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

A Biblical Defense of Gifted Women Ministering and Leading In Our Southern Baptist Churches

Among Bible-believing Southern Baptists, there are differing interpretations of the Scripture regarding women in leadership roles at local Southern Baptist Churches. 

Some Southern Baptists believe that the biblical qualifications for church leadership are a person’s giftedness and personal character with no restrictions because of that person’s gender or professional credentials (or lack thereof). 

Others believe that only males with ordination credentials can be in leadership positions in Southern Baptist churches and that any church who has women in leadership roles – or that ordains women and gives professional credentials to them -  is violating the Scriptures.

This paper is offered as a biblical defense for any Southern Baptist church that chooses to allow a gifted woman of Christian character to serve, lead, and minister in areas of service where a similarly gifted man of Christian character can also serve, lead, and minister.

 Initial Questions:

1. Won’t allowing a gifted woman of character to lead others in a Southern Baptist church be a violation of The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message? Answer: No.

“While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men...” (Section VI. The Church)

The New Testament sacred text never uses the word “office” to describe the gift of shepherding or pastoring. As long as a Southern Baptist church refuses to recognize "the office of pastor" - meaning an office of authority - then there is no violation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message because an "office" of authority doesn't exist in that church. The New Testament ministry of shepherding and discipling followers of Jesus Christ is a verb of service, not a noun of status. People who “hold offices” in society rule over others with authority, something that is directly forbidden by Jesus Christ for His disciples (Matt. 20:25-28). According to the teaching and the examples that are given to us in God's Word, both gifted men and women of character can humbly shepherd, teach, guide and pastor Christ’s people. However, no Christian, be it male or female, can "rule" over anyone else in the church through an "office of authority" per Jesus' command.

Therefore, if neither men nor women in the church are given this imaginary “office of authority,” then both men and women can shepherd others as gifted and not violate the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Gifted Christians of both genders can pastor (think 'verb') and shepherd children, youth, young adults, senior adults, or the entire church body as the Spirit leads. God gifts His people and the church recognizes and affirms the character of those gifted to lead, setting them aside for this service. The artificial division of "Senior Pastor" or "Lead Pastor" made by church congregations is sometimes practical and helpful when it comes to organizational structure, but it has no basis in Scripture and there is certainly no "office of authority" for that position either. In addition, the Spirit never limits His gifts according to gender (see I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4). 

2. Isn’t it important that all Southern Baptists agree on women in church leadership? Answer: No.

Among Bible-affirming, evangelical Southern Baptist churches, there is not a clear consensus of interpretation on the Biblical passages related to women in ministry. But this isn’t the only tertiary position where there is no consensus among Southern Baptists. For example, Southern Baptists disagree on the coming of Jesus Christ. Many are dispensational, others are historic premillennial, and even others are amillennial or postmillennial. Interestingly, dispensational Southern Baptists believe and teach Daniel 9:24-27 is about the Anti-Christ, while others (historic premillennial, amillennial, and post-millennial Southern Baptists)  believe Daniel 9:24-27 is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. If Southern Baptists can fellowship with one another while disagreeing over whether a text is about the Anti-Christ or Jesus Christ, then surely we can fellowship even though we disagree over the sacred texts regarding both men and women proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Healthy churches exist on both sides of this issue and no core Christian doctrines are threatened or distorted by either position.

3. Won't affirming women in leadership lead to an affirmation of homosexual behavior? Answer: No.

The Bible never gives approval to homosexual behavior. Rather, there is only condemnation of the conduct with expressions of love for the individuals in need of repentance from such conduct. To oppose the promotion of biblical gender equality with statements that it leads to the promotion and approbation of homosexual behavior is a non sequitur

Bible-believing Christian men and women who believe in gender equality see a shared mirror which reflects God’s image to a fallen world, an image that is only the full-orbed image of God when reflected in the equality of both genders. In addition, adherents of biblical gender equality recognize a shared mandate to fill the earth (pro-creation) and rule over it (lex-creation). Finally, all evangelical Christians believe in a shared mission to declare Jesus Christ and His love to the nations (The Great Commission). So Christian men and women share their gifts, their talents, their service, and their ministry with the church (ekklesia) of Christ. 

Acts that lead to gender equality are part of the Creative order and are biblically commanded; acts that lead to homosexual behavior are not part of the Creative order and are biblically condemned.

4. Are there proper descriptive words that can identify the two sides of this issue? Answer: No.

The extent to which women can minister, serve, and lead in Southern Baptist churches is a divisive issue, and over time two words have been coined to describe the two differing positions. The first word coined, complementarianism, suggest that God created men and women to complement each other, but their roles in the church, home, and society must always remain different. The second word coined, egalitarianism, suggests that God created men and women equal in all aspects, including their ability to lead others.

Both words may be necessary for dialogue, but they fall short in accuracy. All Southern Baptist egalitarians will tell you they believe men and women complement one another, and all complementarians will tell you they believe in the equality of men and women.  

The issue is not so much gender as it is the unbiblical view of hierarchal authoritarianism.

Neither Christian men or women,  according to the teachings of Jesus, are ever to rule over anyone else in the home or church.


