Gen1.27I should start by saying that I dislike the term “egalitarian.” I’d rather refer to myself as a “complementarian” because I believe God made Eve to be a complement to Adam — to make up what was lacking. But “spiritual leadership” or “hierarchicalist” teachers have adopted “complementarian” as their own self-description, leaving me with an inexact term. After all, I don’t believe men and women are the same. But I do believe that anyone, male or female, who is gifted by God to lead should be allowed to lead.

I’m writing in response to Tim Archer’s recent article teaching that God only allows men to serve as spiritual leaders of men in the family and in the church. I have great respect for Tim both personally and as a student of scripture. But I have to disagree on this one point. Here’s why —

* Tim concludes that the NT’s teachings on the place of women in the family and the church is based on the relationship established by God between Adam and Eve before they sinned, that is, before the Fall of Man. I entirely agree.

* Tim explains,

Reproduction wasn’t new; God had already told men and women to multiply. But now childbirth would involved pain. Agriculture was already a part of their lives. But after the Fall, the earth would no longer work with them; food would be produced only through intense labor. It would only make sense that male leadership also existed before the Fall.

A better understanding of Genesis 3:16 recognizes that man was already supposed to be leading his wife; after the Fall, he would do so through domination. Servant leadership would be replaced by a dictatorial approach.

And I agree that the domination of wives by their husbands is a curse, not a command, and in fact exactly the sort of thing that Christians should oppose.

* I also agree that childbirth and agricultural labor existed in the Garden before sin, and a result of the Fall was for the challenges of labor and birth to be intensified by sin to the point of becoming curses.

* But this is where he loses me. Tim argues that male domination of wives is therefore an intensification of pre-Fall servant leadership to the point of becoming a curse; but unlike agriculture and childbirth, there is nothing in Genesis 1 or 2 that says this. Rather, male domination of wives is a corruption of the gender equality (“mutuality” would be a better word) that existed pre-Fall — as is easily found in chapters 1 and 2.

* For example, in Gen 3:15, the serpent is cursed with hostility between him and the woman. Before sin, there was no hostility at all. The Fall did not intensify a dislike into hatred. In fact, before the Fall, Eve was clearly at ease chatting with the serpent, whereas afterwards she became hostile. In other words, the text does not insist that each curse is an intensification of the way things were before the Fall. Rather, each curse is a corruption (φθορά) of the way things were (Rom 8:21; 2Pe 1:4 ESV).

In fact, Gen 1 and 2 teach equality (or mutuality) of Adam and Eve; not sameness but equal standing before God.

— In Gen 1:26-28, both male and female were created in the “image” and “likeness” of God himself. There is no distinction at all in chapter 1.

— In Gen 1:28, both male and female are given “dominion” over the creatures that live in the Creation. “Dominion” is the word for the rule of a king, and yet the female was given as much rule as the male.

— In Gen 2:18, we’re taught —

(Gen 2:18 ESV)  Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Man without the woman was “not good” — the only part of Creation that displeased God.

— Eve was made to be Adam’s “suitable helper.” In English, “helper” implies inferiority or subordination. But the Hebrew word,  עֵ֫זֶר or ‘ezer, usually refers to God as Israel’s Helper. Obviously, ‘ezer does not remotely suggest subordination or inferiority! Rather, it refers to someone who provides what’s needed. “Complement” would be an excellent translation (which is one reason I really wish I could refer to myself as a complementarian).

— In Gen 2:19-20, God showed Adam every animal there is, and not a one proves to be a suitable complement. Neither is God himself. Adam’s complement could not be an inferior, such as an animal, or a superior, such as God.

— In Gen 2:21-22, God created Woman (ishah) out of Man (ish). The similarities of the names show their closeness. The woman was not called “Eve” until after sin entered the world.

— God created woman from man’s rib. As the rabbis taught long before Jesus, God did not use the skull, so that the woman would not rule the man, nor the feet, so that the woman would be trod upon by the man, but the rib, so that she would be at his side.

— Moses himself explains the significance of how God made Eve —

(Gen 2:23-24 ESV) 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

“Bone of my bones.” “Flesh of my flesh.” “They shall become one flesh.” What language could be chosen to more clearly express equality? Oneness? Mutuality? In fact, because Moses speaks of the man leaving his parents for his wife, it’s the man who is called on to give up something of himself for the woman.

— Finally, Moses writes,

(Gen 2:25 ESV)  25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Why not ashamed? Because of their sameness; because of they were created to become one.

This is what the text says. And if Paul truly built his theology of marriage and the role of women in the church on the relationship of man and woman in the Garden, there is no basis there from which to assert that Eve was subordinate to Adam or that Adam was her “spiritual leader.” Rather, they were co-regents, rulers together.

In response to this argument, three objections are often voiced.

* Adam’s naming of the woman Eve shows his spiritual leadership over her. But Adam did not name her Eve until after the curse when he had been placed in dominance over her (Gen 3:16).

* Adam’s naming of the woman ishshah (woman) shows his spiritual leadership over her. But ishshah is a common noun, not her name. It’s only the giving of proper names that the scriptures imply might arguably indicate authority over someone. Moreover, Adam and Eve were both given dominion over the animals, and yet only Adam was charged with giving them names. Naming power does not imply authority over someone in this passage.

