This study will examine a woman’s role in Scripture by comparing:
The role of Woman in Creation p1 – יְהֹוָה’s perfect will for women; naming of the first woman, Chavvah; why was she created.
The role of women in ancient Jewish society p2 – the roles of wife and mother p3, within society p3, betrothal p4.
The role of women in ancient Greco-Roman society – p5.
The role of women in contemporary society – pre and post Industrial Revolution p6, women’s suffrage p7.
The role of women in the Renewed Covenant Assembly p8 – does it resemble Creation or Society? lay women p8, in leadership p9.
Women’s Role in Scripture
It is the intention of this study to look at what Scripture says regarding the role of women. Women have invariably been barred from all spiritual roles within an assembly, but can this be supported by scripture? Does the restriction upon women support the misogynistic hierarchy that is self-sustaining in allowing only men to have a teaching ministry? Are women being subjugated or are they following Scripture?
Throughout generations, Scripture has not been made available in the common tongue so that its interpretation was given by a relatively select few. Many martyrs were killed trying to get the Scriptures to the lay people. Once Scriptures were made available, the grip of the religious authorities was lost. There is no contradiction in Scripture IN THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT. When an apparent contradiction arises, it is due to a mis-translation, a mis-understanding or an abuse of Scripture for specific ends.
“יְהֹוָה `Elohiym created man in His own image. In יְהֹוָה `Elohiym He created him; male and female He created them. יְהֹוָה `Elohiym blessed them (both). יְהֹוָה `Elohiym said to them (both), ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gen. 1:27, 28a) (my parenthesis).This is the first mention that humanity consists of both a male and female component. Under יְהֹוָה `Elohiym’s natural order of things, it took both male (#H2145 *551 זָכָר zakar ) and female (#H5347 *1409b נְקֵבָה neqebah) to procreate. The importance of this union is in the fact that this is the first commandment given by יְהֹוָה `Elohiym to Mankind. “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife and they will be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24).
“יְהֹוָה `Elohiym said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” (Gen. 2:18). Adam is shortly to embark upon the first of the tasks יְהֹוָה `Elohiym has for him. This is the only part of Creation that we learn that deems to be bad and יְהֹוָה `Elohiym sets about making a companion suitable for him. #H5828 *1598a עֵזֶר `ezer – helper or assistance, usually of a divine nature (bible-history.com). #H5048 *1289a נֶגֶד negeb – before, is invariably mis-translated as suitable. Of over fifteen possible meanings, there is none that even suggests or infers the woman’s position subordinate to Adam. In fact, נֶגֶד negeb refers to one that is corresponding or equal to and adequate for the divine purpose. Amongst all the animals, there was no נֶגֶד negeb to be found (BDB).
It has been said that `Adam suffered from loneliness after watching the pairing of the animals and יְהֹוָה `Elohiym determined that a mate must be made. However, this is a western (Greek) paradigm in that loneliness is an abstract concept. The original Hebrew viewpoint is a physical state, as `Adam was without a suitable companion and was alone. A person can be alone without being lonely as a person may experience loneliness whilst be in the company of a crowd (verywell.com).
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman because she was taken from Man.’” (Gen. 2:23). #H802 *137a אִשָּׁה `ishshah – wife, woman. #376 *83a אִישׁ `ish – man, husband. There may well be a word-play in this verse, but it signifies the very close, intimate relationship between Woman and Man. יְהֹוָה `Elohiym provided the woman as a physical and intellectual compatible partner (Harris et al).
“The man named his wife Chavvah, because she was the mother of all living.” (Gen. 3:20). #H2332 חַוָּה Chavvah – life, living. This does not mean Chavvah was the mother of all creatures and plant life. Rather, the verse is the subject of poor translation and would be better translated ‘…mother of all clankind/humankind.’ (Hertz p12 quoting W. Robertson Smith). In this verse, Adam has given Chavvah the name (#H8034 *2405 שֵׁם shem – name) that will distinguish her from all other people: who she is. However, in Gen.2:23, Adam has called (#H7121 *2063 קָרָא qara – called) Chavvah woman. This refers to her primary attribute: what she is. This is why this study (and as all studies should) be critical of the wording of translations.