The Creation Account

 1. Genesis 1:26-28 affirms that God’s original intent in His new and perfect creation was for male and female as a unit to be seen as the image of God and to exercise co-rulership over creation. “Then God said, ‘Let US make MAN in OUR own image, in OUR likeness, and let THEM rule…over all the earth. So God created MAN in His own image, in the image of God He created MAN, male and female He created THEM. God blessed THEM and said to THEM, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule…over every living thing.” (See also Genesis 5:2)

 2. When the Lord specifically speaks of the creation of woman and her role in relation to man, He describes the woman twice (Genesis 3:18, 20) as a “helper suitable to him,” and creates the woman from his side (not his head or foot). The key word in these passages is the Hebrew term “helper”—what does it imply? It cannot imply an inferiority of status or subservience since the same Hebrew term is applied to God to describe His relationship with Israel (Psalm 33:20; 70:5).

 3. After sin comes in, God declares the “Adamic curse” = God’s pronouncement of a curse first upon the serpent, then the woman and finally the man in Genesis 3:14-19. Only then does God declare, along with many other tragic consequences of sin (such as intense pain, hardship and ultimately death), that for the woman “your desire will be (“for” or “to control”) your husband.” But instead “he will rule over you." This "rule over you" represents the destruction of the Creative order where God original united the man and the woman in co-rulership over the earth pictured in Genesis 1:26-28.

 Note: Complementarians believe that male “rulership” is now the normative ideal until the Second Coming to protect the woman’s unique role in the home and society. Egalitarians believe this status of ruled and ruler is part of the fallen creation that, like the rest of this curse, should begin to be reversed within the structures and relationships in the “new creation” of the new community of faith in Christ, i.e., the church (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Old Testament Examples of Female Leadership and Teaching

The New Covenant Scriptures reflect Jesus saying, "Behold (watch closely), I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). Jesus came to restore the destroyed Creative order, including restoring gender equality which was destroyed in the fall of man. Yet, even in the Old Agreement where the Law, the sin, and the curse prevailed, the reader catches glimpses of the Creative order through both men and women leading the nation of Israel. 
1. Miriam, the sister of Moses, is a “prophetess” (Exodus 15:20)
2. Deborah in Judges 4 and 5 is a “Judge” over Israel. Deborah served Israel as a leader and a redeemer as well as a “prophetess” who spoke the word of the Lord to Israel and its leaders (see especially Judges 4:4-5). She leads, settles disputes and ultimately takes supreme command of the army in a decisive battle. Deborah is clearly a strong OT model of female leadership and teaching in the name of God. 
3. Huldah the “prophetess” in 2 Kings 22:11-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22-33 is accorded a unique role of highest authority in speaking and determining the meaning of the “Word [and Law] of the Lord.” In this story KingJosiah, Hilkah the High Priest and the top scribe (scholar) of Judah turn to this woman as God’s authoritative voice for counsel and to clarify the meaning of the written word of the Lord. 
4. In summary, Deborah and Huldah make it clear that God was willing to bestow leadership authority and teaching gifts on women in the Old Testament.

New Testament Examples of Women Ministers of the Gospel

1. In all four of the Gospel accounts, following the resurrection of Christ, both the angels and the risen Jesus appear first to the women—and to them is first given the commission to “go and tell” the Gospel of the risen Christ’s victory over death. See Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7Luke 24:1-10; John 20:10-18. This commissioning of women as the first to proclaim the Gospel, even to the eleven key disciples of Jesus, is seen by some scholars as an intentional allusion to the beginning of the reversing of the “curse” of the fall in Genesis. In other words, the woman was the first to fall into the deception of sin in the old creation, and so now the women are the first to share in and proclaim the victory of Jesus over sin and death as He establishes His “new creation.” 
2. On the Day of Pentecost Peter preaches the first great Christian sermon following the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. In this message, Peter uses the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 in a paradigmatic way to set the agenda for the new community of Christ—the Church. The heart of his message is the twice repeated affirmation: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My spirit on ALL people and your sons and daughters will prophesy… Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days—and THEY will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).  There is an equality here in the calling of all Christians (men and women, young and old) to be prophetic declarers of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Revelation 19:10 says: “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy” (or the Spirit who inspired the prophets). The NLT says: “For the essence of prophecy isto give a clear witness for Jesus.” This challenge to proclaim Jesus is handed equally to men and women.
3. Romans 16 is a key chapter on women’s roles in the New Testament Church. Paul sends greetings to the leaders and key teachers of the “house churches” of Rome. In this list, women are both preeminent and prominent. The first mentioned is Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). She is a “servant” of the church in Cenchrea, the term Paul uses to describe himself in 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25, as well as the word Paul uses to describe his fellow ministers of the word in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; 4:7). In addition, verse 2 describes her as a “helper” (NASB) or “benefactor”(TNIV). The Greek word prostates, from which helper or benefactor is translated, means “one who stands before, front-rank man, leader, chief, protector, champion.” This not only affirms her ministry role, but her leadership of men as well.
 4. In Romans 16:3 Paul greets a wife/husband team, giving preeminence to Priscilla, then affirms they are both “my fellow workers,” a term he especially applies to those who share in teaching the Gospel. See Romans 16:9; 1 Corinthians 3:9; Colossians 4:11; see especially Romans 16:21 and 1 Thessalonians 3:2 in reference to Timothy; 2 Corinthians 8:23 in reference to Titus and see especially Philippians 2:25-30 in reference to Epaphroditus. This role in the teaching of the Gospel is confirmed by Acts 18:26 where both Priscilla and Aquila teach Apollos, an evangelist, the clear and full message of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 16:19 Paul again mentions this couple as the leaders of a “church in their house.” Priscilla is functioning as a teacher and leader within a “church” community.
 5. In Romans 16:7 Paul speaks of Andronicus and Junia (female) “who are outstanding among the apostles.” In this instance, a woman, Junia, seems, along with a man [who might be her husband] the role of an apostle (see Ephesians 4:11-12). Apostles specifically had the task of the equipping (teaching) in the church. See also Romans 16:12, which identifies two other female workers in the church as “workers in the Lord,” a phrase that usually applies to those who teach the Gospel.
 6. In Philippians 4:2-3 Paul affirms Euodia and Syntyche as two women who had “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.” The whole context puts them on a par with others who labor in sharing the Gospel. See also Colossians 4:15.
 7. Paul ranks apostles and prophets among the most important leadership gifts for equipping the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6). Yet he not only affirms Junia as outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7), he also clearly endorses prophetesses (1 Corinthians 11:5; cf. Acts 2:17-18; 21:9); and among spiritual gifts Paul emphasizes prophecy no less than teaching (1 Corinthians 14:1, 26, 29). 

