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The Biblical Role of Women in
This topic is important because
women are now being ordained into the clergy and pastoral positions in virtually
every denomination. I don't doubt their sincerity, nor do I doubt their ability.
But, the question is not whether women in the clergy, is a good or a bad thing
Biblically? The question is rather, is it Biblically right, or wrong, for women
to enter the clergy (Pulpit ministry).
If we are to engage in meaningful discussion about the role of women in the
local assembly (ecclesia), the Church of Jesus Christ, we must consider a
complete cross-section of scriptures dealing with our topic. Even though the
Church was established on the day of Pentecost, the foundation of the argument,
(the role of women in the Church) is found in the garden of Eden
1. Consider Adam and Eve before the Fall. God made male and female in his image
equally (Genesis 1:27). God made man first, then Eve as a helper (Genesis 2:18).
Adam was given sole responsibility of dressing and keeping the garden, and
naming the animals, (Genesis 2:15,19-20). Woman was made from the man (Genesis
2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 11:8). Woman was made for the man (Genesis 2:18; 1
Corinthians 11:9). Man named her "woman" (Genesis 2:23). Marriage was divinely
instituted (Genesis 2:24).
2. What can be concluded about Adam and Eve after the Fall? They were conscious
of their nakedness, and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Genesis
3:7). Fear emerged (Genesis 3:10). Self-justification emerged in both of them
(Genesis 3:11-13). As a result of their sin, Bearing children would be painful
(Genesis 3:16ab). The woman's desire will be for her husband (Genesis 3:16c).
Man would rule over her. (Genesis 3:17b). Man would work by the sweat of his
brow until death (Genesis 3:19).
3. Why is the distinction between Adam and Eve before and after the Fall
important? It is important because Paul makes such a distinction (1 Timothy
2:11-15). Paul gives two reasons for his position --- the order of creation, and
Eve's deception and sin. It is also important because Christian feminists
believe that redemption in Christ, effectively puts one back to a pre-fallen
state. If a woman becomes a Christian, they say, she may be assured of being as
Eve was before the Fall. It is pointed out that the husband's "rule" is done
away with. Therefore equality implied (in the woman being made from man) is
restored, according to this view. Thus, we must come to terms with this issue:
Do we base our position on the pre-fallen situation which, some say, shows an
equality? Or do we base our position on the post-fallen situation, which seems
to accentuate the rule of man over the woman?
4. Paul's use of *kephale*, (kephale, kef-al-ay' from the primary kapto (in the
sense of seizing); the head (as the part most readily taken hold of), literally
or figuratively:--head). "head" in 1 Corinthians11:3 is the key to our
understanding of the role of women. "But I would have you know, that the head of
every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of
Christ is God." The question becomes, does *kephale* mean head as "source," or
head meaning "authority"? Those advocating the opening of the pastorate to women
want *kephale* to mean "source." "Source" means only that woman came from man,
as a river flows from a lake. Then equality would become the order of the day.
Those who take a more traditional point of view say that *kephale* means
"authority." This would suggest that "leadership is male." If so, the man has
"authority" over the woman in the home and in the church. All scriptures (O.T.,
and N.T.) pertaining to male and female position, and order, places the man
ahead of the woman. Godly women are to “submit” (an arrangement according to
rank), to male authority.
5. In the LXX (Septuagint), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with
which Paul was familiar, *kephale* means "authority" every time. *Kephale* does
mean "source" in a few passages of Hellenistic literature, but never does it
take that meaning in the LXX. This would have influenced Paul's use of the word.
In Ephesians. 5:22-24 ("Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto
the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of
the church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is
subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every
thing."), head (*kephale*) clearly means "authority." Likewise in Ephesians.
1:22-23, Christ has been exalted far above all rule and authority, power and
dominion (vs. 21) and "head" can only mean "authority."
6. What does *kepephale* mean in 1 Corinthians 11:3? It could mean "source", but
if that was all it means, the verse then makes no sense. If it means "source,"
then no-one is in charge --- the very issue Paul confronted. Therefore it must
mean that Christ is the authority over every man. This is what Paul means by
"head." Jesus Christ is in charge. Therefore every man must submit to Jesus
Christ. Jesus is the head because He has been given all authority and power
(Matthew 28:18). He knows the will of the Father and deserves and demands
submission. Likewise, man is the authority over the woman. This does not mean
"chain of command," that woman submits to man rather than to Christ. She submits
directly to Christ. But part of her submission to Christ will be the affirmation
that man is the head (authority) of the woman.
What then is the role of women in the church?
a. In worship, Paul requires their submission and humility (1 Timothy 2:11).
Their appearance should be feminine (1 Corinthians 11:15 --- a covering of long
b. They were allowed to pray and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). It was an
assumption they could pray in public worship, as long as their appearance was
godly. That a woman could prophecy was also assumed (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:18; Acts
c. They were not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12).
This would not refer to a woman teaching generally. She could surely teach
children. She could teach other women (Tit. 2:3-4). She could teach alongside
her husband (Act. 18:26). It refers to taking the place of those entrusted with
the formation of apostolic doctrine. Only men were called to this (1 Timothy
3:1-7). The cultural factor has to be answered in the light of the eternal
principles of 1 Timothy 2:13-14. The prohibition of a woman speaking in 1
Corinthians 14:34-35 probably refers to her interpreting a tongue. It does not
rule out her speaking at all (1 Corinthians 11:5). Interpreting a tongue was
seen as handling divine revelation that fell to an apostolic function.
d. If one adheres to the Bible as the sole basis for belief and practice, a
woman could not be the pastor of a church; she could be a part of the ministry
team, teaching women, children, or serving in another capacity, in the local
Church. The whole tenor of scripture suggests there is a difference between the
sexes. The woman's role, following the Fall is decidedly one of submission.