If Chavvah is the name given to the first woman, from where does the name ‘Eve’ come? The above paragraph shows that Chavvah is Hebrew for life or living. Chavvah is translated in the Septuagint (LXX) as zωή zōē. zωή features in the Gnostic mythology of Creation (gnosis.org). The early Gnostic teachings (The Testimony of Truth) regarding Creation rely heavily upon Judaic traditions where Chavvah is very close in sound to the Aramaic for serpent (Birger). Another Greek word meaning life #G2096 Εὕα (pronounced heua) and it is this word that has been transliterated into Eve. It was to partly counter the emerging Gnostic teachings within the Ephesus Assembly that Sha`ul wrote to Timothy (newlife.id.au) and against the Jewish and Greek attitudes towards women (Barclay(1) p76). It may well be that the early Church Fathers, in distancing themselves and thus the Church from the Judaic foundations, utilized this transliteration. This would have occurred contemporaneously with the transformation of Yahshua into Ἰησοῦς (Iesos) that would morph into Jesus. As Eve is a transliteration of a translation, it may likened to a commentary and thus open to opinion (chabad.org).
Therefore, from Creation, it can be seen that the roles of women were a helper and wife for man and a mother of children.
In Ancient Jewish Society
From early in Jewish history, women were subjugated with reasoning (excuse?) that Woman was made secondary to Man and was the cause of death entering into the world. This was strengthened around the 3rd. Century B.C.E. by the surrounding nations, influenced by Semitic, Egyptian and particularly Greco-Roman societies that kept woman repressed (jwa.org/post-biblical). This subjugation led to women being segregated from men in the Temple (bible-history.com) and later in synagogues. By the time codified the Oral Law in the Babylonian Talmud – Succah 51a-52b (circa 500 C.E.), segregation was considered mandatory. This was supposed to prevent the men from being distracted by women’s bodies (wikipedia.org).
Tal Ilan relates how historically women held positions of senior leadership within synagogues (jwa.org/post-biblical). The historian Josephus records how women played major roles in secular life as Queen (Josephus Ant. 13:407-32) and later in the revolt against Rome (Josephus Wars 3.303; 7.393). These roles have been ‘conveniently’ overlooked, played down or eradicated by later Judaic and Christian authorities.
Nevertheless, a woman had no standing in society, being known as a daughter then as a wife. This misogynistic attitude was strengthened by the divorce laws. The Tanakh (Written Law) has concessions for divorce, but does not condone the practice (cf Matt. 19:3-9). It does not legislate on male-initiated proceedings, but this became part of Rabbinic (Oral) Law, codified in the Babylonian Talmud and Mishnah. However, when a wife became a mother, she became a valued member of society. Although she had no overt authority, she had a great influence upon the family (bibleandjewishstudies.net) and upon her race.
Within the family
“These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:6, 7). It was laid upon the father to teach his children יְהֹוָה’s commandments. However, the phrase ‘your children’ – labaneyka comes from the word #H1121 *254 בֵּן ben that has the ambiguous meaning of son or children (whether all male or mixed male and female). With the repression of women being codified in the Babylonian Talmud, it is not surprising that this ambiguity dictates that only sons and not daughters are to be taught (jwa.org/learned-women). Mothers were instrumental in the nurturing and teaching of the young child and then the older girls.
“and that older women likewise be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that יְהֹוָה’s word may not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3-5). Sha`ul (Paul) was brought up in an orthodox Jewish household, and this may have been in mind when penning this letter to Titus, indicating that Sha`ul intended that Renewed Covenant Believers should follow traditional Jewish households.
