Friday, February 22, 2013

Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women

Cultish behavior gives me the heebie-jeebies. A cult is defined as a group of people who follow a particular system of religious behavior established by an authoritative or revered person. Lest someone argue that Christianity is a cult, remember that Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Jesus frees people, cult leaders bind people. Jesus speaks truth to people, cult leaders lie to people. Jesus empowers people, cult leaders oppress people. Christianity is not a cult nor is Jesus a cult leader. He saves His people from systems that bind.

Some Christian men, however, have set themselves up as authorities in the institutional church and implemented systems of control that turn pockets of evangelicalism into cultism. This is what gives me the heebie-jeebies. The most prominent example of cultism within evangelical Christianity is the system of behavior imposed on women within the ekklessia (assembly) of Christ. Christian women are told by some authoritative church leaders that "women must never teach men; women must be silent in the assembly; women  must not have any authority over men, and women should seek to be passive servants to, and receivers of, male leadership, but should never exhibit characteristics of vibrant leadership when males are present." This system of behavior for women is cultic; for it is definitely not Christian nor is it consistent with the teachings of Scripture.

The Scriptures and the Freedom of Women

The New Testament gives many examples of women teaching men (cf. Luke 2:25-38; Acts 21:9John 4:28-29). Women served as deaconia in the early church (cf. Romans 16:1-2). Women were co-laborers with men in Christ's kingdom (cf. Romans 16:3) and at least one of Christ's apostles was a woman (cf. Romans 16:7). Males and females accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly ministry (cf. Luke 8:1-3).  Gifted men and women spread the good news of the kingdomGod first used women to preach (proclaim) the resurrection of His Son (cf. John 20:1-2). Male disciples later proclaimed the resurrected Christ in the same manner female disciples first preached Him (cf.  Luke 24:1-11). Women in the upper room at Pentecost received the same Spirit and the same gifts as men (cf. Acts 1:14-15). God is emphatic that in the days of the New Covenant both males and females will prophesy of Him (cf. Acts 2:17-18). The Apostle Paul encouraged men and women to teach, to pray and to fully participate in the assembly (cf. I Corinthians 11:4-5 and I Corinthians 14:23-24).

God clearly reveals to us that Christian men and women should serve as they are gifted by the Spirit. Any imposed restrictions on women speaking, teaching, or leading in the assembly of Christ is contrary to inspired revelation of God's word. So if the New Testament teaches that men and women are gifted by the Spirit to do the work of the kingdom, why do some put a system of restrictions on women, a system totally contrary to the overall tenor and explicit teachings of holy Scripture?

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Several years ago I was called by the Tulsa Police Department to a home where a young man committed suicide by cutting of his right hand with a pocket knife and bleeding out. We found him dead with his head slumped to his chest and a pool of blood at his feet. Before the young man died he laid his pocket knife on the middle of an open Bible with these words underlined: "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell" (Matthew 5:30).

I will never forget the gruesomeness of discovering the young man's right hand in a trash can, nor the words of the lieutenant as he walked around the room muttering under his breath, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." We were later told that the man had struggled for years with pornography and masturbation. The man took the words of the Bible and obeyed them. However, there is something mighty stupid about a man who reads Scripture and acts on words without taking time to look at their meaning, particularly when the overall tenor and teaching of Scripture is opposite of the action he is compelled to take!

If anybody ever tells you that women should never teach men, or that women should never be in leadership over men, or that women should be silent around men, then you should mutter under your breath, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." These people, well intentioned as they may be, are committing spiritual suicide by acting on words of Scripture without looking at their meaning. The system they seek to impose is opposite to the overall tenor and teachings of Scripture on the subject of women (see above). Here are the words some commit spiritual suicide over:
"In like manner also, see that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."( I Timothy 2:9-15: emphasis mine)
I recently had a Christian man paraphrase for me  I Timothy 2:9-15 and then tell me, "I will never have a woman lead me, teach me, or allow myself to be in a position where women usurp my authority over them because I believe the Bible!My friend has the problem of reading words of Scripture and acting on them without taking time to understand their meaning.

