Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the
Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)
|154th GS MINUTES,
MAY 21, 1976, pp. 65-112
COMMITTEE ON ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Dr. James B.
Hurley introduced the report, calling on the Rev. Stephen Smallman
and the Rev. Herman Mischke to speak on the history of the report.
Time and distance have made the committee's labor
difficult. The committee has been able to meet only by conference
In order to assist members of Synod in evaluating this report, an
outline of the full projected report is provided, indicating texts
to be examined, conclusions reached, and recommendations. Members
of Synod should be aware that owing to time limitations involved
in mailing between committee members, a provisional draft is being
published. The essential elements of the report and the conclusions
have been approved by a majority of the committee but the actual
text has not been finally approved by the committee. It is anticipated
that by Synod time the remaining text will be complete, reviewed,
and amended by the committee (and perhaps supplemented by a minority
INTRODUCTORY AND METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
The relation of men and women within
society, within the church, and within marriage is the subject of
much debate at the present time. The 153rd General Synod of the
RPCES reconstituted the Study Committee on the Role of Women in
the Church established by the 152nd General Synod with a mandate
to provide exegetical support for the conclusions presented by the
committee to the 153rd General Synod and "to enlarge the scope
of the study to include the role of women teaching in the church,
Sunday school, youth groups, etc." In an effort to fulfill
its commission, the present committee has reviewed the materials
passed on to it by the previous committee and examined additional
In the light of the extensive literature
now available regarding the relation of men and women, the committee
initially felt it unnecessary and unwise to seek to present a comprehensive
report such as that presented by the Christian Reformed Church.
The role of women is a topic which could include extensive historical
research into the role of women in the OT period, in the NT documents,
and throughout the post-Apostolic period, extensive exegetical treatment
of all relevant biblical texts, and extensive operational suggestions
regarding the development of the role of women in both present society/ies
and potential future societies. Obviously such a program is too
broad and extends beyond the actual intent of the synod in the establishment
of this committee. The focal concern of our churches has been the
role of women in the offices of the church and within the more organized
functions of the visible Body. In order to approach this task with
precision and without endless volumes the report is divided into
the following three sections:
I. Introductory and Methodological
II. Exegetical Foundations
A. Galatians 3:28
B. I Timothy 2
C. I Corinthians 11
D. I Corinthians 14:33b-36
E. Genesis 1, 2, 3
F. I Timothy 3
III. Conclusions and Recommendations
The report itself is designed to be
read by both those with and those without a technical knowledge
of Greek and Hebrew. Accordingly all Greek or Hebrew words are accompanied
by their English equivalents. At certain places the discussion hinges
on finer points of grammar. We have endeavored to explain such points,
and beg the indulgence of those who do not have technical training.
B. The Current
Surveying the present situation, Dr.
George Knight remarks, that it has been questioned
"whether there are indeed any roles
at all that the New Testament recognizes or prescribes.
Certainly the church has thought that it ascertained such
roles in the New Testament. It spoke of the role relations
of citizens and civil authorities, of the church membership
and those who ruled over them, of parents and children,
even at times of servants and masters, and of husbands and
wives. With the exception of servants and masters, which
relation it has come to understand the New Testament was
regulating as an existing situation, but not presenting
as based on God's order, the church understood the other
relationships to be roles established by God for which basic
guidelines were given by the Lord and the apostles. Included
in these role relationships was that of the male and female
in the marriage relationship. This role relationship is
still recognized as normative among evangelicals. Likewise,
for the same considerations that pertain in the male-female
relationships in marriage, the position of the historic
Christian church has upheld a similar relationship between
males and females in the ruling/teaching functions in the
church. In particular, the passages of I Timothy 2:11-15,
I Corinthians 14:33b (or 34)-38, and the arguments of the
passage, I Corinthians 11:1-16, have been understood as
normative for this area.
But this understanding of the historic Christian
church, even though it has stood as the position for centuries,
has in recent years been challenged and in certain cases
set aside as erroneous.
Vigorous discussions took place in Germany
and the Scandinavian countries which led the majority of
the Lutherans in particular to abandon the earlier position.
Similar studies took place in the U.S.A. and resulted in
a predominance of American Lutherans following the Europeans.
On a broader level, most of the older American denominations
have also altered their previous positions. The World Council
of Churches studies indicate that a great number of the
member churches have take this same position in principle.
On the other hand, the Reformed Ecumenical Synod at its
last two meetings, (1968 Netherlands, 1972 Australia) reaffirmed
as the teaching of Scripture the historic Christian understanding
of the passages in question. Also studies coming from the
dominant conservative wing of the Lutheran Church, Missouri
Synod, have reaffirmed the normative character of the passages
in I Timothy and I Corinthians. So one might be tempted
to generalize that the more liberal wing of the church has
abandoned the historic Christian position and the more conservative
wing has reaffirmed that position, and that this reflects
their respective views of the Bible, its inspiration, inerrancy,
and absolute authority.
However, a new element has been interjected
into the discussion. The editor of Christianity Today
has taken the position in his latest book that the position
of Paul is an expression of the culture of his day and not
normative for today. This has been followed by a couple
of editorials in Christianity Today seeking to implement
such a decision. Two women writing a book setting forth
their understanding of the Biblical basis for women's liberation
have taken an even more vigorous position which would not
only see Paul's view of ruling and teaching as culturally
relative, but also affirm an "equalitarian" marriage.
