"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part 5)


Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Offices in the Church

Part 5: Ministries


We move from “office” to function. As we have seen, the restrictions regarding the roles of women in ministry nullify the Great Commission of Jesus. Christ said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In the New Testament we find examples of women speaking in churches and teaching. We must understand those passages that prohibit these practices as particular to a certain time and place; either that or we are forced to say that in the New Testament churches we have examples of women breaking God’s universal laws. More on this subject later.

What then is teaching? Someone with some specific knowledge informs another without some specific knowledge that specific knowledge. But if a man asks a woman about directions to a library and she informs the man has she sinned by giving him information? Has he sinned for asking her in the first place? One responds, “That is not ‘teaching,’ as the Bible means it.” How so? “The Bible is referring to the church setting.” Or, “The Bible is referring to matters of doctrinal truth.” These are two counterarguments that are usually given. If a man learns in church something from a woman, however minute, like directions to the library, has that woman sinned? If, while in church, a woman informs a man that in the doctrine of the atonement, the “penal” in penal substitutionary atonement means that Christ bore a penalty when He died, has that woman sinned? Some will say, “Yes, the woman sinned for informing the man of the doctrinal truth. The man may have sinned in asking her. She should have directed him toward another man who could answer his question.” But what if the woman had said, “I’m sorry, I cannot answer your question. Doctrinally, I am not allowed to answer doctrinal questions.” If the man responds, “Gee, I didn’t know that,” the woman has sinned again. The strict among us would answer,” She should have kept silent. When a man asks you something concerning doctrine, keep silent.” But in John 20:17, Jesus tells Mary “go to my brethren, and say to them, “I ascend to My Father.” Jesus asked her to inform the disciples concerning the doctrine of the ascension. And implicitly she informed them concerning the doctrine of the resurrection. Would Jesus tell Mary to sin? “No,” responds the strict among us, “that was not teaching; that was informing.” A woman can inform a man of non-doctrinal matters. A woman can teach a man of non-doctrinal matters. A woman can inform a man of doctrinal matter. But a woman may not teach a man of doctrinal matters.

In Acts 18:24-26 we have a story concerning Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila. “Now a certain Jew named Apollo, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the Synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

The word used for “explain” in the Greek is ektithemi. This word is only used by Luke and exclusively in Acts. It means “to place, or set out,” “to expose,” “to exhibit,” and metaphorically “to set forth, declare, or expound.” Luke uses the word in Acts 11:4 to describe how Peter “explained” his vision at Cornelius’ house to the Jerusalem Church. This was the vision that led the church to realize that God was not limiting Himself only to Jews.

The other time Luke uses ektithemi is in Acts 28:23 to describe how Paul explained to the leading Jews in Rome by “testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the prophets.”

If we take these verses at their face value, along with the qualifications of elders and elderesses, is apparent that women are allowed if not required to teach men if the circumstance warrants it. The complementarian rebuttal would be that in the case of Priscilla, either 1) she was not teaching (didache) only expounding/explaining, or 2) she was teaching but complementing Aquila, i.e. he had the authority in the situation.
The response to both of these assertions: 1) ektithemi and didache appear to be synonymous. Didache may refer to doctrinal teaching, but as the above examples indicate, so can ektithemi; 2) the text does not say that Priscilla complemented Aquila anymore than Aquila complemented Priscilla. Such an interpretation must be forced into the text, it does not naturally occur. Also, to say that Aquila had authority in the situation is also tenuous. The text does not say so, and any assertion to the contrary is based upon ideas of “natural male authority” and not upon the Scripture. More on this later.

But who did have the authority in this situation? Aquila or Priscilla? Both? The Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit and Aquila? Could we say that if authority existed in this situation (and nothing in the text explicitly or implicitly states so) that this authority came from the Word of God? Does the Word of God only have authority when a man speaks it? Does the Word of God lose its authority when spoken by a woman? What does this say about the Word of God? What about the written Word? Few people today would prohibit women from writing books that men read, even doctrinal books, although that is undoubtedly a powerful form of teaching. Some complementarians appear to be on the verge of neo-orthodoxy. The objective word of God becomes real only when spoken subjectively by a man but not subjectively by a woman.


In most Baptist churches ordination is understood to mean the choosing of certain individuals to occupy positions of authority within the congregation. This qualifies them to preach, administer the ordinances and supervise the affairs of the congregation. Because of the special place of preaching in Baptist churches, the issue of ordination is very closely tied to that function.

