POINTS COVERED –
Passages appearing to silence women
1 Cor. 14, 1 Tim 2
Passage silencing men – Titus 1
Man as the head – context of Ephesians 5
Wider context in Christ – Born Again – Neither male nor female
THE MESSAGE OF JESUS
“Do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. ” Matt. 23:8-11
Jesus said that He is the only ultimate spiritual leader of men and women – all are equal ‘brethren’ in Christ. This research investigates the passages which appear to contradict His teaching and elevate men as leaders, and silence women.
PASSAGES ABOUT SILENCE
There are two passages which say that women should be silent –
1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12.
There is also one passage which says that men must have their mouths stopped –
Titus 1:11. All these passages are traditionally attributed to Paul.
1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35
“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for women to speak in church”. 1 Cor. 14:34-35
There are a couple of points here. It doesn’t just say that women can’t speak, even questions must be asked of husbands at home. This implies that husbands are able to answer their wives spiritual questions. Logic says this can’t always be the case.
Paul also appeals to the law – but what law ? There is no law in the entire Old Testament that silenced women.
The word “law ”in 1 Cor. 14 can mean any law – not just the Law of Moses. For example Rom.3:27 “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” Here “law” refers to a law of works and a law of faith.
Corinthians was written to mostly Gentile believers living in a Roman city. The appeal could be to the Roman law which indeed did silence women.
ROMAN LAW – PATRIA POTESTAS
Under the Roman law ‘Patria Potestas’ a woman was subject to a man all her life.
Patria Potestas: Power of a Father – absolute authority – power over life and death. When his daughter married, this power could either go to her husband or stay with the father, whichever way, she was always controlled by a man. This Law made a woman subordinate and could very likely be what was being referred to in 1 Cor. 14.
It’s also possible that the law being referred to is the Jewish oral law – a man made law, not a God made law. Judaizers made life difficult for the new Christians and constantly tried to impose their own traditions. The Talmud taught –
“Out of respect to the congregation, a woman should not herself read in the law.”
“It is a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men.”
The Talmud is another likely option for the law referred to in 1 Cor. 14:34.
GENESIS 3:16 – TRADITIONAL ARGUMENT
There is no law in the Old Testament which silences women and tells them to ask questions of their husbands. The traditional church argument has been that Paul is referring to Genesis 3:16 and a law that women must submit to men. Does such a law exist?
GENESIS 3:16 –
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
This verse is often interpreted as “the Law of woman submitting to man”. This is not about all women submitting to all men but about the relationship between husband and wife. Paul gives no evidence of referring to this verse.
What happened in Eden was a breakdown of relationships, especially with God, and it led to sin. When Eve was tempted she didn’t turn to God, she turned to her husband – a bad thing because he let her down.
“Your desire will be for your husband.”
This word desire –(tesquah in Hebrew), means toward in the sense of ‘turning’. We are NOT told that God cursed Eve, but He did tell her of consequences. She would have pain in child bearing. In the garden she had turned to Adam instead of turning to God. If she turned to her husband in the future – if that is where her desire lay – then he would rule over her. This was a conditional consequence. A woman’s desire or turning can be to God above her desire for her husband. And even though she may be in a marriage situation that binds her to a man, her turning or desire can still be to God as in the case of Abigail.
ANCIENT INTERPRETERS OF GEN 3:16
The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel (Rabbi and disciple of Hillel)
“And to your husband shall be your desire, and he will have rule over you unto righteousness or unto sin.”
This interpretation is interesting as it recognises that it can be a bad thing for a husband to rule over his wife – they can lead them to sin.
DID PAUL REFER TO GENESIS?
Compare the verse in Gen. with Paul’s verse in Corinthians –
“Your desire (turning) will be to your husband, and he will rule over you.”
|1 Cor. 14:34
“They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as also the law says. If they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
The verse in Genesis is a conditional statement -That a husband will rule over his wife if her turning is toward him. He may rule over her in a physical sense, but if her desire is to God above her husband (as in the case of Abigail) then God will rule in her heart. Eve should have turned to God, not Adam. Mary got it right and chose to be the handmaid of the Lord even if it meant her husband would put her away – “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord” Luke 1:38.
The verse in Corinthians, in contrast to Genesis, is a command – women MUST be submissive to men – a rule to obey. Was it really referring to Genesis? Was it really a statement from Paul or was he quoting “the matters they wrote about” ? (see 1 Cor. 7:1).