A majority of the invited participants of the Thanksgiving
Workshop on Evangelical Social Concern voted to seek women's
ordination in the teaching/ruling offices of the church,
although there was a large dissent. The Permanent Judicial
Commission of one of the older denominations refused to
ordain an evangelical because he said that his understanding
of the Scriptures would prohibit him from ordaining a woman
to the teaching/ruling office. The divergence of opinion
reflected, the intrinsic importance of the question and
the existence of several passages that purport to deal with
the subject inexorably draw us to ask again: 'What do the
Scriptures say?!' "
Discussions such as those of European
and Scandinavian Lutheran churches proceed from a view of Scripture
which is not acceptable within evangelical circles; other discussions,
such as that of Lindsell, the editor of Christianity Today,
proceed from a higher view of Scripture and come to conclusions
which have caused much debate within evangelical circles. Most of
the contemporary conservative discussion can be divided into two
groups according to the starting point of their exegetical investigation.
One group begins its consideration of the respective roles of men
and women with Galatians 3:28, stressing oneness in Christ as the
plumbline for NT ethics. Accordingly, those passages which seem
to fall short of placing men and women in a par tend to be viewed
as being somehow culturally conditioned. Lindsell and Jewett fall
into this category. The other major group of conservative exegetes
begins its consideration of roles with passages such as I Timothy
2:11-15, or I Corinthians 11:1-16, stressing the subordination of
the wife and the prohibition of the elder/teaching role to women.
Knight and a vast majority of traditional exegetes take this approach.
The consequences of these starting points are strikingly different.
The former leads to the appointment of women as elders, and, in
some cases, to egalitarian marriages. The latter position leads
to maintenance of sexual discrimination with respect to the eldership
and marital headship, and, in some cases, to prohibition of the
deaconate, Sunday school instructional roles, and vocal participation
in worship to the women. Advocates of either side accuse adherents
of the other with failing to deal adequately with Scriptural teaching.
These accusations are, of course, serious ones. It is appropriate
that this report begin with principial considerations relating to
the choice of an exegetical starting point.
It has long been held in evangelical
circles that Scripture is to interpret Scripture and that we are
to interpret the less clear passages by the more clear. Applied
to the problem at hand these tenets require (a) that social considerations
and historical "progress" not be made the first principles
of interpretation, but rather that scriptural exegesis guide the
selection of a starting point, and (b) that we carefully examine
the texts which may be used as starting points in an effort to determine
their precise intent and, if possible, which texts more directly
address the issues at hand. We will examine Galatians 3:28 and I
Timothy 2 to see whether either is a suitable starting point. Having
reached a provisional conclusion with regard to Galatians 3:28 and
I Timothy 2:11-15, it will be appropriate to consider other texts
shedding further light on the issue.
PART II. EXEGETICAL FOUNDATIONS
A. Galatians 3:28:
A Viable Starting Point?
Galatians 3:28 is perhaps the most
appropriate place to begin our exegetical task. In it Paul proclaims,
"There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither bond nor free,
there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ
This declaration manifestly sweeps
aside all distinctions within the number of those who are "one
in Christ Jesus." It is crucial that the import of this be
explored. Is Paul intending to imply that Jews and Greeks are indistinguishable,
that no distinctions between men and women are to be observed, that
elders and non-elders, apostles and non-apostles, bond and free,
are indistinguishable? Does he mean to suggest that our ideal must
be the elimination of all distinctions between believers, that we
should eliminate such distinctions as soon as possible?
The context provides some indication
of Paul's thoughts. The letter of the Galatians revolves around
the tension between the Judiastic legalism and Pauline salvation
by grace. A review of its theological content provides a context
in which to evaluate 3:28. The first part of chapter 3 develops
at length the thesis that faith, not works, provides the basis of
salvation and that those of them who approach God by faith will
be blessed with faithful Abraham (vv. 6-14, cf. esp. 9, 11). It
is Paul's manifest purpose to establish that the fact that God saves
by faith makes it possible not only "that (Jews) might receive
the promise of the Spirit by faith," but also, "that upon
the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham, by faith"
Having treated the law negatively to
establish that "the one who is righteous (before God) lives
by means of faith (not works)" (vv. 6-14, cf. 14), Paul goes
on in vv. 15-25 to argue that the promise antedates the Law and
that the Law is intended as a caretaker (paidagogos: slave
who leads the child to his lessons) for a period lasting only until
the children should be full sons through faith in Christ (vv. 25,
26). When considered in this fashion, of course, it is clear that
the usefulness of the Law for this task fades with the maturity
of its charge. This is the burden of the latter portion of chapter
3. Chapter 4 proceeds to develop the new sonship of those who are
no longer children under the watchcare of the slave/tutor.
It should be clear from this summary
that the central issue at stake in Galatians 3 and 4 is the role
of the law in relation to faith. A strong, secondary theme is that
of the basis upon which the Jew and the Gentile may come before
God. Paul deliberately established that the Law is not a special
avenue of approach to God, open only to Jews, but a statement from
which God condemns Jews as well as Gentiles (v. 22). Because all
are thus shut up to sin and can be saved only by faith, all
come before God on equal footing, their race, sex, or state of bondage
(Jew/Greek, male/female, bond/free) having no effect whatsoever
on their right to stand before God. It is in this frame of reference
that Paul declares, "You are all sons of God through
faith in Christ, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ
did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither
bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all
one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's
seed, heirs according to the promise" (vv. 27, 28).
Verse 26 defines clearly the scope
of Paul's thought in this crucial section. The debate has been over
the role of the Law in establishing our relation to God: Is is through
the Law that we become Sons of God? Is it only those who keep the
Law that can be acceptable to God? Paul's answer is clear and in
the negative: You are all sons of God through faith
in Messiah Jesus. . . and if you are Messiah's (by faith) then you
are Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise (not social origin)
(vv. 26, 29). Set within this context, it must be concluded that
Galatians 3:28 denies that racial, sexual, or civil factors play
any role in deciding whether an individual may be acceptable to
God and included among his people. We must now ask whether this
text goes beyond saying that any human whatsoever may become part
of Christ's body and that a full reception must be granted to all
who do in fact belong to Christ.