One of the spiritual gifts of Romans 12 is prophecy. Some today would relegate this charismatic gift to be synonymous with preaching. This is unfortunate. The word we translate as “prophesy” is propheteuo. It is the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for “prophecy,” (naba). A Old Testament prophet (nabi) was “one who carried the word of God.” Part of his function was to also proclaim the word of God he carried. Now a prophet does proclaim or preach the word of God, but a preacher does not necessarily prophesy. The New Testament does make a difference. There are two words that we today translate as “preach.” The first is kerusso. It means “to proclaim, to herald.” The other word is euaggelizo. It means “to preach the gospel.” These words can be synonymous but do not have to be. One could “proclaim” themselves dictator. A woman could “proclaim” that a house is on fire. The term need not be doctrinal. And complementarians admit that there concern is doctrinal. We then focus on euaggelizo – this word always means “preach or proclaim the gospel.” It is the word we get evangelist from: “one who preaches the gospel.” But the clear distinction between prophesying, preaching, and preaching the gospel is not a necessary point to argue that a woman may do all three.

The Bible clearly states that women were prophetesses: Miriam (Ex. 15:20, 21), Deborah (Judg. 4:4, 5), Huldah (2 Kin. 22:12-20), Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:1-3), Anna (Luke2:36). According to the prediction of Joel (Joel 2:28), the Spirit of God was to be poured out on the women as well as the men, that they might prophecy (teach?). This prophecy came to fulfillment on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In Acts 21:9, “Philip the Evangelist has four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” And women continued to prophecy from what Paul says (I Corinthians 11), where he lays down rules to regulate this part of their conduct while ministering in the Church.
Now, does a woman prophetess carrying the word of God have “authority” over a man? She does not have “authority” because she is a woman but because of the word she carries and preaches. Does a pastor have “authority” because he is a man? No, he has “authority” because of the position in which he functions and the word he preaches.

Now if we do distinguish between prophesy and preaching the gospel we must then deny women from proclaiming the good news. A woman could not recite John 3:16 to an unbeliever. But, again, in John 20:17, Jesus commands Mary to tell the male disciples that He has risen. In terms of Christianity, Mary was the first evangelist preacher.


Some have objected that though one can argue that scripture allows a woman to preach, prophecy, teach, have authority, and hold positions of minister, deacon, and elder, nevertheless, the verse of 1 Timothy 2:12 cannot be ignored. This is certainly true. Objectors state that this verse (or at least the traditional interpretation of this verse) outweighs all other verses that seem to contradict the traditional view of this verse. An appropriate analogy would be to argue that despite numerous versed to the contrary, Jesus was not deity because of Mark 10:17-18. These verses recall that when a man addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher,” Jesus responds to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” While this verse does not directly reject Jesus’ deity it implies that He is not good. Since He is not good and only God is good Jesus therefore is not God. Now one can take numerous verses from throughout the Bible giving evidence for Christ’s deity. One can build a case from the Gospel of Mark! But despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Jesus never directly identifies Himself as God and Mark 10:18 cannot be ignored. Now obviously few but the most liberal theologians would hold to this hermeneutic. To do so would be to stubbornly hold to a preconceived notion as authoritative like a life raft in a sea of authoritative contradictions. We cannot construct our theology around one verse. We certainly cannot build and teardown the lives of other Baptist ministers based on one verse. And if Scripture overwhelmingly contradicts our established interpretation of a verse, we must then call into question the validity of that established interpretation.

Susan Foh explains: “If the Biblical material is in the form of a command to the church as a whole … it ought to be seen as valid for all time. If there is nothing in text to indicate that a command is limited to a special case or circumstance, we cannot presume to limit the text or to read Paul’s mind.

Unfortunately, those who espouse this view are unable to carry it out. For example, five times Christians are commanded (in the imperative) in the New Testament to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” There is nothing in any of the contexts to indicate that this command is limited to special cases or circumstances. Yet traditional churches rarely carry out this command. Furthermore, those who believe that 1 Timothy 2:12 forever bars all women of all time from teaching or having authority over men usually ignore the commands in the other six verse in this section. This is a classic case of “selective literalism.” If this passage is universal for all Christian women of all time, then no woman should ever wear pearls or gold (including wedding rings) or have braided hair or expensive clothing.


Anonymous said...

The best line:

"Some complementarians appear to be on the verge of neo-orthodoxy. The objective word of God becomes real only when spoken subjectively by a man but not subjectively by a woman."

Robert L. Thompson

Anonymous said...

Fantastic work this writer is doing. I'm glad your dad sent you this. We are so quick to our conclusions without allowing the Spirit to work in our lives.

Lin said...

"The objective word of God becomes real only when spoken subjectively by a man but not subjectively by a woman."

Right. This has concerned me for quite a while. We seem to be giving more weight to the messenger than the message. The Word has the authority...not the messenger. But we are being taught in many SBC circles that the messenger has the authority.

We are losing the doctrine of the Holy Priesthood. We are ignoring it.

Anonymous said...

The Emperor-with-no-clothes part of this exposition is in the last section.

I am not an objector. This is an immediate characterization. I am an expositor. I do not mind if this text can be shown not to mean what it apparantly says, but I am interested in letting the Bible speak. So the word objector is prejudiced as a starter.

Everyone can see what Paul is writing and meaning. So then, we only have to determine its hermeneutical limitations.

