Are women called to preach? What does the Bible say? In this installment I will comment on the passages that are often used to argue against women preaching. We must rightly divide the Word of Truth rather than read the culture or subculture into the text. The entire case against the ordination of women is based on an interpretation of these two passages. The first passage is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Second is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This installment will examine what these passages really say.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
One common interpretation in some conservative circles concerning this passage is that it is saying that women generally are not permitted to have authority over men generally. A proper look at the Greek words for ' woman ' and ' man ' must considered in our interpretation of these texts.
Let the womanG1135 learn in silence with all subjection. (12) But I suffer not a womanG1135 to teach, nor to usurp authority over the manG435, but to be in silence. (13) For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (14) And Adam was not deceived, but the womanG1135 being deceived was in the transgression. (15) Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. - 1Timothy 2:11-15
The Greek translated ' woman ' is γυνή gune. This is the word from which we get the English words gynecology, virgin and vagina. This word can be translated as either woman or wife. It is impossible to tell which is meant apart from the context.
The key to properly determining the context of this passage is to see which Greek word is used for man here. There are two Greek words used for man in the New Testament. Anthrōpos ἄνθρωπος is generally used to refer to to men in general or to mankind or the human race, as in the word anthropology. The other word ἀνήρ anēr generally refers to specific or individual man
The word anēr is the one used in this passage It is often translated as husband. In fact various forms of the the Greek word anēr is translated husband 43 times out of 214 total instances ( about 20% of the total) of which the word anēr appears in the New Testament. This word is always used to refer to a specific man or a specific category of men and not as mankind or the male gender generally. Women are NOT restricted from teaching or having authority over mankind or males in general but are only restricted from teaching certain men. When used n relation gune, it is literally translates into my man or husband.
The form of the Greek word anēr that is found in the text in verse 12 tells us that this is singular. Thus a woman is only restricted from teaching with authority over a singular man. The restrictions here are very narrow. Verse 12 in this passage then is addressing husbands and wives rather than men and women generally. The reason and only reason for this restriction was to prevent confusion that could be caused by a conflict of powers. According to Ephesians 5:22-33 the husband is the head of the house. If a wife is ordained into a position of authority in the church over her husband and the husband is the highest authority in the home then who has authority in matters than might fall under the jurisdiction of both family and church. This rule made sure that the lines of authority were clearly drawn.
The reference to women being "...saved in childbearing..." is another indication that gune is referring to wives here rather than women. The text is not suggesting that an unmarried woman can be saved in childbearing.
There are three conclusions that follow from this passage that govern the promotion of women into the ministry. These conclusion only apply where the husband and wife are in the same ministry context. A woman is not restricted in cases where her husband goes to a different church or does not attend church or if she is involved in a parachurch ministry in which her husband does not participate.
- Women married to men in the ministry may be in the ministry as long as they do not usurp authority of their husbands.
- Unmarried women are under no restriction from entering ministry because they do not have husbands to usurp authority over. If she maintains her own household there is no issue raised of her usurping authority over her father either.
- If an unmarried woman is called by God into leadership in the church marries, she should take precautions to avoid a conflict of powers between her role in the church and her role in the home.
1 Coronthians 14:34-35
This passage is often taken to mean to mean that women should not speak at all in the church. A brief look at this passage will show that it referring to husbands and wives.
Let your womenG1135 keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (35) And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbandsG435 at home: for it is a shame for womenG1135 to speak in the church. - 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Again we see as the Greek word for ' women ' the same one as for wife- gunē. We are told that these gunē are to ask their husbands at home if they have questions about what is going on in the church. The Greek word gunē here obviously means wife. This passage applies to wives and not women generally. Neither does this passage prohibit positive contributions by wives to the church. This passage was written to prevent wives from bringing the conflicts they have with their husbands at home into the church.
Furthermore women per se are NOT commanded to be under obedience to men under the law but wives to the husband. In Numbers 30 the Law gives instruction concerning vows made to the LORD. Married women and women living under a father have the status of minors. The father or husband can nullify the vow according to this passage. Divorced and widowed women (i.e. unmarried) have the same rights as men.
And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded. (2) If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth...
... (9) But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her. - Numbers 30:1-9
The following notes are indexed to Strong's Concordance:
A primary word (compare G444); a man (properly as an individual male): - fellow, husband, man, sir.
From G435 and ὤψ ōps (the countenance; from G3700); manfaced, that is, a human being: - certain, man.
Probably from the base of G1096; a woman; specifically a wife: - wife, woman.
( ανδρος the -ος ending means masculine singular in Greek Transliterated andros. It is from this word from which we get the English word android)