Having said that, the Rabbis acknowledged one area where women were superior and that was in #H2617 *698a חֶסֶד chesed – lovingkindness, mercy, loyalty (to a covenant) and is of a voluntary nature. This was in relation to the giving of charity (wjudaism.library), as a woman was deemed more compassionate. Moreover, since the Second Temple destruction in 70 C.E. the Rabbis had to look for another means of atonement other than sacrifices. “For I desire mercy [חֶסֶד chesed], and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of יְהֹוָה more than burnt offerings.” (Hos. 6:6). However, this is not the meaning or intent of this verse. The passage refers to the breaking of a covenant and points to the atoning work of Messiah (v2). This verse would be better understood as “For I desire you to desire loyalty to my covenant, and not sacrifices…”. This voluntary fidelity is what יְהֹוָה requires; a willing heart and not out of duty or obligation (see also below In Greco-Roman society).
It was tradition that a child’s identity came from the paterilineal but from around the 2nd. Century C.E. this identity would come from the matrilineal (wjudaism.library). Modern Jewish culture reaffirms that a child is a Jew if its mother is a Jew (jewishanswers.org). Many scholars consider that if a Jewish woman was raped, a possible outcome of the persecution during and after the Jewish Wars (with Rome), the child would take her identity rather than an unknown father. This may be one reason, but a more probable cause would be that it was the mother that imparted the child’s spiritual and religious education during the early, most impressionable years (wjudaism.library).
“He [Sha`ul] came to Derbe and Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Yehudi [Jew] who believed; but his father was a Yevanit [Gentile]. Sha`ul wanted to have him [Timothy] go out with him, and he took and circumcised him because of the Yehudim [Jews] who were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Yevanit.” (Acts 16:1, 3). From this passage, it is obvious that Timothy had a Jewish mother and Gentile (maybe Greek) father. Therefore, it would have been his mother who reared Timothy and he had good reports from fellow Jews in the area. Nevertheless, because he was not circumcised, he was not considered fully a Jew. Hence it was necessary for Timothy to be circumcised; not to become a Jew and most certainly not for his salvation, but to be in full (and acceptable to other Jews) covenant relationship. This passage refers to a time in the middle of the 1st. Century C.E. and before matrilineal identity was accepted by Jewish authorities. The overarching emphasis in Jewish Society was the well-being, safety and security of women. They grew up in a household under the protection of father (or male guardian) until they were betrothed. At this time, they went to live with the husband’s family.
Betrothal was the period between a marriage agreement and the taking up of sexual relations as husband and wife.
The man (or a member of his household or match-maker) always made the first approach to the father (bible.ca). After discussions, an agreement was reached as to the conditions of the marriage. The woman was then consulted as to whether she would be the wife. Once this decision was made the wife then became betrothed. This can be seen in the beautiful chapter Gen. 24:1-67. (Incidentally, this is the longest chapter in the Torah.) In this chapter, Avraham has assigned his most trusted servant to find a suitable (נֶגֶד negeb?) wife for his son, Yitzchak. Once betrothed, the woman had all the rights and obligations of a wife, but without the consummation (cf Matt. 1:18-25).
The formal agreement was called a ketubbah, originally a verbal agreement but later generations produced a formal written agreement. This would include details of the dowry and promises of the husband to the wife’s proper maintenance, security and protection and the consequences of the breakdown of this contract (Edersheim p138). It would also provide the length of time the betrothal would take. This may vary from days to many years (cf Gen. 1-30). Young children may become betrothed but each would remain under their father’s protection until both became of age (Josephus Ant. 17:12-18) (bible.ca).
However, it was not uncommon for marriages to be arranged for political considerations (bible.ca). This usually was for the purposes of cementing peaceful relations between warring clans or nations and the ketubbah would form part of the peace treaty between both sides (Josephus Ant. 16:221-228; War 1:555-560).