It is NO argument to cite ignoring verse 9 as a reason to devalue verse 12 for although many contemporary American Christian women ignore this, the vast majority of Christian women have followed this instruction.

It is NO argument to use a comparison with Mark 10:17,18 where plainly Jesus is questioning, not criticizing, the man's statement. It is an absolute red herring.

Susan Foh's comment is hardly sourced from a reliable Bible exegete. But anyhow ignores the way Paul uses the creation narrative which is exactly why any treatment of verse 12 must take it seriously outside the immediate historical context. You would have to share Foh's ridiculous interpretations of Genesis to ignore this.

Scripture does not overwhelmingly contradict the traditional interpretation of this verse. Modern Western culture does.

The fundamental interpretive fallacy is to single out this text as though it were a rogue text when it is simply an applied extension of a Biblical norm. Thus the writer's arguments do have a validity in relation to the word 'silent' but not to appropriate expressions of the authority-submission principle.

Anonymous said...

I was not planning to comment again on these "Women in the Ministry" posts. I think my views and opinions on this subject are well known by now. However, I could not help but point out one glaring mistake in this author's article.

The writer says... "But despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Jesus never directly identifies Himself as God and Mark 10:18 cannot be ignored."

WHAT?! Has this author never read the Gospel of John?

John 8:57-59... "Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

John 10:30-33... "I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

John 14:6-9... "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father..."

I understand the author to say they fully believe in the diety of Christ, however, it certainly concerns me that they have never come across the verses where Jesus proclaims Himself as diety... and wonder out loud how thorough this study is.

Joe W.

Jon L. Estes said...

Lin: The Word has the authority...not the messenger

That is not always true. 2 Corinthians 10:8 shows us that Christ gives His people authority, not all people in all situations, granted, but the fact remains that Paul was given authority.

Paul also describes in this verse it is to be used for the edification of others not destruction.

I would firmly agree that there are many who use it incorrectly, as according to scripture. Yet to say that the messenger has no authority would not agree with scripture.

Such a statement as you make is using a wide brush to make a point which can not be supported by the bible.

Another supporting verse is Titus 2:15

Chris Johnson said...


I think the author is consistent in arguing for his/her stated theme, but in the process of the effort the author is trying desperately to form pretextualization on established biblical norms.

The author is making assumptions that are not required or exist in the text concerning Priscilla and Aquila. Both Priscilla and Aquila corrected Apollos. They, both, did teach him. That is how Luke gives us the sacred text. It’s not wrong on any account. The correction given to Apollos was for him to understand more clearly the doctrine of Christ and His church. And He did. That is excellent!

The silent testimony of onlookers in this event is deafening. Paul, who was certainly Spirit led Apostalically (aphorizō) concerning the problems with women teaching in Ephesus and Corinth (for well defined reasons), did not “have need” to correct in this situation. We must ask why. Luke was certainly aware of the order and authority given by God to the church for its edification. The biblical norm that God has provided for us is the general statement of Paul in 1 Corinthians….and echoed throughout scripture (resulting in the biblical norm).

1 Corinthians 11:1-3 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (2) Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. (3) But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

This statement by Paul is simply a generalization of a wonderful norm designed by God for His church in this world. The generalization leads to the rebuke, and is provided as the remedy not the restriction. He is simply stating that there is a normal God planned foundation for the church and her edification. His generalization does not preclude women from teaching men. God is simply giving this bizarre acting bunch of Corinthians the norm for His church…..then He (God) starts to articulate the problems through Paul in the balance of the letter, which demands disruptive and sinning women to be silent. (excellent rebuke for men and women that are disrupting the gospel of God). And if you read the Corinthian passage in context, you will find that women were not the only ones rebuked. Men were rebuked throughout as well. (for good reason)

So where is the truth concerning their (Priscilla and Aquila’s) actions. The scripture makes it overtly obvious. Priscilla and Aquila both were involved in helping Apollos get the message correct for the edification of the church. Did Priscilla go outside of what God has given for this edification and unity in the church? That is not a question to be argued for or argued against in the Acts 18 account.

Luke is clear that the work of the church was advanced by this encounter, and that Priscilla, (the woman) edified the church with her husband according the biblical norm. The biblical norm for authority in the work of the church was established long before this encounter.


wadeburleson.org said...


I would agree with your assessment of the gospel of John. I want to remind you, however, that the author of this series is not saying he does not believe Jesus is God - quite the contrary, he stakes his future life on his belief that Jesus is the unique God-man who came to die for sinners. It simply seems to be that you and I would have a different view of the words of Jesus in the gospel of John than the author of this post.

Once again, Christian people can see things in Scripture and come away with different conclusions - but it doesn't mean one side is 'liberal' and the other not.



wadeburleson.org said...


Good thoughts. Again, the discussion is healthy.

Bob Cleveland said...