Some recent exegetes have held that
Galatians 3:28 is programmatic for the church, and that we should
therefore strive to achieve a totally democratic church form, erasing
all distinctions. Does Paul wish to teach this? It should be noted
that Galatians 3:25-29 are in no way to be construed in the future
tense. They were clearly present reality; albeit the Galatian
practice was not consonant with this reality. Whether this indicative
of equality has imperative consequences for behavior will be considered
below. We conclude that, if Paul intended to present this text as
a future goal rather than as a present fact, he has failed to communicate
this fact. If we would infer that v. 28 is a future goal, we must
justify our inference by exegetical consideration of other passages.
Other exegetes have held that Galatians
3:28 does indicate a present reality among the Pauline churches.
With this conclusion we agree. Paul considered that at that moment
they were all, regardless of race, sex, or state of bondage, sons
of God. On the basis of this conviction he instructed them to cease
doing those things which were a denial of the "sonship"
of all believers. Chapters 4 and 5 are filled with commands regarding
their freedom. The fact that Paul commanded them to act
upon their freedom, upon the reality of that oneness which is pointed
out in v. 28, is of great significance for our task.
We must carefully note that while Paul
commanded the cessation of those Galatian practices which denied
the reality of the oneness and the liberty pointed to in 3:25-29,
he also commanded that his churches should establish or maintain
practices which involve formal distinctions between apostle and
non-apostle (I Corinthians 14), husband and wife (I Corinthians
7), parent and child (Ephesians 6), but not (as far as inclusion
within the oneness of the body goes) between slave and free (I Corinthians
7; Philemon) or Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:28). How are we to
interpret Paul's commands to reject some distinctions and to establish
others? Three central alternatives present themselves: (1) Paul
was inconsistent, commanding various things which really cannot
be integrated, (2) Paul's goal was the overcoming of distinctions,
but historical circumstances caused him to delay implementing his
goals in some areas for the sake of growth in others, i.e., Paul
knew he was inconsistent but was willing to delay implementation
of some implications of their new status in Christ, (3) Paul did
not consider that the distinctions which he commanded prejudiced
or rejected the oneness upon which he insisted.
The first alternative is to be rejected
for various reasons. Those within evangelical circles are principally
committed to the integrity of Scripture and to its sufficiency for
life and practice. For such, the first alternative is principially
to be rejected. Principial considerations, however, are not the
only basis for rejecting the first alternative. It is methodologically
unwise to accept so simple and shallow a conclusion if other options
are available. Paul's letters show that the role of women arose
as a problem within his congregations on numerous occasions. It
is unlikely that the seeming tension between the position of Galatians
3:28 and that of I Timothy 2:11 would have gone without notice.
It is surely best methodologically to work from the assumption that
Paul was aware that he demanded some distinctions and forbade others
and that some explanation or some rationale is to be sought. The
contrary assumption terminates scholarly investigation before it
begins; we make no progress if we plead inconsistency every time
we cannot yet integrate what we have.
The second possible explanation has
recently found increasing favor. Could it be that Galatians 3:28
expresses Paul's goals but that he considers cultural prejudice
or social structures too great to take on? Does he leave some implications
of his Gospel undeveloped? It seems at first that this may well
be possible, yet various factors force us to reject this option.
Least weighty among the factors is the fact that Paul offers no
indication that he considered cultural issues as determinative of
the situation. While it could be said that such thoughts were implicit,
it is a weak argument from silence which makes unspoken cultural
More important and indeed decisive
is the fact that Paul did not hesitate to reject utterly the prejudice
of Jew against Gentile. It would seem strange that Paul would be
bold to violate cultural perspectives regarding race and bondage
(Phm) while fearing to challenge the cultural prejudice regarding
sex. This reticence of Paul's becomes especially strange when we
remember that Greek culture admitted women to the role of priestess
and that Christian women were permitted an unusually large role
both in worship and in Christian community,
at least as compared with Jewish practice. It is unobjectionable
to Gentiles and was less offensive to Jews than worship of Jesus
or the inclusion of the Gentiles. In the face of Paul's failure
to give any indication of cultural determinants of his decision,
and of his willingness to take on more serious cultural prejudices,
we think it unlikely that the second option above is to be preferred.
The third option, that Paul did not
consider that certain role distinctions within the body of Christ
prejudice the oneness of believers, seems to us the most likely
in that it, in contradistinctions to the other positions, offers
an explanation of Paul's evident feeling of freedom to argue both
distinctions and oneness without developing their relation. Our
study below will seek to develop this, which appears to be Paul's
view, at greater length.
In the light of the preceding discussion,
we conclude that, while Galatians 3:28 is central to our understanding
that any human whatsoever, upon credible profession of faith, may
and must be received with joy and rejoicing into the fellowship
of sinners saved by grace, we must reject it as a primary text when
we begin to consider the distinctive role of women within
the Church of the Lord Jesus.
Before turning to I Timothy as a possible
starting point for a study of the role of women, it is well to comment
somewhat further on the NT teaching concerning the equality of believers.
Foundational to Paul's understanding of man are the twin teachings
of the creation of man as the image of God and of the "recreation"
of believers in the image of Christ (Acts 17:26; Romans 8:29; II
Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:10,11). Paul's discussion of personal
renewal in Christ (Colossians 3), of the gifts of the Spirit (I
Corinthians 12), and even of marital distinctions (I Corinthians
7), shows clearly that he saw an equality
of the sexes with respect to their being and functioning as God's
image. In this respect, then, Paul's teaching faithfully reflects
that of Genesis 1:27: both sexes are the image of God.
