There is a common misunderstanding, by both non-Christians and Christians alike, about two key passages in the New Testament pertaining to women keeping silent. Let’s examine these passages.
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, NASB)
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. (1 Timothy 2:11-15, NASB)
Based on parts of these passages, some will say that the Bible informs us that all women are not supposed to teach or exercise authority over a man. However, looking at the entirety of these passages, it is clear that married women are the ones who should subject themselves and receive instruction with entire submissiveness. There are two quick pointers to this besides the obvious which I will go into below. First, 1 Corinthians 14:34-34 tells them to ask their husbands. Second, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 talks about the relationship between Adam and Eve and childbearing.
Going on a tangent, I want to address two arguments I have read supporting this view which I consider to be weak arguments.
- First, I have read arguments using a phrase found in 1 Corinthians 7:34 of some versions such as the KJV noting there is a difference between a wife (Greek: gune) and a virgin (Greek: parthenos). The argument is that since Paul distinguished between the two, he must have been referring to married women in the two passages since he used the word ‘gune’ there as well. However, against this view, it should be noted that the phrase where Paul says there is a difference between a wife and a virgin does not appear in modern translations based on the older and more accurate family of manuscripts known as the Alexandrian Text. Looking at the NASB, we notice the dichotomy between a woman (Greek: gune) who is unmarried and a virgin (Greek: parthenos) but a married woman is treated distinctly. The word ‘gune’ can refer to either an unmarried or married woman, and it certainly varies even within Scripture. Therefore, this argument falls apart.
and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34, NASB)
- Second, I have read arguments using the words ‘your women’ found in 1 Corinthians 14:34 of some versions such as KJV. The argument is that since Paul said ‘your women’ it would have referred to the women of married men specifically. However, against this view, it should be noted that ‘the women’ is the accurate translation. Therefore, this argument also falls apart.
Despite these weak arguments that should be discarded, there is a valid argument based on a few verses in Paul’s Epistles and in 1 Peter which indicate that all women are not under men but rather that married women are to ‘subject themselves’ or ‘be submissive’ to their own husbands. The same phrases are used in the two passages in-question which demonstrates that Paul was talking about the women in relationship to their husbands.
I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3, NASB)
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24, NASB)
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18, NASB)
to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:5, NASB)
SIn the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, (1 Peter 3:1, NASB)
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; (1 Peter 3:5, NASB)
The curse in Genesis 3:16 was with regard to how husbands would rule over their wives. It did not place all women under men. Interestingly, the verse indicates that the pain in childbirth was multiplied as part of the curse. Going back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, one of the two passages, we actually see Paul mentioning that women would be preserved in childbearing if they continued a certain way.
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16, NASB)
I am persuaded that married women should not usurp their husbands to teach or preach in a public setting. However, given the Scriptural precedent of Acts 18:24-26 where Apollos is taken aside by Priscilla and Aquila, it seems permissible for married women to teach or preach with the husband’s consent. Priscilla’s name appears before her husband’s name in that passage, perhaps indicating that she took initiative in explaining the way of God more accurately to Apollos.
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26, NASB)
Romans 16:3-4, also mentioning Priscilla (Prisca) prior to Aquila, informs us that Paul considered them fellow workers.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; (Romans 16:3-4, NASB)
There is actually a lot in Romans 16 that points to the role of women in regards to teaching. I’ll single out two examples. Phoebe is considered a deaconess in verse 1 (see footnote in the NASB or an interlinear version). Junia is even considered an apostle, although some based on the ambiguity in the Greek believe she was just well known to the apostles as opposed to outstanding amongst the apostles, in verse 7 (see footnote in the NASB or an interlinear version).
Phoebe, a leader in the church at Cenchrea, was highly commended to the church at Rome by Paul (Romans 16:1,2). Unfortunately, translation biases have often obscured Phoebe’s position of leadership, calling her a “servant” (NIV, NASB, ESV). Yet Phoebe was diakonos of the church at Cenchrea. Paul regularly used this term for a minister or leader of a congregation and applied it specifically to Jesus Christ, Tychicus, Epaphras, Timothy, and to his own ministry. Depending on the context, diakonos is usually translated “deacon” or “minister.” Though some translators have chosen the word deaconess (e.g., RSV, because Phoebe was female), the Greek diakonos is a masculine noun. Therefore, it seems likely that diakonos was the designation for an official leadership position in the Early Church and the proper translation for Phoebe’s role is “deacon” (TNIV, NLT, NRSV) or “minister.”
Excerpted from the Assemblies of God website (Link)
Junia was identified by Paul as an apostle (Romans 16:7). Beginning in the thirteenth century, a number of scholars and translators masculinized her name to Junias, apparently unwilling to admit that there was a female apostle. However, the name Junia is found more than 250 times in Rome alone, while the masculine form Junias is unknown in any Greco-Roman source. Paul clearly was a strong advocate of women in ministry.
Excerpted from the Assemblies of God wesbite (Link)
There’s a lot more interesting information found in the article by the Assemblies of God on this topic. As a disclaimer, while the requirements for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 allow for female deacons, the requirements differ from the requirements for bishops/elders/overseers in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 in that deacons are not required to be able to teach.
It is important to note, however, that in Titus 2:3-5 older women are given the responsibility to teach what is good so as to be an example, especially for young women.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:3-5, NASB)
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 11:5 we see that women can pray and prophesy in church. In fact, as prophets, they could pass judgement on prophecies as we see in 1 Corinthians 14:29. For this reason, even Christians who are against women teaching or preaching to men do not believe women should always be silent in church. As a side note, those with the gift of tongues, which is same in essence but different in purpose from speaking in tongues as the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, were to be silent under certain circumstances as we see in 1 Corinthians 14:28, 30. So when 1 Corinthians 14:34 says women should keep silent, it should be construed as a command under certain circumstances and should not be construed as a blanket command.
But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. (1 Corinthians 11:5, NASB)
If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. (1 Corinthians 14:27-30, NASB)
So whether it is teaching young women, praying, or prophesying, women do not need to be silent for sure. I want to be clear that while I do support allowing single females to teach and preach to men, as well as married females to teach and preach to men with their husband’s consent, I firmly believe women should not be considered ‘pastors’ because the requirements for bishops/elders/overseers in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 only allow for men. Rather, they can be considered ‘deacons’ or ‘ministers.‘