This question was asked
Are Women supposed to be pastors? Are they supposed to
teach in front of a congregation?
I will attempt to answer this question with scripture and
history. You have the right as always to formulate your own understanding.
Do you know these women:
Mary Magdalene, Prisca, Joanna, Junia, Susanna, Julia, Euodia, Lydia,
Paul rebuked some of the
women for their low-cut immoral clothing decorated with pearls. Ephesus was the
center of the worship of Artemis (see Acts 19:28), and her priestesses dressed
just as Paul described. Paul stressed good deeds “appropriate for women who
PROFESS to worship God”. Paul personally had doubts about the motives of these
women! Next Paul advises that he lets wives/women learn quietly and
submissively. The Greek word for women and wives is the same word so it is hard
to tell for sure whether Paul meant a group of unconverted wives Timothy had
told him about, or all the women. The wives/women in question obviously hadn’t
been learning quietly, and from studying the entire two chapters we can tell
that some were teaching false doctrines either publicly or privately.
In the critical verse 12, Paul
writes, “I do not permit a woman (or wife) to teach or…(and what it is that
he doesn’t want them teaching?) The phrase “to usurp authority over the” is all
translated from only ONE Greek word: “authentein.”
This word is only in this one
verse in the entire New Testament! Translators are still arguing about what
“authentein” meant at the time of Paul, as word meanings change over time. So the latest scholarly translation of
“authentein” is that it was a coarse sexual word that had nothing to do with
authority at the time of Paul! He does
not use the word again in any of his other letters!
Another proof that Paul was
not discussing authority in 1 Tim. 2:12 is that Paul mentions authority in the
same chapter we are discussing—1Tim. 2:2, “kings and all those in authority”
and he uses an entirely different Greek word—not the mystery word “authentein”!
So the main scripture quoted
to tell women they can’t teach (give Bible studies and sermons during services)
is based on a scripture that contains a word that no one knows FOR SURE what it
means! In many other scriptures Paul praises women in active ministry! Does it
make sense to hinge an entire doctrine affecting 60% of the church on an
uncertain verse that contradicts Paul’s other writings and the words of Jesus?
The major premise of these
sermons was that all women are to be subject or controlled by all men. It’s a
faulty premise. Wives yielding graciously, lovingly to the gentle, caring
leadership of Christian husbands is set in a family context. Nowhere are all
women subject to all men!
Deborah never made it into
the “women’s role” sermon because she summoned Barak and he came—she didn’t go
to him. Deborah, a wife and mother, led and judged the entire nation of Israel!
That was all God’s will! God’s doing! Deborah praised the “princes” who went to
war under her leadership by the command of God, Judges 5:2 and 9. Apostle and
prophet top the list of spiritual gifts in 1Cor. 12:28. A minister, listed
simply as a teacher in the list, is listed beneath the spiritual gift of
prophet. Of course all spiritual gifts are important in the church, but some
have greater responsibility before God. Prophets such as Deborah received
direct words of God—and being married didn’t stop God from selecting Deborah or
Huldah (2 Chron. 34:22) as prophets. God doesn’t change. If we can have women
prophets we can have women teacher/ministers as they “rank” below prophets. Yet
rank is not a concept that God promotes, for all leadership must be loving
servant leadership, Matt. 20:26.
All of these women and many
more, didn’t make it into those sermons about women’s role. Neither did Euodia
and Syntyche, who Paul said, “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel”,
Phil. 4:2-5, NIV. The Greek phrase mentioning these two women is originally a
reference to wrestling side by side in the cause of the gospel! Paul praised
these women for publicly verbally wrestling for God’s Truth! Two women were
publicly teaching God’s truth right beside Paul and Paul praised them for it!
In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus
gives her (Mary Magdalene) special teaching and commissions her as an apostle
to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is thus the first to
announce the resurrection and to play the role of an apostle, although the term
is not specifically used of her. Later tradition, however, will herald her as
“the apostle to the apostles.” The strength of this literary
tradition makes it possible to suggest that historically Mary was a prophetic
visionary and leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after
the death of Jesus.