I'll reiterate my old saw about this (and other stuff, albeit this demonstrates it better than most other stuff): One's position on these matters depends on which scripture you choose to ignore.

That's where it's handy to check out the example set by Jesus Himself.

Anonymous said...

Remember that when the women told the male disciples that Jesus was risen they did not believe them.

Some things become obvious if some of these anti-women ideas are taken to their logical conclusion. No more women schoolteachers. No more women police. In churces men would have to do all the Sunday School teaching. How many men would be willing to teach toddlers? Could a woman sing a solo in church? There is a lot of theology in hymns. And concerning hymns, why are there hymns by women in our hymnbooks if women are not to teach? And what about mothers and sons?

Either women are full human beings or you have to find a logical place to draw the line. So far no one has convinced me there is a logical place to draw that line.

There are differences between our culture and that of the first century. Disregarding that fact can lead to erroneous conclusions. Baptists (at least the ones I know of) don't make an issue of women covering their heads when they pray or prophesy (though many don't want them to pray or prophesy). They also apparently think the idea that women should not wear gold or pearls or braid their hair is first century cultural. Many don't want men to lift hands (holy or not) in prayer. Yet they take a verse in the same context as these and say it is valid for all time.

Wade, thank you for making this available, even though it seems to be falling on deaf ears (ok, blind eyes, since it is written not spoken).



Lin said...

"I would firmly agree that there are many who use it incorrectly, as according to scripture. Yet to say that the messenger has no authority would not agree with scripture."

So I guess the question is: Did Paul have authority because his message and praxis were of God or did he just have 'authority'?

Is the authority directly tied to the truth of scripture and bearing the Image of Christ?

I am also reminded that Paul described himself as a servant and was not a permanent fixture in any NT church although he did stay for a period of years in some. He also chose not to be a financial burden to the Body.

Christopher B. Harbin said...

It seems that too much of the argument against women's action in church life flies in the face of Jesus' actions in treating women with greater dignity and deference than the broader culture. The same holds true for Paul's words and actions. We read some texts and ignore the implications of others.

Are we not discussing this issue from a framework of legalism that Paul would find too similar to the discussions on circumcision, eating meat sacrificed to idols, and the proper day of worship?

I do not find in Jesus or Paul that God is interested in technicalities and setting some people aside as less worthy as servants to the Reign of Christ. "If these were silent, the rocks would cry out" seems a much closer understanding of who God is willing to use as a vessel of ministry, teaching, preaching, and prophecy.

We are missing the forest for the trees.

Christopher B. Harbin said...

I recently had a discussion with some Africa-American pastors who had problems with women as pastors. They had no qualms with women preaching, however. At issue for them was the role of pastor.

It seems like for them, as well, the issue is one regarding authority, power, and control.

Chris Johnson said...


I agree that it is extremely important to discuss these issues, because sinners are easily confused….and we are all sinners. (Every day)

It is interesting to me that some men and women alike will “pretend” the sky if always falling, ….or that somehow they may be kept from doing something that they would like to do in ministry as the church,….or that men may try to hold women down,….or men fear that women will try to takeover their jobs in ministry. All of those fears and exercisings are not at all what scripture is exposing,…. and the result fastly eliminates the simple fact of Priscilla and Aquila’s edification as effective ministers in the church.

I think someone has already established the fact that…

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

So there is no question “who” is the churches authority. There is also no question about the order of the “called out ones” (the church) as well. The question is laid back on those that serve…..which is ….are we willing to serve one another for the continuance of the gospel. That wasn’t a problem for Priscilla and Aquila and it shouldn’t be made out to be a problem for us today.

Colossians 3:12-24 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; (13) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (14) Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (15) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (17) Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (18) Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (19) Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. (20) Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (21) Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (22) Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. (23) Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, (24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Paul is always about the commission of the church to preach the gospel. He is rarely concerned with order in the way that we discuss order in our day, except in matters to correct abuse, confusion and sin. The Apostle Paul gently reminds us all (both men and women) of the normal order of the church with Christ as the authority. We serve Christ as we serve one another and bring unity to His body.


OC Hands said...

These discussions have been and continue to be very interesting. It seems to me that these arguments become relevant where the church has been established and has grown to a point near stagnation.
If we were all involved in world-wide evangelism where we saw people believing in Jesus in record numbers, perhaps it would not matter who discipled whom or shared the gospel with whom. The important thing then would be did it get done?
I can understand that we should adjust to cultural norms, but the necessity of sharing the gospel and making disciples must involve every member of the congregation--no matter how large or how small.
Conversely, when we begin to focus too much on correct doctrine, then our emphasis and fervor for missions and evangelism began to flag.
There are several historical examples of this, where the church became "settled" and its focus on outreach to all believers began to fade. Persecution set in, and the believers "went everywhere preaching the word." We can argue the merits of who or whom can and should be pastor or preach, but when that becomes the focus of our lives, then the spread of the gospel begins to wane.
The struggle to find a balanced approach to the gospel (or more accurately Christ) and culture has been an ongoing challenge for Christianity--from Jesus and Paul's day to the present. There will always be those who will say "Your disciples are not following our tradition" or "You can't be a genuine believer because you are eating and drinking with sinners."
IMHO it has more to do with a the focus of a person's ministry--and that has been displayed here over and over again. Is it doctrine over evangelism, or the reverse? My question is "Does it have to be either or or can it be both?"
Just a retired missionary's observations.

