Wednesday, September 12

Women in the church

Thank you so much!!!! You guys gave me much to think about. Jennie, thank you for your emails, you gave me lots to go on.

This was all for my bible study last night. The topic was on women speaking in the church. The author states that if we attempt to teach others in a public domain, we are Jezebels. There were several other qualifications for Jezebel status, and I must say, I've achieved most of them at one point or another. Just call me Jezzy.

While I disagreed with the harshness of the author, I was finding it hard to get around a few verses that seemed rather plain about us even speaking in church....until I actually read them in context and did a little digging.

In case anyone is interested in the topic (and because I'm fascinated with the topic) I'll share what I studied: (warning, this will be long)

Where the Bible gives examples of women not being silent:
Acts 2:16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
Joel 2:28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
1 Corinthians 11:5: "And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved."
Romans 16:1 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [Diakonos] of the church in Cenchrea.
Romans 16:2: "I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me."
Romans 16:3: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus."
Romans 16:4: "They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them."
Romans 16:5: "Greet also the church that meets at their house.
1 Corinthians 16:19: "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house."
Romans 16:12: "Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord."
Luke 2:36: "There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,"
Luke 2:37: "and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying."
Luke 2:38: "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."
Matthew 28:10: "Then Jesus said to them {the women}, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.""
Acts 21:9: "He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied."

Now, I realize that it is possible for a woman to be a servant in the Lord/be a fellow worker without actually speaking...but it's highly unlikely. If you think it is assuming too much to include the verses referring to such women, ignore them. There are enough other verses to show that if Paul really meant "be silent" then he was contradicting himself.

So what did he mean?
1 Corinthians 14:34: "women [gune] should remain silent [sigao] in the churches. They are not allowed to speak [lalein], but must be in submission, as the Law says."
1 Corinthians 14:35: "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands [aner] at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

The Greek word gune can mean women OR wives. Just as in English, you have to examine the context to know which one it is referring to (looky there, a dangling preposition.) The word for man/husband follows the same principle. If vs. 35 is interpreted husband, isn't it quite likely that vs 34 is intended to be "wives". vs. 35 includes the pronoun "they", referring back to vs. 34. If the women in vs 34 are to ask "their own husbands" and yet are not in fact "wives" then it gets pretty strange telling an 80 year old widow or a 20 year old single gal that she has to go ask her husband stuff.

So, going from there, the wives are the ones told to remain silent and are not allowed to speak. Still, sounds a little strange, huh? Only single gals can be prophets or speak? Let's start with "silent", from the Greek: sigao, which means "hold peace." Can we hold our peace without being silent?

Women are again commanded to "be silent" in 1 Timothy 2:12:
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent[hesuchia]."

Here are other verses (there were many, I just picked a few to share that seemed to represent the others well) that use the same word hesuchia, which means "not disturbing others":

Acts 22:2: "When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet [hesuchia]."
2 Thess 3:12: "Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down[hesuchia]and earn the bread they eat."
1 Tim 2:2: "for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful [hesuchios] and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
1 Peter 3:4: "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet [hesuchios] spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

Okay, wives should be peaceful and they should not speak......let's look at speak. From the Greek, Lalein, meaning to speak in such a way as to cause confusion, in contrast to Lego which means to speak intelligently and understandably.

Once more, wives should be peaceful and they should not talk crazy talk...or distracting talk anyway. Now...what was the point of all Paul was trying to say? Look at the whole thing in context:

1 Corinthians 14:26: "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."
1 Corinthians 14:27: "If anyone speaks in a tongue, 2--or at the most 3--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret."
1 Corinthians 14:28: "If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet [sigao] in the church and speak to himself and God."
1 Corinthians 14:29: "Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said."
1 Corinthians 14:30: "And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop [sigao]."
1 Corinthians 14:31: "For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."
1 Corinthians 14:32: "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets."
1 Corinthians 14:33: "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,"
1 Corinthians 14:34: "women should remain silent [sigao] in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says."
1 Corinthians 14:35: "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
1 Corinthians 14:36: "Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?"
1 Corinthians 14:37: "If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command."
1 Corinthians 14:38: "If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored."
1 Corinthians 14:39: "Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues."
1 Corinthians 14:40: "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."