* The order of creation shows Adam’s spiritual leadership over her. This is based, not on Genesis, but 1 Tim 2:13. But we are talking about how to read Genesis 1 and 2. Adam and Eve were created after the animals, and they were given dominion over the animals. The order of creation points toward the creation of mankind and the resting of God in his new Creation, not from higher in authority to lower in authority.

So what do we do with 1 Tim 2:13? Well, I offer a more comprehensive answer in my eBook Buried Talents, but here’s a highly abbreviated explanation of 1 Tim 2:11-14.

(1Ti 2:11-14 NET)  11 A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness.  12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet [Greek: “in quietness”].  13 For Adam was formed first and then Eve.  14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.

First, I believe the text is best understood when we outline the passage as follows:

a women should learn in quietness

b do not teach or exercise authority (in a domineering way), but be in full submission

Adam was formed first

Eve was deceived

This structure is called a “chiasm” and is very common in the scriptures [1] and the ancient world in general. The logic is parallel, with a’ explaining a and b’ explaining b.

  1. Women should learn in quietness because (a’) women should not be easily deceived, as Eve was. Paul uses the account of Eve’s deception to apply essentially the same point to all Christians in 2 Cor 11:1-3. “But I’m afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” As in 1 Timothy, Paul sees Eve’s sin as a warning to Christians, men or women, against being led astray by false teachers.
  2. The reference to Eve being deceived makes the point that women should learn so as to avoid following Eve’s bad example in being deceived.[2] When women do not study, they allow themselves to become victims of false teaching, and they can’t count on their husbands’ learning to protect themselves, any more than Eve was protected by Adam from the serpent’s lies. This is exactly what was going on in Ephesus at the time, and it continues to be sound advice. Paul’s first command is that the women “should learn.” Only by learning can the women avoid following in Eve’s footsteps.
  3. Wives should not teach in a domineering way because (b’) Eve was made as Adam’s suitable complement. Thus, the rationale must be found in the purpose behind the order of creating men and women. Man was not good alone. He needed a suitable complement. God made women to complement their husbands. Therefore, if a wife domineers, she fails to be the complement that God intended.

We learn from this passage:

  1. Women are required to learn in quietness. The command to quietness is the natural extension of Paul’s command that all Christians should live quiet and peaceful lives, found in 1 Tim 2:2 (based on the same Greek word).
  2. Wives are to be in submission to and complements for their husbands, and this is always true.
  3. Wives may not teach in a domineering way.
  4. Women should learn God’s word to protect themselves from deception (which is always true but was a particularly critical need in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Timothy).
  5. Nothing in this passage teaches that women are gullible or more gullible than men.[3]

Concluding thoughts

We would do far better in defining “spiritual leadership” to emphasize “spiritual.” The NT teaches that leadership in the church is a gift of the Spirit (Acts 20:28; 1Cor 12:28; Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:11). Note especially,

(Act 20:28 NET)  28 Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

The Spirit gives gifts of leadership to equip the church with leaders and elders. And if being a leader is a gift, we are taught —

(1Co 12:21 NET) 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.”

And Rom 12:3-8 commands that someone with the gift to lead should lead with zeal. Thus, both the gifted person and the rest of the church are commanded to let God decide what God decides. If he gives a gift to someone, he has thereby authorized its use.

Just as God equipped Deborah to be a judge over the people, male and female, as well as a prophetess, those whom God equips to lead are authorized to use their gifts in God’s service. And because Deborah was equipped by God to have authority over men, she did not sin when she exercised that authority, even over the male head of Israel’s army.

And the Spirit still gives gifts to Christians to lead, and those with the gift may do so — indeed, are instructed to do so.


[1] See Brian Casey, “Galatians mini-structures,” NT Christianity (March 1, 2013),, for several other examples from Paul’s writings.

[2] The NET Bible translators note –

Although the Greek conjunction δέ (de) can have a simple connective force (“and”), it is best to take it as contrastive here: Verse 1 Tim. 2:11 gives a positive statement (that is to say, that a woman should learn). This was a radical and liberating departure from the Jewish view that women were not to learn the law.

[3] Indeed, if being compared to Eve’s sin makes a gender gullible in God’s eyes, then both genders are gullible because both men and women are compared to Eve’s deception in 2 Cor. 11:3.

25 Responses

  1. Hi Jay. Thanks for the excellent analysis of what I wrote. I was disappointed that you didn’t talk about Genesis 3:8ff. I don’t doubt that there’s an egalitarian way to explain that passage. I see it as God addressing man for a reason after the couple sinned. (see my article to see that explained a bit more)

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  2. Sorry, I need to comment one further thing. You said my article was “teaching that God only allows men to serve as spiritual leaders of men in the family and in the church.” That’s actually a little beyond what I said. It’s one thing to say what God intends, another what he allows. If men are failing in their job as spiritual leaders, God will raise up a woman to fill the void. (Ex. = Deborah)

    Not that I expect that to appease any egalitarians, but I feel better saying God intends for men to be the leaders.

    1. Tim wrote,

      If men are failing in their job as spiritual leaders, God will raise up a woman to fill the void. (Ex. = Deborah)

      You’ve been reading LaGard Smith, it seems. But there is nothing in the Bible that says Deborah was appointed judge and prophetess because the men weren’t being the spiritual leaders they should have been. In fact, God often raised up men to lead who were reluctant leaders. Think of Gideon and Moses.