Christopher B. Harbin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher B. Harbin said...

“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mk 9:38-41.

Same issue, is it not? Disqualifying others from active service or ministry.

Anonymous said...

Chris Harbin,

You wrote... "Same issue, is it not? Disqualifying others from active service or ministry."

No... it is not.

Joe W.

greg.w.h said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg.w.h said...


I think half of the issue at hand is, indeed, the fact that people are using differing views on these Scriptures as a point of division. The verses you cite suggest to us that Jesus was willing to tolerate outliers as long as their central message was consistent with his.

The other half of the issue is the sense that the issue of male leadership was settled by the time of the Ecumenical Council of Nicea (all of the "voting" participants were male as far as I am aware) and that the effort to re-interpret these Scriptures is--to a certain extent--change for the sake of change.

I think the "complementarians" should be more sensitive to the first point (the one you made regarding Jesus's acceptance of witnesses that he didn't directly train) and the "egalitarians" should be more sensitive to the second one. What I call pride in both camps is the unwillingness to admit they are sensitive to the fervent and ACCURATE points of the other camp.

On the whole, though: to a great extent our American sense of what is "church" is strongly informed by our civil religion. The thought that we can be constrained to believing a particular viewpoint is anathema to that civil tradition. So we must consider how our ability to get along (or our refusal to do so) reflects--since we are ambassadors for Christ--on the Kingdom efforts that we have been commissioned to serve.

The fact that we all must be lawyers to interpret Scripture seems antithetical to Jesus's comment that we must come as children to enter the Kingdom. So while I admire the efforts on both sides to parse out-of-use koine Greek for shades and variations that support their views, I'd much rather we commit to loving one another as we were directly commanded by Jesus to do.

Will God then take care of the rest? I believe so. We certainly risk destroying our own faith--the one we had handed to us and that we are responsible for handing along to new believers--when we make such an intense effort to recreate the failed rabbinical system that eventually resulted in both the Kabbalah and strong dependence on numerology.

While I think it's admirable for a rabbi or preacher to be so studied that he can tell you the number of times a particular word occurs FROM MEMORY, I think it is behavior that ends up showcasing the person rather than the God. So while I am enjoying this series, I worry that it looks like that's the way we think we win the day for the Kingdom.

I'm not saying that the writer of this article is--by himself or herself--falling into this trap. I'm saying that the more we emphasize our credentials as inerrantists, the more likely we ALL are to fall into this trap. There must be some balance and some sense of proportion in trying to mine meaning from the words of Scripture. That the point of balance would treat Scripture as strongly trustworthy is a given. That we would depend heavily on arcane (i.e. "traditional") and ambiguous passages or words seems out of balance with the great calling that we have been given.

If our faith is alive, then we should always be ready to give an explanation ("defense") of what we believe. To require that the listener/disciple adhere exactly to our views seems awfully rigid and seems to put very little trust on the Holy Spirit for shaping and forming her/him into the believer that she/he should be.

Greg Harvey

Melanie W said...

Joe W.

Why do you feel that Chris Harbin's example was not appropriate?

Melanie Warren

Anonymous said...

Melanie Warren,

I believe the Word of God teaches us that the Lord's work MUST be done the Lord's way.

I am reminded of King David when he sought to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, and having seen the Philistines use a cart, placed the Ark on a new cart. When Uzza sought to steady the Ark and touched it, God killed him. David learned from this event that ends do not justify the means. David went back to transporting the Ark as God had instructed.

God's work must be done God's way. The chief duty of a servant, is not to serve, it is to obey the master. God greatly desires obedience, even more than service or sacrifice.

In the case Chris Harbin mentions, the scripture is clear, the person casting out demons was doing it God' way. Notice the phrase... "we saw someone casting out demons IN YOUR NAME..." These verses have little to nothing to do with Church structure, order, or qualifications for service or ministry. Rather, they further prove the fact, God's Work is to be done God's Way.

Joe W.

Unknown said...

I like the fact that the verse "If these were silent the rocks would cry out," was brought up in the comments. Kind of puts a different light on the "women must be silent in church," doesn't it?

leslie said...

thanks for this!

Anonymous said...


You wrote... "I like the fact that the verse "If these were silent the rocks would cry out," was brought up in the comments. Kind of puts a different light on the "women must be silent in church," doesn't it?"

Not really... that verse in context was speaking of praise and rejoicing, not pastoring.

Here it is in its full context... "And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."

Joe W.

