“Throughout most of Church history, the apostle Paul has held the reputation of being what one might call the great Christian male chauvinist toward women. After all, did not Paul declare that women are not to speak in Church? The husbands are to rule over their wives and wives are to obey their husbands? That women are more easily tempted than men? That women can be saved only by child bearing? That women are not to wear jewelry or nice clothing, or have their heads uncovered during worship?”
“On the one hand, Paul’s writings about women have been cited throughout the centuries as authority for the notion that women are second-class citizens in the kingdom of God and the Church. On the other hand, Paul’s great declaration in Gal. 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek… neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” has been lifted up as equally authoritative by advocates of sexual equality. How can Paul’s writings be used to defend these opposing points of view?”
“[..] the apostle Paul consistently championed the principle of sexual equality within the Church and the home. He carefully avoided those words in Greek that would connote meanings that-ironically-our modern English translations imply! He carefully selected his words in writing about women and marriage, challenging the social roles for women in his age and the philosophy and theology that defined these roles. And yet his words have been interpreted so as to defend the very roles he challenged. ”
(John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said about Women).
1 Corinthians 14:34-38
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.We must go to the Greek in order to understand this scripture.
These are from an interlinear Bible. Please also be aware the the lines alternate. Every other line is read from right to left and then from left to right. So for this passage begin reading from the left and on the next line start from the right.
You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.
As you can see, I highlighted the Ἢ symbol above in the second picture. This is the Greek capital letter “eta”. It can be used as the conjunction “or” or as a quotation to symbolize that you are quoting another speaker. In English it is translated as the conjunction “or”.
There are two arguments about this passage:
1. That it is negating the previous passage. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon Ἢ when translated as ‘or’ can mean:
“1. to distinguish things or thoughts which either mutually exclude each other, or one of which can take the place of the other: or (Latinaut,vel);”
Or in other words, Paul used Ἢ to negate the previous verse prohibiting women from speaking.
2. That verses 34-35 are a quotation of another speaker. Quotation marks are not used in the Greek language. The letter Ἢ (eta) is used to symbolize this.
Author J. Lee Grady says,
There are several reasons scholars believe that verses 34 and 35 of this passage are quotes from the letter Paul is answering. The most important clue is that Greek symbol ἢ (with grave accent) is used at the beginning of verse 36 to signal to the reader that the preceding statement is quoted. Because Greek does not have what we know as quotation marks, this device is used instead. This would explain why verses 34 and 35 seem to contradict everything that Paul has said up to this point about the full participation of all believers in New Testament worship. The apostle has spent several chapters telling the Corinthians that all can “prophesy one by one” (v. 31). He even stated in 1 Corinthians 11:15 that women can pray and prophesy publicly. So why would he contradict himself in 14:35 by saying that women cannot speak in the church? It is also curious that verse 34 says women are not allowed to speak “just as the Law also says.” What law is this verse referring to? There is no law in the Old Testament that says that says women cannot speak. There is no reference to a Scripture given here. That’s because it is not referring to an Old Testament law but to a Jewish rabbinical tradition that the Corinthian church had adopted. The harshness of the language in verse 35 gives us another clue that this “Law” is actually a man-made rule invented by the same type of legalistic Judaizers that Paul publicly opposed in the churches of Galatia and Colossae. The phrase, “It is improper for a woman to speak in church,” can actually be translated, “It is shameful for a woman to speak.” Do we honestly believe that this verse reflects the heart of God? Is this the view of the apostle Paul, who ordained women to serve with him in apostolic ministry? It cannot be. Paul is quoting those who held to a degrading view of women – and who actually described women in Jewish writings as vile and disgraceful. And because Paul opposed this degrading view of women, he responds to the Corinthians in verse 36 with a sharp answer: “Was it from you that the word of God first went forth?”
I believe that this interpretation provides the most insight as to explaining this seeming contradiction.
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.
Silence = hésuchia implies calmness or one who does not interfere with others business. Strong’s definition is stillness, i.e. desistance from bustle or language. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon is one who attends to their own affairs and does not meddle with others. Desistance means offending behavior.”
As we can see, this verse is not taking away from women the ability to speak in the church. Yet, this is how this word has been translated into English. What does this verse mean then? As we can see, it is referring to women in the church who were causing a disruption in the church service by being loud and offensive. If we look at the history of pagan services from this time period, we will see that many of them were led by women and that they were very loud and chaotic. Clearly, these women thought that this was how Christian church services were likewise supposed to be conducted. This behavior had to be corrected by the early leaders of the Church because God is a God of order not chaos.
Concerning verse 12…
1 Timothy 2:12 says “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Once again we must go back to the Greek language. The word used for “nor” is oude. This word is used to mean both things in combination and as to continue a negation. So a woman is not to usurp a man’s authority in order to teach. The word for usurp is authentein. The word is a rare word used in Greek and is used to imply ‘not to be domineering or to domineer over someone’. What we must understand at this time in history is that in pagan assemblies women served as high priestesses and as temple prostitutes. These services were chaotic in nature and were lead usually solely by women. In many instances men were completely banned from these services. When these women converted to Christianity they would have assumed that they were the ones to speak in the services.
