Women and Scripture

Unfortunately, many men in our religious institutions misuse Scripture to place women in a religious role the Scripture’s never proclaimed. I have listed some of the most common verses used in this manner with an explanation of their true meaning based on credible biblical evidence. Please read on.

1 Tim 2:8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

This verse is the one used by misguided leaders to prohibit women from praying publicly as the following is used to prohibit women from teaching and discipling.

1 Tim 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

We will address the second first. Greek manthaneto does not mean learn in the modern sense of acquiring information but is related to mathetes, disciple. This is the context and is the pattern of discipling and being discipled, which existed in Judaism and was exemplified by Yahshua and his talmidim (disciples-see Mt 5:1). Orthodox Jews use the word “learn” to mean “studying Torah”, not merely to gain knowledge, but to become more holy. This is close to the sense here.

One who disciples others has responsibility for their spiritual life and growth; women are not to have that kind of responsibility for men. Nevertheless, Timothy is to let a woman learn (be discipled) in peace (Greek esuchia) “silence, restfulness”), without her being disturbed. The sense is not “in silence,” as most translations imply, inferring she should keep her mouth shut, but “at rest”; Compare Acts 22:2 [(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: ] and [2 Thes 3:12, Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Yahshua ha Mashiach, that with quietness (KJV) they work, and eat their own bread.[2 Thes. 3:12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Yahshua HaMashiach to settle down and earn the bread they eat. Where the word is translated, “settle down.”(NIV) On the other hand, 1 Cor 14:34-35 does teach against disturbing chatter by wives at congregational meetings. Although women may learn equally with men, Sha’ul does not permit a woman to teach (to disciple) a man or exercise a discipler’s authority over him. It would be unseemly for a woman to have a one on one relationship with a man which discipling requires.

But in a well led congregation (criteria for leaders is the next topic of the next chapter) women may be given authority and responsibility, including the discipling of women and the teaching of men; Sha’ul himself offers many examples: Lydia, the businesswoman who opened her home to him (Acts 16:14, 40), Priscilla, who taught Apollos (Acts 18:26), and Phoebe, who held a leadership position (Rom 16:1), to name but three.

In 1 Tim. 3:10,11 we read: And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Greek gunaikas can mean either “wives” or “women.” If the former, Sha’ul is taking for granted that only men can be shahhashin and is predicting their service on their wives’ good behavior. But if the meaning is “women,” he is allowing that women as well as men can fill the office of Shamash. At Romans 16:1 Sha’ul calls Phoebe a Shamash; his use of the masculine form of the Greek word “diakonos,” suggests that he is in fact referring to the office and not just describing her as a worker. Against this idea stands v.12, which says that a Shamash must be faithful to his wife (see v. 2) but says nothing about her being faithful to her husband (compare 5:9). However, this can be explained as brevity of expression, or as a statement of the rule for the more frequent case.

No as to 1 Tim. 2:8 you will have to do a little homework on your own. I’ll help. The majority interpretation of this verse is that women may not pray publicly conflicts with his teaching at 1 Cor. 11:5. Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor 14:34-35 and in actuality this passage seems to be applied to a specific kind of learning already examined in v. 11 above.

However, I feel a little explanation is needed on the last citation 1 Cor. 14: 34-45. In this very letter we know that Sha’ul allowed women to speak and pray in public so what does this verse address? Sha’ul is answering a question the Corinthians have presented to him in 7:1 and that is abut their wives discussing with their husbands what is said while it is being said. This would cause distractions to the other believers present even if the wife were sitting next to her husband. Therefore a woman or for that matter a man should refrain from disturbing the decorum of the service by chatter that could be addressed later. Jewish synagogues separated men and women and it would have been even more disturbing if a woman called out to her husband across the m’chitzah (dividing wall). This to is the opportune time for Paul to bring this question forward for it is precisely the time he is discussing order and decorum in the synagogue.

See my sermon on this subject.