      In Deborah’s case, after she’d been judging disputes and acting as prophetess, she commanded the leader of Israel’s army to go to war. She was already a leader above the general at this time. The general refused to go to war unless Deborah went with him — seeing that God was obviously with this woman.

      (Jdg 4:8-9 ESV) 8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9 And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.

      Barak should have had enough faith in God and in the Deborah’s command to do as he was told without adding conditions. But he didn’t refuse to be a judge or prophet. He was already over the army and refused to follow Deborah’s instructions unless she went with him. He lacked confidence in God’s word.

      In Men of Strength for Women of God, LaGard Smith makes exactly the argument you make, but he never shows any evidence to support it. Indeed, it’s contradicted by the Song of Deborah, written by Deborah and Barak and comprising chapter 6 of Judges:

      (Jdg 5:8-9 ESV) 8 When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel? 9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the LORD.

      By inspiration, they praise the willingness of Israel’s commanders to go to battle!

      The next few verses criticize the tribes of Reuben and Dan for failing to join the battle, but praise other tribes for their willingness to fight.

      In short, some male Israelites are praised for their willingness to command in battle, some are praised for joining the battle, and some are criticized for failing to fight.

      There’s nothing here to suggest that there was not a single man in Israel who could have been raised up as judge.

      Last point: The Tyndale and other commentaries point out that the terms of office of the various judges must overlap each other or else the total time of the judges would exceed the available time. It is very likely that Deborah was not the only judge judging Israel at the time, with another judge or two having influence among other tribes (only a few tribes are mentioned in her account). And if that’s so, as the commentators seem to agree, there were men available to lead at the time as shown by there being male judges in office elsewhere in Israel.

      As a result, I take Deborah to be clear evidence that God does not require men to be leaders over women. Rather, God gifts with the Spirit whomever he wishes, and sometimes that’s a woman. And when he equips a woman to lead, we should let her lead, as we should not stand in the way of God’s Spirit.

      Joel 2:28ff prophesies the coming of gifts of the Spirit to both men and women in the Christian age. A few women were gifted before, but under Jesus, the Spirit’s gifts are given generously to both genders.

      1. I can see how you can make those arguments using the ESV. (And no, I haven’t read LaGard’s book) It’s hard to think that Barak’s hesitance was just a momentary thing, but maybe you’re right.

        If what you’re saying about God using men and women indiscriminately, we should have many Deborahs, not just one. We should have as many Huldah’s as we have Isaiahs, as many Junias as have Andronicus. We don’t. It would have been a simple thing to have 6 female apostles. To make half the leaders chosen in Acts 6 women. It would have been simple to break with the Jewish tradition of male elders and establish mixed presbyteries. It didn’t happen.

        Many mistakes have been made. I don’t deny that. I believe that women should be allowed to exercise their gifts more than they have in the past; I don’t believe, however, that God has changed his mind about male leadership.

        Thanks for the insights you bring. You always make me think. And grow, hopefully.

        1. Tim wrote,

          If what you’re saying about God using men and women indiscriminately, we should have many Deborahs, not just one. We should have as many Huldah’s as we have Isaiahs, as many Junias as have Andronicus. We don’t.

          I obviously utterly failed to make my point. Let’s go back to Joel and Pentecost. Peter preached from this text, which speaks of the Christian age —

          (Joe 2:28-29 ESV) 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

          God’s Spirit was present in kings, prophets, judges, and artisans in the OT. And a few women were included, but certainly a minority of those with the Spirit were women. So according to Joel, what was going to change?

          Well, the Spirit would be “poured out.” That is, the Spirit would be given to FAR more people. Not just a few key leaders, but ALL those in the Kingdom — Jew and Gentile. There would be a DRAMATIC increase in the giving of the Spirit.

          But one of the marks of the new age, of Christianity itself, would be that both men and women would receive the Spirit. Obviously enough, in Christianity, those who believe in a personal indwelling accept that men and women receive the indwelling without discrimination. ALL Christians, male and female, receive the Spirit — very unlike the Mosaic age.

          But the text further teaches that prophecy (used on the OT of a wide range of charismata) would be given to both men and women. But in the OT there were female prophets. The difference is that in Christianity, there is no distinction — both men and women receive prophecy, not mainly men. This is a change and one that was dramatic enough to announce the coming of the Kingdom.

          So today, what’s different? The curse is being reversed. Male privilege is going away. The Eschaton is breaking into the present. And God himself — through his Spirit — lives among his children in intimate communion without distinction between young and old, servants and masters, Jew and Gentile, male and female.

          In such a realm, a realm that anticipates our future existence with God in the new heavens and new earth, how could God deny spiritual gifts to women? Not all will be equipped to lead, but the Spirit’s gifts are being freely distributed to equip us to serve God in his mission, and no longer will women be the rare exception. The Kingdom will be marked by God’s generous outpouring of the Spirit on us all.

  3. (Gen 3:8-13 ESV) And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

    Tim wrote,

    But God calls to the man. Why? Because the man had failed his family. He had not provided spiritual leadership. Instead, he allowed his wife to be deceived. (It’s worth noting that Genesis 2 only tells us that the man received God’s instructions regarding the forbidden fruit. Was he responsible for teaching his wife? Had he failed in that area?