The traditional view is that Paul was stating that women should be silent and expanding what was said in Genesis – thus giving a different meaning than we would otherwise take from it. But why would Paul appeal to the Law and this verse, when he says so many times we are no longer under the law?
NO LONGER UNDER THE LAW
“Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13.
“If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18.
This Law of sin and death we are set free from goes back to Eden. Paul is clearly referring to it and saying we are no longer under it – we still die, but if we are in Christ it doesn’t have a hold over us in a spiritual sense.
So what is this law that supposedly Paul is referring to? It’s inconsistent to say we’re NOT under the law and then to enforce it in 1 Cor. 14.
Could it just be the Roman or oral Jewish Law? Or could there be a fuller explanation?
CONTEXT OF FIRST CORINTHIANS
1 Corinthians 14 should be considered within the context of the rest of 1 Corinthians. Paul doesn’t expect women to be silent because in 1 Cor. 11 he discusses what men and women will wear when praying and prophesying – both spoken activities.
1 Cor. 14:5 says “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy”.
1 Cor. 14:26 says “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”
1 Cor.14:39 says “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy” (NIV).
In the immediate context, Paul approved and encouraged both men and women speaking in the church meetings.
In the wider context, including Old Testament times – Women spoke, judged, prophesied, led.
|1 Cor. 14:26
“When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction.”
|1 Cor. 14:34-35
“The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak.”
1 Cor. 14:34-35 can’t be saying the opposite of what is established by the rest of the Bible. Women did instruct and speak both in the Old Testament and New Testament.
THE MATTERS YOU WROTE ABOUT
The difficulty with 1 Cor. is that Paul is answering a series of questions but we don’t know what they are. 1 Cor. 7:1 gives the context –
Paul’s style of quoting the church’s questions is similar to his style of quoting Old Testament scriptures. Sometimes he clearly says what he’s quoting and sometimes he repeats the quote without saying so. This would make sense to the original recipients of his letter who knew their own questions, but leaves us with the task of untangling Paul’s words from those of the church.
In the original Greek the answers are combined with the questions and there are no punctuation marks to make the questions stand out. Some translators now include quotation marks where they have discerned the remark Paul is addressing. For example:
1 Cor. 6:12-13 from the NIV – quoted parts in bold italics.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say- but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
1 Cor. 7:1 from the NIV.
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
1 COR. 14:34-36 AS A QUOTATION
I believe the explanation for the puzzling passage in 1 Cor. 14:34-36 is that Paul is quoting one of the questions he’s been asked. A clear example is in the preceding verses explaining that tongues were for believers not unbelievers – 2 confusing opinions mixed together –
The same pattern continues for the confusing passages about the silencing of women –
If we understand the passage this way it takes on the opposite meaning to the traditional view. The problem verses are a manmade custom that women are to be silent and ask questions of their husbands. Paul dismisses such an absurd idea and asks two questions:
- “Came the word out from you?” – The word came out from Jesus not these men.
- “Came it unto you only?” “only” = alone – without a companion. Were these men alone receiving a new teaching and not the women?
In Jesus women are “Sons of God”. Being male or female doesn’t matter, they are born of God’s will, not men’s will, nor a husband’s will.
“To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12.
CONCLUSION FOR SILENCING WOMEN 1 COR. 14
Paul wasn’t silencing women, he was quoting those who were and refuting them with the arguments that the word of God did not come out from them, nor did it come to them alone. The word of God came out from Jesus to both men and women.
1 TIMOTHY 2:11-12 – FALSE DOCTRINES
At face value, 1Timothy 2:11-12 also appears to silence women in worship. As with Paul’s Corinthians passage, it is vital to understand the context.
Paul’s purpose in writing to Timothy was to tell him to stay in Ephesus so that he could command certain people not to teach false doctrine. “Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” 1 Tim 1:3.
The setting is first Century Ephesus and there’s a problem with wrong doctrine. Lets’ consider what was happening in ancient Ephesus.
ANCIENT EPHESUS –Home of the temple of Artemis – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Greek poet Antipater described the temple.
“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”
Temple worship of Artemis went so far back in history that its origins are uncertain. There had been at least three temples there by the time of Paul. Ephesus was the trade centre of the ancient world. It was a melting pot of myths. There were various mystery religions in Ephesus, the practice of magic (Acts 19:19), worship of Egyptian gods as well as a large number of other gods.
Artemis, according to Greek mythology, is one of the virgin goddesses who remained independent and free of any man. She is the Goddess of pregnant women and childbirth, Goddess of all animals and Goddess of the hunt.