Peter too discusses the equal relation
of husband and wife with respect to redemption. I Peter 3:7 carefully
identifies wives, women, as "joint heirs (sunkleronomoi)
of the grace of life." It is of considerable importance to
note that Peter's position resembles Paul's as described above in
that Peter evidently feels no tension between the role distinctions
upon which he insists in vv. 1-6 and the equality of sexes proclaimed
in v. 7.
B. I Timothy 2:
With the exception of the Methodist,
Revivalist, and Pentecostal branches of the church, the Christian
church has historically viewed I Timothy 2 as normative with respect
to the role of women in the church. In recent years these historical
conclusions have been questioned by various persons within Evangelical
and Reformed churches. It has been held that Paul's instructions
in I Timothy 2 are not properly made normative, but must rather
be viewed as counsel for a given historical, cultural setting. If
this view is adopted, it is, of course, appropriate to consider
afresh whether women may serve as elders and pastors. Let us consider
the setting and content of I Timothy 2 with the specific intention
of discovering not only what is says, but also whether and/or in
what respect(s) it should be viewed as culturally limited.
The Content of I Timothy: Culturally
It is generally accepted within conservative
circles that Paul wrote I Timothy with the intention of providing
Timothy with a clear statement on certain topics which were either
specifically at issue or were typically at issue within his churches.
The letter thus forms something of a "spiritual will"
left by Paul for Timothy. Paul indicates that he hopes to come to
Timothy, but fears that he may be long delayed (3:14-15a). Recognizing
the possible delay, Paul writes, "I write these things to you.
. . .that you may know how it is appropriate to behave in the household
of God (pos dei en oiku theou anast rephesthai) which is
the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth"
(3:14a, 15b). It is not altogether clear whether these remarks are
intended to refer to the letter as a whole, or to their immediate
context. The former appears the more likely as the latter as a whole
discusses conduct within the Body of Christ. However extensive the
scope of the remark, it is clearly intended to include chapters
2 and 3.
Paul's word choice in 3:14 has direct
bearing on the problem of the normativity of chapter 2. Paul wrote,
"pos. . . .dei anastrephesthai" (how. . . . it
is fitting to behave oneself). Dei is an impersonal verb,
generally translated "it is necessary," "one must,"
"one has to," "one should/ought." The New Testament
use of the word always indicates a strong degree of necessity and
generally indicates divinely based moral necessity. Paul uses it
24 times, the majority of which refer to historical necessities
required by divine rule over history (e.g., Romans 1:27; I Corinthians
11:19; 15:25,53; II Corinthians 2:3; 5:10; I Thessalonians 4:1;
I Timothy 3:2; 3:7; I Timothy 2:6, 24; Titus 1:7, 11). Paul's use
of it in I Timothy 3:15 is presumptive evidence that he considered
the information concerning conduct in the household of God normative.
It remains, however, to be asked whether he considered this advice
permanently normative or contextually normative.
(to conduct oneself) offers some help here, as does an examination
of other subjects which Paul included as necessary conduct in God's
household. Anastrephesthai (to conduct oneself) is a present
infinitive, taking no person or number. Its use here lends a gnomic,
abstract character to Paul's instructions. Owing to the lack of
person and number, interpreters have had to decide whether Paul
was referring to Timothy, or whether he intended a more general
reference. Thus they have translated either "how you (sing.)
ought to conduct yourself" (KJV), or "how men ought to
conduct themselves" (ASV, Beck, NEB, NIV, Phillips, Williams);
or "how one ought to conduct himself (NASV, RSV). The latter
is perhaps to be preferred as it maintains Paul's ambiguity. With
the exception of the KJV, translators are agreed that Paul's language
is cast in a general form, that he instructs Timothy concerning
how to conduct oneself in the family of God.
What sort of instructions does Paul
have in view as necessary for the household of God? Are they of
a culturally relative nature? Chapter 2 deals with prayer for rulers,
manner of prayer for men, teaching functions for women. The first
part of chapter 3 touches on qualifications for the eldership and
the diaconate. Chapters 3b and 4 consider the mystery of the faith
and its future rejection. Chapter 5 turns to relations between classes
of persons in the church (widows and elders). It should be obvious
from this subject matter that Paul did not consider his letter simply
occasional or cultural limited. Prayer for rulers, qualifications
for the eldership, the mystery of the faith, classes such as elders
and widows are hardly passing issues. The subjects concerning which
Paul wanted to instruct Timothy were not temporary, nor have his
instructions in other areas than that of women been taken as culturally
restricted. It must be concluded that the context of the letter
does not support the argument that I Timothy 2 is culturally bounded.
Although the general context of I Timothy
2 does not suggest cultural limitation, it may still be that the
immediate context will suggest that Paul's discussion is culturally
limited. The chapter reads as follows:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession
and thanksgiving be made for everyone--
2. for kings and all those in
authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all
godliness and holiness.
3. This is good, and pleases
God our Savior,
4. who wants all men to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
5. For there is one God and one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
6. who gave himself as a ransom
for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.
7. And for this purpose I was
appointed a herald and an apostle--I am telling the truth,
I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
8. I want men everywhere to lift
up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
9. I also want women to dress
modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair
or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
10. but with good deeds, appropriate
for women who profess to worship God.
11. A woman should learn in quietness
and full submission.
12. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13. For Adam was formed first,
14. And Adam was not deceived;
and the woman, quite deceived, was in transgression.