"Paul was concerned about orderliness and peace in church meetings, he was not commanding wives to be totally silent in church. Therefore, if a husband and wife are sitting together in a modern church service, and if the husband and wife occasionally whisper to each other, then they are not violating Paul's command because they are not speaking in such a way as to cause disturbances or disorderliness in the service." I got this quote, and many leads from the website Here's a further explanation from the same website: "It has been suggested that men and women might have been segregated on opposite sides of the room during church meetings in the first century. Therefore, if married women had questions about what the preacher or teacher was saying, and especially if they needed to raise their voices in order to ask their husbands across the room, then this would create a disorderly atmosphere in the service. Paul was trying to correct such disorderliness in the Corinthian church (for example by saying that wives should ask questions of their husbands at home), and he said that such disorderly behavior was "shameful." It is noteworthy that there is no hint of such a prohibition to any churches except Grecian. Wherever it would be shameful, women ought not to speak."

So we aren't banished to the corner and forbidden to make a peep. But can we teach?
1 Timothy 2:11: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”
1 Timothy 2:12: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."
1 Timothy 2:13: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve."
1 Timothy 2:14: "And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."

Since vs 13 & 14 refer to the marriage design, it is quite likely we're talking "wife / husband" above, but I don't want to make that stretch. And it would seem odd to me that we would be forbidden to have authority over our own husbands but are allowed to have authority over someone else's husband in the church. Odd, but equally possible, according to the original greek. But we know he doesn't mean "can't teach at all" because we're also commanded to teach other women in Titus. And Paul commended Priscilla for her role in instructing Apollos alongside her husband, Aquila. But I wonder if it is significant, the difference in reading it "teaching a man" or "teaching over a man". Is the authority position the difference between it being okay or not okay? Is a woman teaching a Sunday School class of men wrong, but a woman teaching alongside her husband in a couples class acceptable? Is there a difference between teaching a s.s. class with your husband and what Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos?

One last topic: Women's roles in the church.

There is a possibility that women can be deacons, according to scripture. It even kind-almost of looks likely.

1 Timothy 3:8: "Deacons [diakonos], likewise, are to be men [the word "men" is not included in the original Greek for this verse] worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain."
1 Timothy 3:9: "They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience."
1 Timothy 3:10: "They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons."
1 Timothy 3:11: "Even so must their wives [gune] be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."

Diakonos is Greek for “servant.” “Their” in vs 11 is not in the original Greek. The word gune, remember can mean women OR wives. is used for both women and and the word wives. This could just as easily be interpreted as 'Likewise, women must fit the same qualifications to be Deaconesses.'

Diakonos is used again later in reference to a woman:
Romans 16:1 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [Diakonos] of the church in Cenchrea.

However, I couldn't find any scripture backing up women as pastors. In the modern occupation of "pastor", the man is the head, the shepherd of the church. Shepherd is used interchangeably with Elder in the bible, but I still couldn't find background for a woman Elder, either.

So there's where I ended my deep digging. I'd REALLY REALLY like to hear y'all's input here. Don't let me get away with straying off the deep end. And I'd really really like a Young's Literal Translation for Christmas. I mean, wow! I believe the Bible means what it says, yet it is very interesting to realize that one word can be interpreted so many different ways and there IS a difference in meaning in some of those interpretations. Especially the way words are used NOW versus the way they were used when it was translated back in King James' vernacular.


Jessica said...

my fellow jezebel: you have accomplished some mighty fine digging! it helped clarify the issue for me (i had put off deciding for myself, too). i enjoyed the study last night!

Jenn said...

Thanks, Jess! I had a blast, too.

Jenni said...

Ya know, I'd like to smack whoever it is that wrote that book and I ain't no Jezebel--that's for sure. (My redneck streak just shows itself at moments like these.) Has this person read the records concerning Jezebel? Jezebel worshipped other gods and had the prophets of the true God killed. Yuck.

I'm glad you looked up all of that on Timothy. I had forgotten about that verse.

Also, I wonder if I think of this whole teaching thing differently since we don't attend a formal church. We have Bible fellowships in different people's homes and sometimes different people teach. FIL or dh usually lead songs and prayer and one of them will teach, but sometimes someone else will--even a woman. Just because a woman teaches in our fellowship does not give her "authority over" anyone. It's simply a sharing of the Word, no positions or power trips to complicate it. It's what I picture those New Testament churches in the home being like.