Added to the independent Goddess Artemis was the legend of the Amazon Women.
Legend has it that the city of Ephesus was founded by the Amazon Women who also built the first temple to Artemis. According to Greek mythology they were a nation of all female warriors who originated from Northern Turkey. They were skilled warriors who rode horses, enslaved men and forced them to build the city. By the time of Paul, the worship of Artemis had merged into the worship of Diana of the Ephesians.
DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS
We know from Acts 18 that Diana was worshipped all over the Roman Empire – this is confirmed by ancient coins which call her “Saviour”. From Acts 19:27 we have the quote: “The goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world.”
She had many titles, one of them was “Protector of Women in Childbirth”. The Roman Diana had evolved from the Greek One. The idea of powerful independent women was reinforced in the Artemis cult because unlike other Greek goddesses, Artemis had no need of a male partner. Images of the Amazon women also lined her temple in Ephesus.
PHILOSPHERS AND MYTHS
Ephesus was a breeding ground for myths and also attracted philosophers.
Paul said – “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” 1 Cor. 1:20-25
Here in Ephesus the thinkers of the age came together. There still stands a statue in the ancient library from AD 117 where Wisdom or Sophia was personified as a woman.
MYTH – EVE WAS FIRST
Sophia was one of the figures in the Gnostic stories. Her daughter was Eve. It’s hard to date the origin of the Gnostic stories as they evolved over time, but we can deduce that the ideas that fed them were present in Ephesus at the time of Pauls’ writings. One of the Gnostic texts says that Eve woke Adam from sleep –
From “On the Origin of the World”
Sophia sent Zoe, her daughter, who is called “Eve,” as an instructor in order that she might raise up Adam, in whom there is no spiritual soul so that those whom he could beget might also become vessels of light. When Eve saw her companion, who was so much like her, in his cast down condition she pitied him, and she exclaimed: “Adam, live! Rise up upon the earth!” Immediately her words produced a result for when Adam rose up, right away he opened his eyes. When he saw her, he said: “You will be called ‘mother of the living’, because you are the one who gave me life.“
This passage promotes the Myth that Eve was made first. Gnosticism tried to combine it’s teachings with those of Christianity; it adopted the creation stories but changed their meanings. The ‘wrong teachings’ Paul describes were the same as the wrong teachings found in Gnosticism. Despite some scholars claiming that Gnosticism arose later, we know that the same ideas were present at the time of Paul because he refers to them. He also refers to the “false knowledge” – the Greek word for knowledge being ‘gnosis’.
1 Tim. 6:20-21 “The profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis) – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.”
Comparing 1 Timothy with Gnostic texts we can make a list of wrong teachings
– The woman was not part of the transgression – Adam alone brought sin into the world – Women did not have to submit to men but could be in authority over them – Creating more vile flesh by having children is evil – Women who give birth will be hindered from entering Gnostic heaven.
SILENCING WOMEN? – 1 Tim 2:11-15
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. And she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
At face value Paul appears to be silencing women (or a particular woman) because Adam was made first and wasn’t deceived like Eve was. He appears to be giving Adam an elevated status and endorsing a male hierarchy. Let’s see how these ideas compare to the teachings of Jesus. Would Paul contradict Jesus?
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
“Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.”
Matt.23:11“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43.
“Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35.
ORDER DOESN’T MATTER
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Matt. 19:30.
BUT PAUL APPEARS TO SAY THERE IS A MALE HEIRARCHY
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Tim. 2:12.
DOES ORDER REALLY MATTER?
“She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” 1 Tim 2:13.
At face value – the words of Jesus and the words of Paul don’t seem to agree. Would Paul say order matters in one place when he said it doesn’t in another?
1 Cor. 11:11-12 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. And everything comes from God.”
‘Women are to be silent for man was formed first.’
So once again – at face value – Paul’s words are very puzzling. Let’s think about Timothy the young man Paul is writing to.
Paul begins his letter by saying:
“To Timothy, my dear son… I thank God, whom I serve… I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Tim 1
Let’s compare this to our difficult passage.
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Tim. 2:12.
Again the passages seem to clash. Would Paul really silence Timothy’s mother and Grandmother when in 2 Timothy he commends them? He even implies that Timothy’s faith had been nurtured by these women.
When we take Paul’s words at face value in this Timothy passage they don’t stack up against other parts of scripture or even other things Paul says.
Let’s consider another part of the Timothy Passage.
