Woman on top by Miz Pink

No this isn’t gonna be a sex post. Though in Deke’s once-weekly tradition I’ll try to write one before the weekend. What this post is about really is that I’m about to break ranks pretty noticeably with Deke on something. I think women can be pastors and I want to see more of them in the pulpit doing that.

Deke’s mentioned in passing a few times about the biblical foundation for men as head of household and for men being spiritual heads of churches. And he posted about it more detailed-like over here. Deacon Blue is a friend so I’m not going to trash him but I respectfully disagree. He made his points well I think and I’m glad he doesn’t have a problem with women in power generally speaking. I’m glad he and Mrs. Blue operate on a partnership basis and not a partriarchy. I’m also glad he’s not running around blaming Eve for the state of the world. But I still disagree with his man on top position, no matter how marginally he puts men in that top spot.

Jesus was really subtle. Sometimes too subtle for our own good because his stuff often went over people’s heads, even the apostles heads. He spoke in parables and he often wouldn’t even give straight answers when people asked if he was the messiah. And so I think the apostles kinda missed the fact that Jesus taught women and showed serious respect to them and included them as part of his circle. And so we get Paul telling us that women are supposed to play second fiddle to the men and not have authority over them. Whether someone twisted Paul’s words later or added that in or whether Paul really said it…I don’t really care. It’s wrong. And churches through the ages have been telling women to sit down and shut up for too long.

There. I said it.

Sorry Deke. Maybe back then keeping education away from the women meant they weren’t equipped to be pastors or other types of spiritual leaders. But there were some female evangelists back then, there have been some important women in religious movements and what about today? Well today we have every bit the educational level of men. We are just as born again. And we get the exact same Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus.

Therefore, as equal human beings and children of God just like the men are, we have every right to be in the pulpit at any level. We share spiritual responsibility in the household. We are equals and I’m not going to accept anything other than that.

End of story.


6 Responses to “Woman on top by Miz Pink”

  1. 1 Deacon Blue
    June 4, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Ouch. *oooff* Pardon, me, trying to get my breath back. Whoo! OK, Pink…it’s generally considered a low blow to hit someone in his masculine privilege with your feminist paradigm. That’s a delicate area.

    How dare you express an opinion counter to mine. Don’t you know your place, chickie-poo?

    (That was, of course, a joke, so put the feminist paradigm down on the ground please. I need my masculine privilege intact.)

    It should be noted that I am not personally offended by female pastors (not that I’ve ever really met one personally, as they’re not that common). I just don’t know that it’s God’s intention for women to hold that position. It may be that I’m giving Paul’s words too much credit, but even beyond male-centered socioeconomic and political systems through the centuries, God does seem to have put men on the front lines the vast majority of the time.

    Anyway, I do realize that times change and there are certain things in the Bible that sometimes need to bend with the times. Not many, but some. Just not sure if men as spiritual heads is one of them. But we can agree to disagree.

    Also, it’s worth noting that I don’t think a woman who chooses to serve as a pastor is “sinning.” Nowhere in the Bible do I see the act of a woman exerting power, control, authority or anything like that as being someone who has violated one of God’s basic rules. If anything, at worst, I would see a female pastor or a woman exerting spiritual superiority over her husband as a departure from procedure. A disruption of the normal intent of things, if even that.

    Look, most of my friends have been women, quite frankly. And probably half my supervisors in life, too. So, I have no problem seeing women as equals and taking orders from them when appropriate. I’m just calling ’em like I see ’em in the Bible. And since I already walk on shaky ground a lot in this blog, I do try not to twist God’s word to my own ends. Much as I would like to simply sign off on having women pastors, I’m just still too iffy on whether that’s what God wants to be comfortable with an all-out endorsement of it. Fact is, men and women do have different roles and strengths, generally speaking. We don’t have rigidly assigned roles, but there are areas where I think it is questionable (and a time for strong reflection) whether a man or woman should “intrude.”

    Anyway, this comment has almost been as long as a post, and I did say I was going to take a week off, so I should shut up now. 😉

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    June 4, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Hey, the automatically generated list of possibly-related topics that WordPress now has at end of posts has proven useful. I found a really long but informative blog post by a pastor. Was only able to skim it but it has a great breakdown of what Paul was really saying about women, based on the meanings of the word in the language he originally wrote the letters, as opposed to how those words have been seen when translated into English and other languages.

    For I’ve gleaned thus far, Paul may have been saying something far different that what I’ve assumed. I was already interpreting that what he meant wasn’t as bad as how it reads in the Bible, but perhaps he was even more “liberal” than I gave him credit for.

    There is still a model in the Bible for men to lead (in partnership with women), but I think the blog post I’m mentioning is well worth reading, and may make me revise my view of women as pastors. I think it may still be a tricky area, and one that perhaps few women should venture into, but perhaps less problematic than I have assumed. Anyway, you can link to the blog post by clicking here, and I’ve copy-pasted the text below in case that blog should be inaccessible or just plain disappear one day:
    Let the Women Be Silent?
    March 31, 2008

    By Dr. Dennis Swift

    1 Timothy 2:5-15

    A cartoon appeared in a Christian magazine depicting Saint Paul arriving by boat on some distant shore, met by a group of women carrying placards that read, “Unfair to women,” “Paul is a Male Chauvinist Pig,” and the like. Paul looked sheepishly at this protest and said, “Heh, heh, I see you got my letter.”

    In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Paul says, “…women must be silent!” 1 Corinthians 14:34, “…women are to remain silent in the churches, they are not allowed to speak, as the Law says.”