    Why did God speak to Adam first? Because he was the spiritual leader of the household? Well, the text nowhere says he was the spiritual leader. What the text does say is that God gave the instruction not to eat of the tree to Adam before Eve was created. Why talk to Adam first? Because he’s the one God had himself told not to do this.

    Both Adam and Eve suffered specific curses. Both perceived themselves as naked. Both sewed clothes of fig leaves. Adam was not given greater punishment even though, under a hierarchicalist theory, he should bear the greater guilt.

    In 1 Tim 2:11-14, Paul seems to blame Eve for the Fall of Man, but he blames Adam in Rom 5 and 1Cor 15. Why both? Because both were made in God’s image, both were equipped to say “no,” and both failed. The Fall wasn’t complete until both had sinned, and so Eve initiated the Fall but Adam completed it.

    Finally, when God asks Adam, “(Gen 3:11 ESV) Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” God does not ask whether Adam failed to train Eve or otherwise hold Adam accountable for Eve’s sin. Rather, Adam is charged with Adam’s sin and Eve with Eve’s sin. And to me, that’s clear evidence that God does not treat Eve as answerable to Adam. Both answer directly to God. There is no hierarchy.

    Eve doesn’t get off the hook as innately gullible or unworthy of making decisions for herself. She is fully accountable, just as is Adam.

    1. Thanks, Jay. I don’t agree, but I’m glad you dealt with those verses. Verse 8 emphasizes that there were two, but God speaks to Adam. If Genesis were seeking to teach the total equality you claim, he would have spoken to both at the same time. Cursed both at the same time.

      Equal in value, not equal in function.

      Grace and peace,

      1. Tim,

        It’s difficult to express exactly, but I don’t think of men and women as equal or the same. Rather, they are each gifted as God chooses to gift them, and there is nothing in scripture that causes God to only gift men to lead men. And my observation is that God quite often gifts women to lead men and women.

        However, as Ephesians 5 shows, there are differences. Paul reasons that wives should be suitable complements to their husbands because of Gen 2. Husbands should be unto their wives as Christ is unto the church, his bride. That is, husbands should sacrifice and submit for their wives’ sake.

        These things are not identical but they are very parallel, and there is nothing in Eph 5 that explains why women can’t lead men in church, as Eve was a suitable complement to Adam, her husband, not to all men.

        Hence, “total equality” overstates the case, and there are positions other than hierarchy and total equality. I’ll grant that my position is very close to total equality, but it’s not sheer sameness. And this is why God cursed them differently.

        Eve was cursed in childbirth, and for obvious reasons, Adam could not suffer that same curse. Adam was cursed in his labor in the field, which historically has been man’s work — not that no woman has ever worked a field and suffered the same thing.

        There are differences between men and women, and that led to different curses. But those differences aren’t hierarchical. Nor do they infringe either gender’s responsibility to use their talents and gifts for God’s mission on earth. If God gifts a woman to lead men, then God has authorized her to do so.

        In fact, one reason I believe the Churches of Christ are so resistant to this teaching is our denial of the present work of the Spirit. But when we think in Spirit-ual terms, it becomes very hard to deny the giftedness of many female Christians and their authority to use their gifts to their maximum potential.

  4. I very much appreciate you guy’s willingness to put your thoughts out there, your passion for Scripture, and for striving to understand more fully what is laid out in it. As a novice when it comes to deep, complex textual study, conversations such as laid out in this thread intrigue me.

    Tim, you said “If Genesis were seeking to teach…” A question I would have would be this… for both sides… or really for anybody… Do we ask of Genesis more than what it intends to give? For example…Is Genesis ‘seeking’ to give us a theology on women in leadership? Or considering the Creation account…is Genesis ‘seeking’ to give a scientific explanation of creation? Is that what it is intending?

    As I strive to dive deeper into the Word and grow in my studies, I try to be cautious about possibly forcing my own biases into what I read (and that’s tough not to do!) and then see things that might not be there or things that were never intended. I have a couple of my own thoughts on the subject but I figured I would just throw it out there and seek the counsel of those way smarter than I am.

    Anyway, it’s an honest question I have been wrestling with and would love some thoughts or even just a point in the right direction when it comes to some good writings on the subject.


    1. Clearly, the creation account in Genesis is meant to give an accurate account of the creation of the universe including the creation of humans and animals because there’s no indication whatsoever in the book that it is meant to be anything other than that. The questions you need to ask are: Do you actually believe that woman was created from Adam’s rib? Do you actually believe that there was a talking snake? Do you actually believe that the entire universe was created in six 24 hour days?

    2. Jake Greer asked,

      Is Genesis ‘seeking’ to give us a theology on women in leadership?

      Well, yes and no. Paul refers to Gen 1 and 2 to define husband/wife relationships in 1 Cor 14, 1 Tim 2, Eph 5, 1 Cor 1, 1 Cor 6, and, I think, 1 Cor 7. Clearly Paul considered Gen 1 and 2 as instructive for marriage of Christians. Adam and Eve were husband and wife and lived sinlessly in the Garden until Gen 3. Moses inserted comments in Gen 2 teaching that these passages speak to marriage generally.