Until you understand the problem Timothy faced (the man to whom the words in I Timothy 2:9-15 are written), and until you are familiar with Ephesus (the place where Timothy lived), and until you have a working knowledge of the Amazons (the warrior women that the ancient Greeks believed founded Ephesus), and until you comprehend the influence of the cult of Artemis and the Temple of Artemis which was in Ephesus, the meaning of the Apostle Paul's words will never be rightly understood.  F. F. Bruce once wrote, "Subjugation of a woman is a system of man's fallen nature. If the work of Christ involves... breaking the fall, then the implication of His work for the liberation of women is plain." Jesus Christ came to liberate subjugated women. The cultism in evangelicalism regarding women's behaviors will only be broken when people lay aside stupid, false obedience to I Timothy 2:9-14 and realize the meaning of Paul's words to Timothy.

Ephesus and The Temple of Artemis

Rachelle and I will be with a group of friends in ancient Ephesus (located in southwest Turkey) next month. One of the reasons I am excited to be there is because Ephesus is the location of the most magnificent of the Seven Wonders of the World--The Temple of Artemis.

This is the first temple in the world made completely of marble. The richest man in the world in his day, King Croesus (595-547 B.C.) of Lydia (modern Turkey), ordered the Temple of Artemis be constructed in honor of the Greek goddess Artemis. Work on the Temple of Artemis began in 550 B.C. and took over a century to complete. King Croesus lived long enough to stuff the foundation of the Temple of Artemis with tens of thousands of gold coins to serve as talismans, ensuring the Temple's protection from destruction. Generations of people, even in America, have used the phrase "Rich as Croesus" to describe wealthy people in their day. King Croesus is given credit by many historians as the inventor of cold and silver coinage. His wealth is legendary, and he gave his riches to fund the building of the Temple in Artemis.  Croesus was a contemporary of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire. Cyrus was the king who defeated the Babylonians, freeing the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, enabling them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild Solomon's Temple.  Therefore, the Temple of Artemis and the Second Temple in Jerusalem were built during the same time period (the 6th century B.C.).

However, it was only the Temple of Artemis that became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World because of its stunning beauty. The Temple of Artemis was a temple dedicated to the power, beauty and strength of women. Marble artesians from all over the world carved Amazon women into the base of the 120 columns. Amazons were "warrior women" from an area north of Ephesus and the Black Sea (modern Ukraine). These Amazon women were known for their fierce fighting ability and had been made famous by the Greek poet Homer in his portrayal of them in The Iliad.

Homer (c. 750 B.C.) also gave tribute in The Iliad to Artemis, the Greek goddess of women and of war. Artemis is called by Homer "Artemis the Hunter, Queen of the Wild Beasts" (Iliad 21.470). Artemis is also presented as the goddess Phosphorous or Light (Strabo, Geo. 1.9.). If worshipped properly and prayed to during childbirth, Artemis promised to deliver women from death while giving birth. For this reason, women in the ancient world revered and worshipped Artemis. Likewise, men worshipped Artemis during times of battle and war. Since the ancient world was always at war, Artemis was often on the lips of men during times of battle. The Greek men (and later the Romans) prayed to Artemis (the Romans called her Diana), not Apollo in time of battle. In Greek mythology, Zeus fathered the twins Artemis and Apollo through the Titaness Leto. The Artemus cult taught that Artemis was superior to Apollo because she came (was born) born first.

When men and women entered the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the women would wear fancy hair braids, bedeck themselves with jewelry and ornate clothes as they prayed to Artemis. Heliodorus said, "Their locks of hairs carry their prayers." There were no sacrifices in this Temple. The women worshipped Artemis with their clothing, jewelry, and their words. Artemis, in turn, gave them their sexual prowess over men and their deliverance during childbirth. Likewise, men came to Artemis, acknowledging their need of her strength during time of war. The men would hold up hands, palms up, just above their waist as they prayed for victory in battle. Not surprisingly Ephesus, above all other places in the ancient world, celebrated the power, strength and beauty of women and their ability to use their sexual prowess to manipulate and dominate men. The Temple operations, which included prostitution and craftsmen who sold gold and silver idols of Artemis, drove the economy of Ephesus. Hundreds of thousands of people visited the city annually.

