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Matt Dabbs

Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of


The question came up in my previous article about whether or not Junia was an apostle. I am thankful the question didn’t come up of whether or not she was a she. She most certainly was.

There are two standard works on this subject for further consideration:

Scot McKnight – Junia is Not Alon (2.99 on kindle)

Eldon J. Epp – Junia: The First Woman Apostle

First, we can be sure that Junia was a woman for several reasons. Why this is even in question is because of translations like the RSV which says this in the text,

“Greet Androni′cus and Ju′nias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. “

And the ESV which says this in the footnote on Junia,

“Romans 16:7 Or Junias”

Early English translations have “Junia” (Female). Early translations of the Bible have Junia as a female according to McKnight citing Epp, “First, all early translations of the New Testament into other languages listed Junia as a woman. Epp, a master of the history of our New Testament in all its various translations, says that Junia was a woman in the Old Latin, the Vulgate, Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic and Syriac.” – McKnight, Scot. Junia Is Not Alone (Kindle Locations 121-123). Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

McKnight goes on to say it was Martin Luther whose influence solidified the shift from universally accepted Junias (female) to Junias (male),

“Martin Luther played a decisive role in turning Junia into a man. Clearly dependent on Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (or Jacques LeFèvre d’Étaples), Luther gave to the German name Juniam a masculine article (den Juniam [today, den Junias]). Then he said, “Andronicus and Junias were famous apostles” and were “men of note among the apostles.” Luther’s influence is inestimable, and some have suggested that he might be the one on whom to pin the blame for the sex-change from Junia to Junias. We are aware, however, that prior to him by two centuries, back in the 13th or early 14th century, Aegidius or Giles of Rome called Junia a male. Luther didn’t invent the change, but his influence made it significant. – McKnight, Scot. Junia Is Not Alone (Kindle Locations 126-131). Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

Second, McKnight shows how the Greek New Testament NA13 made the change by changing Junia to Junias in 1927 and placing Junia in a footnote. This is the text students and scholars typically base their English translations off of. According to McKnight this was taken a step further in 1979 when that edition of the Greek New Testament even removed Junia from the footnotes! This was corrected in the 1998 edition.

This is a huge problem but one that demonstrates the point – Junia was a female in Rome. There isn’t any question about that. If the above evidence isn’t enough let me give you one more detail from Jewett’s commentary on Romans,

“Junia is a Latin feminine name, ordinarly given to slaves or freedwomen of the Junia family, of which some 250 examples have been found in Roman evidence. The modern scholarly controversy over this name rests on the presumption that no woman could rank as an apostle, and thus that the accusative form must refer to a male by the name of Junias or Junianus. However, the evidence in favor of the feminine name ‘Junia’ is overwhelming. Not a single example of a masculine name ‘Junias’ has been found. The patristic evidence investigated by Fabrega and Fitzmyer indicates that commentators down through the twelfth century refer to Junia as a woman, often commenting on the extraordinary gifts that ranked her among the apostles.” (p.961).

The last sentence from Jewett gets us to the second question, was Junia an apostle of some sort or was she notable to the male apostles of Jesus?

Exhibit A: Church history
According to Jewett the first 1200 years of evidence show that not only was she a she but that they considered her to be an apostle. Consider what Chrysostom said about her in the 300s, “Even to be an apostle is great, but also to be prominent among them – consider how wonderful a song of honor that is!” (Hom. Rom. 31.2)

Exhibit B: The Greek
The comments on the previous post both on site and on Facebook questioned her status as an apostle. I agree that the English seems a bit ambiguous, “outstanding among the apostles.” That could mean she was among the apostles and viewed as outstanding or she wasn’t an apostle but among the group who are apostles she was viewed as outstanding.

Jewett: “the adjective επισημος [outstanding/noteworthy] lifts up a person or thing as distinguished or marked in comparison with other representatives of the same class, in this instance with the other apostles.” He gives many instances of this where those being talked about are compared with people or things of the same type or class.

Our being troubled by something does not determine its truthfulness. Let’s back up a bit. We have already shown the assumption that because women cannot be apostles, and she is clearly called an apostle, therefore she cannot be a she so let’s make her a he – is erroneous. Then we have to wrestle with the next issue and that is “what is an apostle?”

Exhibit C: Defining “Apostle”
In Dunn’s Word Biblical commentary on Romans he believes that when Jesus appeared to people per Paul’s comments in 1 Cor 15:7 where it says he appeared to “all of the apostles” that at that time Jesus designated more apostles.