      The church used to teach that these passages addressed men and women generally, until women proved so successful in the work place that it became unthinkable to deny them authority over men or the ability to teach men in a secular setting. This change in thought is only about 75 years old, largely post-WWII. Before then, for 1900 years, women couldn’t have authority over men in any setting.

      When the church restricted women only in church and the family, it became far more difficult to argue from Gen 1 and 2, because Adam and Eve aren’t prototypes for elders and members but husband and wife. How someone argues today that Gen 2 applies in the church and not the workplace is beyond me, since there is nothing in Genesis about church and quite a lot about the workplace. Adam was cursed in his work, not in his church leadership.

      So the present interpretation is untenable to my thinking.

  5. Jay, Tim, don’t you think it would’ve made this a lot easier to understand if the authors of the bible were less contradictory and more specific about what they wanted the reader to understand about the will of God?

  6. I love this discussion and am glad that it’s an increasingly apropos one across evangelical circles, especially Churches of Christ. One quick point to Tim’s assertion that the Bible should record more Deborahs, Huldahs, more like Junia, etc. That’s an interesting take, but I think it falls short.

    Biblical history is replete with God working out his plans across long expanses of time. The very work of new creation, for instance is an ongoing process from the fall to the second coming of Christ. God has sovereignly chosen to work deliberately, delimiting himself largely through the gracious allowance of human will to interact with his will as he works out his plan to redeem the world.

    That’s the general warp and woof of Scripture when it comes to God’s ideal and humanity’s pursuit of it.

    More particularly on this subject at hand. Or, perhaps, on this orbit of subjects. Paul argues in Galatians — most likely written early and before his other more complex applications of the male/female relationship — that the saving work of Christ has broken down social barriers — not the least of which were related to race, caste and gender: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

    Certainly, one would agree that there should have been more unity and at a quicker pace among Jews and Gentiles in the early church and certainly one would agree that slavery should have crumbled faster than it did in the early church. However, it didn’t happen.

    Paul et. al. worked feverishly to assert unity and the power of grace to triumph over these old guard challenges, but the early leaders didn’t rush headlong into the fray. Rather, they relied on the ferment of the inaugurated kingdom with its liberating, renewing power in the Spirit to set things right. It was going to take time, patience and perseverance, but it was going to happen and has…in fits and starts…bit by bit…here and there.

    Yes, we should see more fully-formed, faith-filled disciples across the New Testament and across human history. But, alas, we don’t see as many as we should, because we’re broken and fallen and we don’t move quickly towards God’s God’s ideals for his Kingdom.

    So, all of that to say, I find it perfectly acceptable — even, historically, sociologically, etc. accurate, that it would have taken a long while for women to make their way into leadership.

    Interestingly, and I think there something of the stench of the curse on this reality, Grenz and others note that historically women have played an important role in the beginning of revivals, awakenings and upstarts in church history — they were first to tell the story of the resurrection, they found a place in the westward preaching of the expanding American church, etc. — only to be pushed to the back of the church once the operation was up and running. Thanks, but no thanks. And, sadly, in some resent research, women have begun to exodus the church, finding application for their gifts and callings in the business world and beyond, because in those venues they find acceptance and fulfillment. Who’s to blame them. When the Spirit puts a passion in your heart, you’re bound to find a venue to fan it into flame or it’s liable to burn out.

    Perhaps it hasn’t been the Spirit who has limited women in taking their proper place in leadership as much as it has been the failure of the church to live up to the wonderful story of God’s plan for those who bear his image — both men and women.

  7. What strikes me about this topic is it’s overall shallowness. If, individually, we are seeking to be the kind of people God wants us to be, then we would not likely be “seeking” spiritual authority over anyone, rather we’d be seeking to serve others and give our lives for them.

    That runs counter to our cultural thinking, but is at the core of being Jesus disciple. Paul makes this essential point in many places, but most obviously in Ephesians, when he talks about husbands and wives. Whatever the hierarchical status might be, Paul emphasizes that we are to serve each other, not “domineer.”

    Any person who seeks to “dominate” another person is missing God’s point. And multiple times and in multiple places in the Text, leadership is defined as being a humble,servant example.

    1. David, the women I know who want to SERVE do not have any hint of wanting to dominate anyone. They want to serve God in ways that God approves of. I guess maybe I am missing your point or else don’t think the point you are making actually fits the discussion we are having or what is happening “boots on the ground”/”in the trenches”.

      Woman or man…if any Christian wants to dominate others they should be held accountable for such un-Christlike behavior.

  8. Shallowness is indeed a good description. And “reading things into the Bible” as to what and how God shoulda, coulda… is unhealthy at any time. Women were serving all through the New Testament. Women were spreading the gospel. Women were supporting Jesus and Paul in their work. Women were prophetesses.
    To argue that both Paul’s thinking and the development of early Christendom should have included this or that is also reading things into the Bible.
    Paul was never led by what was “culturally, socially, religiously” acceptable for his environment. Had he displayed signs of such, he would not have suffered the persecution he endured! This persecution was precisely because he broke such barriers!