Debbie Kaufman said...
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Debbie Kaufman said...

JoeW. How do you deal with the passages concerning women in Christ's ministry for example. They were a part of it according to the Bible, how does that fit with what you are saying?

believer333 said...

Good quote Chris ...

"“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for NO ONE who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 WHOEVER is not against us is for us."

I believe the inclusive choice of words was deliberate and not by accident. God is omniscient!

Dusman said...
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Dusman said...


I appreciate this series. While I do not give myself the label "egalitarian", I do believe that they are more biblical in their approach than complimentarians. As to 1st Tim. 2:11-12, here's my take on it based upon an article I wrote addressing some of these very issues:

"If you say that a woman can't pray publicly, prophesy (viz. preach), or speak a word of instruction in the church meeting, then you are causing Paul to contradict Paul, which is impossible. Although I see in Scripture evidence only for male eldership, I have no problem whatsoever with godly women teaching adult men true doctrine.

The 64 million dollar question is this: Where does the Law of Christ teach that it is a sin for a godly woman to teach true doctrine to adult males?

The usual rejoinder: What about 1 Tim. 2:11-12?

Thus, what follows is my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which will also include a friendly yet critical evaluation of the traditional, complementarian interpretation of this passage. My view is that Paul wants Timothy to silence a particular, unnamed woman in the Ephesian congregation who was teaching false doctrine to her husband so as to dominate (Gk. authentein) him with this false teaching. This explains the singular reference to "she" being saved (mistranslated as "women" in the NASB) through the birth of the Christ-child in verse 15 if "they" (i.e., the woman and her husband) continue in faith, love, and self-restraint. It is important to note that Paul commands Timothy to stop this singular woman from teaching falsely by first learning and receiving true Christian doctrine as a quiet and submissive listener (Gk. hesuchia in v. 11) before continuing to teach. The mention of "quiet" in verse 12 (hesuchia) ties back to the "quietly" (hesuchia) in verse 11. This repeat forms an inclusio in the original language and serves to tie these two thoughts together as expressed in verses 11 and 12. This means 1 Timothy 2:12 should not be discussed apart from the tight coupling with 1 Timothy 2:11. Of the two verses, verse 11 naturally takes prominence since it contains the imperative, thus indicating that this quietness is an active quietness; meaning, that this woman is to be silenced in regard to teaching falsely, but can actively ask questions appropriate for one in a position of submissively learning true Christian doctrine, just like any good student of Scripture. For greater exegetical detail and explanation of this position, see Jon Zens' article titled Are the Sisters Free to Function?

However, after much thought on this passage, it seems to be that to be consistent, if a brother takes a complementarian understanding of 1 Tim. 2:11-12, then Paul was preventing women from teaching men under all circumstances and therefore, we have Priscilla sinfully teaching Apollos the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). Also, the word order of names in the Greek and English text of Acts 18:26 has Priscilla's name first, suggesting that she took the lead in the teaching. Remember what Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:12 (lit. translation from Gk.), " But I am not presently allowing a woman to teach nor to dominate/rule over a man." This means that she not only is not to "dominate/rule over" as a pastor/elder/overseer (which as you know, nobody should ever do in the first place!), but that a woman cannot teach men at all since Paul used the negation particles ouk and oude translated usually "neither . . . nor" respectively.

And so, under a classic traditionalist understanding of 1 Tim. 2:12, she cannot instruct a man under any circumstances, whether in a church meeting, off to the side in an informal conversation, nor as a seminary professor. Thus, I think that the traditional understanding of this verse causes the Bible to necessarily appear as if it is contradicting itself per Priscilla's teaching of Apollos in Acts 18:26 (and other passages), even if her husband Aquila was there with her. Remember, Paul said, "I am not presently allowing a woman to teach nor dominate a man . . ." It seems that if a traditionalist interpretation is taken, then this is a clear blanket passage that prevents a godly Christian woman from teaching true doctrine to adult men. Where does the Bible have a law prohibiting this? I believe this is a large inconsistency in the complementarian understanding of 1 Tim. 2:11-12 and as you know, inconsistency is one of the signs of a failed argument.

Again, the 64 million dollar question is this: Does God consider it a sin for a woman to teach true doctrine to a man under any circumstance? Again, if I hold to a complementarian position on 1 Tim. 2:11-12, my opinion is that I'd be forced to say yes, and that is so awkward, foreign, and inconsistent when compared to what I observe occurring in the rest of the NT (i.e., Acts 18:26; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5, and 1 Cor. 14:26ff.).