    If these texts are taken literally in a straight forward manner, then women cannot have any role in the church: singing, preaching, teaching, teaching children, reading the announcements. Paul has issued an ultimatum-no talking anywhere on the premises: sanctuary, nursery, etc. The apparent demand is for absolute silence. No you cannot sing in the choir, no you cannot read the scriptures, no, you cannot pray publicly, no you cannot play a part in a drama. Therefore, I am accusing patriarchal pastors of not believing the Bible because they are not practicing what Paul clearly wrote. I am a pastor of a church and have been ministering for almost forty years. I am now pastoring my third church. I have a B.A. M.A., M.Div, Ph.D., all with an emphasis in theology and religion. If Paul really was saying that women are to remain silent in the church, we would have to hand out duct tape, muzzles, and keep them corralled in a corner of the church. What becomes obvious when you study the culture, Greek grammar, and corresponding scriptural passages is that Paul was not forbidding women from ministry, but he was addressing at Corinth disruption in the services, women speaking out of order, and at Ephesus, false teaching.

    Let’s take a moment to consider 1 Timothy 2:5-15. There was a fertility cult in Ephesus, and as part of the initiation, men went up to the Temple of Artemis and engaged in sexual relations with women priestesses who were supposed to be the mediators between the gods and man. Women served as the prime movers and mediators who were the conduit for contact with the gods. The cult personnel of the great Temple of Artemis of Ephesus numbered in the thousands, and the women were believed to stand in the intermediary position between the deity and her worshippers. At Ephesus, the cultic religion was a female monopoly that was believed to be the mediators between the gods and mortals.[1]

    In 1 Timothy verse 5, Paul corrects this false teaching (“for there is one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ”). As part of the Gnostic Religion, female mediators were supposed to initiate men into their special knowledge, gnosis, during sexual rites. At Ephesus, there was a prevalent teaching that Eve was created before Adam and received “special knowledge” when she ate the forbidden fruit. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a massive structure that dominated the area, and as befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept men in their places. The women priests were considered to be the teachers of men.

    Paul corrects this false teaching by saying the Adam was formed first and then Eve; that Adam was the source of woman. Paul had earlier warned Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-5) that people were teaching false doctrines, devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies. There was a widespread belief among the Ephesians that warrior-women, Amazons,[2] who were superior to men, had founded the city of Ephesus. People were caught up in these myths and pursued genealogies trying to trace their ancestry back to these superior women. Women, who were uneducated and full of these fables, were going house to house teaching these tales and superstitions.

    An early Amazon queen, Lysippe, decreed that women should go forth to battle and govern while the men were to stay at home and do the household work. “Lysippe said to the men they were assigned the spinning of wool and the household tasks of women.” She introduced laws by which she led forth the women to battle, but she hung humiliation and servitude upon the men.

    Artemis was the female goddess that the Ephesians worshipped, and her name, Artemis, means “safe”. She was the one who protected women. Sacrifices and prayers were offered to her throughout the woman’s life. It was Artemis who would safely guide the women through childhood. On a woman’s wedding night, her garment was loosed and given to Artemis as an offering. Women prayed to her for a safe childbirth, to be saved and not harmed throughout the delivery of the child. Beautiful garments, woven by the woman, were given to Artemis as an offering for safe childbirth.[3]

    In verse 15, Paul says, “But, the woman will be saved during childbirth . . .”. In the Greek, Paul seems to be making a play on words, “But she, the woman, will be safe throughout the childbearing.” Implied, God is the protector, not Artemis (safe). The Phillips Bible comes closest with, “The woman will come safely through childbirth.” Paul is saying that the women should not fear harm during childbirth because Artemis has no power to keep one safe or to harm them. It is rather, God, who can keep you safe throughout the whole process of childbirth. In this case, Paul is not saying that childbearing is a curse upon a woman, but rather, that God gives grace.

    In verse 14, Paul says that it was the woman, Eve, who was deceived. Now in verse 15, he says, “Yes, there was a woman who was deceived. But remember, God chose a woman to save the world through childbirth, Mary.” It is obvious that a woman is not saved through childbirth. Only Jesus Christ can save her. This may be an allusion to Mary. It is interesting to note, that it was Ephesus that was the first place to worship Mary and develop a cult of Maryology. William Ramsey insists that it is “no coincidence that the Virgin Mary was first given the official title, Theotokos, ‘bearer of God’ at Ephesus where Artemis herself had earlier borne the same title.”[4]

    These women who were the dispensers of mystic knowledge twisted and perverted Paul’s teaching about women.

    Paul, in his letter to Timothy, the young pastor who was facing false doctrines and fierce female foes, addresses every evil practice, woman dominance, false doctrine, and sexual impropriety.

    Paul also deals with the problems of men in public prayer. In verse 8, he says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing.” Men, you are to lift up your hands in public prayer and pray not just outwardly but inwardly, without harboring hostility over some dispute or hidden anger. This is a problem men still need to handle.

    Now in verse 9, he begins with the Greek word, hosautos, “in like manner or similar”, women are to dress modestly while praying outwardly in public. They, too, lift up holy hands and outstretched arms, which was the practice while blessing God’s people in prayer. There is no getting around the Greek word, hosautos. Just as the men are to pray without inner anger, the women are to lead in public prayer, dressing modestly without drawing public attention to themselves. Thus, the Greek word, “for in like manner” repeats the whole previous sentence in verse 9, except that the warning is different. Men have trouble in overly internalizing anger and disputes while trying to pray effectively in public, whereas women have trouble sometimes not realizing that God meant them to be beautiful and attractive to men but not while praying publicly in the service. According to these two verses, Paul wants women and men to participate together in the public service of the church, in the offering of prayers. There can be no debate over this point unless someone knows how we can get rid of hosautos.

    Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:5, “Every woman who prays or prophesies (in public)”, and in 1 Timothy 2:10 (public prayer). A.J. Gordon wrote, “It is quite incredible on the contrary, that the Apostle should give himself the trouble to prune a custom, which he desired to uproot, or then he should spend his breath condemning a forbidden method of doing a forbidden thing.”[5] Paul was encouraging men and women to participate in the service openly with prayers and prophecies. But the women were to be modest in their dress so that they would not draw attention to themselves. May I remind the reader that prophecy contained teaching as well as direct revelation. Wow!

    Some patriarchal pastors interpret these passages as though Paul was saying that women are second class citizens at every level. They are not to be educated, they are not to dress attractively, they are daughters of Eve, the original troublemaker, a deceiver. Women are easily deceived. The best thing for them to do is to get married, have children, behave themselves, keep quiet, and let the men be the spiritual authorities. The Apostle Paul is not in agreement with this myopic viewpoint.

    In verse 11, Paul instructs that women are to be educated. They are to learn in quietness and voluntary willingness to be responsive. The Greek is transparent here. It does not mean that women are to keep their mouths shut and submit to someone of higher rank. Hupotassomai means “a voluntary responsiveness to learn to take a subject in, in an attitude of openness”. It means to be receptive and responsive. Paul told all the members of the church to be subject to (hupotassomai) to one another: wives to husbands, husbands to wives (same Greek word, hupotassomai). Hupotassomai never means a ranking of a person as ruler and ruled. The directives in the New Testament are for Christians to live together linked by love, serving one another, and not lording it over one another. Men and pastors are not to be like some tin-pot oriental monarch lording it over his subjects, but rather as servants.

    Paul was just like Jesus. He wanted the women to be properly educated and instructed so that they could be teachers. In Luke 10:38-41, the story of Mary and Martha, Martha is in the kitchen distracted by all the preparations while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. What would be immediately understood in Jesus’ day and in the Middle East today is that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet within the male part of the house rather than being in the back room where she belonged with the other women. I am sure Martha was bothered by having to do all the work, but the real problem was that Mary had just committed an absolute social “no, no”. A woman was never allowed to go into the men’s part of the house where a male was teaching. It would be as if you were to invite me to your house to spend the night, and when it became bedtime, I would put up a tent in your bedroom. We have our social appropriateness. Mary had just violated the social mores. In fact, she flaunted them, and Jesus declares that she has a right to do so. She is sitting at his feet. A phrase which doesn’t mean what it would mean today, the adoring student gazing up in admiration at the wonderful teacher. It is clear from classical Greek literature, the customs of the day and the usage of the phrase elsewhere in the New Testament (Paul -Gamaliel), to sit at the teacher’s feet is a way of saying you are being a student, you are his disciple, picking up the teacher’s wisdom and learning, and in a practical world, you would not be doing it for the sake of cramming your mind with information, but you were in training to be a teacher, a Rabbi, yourself. Jesus commends Mary and says, “You have chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from you.”

    Americans miss the point, and clergy who have an insufficient theological education and interpret the Bible through the lens of Western Culture just don’t get it, but I assure you, no one in Jesus’ day would have missed the scandal at Bethany. Indeed, today in the Middle East and in Central Asia, when this story is told, the men protest, “What, what? Jesus would allow a woman to sit at His feet? Women are not to be teachers.” What they mean by “teachers” would be a Rabbi, Priest or Mullah. Here, Paul is at one with Jesus.

    In 1 Timothy 2:11, “Let the women learn in openness and voluntary responsiveness;” uneducated women were causing problems, so he wanted the women properly educated and prepared to defend and teach the faith. The women are to be well taught in the Word. The rabbinical rabbis taught, “It is better to burn the Torah than let it fall into the hands of a woman.” Paul decrees, “O contraire,” women should learn just as the rabbis. This was a pedestal-smashing blow to the patriarchal legalists. Indeed, the rabbinic scholar himself was required to learn in silence. The people of Israel were told to keep silence before the Lord (Isaiah 41:1, Zech. 2:13), and they were instructed “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Silence was a wall around wisdom. Silence was the duty of the learner. The phrase, “Silence and submission” is a Near Eastern formula implying a willingness to heed and obey instructions from the Word of God.

    In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I suffer not a woman to teach.” Here, Paul is not voicing a timeless command but a temporary directive application to a specific situation. In the Greek, it is not a command-not in the imperative. Paul uses the Greek form that indicates present action not a command form. “Presently, I am not allowing!” Paul is not setting down a permanent prohibition. The temporary character of the prohibition in Paul’s use of the but ( de) to join the two verses.,[6] “Let the women learn . . .but not at this time am I allowing them to teach.” In other words, we have to correct this false teaching, but once it is corrected, the women can teach sound doctrine.

    What are we to make of Paul’s declaration in verse 12? “I do not permit the women to have authority over the men.” The Greek word (authentein) does not mean “authority” in the sense of the English understanding of the word. It meant, in the First Century, to gain domination by claiming special knowledge (gnosis), a knowledge that could be passed on to the men through sexual rites. It was a common problem at Ephesus that women were using deceit, trickery, and underhanded means to trap men into believing that the sexual rites initiated them into the mystical realms of communion with the gods.