15. But women will be safe through
childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness
[NIV, slightly altered]
Verses 1 and 2 set the tone for the
chapter: Paul wishes to discuss prayer in the church. Appropriate
subjects for prayer is his first topic (vv. 1, 2). He directs that
prayers are to be made for "all (kinds) of men, for kings and
all who are in authority that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life."
Unless this be taken as establishing kingship as the only legitimate
form of government, it would seem that Paul's instructions are transcultural.
Verses 3-7 go on to explain that such prayer is appropriate and
is pleasing to God, who would have all men saved, and who has appointed
Paul to teach the Gentiles. Verses 3-7 thus constitute a theological
rationale for the practice of vv. 1, 2. It would be possible to
contend that the command to pray (vv. 1-2) is limited to the time
of Paul and his ministry, but we suspect none would wish to take
such a position. The church prays for those in authority with confidence
that this is pleasing to God, that Paul's instructions in
I Timothy 2:1-7 are not culture-bound.
I Timothy 2:8-10: Problems Marring
Verse 8 continues the discussion of
prayer and leads on into a discussion of behavior appropriate to
the sexes. It is unclear from the context whether Timothy was facing
a particular problem or whether Paul considered these topics important
for some other reason. Despite our uncertainty we are able to reconstruct
the sort of situation Paul had in view. Verses 8 and 9 could be
generic, but vv. 11 and 12 clearly make reference to a situation
of public instruction.. If we assume that the passage from v. 8
through v. 12 is a single unit, we conclude that Paul has in view
public worship situations in which there is prayer and teaching.
Verses 8 and 9 address men and women
respectively. Some have interpreted these as directing that men
should (and women should not) make public prayer and that women
should dress modestly as befits their role. These verses are then
lined up with I Corinthians 14:34,35 (commanding silence from women)
against I Corinthians 11:1-5 (permitting women to pray and prophesy)
to show that Paul silenced women entirely in church in order to
preserve proper authority structures.
I Corinthians 14:34, 35 will be discussed below. We will restrict
our present attention to vv. 8, 9. Close examination suggests that
this plausible explanation is to be rejected because it does not
actually present Paul's intended contrasts but treats v. 8 (men
praying with holy hands) as if it stood next to vv. 11ff. (women
learning in silence). It is not clear, however, from v. 8 whether
Paul intends to stress that men should do the praying everywhere,
or whether Paul intends to concentrate our attention upon attitudes
which should accompany prayer. In the former case we should paraphrase:
"I want the men to do the praying everywhere, and, as they
lift up their hands to do so, they should not be filled with wrath
and dissension." In the latter case we should paraphrase: "As
the men everywhere pray they should be sure that the hands they
life up are holy, without wrath and dissension." The
former alternative focuses on the contrasting sex roles; the latter
focuses on a weakness to which men are prone when they gather in
the assembly. Which is Paul's intent? The following considerations
suggest the latter.
(1) If the intended comparison is the
sex roles, the comment on "holy hands without wrath or dissension"
as well as v. 9 which builds upon it become a parenthetical aside
which seriously obscures Paul's central but unspoken point,
that women should not pray.
(2) A close look at v. 9 strongly indicates
that Paul's intention in vv. 8 and 9 is not to announce the prohibition
of women's prayer, but to speak to the manner in which it should
be offered. Verse 9 reads: hosautos (kai) gunaikas en katastole
kosmio meta aidous kai sophrosunes kosmein heautas me en plegmasin
kai krusio e margaritais e himatismo polutelei all'ho prepei gunaixin
epaggel omenais theosebeian di'ergon agathon ([and] likewise
I desire the women to adorn themselves in modest/respectable clothes,
not with braided-hair-and-gold-or-pearls or costly garments, but
[I desire women to adorn themselves] with good works, which is appropriate
for women professing godliness.) Hosautos (likewise) introduces
an elliptical construction. Translators must supply a verb. At first
glance it looks as though the ellipsis might be boulomi proseuchesthai
(I want. . . to pray), specifically instructing that women pray.
A closer examination, however, prohibits this as there is an infinitive
in v. 9, kosmein (to adorn), which is most likely a supplementary
infinitive attached to boulomai (I desire) rather than epexegtical
of the woman's prayer. Thus we can supply only boulomai (I
Interpreters have debated the relation
of Paul's command for women to his command for men. Many have come
to the conclusion that the two are not really parallel at all, that
the command to men is intended to instruct that they only should
pray, while the command to women instructs them to wear modest clothes
at worship. On this basis the second half of v. 8 and the whole
of vv. 9 and 10 are incidental on the thrust of v. 8, breaking the
flow of Paul's thought. The following interpretative paraphrase
draws out the implications of this interpretation:
Wherever Christians meet, I want
only the men to pray. In addition, I want the men who pray
to be sure that the hands they lift up are not marked by wrath
or dissension. And women, who may not pray, must attend worship
in proper clothes, modestly and discreetly dressed. . . ."
This reading of the text, although
very common, fails to take adequate note of Paul's connective, hosautos
(likewise). The reading above reduces hosautos (likewise)
to the status of kai (and). While various commentators have
proposed such a weakening of the force of hosautos (likewise),
it is without precedent in Paul, NT usage, or the lexicons. Without
fail, hosautos (likewise) refers back to an antecedent and
sets it parallel to its own referent. In Paul's usage it refers
back to a central element of the preceding passage. We must therefore
ask which element of v. 8 is being referred to. There are, in fact,
only two options. Either Paul refers to prayer by men (v. 8a) or
to the lifting up of "holy hands" (v. 8b). Let us consider
these two options from the "men-only-should-pray" perspective.