However, I wonder if the traditional interpretation of this passage (and others) developed after institutionalized, hierarchicalism manifested itself in what I call the great "church office syndrome." There is no warrant for the idea of inserting the concept of "church office" with its authoritarian, dominating, dictatorship understanding into the NT meaning of the function and gifting of an elder/overseer/pastor. My view is that this is probably one of the root problems associated with traditional complementarianism. When you realize that spiritual leaders in the NT churches are to have the "authority" of servants (Matt. 20:25-27; 23:8-12; Mk. 10:42-44), then you realize that the entire idea of anybody, whether male or female, "exercising authority over/dominating" anybody else is absolutely ridiculous and sinful in the first place. And so, I believe that the complementarian/traditional interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 is, after careful study and review, filled with contradiction because it is based on many widely-varying, almost-arbitrary practical applications of that one verse. Let's review it again:

1 Timothy 2:12 "But I am not presently allowing a woman to teach neither dominate a man, but to remain in quietness." [my translation from the Greek text].

If women can't teach men, what can they teach? Greek? Hebrew? Church history? Sunday school? And at what age do boys become men? Can a woman teach 12 year olds? 18 year olds? 21 year olds? When does it become unbiblical? Some have said when boys start getting hair under their arms. At that point, no more women Bible teachers. Should we do armpit checks starting at age 11?

Others say it is legitimate for a woman to teach if her husband is right beside her "on stage" with her so that she is teaching "under his authority" taking their cue from Acts 18:26. Others say it is fine for her to teach as long as he is in the front row. Of course, they are forgetting that if they take a complementarian/traditionalist view of 1 Tim. 2:11-12, then a woman cannot teach a man under any circumstances whatsoever because the grammar of the passage (assuming complementarianism) not only assumes the prohibition of "exercising authority" [a translation that doesn't capture the exact force of authentein] in a formal capacity, but she is also prohibited from teaching in an informal setting as well. Remember, if the complementarian position is assumed, in my best estimation, it seems that this interpretation would naturally force a both/and situation indicated by the "not . . . neither" [ouk . . . oude] from the grammar of the text.

1 Timothy 2:12 "But I am not presently allowing a woman to teach neither dominate a man, but to remain in quietness." [my translation from the Greek text].

One of my favorite NT systematic theologians also provides one of my favorite examples of how the traditional, complementarian view of 1 Tim. 2:11-12 reduces itself to absurdity. Wayne Grudem wrote an article titled "But What Should Women Do in the Church?" I believe that taking Dr. Grudem's position on 1 Tim. 2:12 makes it very difficult to figure out how to apply this one verse to everything women do in the church today, but he sure tries to give it his best effort. His attempt at application reveals to me how absurd the position is.

In what follows we have a great practical example of how bad theology gone to seed creates absurdity that hurts people's lives for the good. I have placed links to a few articles in newspapers about a dear sister at Taylor University named Sheri Klouda. Sheri was let go from her professorship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) not because she was a poor Hebrew teacher, not because she was creating problems within the administration, but because she didn't have a penis.

Professor Says Seminary Dismissed Her Over Gender (NY Times)

Pastor/Blogger Says Hebrew Prof's Gender Cost Her Tenure at Seminary

Southwestern Baptist's board chair calls hiring a "momentary lax of the parameters." (Christianity Today)

Sheri Klouda surprised at fallout from her 'removal' at Southwestern (Associated Baptist Press)

Prof: Seminary made her leave because women can't teach men (Star-Telegram)

I applaud Wade Burleson for openly publicizing on this blog how SBC higher ups tried to keep Sheri's story "under wraps". See Wade's blog here and do a search for "Sheri Klouda." As you can imagine with most things SBC, its high drama; high drama that was made worse for the SBC because Sheri's husband is disabled and unable to work, and so Sheri was "let go" on a single-income family. Oops. In leadership, when you make a mistake, the very best approach is to quickly apologize, be clear, and try to make it right. It is one thing to make a mistake, it is another thing to try to cover it up so as to save your bureaucratic hide for the sake of preserving your bad theology. My view is that this nasty situation is simply bad theology gone to seed. That's why it is hard to present a united front on institutional issues related to an SBC seminary when you are on shaky ground theologically."

Christopher B. Harbin said...

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the childk to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Lk 2:36-38.

We have a woman prophet, unattached to any male, yet established as a model in proclaiming hope (good news) to those awaiting redemption.

When his parentsl saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Lk 2:48-51.

We have Jesus come of age (c. 13), placing himself in subjection to the authority of BOTH his parents. In his teens, anyway, he has no problem with his mother's authority over him.

3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Jn 2:3-5.

Now as Jesus begins his ministry, he questions his mother's comments regarding directing him to provide wine. Even so, he submits to her direction and performs this first public miracle.

If Jesus submits to a woman, even at age 30, how can we say that Paul's words in 1 Tim override Jesus' example and prohibit women to 1) exercise authority over males; 2) speak words of direction to males (even adult); 3) be disallowed to direct others of inferior status to Jesus?

14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 2:14-16.

In relation to women, the larger society around us has recognized that it is wrong to denigrate women as inferior to men. When we hold onto such a view despite Biblical evidence that God holds women and men and Greeks and Jews and Gentiles and slaves and free in equality before His love, how can we stand to face the world who has turned to live by a higher ethical standard than we have settled on? There is much more Biblical evidence for placing women on an equal plane with men than the few verses that address cultural norms subjugating women in Paul's day.