    Charles Thrombly argues convincingly, authentein had a sexual meaning.[7] He links the word to temple prostitutes that believed fornication brought believers into contact deity. Authentein, in the First Century Greek world, meant to engage in sexual immorality as in a pagan religious setting. John Chrysostom, an Early Church Father, used authentein to express sexual license. Clement of Alexandria used the same word, authentein, for a group of Christian women who turned Christian love feasts into sexual orgies.

    If we believe the scriptures are truly inspired, and if Paul had meant “authority”, he would have used the normal Greek word that he uses repeatedly in his writings, exousia. Instead, he uses this word authentein, a word loaded with sexual connotations and images of someone dominating as a despot over men. Authentein is a haphax legomenon. It is only used once in the entire New Testament and is a fitting word of a society ripe with women supposedly superior to men: bearers of mystic knowledge and sexual liaisons, serving as mediators between the gods and men. Undoubtedly, Paul applied a specific word for a specific setting.

    Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the old ways of organizing male and female roles from top to bottom were invalid; with one feature, that women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, thus, you might want to avoid giving the wrong impression. People would wonder, is Christianity just another cult like the cult of Artemis where women do the leading and keep the men in line? No, Paul says, in verse 12. Women are not to try to dictate to the men with the overtones of being bossy or seizing control or using female charms to seduce them into a false religion. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space to learn, to study in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis cult, but that both men and women alike are to develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching, and leadership God is giving to them.

    Pride grows on the human heart like lard on a pig. Men have used 1 Timothy 2:12 to clobber women. After all, some men say, Eve was deceived, and God said in Genesis 3:16 that man is to rule over the woman. If that is your belief, then it is the men who are deceived. For Genesis 3:16 is not a command for man to rule over the woman, but is a curse . . .”man (unfortunately) who walks after his fallen nature, will rule over woman”.

    Genesis 3:16 is not a demand or a command for man to take charge over woman, “to rule over them.” This is not a normative and prescriptive text found in the Mosaic Law and revealed by God, it is a curse passage predicting what will happen when women “turn” towards their husbands instead of turning towards God. This is what can happen if you marry a dictatorial, immature, or childish man. Paul said, “When I became a man I put away childish ways behind me, “ (1 Corinthians 13:11). I repeat, Genesis 3:16 is not a command but a curse. In effect, if God were explaining this today in plain English, God might have phrased it like this, “The truth is, that as a result of the fall, do not be surprised, my good lady, if that guy just plain lords it over you.” The statement in Genesis 3:16 does not have the slightest hint of a command or a mandate for men to assume that they are in charge, nor is it a prescriptive command from God by any means. The Hebrew grammar may not be rendered as, “the man must (shall) rule over you.” Such a misguided notion demands that you would have to translate verse 18 the same way, “the ground must produce thorns and thistles for you.” Farmers (should this be the accurate way to render the text) would need to stop using weed killer or pulling out thorns and thistles for God demands they must be left in place on the farm, for this was meant to be God’s normative order of things. But of course, this is utter nonsense, and so is the same logic in verse 16. Genesis 3:16 is not normative for the scripture lifts up Genesis 1:27 and 2:23-24 as the norm for male/female relationships. Those relationships are not to be lived out in light of the fall but in light of God’s design to create two sexually distinct beings in partnership. In fact, God in Jesus Christ was introducing a new order of relationships. This is clear from Jesus’ corrective that from the beginning God had made them male and female (Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6). Jesus evokes the mandate that the marriage relationship is a functional (oneness) not a hierarchical “two-ness”. In God’s sight, “They are no longer two but one” (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8). The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus would make women equal to men. In the Pharisees patriarchal prison women were mere chattel. Daily, the Pharisees proudly prayed, “I thank God I was not created a Gentle, a slave, or a woman.” As F.F. Bruce notes, “The pious expressed such gratitude because the other persons “were disqualified from several religious privileges which were open only to Jewish males.”[8]