Literally the word apostle means a “sent one.” We might say a missionary or evangelist. Someone who is sent to preach/teach the good news about Jesus. That is the general meaning. We might add more specifically that to be an apostle at this state of the game in the first century would have been someone who witnessed the resurrected Lord. And note she is not alone but her husband is also called an apostle in Romans 16:7. It seems to me apostolicity expanded beyond the twelve for some of those who met the above criteria (witness and sent to proclaim). I would not count her as one of the 12 or them as #13 and #14. I would say Paul can freely call them apostolos and mean it and that shouldn’t trouble us or convince us to finagle a way to make her a man.

Here is Schreiner’s take in Baker,

“Murray (1965: 230) is virtually along among modern commentators in understanding it as ‘outstanding in the eyes of the apostles.’ The consensus view is that the phrase means ‘distinguished among the apostles.’…In saying that they are apostles, however, Paul is certainly not placing them in the ranks of the Twelve. In 1 Cor 15 (vv. 5,7) Paul distinguished between the Twelve and the apostles, and so it would be a mistake to think that the latter are coterminous with the former. Other members of the early church had apostolic authority in addition to the Twelve: Paul, Barnabas (Acts 14:1-4, 14), and James the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19). It is improbable, however, that Andronicus and Junia had the same level of authority as Paul, Barnabas, and James. The term αποστολος is not a technical term (cf. 3 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25…), and in the case of Andronicus and Junia the idea is likely that they were itinerant evangelists or missionaries…As a female missionary Junia may have directed her energies especially to other women.” (p.796-797).

We really don’t know about her level of authority compared with Paul and we really don’t know if she solely focused on women (“may have”) but I do appreciate his making clear how we absolutely do have others called apostles who were not of the twelve and what sort of role people like that would have filled. Understanding the passage through this lens I have no trouble calling Junia an apostle and see no need to translate Romans 16:7 in a way that is less accurate and/or negates her role for the sake of upholding my presuppositions or comfort zones. I hope you feel the same way.

I have already touched on two key points in 1 Timothy 2 – silence and authority. If you haven’t read those, I hope you will take a few minutes to consider those two articles.

Next we tackle Paul’s prohibition of women teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12-15 which turns out to be one of the strangest passages in the New Testament, in my opinion,

” 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. “

How are women saved through childbearing and what does it have to do with teaching and deception?

I wrestled and wrestled with this. It just didn’t make sense on several levels. The first level was this – how does Paul prohibit women from teaching men when women taught men in some instances in Paul’s day. We know this is a fact with Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos. This is usually dismissed by Aquilla’s presence. And that may be the explanation. Then there is Junia who is an apostle. That certainly has a teaching function. One might presume she was only to teach women or to teach with her husband present only to a non-Christian per Priscilla/Aquilla and Apollos. We also have public women prophets like Anna (in the gospels pre-resurrection) and Philip’s daughters (post-resurrection in Acts). Some say the prophetic role and teaching role are not the same so that is also explained away per Eph 4:11. Timothy himself was instructed in the faith by his mother (2 Tim 1:5).

The presence of these women teachers in the New Testament at bare minimum gets my attention and leaves me with a few important questions to ask about 1 Timothy 2.

One question is, is this an all-time universal prohibition of all teaching by women to a mixed or male assembly? Or is it situational/occasional to what is going on in Ephesus? That is a very important question to ask. What clues can we get from the text to tease that apart? We do know Paul’s letters were written to address particular issues in particular churches and so we have to learn to listen to the letters through that lens.

Was there something going on in Ephesus (where Timothy is when Paul writes him – 1 Tim 1:3) that led to this prohibition or, again, is Paul intending this to be an all time, every time thing? If so, would Paul have been condemning of the examples listed above, which he doesn’t seem to have been? Again, we have our explanations of those other passages, which I have alluded to above, but are those explanations sufficient?

What would happen if we read 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of the entire letter of 1 Timothy? Here is what we notice:

  • False doctrine is being taught by “Christians” in Ephesus – 1:3
  • This teaching includes “myths and endless genealogies” – 1:4
  • Some have “deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions” – 1:6-7
  • “in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods…” – 4:3
  • “Have nothing to do with profane myths or old wives’ tales.” – 4:7
  • Young widows have learned “to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. For some have already turned away to follow Satan” – 5:13-15
  • “Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” – 6:3-5

We get a bigger picture of what is going on in Ephesus. There is false teaching being taught. It has something to do with asceticism (to abstain from certain things/indulgence in pleasurable things – food, marriage/sex, etc). This teaching was catching hold in the church and was being spread by various people but especially by young, childless widows (5:13-15).