An exception to the general rule that it is the man who approaches the woman’s father may be seen in the case of a Levirate Marriage (Deut. 25:5-10). When a woman’s husband dies leaving no children, the man’s brother, if he is free to do so, is to marry the widow. This is to ensure that a man will leave heirs to his estate and for his name’s continuance. If the brother(s) refuse, the duty may fall upon another close relative. In this case, it was the widow that usually instigated the marriage.
Within Greco-Roman Society
Women were generally secluded but details of everyday life for the vast majority of people, men as well as women, largely went unrecorded. Ancient history tends to document major events and personalities. Thus it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of societal status of the common people in ancient Jewish, Greek and Roman society (enrichmentjournal.ag.org). It would appear that for the common peasant, life was similar the world over and throughout time; to survive the day, provide food and shelter for the family and pay whatever taxes were due. Therefore, in society, the upper classes divided gender along the lines of male/outdoors/labour/commerce/politics and female/indoors/cottage crafts/family. Respectable women did not go out in public unless accompanied by a suitable male and excluded from public speaking.
However, by 200 B.C.E., women were becoming more emancipated and had more freedom over their lives, especially in the areas of commerce, marriage and divorce (enrichmentjournal.ag.org). This emancipation spread from Greek society into a Roman society that considered the Greek society as being more cultured. Marriages were generally arranged between families for socio-economic reasons and in order to be married, all that was needed was consent between the two parties. As it was very easy to marry, so it was easy to divorce, with historians noting that it was common for upper class men and women to be married and divorced several times. The only restrictions upon the divorce was that men kept the children (leaving mothers reluctant to divorce) and women were given back their dowries (leaving men reluctant to or unable to afford a divorce) (womenintheancientworld.com).
By the 1st. Century C.E. women had no legitimate role in spiritual worship. In fact, Jewish women were given only the very basic Torah education that enabled them to fulfil the relevant female commandments and were forbidden to follow rabbis. The restriction on teaching Torah to women was so vehemently exercised that, according to Author M. Silver who quotes of R. Eliezer ben Azariah saying, “Let Torah be burnt before being handed over to a woman.” (bible-history.com). Was this prohibition a means of keeping women subjugated, not able to read, study or be taught what role יְהֹוָה `Elohiym created them for?
When an itinerant Rabbi named Yahshua ben Yosip from Nasrath, commenced His ministry in Galeela, many came to hear what He had to say. ‘The Ruach of יְהֹוָה is on me, because He has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of יְהֹוָה.’ He closed the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the assembly were fastened on Him. He began to tell them, ‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All testified about Him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth, and they said, ‘Is this not Yosip’s son?’” (Luke 4:18-21). This Teacher, expounded the Torah as it had never been before. Great crowds flocked to hear what He had to say, coming out of their towns and following Him to deserted locations (Mark 6:33-44).
Yahshua’s teachings were always in accordance with the Written Law (Torah) whereas the authorities interpreted Scripture in light of the Oral Law and traditions and expediency. It was not, therefore, surprising that His expounding of Scripture was often in conflict with that of the authorities (cf Matt.12:1-8; John 9:1-34). “They [the authorities] sent their disciples along with the Herodians to Him [Yahshua], saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are honest, and teach the way of יְהֹוָה in truth, for no matter who you teach, you do not take note of the status of any person.’” (Matt. 22:16). A number of women also ran the risk of the authorities’ wrath by following Yahshua and were amongst His staunchest disciples (Matt. 27:55, 56) in spite of probably persecution.
Within Contemporary Society
In the 17th. Century, there was an Agricultural Revolution in Britain that resulted in a rapid escalation of population; more food was available and a larger workforce was required. Women (and children) labourers were used mostly at sowing and harvest time, whereas men worked most of the year on the land. Thus women had some time in which they could work off the land. According to Joyce Burnette, prior to the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the 18th. Century, women were generally occupied in child-rearing and household duties, agricultural labourers or working at home in traditional cottage industries. These included spinning and weaving, pin-lace making and straw plaiting (eh.net).