    The Bible is not a book of oppression but liberation. Jesus said He came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19), and that includes women. Those who attempt to set up a patriarchy are saying in effect, we are to live out male/female relationships under the curse and not from the cross. Patriarchy is fundamentally flawed from the first because it forms an institution of Pharisaism and not of our liberator, Jesus Christ, the High Priest. Paul did not reintroduce Pharisaical beliefs but presented a radical new order of creation. In Galatians 3:28, the Greek reads, “Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no, ‘male and female’.” We flatten out the verse, but the rich meaning of it is contained in the Greek. He says, “no male or female” rather than “neither male nor female”, and he is actually quoting Genesis 1. We should see the phrase, “male and female” set off in quotes. Paul was battling the Pharisees and Judaiziers who wanted to enforce Jewish regulations, Jewish ceremonies, and Jewish ethnicity on Christian converts. Remember the synagogue prayer that the Jew prayed thanking God that he was not made a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. When that prayer was prayed, the women in the synagogue were to mentally agree thanking God “that you made me according to your will.” Paul, in Galatians 3:18, is deliberately marking out the family of Abraham as a new order of creation under Jesus Christ as a people who cannot pray that prayer since, in this new family, these distinctions are irrelevant. There is much more embedded in this text, because the raging controversy in Galatians is circumcision. Circumcision was a painful experience for the male, but it was also a matter of pride and privilege. It not only marked out Jews from Gentiles, it marked them out in a way that automatically put them in a privileged class above Gentiles, slaves, and women. By contrast, think of the equality brought about by baptism, the identical rite for Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female. They are in effect equal in the new creation in God’s forever family. Paul is aware that in some ways, the story of Abraham did, of course, privilege the male line of descent (Isaac, Jacob, etc). What is incredible, is that we find Paul, in both Galatians 4 and Romans 9, carefully paying attention to the women in the story, rather like the genealogies of Matthew 1, though from a different angle. He is highlighting the role of the women in the Abrahamic Family. In effect, Paul is saying that those in Christ are the true family of Abraham, which is the whole point of the story, that the manner of this identity, unity, which takes a quantum leap beyond the way in which First Century Judaism construed them, brings male and female together as equals, just as Jews and Gentiles are equals. Paul is kicking the props out from under those Pharisees who are attempting to back up a continuing line of male privilege in the structuring and demarcating of Abraham’s family in Genesis 1, as though someone were saying, “But of course, the male line is what matters, of course male circumcision is what counts, because God made male and female.” No, says Paul, none of that counts when it comes to being in the renewed family of Abraham (no male, no female). Paul is taking a wrecking ball and demolishing those who would enshrine a continuing line of male privilege and patriarchy in the new family of Jesus Christ. The point Paul is making in this passage is that God has one family, not two, and His family consists of all of those who believe in Jesus, that this is the family that God promised to Abraham, and that nothing in the Torah can stand in the way of this unity which is now revealed through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

    For those who are trying to build a hierarchy, a patriarchy, to distinguish the roles of male and female, place themselves under the curse. You would also have to abide by the Old Testament and would not be able to be a minister because you are a Gentile.

    Paul gave a thundering pronouncement that reverberated throughout Christianity. The dividing wall has been torn down, the barrier obliterated. The wall between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, woman and man, has been destroyed. There was an inscription on the wall outside the temple stating that Gentiles and women could not enter under penalty of death (Ephesians 2:14-16). Patriarchal teachers attempt to hand pick five scriptures and build a scaffolding that excludes women. It is like trying to build a scaffolding that will reach the moon. They found that in the one hundred sixty-three pounds of rocks brought back from the moon by Apollo 11, insects. What kind of insects? Luna ticks (just joking)! It is the height of lunacy, or shall I say, if you want to be a lunatic, to believe the dividing wall torn down allows a Gentile man to minister but keeps the women outside the courts beyond the temple of God’s grace-they are still under the curse. No, if you return to the Pharisaical system, you once again place yourself under the curse and the invariable result is you will try to control or rule over women by human means.

    A comprehensive study by L. K. Maxwell, past President of Prairie Bible Institute, found that there were more than one hundred passages in the Bible that affirmed the roles of women in leadership and fewer than half a dozen can be interpreted in opposition. Furthermore, men who site 1 Timothy 2:12 do so out of its cultural and exegetical context. If this solo verse is used to construct a major doctrine against women, it is absurd, for no other major doctrine in the Bible comes from one single verse. I have demonstrated that there is a strong male cultural bias that attempts to subjugate women to the category of second class citizens in God’s kingdom.

    Genesis 2;18 is not a text indicting the subordination of women as if she was to be man’s helper. Several translations interpret the Hebrew word ‘ezer as “helper”. “I shall make a helper fit for him (RSV).” “I will make a fitting helper for him (NJPS).” “I will make a helper compatible to him (NKJV).” The patriarchists proudly point to Genesis 2:18 as proof of gender hierarchy. They translate ‘ezer as “helper” and argue that implicit in the term is the notion of subordination. To be a helper is to offer (submissive assistance) as one who gives help.[9] The fatal flaw of such flimsy, shallow, shoddy, shortsighted, slipshod hermeneutics is the fact that all other occurrences of ‘ezer in the Old Testament have to do with the assistance that one of strength offers to one in need. The ‘ezer is a king, an ally, or an army coming to the aid of one in trouble or need. There is no exception.[10] Moreover, fifteen of the nineteen other references speak of the help that God alone can provide (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2, 33:20, 70:5, 115:9-11, 121:1-2, 124:8, 146:5; Hosea 13:9). Deuteronomy 33:29, “God, He is your shield and helper (‘ezer—strength).” Psalm 121:1-2, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, where does my help (‘ezer—strength) come from. My help (‘ezer) comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

    It is quite evident; help is given to one in need. It fits Genesis 2:18-20 very well. Adam’s situation was that of being alone, and God’s evaluation is, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The woman was created to relieve man’s aloneness through “strong partnership.” R. David Freedman, has argued quite convincingly that our Hebrew word ‘ezer is a combination of two older Hebrew/Canaanite roots, ‘-z-r, meaning “to rescue or to save”, and g-z-r, “to be strong”.[11] The difference between the two is the first letter in Hebrew that is today somewhat silent in pronunciation and coming where the letter “o” comes in the English alphabet. The word had a guttural sound pronounced in the back of the throat. The initial ghayyin fell together and somewhat represented by the one sign ‘ayyin’. However, we know that both letters were originally pronounced separately for the sounds are preserved in the “g” sound, still pronounced in English today in such place names as Gaza or Gomorrah, both of which are now spelled in Hebrew with the letter ‘ayyin’. It is a tremendously tedious task to untangle the threads of the original meaning, but Freedman successfully traces the root to around 1500 B.C., where the two signs began to be represented by one in Phoenician. Consequently, the two, “phonemes” merged into one “grapheme”. Irrefutable evidence appears in the Old Testament of the two roots merging as one because ‘ezer in the twenty-one times it is used in the Old Testament, often is in parallelism with words denoting “strength” or “power”. The only salient conclusion is that Genesis 2:18 is best translated as “I will make a power or strength suitable to him.” ‘ezer kenegdo together in 2:18 is suggestive that God was saying “I will make for man a strong power equal to him.” Instead of the woman being an assistant, helper, or subordinate, the text teaches that the woman has been given authority, strength, or power that is equal to man’s.