Her role as “apostle to the apostles” is frequently explored,
especially in considering her faith in contrast to that of the male disciples
who refuse to believe her testimony. She is most often portrayed in texts that
claim to record dialogues of Jesus with his disciples, both before and after
the resurrection. In the Dialogue of the Savior, for example, Mary is
named along with Judas (Thomas) and Matthew in the course of an extended
dialogue with Jesus. During the discussion, Mary addresses several questions to
the Savior as a representative of the disciples as a group. She thus appears as
a prominent member of the disciple group and is the only woman named. Moreover,
in response to a particularly insightful question, the Lord says of her,
“´You make clear the abundance of the revealer!'” (140.17-19). At
another point, after Mary has spoken, the narrator states, “She uttered
this as a woman who had understood completely”(139.11-13). These
affirmations make it clear that Mary is to be counted among the disciples who
fully comprehended the Lord’s teaching (142.11-13).
Mary also plays a clear role among those whom Jesus teaches. She is one of the
seven women and twelve men gathered to hear the Savior after the resurrection,
but before his ascension. Of these only five are named and speak, including
Mary. At the end of his discourse, he tells them, “I have given you
authority over all things as children of light,” and they go forth in joy
to preach the gospel. Here again Mary is included among those special disciples
to whom Jesus entrusted his most elevated teaching, and she takes a role in the
preaching of the gospel.
In the Gospel of Philip, Mary
Magdalene is mentioned as one of three Marys “who always walked with the
Lord” and as his companion (59.6-11). The work also says that Lord loved
her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often (63.34-36). The
importance of this portrayal is that yet again the work affirms the special
relationship of Mary Magdalene to Jesus based on her spiritual perfection.
The Gospel of Mary presents an unflinchingly
favorable portrait of Mary Magdalene as a woman leader among the disciples. The
Lord himself says she is blessed for not wavering when he appears to her in a
vision. When all the other disciples are weeping and frightened, she alone
remains steadfast in her faith because she has grasped and appropriated the
salvation offered in Jesus’ teachings. Mary models the ideal disciple: she
steps into the role of the Savior at his departure, comforts, and instructs the
other disciples. Peter asks her to tell any words of the Savior which she might
know but that the other disciples have not heard. His request acknowledges that
Mary was preeminent among women in Jesus’ esteem, and the question itself
suggests that Jesus gave her private instruction. Mary agrees and gives an
account of “secret” teaching she received from the Lord in a vision.
The vision is given in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Mary; it is
an extensive account that takes up seven out of the eighteen pages of the work.
At the conclusion of the work, Levi confirms that indeed the Saviour loved her
more than the rest of the disciples (18.14-15). While her teachings do not go
unchallenged, in the end the Gospel of Mary affirms both the truth of
her teachings and her authority to teach the male disciples. She is portrayed as
a prophetic visionary and as a leader among the disciples.
Women’s prominence did not, however, go
unchallenged. Every variety of ancient Christianity that advocated the
legitimacy of women’s leadership was eventually declared heretical, and
evidence of women’s early leadership roles was erased or suppressed.
This erasure has taken many forms.
Collections of prophetic oracles were destroyed. Texts were changed. For
example, at least one woman’s place in history was obscured by turning her into
a man! In Romans 16:7, the apostle Paul sends greetings to a woman named
Junia. He says of her and her male partner Andronicus that they are “my
kin and my fellow prisoners, prominent among the apostles and they were in
Christ before me.” Concluding that women could not be apostles, textual
editors and translators transformed Junia into Junias, a man.
Mary Magdalene could be associated with every
unnamed sinful woman in the gospels, including the adulteress in John
8:1-11 and the Syro-phoenician woman with her five and more
“husbands” in John 4:7-30. Mary the apostle, prophet, and
teacher had become Mary the repentant whore. This fiction was invented at least
in part to undermine her influence and with it the appeal to her apostolic
authority to support women in roles of leadership.
It needs to be emphasized that the formal elimination of women from official
roles of institutional leadership did not eliminate women’s actual presence and
importance to the Christian tradition, although it certainly seriously damaged
their capacity to contribute fully. What is remarkable is how much evidence has
survived systematic attempts to erase women from history, and with them the
warrants and models for women’s leadership.
Jesus said WHOSOEVER practices and TEACHES these commandments
will be called GREAT in the Kingdom of heaven! Matt. 5:19. Jesus never placed
limits on His women! Jesus does not forbid women from teaching and achieving
greatness along with the men who teach His commandments. In the past we have
not understood the context of Paul’s writings or exactly the culture he was
dealing with. Almost two centuries later, Paul’s letter to Timothy is indeed
difficult to understand. But however we interpret Paul, we must remember that
our understanding of Paul’s writings cannot contradict the words of our Savior,
Jesus! The words of Jesus are clear and apply to “whosoever”. Both men and
women must be allowed to obey Jesus and be allowed to teach His ways and
commandments without limitations.