    But he also set boundaries, cf. 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2. And too many people try to remove those boundaries by making up things. As far as 1 Cor 14 is concerned, “Well, those were the wives of the prophets…” or, “There was this group of quarrelsome women who needed to be set straight…” And with 1 Tim. 2 – “Well, that was Paul giving in to cultural demands…” And yet…

    The argument about “women being 2nd class citizens because of limitations set is a silly argument.
    1. Will any of you let a single guy become an elder? If not, why not?
    2. Will any of you let a 21 yr old become an elder? If not, why not?
    3. Will any of you let a childless man become an elder? If not, why not?
    4. Will any of you let a novice become an elder? If not, why not?

    Are all of these to be considered as 2nd class citizens, too? Surely not!
    Even when society shows us how the above list can show awesome leadership skills, we still do not let those people become elders!

    Just as men have limitations in how they can serve, so do women. There are plenty of roles for women within the Body of Christ.

    This is yet one more way in which we have allowed “The world” have an unholy impact on the Kingdom of God.

  9. Rudy,

    You say there are roles in the church that man can fill but women may not, but this does not make women second-class citizens of the kingdom because they can do other things.

    What can women do in the church that men cannot? It seems that the restrictions only apply to women and that there are none on men. You say, “Just as men have limitations in how they can serve, so do women,” but it’s just not true. In today’s church, there is no role denied to men that is allowed to women.

    There are roles denied to novices, and to the single, and to childless. But not to men as men.

    Only women are denied the use of their Spirit-given gifts due to their gender.

    1. What can young single men do in the church that elders cannot? If the answer is “nothing,” but elders can do things that young single men cannot, then are young single men second-class citizens in the church?

      1. Clark,

        You’ve missed my point entirely. The argument made is that women may serve just as men may serve, only in different roles. But no role is denied to a man for being a man where as roles are denied to women for being women. Hence, the argument that they are equal but different in roles is false.

        No one has argued that the young may serve just as the old may serve but only in different roles. In fact, the scriptures credit the value of experience and so deny the eldership to novices. The young and the old do not have equal value as elders because leadership as an elder requires experience.

        The same argument is made regarding marriage and having children, that having a spouse and children provides experience that is essential to serving as an elder.

        But regarding men and women, few are willing to say that all women lack the experience, gifts, equipping, talents, etc. for leadership. Rather, the contemporary argument is that women may use the leadership gifts they admittedly have to lead other women but not men, whereas man may lead both women and men. Both are credited with being capable of the service, but women are denied the task solely because of gender, whereas men as denied no role in church polity because of gender.

        1. No, I am not missing the point at all. I am responding to the use of the phrase “second class citizen” in these discussions. Many have used it, and you used it. It is an emotionally-charged term from the civil rights era in recent American history, and it is intended to be an emotionally-charged term. The use of emotionally-charged terms is generally not intended to further rational discussion, but to use shaming to close certain avenues of discussion.

          I affirm that young men are not allowed to be elders, as do you. I also affirm that young men are not “second-class citizens” in the church. I affirm that never-married men cannot be elders, but I also affirm that such men are not “second-class citizens” in the church. So, I am curious as to whether you think that young men and never-married men are “second-class citizens” in the church.

      2. So, where do you get the idea that Paul “…was teaching the Ephesian congregation how to love each other in that congregation’s situation by encouraging women to learn and by disallowing domineering teaching…?”

        “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm…”
        THAT is in the text. Not sure where you got your information, but this is what Paul wrote about his purpose for writing.
        Next, the specific text in 2: ” A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner…”
        The leaning should take place in ‘quietness and submission…” Next the statement that he does not “permit a woman to teach OR have dominion over a man…” It says nothing about her TEACHING in a domineering way. It says EVERYTHING about her learning in in quiet and submissive manner.
        When Paul continues, he says he states that he does not allow, permit a woman to teach OR to assume authority over a man…” Not “teach in an authoritative way…” but “teach OR have authority… ”
        He relates this statement to what happened in the garden, not to what was common in either Judaism or among Gentiles – but what happened before there were such groups as Jews or Gentiles.
        Now, I am no Greek Scholar, but I do know something about four other languages, each of which has a similar translation of this text.
        What you are saying is that the translators don’t know their job(or their history). You are blaming the women for misbehaving (As do people who take the same point of view in 1 Cor 14 – Some of the women are making a nuisance of themselves, and are put in their place by Paul). Yet, their is nothing in either text to support that!
        Paul is courageous enough to name names, when and where necessary (e.g. Romans 16, Philippians 4 etc.) What is interesting is that our Greek brethren read the passage the exact same way as the majority of commentators do, and have done for decades. You would think that of all our brethren, they surely would have a clear understanding of the language!
        I do have the translation correct.
        I do have the text correct
        I do have the context correct
        I do have Paul’s argument correct
        In other words, I guess I have a pretty good understanding of the role of women as described iin 1 Timothy 2.

        1. Rudy,

          I’m going to break this down into a handful of separate topics, but they all go together. This is rather long, and I apologize for that. But you’ve asked important, valid questions that deserve answers.

          Point 1: Hermeneutics is about Jesus

          We disagree about the reading of 1 Tim 2:11-15 largely because we have different hermeneutics. This is clearly shown by the number of times you use the first person singular to refer to yourself in your most recent comment. And notice how you conclude. Your conclusion is all about … you.

          We shouldn’t judge conclusions based on their impact on whether we were right at the beginning.If your goal is to prove yourself right. let’s stop the conversation now. I’m not interested in playing that game and that would be entirely the wrong approach to Bible study.