    This line of reasoning is borne out in Genesis 2:23 where Adam says to Eve, “This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, she will be called woman for she is taken out of man.,” hardly something someone would say about a subordinate. The idiomatic expression of Adam points to family propinquity, one’s close relative, in short, “my equal”.

    In a case of nutty buddy scripture twisting, some patriarchists insist that Adam was calling her a subordinate because it is the language of paradox. Furthermore, they resort to saying that God, in offering help (‘ezer) becomes the human subordinate or servant.[12] Divine accommodation, maybe. But, divine subordination, impossible.[13] Of course, if you want to dominate women, you ignore the scriptures that confront your fallen fleshly desire to be the master of women, “to rule them”. We have several scriptures where Judah and Israel were helped by their allies. Are you going to say that the help (‘ezer) came to them in a subordinate capacity? This is not tenable.

    There is no equivocation that ‘ezer kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 does not mean “helpmate”. The Hebrew expression conveys the full meaning of woman as “one who is the same as the other: protects, aids, helps, supports, as a powerful, strong equal partner”. The Hebrew leaves no room to intimate that the woman is an inferior or in a secondary position in a hierarchical male pyramid.

    There are those who cart out the canard that women were not deacons. They are not mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:1-11. The opening statement of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-2 says, “This is a true saying, if anyone (ei tis) desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing.” First, the original Greek does not say “man” at all but instructs, “If anyone desires the office of a bishop,” (he/she) desires a good work.” If Paul was limiting overseers to males, he would have used the male word (aner) in the text. Paul did not slip up and accidentally use a word that includes both sexes. Yet, translation committees, teaching the traditions of men, in some cases, ignore the Greek and translate it as a man. The question is would Paul have given such instructions to the women at Ephesus serving in leadership roles? A thorough knowledge of the Greek City of Ephesus sheds important light for Greek married women were not prone to multiple marriages or illicit dalliances, while Greek men were.[14] In fact, extramarital affairs were par for Greek males but not tolerated for women (because of the concern for legitimate sons). The divorce rate among Greek men was exceedingly high. So, the fact that Paul includes this qualification, that male deacons “are to be a one woman man, or the man of one woman” and omits them for the female deacons is exactly what one would expect. Anything else would be surprising.

    In 1 Timothy 3:11, Paul does not use the term, diakonos, deacon in reference to women, but gynaikas, and this seems to be a reference to women office holders and probably not to the wives of deacons. The usage of the feminine noun is supportive of a case of the ministerial office for the women. Ample evidence is marshaled for the suggestion that in the midst of Paul’s discussion of the qualifications for deacons, the Apostle suddenly singles out women serving in that capacity.[15] Some patriarchal pastors have screamed, Paul, yes! Women deacons, no! Dennis, who? I’m sticking with the King Jimmy. I’m standing with Paul. Men, don’t give me your sentiments, give me your sound scholarship. Did not Paul say, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed.”

    In Romans 16:2, Paul is not the least ambiguous. For in his lengthy greetings which closes the Epistle to the Romans, Paul commends to them “Phoebe, diakonos, of the Church at Cenchreae”. The King James Version in Romans 16:7 reads, “Salute, Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” There is no mistaking it, Junia was a female apostle. One female apostle destroys every argument against women being in the ministry. I am standing by the words of Paul in Romans 16:7. Someone moved, and it wasn’t Paul. It looks to me like Paul stands with those who stand by Romans 16:7.

    In the Upper Room, in Acts 1:13-14, we are told that women were among those with the disciples, Mary, and other men. “They all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” What! It says in Acts 1:13-14 that women were praying openly in a meeting with men and the disciples! What! Why didn’t the disciples say, “Keep them women silent!” They were waiting for the promise of Joel, Acts 2:17-18, “That both sons and daughters will prophesy. On my handmaidens I will pour out in those days my Spirit and they shall prophesy.” Many traditions agree that on Pentecost, the Spirit poured out and the women went forth prophesying. It’s a good thing that pastors of the patriarchal mindset, fundamentalists, Southern Baptists, and Church of Christ, weren’t there. They would be shouting, “Keep them women silen!. This is of the devil! They’re out of order! Women are not to prophesy!” On several occasions, I have seen church buildings with the inscription carved on the cornerstone, “The Lord’s Church, Established 33 A.D. Jerusalem”. I asked the preachers, “Do you let women pray, teach, evangelize, or prophesy publicly or to men?” Absolutely not! They give the invective of 1 Timothy 2:12. Then I say, “How can you be the Lord’s Church established in 33 A.D.?” Other patriarchal and traditionalists say that Joel’s prophesy was for the future, a latter day outpouring of the Spirit. When those days come, will we disregard a message from God because it comes from a woman? Are those prophesying handmaidens of the Lord going to be told, it is a “sin” for them to publicly tell the entire congregation the message God has given them? In John 4:1-42, we read that it was a Samaritan woman who leads a large part of the population of her community to Jesus. She was a triple outcast: Samaritan, despised by the Jews; woman, second class citizen; and, she had had five husbands and was currently living with a man. She was an outcast, but Jesus didn’t cast her out. She was a triple threat to the kingdom of Satan. God uses king pins (queen pins). The disciples were shocked that he was talking with a woman, but she went forth evangelizing her town, speaking, teaching, and preaching to men, women, and children. How else can you evangelize your town? Jesus trusted her. And it says that many came to him. It’s a good thing that the Lord’s Church wasn’t there, because they would have said, “Keep that woman silent. She’s not supposed to be evangelizing or teaching. That is a man’s job.” Excuse me, the Lord’s Church wasn’t there with the Lord. They were established in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem. The patriarchs and the Lord’s Church claim they are doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way by silencing more than half of the Lord’s workforce. “The field’s are white unto harvest,” Jesus said, “But the workers are few.” Do you know why Tigger hops around all day on his tail in the forest? He’s afraid he will step on Pooh. Any teaching that dramatically shrinks the Lord’s workforce is a bunch of patriarchal “pooh”.