However, with the Industrial Revolution, there was a huge migration of these large families off the land and into the industrial towns. Wages for men were significantly better with work all year round. Along with the men, their wives and children and young single men and women sought employment in the new ‘manufactories’ to be later abbreviated to ‘factories’. The loss of people from the land, especially the women, coincided with the decline of the cottage industries caused by the mechanisation of these traditional crafts. There was an associated increase in wealthy merchants and their households, requiring domestic staff that was readily available with the influx of women.
Women were allowed to do most jobs, but were kept out of the better paid supervisory roles and lucrative mule-spinning. The salaries for women for similar jobs and piece rates were 20% to 55% of the men’s rate. Male unions, misogyny and ideology of the male workers and management were instrumental in keeping women segregated and in low-wage employment (galbithink.org).
Nevertheless, one positive outcome of factory work was that women met in large groups to discuss home and working life. At this time, only middle- and upper-class, land owning men could vote. Women, no matter what their status was, were not allowed to vote. A woman’s role was in home-making and child-rearing and not to engage in political matters. It was considered part of a husband’s authoritative role to assume responsibility for his wife’s well-being, and that included her political views (bbc.co.uk/…suffrage). Further false arguments were put forward against women voting, in that a woman’s place was in the home, most women did not want to vote or that women were not knowledgeable in public and political affairs and thus incapable of making a qualified decision.
In 1897, Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. This was set up to lobby for women to be able to vote, as this non-militant was regarded as the best route to foster change in women’s overall conditions. However, these were meetings of middle-class women property owners who want the law to change in line with male voters. The N.U.W.S.S. were to be known as suffragists and, in time, began to attract working-class women who had no other voice.
Yet, by 1903, very little progress had been made using peaceful, law-abiding methods. This led Emiline Pankhurst to found the Women’s Social and Political Union. The W.S.P.U. set on a more militant course of action, involving disruption of political meetings, arson attacks, and when imprisoned, hunger strikes. The new, organised, militant campaigners came to be known as suffragettes. Along with differing tactics to the suffragists, the suffragette movement wanted universal enfranchisement for women. Only when a woman could vote and have any influence, would her situation change. In 1907, a schism formed in the W.S.P.U. with a third suffrage group, the Women’s Freedom League being founded (bbc.co.uk/…suffrage).
The suffrage movement was always seen to be purely about getting to vote in Parliament elections. However, the ability to vote would mean that women had the power to influence the making of laws and abolish male subjugation and bias. Prior to 1884, a woman’s property and substance automatically became her husband’s upon marriage. In 1884, a further amendment to the Married Women’s Property Act was passed, allowing women to retain possession of their per-nuptial property. If this property formed a business, the woman could retain ownership, and that included the payment of any taxes levied against the business. Although women paid taxes on these businesses, they had no representation in Parliament. Thus were the seeds of women’s suffrage sown.
Women in the United States of America were years ahead of their British ‘sisters’. The first recorded, organised meeting was held at Seneca Falls, N.Y. on 19-20th. July 1846, where a Declaration of Sentiments was signed. However, instead of moving toward women’s enfranchisement, in 1868, the 14th. Amendment was passed into law in which the word ‘male’ was inserted to describe eligible voters. This resulted in an escalation in the campaign for suffrage with the slogan being penned, “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”. This was the situation until the 19th. Amendment to the Constitution was passed giving universal enfranchisement (scolastic.com).
It was not until 1918 that the situation in the U.K. improved. The Representation of the People Act was passed due to public opinion after soldiers returned from World War I. All men over 21 but only middle-class women over 30 were eligible to vote, those who own land or were the wives of landowners. It would not be until 1928 that all women over 21 could vote in Parliamentary elections (bbc/…votes).
For comparison here are some dates women became eligible to vote world-wide: U.K. – 1928; U.S.A. – 1920; New Zealand 1893; Russia – 1918; Albania – 1920; Kazakhstan 1924; Mongolia 1924 (womensuffrage.org). The last four countries would not normally be considered as progressive-thinking governments. Although the Sex Discrimination Act came into force in 1975, by 2017, there were still large discrepancies in the opportunities and salaries and campaigning was still on-going.
