realize that Hebraic thought is circular, but Greek thought was linear. So the idea that there is a hierarchy in Creation would not be a Hebraic idea–but one brought to it from Greek minds studying Scripture. The argument states that because God created Adam first and then Eve, and because NT Scriptures speak of God the head of Jesus, Jesus the head of man, man the head of woman, that this is a hierarchical order found in Creation and must be foundational for understanding all Scriptures related to men and women. But with the Hebraic mind not being linear, but circular, and with understanding that the Hebraic mind believed men closer to the mind of God (why they were allowed to study Scripture) and women closer to the heart of God (why they ran the home) and knowing that they believed the heart to be the organ that ruled the body, this doesn’t make any sense. Rather, it is *after* the Fall that we hear God tell Adam and Eve that women’s desire would be for their husband and he would rule over her. Patriarchy is a result of the Fall, not a product of Creation. So when we come to *after* the Cross and we hear Paul say that there is neither male nor female . . . through one man sin and its consequences entered the world and through one man the penalty was paid. That doesn’t make all the consequences not affect us anymore, but it means we don’t have to live as though the consequences of the Fall have created our identity.

In conclusion, I don’t believe there is a hierarchy in Creation that makes men higher than women, I believe that the idea of men ruling over their wives is a product of the Fall that was undone at the Cross, I believe that Paul was wise in not allowing women untrained in Scripture to teach and take authority over men, I believe that Paul recognized, acknowledged, and affirmed women who had shown themselves studied and approved, and I believe that Paul’s goals were to control a social revolution and provoke a Gospel one as well as to answer specific situations with eternal truth, I believe that women can preach and teach and prophesy and do whatever the Lord calls them to do so long as this calling is affirmed by their community of faith and they are studied and prepared.

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  1. Thanks for this informative article! (BTW, I noticed that the link to the second page is missing at the bottom.)

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