Is this false teaching that the young, female, widows, are teaching the impetus for Paul’s prohibition against women teaching? Paul says in 5:15 that some are now following Satan. Does that fit with what Paul wrote in 2:14, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”?

These are important questions, again, are these universal, all time truths or situational to what is going on in Ephesus that Paul prohibits women from teaching when it was the women who seem to have been passing these teachings along at that time?

Paul isn’t saying women are more easily deceived than men as a general rule. We know that is not the case. He is making a parallel between what is happening in Ephesus with what happened in the garden where the women were not just the ones deceived (Adam was too) but the ones who were perpetuating the deception.

But what about being saved through childbearing? This connection was first brought to my attention in Gordon Fee’s book “Listening to the Spirit in the Text,” p.74-75.

How are women saved through childbearing? Paul uses two words for childbearing in 1 Timothy. One is in 2:15 and the other is in 5:14. Both are the only times these two words are used in the entire New Testament. They are rare. They are also connected. He tells how women are saved through childbearing in 5:13-15,

“Besides that, they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. 15 For some have already turned away to follow Satan.”

Paul notes these women are spreading false teaching. They have been deceived by Satan and are now following Satan (much like Eve in chapter 2). How does this get better? They aren’t married and don’t have kids – they have time to be idle, to listen to the false teachings and to perpetuate the false teaching. So Paul instructs them to get married, have kids, and then they have households to manage which removes them from the influence of the false teachers. Saved through childbearing.

Saved through childbearing isn’t some existential change of status from lost to save when a woman has a baby. It is practical.

What we know for sure is that women were teaching false things in Ephesus. What we are less sure of is whether or not this is all Paul was prohibiting based on this verse alone. What you and I have to wrestle with is whether or not the body of evidence of women teaching and proclaiming freely in the early church is sufficient enough for us to say what Paul prohibited in 1 Tim 2 was universal or occasional.

At least a more coherent picture is formed out of what is going on in these verses than just a slam down proof text to end all discussion, which is how these verses are too often handled.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is one of the pivotal scriptures in shaping our view of what women can and cannot do in the assembly. Interestingly enough, it isn’t really an assembly passage, although the instruction there certainly would govern what happens in the Christian assembly (church).

Before we start I want to tell you my intent. I am not going to tell you what to believe. That is between you and God. I am not going to attempt to force anything on anyone. I am going to tell you what is in the text and let you wrestle with it yourself.

Here is the text in question from several translations:

1984 NIV – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

2011 NIV – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

NASB – “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

KJV – “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

There is one word in the Greek text that is translated by 2-3 words in these English translations. The Greek word is “authentein” (which is an infinitive of authenteo) and the English translation of that word is in bold above.

Words Paul uses for authority

There are several words that get translated as “authority” in English translations. The NIV has 21 Greek words translated as “authority.” The word used most often is “exousia” (used nearly 100 times in the Greek New Testament). This word means to be in charge, have power or control.

Obviously the word in 1 Timothy 2:12 is not the word used most often. In fact the word in 1 Timothy 2:12 is only used once in the Greek New Testament. Once! Why did Paul change words? Would this make any difference in our view on women in the assembly?

What does this word mean?

Bauer gives it this definition, “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate”

Because we don’t get any other uses of this word in the New Testament, scholars have to look outside the Bible for help.

Here is info from a chart in “Women in the Church” by Kostenberger (who is a complimentarian and who believes that cultural influences are weighing on Christianity – which is certainly true and always has been so), p.78-79

Extra-biblical usages of authenteo over time
1 – “To rule, to reign sovereignly”
Used this way four times from 1 century BC to 6th century AD

2 – “To control, to dominate”
Used this way from four times from the second century AD to the 12th

2a – “To compel, to influence”
Used this way three times from 27 BC to 690 AD

2b – “In the middle voice – to be in effect, to have legal standing”
Used this way twice – in 235 AD and the 7th century AD

2c – “To domineer”
Used this way once by Chrsostom in 390AD

2d – “To grant authorization”
Used this way three times from 350-638 AD

3 – “To act independently”
Used this way three times from 390-6th century AD

3a – “To assume authority over”
Used this way three times from 390-9th century AD

3b – “To exercise one’s own jurisdiction”
Used this way four times from 2nd century AD to the 14th century AD

3c – “To flout the authority of”
Used this way twice – once in 690 and again in the 10th century AD

4 – “To be primarily responsible for, to instigate”
Used this way three times from 325 to 10th century AD

5 – “To commit murder”
Used this way once all the way over in the 10th century

The noun form of this word can mean murder but as you see above, the verb form under consideration, is rarely ever used that way and when it is, it is 900 years after Paul.