Within the Renewed Covenant Society
This study hopefully shows that throughout history since creation, women have suffered bias and subjugation at the hands of men. The above study is a measure of the world-view of the role and value of women in society. It is now imperative to see how women are viewed within the Renewed Covenant (New Testament), and to compare both narratives.
The lay woman
“Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.” (1 Tim. 3:11). Pastors’ and deacons’ wives are to set an example to the other women of the assembly by having a restrained character, not given to frivolous activities or idle and malicious gossip.
“So also, that women (appear) in a chaste fashion of dress; and that their adorning be with modesty, and chastity; not with curls or with gold, or with pearls, or with splendid robes; but with good works as is becoming to women who profess reverence for `Elohiym” (1 Tim. 2: 9, 10 AENT). All women all called upon to dress modestly so as not to distract or boast about the wealth and position. What should be attractive to onlookers are the deeds carried out by both women and men.
“exhort…the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity.” (1 Tim. 5:1b, 2 cf Exod. 20:12; Matt. 19:19). The elderly women should be highly valued by the assembly for their knowledge, wisdom and understanding so that they may teach the younger women how to be good wives and mothers (Titus 2:4). “Honour widows who are widows indeed.” (1 Tim.5:30). Elderly childless widows who need help are to be supported by the assembly and should be given over to acts of hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9) whereas younger widows are encouraged to remarry so as to refrain from idleness (1 Tim. 5:13).
“As in all the assemblies of the set apart ones, let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.” (1 Cor. 14:33b-35). Sha`ul does not clarify as to what part of Torah he is referring. After searching numerous different versions of Scripture, none have any marginal or foot note, drawing the reader’s attention to the referred passage. It can only, therefore, be assumed that Sha`ul was not referring to the Tanakh, but to Oral Law or tradition. He may be mindful of his upbringing, given a woman’s status in Jewish society (see above) were, although not prohibited, women rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to speak out in public. This passage also begs the question of what should a woman do who is not married or is widowed. How is she to learn and develop?
It may well be that Sha`ul is not commanding women to be silent according to the Law, but in being submissive to their husbands. There again, there is no Torah reference for women to be submissive to their husbands in public.
Usually when Sha`ul does not explain himself with regards to the Law, it is because it is taken that Law is well known to the recipients. However, the Corinthians were mostly Greek and so would not be conversant with Torah and Greek women were becoming more emancipated and thus more vocal in public.
This liberty may well be the basis of this passage. #G2980 λαλέω laleō – speak is used several times in 1 Corinthians Ch. 14 and has the connotation of speaking out or forth (as in v2 tongues or v6 prophecy). This whole chapter is not about what is said in the meetings, but about how it is said. It may well be that some of the Corinthian Assembly women were not well educated and not able to follow even the basic thread of a preacher’s message. This may lead to speaking out contentiously or given over to idle and distracting chatter. The emancipation of women, although becoming more accepted in Greco-Roman society, would be contrary to Jewish society and could cause a rift between Jewish and Gentile worshipers. Barclay adds that this prohibition should not be taken out of its historical context given Sha`ul’s teaching on equality between the genders particularly in 1 Cor. 11:4, 5 and Gal 3:28 (Barclay(2)). 1 Corinthians may well be the written reply of Sh`aul to the Assembly leaders, partly to counter any possible division between Jewish and Gentile factions’ according to their traditions.
It has been said that this passage in 1 Corinthians 14 was added at a later time by a Deutero-Pauline writer as in 1 Timothy (Barrat). It was a common practice amongst Jewish teachers to ascribe their teaching under the guise or ‘in the name’ of a former well-respected and acknowledged sage.