As we know, the founders of the first church were Jewish males who had been raised according to the law of Moses and Jewish law. They knew that women, before Christ came, were cursed to be under men and so were not allowed into the inner temple under Levitical law. Thus, during the time of Paul it would have been assumed that a woman would not have taught over men both in Jewish and Greek culture. For Paul to have clarified this fact for the church would have been unnecessary and also redundant due to the culture of the time. (Paul Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said about Women).
If a woman in this time had a position of authority at all (which would have been very rare), she was only in authority over other women. This verse was not to say that women were not to teach men but rather that they should not usurp authority over the men that were already leaders in the church and to try to dominate them in order to teach.
GUARDIAN OF THE HOME AND FAMILY
1 Timothy 5:14
Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
Younger widows is neōteras and translates young person
Keep House = oikodespotein in present active form meaning to rule your household. The root of the word oikodespotes is to rule your house or to be the head, master or guide of your house.
Occassion = aphormēn from thayer’s Greek lexicon: a place from which a movement or attack is made, a base of operations
For this reason, I want the young to get married, to bear children, to rule the house so that there is no possible place of attack or base of operations where the enemy may have a reason to attack against you. Satan is an accuser of the brethren and caused others to turn away from the Lord.
This is outstanding considering women were either servant housewives whose only purpose was to serve her husband or they were prostitutes during the time of Paul.
We must remember that Christ gave his power unto the churches.
HUSBANDS AND WIVES
Now to address the role of women in marriage.
Ephesians 5:21-22 “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
Likewise, 1 Peter 3:1
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not
the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of
and Colossians 3:18
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
(also Ephesians 5:22 mentioned above) say that women are to submit to/be subject to/obey their husbands. The words used are hypotassomenai and hypotassesthe respectively. The root of both words is hupotasso.
The word has two meanings and uses military and non-military.
The military use of the word means to be obedient and to arrange in order in reference to a hierarchy of command.
The non-military or ‘common use’ of the word means to assume a
responsibility and to help carry a burden. This gives women
responsibility in the call of God and in the family unit. We also know that the meaning of the word is the non-military use because the dialect of Greek that the New Testament is Koine Greek. Koine is called the “common use” Greek. Once again, this does not establish hierarchy but teamwork and joint effort in the Kingdom of God. Obviously, a wife is not part of a military unit. Sadly, this verse is always translated as subjection and obedience despite this fact.
Here we have verse 21 from Ephesians 5 below. Depending on the translation subject can be translated as submit. As we can see the word hypotassomenoi is the Greek word that is translated as subject/submit.
The literal Greek says “Everyone woman to the own husband”. The word subject/submit was added later into the English translation.
Here we have the remaining verses below:
The word used in Greek for head is kephalē and it is a feminine noun not a
masculine noun. It can be defined as a ruler but is most often used in
other parts of scripture to represent a figure head/a representation, an
actual person’s physical head or a source from which something comes.
To denote authority, leadership, or a ruler archon is used in Greek. As
we can see, Archon was not used by Paul to address husbands and wives.
It is used in many other places of scripture to denote a head or someone
who heads in a position of authority. Part of the confusion with
kephalē is that in our language “head” is used to mean an authoritarian
whereas in Greek it is not. It is used to denote a source. Ephesians
5:28 “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own
bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because
we are members of His body”. This verse further explains the use of
kephalē. For the husband and wife are one. Since the woman was made from
the side of the man, he is a source from which she comes just as the
church was birthed out of the side of Christ. Just as Christs side was
pierced to produce the church, the man’s side was pierced to produce the
woman. This is to help unify men and women, not to establish hierarchy.
In this time period, men were the assumed leaders and had total
authority in the home. It would have been redundant for Paul to have
addressed this issue if he had been referring to authority or hierarchy.
So how can we translate Ephesians 5:21-24 in light of the Greek? We can translate it as..
And carry the burdens of one another in the fear of Christ. Wives to the own (or “their”) husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the source from which the wife originates as also Christ is the source from which the Church originates – He Himself is the Savior of the body. But even as the Church carries the burden of Christ so also wives their own husbands in everything.
Surprisingly, I haven’t heard this understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 expressed so clearly:
“If we look at the history of pagan services from this time period, we will see that many of them were led by women and that they were very loud and chaotic. Clearly, these women thought that this was how Christian church services were likewise supposed to be conducted. This behavior had to be corrected by the early leaders of the Church because God is a God of order not chaos.”
This interpretation is entirely plausible.
My favourite bit is what Lee Grady says here: “’It is shameful for a woman to speak.’ Do we honestly believe that this verse reflects the heart of God? Is this the view of the apostle Paul, who ordained women to serve with him in apostolic ministry? It cannot be.”
I agree. “It cannot be.” Paul valued his female coworkers and used the exact same terms (titles) for them as he did for his male coworkers, terms such as deacon and apostle.
Thanks so much!