Two New Testament Passages Which Prohibit Women from Speaking in Church:

If one could win the debate over women’s roles in the church by who had the most verses, the weight of the debate would favor women in leadership. But we hold the Bible to be God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word, so no text can be ignored. 

There are two passages in the New Testament that prohibit women speaking at all in church. One of these two specifically prohibits women as teachers. What should we make of them? Should they be interpreted according to then-present cultural conditions and location-specific situations or as universal norms for all churches in all places always?

It is important to establish that in Paul’s New Testament letters, there are many specific commands or prohibitions that are clearly recognized by evangelical Christians everywhere to be culturally and historically conditioned prohibitions, and are not to be commands enforced universally in all churches for all time.

Two examples will suffice: 

First, there is the culturally conditioned apostolic command, given by both Paul and Peter and repeated five times in the New Testament, that Christians are to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (see Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). 

Each time it appears, the call to use a kiss of greeting is in the imperative (command) form, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 even says to “greet ALL the brethren with a holy kiss.” Yet few, if any, churches require all their members to use a kiss to greet one another at gatherings.

Second, of even greater weight for our discussion is the serious issue of Paul’s commands concerning slavery. They are straightforward and clear—and if not evaluated in a cultural and historical light, seem to offer a strong Christian endorsement of slavery. For example, in 1 Timothy 6:1-4 Paul begins by saying “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of our God may not be spoken against.” He ends by saying that if anyone disagrees with this teaching “he is conceited and understands nothing.” In Ephesians 6:5 Paul admonishes “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and respect, just as you would obey Christ.” 

Christians are quick to point out the historical context of a Roman world where two in every three people were slaves and any direct challenge against slavery brought the full wrath of Rome. But of even greater importance than the historical reality of an oppressive empire was the overall strategy against slavery used by Paul in his writings. Paul did not call for the immediate abolition of slavery. Instead, he used the power of the Gospel to elevate the status of slaves in respect to their masters to that of equals in Christ—and therefore true brothers (or sisters) in Christ (see Ephesians 6:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:3-4 and especially Philemon 15-16). Paul does not call for an open slave revolt in the name of Christ, but through the implications of the Gospel, he lays the sure foundation for the destruction of slavery. 

Through the saving work of Christ, the universal principle of equality of slave and master is clearly identified in Galatians 3:28, a verse that also speaks to the male/female issue of equality. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female—for you are all one in Christ. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29). How could those who are one in Christ, fellow heirs with Christ and equally loved by Christ subject each other to bondage? 

So the twice-repeated admonition for slaves to submit and obey their masters is interpreted by virtually all contemporary Christians as a command within a specific historical context. These are but two of many examples of verses containing apostolic commands that require a cultural context and therefore are not universal commands for Christian assemblies for all time.

Two Passages that Command Silence from Women in the Church

1. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NASB): “Let the women keep silent in the assemblies (e.g. churches), for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper [disgraceful] for a woman to speak in church.”
           General Observations: 
There were no large structures called “churches” in Paul’s day. “Churches” indicated the gathering or assembling together of God’s people for worship, fellowship and study, and this took place usually in homes. So, the prohibition here is against women being allowed to speak in any gathering of Christians.
This prohibition to the Corinthian Christian gathering is absolute and repeated three times. It is far more restrictive than saying that women are not allowed to teach. It is saying that women are not allowed to speak. They are to maintain silence, no talking, no asking questions, at all, during Christian gatherings. If the verse is a universal principle, it prohibits far more than women serving as teachers or leaders. It enjoins silence on all women always in Christian gatherings. This is very odd considering 1 Corinthians 11:5, where, in the same epistle, Paul very clearly endorses women publicly praying or prophesying during Christian gatherings.

2. 1 Timothy 2:11-15: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise [usurp?] authority over a man; she must be silent! For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived—it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 
            General Observations:
 The issue here (and in Corinth) seems to be inappropriate and talkative female learners during the study time of the church. There is a problem with disruption due to inappropriate questions or comments. 
Once again, the specific prohibition placed on the women in Ephesus, like those in Corinth (and if universal, on all Christian women everywhere), goes well beyond not serving as teachers or leaders. Paul commands total silence from the women at Christian gatherings.