It would be most natural to assume
that when Paul says "likewise women," he is setting them
parallel to "men." Such an assumption would set his direction
to woman parallel to his direction to men. This is impossible if
the central (unspoken) thrust of v. 8 is the exclusion of women
from prayer. The meaning of hosautos (likewise) is destroyed
and the sentence rendered meaningless if we read, "I want men
(only) to pray. . . . likewise I want women (who cannot pray) to
dress modestly. . . ." Only by a grammatically unjustifiable
reduction of hosautos (likewise) to kai (and) can
such an interpretation be sustained.
The second possibility for the "men-only-should-pray"
position is that Paul refers back to his instruction that men who
pray should have holy hands. If this is the antecedent of hosautos
(likewise), the parallel of other Pauline uses of hosautos
(likewise) suggests that "holy hands" is not an incidental
element of v. 8 but a central one, which in turn suggests that Paul's
point was not the (unspoken) exclusion of women from prayer, but
the regulation of the manner in which men prayed. If, contrary to
other Pauline usage, we assume that Paul used hosautos (likewise)
to refer to a minor element of the preceding verse, his train of
thought in chapter 2 is essentially disjointed, discussing in sequence
topics for prayer, who should pray, incidental thoughts concerning
how men should pray and how women should dress, and the prohibition
of women teaching at worship. While this is of course possible,
the chapter is better integrated if the men-only view is discarded.
On the regulating-prayer-by-men-and-women view, the train of thought
moves from topics for prayer in public worship to deportment of
men and women who pray and from these (via the mention of women
and public worship) to the deportment of women with respect to proclamatory
authority in the worship service.
Let us now consider the problem of
an antecedent for hosautos (likewise) from the regulation-of-prayer-by-men-and-women
perspective. On this basis, v. 8 is not to be divided into two segments.
Instead of seeing Paul's remark about holy hands as incidental,
it is to be seen as central to his purpose. The verse may be interpretatively
I want men everywhere to be sure
that as they pray they lift holy rather than stained hands,
hands not soiled by wrath or dissension.
Verses 9 and 10 become the complement
of v. 8, directing that women, as they pray, not seek to ornament
themselves with fancy clothes, but rather with good works. The parallel
force of hosautos (likewise) is this perfectly guarded in
that Paul first identifies his audience, then addresses them with
respect to a fault: men--wrath; women--unbecoming dress.
If we adopt this view, Paul's focus
in v. 8 is on a problem which has marred the prayers of his churches:
men have had wrath and unresolved hard feelings toward one another
as they prayed. As David and the Lord before him (Psalm 24; Matthew
5:23, 24), Paul considered that unholy wrath and unresolved hard
feelings were not appropriate to those who would approach God in
prayer. If v. 8 discusses an issue which is important with respect
to men as they pray, a besetting sin, it would be natural to infer
that hosautos (likewise) is intended to introduce a similar
conviction, a besetting sin typical of women. Such appears to be
the case. Women, as they pray, are not to dress as the loose or
ungodly women do. As we have seen, it could be argued that Paul
was not thinking that women should pray but rather that, being present,
they ought to be dressed in a godly fashion. We have rejected this
position because it destroys the thrust of hosautos (likewise)
by making v. 9 incidentally related to the central theme of v. 8.
A second reason to be noted below is the fact that the related passage
in I Corinthians 11 discusses precisely the question of women's
adornment as they pray. It is only in the light of I Corinthians
14:24 and I Timothy 2:11ff. that exegetes have rejected the inference,
clear in I Corinthians 11:5 and implicit in I Timothy 2:9, that
women prayed and prophesied in the Pauline churches.
We conclude then, concerning vv. 8
and 9, that they are a continuation of Paul's discussion of prayer
and are best understood as discussing problems particular to the
sexes as they attend worship. Men must be careful about wrath and
dissension; women must be careful about using fancy clothes as adornment
instead of a godly life. While it may be argued that the verses
are compatible with a situation in which women are silent, it is
only by the questionable inference that Paul meant (but did not
say) that men only should pray that we can construe vv. 8,
9 as prohibiting prayer by women. In the light of I Corinthians
11, which parallels I Timothy 2 by discussing both prayer and adornment
of women, we must question whether it is at all a tenable inference
that women were silent at all times in the Pauline assemblies.
I Timothy 2:11-15: Women and Ecclesiastical
Verses 11-15 have often been taken
as indicating that the conclusion just reached is in error. In them
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
12. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13. For Adam was formed first,
14. And Adam was not the one
deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
15. But woman will be kept safe
through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness
Paul's instructions are very strong.
Their strength must not be sidestepped; nor must it be misdirected.
We must ask how v. 11 is related to vv. 8-10. It is manifest that
Paul's attention has moved from the topic of prayer to the topic
of teaching and learning (manthanein, didaskein). The context
of the activity is presumably still a public worship service. Most
commentators note the sudden introduction of this topic. As we try
to determine whether v. 8 prohibits prayer by women, it is important
to consider both the flow of Paul's thought from vv. 8-10 to vv.
11-15 and the abrupt transition between v. 10 and v. 11. If we assume
that vv. 8-10 are stressing that men only should pray, vv. 11-15
not only reinforce the point but preclude the possibility of other
than men praying. For if women cannot speak (vv. 11, 12b),
they cannot pray, nor can they teach! It is often assumed that vv.
11-15 are intended to strengthen the implicit directions of vv.
8-10 that women must not pray. They certainly would accomplish this
end, but, perhaps, too much on the traditional interpretation.