Lin said...

"However, I wonder if the traditional interpretation of this passage (and others) developed after institutionalized, hierarchicalism manifested itself in what I call the great "church office syndrome." There is no warrant for the idea of inserting the concept of "church office" with its authoritarian, dominating, dictatorship understanding into the NT meaning of the function and gifting of an elder/overseer/pastor. My view is that this is probably one of the root problems associated with traditional complementarianism. When you realize that spiritual leaders in the NT churches are to have the "authority" of servants (Matt. 20:25-27; 23:8-12; Mk. 10:42-44), then you realize that the entire idea of anybody, whether male or female, "exercising authority over/dominating" anybody else is absolutely ridiculous and sinful in the first place."

This is exactly right. This whole issue begins and ends with a distorted view of NT Biblical 'authority'. For example, an elder will obviously bear the Image of Christ and will be seen as someone mature in the faith. He will be someone who cares for the souls in the Body.

Your whole comment was right on and exhibits many of the conclusions I have come to for 1 Timothy 2.

I think the passage and in particular one verse that really seals all of this for us is 1 Corinthians 14:36

36Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

(The ISV has the most accurate translation of this verse)

Paul is literally negating verses 34&35 here. He is being sarcastic.

How could it be anything else since there is NO law that prohibits a woman speaking in church. Where is the law that says this? It is not in the OT or NT. God is NEVER vague about commands or laws.

But this law IS found in the Talmud almost word for word.

So what is up with that? Could it be that Paul is quoting back to them something being taught in that church that is not right? or something someone asked? We know another quote in Chp 10 refers back to something they asked him. Could it be that these below are quotes:

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 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. 35If 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.

...and Paul answers in verse 36 with sarcasm.

Look at verse 37 and he keeps on from verse 36 by explaining that ANYONE who thinks they are a prophet or spiritual should see what he writes as command and if they do not recognize this they are not to be recognized:

37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

It could very well be that NOT allowing fellow believers, who happen to be women, to preach/ teach men is a sin. (GASP)

He is saying they are NOT to be recognized.

How else could this be understood since:L

1. There is NO law in the OT or NT concerning this so Paul is NOT referring to the Word. (It is a law in the Talmud which we KNOW Paul would not agree with)

2. Verse 36 is complete sarcasm and the Greek used denotes a negation of the previous verse. He says, What? Are you serious? God gave only the Word to YOU?

Verse 36 throws a monkey wrench into the belief that this passage commands that women not teach men

Anonymous said...

Joe W. wrote, "The writer says... "But despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Jesus never directly identifies Himself as God and Mark 10:18 cannot be ignored."

WHAT?! Has this author never read the Gospel of John?"

I think the key word in that was "directly". The author is saying, "Jesus never stood up and said, 'Hey guys, let me clue you in, I'm God, OK?'" Jesus implied it many times. He used many euphemisms such as the "I am" quote and made strong allusions such as the "the Father and I are one/you've seen Me so you've seen the Father" quote.

But He never said, "I am God."

The author's point being, you can say, "Jesus never specifically says, "I am God," and here appears to deny His deity." A better two verse combo would be Hebrews 4:15 ("For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.") and James 1:13 ("When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;") This appears to say that since Jesus was tempted (like us) and God cannot be tempted, He wasn't God.
We know this to be fallacious logic, but that is the authors point!

The Bible (NT in particular) seems to imply women in ministry roles (Phoebe, Lydia, Priscilla, Tabitha Lois and Eunice, etc,) and this verse seems to say, "women can't." For the author, these are similarly ridiculous. In the authors opinion, it would seem, there is more weight to the implications of ministry than to the one verse prohibition, and thus, the verse must be misinterpreted.

That's how I read it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Joe W., I'm not trying to pick on you, but we seem to read people's postings in very different ways.

You wrote, "In the case Chris Harbin mentions, the scripture is clear, the person casting out demons was doing it God' way. Notice the phrase... "we saw someone casting out demons IN YOUR NAME..." These verses have little to nothing to do with Church structure, order, or qualifications for service or ministry. Rather, they further prove the fact, God's Work is to be done God's Way."

I read Chris to be focused not on Jesus saying, "Do it God's way," (which I agree is what He is saying, but rather to be focusing on followers of Jesus (much like us) trying to prevent others from sharing the Good News. In that case, I would agree it is the same issue. Here we stand saying, "I heard about a woman preaching in Your name and I stopped her."

The real question would be, "What is Jesus' response to this?" And that seems to be very cloudy as both "camps" seem to have made good points.

In all, I see more inconsistency created when 1 Tim 2:12 is taken as a church-wide, all-time mandate than if it is taken as Paul's advice to a young pastor dealing with a matriarch in the congregation. That is, so far...