A Brief Assessment of Both These Two Passages

As stated above, both I Corinthians 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11-15, the prohibition on women calls for total silence (no talking, no singing, no praying, no prophesying, at all). Both texts come from epistles where other commands are given as solutions to resolve time-specific problematic situations. If this command for women to be silent is taken as a universal principle, then why are not other commands in I Corinthians and I Timothy also not taken universally?

For example, there is a lengthy discussion in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the rule that women must not pray with their hair uncovered and that short hair on a woman is a disgrace is in the context of women praying or prophesying. There is also a brief discussion in 1 Corinthians 15:29 about baptizing the dead. Very few Christians hold that these admonitions are to be applied universally for all Christian assemblies. Similar to "greet one another with a holy kiss" and the issue of slavery, some imperatives from the New Testament are to be understood as temporary solutions for time-specific situations. As we'll see about both these passages, the command for women (or "the woman") to be completely silent in the assembly is a solution for specific situations in Corinth and Ephesus.

The contextual problem is even more evident in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. If the prohibitions in verses 11-12 are universal and strictly literal principles, without a contextual and historical interpretation, then we should also stay consistent and literal with the remainder of the paragraph (I Timothy 2:13-15). This puts Paul’s analogy of women "being saved through childbirth" in direct conflict with the specific teaching of "salvation by grace through faith" in Jesus Christ in Romans 5:12-19. To understand the command of Paul in I Timothy 2:11-15, one must recognize the specific problem in the 1st-century Christian gathering at Corinth that required an injunction that the Christian women keep silent in the assembly. The command is only a time-specific prohibition and not a universal one (e.g. for all churches at all times).

A Detailed Examination of I Corinthians 14:34-35

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 the issue is not women serving the church as teachers in mixed company (teaching is not mentioned). The issue is clearly how the women are learning—and the problem is they are learning too loudly: “..if they desire to learn [question] anything, let them ask their husband at home.” The prohibition is aimed at stopping women from asking disruptive questions and speaking out during the service. The counsel given by Paul is to wait until later to ask questions.

Two different Greek words can be translated speaking: laleo and legoLaleo means primarily to utter sounds, not necessarily intelligible words. It was used by Greeks to refer to the jabbering (la-la-ing) of infants. The verses in question use the verb laleo. The present infinitive tense of the verb indicates continuous action. Paul was saying:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted for them to speak (continue la-la-ing)….It is a shame for women to speak (go on la-la-ing) in the church.”
This is consistent with the first-century Jewish and Hellenistic world. Novices were expected to learn quietly, while it was expected that more advanced students could interrupt with questions. Unlearned questions were considered foolish and rude. In both Jewish and Hellenistic culture, women did not receive formal education and were expected to learn quietly in public situations because they were not trained. 

But in the Gentile city of Corinth, both men and women revered the goddess Diana and worshipped at her Temple in the city. Corinth was the center for temple prostitution at the Temple of Diana in Greece during the Roman Empire. The women who spoke in public religious settings in Corinth were the temple priestesses (prostitutes). These women were powerful, with a direct line to the gods, and the men of Greece and Rome came to receive their blessing in times of war and in times of hunting.  

Because the Christian women were disturbing the gathering in Corinth by asking their questions, causing an undertone (noise) which was distracting and confusing, Paul corrected them. The time-specific correction is needed because the church should always be cautious of the false messages that come from the culture (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-22).  Notice what Paul says to these Christian women in Corinth:
1. The prohibition 1. (v. 34): "Don’t ask questions," and 
2. The permission (v. 35): "Ask questions at home."
In this time-specific prohibition of the women in Corinth, Paul is correcting the Corinthian practice in religious settings for women - who served as priestesses to the gods - to speak loudly and dominate the men. In addition, Paul is elevating the equality of the Christian men to the level of the Christian women, a corrective needed in the culture of Corinth. In the cult of Diana (Latin) and Artemis (Greek), women held sway and rule over men in the spiritual realm! In Christianity, nobody rules spiritually over anybody else.

So Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 ("women be silent") must be interpreted in a consistent manner with his words in 1 Corinthians 11:5  ("women, as you pray and prophecy in the assembly, do it this way").  You can't have both a command for silence and a command to pray and prophecy and claim both as universal principles. The overwhelming teaching of Scripture is that women are free, as gifted by the Spirit, to serve, minister, and teach in the assemblies of Christ. But when problems arise with specific women in specific churches (as sometimes problems arise with specific men in specific churches), then the solution is for those causing problems to be silent. 

The above simple explanation for the prohibition of women speaking the Corinthian assembly (I Corinthians 14:34-35) applies to the 1st-century Corinthian church, and it is is a common viewpoint among Bible-believing evangelicals who believe in biblical gender equality. For a lesser known interpretation that suggests Paul is actually "freeing all gifted, qualified women to teach, preach, and proclaim Gospel truth in the assembly," see Wade Burleson's article All The Ekklesia Have Voices. 

A Summary of I Corinthians 14:34-35:

The silence of I Corinthians 14:34-35 reflects a time-specific prohibition during the teaching and instruction being given because of a specific disruptive situation at the gathering in Corinth which involved either the Christian women talking too loudly and asking disruptive questions, or Judiazers seeking to quiet all the women in the assembly (see A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters).  Paul's solution is a progressive one.  Christian men and women were elevated to their rightful place as equals in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be taken as a universal prohibition against Christian women ever speaking in Christian assemblies for all time or the rest of the Scriptures would be violated. 