    Last point: In 1 Corinthians 12:7-30, Paul lists gifts of the Spirit. Repeatedly, he uses the Greek words-to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given (verse 7), to one is given the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge, to each one . . .to another . . .(verses 7-11). It’s an airtight case; there is no getting around the Greek. It is to each one male and female. The Spirit sovereignly gives the gifts of teaching, exhortation, words of knowledge, wisdom, not just to men but to the women. God is no respecter of persons. Why would God give gifts to women and not allow them to exercise them? The ministry is not according to gender but according to the gifts given to male and female that Paul says are irrevocable and without repentance.

    I pastor a church that recently bought a building built in 1888, Immanuel Baptist Church, and it was sold in 1912 to a Jewish Orthodox Synagogue. It remained the only Jewish Orthodox Synagogue in the State of Oregon from 1912 to 2007. The women were partitioned off and separated, not a word could be spoken in the synagogue. The men built a separate area in the back of the building that looked like a cattle pen and that’s where the women sat, gazing out at the men as they performed their rituals. I took a sledge hammer and with the help of others, tore the barrier down. In our church, not only are the physical dividing walls down but the cultural dividing wall that denies women their rightful place in God’s church. As the pastor, I am striving for orthopraxy, right practice, as well as orthodoxy, right doctrine, for right doctrine protects the family of God from spiritual food poisoning and congregational gangrene. We’re not big on titles, although my full title is The Most Right Righteous Reverend Doctor D.L. Swift, Swami Swift, The Grand Potentate, Super Pastor. The only thing missing is the cape. Just call me The Bishop or The Newly Elected Pentecostal Pope (just kidding). The devil is not afraid of titles.

    As part of our orthopraxy, we have had women evangelists, pastors, and teachers who have all ministered in our church. They carry with them a weight of glory, the credentials of heaven, are approved by God, and it is too real for me to deny that the holiness of God, glory of God, and presence of God accompanies them. I can say this about all of them, but I cannot say it about all of the men who have ministered in our church. Some of them had more grammar than Father. While at our church we do not throw around titles like “deacon”, “elder”, “bishop”, or “reverend”. There are those women in our congregation who are recognized as godly and gifted, and exercise a ministerial function in the church. They are respected, and they are not a threat to the men. When they say something publicly, we all sit up and listen. Equally, there are godly and gifted men who are recognized, respected, and exercise ministerial responsibilities in the fellowship.

    Male domination is a personal moral failure not a Biblical doctrine. We are to properly distinguish between male headship and male domination (lordship). Male headship to quote Ortlund is defined as,” In the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings,male and woman,the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction.” This is not a contradiction but a divine paradox; a God created creative tension for male and female as equal but there is leadership (headship). They are made in the image of God and are spiritually equal. Their sexual identities are not a biological triviality or a mere accident but a divine design and I say,” Viva La Difference.” The man assumes a loving, leading, and servant leadership. That is, God calls the man, with the help and counsel of the woman, to see that the male-female partnership, serves the purposes of God, not the sinful urges of either member of the partners. The man is to lead, you can’t follow a parked car, but he is not to assume the role of a dictator.

    The Patriarchal Model always fails because it institutes a form of lordship and not of headship. Robin Morgan has aptly said, “Every organized patriarchal religion works overtime to contribute to its own misogyny.” Patriarchal systems have an abysmal history of being models of smothering male domination. There are patriarchal husbands, pastors and elders who are little more than glorified Archie Bunkers. Their wives and members are to play the part of Edith whose shrill voice, “Yeees, Archie” echoes compliance to the all knowing superior one. Having an Archie Bunker as a pastor is like sailing the high seas of life with Captain Bligh at the helm. The pastor is not to lord it over the people but to be a servant; to use coke images, it’s not Royal Crown but Bubble Up.

    When truth is abused in the opposite direction, a rival position takes hold that is a compelling and powerful form of feminism that is both radical and diabolical. The female morphs into a femi-Nazi. The answer is not the Women’s Lip (lib) Movement. The denigration of subordination crushes God’s creatures. Women are not to be treated as sex objects and neither are men to be treated as success objects. We are to be fully male, fully female, fully equal and fully made in Gods image.