          To follow Jesus necessarily requires that our eyes be on him and whether he is being honored. And if Jesus is to receive all honor and glory, then there’s none left for the rest of us. Hence, it cannot be about ego or being proved right. Not even a little.

          Point 3. Hermeneutics must take into account the command to love our neighbors. (My numbering is messed up, but it’s late and I’m too tired to fix it right now.)

          You ask,

          So, where do you get the idea that Paul “…was teaching the Ephesian congregation how to love each other in that congregation’s situation by encouraging women to learn and by disallowing domineering teaching…?”

          I get the idea that this is ultimately about love because Jesus and Paul taught that the law is summed up in the command to love each other. For example,

          (Rom 13:8-10 ESV) Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

          I take Paul to speak the truth, whether or not convenient to what I wish to be true. And if Paul speaks the truth, then his commands in 1 Tim 2:11-15 are “summed up in … love your neighbor as yourself.” I take this to be axiomatic to sound hermeneutics.

          Paul doesn’t issue commands just to test our willingness to comply. They are predicated on the fundamentals of the faith, such as the gospel, such as love, and such as Gen 1 & 2, as I explain in the main post.

          In other words, sound hermeneutics require that we keep our eyes on Jesus — even when he’s not explicitly mentioned in the passage. (The truth of this can be seen from, for example, from a very close reading of the Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians. Paul repeatedly turns to Gen 1 & 2 to make points in 1 Cor. (I’ll soon post on the hermeneutics of the SOTM at Give me a couple of weeks to get to it.)

          And if my reading is not a corollary to the fundamentals of the faith, I study harder until I discover a better reading. It’s not enough to say, “It’s true; therefore it’s consistent with love.” That “logic” will justify any reading at all. No, I ask whether the reading results from a deep understanding of the fundamentals.

          (Gal 5:6 ESV) 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

          (Mat 12:7 ESV) 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy [chesed], and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

          I take these sorts of statements to be absolutely true. These are fundamental, I believe, to sound hermeneutics because these are the things that Jesus and Paul say are fundamental.

          Chesed, faith, love, Gen 1 & 2 — our readings must be built on those things we are told are foundational.

          Point 4: The women of Ephesus needed to learn

          Paul begins in 2:11 by saying “the women should learn,” which is contrary to many cultures present in Corinth.

          Second, 1& 2 Timothy records that the women in Ephesus were being deceived by false teachers —

          (2Ti 3:6-7 ESV) 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

          (1Ti 4:7 NRS) Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness,

          (1Ti 5:11-13 ESV) 1 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

          “Busibodies” is translated “magic arts” in Acts 19:19. Regardless of your preferred translation, it’s obvious that Paul was concerned about the women in Ephesus. Of course, he wanted them to be taught.

          And Paul uses the example of Eve as what happens when a woman is not instructed. Compare —

          (2Co 11:3 ESV) 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

          Eve, to Paul, is an example of someone deceived. How should Paul go about preventing the women of Ephesus from being deceived? Well, they should learn.

          Hence, we have —

          (1Ti 2:11-14 ESV) 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. … 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

          Adam was not deceived because God taught him. He sinned wilfully despite his instruction. But Paul takes Eve to have been deceived, likely because there’s no record of Eve being instructed. (And there are ancient rabbinic teachings to this effect, as well. Paul was speaking in terms that would have been familiar to many of his readers.)

          Point 5. Authority and teaching

          You ask,

          Next the statement that he does not “permit a woman to teach OR have dominion over a man…” It says nothing about her TEACHING in a domineering way. It says EVERYTHING about her learning in in quiet and submissive manner.

          Since I was responding to Tim’s arguments and not trying to cover the entire topic in one post, I referred the reader to my ebook where this question is addressed in detail. But you are right that I did not answer it in my post.

          Carroll Osburn, in his Women In the Church (an excellent resource), explains that the Greek is best read as a hendiadys. In English, an example would be “I’m going to town and eating ice cream.” The “and eating” is read by English readers as “to eat.” We’re blind to the fact that “eating” is subordinated to “going to town” by the “and.” But it is.

          The conjunction is not “or” as in nearly all English translations but oude, meaning most literally “and not.”

          It’s a more common construction in Greek (which is why we use a Greek word to describe it). And Osburn argues forcefully that the “and” subordinates “teach” to “authenteo”. And he’s a truly expert Greek scholar. The details of the debate may be found at

          In favor of the hendiadys construction is both the oude and the fact that “authenteo” means “domineer” — clearly a negative word — whereas “teach” has no negative connotation and so isn’t really parallel. Thus, a subordinate reading makes a lot of sense.

          Now, others argue that “not teach” just means that the women in Ephesus should not teach because they weren’t ready to teach as shown by the passages quoted above, and they might be right. “Not teach” could be based on the local, cultural setting — but my reading (based on Osburn’s work) does not require a cultural limitation.

          Whether Paul is saying woman may not teach because of their degraded state in Ephesus or whether he’s objecting to domineering teaching by the women (always wrong but a problem in Ephesus due to the wicked influences on the women there), either way, such teaching would violate the role of wives (not women in general) given in Genesis 2 –to be a suitable complement for their husbands.