A Detailed Examination of I Timothy 2:11-15

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is also a clear prohibition that a woman (the woman) cannot teach or seek authority at the assembly of Christians. Instead, she must maintain complete silence when the church gathers at Ephesus.

"The" woman or "that" woman was part of a larger group of women in Ephesus (mostly widows) who were causing problems in the church. In a pagan culture saturated with the belief in the superiority of the cult of Artemis and the power she bestowed on warriors and hunters, as well as women in childbirth, many new Christian converts out of Artemis worship needed instruction and correction before they ever began ministering to the church. 

Timothy writes a letter to Paul asking for advice. "What do I do about the women - and specifically one woman -  who are dominating the men in the assembly and spreading false teaching?" That letter from Timothy we don't have. We only have Paul's response (I Timothy 2:11-15). 

In Paul's response, answering specific questions from Timothy, we see a prohibition placed on a specific Christian woman at Ephesus, a prohibition that is one of at least three prohibitions that Paul gives to the church of Ephesus that are directly contradicted by other passages of Scripture in terms of the normal practice of other Christian assemblies:
 "The" woman should learn in silence... and not teach. She must be quiet. (I Timothy 2:11-15). 
"The" woman in I Timothy 2:11 is wrongly translated "a" woman in some English translations. It is the Greek word en which is "a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality." It's a specific reference to "the" woman that Timothy is concerned enough about to write Paul. She seems to be "the" woman leading a "group of women" (widows) at Ephesus spreading error.

In the Artemis culture of Ephesus, women were to rule and men were to submit

The remedy for a problem sometimes requires a halt to normal practices. For example, when you are ill with the flu, you drink liquids and limit food intake. That's an abnormal practice, but it is used to correct an illness.

So too, Paul places an abnormal prohibition on a woman at Ephesus to correct a specific problem faced by the church at Ephesus. To make Paul's restriction healthy for all the churches for all time is equivalent to placing healthy people on liquid diets or to forbidding Christian churches from ever calling men as pastors because one male who pastored one church at a time in the past was guilty of sexually predatory behavior. 

Listen to what Paul says to Timothy about the gathering of Christians at Ephesus: 
"The woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety" (I Timothy 2:11-15).
Often Southern Baptist preachers will point to this prohibition and argue it is "universal" and "for all time" because Paul goes back to the Creative order: "Adam was formed first, then Eve." Of course, those same Southern Baptist pastors have no answer for what it means "women are saved through childbearing." 

Paul, very familiar with Artemis culture in Ephesus writes "Adam was formed first, then Eve" because he knew that the women of Ephesus had been taught that that Artemis came first and Apollo came second! Therefore, women were to always be seen as "first" - first to speak; first to the address the room, first in priority, etc.. The cult of Artemis taught the power of women to dominate men through sexual prowess.

However, Christ teaches that men, women and men are equal. Both genders should first learn in humility and show Christian character before they ever attempt to lead. Paul is prohibiting the woman causing trouble at the church in Ephesus to learn in quietness first - even to learn from gifted men of Christian character -  before she begins to teach men with the approval of the church.

Paul also reminds Timothy to remind the Christian women at Ephesus that, contrary to what they learned through the cult of Artemis, males are not the problem. To be deceived and in need of correction is just as much a possibility for the woman at Ephesus was it was for Eve. Women in Ephesus needed to move away from a belief in female superiority to a belief in gender equality.
"Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if she abides in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (I Timothy 2:15).
"Timothy," Paul writes, "Tell the woman that she'll be okay during childbirth, even if she totally and fully renounces her trust in Artemis. Yes, she's been taught by the Artemis cult that Artemis alone has the power to save a woman from death during childbirth. But the truth is that Christ holds "the keys of life and death.' Tell her to abide in her faith in Christ, to abide in hope and love. It will be the one true God who delivers any woman from death during childbirth, not Artemis."

The prohibition against the woman teaching at Ephesus is clearly part of a larger problem in Ephesus where women are given to excessive adornment (2:9-10). More importantly, are vulnerable to false teaching prevalent in the Artemis culture of Ephesus The false teaching of the cult of Artemis appealed to "various impulses" of women, even leading a few Christian converts among the women in the city of Ephesus “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

A few of the Christian women in the gathering at Ephesus were spreading their views to the community of believers at large (5:11-16). In fact, the primary problem for the church in Ephesus was the spread of their false teaching (1 Timothy 1:3-20; 4:1-7; 6:6-10, 20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16-26; 3:5-13; 4:3-4).   Sadly, some wealthy Christian widows in Ephesus, who had the financial means and the time available were the ones quickly spreading nonsense among the Christians at Ephesus (1 Timothy 5:13), nonsense taught them by "the" woman that caused Timothy concern (I Timothy 5:11). 

So the core problem in the church at Ephesus seems to have been the spread of heresy through ill-informed and ill-equipped females who were former devotees of the false teachings of the priestesses at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. 