    For the Bible to describe a male dominated society is not to prescribe it. The Old Testament scripture portrays women as chattel, as victims of polygamy, of religious sex rituals, of physical abuse, and as depersonalized subjects. Women were portrayed as second class citizens. James Borland points out, “The cultural mores and the historical setting into which God spoke His revelation must be distinguished from the revelation itself.” The Biblical description is not a Biblical prescription. Dwight Pratt says, “Every decline in her (woman’s) status in the Hebrew commonwealth was due to the incursion of foreign influences”. The influences of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Egypt, and other pagan societies eroded God’s purposes for the male/female relationship. God’s Old Testament revelation explicitly forbids a patriarchal form of society, because patriarchy in the Bible was partly a heathen patriarchy that God didn’t condone but condemned. Modern patriarchy is prescribing what the Bible was describing as forbidden and God condemning.

    [1] Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Kroeger. I Suffer Not A Woman. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI, 1992), pp. 105-113.

    [2] Rick Strehan. Paul, Artemis, and the Jews at Ephesus. (Walter de Gruyhen: Heidelberg, Germany, 1996).

    [3] Laura K. McLure, ed. Sexuality and Gender in the Classical World. (Wiley and Blackwell: London, 2002), pp. 30-33.

    [4] William M. Ramsey. “The Worship of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus”. Pauline and Other Studies in Early Christian History. (Hodden and Stoughton: London, 1906), pp. 125-159.

    [5] A.J. Gordon. “The Ministry of Women”. Missionary Review of the World. (#7: December, 1984).

    [6]Aida Besancan Spencer. “Beyond the Curse”.Women Called to the Ministry. (Hendrickson: Peabody, Mass., 1985), pp. 74-77. Douglas Moo. “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men: 1 Timothy 2:11-15”. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem. (Crossway: Wheaton, Ill., 1991), p. 183.

    [7]Charles Thrombly. Who Says Women Can’t Teach. Pp. 174-177.

    [8]F.F. Bruce. Commentary on Galatians, New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI, 1982), p. 62.

    [9] Bruce Ware. “Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complimentarian Positions of the Role of Women in the Home and Church. Ministry. (2004).

    [10] Raymond Ortlund, Jr. “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship”. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. (Baker Books: 1994).

    [11] R. David Freedman. “Woman, A Power Equal to Man”. Biblical Archaeological Review.(#9: January, 1983), pp. 56-58.

    [12] Ortlund. Op. cit., pp. 99-100.

    [13] Ortlund. Ibid, p. 114.

    [14] J. Neuffer. “First Century Cultural Backgrounds in the Greco-Roman Empire”.Symposium on the Role of Women in the Church. (Plainfield, New Jersey, 1984), pp. 69ff.

    [15] Kenneth T. Wilson. “Should Women Wear Head Coverings?” Bibliotheca Sacra. (48, #592: October/December, 1991), p. 453.

  3. 3 Inda Pink
    June 4, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    LOL…after your first comment and THEN that ginormous copy/paste, I hereby forbid you to comment on my future posts during the rest of my weeklong tenure here as topdog. You are overshadowing my posts.

    Just kidding of course since I’m still getting the star billing.

    You go ahead and feel free to be leader of your family. I know who’s pulling your strings in the background. 😉

  4. 4 OG
    June 5, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Maybe one’ should pay attention when posting her FIRST comment to a newly found blog to the correct post! *lol*

    Well Mz. Pink I am inclined to agree with you and why it probably is too smart for my first comment on this blog to be in disagreement with the views of the blogs vacationing owner….oh well I’m don’t always do the smartest thing.

    I am in total agreement about men being heads of households and all that jazz, but at the same time one must look at all the editing that was done to the Bible. Many scholars agree women were all up and through the Bible teaching and preaching with Jesus. Then after Jesus and Paul left this earth the church changed things in an effort to make Christianity more palatable and just because it was a pretty sexist time back then even after Jesus had walked around shaking things up! And sure Paul may have said no, but it wouldn’t be the first thing said by Paul that was misinterpreted or taken out of context.

    Look at the theory that Pricilla was in fact the leader of the Pricilla and Aquila duo, when they let Paul lay his head down at their home that kinda challenges the head of household thing and let’s not forget Mary, she too wrote a gospel that for what ever divine reason did not make it into what we hold today as the Good Book or the fact that the first people to preach the gospel were in fact women.

    When Mary and crew left and told the disciples and the world the Savior has risen, wasn’t that the first gospel sermon? And while there are not any in the Orthodox Judaism there have been women Rabbi’s. I just find it hard to believe the God that I worship would prevent women from being a Pastor. Nice post!


  5. 5 OG
    June 5, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Oh ya and here are two phenomenal female pastors, if you ever get a chance you shoudl try to meet these two. Before I went to WVUMC I was raised women didn’t even get step in a pulpit or wear pants in the sanctuary, so you know I’ve come a LONG WAY BABY!!



    There’s my cut and paste for the day!!


  6. 6 Deacon Blue
    June 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Howdy, OG…disagree with me, semi-agree with me, pat me on the back…it’s all good. I can’t remember if I’ve seen your comments at The Field Negro or Raving Black Lunatic, but I do recognize your handle (at least, I’m assuming that you’re “OG, Original Glamazon”), and you’re welcome here anytime. Yeah, I’m on “vacation” but only from actual deep thinking and blog posting. Wanted to give my brain a little rest. And as it happens, good that I’m still stopping by, since Miz Pink doesn’t really do maintenance stuff and I noticed that your second comment got shunted to the spam folder. But it’s all good now. Ciao for now.

    (And by the way, if anyone was confused by OG’s comment about posting wrong, she simply put her comment originally in the comment area for the previous day’s post.)

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


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