As in all Biblical exegesis, if there is a seemingly contradiction then it is we readers (of the original manuscripts and their translations) that have got it wrong. No one passage should be taken as doctrine, especially if there are others passages that are in opposition to it.
The woman in leadership
There is an on-going dichotomy about whether women can be preachers, pastors or teachers within an assembly or that Scripture prohibits women in any leadership role. “He [יְהֹוָה] gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Eph 4.11). “יְהֹוָה has set some in the assembly: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and various kinds of languages.”(1 Cor. 12.28). In
penning these epistles to the two Assemblies, Sha`ul bands together similar groups of people. In the Ephesian Epistle, Sha`ul gives a list of what are commonly known as ‘Offices’ of the Ruach HaKodesh. The Ruach bestows His gifts to every Believer to use as and when necessary. However, He calls and anoints some people to a specific office. This can be likened to playing a guitar. Anyone can be taught to play the guitar, but a very few can be called guitarists. These are people who have been endowed with the specific skill and aptitude over and above the others. Similarly, all Believers can evangelise, prophesise, teach etc. but only those called and anointed by the Ruach can be Evangelists, Prophets, Teachers etc.
It has been said that this is true for men only. However, this cannot be borne out by Scripture. Although in the 1 Corinthian 12 passage describing the various gifting, Sha`ul is talking to ‘bothers’ and ‘men’, this may be an abbreviated form of address that uses the masculine nouns to represent both genders. This rendering is further strengthened in 1 Corinthians 12 as the passage refers to all the people of the Assembly as being of one body. It is to this one body that the Ruach gives His gifts and from which He calls some to Office. It must be noted that in v12, prophesy and tongues are mention as part of the gifts. These are attested to being used by men and women in other parts of Scripture (1 Cor. 11:4, 5).
“But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.” (John 14:26). It is presumptuous of male leaders to assume that the Ruach only speaks through men in mixed assemblies and that He only speaks through women during women-only meetings.
Another area of contention is in the question as whether women can be pastors/bishops.
The above passages are usually quoted as to the prohibition of women being in any form of leadership but hopefully this has been shown to be in error
“The pastor therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching;” (1 Tim. 3:2). “…and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you; if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of loose or unruly behaviour. For the pastor must be blameless, as יְהֹוָה ‘s steward; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain;” (Titus 1:5b-7). In these passages of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 3, Sha`ul gives his directions as to the qualifications of pastors and elders. These are ideals, but do not prohibit women in leadership. Similarly it does not prohibit single men from leadership roles.
1 Tim. 3:1-7 gives the resume of minimum qualifications of a pastor and consistently refers to the pastor in the male gender. This is a passage that is commonly quoted as barring women for the role as pastor. The following section, 1 Tim. 3:8-13, gives the resume for a deacon (#G1249 διάκονος diakonos) and likewise refers to the deacon in the male gender. However, in Rom. 16:1, Sh`aul praises Phoebe for her role as servant (#G1249 διάκονος diakonos). Therefore, the references of male gender of a deacon must be generic as in Mankind and consequently must be applied to pastors.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to our Master יְהֹוָה. For the husband is the head of the wife, and Messiah also is the Head of the assembly, being Himself the Saviour of the body.” (Eph. 5:22, 23). #G5293 ὑποτάσσω hypotassō – submit, subject (cf Col. 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1). This word has a negative connotation in that it has been considered to mean that the husband takes complete control or domination over the wife. This is incorrect. The wife voluntarily places herself under the guidance and authority of her husband both in secular and spiritual matters. “But as the assembly is subject to Messiah, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Messiah also loved the assembly, and gave Himself up for it… Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly;” (Eph. 5:24-29). It is, therefore, a husband’s obligation to ensure that all his decisions are based upon the well-being of his wife (and children).