Remember, letters are situational/occassional. That means they are written to group of people with specific issues going on. I want to point out that for most of these definitions, we would all agree that in almost every instance, men shouldn’t do what this word means either. Read all of 1 Timothy to get an idea of what is going on with the women there. This is a necessary step for us to make application today. We cannot understand what a passage means for us now if we don’t also consider what it meant for its first audience.

What does Kostenberger conclude? That the only viable options based on the context are: 2, 2a, 3a, and 3c. Of those only 3a and possibly 2a do not contain a negative connotation in regard to the kind of actions the women are exhibiting.

Rejecting the “it’s just cultural” rationale

Whatever this word means I do not believe we dismiss it as some kind of cultural artifact. Everything is embedded with culture on some level. I believe that even things embedded with cultural meaning and value still have eternal truths we must learn and apply today.

From what you can see above, the word itself typically does have a negative meaning associated with it unlike typical words in Greek for authority. This is noted by Keener citing Scholer in “Paul, Women & Wives,” 108-109. Here is what Keener (an egalitarian) concludes on this matter,

“The evidence is not entirely clear, as Scholer observes, but Scholer is right that this is not Paul’s usual term for exercising authority. The context, which helps us reconstruct the situation, suggests that Paul may here be warning against a domineering use of authority, rather than merely any use of authority.” (p.109)

Here is the point I want to bring up and make you aware of. When people discuss this passage and apply it that rarely ever know that this is a word only used once that typically has a harsh edge to it – not the typical word use for authority.

Here are some questions to wrestle with. I am not going to attempt to tell you what to think. I want you to be informed.

Why did Paul use a different word here?

Did it have something to do with what women in Ephesus were doing?

If this is domineering, does that, as some scholars point out, also tie into the prohibition on teaching since women did teach in the early church, pray, etc – that possibly Paul is saying the teaching has a quality that is unacceptable in Ephesus and then gives a prohibition on it, not because they are women but because the women are the ones doing it (teach/have authority) in a way that is harmful to others?

I am not going to answer those questions for you but I do want you to ponder them.

We must go with Paul says. We must determine the meaning of what he said before we can apply it.Let’s actually look at what he wrote and form our conclusions. There are many things women are not allowed to do because the conversation is had like this word for authority is the same as the word he always uses.

Does anything change in your understanding of what women can or cannot do based on this word? Whatever this word means, women cannot/should not be doing it (and quite possibly men as well). Would violating this word keep women from praying, reading scripture, passing collection, doing announcements (We already dealt with the silence passages)?

Let us humbly and prayerfully consider these things.

This article is intended to get information in front of you for your own study and consideration. I pose a few questions in this article that I also hope you will wrestle with in an effort to have a view on this issue that is coherent, consistent and most importantly – biblical.

There are two passages in the New Testament that instruct women to be silent.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 says this,

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

1 Corinthians 14:34 says this,

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”

The words for silence in in 1 Tim 2:11 is Hesuchia (ησυχια). It can mean quiet or silent.

Here are the other times it is used in the New Testament:

Acts 21:40 – “After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic”

Acts 22:2 – “When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.”

1 Tim 1:11, 12 – above

2 Thess 3:12 – “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

There is a related word to ησυχια that also appears in 1 Timothy 2. This word is ησυχιος and it is in verse 2 – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Keep in mind, words have a range of meaning and in this instance it is from quiet or still to completely silent. The context helps us understand which one to use. You see the word translated anything from stop (speaking) to settle down to quiet to silent. Context is key and as always translation always requires interpretation. Crowds don’t get perfectly silent (Acts 21, 22). Christians living in the world won’t be perfectly silent (1 Tim 2:2), which is why we get the translation “quiet.” Do any of these instances require absolute silence?

Whatever we think on these things we need to attempt to have consistent application. As it stands in the traditional view we say women must be silent but what we mean is up front on the stage. We mean in the worship assembly not in Bible class. Women can sing. They can greet. No one is going to stop them from shouting “Amen!” during the sermon. Women are not silent in our assemblies and neither were they in the first century. Look at 1 Cor 11 where women are instructed on how to pray and prophesy in the context of the assembly. Some have inferred that Paul is instructing women on how to do that only with a group of another women but that isn’t obvious at all from the text. That view of chapter 11 has to be constructed from chapter 14 and 1 Tim 2 retrofitted back on 1 Cor 11:2-6. I am not saying that isn’t a valid approach. I am saying our having to create an assembly of women to make 1 Cor 11 work for us isn’t at all obvious in the text itself.