EVE WAS IN THE TRANSGRESSION TOO
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” 1 Tim 2:14
This passage makes two points.
- Adam was not deceived.
- The woman was in the transgression because she was deceived.
The point of this passage is not to say that women are more easily deceived than men, but to show that Eve was also in the transgression and not Adam alone.
It’s interesting that in Eden God gave the command not to eat of the tree to Adam, before Eve was made. It would seem that Eve was told about the command via Adam. After they ate the fruit it was Adam that God spoke to, the one given the original command from God.
Adam’s guilty verdict starts with “Because you listened to your wife,” which gives the impression that listening to his wife is his main misdoing; this is not what it’s about. The point was not about listening to a woman, and therefore all men should never listen to women – the point was about Adam disobeying the direct and clear command from God. Adam deliberately sinned by eating the fruit, he knew it was wrong and still did it anyway. In contrast to this Eve had been deceived.
It’s also interesting that the term, “cursed” – arur, is absent from God’s announcement to Eve. The serpent is cursed above all the animals and punished, and because of Adam’s sin, the earth is cursed. But nothing is cursed, using the word ‘arur’ because of Eve.
IT IS ALSO WRITTEN
“For as in Adam all die” 1 Cor. 15:22
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” Rom. 5:12
In 1 Timothy Paul is emphasising that women were drawn into the transgression by being deceived, that is the point here – to correct wrong doctrine which was causing some women to be deceived. It seems likely that some women were saying that Eve was not part of Adam’s sin.
DIFFERENT GREEK WORDS FOR SILENCE
The verses in Corinthians and Timothy use different Greek words for silence.
1 Cor. 14:34: “Let your women keep silence (σιγάτωσαν) in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.” In this passage ‘silence’ means to keep silent.
1 Tim 2:11-12: “Let a woman learn in silence (ἡσυχίᾳ) with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence (ἡσυχίᾳ). For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” In this passage silence means ‘quietness’. The same word ‘ἡσυχίᾳ’ is used in the passage below only this time the translators decided to use the English word ‘quietness’ –
2 Thes. 3:11-12 “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness (ἡσυχίας) and eat their own bread.”
The word for silence in the Corinthians passage means silence as we understand it – without sound. The word in the Timothy passage doesn’t necessarily mean to be without sound, it has more of a slant to meaning stillness, or behaving in a quiet way, or settling down.
Let’s compare the traditional interpretation of the Timothy passage with an alternative one.
Traditional interpretation – Women are to be silent because Adam was made first – A universal rule from Paul to apply to all women for all time.
Alternative interpretation – Deceived women teaching wrong doctrines are to stop teaching and learn in quietness – Advice for a local situation to women who still needed to learn and were leading others astray. Other women like Priscilla were ready to teach and they did.
PAULS PURPOSE OF WRITING TO TIMOTHY
1 Tim 1:3 says “Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.”
NOTE: Paul’s command was only for ‘certain people’ – the ones teaching wrong doctrine.
From the context of 1 Tim. 2 the wrong doctrines appear to be:
– Doubts about Jesus being human
– Angry men
– Women overdressing
– EVE MADE FIRST and not part of Adam’s transgression,
– Having children hindered salvation.
1 Tim. 2:5-15
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, … I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”
This passage appears to be Paul’s correction to a list of wrong doctrines.
Below is a comparison of Paul’s comments from 1 Tim. 2 with false teachings.
Paul’s Comments False Doctrines, Myths
|V 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.||False teaching that Jesus was not a man: “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4:3|
|V 8 Men everywhere to pray… without anger or disputing…likewise (when they pray) women to dress modestly, not with elaborate hairstyles…or expensive clothes (brackets mine).||Some men giving prayers were involved in disputes – they shouldn’t be. Some women who gave prayers were dressing inappropriately. Both to pray in right manner.|
|V 11-15 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; and the woman being deceived was in the transgression. And women will be saved through childbearing.||Women who needed to learn had to do so in quietness instead of trying to assume authority. She/they had been deceived by the wrong doctrines – that Eve was made first? that Eve was not part of Adam’s sin? The Gnostic teaching that childbearing hindered salvation? It was better not to marry- “They forbid people to marry” 1 Tim 4:3
Perhaps still worshipping Diana to save in childbearing ?
In chapter one Paul told Timothy to stop some of the people from teaching – the ones spreading wrong doctrine.
In chapter two he says who those “certain people” are – his message is directed at a woman or perhaps a group of women.