Paul and Timothy's Presence in Ephesus in the Midst of the Artemis Cult

Acts 18:24 through Acts 20:1 records for us that Paul and Timothy spent three years in Ephesus (c. A.D. 55-58), by far the longest time Paul spent in any one city during his three missionary journeys. Paul almost lost his life during a riot in the city because silversmiths who made little statues of the goddess Artemis were upset that Paul and Timothy were cutting into their business by winning converts to Christianity. Paul would later write in I Corinthians 15:32 that he "fought wild beasts at Ephesus."  Did he fight lions, tigers and bears? No, the wild beasts were the people of Ephesus who were devoted to Artemis, "The Queen of the Wild Beasts."  When Paul left Ephesus in A.D. 58, he traveled south for about 30 miles to the island of Miletus and then called for wise leaders of the church in Ephesus to join him at Miletus where he said to them, "After I leave, savage wolves will come among you and will not spare the flock. Even some among you will arise and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them" (cf. Acts 20:29-30).

Sure enough, less than five years later (A.D. 63)  the Christians in Ephesus were in trouble. There were some women or maybe even a single woman, most likely a new convert out of the Artemis cult, who had begun to teach false truth in the assembly at Ephesus. Timothy is sent to Ephesus to help the church and give some correction. Timothy sends to Paul a letter from Ephesus, giving Paul an update on what is happening and asking some specific questions about how he should proceed (a letter that is not extant). The Apostle Paul sends a response to Timothy, a letter we now call I Timothy. It's important to remember (as we have seen) that nowhere in Scripture does Jesus, Paul or any other apostle restrict women in the assembly. In fact, when a false teacher nicknamed Jezebel begins to have influence among believers in the city of Thyatira, Jesus does not reprimand the church for having a female teacher, but rather He upraids the church for not doing anything about her false teaching (cf. Revelation 2:24).

The Meaning of I Timothy 2:9-15

Now, let's put up I Timothy 2:9-15 again in order to discover the meaning of the words in light of what we know about the Artemis cult in Ephesus:
"In like manner also, see that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."( I Timothy 2:9-15)
(1). "Let the woman adorn themselves in modest apparel" (v. 9).

Obviously, there were women coming to the assembly of Christ in Ephesus similar to the way they used to go to the Temple of Artemis, dressed to kill, with braided hair, gold, pearls and fine clothing. Paul is letting Timothy know that this mode of dress, particularly in the city of Ephesus, was not conducive to the worship of Christ. What Christ desires is the beauty of goodness toward others, not the drawing attention to oneself in public.

(2). "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection" (v. 11).

The reason I believe the problem in Ephesus is a particular woman who is in a teaching position within the assembly of Christ is because the noun "woman" is in the singular, not the plural. In verses 9 and 10, women is in the plural, but in verse 11, Paul switches to "the woman" or possibly that woman about whom Timothy has written Paul. It can't be a universal prohibition for all time against all women ever teaching men in the assembly because (a). That would violate the tenor and teaching of the rest of Scripture where women frequently taught men, and (b). Paul has elsewhere encouraged men and women to teach, to pray and to fully participate in the assembly as they are gifted (cf. I Corinthians 11:4-5 and I Corinthians 14:23-24).

Further, the word translated silence is hesuchia (quietness). It is used in I Timothy 2:2 to describe what the character of every believer should be, both males and females. It never means "don't speak," but addresses the character of humility. This woman in Ephesus, coming out of a society saturated with the power, strength, abilities and even domination of women through the Artemis cult, needed to realize that she had a great deal to learn about Christ and His kingdom.

(3). "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" (v. 12).

This is the key phrase. First, the phrase translated "I suffer not a woman to teach" is literally in the tense of "I am not now permitting a woman to teach." Again, the woman not now permitted to teach is in the singular. It is the same woman of verse 11. This woman needs to learn in quiet humility before she ever presumes to teach, because she is still too influenced by Artemis cultic beliefs. This verse can NEVER be used as a proof text for women never teaching men or having "authority" over men.

(a). Deborah gave counsel and taught men and women about the Law of God (cf. Judges 2:16-19; 4:1-5:31). Huldah prophesied to Israel the word of the Lord and led the men of Israel (2 Kings 22:14-20). Priscilla and Aquila explained more perfectly to Apollos the way of God in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:19-26). Most importantly, when Jezebel was teaching error to the church in Thyatira, Jesus never once told the church they were wrong for having a woman teach or lead them; He simply said they were wrong for not rejecting her false teaching (Revelation 2:18-29).

(b). "I suffer not a woman .... to usurp authority over the man" (v. 13).