We uphold the silence of women in the assembly per 1 Tim 2:11-12 and 1 Cor 14:34 (a different word in Greek – we will get to next) but we then select when women can and cannot actually speak. Reading scripture – no. Greet – yes. Sing – yes. Pass communion – no. Some of these involve complete silence. None of those involve teaching. We are left with women not having positions of authority (how would communion passing be affected by any of Paul’s prohibitions in 1 Tim 2?). More on that in a later post. But we need to think through why we do what we do and why we allow and prohibit what we allow and prohibit. We need to make sure it all aligns biblically and is consistent in application. Are we at all consistent on this issue in traditional practice?

Let’s look at 1 Cor 14 next.

In 1 Cor 14:34 Paul uses a different word for silent – sigao (σιγαω). This word can mean silence or stillness. This word is used about a dozen times in the Greek New Testament. You can see some of the uses here –

Mt 26:63, Mk 14:61; Lk 9:36, 19:40; 20:26; Ac 12:17; 13:41; 15:12; Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 14:28, 14:30, 14:34.

You will notice three of those usages are in 1 Cor 14, our target passage. That is very important because context is important. Whatever you do with the silence of women, make sure you hear Paul’s whole point in both passages. Paul doesn’t just throw soundbites at you. He makes lengthier points that unfold over multiple chapters. We need to pay attention to more than a prooftext.

Here are all the uses of this word in that chapter,

1 Cor 14:27-28 – “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.”

1 Cor 14:29-30 – “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.” (the implication of someone who is speaking being silent is them stopping – same word as “silent/quiet” in Greek).

1 Cor 14:34-35 – “Women] should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

What we see in 1 Cor 14 is Paul giving order to the worship service. Apparently the Corinthians had a quiet a raucous worship service with people interrupting each other. Prophets butting in on each other. Tongue speakers having a revelation come when someone else was already busy speaking in a tongue. Apparently women were blurting out questions in the middle of the sermon (don’t you have husbands to go home and ask these things?)

Paul is giving instruction to bring order to the assembly through all of chapter 14. He instructs prophets when to speak and when to be silent. He instructs tongue speakers when to speak and when to be silent (again the same word in Greek as he uses toward the women in 14:34.

In both prophets and tongue speakers we recognize Paul is instructing against specific disorder in the Corinthians’ assembly. That does have universal, non-cultural application. We can’t just say this is cultural, ignore it. We should also embrace an orderly, understandable worship service just as Paul instructed. I am bothered by those who try to find ways to discount Paul’s instruction here or say that what he writes next about women is a textual variant so maybe he never wrote it. Let’s accept that Paul wrote all of 1 Cor 14 (even the variant is in all the manuscripts, if my understanding is correct) and deal with it as it stands.

Then we get to the women in 14:34-35 – what is Paul doing there? Is he doing the same thing he was doing with prophets and tongue speakers – giving instructions on order in the Corinthian assembly given a particular problem they were having – shouting things out rather than asking at home to retain order in the assembly (which men shouldn’t do either, by the way), which we should learn from as well? Or is Paul giving a universal prohibition against all women speaking at any and all times in the assembly (which he didn’t do with prophets or tongue speakers)? That has been the traditional interpretation (except of course singing, greeting, etc – where they are not actually silent in the assembly). We should note that he does construct his instruction to the women a bit differently than the other two situations by not giving them a “when” to do it instruction. He did that back in 11, it seems to me. We end up having to wrestle with whether or not we read chapter 11:2-6 through 14:34-35 or the other way around and how to make a consistent view that fits both passages. The women’s assembly is something people have created to smooth this over but that is not at all clear from the text.

Is Paul, like he has done throughout the chapter, also mentioning a specific situation he is correcting in regard to prophets, tongue speakers and finally the women in the Corinthian assembly because Paul does write this with a particular problem in mind that we find in 14:35 – “If they want to inquire about something they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

That question is for you to wrestle with.

I want you to form your own, educated, contextual opinions, about what Paul wrote here and then what that means for us today. I won’t tell you what to think. I believe you are smart enough to think through it for yourself and come to informed conclusions that take into account more than a soundbite or out of context passage.


There is a plethora of resources on this topic. I am going to give a list of resources that cover all sides of this issue. The only agenda I am interested in is what God’s will is on this topic and how scripture informs us on this.

First, let’s define some terms:

Egalitarian – a position where there are no differences between what men and women can do in service to the kingdom, corporate worship, home life, etc. Equal rights and opportunities for men and women.

Complementarian – God designed men and women with differences that impact their roles and functions in the kingdom, assembly, and home. This is usually associated to some degree with male headship. The roles of men and women are different and compliment each other

It is important we study works we agree with and works we disagree with on this topic to allow our conclusions to be challenged and well founded.