The problems among a few Christian women at Ephesus leads Paul to give Timothy at least three prohibitions that are situational and time-specific to the church at Ephesus: 
1. "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband" (I Timothy 5:9).
That's a time-specific command for widows in Ephesus during the 1st century because of the specific problems, not a universal command for all churches for all time. 
2. "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." (I Timothy 5:14-15). 
Again, that's a time-specific prohibition for the widows at Ephesus and not a universal prohibition for all churches at all times. 
3.  "(The) woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety" (I Timothy 2:11-15)

In the overall context of the Bible, the two New Testament passages we just examined are the only two that place restrictions on women in the assembly of believers.

But pay close attention to what the prohibitions are. Both I Timothy 2:11-15 together with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 command complete silence in the gatherings of Christians.

But these two prohibitions are time-specific and church specific and are never to be deemed as universal for all churches at all times.  "Why not universal prohibitions against women?" you may ask. 

The New Testament's clear and abundant teaching is that Spirit-gifted women of Christian character should play as active of a role in teaching, prophesying, and leading the New Testament church s similarly qualified men. To take I Timothy 2:11-15 and I Corinthians 14:34-35 as universal principles for all churches for all-time is violating the teachings of the Bible. Gifted men and women of Christian character are needed in the assemblies of Christians for the full-orbed image of God to be reflected by His church. 


Taking the overall weight of Scripture, any Southern Baptist church that endorses the active role of women who are gifted in leadership and shepherding, taking a servant leadership role on ministry teams or staff, including serving as a pastor, is following the teachings of Scripture. 

The Bible teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunities for Christian ministry.

Therefore, this author and his church encourage full participation of gifted women of Christian character in all levels of leadership within Southern Baptist churches and entities, including leadership positions and teaching positions, with no restrictions or limitations on the basis of gender.


This paper is a compilation of the writings of Frank Wiederrecht, Richard Fredericks, and Wade Burleson. Frank serves at The Gathering Place in Douglas, Wyoming. Richard serves the people at Damascus Road Community Church in Damascus, Maryland. Wade serves at Emmanuel Enid in Enid, Oklahoma. The adapted content is used with permission and submitted by Wade Burleson as an aid to any Southern Baptist congregation who believes that both gifted men and women are capable of ministering and leading in Southern Baptist churches. 


Craig said...

Thanks so much Wade for taking the time to put this all in one article! I am truly blessed and encouraged to see it here and know that others are following Jesus and making room in in their congregations and lives for women to minister alongside of them.

Victorious said...

God’s pronouncement of a curse first upon the serpent, then the woman and finally the man in Genesis 3:14-19.

I've only gotten this far in reading this post, but I must disagree with this sentence. The only two references to the word "curse" are to the serpent and the ground.

Gen 3:14  The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field....

Gen 3:17  Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you....

The words to both Adam and Eve are prophetic in nature relative to their life outside of the garden.

Continuing to read....

Trevor Davis said...


Thank you for a well-reasoned argument from Scripture.

I am curious about your position/interpretation of the criteria of "husband of one wife" for overseers.

Is it gender-specific?

Does it require an overseer to be married?


Trevor Davis

Olive Branch, MS

Wade Burleson said...


Deaconess Phoebe who carried Paul's letter to the Romans "in the folds of her robe" is under the same character qualifications as shepherds. Thus, the husband of one wife is a character requirement - a "faithful, one spouse person." Phoebe met the character qualification of fidelity.

Wade Burleson said...


Good points. The curse for man (Male and Female) is death - a loss of the gift of immortality. It is implied in the original command, not explicitly stated in the aftermath of the fall.

Christiane said...

for so many: for remembrance, this:


Jacque's Blog said...

Wade, Thank you for this article. It is put so practically and simply. One of the best I have read.

Rex Ray said...


Here we go again. Same discussion, same differences of opinions.

Victorious is right; only the snake and the ground were cursed. You said, “The curse for man (Male and Female) is death - a loss of the gift of immortality. It is implied in the original command, not explicitly stated in the aftermath of the fall.”

God intended man to enter heaven AFTER physical death, otherwise the Tree of Life had NO purpose. Isn’t that true today?

When they ate the forbidden fruit, they died a SPIRITUAL DEATH immediately as Scripture reveals: “…they hid from the Lord…” (Genesis 3:8 NLT)

Bob Cleveland said...

Three things strike me, and have for many years.

1) In the O/T, there were women judges an prophets.

2) Did God make a mistake in that?

3) Are women less capable now that the Holy Spirit lives in them, than they were in O/T times?

The more I think about it, the more convinced that Nicolaus Chauvin is alive and a Baptist.

Baptist man.

Victorious said...

Good points, Bob. Scripture specifically says it was God Himself who raised up the Judges.

Jdg 2:16  Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.

 Jdg 4:4  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

Victorious said...

Also from the post....

Complementarians believe that male “rulership” is now the normative...

I've yet to see such a command in scripture. Can complementarians provide scriptural evidence for a male/husband to rule over a woman/wife?

Surely if God intended this, He would have commanded it directly to them to assure obedience.

Sallie Borrink said...

One thing has become abundantly clear to me over the past year or so. There is a significant lack of understanding regarding how to separate the call for I would label conservative biblical egalitarianism (for lack of a better term) from the Marxist egalitarian feminism that pervades our culture.

They are not the same and their motivation and belief structure are vastly different. But I don’t think the average person in the local church who hears about women teaching and leading understands just how different they are. They only see radical feminism as portrayed by the culture and think people like Wade are trying to bring that into their church. They don't want it and I don't blame them in the least.