Not that there's anything wrong with the traditional church set up, I can just see how some people might think it a bigger deal and say a woman has "authority" over others because she teaches in that setting. I don't know. I'm babbling now.

Jen in MS said...

Wow Jenn,
This is awesome information.

I pretty much reached the same conclusion several years ago when I looked into it. We were at this great church with an awesome pastor, but he had a few women deacons. This was very troubling to me, but after looking into, I felt OK with it. I totally agree with not finding anywhere saying it's ok to be a pastor or elder.

It would really be a shame if women weren't allowed to speak in churches or lead studies. My greatest areas of growth have come under other women, but those were usually all women classes or studies.

Thanks again for compiling all of the information right here. I'll be back to read again when my mom leaves.


Christy said...

I have to go back and read again, but these are my thoughts on the subject as of right now.

I agree that women should be allowed to speak in church-the scripture and translations cleared up those verses for me, I had always wondered what they meant...however, I never thought that women were not allowed to speak period-I just assumed that Paul meant women should not teach. I do think it is okay to offer our opinions, thoughts, ideas, ect.. in church without conferring with our husband!

As far as women in leadership roles, positions of authority, ect...
Again, I think that women should teach other women and children-II Titus instructs us to do that, to share our wisdom, to help other girls, mothers, wives, ect... grow in their relationship with Christ and their families. I think women led Bible Studies are wonderful-but only if they are teaching other women. I do not agree with women teaching men-period. We are created to submit to our husbands. We were created second. This does not make us any less than, but we are not in a position of authority. To me, authority is defined in a Bible Study setting as the person who is leading the study. The person teaching, guiding, and so on is in authority over that class-therefore that would place women in authority over a man.
Now, I do not think witnessing, praising God in church, fasting, and so on is wrong. This is what we are called to do-this is our sole purpose on earth as Christians. There is a difference in witnessing to others and winning them to Christ and leading a Bible Study, Sunday School class, small group, ect...

I do think that married couples should "teach" classes together as long as the husband is the one "in charge". Married adult Sunday School classes and Newly Wed Sunday School classes contain men and women-therefore, it is important to have a man and woman team. In my Sunday School class the husband teaches, the wife offers her input (we all do) and handles the social aspect of the class. She is also the one who is the encourager, the prayer warrior of the class-this is her role and I think is the ideal role for a wife working alongside her husband.

This is all I can think of for now :)

BgArt said...

There are some pretty good arguments for the submission of women, certainly. In the creation order, man was made first.

However, again we have to look at this as, do we mean husbands/wives or women/men? And what do we mean by "leadership roles"? Pastoring, I'll give you that one just for argument sake. So okay, no women pastors (again, argument sake, that's not my personal belief). Women music/worship leaders? My church would be sorrier if we did not have the gift of our pastors wife leading the worship service. What about deacons or elders of any kind? Why not?

And again, I point out that we can't let our traditional, legalistic, "that's the way it's always been" view taint our acceptance of God using whoever He wants for whatever purpose He wants.

Maybe it's just because my mom was a hippie, but that's how I feel.


Christy said...

I personally do not believe women should be pastors, music ministers, ect...

But I am going to research that some more, I need to do some praying and scripture searching because Mike has a good point-how much of my beliefs on this subject are influenced by my VERY traditional Baptist upbringing?

Jenn said...

Mike, going through this book has made me question my 'that's the way it's always been' thought process. There were things I thought were biblical because I was taught them as strongly as scripture. Now I'm trying to see what the Bible says. Scripturally, it looks to me as if deacons are okay. Prophets are okay. Teachers are okay, but not in authority over men. Since women were leading music just after the Exodus, I don't see a problem with that either. However, elders and pastors don't have the blessing of scripture and I can see the reasoning. These are leadership positions. Women can and do have a 'word from the Lord' to share, but that doesn't mean it's okay for us to run a church. It doesn't mean we wouldn't be great at it (at least 25 of 30 days each month) but it means we don't have the authority through scripture to do so. Anyway, them's my thoughts. :D

BgArt said...

Them's good thoughts. I can dig it.

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