If you are new to the discussion I would suggest you start with “Two Views on Women in Ministry” – they give two chapters to the Complementarian perspective and two chapters to the Egalitarian perspective. Four authors, two topics, and the other three authors give feedback on each other. This is a very helpful book that will give you the lay of the land.

Ancient historical/cultural perspective on women
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians By Lynn Cohick (a sociological/historical view)
A Woman’s Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity by Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Macdonald
Women and the Genesis of Christianity by Ben Witherington
Women in the Ministry of Jesus By Ben Witherington
Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington
Gospel Women by Richard Bauckham
Daughters of the Church: Women and ministry from New Testament times to the present by Ruth A Tucker and Walter Liefeld
Roman Wives, Roman Widows by Bruce Winter (historical/technical)
Women in Early Christianity by Miller

Next, I am going to categorize some works by their leaning. I may not get this exactly right but it will be close. The complementarian works will be complementarian. The egalitarian works may contain a few that aren’t 100% equal (which would technically be complimentarian but would push beyond much of what Churches of Christ’s historical positions would be).

Complementarian resources
God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-theological survey by Kostenberger
Women in the Church: An Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Kostenberger, Schreiner, and Baldwin
Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective by Saucy and Tenelshof (a bit less technical)
Women in the Church by Stanley Grenz and Kjesbo

Egalitarian resources
Paul, Women and Wives By Keener (very thorough exegesis of the relevant passages with egalitarian conclusions)
I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of ancient evidence by Kroeger and Kroeger
Ben Witherington’s books above are egalitarian

Hermeneutics/Interpretation considerations
Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by Webb
Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test case for Biblical Hermeneutics by R.T. France (very brief exegesis of the main passage in a discussion of the ordination of women)

Resources by those affiliated with Churches of Christ
God’s Woman by Nichol (fascinating book from the 1930s)
Women in the Church by Everett Ferguson
Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osburn
Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity (2 vols) by Carroll Osburn
Trusting Women: The way of women in Churches of Christ – Billie Silvey, editor

Please share your “go to” resources in the comments.

One of the most important discussions we are having in Churches of Christ is what are the biblical roles of women in the life and assembly of our churches. This cannot be a discussion about what men allow women to do in our churches. It must be a discussion about how God views women and what the Bible has to say about what women were and were not doing in the early church and how that maps over on our churches today.

Of all the topics we have put on the table for 2019, this is the one our writers have signed up for the least. I have not asked them why but I can understand why. What one says publicly on this issue can have an impact on their local ministry and the perceptions of them by people in our fellowship. We are quick to brand people, label people, often in unkind and less than generous ways. There is an illness that underlies how we view those who differ from us that also needs to be addressed.

My hope and prayer is that we can have an open discussion that doesn’t involve demonization for those we disagree with or those who disagree with us. I pray that we enter the conversation with generosity and goodwill toward each other and that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. It has always puzzled me how people can try to expound biblical truths without exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. If you are right on an issue and wrong in your approach you stand in the wrong. I also pray that the way we discuss this, this month will be an example of how to have a difficult conversation in a Christ-like manner. We should know no other way to operate than that.

So let us seek grace and truth. Let us approach each other with goodwill and assume the best. Let us not rush to conclude that those who disagree with our position are automatically dismissive of the scriptures. And let us listen well as we discuss this “issue” (which is far more than an issue – it is about real people).

If you want to study this issue more in depth,
here is a list of books to consider.

If you have followed this month’s articles on the future of Churches of Christ you may have sensed some negativity toward Churches of Christ and/or our future. I don’t really see what has been posted that way but I know some of you do. I am not much of a feeler. It is my belief we have to look our situation square in the eye in order to deal with it. When you look in the mirror you don’t always like everything you see but you still realize you are looking at you and you are valuable.

The same is true with our churches. Not everything is going to be perfect. We have room to grow and room to improve. But we still love our churches enough to bring these things up and fight for a healthy future. There is so much value here we have to keep working.

Here is where we go from this point forward – we start painting an encouraging picture of the future and outline how to navigate the challenges we face. This won’t be a negative conversation. This won’t be a bitter conversation. This will be a loving, practical conversation and I hope you will join us in that conversation.

There are some really good days ahead. There really are. In order to embrace that we are going to have to lean into God harder than we ever have before. I believe our people can do it! We may all just need some encouragement rather than discouragement and some good news rather than what seems like a constant stream of bad news.

So hang in there! I am looking forward to this conversation.

Which do you want first? The good news or the bad news? Most people I know want the bad first so we will start there.