As you indicated in your post, the two terms (complementarian and egalitarian) are not really accurate. I agree that conservative biblical egalitarians do hold to a view that God created us male and female and to complement each other but they don’t use the term complementarian. The terms make it difficult because both come with loads of baggage.

I think many who call themselves Christian egalitarians have made a profound mistake in aligning themselves with the feminist movements in this culture. It tremendously weakens their argument if their argument is indeed from the Scripture. For many it is not, but for those who do still say they believe the Scriptures are authoritative, it undermines their argument.

I’ve sadly watched way too many women in the church embrace what I assumed was a biblical egalitarianism that placed a high value on the Scriptures slowly embrace things that are not defensible by Scripture. I think there is something intoxicating about being “freed” from their complementarian or patriarchal past (that frequently includes a denying of their spiritual gifts and/or abuse in varying levels) that draws them deeper and deeper into accepting cultural movements that are contrary to the Scriptures.

I think what you wrote here is excellent, Wade. But I think that there is another aspect to it that hasn’t been sufficiently addressed by those who believe as you do and would like to see women freed to serve in the church.

Christiane said...

off topic, sorry

WADE, this might interest you:

Wade Burleson said...


Outstanding comment. I wholeheartedly agree.

In reading my article, did you catch even a "whiff" of biblically indefensible cultural accommodations?

Scripture should guide us - always.

Wade Burleson said...


Wow - absolutely fascinating.

Thank you.

Christiane said...

I just saw that you had written about the massacre and told of those brave men who would not participate. If the info I shared was 'redundant', I'm sorry.

Christiane said...

In sacred Scripture, I keep being drawn back to this:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

In time, the weight of this Scripture will, I believe, be felt on the consciences of those in need of intervention for MANY reasons.

Rex Ray said...


Thank you so much for this amazing story. I grieves me that the murderer of hero, Captain Soule, was never known. Colonel Chivington would be my main suspect in getting revenge.

Christiane said...

Good Morning, REX RAY

I'm glad you liked that link. Wade had already written about Captain Soule and here's the link:

What I loved about the story was how one or two persons standing up for what is right and decent and humane can help to provide a contrast to the most barbaric brutality that 'authority' can instigate against innocents. Captain Soule's spirit is alive and well in our country today among those who decry the abuse of refugee little ones, and for me, I need that witness to encourage my own belief that this country still produces those who will speak out against evil rather than stay silent and watch it happen and still think themselves Christian.

Captain Soule's body perished but his spirit of decency still lives. And he spared his own men from having to make that decision to 'obey orders' to harm children, and that may have been the greater good a leader can do for those who are under his command.

time for the question:
I can't resist nagging, because I know how fast cellulitis can blow up. I hope Judy is on the case and helps you to get that infection looked at. It needs watching. Take care.
Take care.

Rex Ray said...


Ok; here’s the story. A while back, I called Mayo Clinic (I’ve seen them before) for an appointment. They said they were not taking Cellulites patients anymore. They said to contact Dr. Jonthan Richey at Scott & White Hospital in McKinney, Texas. I called, and got the first available appointment which was in five weeks. He was young but had a lot of experience with Cellulites.

He gave a prescription for a cream and was to have Home Health check on me. They didn’t show up. I complained to the Doctor’s Office, and they gave me their phone number. I called and they said I was not in the area they gave service.

I tried the cream for three days and stopped because it made my ankle hurt a lot worse. The doctor said that was plan “A” and said he would reduce the time for my next appointment which is three weeks away. He said plan “B” was to have Home Health to administer intravenous antibiotics that’s injected directly into the blood. (I’ve had this treatment three times in hospitals but NOT long enough as the link below explains.)


Christiane said...

Rex Ray, if you notice any sudden worsening, go to the ER.

Being kept up at night with that degree of pain is a warning sign. If you are worsening rapidly, go to the ER and D-E-M-A-N-D that they help you. At least have it looked at.

My advice isn't worth much, but I would give it to my own brother if he was in trouble and he's a doctor, go figure.
(Him, I had to shame into getting his teeth worked on as he had put off needed work for years and I lectured him as 'his older sister' mentioning how much our parents had sacrificed when we were little so that we would have good dental care . . . He listened. Eight thousand dollars worth of dental work later, he calls me up and lets me know.)

So much for my abilities to get things done in my own family, but hey, Christian people look out for each other when there is trouble 'eh? And I have a feeling Judy will help you to see reason.

Five weeks for an appointment? Good grief!
I'll stop now and go take an aspirin.

Anonymous said...


This is a sincere question, as I've always appreciated your thoughtful approach in your writings on biblical topics. You mention your belief that homosexuality is a sin in this post. Why do you believe in and support this Levitical law (prohibition against male homosexuality), but do not support all the other Levitical laws? And why support one random old covenant law, but not others?


Unknown said...

You lost me here, brother:

<<"The" woman in I Timothy 2:11 is wrongly translated "a" woman in some English translations. It is the Greek word en which is "a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality." It's a specific reference to "the" woman that Timothy is concerned enough about to write Paul. She seems to be "the" woman leading a "group of women" (widows) at Ephesus spreading error.>>

ἐν is indeed a marking preposition, but it references ἡσυχίᾳ/"silence", not Γυνὴ/"woman". It would be very strange if it did. And it NEVER functions to denote specificity (of persons), since it serves to mark conditions, locality, associations, instrumentality, manner, etc. A reference to specificity would be made by looking at the presence/absence of a definite article (and it is absent in 1Tim 2.11) and particular exceptions to general rules of use.