This phrase "usurp authority" translates one Greek word authentein. This word is used only one time in all of Scripture--let me repeat that again--this word authentein is used only once in the entire Bible, right here in I Timothy 2:12. This word was used, however, in classical Greek literature and it meant "to murder someone." Paul could have chosen nearly fifty Greek words to speak of the ordinary exercise of authority, but he chose a word that more represents someone "dominating, controlling, or subjecting one to harm." Of course, this is precisely what the Artemis cult taught women to do. Artemis was the female goddess of fertility and war. Women in Ephesus were taught to use their voices, their charm, their sexuality and their beauty to dominate, control and subjugate men. It seems that this woman in Ephesus was causing trouble in the church by behavior in the assembly of Christ that was way too similar to the ways of the Artemis cult from whence she came.

(4). "For Adam was formed first, then Eve."

Timothy, tell the woman causing problems that her notion she should always have the floor and direct the assembly because she believes women are superior to men--since Artemis came first and Apollo came second--is a misguided belief. The truth is God created man first then He formed Eve from Adam, so it is very appropriate for her, a woman who considers herself a descendent of the Amazons, to sit quietly and learn from those who are older and wiser, even if they are males! Artemis taught the power of women to dominate men through sexual prowess, but Christ teaches that men are equal to women and there's nothing wrong with a woman learning from others (even men) before she begins to teach men.

(5). "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (v. 14).

And Timothy, remind her that the Scriptures teach that Eve was decieved. Contrary to what she learned in the Temple of Artemis, males are not always her problem. To be deceived and in need of correction is just as much a possibility for her as it was for Eve. She must move away from her belief in female superiority, a belief reinforced by the Artemis cult.

(6). "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (v. 15).

Timothy, tell this woman that she will be okay during childbirth, even if she totally and fully renounces her trust in Artemis. Yes, she lives in a culture that teaches Artemis alone saves a woman from death during childbirth, but the truth is Christ holds the keys of life and death. When women continue in faith, hope and love--avoiding the sexual immodesty and looseness on display in the Temple of Artemis and the worship of the goddess of fertility and war--it will be the one true God who delivers them from death during childbirth, not Artemis.

(7). And finally, Timothy, I wrote this letter to help you with the problems in the assembly in honor of "Him who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see" (I Timothy 6:16).

The people of Ephesus called Artemis the goddess of Light. The men approached Artemis in the Temple with hands raised above their waist praying for victory in battle and in war. Paul reminded Timothy in this same chapter that Christian men should approach Christ in worship with their hands raised and pray for peace with all men, not war. (Timothy 2:5). Christian women, come before Christ with a sense of modesty and humility, realizing that the ways of Christ are opposite of the ways of Artemis. Paul's entire personal letter to Timothy was an encouragement to him to "fight the wild beasts of Ephesus" and be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and correct the errors brought into the church by "savage wolves" who were remaining under the influence of Artemis theology.

In Conclusion

I recently read a comment from a reader on Wartburg Watch named HoppyTheToad, a female believer in Christ who commented about a previous church experience she and her husband had:

"We spent five years at a church filled with gender role nonsense. It has a way of making women paranoid about their actions, lest they be perceived as being a domineering woman. One of the chuch elders took Mr. Hoppy aside one day while at work. He wanted to know about that status of our marriage because I seemed too interested in discussing theology on our church email loop. Women were completely forbidden from speaking in the (very participatory) service, including the one day that all the men except one were at a retreat. (We couldn’t even make announcements about the church garage sale.)
While women were allowed to discuss theology elsewhere, I guess I must’ve broken some unspoken rules. I would often be the only women in a group of men standing around discussing theology. Occasionally joining a discussion on the church email loop somehow led this elder into assuming Mr. Hoppy must be very displeased to have such a “domineering wife.” He defended me as best he could. By the time we baled out of that church, yes, the elders were sitting around at lunch with their wives discussing what a “domineering” wife I am."
Mrs. HoppyTheToad, I have a solution for your dilemma should you find yourself in a similar situation again:

(1). Walk around the church seven times and shout "Stupid, Stupid, Stupid."
(2). Print this blog post and ask your pastor if you can read it before the assembly.
(3). Realize that by understanding the meaning of I Timothy 2 spiritual suicide is prevented in those assemblies who desire to place cultic restrictions on women.

A lack of understanding of Artemis may well be the end of western evangelicalism's effectiveness, but the rivers won't run and the sun won't shine before I let that happen within my small sphere of influence.