          Point 6 Women are not subordinated to men in Genesis 1 -2

          If Paul is saying that, because Adam was made first, all women must be submissive to all men, then —

          * Why isn’t that true all the time, even at work?
          * What level of service must all women provide to all men?
          * Why is peculiar teaching, based as it is on Gen 2, not found in the OT or the Gospels? I mean, Deborah doesn’t fit the mold. Nor does Huldah. Indeed, just when is it that my mother starts having to take orders from me? When I’m baptized (as though baptism has something to do with Eve being created second). When I marry? Or do I have to honor her per the Ten Commandments always? It’s a doctrine that, if true, raises far more questions than we’ve been given answers.

          You argue,

          He relates this statement to what happened in the garden, not to what was common in either Judaism or among Gentiles – but what happened before there were such groups as Jews or Gentiles.

          Paul says that his teaching is founded on Gen 2. As you say. If that’s true, how was Gen 2 repealed until Paul wrote 1 Timothy? That makes no sense.

          Whatever Paul’s conclusion is, it was true from Gen 2 all the way until now — including during the time of Deborah, Huldah, and Priscilla.

          Point 7. Priscilla taught Apollos in private.

          She is mentioned first (Acts 18:26). I’ve been taught since childhood — in a very conservative Church of Christ in North Alabama — that this made Priscilla the more important member of the pair. She taught a man.

          The traditional justification is that she taught in private — which makes no sense for the following reasons —

          A. Paul does not limit his instructions in 1 Tim 2 to “public” teaching.
          B. The early church met in homes. A church service was not advertised to the general public. It was a private meeting in a house of 30 or fewer (houses were small). The public/private distinction is a feature of the modern church utterly foreign to the First Century reality.
          C. We allow women to ask questions of the teacher in Bible class, contrary to 1 Cor 14, because it’s not a “public” class — even though we likely advertise it in the paper to the public. We refuse to let her teach because it’s public. We are more than a little inconsistent — meaning our thinking is driven by something other than logic.
          D. What right do we have to create an exception to Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim 2 based on Acts? That’s bad hermeneutics. Much better would be to find an understanding in which both texts are entirely true rather than inventing epicycle-type exceptions to make them fit.

          Again, I apologize for the length of my comment. I appreciate your thoughtful, challenging comments and questions, and I am grateful for the opportunity to respond. I hope these responses are helpful to you.

          This conversation has certainly helped me, forcing me to dig deeper and, I hope, better explain the reasons I believe as I do.

          I’ve deliberately avoided dealing with 1 Cor 14, hoping that we can finish this discussion re 1 Tim before moving to another question. The passage obviously matters, but doesn’t deal directly with the leadership/authority question, which is where this discussion began. But I’m glad to discuss it if that would be helpful.

        2. Rudy, there actually is a fair amount of information in 1 Timothy that lets us in on the situation. There was false teaching/heresy in the church that was well known in the Roman world…a new feminist movement that had women resistant to bearing children, wearing expensive clothes, etc…it seems these women were being deceived by these teachings (as was Eve in the garden – there is the parallel and why Paul cites that in support of his view) and they (especially the young childless widows as seen in chapter 5) are spending their time spreading the false teachings…teaching others these myths, etc and distorting the Gospel.

          On silence, Paul tells all Christians to do that very same Greek word in 2:2. As far as child bearing, he links that into the false teachings in chapter 5, basically saying if these young widows would get married and raise kids they wouldn’t be spreading these false teachings but instead would be spending their time raising kids in faith…in fact, the historical background of the new Roman woman may well show us that bearing children was bringing them salvation because that false teaching was anti childbearing.

          As with all of Paul’s letters, 1 Timothy has an actual context and situation…some of it we know and some of it we don’t. It pays to read the whole letter and get a feel for what the situation was. It definitely included false teaching and it definitely involved woman spreading the false teaching. So you have to ask yourself the question, was Paul saying no woman should ever teach (which is denied by our example of Priscilla…also in Ephesus) or is he prohibiting woman from teaching these errors and instead telling them they have much to learn?

  10. Rudy,

    You suggest that I argue, “Well, that was Paul giving in to cultural demands.” He was not “giving in.” Rather, he was showing Christian love as commanded by Jesus and his apostles.

    When Paul taught that we should go hungry rather than tempt a brother to eat meat sacrificed to idols contrary to his conscience in 1 Cor 8-10, was Paul “giving in”? Was he subordinating the gospel to pagan Greek culture? Not at all. He was teaching us to submit to one another out of love.

    In Rom 14, when Paul taught us not to eat meat if doing so would cause a brother to sin against his conscience, was he capitulating to the world? No, he was teaching us love for one another.

    In 1 Tim 2, Paul was teaching the Ephesian congregation how to love each other in that congregation’s situation by encouraging women to learn and by disallowing domineering teaching.

    He did not require the women to be silent (that was Corinth) but to be “in quietness.” The same word is translated “tranquil” in the NASB and “peaceable” in the NIV in 1 Tim 2:1. That’s the context.

    Nor did he deny women authority. Authenteo means “domineer” not “have authority”. BDAG (the premier lexicon of biblical Greek) defines it “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.”

    Thayer’s translated authenteo as “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic, equivalent to auvtokra,twr an absolute master; … to exercise dominion over …”

    And so Paul only prohibits taking domineering, authoritarian stance.

    You have to get the translation right before imposing rules based on the text.

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