When assemblies have segregated teaching for men, women and children, it is the husband’s/father’s responsibility to ensure that the teaching is in line with Scripture. Although pastors have spiritual oversight, it does not remove the husband’s/father’s role. This may mean that the husband reads the notes on or discusses the wife’s meeting with her (or taking an active role in teaching the children). If a woman speaker is teaching or preaching to other women, how does the husband know if what is said is Scriptural or how it is received was how it was intended. This is why it is difficult to reconcile segregated meetings within an assembly.
“Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to יְהֹוָה.” (Col. 3:16). “What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up.” (1 Cor. 14:26). In both of these passages, Sh`aul exhorts Brethren (male generic) and so Believers (without reference to gender) to teach and admonish each other (without reference to gender).
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch on behalf of your souls, as those who will give account, that they may do this with joy, and not with groaning, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb. 13:17). #G5226 ὑπείκω hypeikō submit, subject. This word refers to one who is weaker or less mature handing over authority to one who is stronger or more mature. Although ὑποτάσσω hypotassō
and ὑπείκω hypeikō have the same meaning in English, they are for different circumstances. The Ephesian passage means that the wife is of equal status, but defers to her husband as the head of the household. The Hebrew passage is where a man or woman puts themselves under the spiritual authority of the leadership of the assembly.
These two passages create a paradox within the assembly that elects a woman into a leadership role. Therefore, a woman cannot, at the same time, ὑποτάσσω hypotassō submit to her husband and yet have her husband ὑπείκω hypeikō submit to her as a pastor/bishop/elder. This paradox can only be resolved if the wife is a leader of an assembly different to that at which her husband attends.
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:12). Sha`ul in this passage is referring to women in a leadership as opposed to the passage in 1 Cor. 14:33b-35 where he is talking about women in general within the assembly. Sha`ul occasionally mentions his personal desires in contrast to a direct ruling from יְהֹוָה. His up-bringing, training and experience throughout his travels undoubtedly has a major influence upon his teaching. Nevertheless, he stresses his personal position with regards to how a 1st. Century Hellenistic assembly should be conducted.
“Maryam from Magdala came and told the disciples that she had seen the Master…” (John 20:18a). It was to Maryam first that the risen Messiah appeared and it was to her that He gave the eternal privilege of declaring His Resurrection. She ran from the garden so that she could tell the others. Was she required to meekly approach Simon Keefa and ask permission to talk or to pass the information on so that Keefa could inform the rest? I would doubt very much if the Master appeared to Maryam only for her to be subordinate to Simon Keefa. יְהֹוָה honours those who love His Son. Maryam so loved the Master, that she rushed to the tomb to annoint His body and so received the blessing of proclaiming His Resurrection.
The couple, Priscilla and Aquila were instrumental in the education of Apollos with the wife having the primary position. Nevertheless, Scripture does not have her in any public ministry as teacher or pastor. This is often quoted as another reason that women cannot be in these positions of authority. However, nine out of the fourteen named Apostles do not have any ministry recorded in Scripture outside of the four Good News accounts. Only Yochanan (John) and Sh`aul (Paul) have any teaching and pastoral role and Shimon Kefa only a teaching role. Yahudas committing suicide after his betrayal of the Master. Any argument, much less a doctrinal stance, cannot be made solely upon the absence of information in Scripture leading to assumptions.
Moshe’s sister Miryam (Exod. 15:20), Devorah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Chr. 34:22) were women prophets and leaders in their own time. These are generally discarded by Renewed Covenant commentators as having any form of precedent with regards to the ‘Church’ administerial structure. The Renewed Covenant assembly was considered a completely new structure to be set in place. This was looking forward to the future when assemblies were conducted in large purpose-built buildings. It was not considering the majority of Believers that meet in smaller groups in homes such as Priscilla’s.
It can, therefore, be seen that a woman’s status in secular society is far from the ideal as Creator יְהֹוָה `Elohiym intended. However, throughout His word, יְהֹוָה `Elohiym calls for all Believers to acknowledge the differences between the two genders, their mutual interdependence and respect and most significantly, their equality in the presence of יְהֹוָה `Elohiym (Gal.3:28).
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