He didn’t allow a woman (with wrong doctrine – who is still following the myths and genealogies) to teach nor to “usurp authority” (act of herself – independently of the men) but to learn quietly. The reason – her teachings are wrong – For Adam WAS formed first.
We know that there were ideas circulating in the Gnostic writings that Eve woke Adam. Paul is not saying “women must be silent because Adam was made first”.He’s saying that women with wrong doctrine must not teach and the fact is that Adam WAS made first, and that Eve WAS in the transgression.
Paul warned of those who claimed to have true knowledge but had a false knowledge – “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge (gnosis)” 1Tim.6:20.
WOMEN HAVING AUTHORITY
The Greek word for “AUTHORITY” that Paul uses in this verse is unique – it’s the only time it appears in the Bible.
1 Tim 2:12 “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence (meaning quietness).”
Authority – authenteo –means “to act of oneself” a SELF WORKER.
The most common word used for authority in the New Testament is exousia meaning power or authority – used 103 times.
We know from the context of 1Timothy that there were women in Ephesus trying to dominate, but they were led astray by wrong doctrine and still needed to learn. Paul is saying that women with wrong doctrine were not to be self workers, not to be independent of the men.
It should also be noted that Paul is not saying that men can have authority over women or be self workers – MEN can’t work independently of women – just as women can’t work independently of men. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:11, “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman.”
SAVED THROUGH CHILDBEARING
Paul adds a strange statement to his list of corrections – that women will be saved through childbearing. 1 Tim. 2:15 “And women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
Women are not saved by a different process to men. Men and women are saved by grace. God has never promised that good women won’t die in childbirth – they have and they will. This verse is talking about the Gnostic doctrines that marrying, having children and creating more vile flesh is evil and hinders a woman’s salvation – Paul is saying that having children does not hinder salvation.
From the Gnostic Gospel ‘The Dialogue of the Savior’, “Destroy the works of womanhood, not because there is any other manner of birth, but because they will cease giving birth.”
From 1 Tim. 4:3 “They forbid people to marry”.
These were wrong teachings that would make sense of Paul’s words – he was refuting the teaching of “destroying the works of womanhood (having babies). We have Paul’s rebuttals of the wrong doctrine and have to surmise what he was referring to both from scripture and what we now know of the false teachings in Ephesus. It helps to have an idea of the basic Gnostic beliefs to understand the ideas that were circulating.
SUMMARY OF GNOSTIC BELIEFS by Peter Baylis (from Paul, Timothy the Gnostics and Women)
That which is physical is evil; spirit is good.
Salvation is by your pure spirit escaping from your vile body and ascending to heaven. The means of such escape is ‘special knowledge’, gnosis in Greek, hence Gnosticism.
The Old Testament God had created the evil physical world. Hence he himself is evil and a deceiver.
The body is evil and to be treated harshly by fasting etc. But sexual immorality is fine because it breaks the law of the evil creator; marriage however is forbidden.
Creating more vile flesh by having children is evil. Women who give birth will be hindered from entering Gnostic heaven.
Eve is worshipped as a perfect, spirit being, Adam’s creator and, united with the Serpent, the enlightener of mankind with the True Knowledge.
Knowledge of your origins via your family tree is important to salvation; Eve is the origin of all.
Christ being perfect did not have a physical body, he only appeared to have one.
CONCLUSION FOR PAUL SILENCING WOMEN IN EPHESUS
He was telling certain women with wrong doctrines to learn in quietness – it was not a rule of silence for all women for all time.
TITUS 1:11 – PAUL SILENCES MEN
Paul didn’t only silence women, he also silenced men. He silenced anyone with wrong doctrine. That’s the real point here. It’s not a matter of sex – it’s a matter of stopping those who teach wrongly whether they are male or female.
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”
The Greek word here for “stopping” the mouths occurs only once in the New Testament – it means “to bridle or stop up the mouth” ie. muzzle. It was reserved for this group –‘The Circumcision Party’- the group of Judaizing teachers, who maintained the necessity of circumcision – men were certainly included in this group. Paul again refers to this group in Phil 3:2 and calls them “dogs”.
“ Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”
It’s appropriate that Paul says to stop up their mouths or muzzle them in Titus. The word Paul uses here to silence men with wrong doctrine is much harsher than the word for ‘learn in quietness’ which he applies to the woman or women with wrong doctrine in Ephesus.
DOES ORDER REALLY MATTER?
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam WAS formed first, then Eve.”