On the traditional view the burden
of vv. 8-10 is that men rather than women should pray. Verses 11-15
are interpreted as closing off to women not only the teaching but
indeed all speech in the assembly. It is difficult on this basis
to understand why Paul took so many words and so indirect a path
to achieve his simple end. If he had simply said that women are
not to speak in the assembly (which, on some readings, he appears
to have said in I Corinthians 14:34 in contradiction of himself
in I Corinthians 11:5) he would not have had to spend so much time
with his hints that men should pray, or that women may not
teach. These difficulties lead us to question once again
whether the center of Paul's thrust is indeed the silence of women
or whether it could be that he intended to regulate various sorts
of behaviors in the assembly. Paul's abrupt transition between v.
10 and v. 11 suggests that he was aware of moving to a new topic.
We would propose that the transition at v. 11 ought not to be understood
as a return to the oft-supposed, implicit-but-never-explicit topic
of v. 8, the forbidding of women to pray, but rather that it ought
to be understood as a transition from the topic of the first portion
of the chapter (prayer) to a new topic (the manner in which women
are to relate to authoritative teaching [preaching?] ). This point
of view has much to commend it. Firstly, it better maintains the
integrity of chapter 2. Instead of having vv. 1-8a deal with prayer,
vv. 8b-10 as an aside, and vv. 11-15 a discussion of women and authority,
this view presents vv. 1-10 as a integrated discussion of prayer
turning in vv. 11-15, via the discussion of women's vocal role within
public worship of the congregation by means of prayer, to consider
the silent role of the women during the teaching portion of public
worship. Secondly, this view explains the incidental role of the
topic of silence in the passage. We have noted above the traditional
view's problem of the indirect manner of Paul's approach to what
has often been taken as a blanket insistence upon the total silence
of women. Why did the problems of prayer, prophecy, and teaching
arise if he never permitted women to speak in his churches? Is it
not strange that this topic should need such elaborate, circuitous
discussion at this late stage in Paul's career?
If, on the other hand, vv. 9-10 regulate
women's vocal role in prayer, vv. 11-15 may be understood as making
it clear that permission to participate in the corporate prayer
is not to be interpreted as permission to teach or to rule over
men. (Individual participation in public prayer has sometimes been
interpreted as an exercise of ecclesiastical authority [i.e., leading
the congregation in prayer]; it need not be so viewed, but can be
simply viewed as participation). Verse 11 thus stresses that, in
contrast to her vocal participation in prayer a woman must learn
(receive teaching) in quietness and with all submissiveness. The
necessity of such explicit instruction is easy to understand when
it is considered that the Jewish portion of Paul's churches was
used to women not only being silent, but even to their not attending
at all. The great jump from such a role to participation in prayer
must have seemed a discarding of all barriers and all distinctions!
I Corinthians 11 appears to reflect just such a situation in which
the congregation was uncertain which distinctions remained.
Verse 12 goes on to further develop
Paul's thought concerning the role of women in the teaching portion
of public worship. In v. 12 Paul shifts from the learning side of
the matter to the teaching side. He stresses that he will not permit
women to teach or have authority over men. It should be noted that
v. 11 talks of learning (manthaneto) and subjection (en
pase hupotage). Verse 12 picks up the same two concepts, but
from the other side, stressing teaching (didaskein) rather
than learning (manthaneto) and exercise of authority (authenthein)
rather than subjection (hupotage). Paul's repetition of hesuchia
(silence) at the end of v. 12 completes the parallel (in silence,
learning in subjection/not teaching, not exercising
authority, but in silence) and shows that his thought
pattern is still the same as that of v. 11. An interpretative paraphrase
of the verses might read: A woman's role in teaching portions of
the public worship service contrasts with what we have just said
of prayer. Let a woman take her proper role of godly subjection
to proper authority. She should be a silent learner. I do not permit
a woman to stand over men by teaching them in the worship service,
nor otherwise to exercise ecclesiastical authority over men. She
must rather be in silence at time when these things are done.
We conclude with regard to vv. 11,
12, that Paul meant to instruct that women may not teach nor may
they exercise authority over men.
It seems appropriate, before considering
vv. 13-15, to reflect once again upon our question as to whether
the content of I Timothy 2:1-12 suggests that it is culturally limited
and therefore should not be applied today as a ban to women becoming
elders. As has been noted above, the basic commands of the chapter
thus far are clearly not time bound. Prayer for rulers (vv. 1-7)
is of continuing relevance. Men are surely still to pray without
being filled with wrath or dissension (v. 8). Modesty (aidous),
sobriety (sophrosunes) and good works are surely still appropriate
to women who profess godliness (vv. 9-10). With respect to v. 9,
some might be prepared to debate the need for modest clothes, but
that number would presumably be very small and may be overlooked
for the moment. This leaves as the only aspects of the chapter from
v. 1 to v. 10 which would be questioned as to their continuing relevance
those items specified by Paul as things not to be used for adornment:
braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothes. Taking the costly
clothes first, we quickly sustain this as relevant in the present
if we understand Paul to be making a relative judgment. What are
costly clothes? The answer depends upon one's socio-economic and
historical position. It is fairly obvious that Paul has in view
excessively expensive and ostentatious clothes. Now, as then, such
clothes mark their wearer as a woman who is centered upon herself
and who disdains others of the body of Christ. Such an attitude
does not become those who would pray to God.
an expression which is little understood today. It refers to a custom
which originated with the courtesans of the day. Such women did
their hair in eleven to twenty-one small braids and put circular
or teardrop gold ornaments or pearls every inch or so along the
length of the braids. This created a shimmering screen of ornaments.
Such a display of wealth evidently became a custom among those who
could afford it. Paul uses this as an example of immodest, ostentatious
adornment. As such, it is an appropriate parallel of ostentatious,
In the light of the preceding review,
it may be safely concluded that the only thing in I Timothy 2:1-10
which is manifestly culturally limited is this one illustration
of immodest dress. Even there, the basic principles are clearly
isolable from the examples of their application to then present
customs and thus present no exegetical or hermeneutical problems.