So maybe there's a connection I'm missing, but I don't see how appealing to ἐν advances the idea of a specific woman. And I haven't found any English translations which specify "the" woman - all that I've seen use "a" woman (NLT is the lone outlier translating "women") due to the absence of a definite article.

Help me out...what am I missing?

mark sims

Unknown said...

Why is it necessary for women to Pastor?

Wade Burleson said...

I see the New Testament calling homosexual behavior a sin, not just the Torah. See Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:8–11.

Wade Burleson said...


If you look at the different English translations of I Timothy 2:11, you'll see them all use "WOMAN" (singular) not "women." A woman may be "the" woman or it may just be a woman who represents ALL women. Either way, it requires an interpretation. I do not believe you can prohibit all women based on the singular "a woman" text, where the other writings of Paul emphasize all women are free to minister as gifted by the Spirit and as qualified by character.

Wade Burleson said...

The reason it is necessary for any man or woman to shepherd people is the same reason that sheep need a shepherd. It has nothing to do with the status of the shepherd and everything to do with the needs of the sheep.

Christiane said...

In thinking about the role of shepherds and authority in the Church, or even elsewhere, I still think the ONE important factor that gets overlooked is the role of moral conscience as guide. In some denominations, the development of one's moral conscience, AND its important role in decision-making, is not taught as a part of Christian formation.

I do see the wisdom in this from my own Church:

""Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right."

I do believe that a person is bound to obey his conscience in the end, particularly if a man's conscience goes against what he is being told from 'authorities'. Being 'RC', I can follow my conscience as the last witness to me of what is truly 'right' and 'wrong', even after having consulted a priest on an issue and having prayed about it. In the end, one's moral conscience is the last, best guide of what path to take in order to go forward in a good direction.

Rex Ray said...


On Bible references showing homosexual behavior is a sin, this is another:

“God completely destroyed the whole world of ungodly men with the fast flood. Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and blotted them off the face of the earth, making them an example for all the ungodly in the future to look back upon and fear.” (2 Peter 2:5-6 Living)

Wade, you must not have read my favorite translations (Living and NLT) on 1 Timothy 2:11: “I do not let women teach men…”

On the subject of sheep needing a shepherd, what does the shepherd need? I believe they need the Holy Spirit as we become the children of God when we believe in his Son.

The Holy Spirit is always with us. He is happy when we do right and sad when we do wrong.

“Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” (Ephesians 4:30 NLT)

Gary Sweeten said...

I see in Wade's masterful piece a similar interpretation of Genesis 3:17 that I suggested.
The fall presents females with a longing to have and control a man. This is reversed by the cross as are all the fallen character defects.

Genesis 3:14-19. Only then does God declare, along with many other tragic consequences of sin (such as intense pain, hardship and ultimately death), that for the woman “your desire will be (“for” or “to control”) your husband.” But instead “he will rule over you." This "rule over you" represents the destruction of the Creative order where God original united the man and the woman in co-rulership over the earth pictured in Genesis 1:26-28.

Note: Complementarians believe that male “rulership” is now the normative ideal until the Second Coming to protect the woman’s unique role in the home and society. Egalitarians believe this status of ruled and ruler is part of the fallen creation that, like the rest of this curse, should begin to be reversed within the structures and relationships in the “new creation” of the new community of faith in Christ, i.e., the church (2 Corinthians 5:17

I was teaching this in a Family Dynamics class in California when a converted Orthodox Jew was present and disagreed with me. He went home and checked his Hebrew and agreed with me.
To teach that Male Domination is the command for Christians is to say that women should not use any medication to lessen pain in childbearing. That has happened at different times in history so I would not put anything out of the realm of possibility for us messed up creatures.

But, it also means men may not use any tractors, combines, or fertilizers to help overcome a fallen nature. Use a little logic and accept the fact that the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension then pentecost, Christ accomplished the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth! The old order has passed away! As Peter said, "It did not work!"

Gary Sweeten said...

By the way, two anecdotes. A man attacked me for "Having a low view of scripture because I believed in Women's ordination".

I replied, " I have a very high view of scripture and a very low view of ordination. Show me where ordination as we practice it is in the Bible."

He replied, "Well, you know it is not in the Bible but I mean the authority of a Pastor".

"Where do you see a hierarchy in the Bible?"

"Gary, you know what I mean. We cannot ordain women."

Victorious said...


I see in Wade's masterful piece a similar interpretation of Genesis 3:17 that I suggested.
The fall presents females with a longing to have and control a man.

With all due respect to Wade, the only failure ascribed to Eve anywhere in scripture is that she was deceived. There is absolutely no mention of her effort or desire to control either in Genesis or anywhere else.


From H7783 in the original sense of stretching out after; a longing: - desire.

I mentioned to you in the other thread the study from Katherine Bushnell regarding the change in the meaning of the word "desire" so I'm hoping you took the opportunity to read it. Dr. Bushnell is prolific in both Hebrew and Greek along with 5/6 other languages if I remember correctly.

So I'm still interested in knowing what version of the Bible you found the word "overthrow" in.