Paul’s point here is that Adam WAS made first and the story going around that Eve was made first and woke Adam from sleep wasn’t true. He is not making the point that being first is being greater. ADAM was made first and given God’s word first but he sinned knowingly, he should have saved Eve when she was deceived.
JESUS – the second and greater Adam – didn’t give in to sin and died to save his bride. Being first didn’t make Adam better than Eve – he sinned.
MEN CAN BE DECEIVED LIKE EVE WAS
2 Cor. 11:3 – written to both men and women – “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray”.
Paul warns MEN as well not to be deceived and fall into sin like Eve.
The point of the passage in Timothy about deception is DON’T MAKE EVE’S MISTAKE – don’t be deceived – turn to God not people.
PAUL’S CONFLICTING ADVICE
What about Paul’s advice to young widows in chapter 5? Is Paul’s giving advice in a Local Context or making a rule for all women for all time?
|1 Tim 5:14
“So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households”
|1 Cor. 7:8
“Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.”
Surely when Paul gives advice which is in conflict with his own advice or that of Jesus, then what is “also written” must be taken into account, and isolated passages not taken at face value.
MAN AS THE HEAD
There is just one passage which says that man is the head of the woman.
It’s by Paul – 1 Cor. 11:3.
There is one passage which says that the husband is the head of the wife.
It’s also by Paul – Eph. 5:23.
UNTANGLING 1 COR. 11:1-16
“The head of woman is man”.
In this passage Paul continues his response to matters that Church members had written to him about – 1 Cor. 7:1 “Now for the matters you wrote about”– we have Paul’s reply interspersed with their unidentified questions. It’s apparent that one of those questions was about head coverings.
It is also evident that Jewish traditions were causing friction – traditions which went back to Adam and Eve. Paul tells them that their reasoning is invalid – they think that man is the glory of God and woman the glory of man and leave Christ out of the equation.
1 Cor. 11:3 “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
The Jewish traditions pre-dated Christ – Paul adds Christ to the equation. He states that Christ is the head of man, man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. The meaning for “head” (kephale) is judged by the context. It can mean a literal head or be a metaphor for “origin” or “source” or for ideas such as “cornerstone” or having pre-eminence. The context in 1 Cor. 11 is who came from whom – who was the origin as in v 8 “For man is not from woman, but woman from man”. To the Jews the idea of who came first was important, it also carried the idea of pre-eminence. Paul points out that the first woman might have come from man but all men thereafter were born of woman – woman is the source of man. “For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.”
JEWISH HEADCOVERING TRADITIONS
If their concerns about head coverings were a matter of Roman Law, then there would be no indecision – they would obey the laws of the land. The reason for their dilemma had a basis in Eve coming from Adam – Jewish heritage – not Roman.
When Jewish customs or any customs of men are in contention there is always pressure applied by those who can’t let go of them – the type who send messengers to make sure things don’t change. The phrase “because of the angels” in v. 10 make sense when applied to mortal messengers coming from the Jewish Christians wishing to stick to their traditions (angel meaning messenger).
There is no teaching in the Old Testament nor any command from Jesus for women to cover their hair. However, we know that there were Jewish customs about hair coverings. We know that those who wanted to impose customs were causing trouble. In Acts 15 the problem was about circumcision – Acts 15:24-25 “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you”. NKJV
We can deduce from 1 Cor. 11 that hair customs were a problem in Paul’s day and that Judaisers were trying to impose their man made customs on the church at Corinth.
The practice of a woman covering her head is not listed in the fundamental biblical commandments according to the taryag mitzvot (rabbinic enumerations of the 613 commandments of Judaism). The Jews never recognised the covering of a woman’s hair as being a commandment from the Law of Moses. They themselves recognised it as a man made custom – one which caused debate and is found in Talmud records 200-500 years after Christ.
HAIR CUSTOMS IN TALMUD
Uncovered hair being associated with shame seems to go back to Numbers 5:18, where the priest uncovers the head or unbraids the hair of a woman accused of adultery (Jewish debate over meaning of the word parah) “Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands.” From this, the Talmud (Jewish man-made custom) – Ketuboth 72 – concludes that under normal circumstances hair covering is a requirement for women.
However the Mishnah in Ketuboth (7:6) implies that hair covering is not a Biblical obligation but one of modesty defined by the community. It discusses behaviour which is grounds for divorce eg. “appearing in public with loose hair, weaving in the marketplace, and talking to any man” – violations of Jewish rule as opposed to Mosaic rule.