We must conclude that the chapter thus far offers no internal justification
for culturally relativizing any portion of it save the hair reference
of v. 9. With this conclusion in mind, let us continue our examination
of the chapter with a careful exegesis of the text and a conclusion
as to whether the chapter as a whole is culturally limited as our
1 Timothy 2:13,14: Theological
Rationale from Pre-Fall Creation Order
It was noted during our study of Paul's
discussion of prayer in w.1-10 that Paul offered a theological rationale
for his directive that prayers be offered for all men. Verses 11,12,
as has been noted, discuss another aspect of the worship service,
the teaching situation. Verses 13 and 14 appear to offer Paul's
theological rationale for his directive that women learn in silence:
specifically the prior formation of Adam and the deception of Eve.
Paul's appeal to the prior formation of Adam is often difficult
for modern exegetes to understand. Paul does not elaborate to explain
how the priority of Adam's formation relates to men's priority of
authority in ecclesiastical settings. Any explanation which we offer
must, therefore, be inferential. I Corinthians 11:8,9 offers a useful
parallel discussion. In explanation of the necessity of maintaining
the subordinate role of wives during the worship service, Paul says:
the man is not out of (ek) the woman, but the woman
out of (ek) the man.
9 Neither was the man created
for the sake of (dia+accusative) the woman, but the
woman for the sake of (dia+accusative) the man. (NIV
Verse 9 implies clearly that the woman's
subordination in marriage is a direct function of her having been
created for the sake of the man, to relate to him. Verse 8 is harder
to understand but clearly implies that the derivation of the woman
from the man is either illustrative or causative of her subordinate
role. The derivation of Eve from Adam (Paul's point of I Corinthians
11:8) presumes his prior existence, that he was formed first by
God (Paul's point of I Timothy 2:13). We are therefore on safe exegetical
ground if we conclude that the train of thought of I Corinthians
11:8,9 and that of I Timothy 2:13 are the same. In them Paul indicates
that the prior formation of Adam and the derivative formation of
Eve are reasons for the subordinate roles of women in marriage and
in the church. His argument makes pre-fall, creational relations
of men and women normative for the post-resurrection church. This
form of argument all but closes off the possibility of cultural
relativism as a valid reason for discarding Paul's instructions.
In order to do so it would be necessary to show why creational norms
should be binding in Paul's day but not in our own. Cultural "progress"
will not suffice as a reason unless we can provide an exegetical
basis on which to interpret it. Galatians 3:28 is often advanced
but, as we have seen above, it does not provide the necessary support.
We conclude therefore that, whether or not it is popular, Paul taught
marital (I Corinthians 11) and ecclesiastical (I Timothy 2:11-14)
subordination of women as relevant to the church of Christ and as
grounded in creational rather than cultural structuring of their
Some recent interpreters have sought to explain Paul's argument
from creation as itself culturally bounded. Thus, it is explained,
Paul used Genesis in a way which is to be explained by his own first
century outlook. According to such a position a close examination
of Genesis 1-3 suggests that Paul's exegetical treatment of the
text is inadequate or not a full reflection of it.
Although we will delay an exegetical consideration of Genesis 1-3
until later, it should be noted here that this form of argument
is not new in our day. The argument that NT theologizing and hermeneutics
are culturally relative and not normative for our hermeneutics has
traditionally been called demythologizing. The position outlined
above serves not only to relativize Paul's teaching on women, but
serves also, in principle, to relativize all of Paul's hermeneutic
and theology. Those who take the Scriptures seriously will not be
willing to adopt such an approach to them.
I Timothy 2:14 offers a new rationale for women's subordination
in teaching. Paul says "Adam was not deceived (ouk epatete),
but the woman genuinely deceived (exapate eisa) was in transgression."
Once again Paul's words are cryptic and it is not possible from
the actual language to discern his precise meaning. Is he saying
that Adam was not deceived and did not sin? Is he saying Eve was
the cause of the Fall? Does he mean that Eve was gullible, that
other women are gullible, and therefore that women should not teach?
Does he mean all women are to be punished for what Eve did?
We may dismiss out of hand the suggestions that Paul meant Adam
was not sinful and that Eve was the guilty source of the Fall. Although
the rabbis and the church fathers have sometimes identified Eve
as the guilty party, Paul in Romans 5:12 is explicit in identifying
Adam as the one who sinned and through whom sin and death entered
the world. With respect to I Timothy 2:14, we conclude that Paul's
point was not that the woman was at fault, but rather that. She
was not at fault as was Adam because she was deceived while
he was not! He deliberately and knowingly chose to
sin: he was not deceived; she did not understand: she was quite
deceived. Christian men cannot indulge themselves by saying, "Oh,
that Eve had not done it!" Paul indicates that Adam, not Eve, did
it and that he did it knowing full well what he was doing!
It is more difficult to assess whether Paul intended to say that
all women are as gullible as was Eve. Titus 2:3 offers some help,
however, in that it directs the older women to teach the younger.
It would appear that Paul did not consider that women were too gullible
to be able to teach! In this vein we should note also Paul's association
with Priscilla and Aquila who, according to Acts, both taught Paul's
fellow worker Apollos.
Our examination of I Corinthians 11:8,9 and I Timothy 2:13 has suggested
that Paul appealed to God's created order as the course of his teaching
on the role of women. In both cases Paul illustrated from the pre
fall narrative the role patterns which he taught as currently
normative. Is it possible that I Timothy 2:14 may be another example
of the normativity of the prefall situation? If it is, we must ask
what pre-fall element is in view. Verse 14 clearly focuses upon
the deception of the woman. In contrast to her