The bad news is church as you know it is dying.

The good news is church as you know it is dying.

The institutional church is on borrowed time. That is horrifying if you are only married to the way your wife looks today. But if you are married to her for who she is, you are going to be fine. If you don’t marry her because you know she will die one day you are going to miss out on some great things. Some people dread aging but that also leads to some wonderful things as well.

Hang with me…

I am going to tell you why in a moment but first let me tell you about my doctor. He told me a while back that one of my numbers was bad. My HDL was too low. He recommended I tack Krill oil to raise the number. I took it off and on for a few months and retested. It was still low. Low is relative. By some standards my number is okay, in a normal range. But by some stricter measures my number needs to go up. The point is, it is important that you pay attention to the right numbers. Some numbers don’t matter like how many hairs are on your head. But your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels are crucial. If they fall to certain numbers you die.

This is where we find ourselves in terms of understanding what is going on in Churches of Christ. Some of the numbers don’t look good. Does it mean we are dying? Will we go to sleep one day and never wake up? My contention is that the institutional church (church as a place where you show up on Sunday, check a box, and go home) is dying. It’s numbers are bad. It is just a matter of time. That actually isn’t a bad thing. It can be a scary thing if you are a minister like me, who makes a living the way things are but the kingdom is more important than me being stuck on a way of doing it that may not be the healthiest, more robust or even most biblical.

What is more, specific congregations are absolutely, 100%, going to die – pretty much every last one of them.

How many of the companies on the Fortune 500 in 1955 still exist, much less still make the list? In 2017 it was 60.

In Todd Wilson’s book “Multipliers” he writes this, “For over 2,000 years, the lifespan of greater than 99.9 percent of all local churches is less than 100 years (most are less than 50 years)!” p. 15.

This makes sense when you think about it. Where is the church in Ephesus or Corinth today? Can you imagine being the last person to shut the door on a church Paul planted or even just taught at? Those congregations all died but the kingdom continued to explode. The same will be true for us. Think of the most robust congregation you know – it won’t be there some day. The facility will be a parking lot or a mall or a field – but the kingdom moves on.

It is a myth for the vast majority of us to think the congregations we currently worship in will still have people worshiping in them in 50 years and definitely in 100 years.

Churches have lifespans about like a human being. This is very important for you to know and realize. Take the numbers from Todd above – most churches don’t make it past 50 and 99.9% live less than 100 years. Actually, congregational lifespan, averages less than human lifespan and somehow we all think the congregations we are a part of will be here forever.

Their end may come sooner than you think and here is why

Stan Granberg wrote an article in the Great Commission journal that gave numbers on several important metrics on Churches of Christ. The height of our church planting days (birth of a congregation, again think lifespan numbers above) was in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. We planted 1209 churches in the 40s, 1626 in the 50s and 1205 in the 60s. These churches are now in their 50s, 60s, and 70s (all getting closer and closer to 100 and all being past the 50 mark most don’t make). Every church I have been a part of had their 50th anniversary in the last couple years. I bet your experience has been similar. So many of our congregations are entering end of life years.

According to Stan in his latest article here at Wineskins (“Three Bold Challenges for Churches of Christ” – which I encourage you to read) we are closing the doors of 6 churches per month. That is 72/year and 720/10 years and the rate of closures is accelerating. Granberg and Tim Woodroof, in the article I just linked to, predict we will be below 3000 congregations by 2050. Does that take your breath away?

How many churches have we planted in the same time frame? In Stan’s article in 2018 in the Great Commission Journal he says we have planted 102 between 2010 and 2016 at that rate we would plant 170 this decade (while losing 720). That is a net loss of 550 this decade. Remember we only have 12,000 or so congregations! That is nearly a 5% loss this decade (and accelerating, according to Stan).

Now that we have mentioned church planting I want to mention another number from Todd Wilson’s book “Multipliers,” 4% of churches are reproducing, that is planting new churches (p.15). This is broad Christianity. Let’s see what that number is in Churches of Christ from Stan’s article. He has a chart on page 95 of that article that says between 2010 and 2016 we planted 102 churches and ended 2016 with 12,237 congregations. That means 0.008% of our churches plant churches. In fact the number is lower than that if any of those churches planted more than one (which is feasible). We are at less than 1% of our churches planting new churches! 8 in 1000!

Pair that with aging congregations (most 50-79 years old) and the 99.9% rule above and you can see we are in “trouble.” Along with that, 55% of our churches are under 60 members (again Granberg, Great Commission Journal, 99).