The Talmud (Ketuboth 72) gives a compromise position: minimal hair covering is an obligation but further standards of hair covering are decided on by the community. Also in the Talmud (Berakhot 24a), the rabbis define hair as erotic (ervah), and prohibit men from praying in sight of a woman’s hair. They base this on Song of Sol 4:1 “Your hair is like a flock of goats”. This reference to praying and covering hair connects with the passage in 1Cor 11 where head coverings are mentioned in the context of praying.
It would seem a fair assumption that Jewish traditions such as these were behind the questions asked of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 as follows.
Section 1 – PAUL SAYING TO FOLLOW CHRIST
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Paul introduces the passage with a reminder to imitate him as he imitated Christ – Christ being the source (or head) for both men and women to imitate –
Praise for keeping the traditions just as he passed them on – the traditions which had originated with Christ as Paul explained in Col. 2:8 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
He wants them to know that the head of man is Christ – not place themselves directly below God, as they had done (refer to verse 7).
Section 2 – JEWISH CUSTOMS
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
Paul refers to the custom of the Jews concerning headcovering. They take into account what is considered honourable or shameful according to their own customs – there is a possible allusion to the shame of a woman captive having her cut off (Deut 21:12)
Paul appears to refer to the Old Testament but there is no teaching that woman is the glory of man. Both man and woman were made in the image of God – “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
Section 3 – JEWISH CUSTOMS NOT VALID IN CHRIST
“It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels”. NIV
Note: Some versions say “symbol of authority” but the word “symbol” is not in the Greek.
Nevertheless, (plen – further) neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16
But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
This is Paul’s primary answer to the question (which we can conclude from his answer) “can women decide for themselves if they cover their head or must they cover them as the messengers are insisting on?”
“Angel” is an untranslated Greek word meaning messenger or delegate – only the context determines whether a human or celestial messenger is intended.
“For this reason” applies to “because of the angels (messengers)” – meaning the woman should be given the authority or power over her own head– because the messengers are insisting she but must obey their customs- she needs authority to make her own decision. The messengers most likely being the traditional Jewish Christians who keeping trying to impose their customs on her.
Paul’s use of the Greek work Plen is always at the end of an argument to express a final thought – even if it’s quite long. He’s given his answer that women should decide for themselves about headcoverings, now adds closing thoughts. In this context “plen” is better translated as “further”, or “one more thing” (fuller explanation below) Paul then goes on to explain why the Jewish customs are not valid – woman formed “from” man and “for” man – but Paul says that all men apart from Adam came out of a woman.
Paul then appeals to the natural beauty of a woman’s hair which is a covering for her anyway.
CONCLUSION –People trying to impose this Jewish custom should realise that we don’t impose this rule of head covering, nor do the other churches of God. A woman has authority over her own head to decide what she wants to do about her hair.
In Christ there is no need for veils 2 Cor. 3:18 “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
JESUS AND HAIR
We are told the story of a woman in the presence of Jesus in Luke 7:44 and what she did with her hair. If women are required to cover their hair in front of men then how much more in the presence of Jesus? Yet this woman used her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet and He praised her for it.
TAKING A VERSE OUT OF CONTEXT
One of Jesus’ temptations was to take a passage of scripture in isolation and apply it wrongly – His response was to say “It is also written”. Matt. 4:7.
Verse 3 “the head of woman is man” – should not be taken in isolation – out of it’s context – nor should it be applied as justification for men to be leaders over women – a teaching not endorsed anywhere else. Verse 3 should be read in conjunction with verse 11and 12. “Head” in this context meaning origin – who came from whom.
‘But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” V3.
“Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.” V11-12.
In 1 Cor. 11 there is no authority given to men over women. The only time the word for authority is used is for women to have authority over their own head. The word for “head” is a metaphor – it can change it’s meaning just as it does in English. The context for men and women here is that Adam was the ‘origin’ of Eve. But more importantly – Christ has the pre-eminence as John 17:2 says “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” NIV.
IDENTIFYING WHAT PAUL REFERS TO
Paul appears to refer to the Old Testament in v 7-9 but doesn’t back it up with an actual quote. “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”
Would Paul introduce a new teaching from the Law when he says we are no longer under the Law ? “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18
Paul says that Christ is the head – the ‘origin’ of our understanding, yet Jesus did not teach that women should cover their hair nor that she was the glory of man. Further, Gen. 1:27 says that both men and women were made in the image of God – that’s all – nothing about woman being for the glory of man. The logical explanation for Paul’s reference back to issues relating to Adam and Eve is that it’s part of the question the church at Corinth had written to him about – not a new teaching Paul introduces.