7. What does this say about men? We are to be loving, caring and sensitive. Male
chauvinism has done more to contribute to the lack of balance than many would
care to admit. Had men, over the years followed Paul's words, "Husbands, love
your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
(Ephesians 5:25), there may never have been a Feminist Movement. Men must be
more concerned that they themselves are more loving than they are; that women
would take delight in being more submissive.
On the other side of the issue, the apostle Paul also wrote, "There is neither
Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ
Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Is Paul simply referring to the absence of distinction
we share in salvation, or was he arguing for an equalitarian view of men and
women, Jew and Greek, slave and free for ministry as well as for salvation? Are
we to assume that some of the gifts of the Spirit usually associated with church
leadership and pastoral ministry (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4) are
gender specific? Again, there has been much debate about how this passage is to
be interpreted. Bring in Phoebe Romans 16, she was a deaconess. Deacons are not
teachers, they're job was originally the distribution of bread (Acts 6)
Bring in Acts 18:26 Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos. (The passage most
used to justify husband and wife co-Pastorate). This was a private session, and
aside from her name being first for whatever reason in no way indicates
authoritative teaching of the word; it easily allows for the type of humility
required in scripture.
Bring in the prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles
34:22; Nehemiah 6:14; Isaiah 8:3; Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9; Revelation 2:20) Despite
the modern desire to explain differently, the prophet is not the preacher
neither is the preacher a prophet. The role of the prophetess (and Deborah the
Judge (Judges 4)) is therefore not the role of a preacher, and even those
provide nothing that would break the standard of male leadership exhibited
(This I say in kindness, and much humility)
Bring in those well intentioned women (I know a few) who say, "But God called me
to be a pastor!"
Bless you I say, but gifting and calling have distinctions to be made. And
neither will God's call contradict his revealed word. Because you have a desire
to teach, and the skill to do so, I say then exercise that gift in God given
areas, (teaching of other women, teaching of children, discipleship and many
other areas.) But the ordained ministry of leading the church is a burden placed
upon men; and not one to be taken lightly.
1 Timothy 2:13-14 "For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it
was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into
This does not mean (contrary to foolish and ignorant interpretation) that women
are more gullible. It is a commentary on the Genesis three narrative, and it is
one reason for Paul's statement in verse 12. Eve was "deceived" which means Adam
sinned on purpose.
The word of God declares that men are the leaders in their homes, and in the
Church. Leadership is not arrogant slave-mastery but rather self sacrificing
service for the lifting up of one perceived to be the greatest, Christ Jesus our
Lord. (Ephesians. 5:25).
1 Timothy 2:12 is clear - succinct and not limited to cultural mores but rather
rooted in the creation order, the deception of Eve and the culpability of Adam.
The difficulties we have with scripture. . .
It seems that no matter what society a person is in, there is one thing or
another that will arise as a difficulty about scripture that is very tempting to
dismiss simply because it is not liked. For some, it is God telling the
Israelites to conquer and purge the land of Canaan; for others it is the fact
that the Jews are God's chosen people (namely, Muslim Arabs, especially
Palestinian Arabs); for us, it is the Biblical teaching on the role of women in
the church. (Incidentally, Muslims have no problem with the teachings on women's
roles in the church, while Jews have no problems being God's chosen people.
Clearly, what we do and don't have problems with is culturally filtered; don't
think that your objections are any better than any one else’s. In the end, it
doesn't matter what you object to from God's Word, or your reasons for
dismissing any of it. The fact that you presume to "veto" any of God's commands
will be answerable to God on judgment day.)
We cannot simply dismiss what we don't like of scripture. It is written: 2
Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [a????p??--anthropos,
which is not gender specific] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good
When Paul writes what he writes about women not being permitted to teach, he
appeals to creation order, which makes it clear that he is speaking of something
universal and not merely local to the situation Timothy was facing. He even says
that elders/overseers are to be "the husband of one wife" [A]. This is
scripture; if we simply dismiss it because we don't like it, where does it stop?
Scripture is authoritative because it is the Word of God; we can't decide what
we will or will not believe or obey without making ourselves the authority,
because scripture has no authority over you if you have veto power over it.
With that said, I must admit that Paul's writings regarding the role and proper
behavior of women are incredibly hard for me to accept; none the less, I will
not reject any teaching of scripture because it is the Word of God and has
authority over me. I'm not free to dismiss anything because my distastes do not
have veto power over God [B]. A real cynic may say that this is just because I'm
not a female, but I'm telling you honestly, it's no easier for me as a male to
accept it because I am very conscious of sexism and have the utmost respect for
women and am keenly aware of the junk woman have had to put up with. I do not
approve of women serving as elders because the church is to be ruled by God, and
such matters are not subject to our opinion. In fact, if we were all under the
Old Covenant, I would not approve of even the most qualified Jew serving in the
priesthood unless he were a Levite male. Under the Old Covenant, God barred the
priesthood from all but Levites regardless of how much any Jew of the other
tribes wanted to or was otherwise qualified for the priesthood. Under the New
Covenant, women are barred from eldership. Some may think it unfair that
non-Levites were barred from priesthood and women are barred from eldership, but
God can do that; it's not a matter of how much one wants to serve in a role not
meant for him or her, it’s the fact that God has the last say in His church.
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