Good news

But the kingdom isn’t at risk. What is at risk is our way of doing church (the form can be an idol). There are kingdom movements happening all over the world. We aren’t participating. The participation ribbon is not one Churches of Christ have won well over the years when it comes to even partnering with other Churches of Christ much less any other group we are further from doctrinally.

Don’t feel too bad – the church at Antioch and in Jerusalem and Rome closed their doors too one day. You can’t worship there anymore – but the kingdom keeps on growing!

My hope

We will get a sense of urgency to re-envision what church is all about and what church looks like. The way we are doing it isn’t reproducible, or else we would do it. Something in our DNA is keeping us from reproducing. Sectarianism doesn’t need reproducing. Maybe some of that is getting weeded out along with extreme liberalism (both ends of the spectrum don’t grow well or reproduce well) and maybe that is by God’s design for a healthier, more robust future for His, not our, churches.

We need a change in focus – from brick and mortar…dollars and cents…to souls, maturity and discipleship. We need a model that is reproducible and is reproducing – THIS IS KEY!

We must reinvigorate church planting movement. We must dedicate budget and people toward this effort. The generations before us did this – we stopped.

Imagine if all of our churches tithed people and money every year toward a new church – they could reproduce a one year funded congregation every ten years and train that ten percent in the meantime. I bet it would happen faster than ten years! This could result in a resurgence of growth in our fellowship. We just need to not replicate the bad DNA in order to ensure a healthier future (sectarianism, leaning toward works righteousness, combativeness, etc).

Do you have a plan? Does your church have a plan for the future? How will your legacy live on when your congregation goes away? What seeds are you planting now and plans you are making to ensure that what you leave behind can never be shaken. If you are caught up on budgets what you are building can and will be shaken and disappear.

By Milton Jones

When Christian Relief Fund drilled a new well in Barwessa Kaptorot, the people living there called it “the second miracle.” This area of Kenya is one of the most desperate in the world when it comes to the need for water. It hasn’t rained there in years. You can imagine how much the community rejoiced with this gift of clean water.

But obviously their response prompted the question from our drilling crew—“Then what’s the first miracle?” The townsfolk believed that they had witnessed two incredible events in the history of their village. The second was water. But the first involved a child named Vivian Jepkoech.

Because of the curiosity of Francis Bii, our CRF director there, and our drilling crew, Vivian was presented before them as the “first miracle.” And thus came the inconceivable story. A primary school girl in their village had been abused by her teacher. And the little girl became pregnant. After the young student gave birth, the teacher was fearful of being charged with a crime and being arrested. As a result, he stole the baby from the young mother. He took the little child to the edge of a three hundred foot cliff. He placed the baby in such a way where she would fall off of the cliff. And she did.

But unbelievably—the little baby landed in a tree on the way down.

As people walked around the community on this day, people kept hearing a noise. They said it sounded like a baby crying. But no one could find a baby. Finally, someone perceived the sound was coming from the cliff. The elders of Barwessa Kaptorot tied a rope around a person and lowered him over the cliff. On the way down, he spotted a baby in a tree. He took the child to the hospital where she survived. An old grandmother decided to raise her since her mother had disappeared and her father had fled (and later arrested).

And now this baby had grown up to be a teenager and was standing in front of Francis and our crew. Yes, the first miracle was Vivian Keptoech. She had been the baby in the tree. Vivian had done well in primary school and excelled on her exams. But because of her poverty, she didn’t have any hope to attend secondary school.

“Have you heard of Suzy Peacock High School?” Francis asked her. This is the exceptional high school of CRF in Eldoret. “You are going to be a student there!” And now she is.


Vivian was recently sponsored by a Christian Relief Fund donor. I got to see her at her new high school. It’s understandable why the people of her village call her “the first miracle.”

You too can sponsor a child like Vivian. Or you could even drill a water well in a famine area where it hasn’t rained in eight years. You could be a part of a “third miracle.”

If you have a desire to help, visit

Milton Jones is the president of Christian Relief Fund.

I had no idea when we selected this theme for July that we would be in the middle of a larger discussion of the big picture of what is going on in Churches of Christ. We have had updates on our numbers and we are in a slow, steady decline. We have had a better picture of our age demographics and we are an aging bunch. We have also had numbers on church planting and it too is in steady decline since the 1960s.

What will it take to move into a bright and vibrant tomorrow?

How can we move forward giving our current state and our resistance to change. Obviously, not all change is good but not all change is bad and some things will need to change or else we will keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different results – we know what that is called and that is how many feel these days.

That is what we will be discussing this month at Wineskins. I hope you will tune in and resource yourself and your congregation and prayerfully consider what we need to be doing today in order to have a better tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

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