SUMMARY OF 1 CORINTHIANS 11
In 1 Cor. 11:3 “man as the head of woman” should be considered in the context of the entire passage – Paul summarises the understanding that Eve came from Adam – the basis of the tradition that woman should cover her hair. He goes on to say that in the Lord it doesn’t matter who came from who. Paul’s main answer to their question about head covering is that because of the messengers women should be given authority to decide for themselves, not be pressured by the messengers, and they should remember that the other churches have no such head covering custom.
EPHESIANS 5:23 – MARRIAGE ONLY
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Eph. 5:22-24
In this passage Paul doesn’t say that man is the head of woman, but the husband is the head of the wife. This is not applying to all men being the heads of all women, but is in the context of marriage only.
Ephesians 5 and 6 describe three groups of people bound to others by non spiritual circumstances.
Those in a marriage relationship – “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” Eph. 5:31
Slaves bound to masters – “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh”. Eph. 6:5
Children and parents – Eph. 6:1
In all these situations people are bound to other people – Paul is saying – while you are in those situations to which you are bound – make the best of them – submit to the ones who rule over you.
All these situations are “according to the flesh” – There is no suggestion that men should be the spiritual heads or leaders of women. The fact is, according to the flesh – men have ruled over women and husbands have ruled over their wives. In Ephesus at the time of Paul’s writing, the husband was the head of the wife under the Roman Law – Patria Potestas – The power of a Father and the power of a Husband. Paul is saying – you are bound by this – make the best of it – submit as to the Lord.
Paul uses these situations “of the flesh” and turns them into parables of Christ and the Church, and says to “submit because of Christ”.
Those in a marriage relationship – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” Eph. 5:25.
Slaves bound to masters – “As bondservants of Christ” Eph. 6:6.
Children and parents – Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right.” Eph. 6:1.
The theme of wives submitting to husbands continues throughout the New Testament – but nowhere does it say that man is the spiritual head of woman.
The theme of slaves submitting to masters continues thoughout the New Testament, but howhere does it say that masters are the spiritual heads of slaves.
Not only are wives to submit to husbands, servants to slaves and children to parents but Paul says to “submit to one another” meaning everyone submits – Eph. 5:21.
SUBMISSION TO NON SPIRITUAL HEADS
1 Peter 3:1 tells wives to submit to their unbelieving partners or “heads” as the husband is referred to in the Ephesians passage.
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives”.
Submitting to ones husband does not mean or imply he is the spiritual head – it is an action to please Christ and even non believing husbands should be submitted to.
A BAD HUSBAND
Clearly Ananias didn’t give Saphira good spiritual advice, and they were both struck dead. Logic says that Paul can’t be saying that our spiritual advice must come from our husbands when the husband gives bad advice.
Acts 5:1-3 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”
THE WIDER CONTEXT
HOW DID JESUS INTERACT WITH WOMEN?
Luke 10:42 “One thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Jesus endorsed a role that was beyond washing pots and pans. Just as the Samaritan woman left her water pot to go and preach, so Mary left the kitchen chores to learn deeper spiritual things. Jesus said that what she had chosen would not be taken away from her.
We are told in Luke 8:2 that Jesus travelled with women. “He went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women.”
After His resurrection Jesus appeared first to a woman and sent her to the others as a witness. “Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” John 20:17
The 11 disciples didn’t believe Mary or the others who proclaimed the resurrection. Jesus rebuked them sternly for this. “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven … he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen”. Mark 16:14.
Jesus wasn’t impressed with the men who stubbornly refused to believe these women, especially when they had been instructed by Him to proclaim His resurrection. There are no occasions when Jesus silenced women – He rebuked the men for not believing them.
FREEDOM IN CHRIST
The New Testament is full of examples of women preaching with men. Acts 2 says “ALL received the holy spirit, ALL spoke in tongues.” This is what was spoken by Joel the prophet in chapter 2: “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.”
It was an exciting time for the church – men and women were working together to proclaim the gospel.
In the past, passages were lifted out of their context to justify turning people into slaves. Justification for slavery was based on the “curse of Ham” in Genesis 9:25-27.
“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem’.”
At one time Christians believed that Canaan had settled in Africa and that his descendents were black and that it was acceptable to take them into slavery.
Two thousand years after Jesus and Paul endorsed the equality of women, passages are still being lifted from their context to silence women and elevate men as leaders. But “it is also written”-
“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:26-29 NIV