True Power

True Power

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Women in the pulpit

I ran across an article by a husband and wife ministry team, the Swifts, who tackle the issue of 'Women in the pulpit.' Their entire article can be found on ezine (

I like the way they use various passages from the Bible to bring to the forefront who exactly is allowed to teach others. They take the totality of the Scriptures, knowing that the letters of the New Testament were written separately, to deal with specific issues faced by a city at a particular time in the unfolding of the founding of Christianity. They begin by building a foundation of who the new Christian is:

To most Believers (especially new Believers who haven't been taught old customs) the verse that seems most natural (in a supernatural way!) about the ministry of women is found in Galatians where Paul says:
Gal. 3.26-28 -- Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Establishing first, who we are in Christ, is crucial on the individual level. To realize we have been freed in Christ from restrictions that bound us in culture and the Jewish faith allows us to participate in our new lives as Christians. This is the building block for all else we do in Christ.

Next, the article points out the main scripture used to show women should not be in the pulpit:
"But," many men claim, "there are Scriptures that teach the submission of women -- in marriage and in ministry!" Actually, there's just one. Our key verse is found in the letter to Timothy:

1 Tim 2.11-14 -- "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."

I have tackled this passage in my book "When Will Eve Be Forgiven?" pointing to the goddess worship that was occurring in Ephesus at the time Paul wrote this and their belief that womanhood was to be worshipped for its life giving and regenerative essence and the male counterpart was not to be held in high regard. The Swifts also looks at key words used in the passage such as: usurp and silence. In my book I did not deconstruct the usage of the word silence, which I now believe plays an important part to understanding the 1 Timothy passage, so I will include the Swifts' exegesis of the word at this point:

In fact, "silence" is a good word to show how quickly you and I can make a wrong guess as to the meaning of a word in the Bible. After all, if women are to "keep silent", wouldn't you think that means they have to keep their mouths shut? But the Greek word used for "silence" (hesuchia) is the same word used in 1 Tim 2.2 in which we're told to pray continually "for kings, and for all that are in authority; so that we may lead a quiet [hesuchia] and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."

The word hesuchia (according to Strong's Dictionary) describes the life of "someone who stays at home doing his own work" and doesn't meddle in the lives of others." In 1 Tim 2.2, it would obviously be wrong to say it means the kind of "silence" that we usually talking about -- you know, "pray for kings, and for all that are in authority; so that we may all shut up and live in peace..."? It doesn't make any sense.

But when you apply the correct meaning in 1 Tim 2.12, it makes perfect sense that Paul would tell women to participate in the meetings "quietly", not "meddling" with the teachings that Paul had given them about the Gospel, Jesus Christ, etc.

"I do not permit a woman to teach"... In the spiritual atmosphere of Ephesus, women (especially women) needed to sit quietly and learn. And Ephesian women needed especially to not be allowed to "usurp authority" over the men who were teaching -- attempting to perpetuate the cultic teachings of female, spiritual authority and thereby taking control of the young, Ephesian church. What Paul is saying here to the Ephesian Believers, in light of the extraordinarily difficult circumstances facing this Asian church, was that women (steeped in these false teachings) needed to just be quiet, sit and learn from the men. Remember: Paul doesn't tell women this anywhere else. It is a word of instruction for Ephesus."

For this particular church faced with the false teaching of it's time--goddess worship, the women learning about the gospel of Jesus should not speak up about the goddess and what all of the other women in the area were participating in. Women, in that area, believed that it was through womanhood that people could be saved, not a man (Jesus). To take power from the notion of powerful womanhood, it would take men leading the charge. Even if the women of that area spoke the gospel and taught correct doctrine, it would still be a WOMAN in a power position issuing truth, still keeping the image of manhood weak. Paul had to use strategy in this area of female domination and it would have to be the MAN to step up to the plate in this area if the grip of goddess worship was to be conquered. Remember, Paul did not teach this to every area he evagelized and we know he evangelized Lydia and in essence sanctioned her home church and she was the one who would go on to teach the rest of the converts in her area. There is no way to get around this fact of this home church Lydia set up Acts 16:14-15. We all pull Phoebe up (Rom. 16:1-2) as a close worker in the church with Paul. Even with two named women, very active in ministry, one instruction in the book of Timothy seems to supercede them.

Whenever there seems to be some confusion in interpretation, more in depth study should be done. One of the main things I try to gently tell people is that the words used over 2,000 years ago have undergone many 'definition' changes. What a word meant even 200 years ago does not necessarily mean the same in the 21st century. Who would have guessed that 'silence' could have another meaning other than "shut up" or "be quiet?"

Continue to seek God's truth in prayer, study, and conversation amoung saints. Read the Swifts' article in its entirety. It is sure to be a blessing in the life of those trying to reconcile this issue of women as ministers.


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