Obviously the whole big blow back of John MacArthur and Beth Moore was interesting to say the least. Most of the commentary from my Christian friends on facebook indicated that they were in favor of Beth Moore rather than against it. It’s not surprising given the culture though.
MacArthur goes into it more detail here (h/t info).
In any case, MacArthur talks about specific wording such as shamefulness and its applicability throughout the Scriptures. He doesn’t get into some of the finer details on the differences between words like teach, which I’ll summarize again.
I had a post a few years ago about this about women teaching women in Church and why women are prohibited from certain positions in the Church. I’ve done some further study on this, which is why I want to go deeper into detail about it.
1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
1 Corinthians 14:34 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. 35 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. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
These are very specific things that the Scripture is prohibiting which are essentially:
- Teaching men (Greek: didasko)
- Exercising authority over men
- Disruption of Church order
The main point of contention is the word didasko. This Greek work is often used in the New Testament, but the primary example is in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus “teaches” (didasko) the multitude and what is meant by teaching is going over the Scriptures and interpreting them. The common pattern Jesus uses to do this is: “It was said in times of old” in reference to the Old Testament commands… and then He followed it up with re-interpretation “but I tell you…” which clarifies His position on how we should live.
Thus, we understand that Biblical teaching is probably best defined as “authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures on how to live.”. Preaching the gospel (Greek: logos, euangelion) is different than this. Women do this all throughout the Scripture, including the ones who went to the tomb.
1 Timothy 5:15 provides some context for this:
1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching (logos) and teaching (didasko).
I’ve gone over this extensively in what does it mean to teach?
Most of the counterpoints of this verse go into all the various examples of women in the early Church and in the OT but are actually off topic.
- “But Deborah was a prophetess judging Israel”… yet she told Barak that God told him to lead Israel. In Hebrews 11, it lists Barak as the leader of Israel and an example of faith (however poor) not Deborah. Women in the NT aren’t forbidden from being prophetesses either.
- “But the women were the first preachers”… the Bible nowhere says that women are forbidden from preaching the gospel (logos, euangelion). They are forbidden from teaching (Greek: didasko) men.
- “But Philip had 4 daughters who were prophetesses” and “Acts 2 quotes the prophet Joel 2 that God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and sons and daughters will prophesy”… The early Church did not forbid women from prophesying as there are multiple examples. Prophesying is not the same as leadership positions in the Church either. You can also argue that Joel 2 is speaking about close to the day of judgement and Jesus’ return from the imagery later in the passage.
- “But Priscilla and Aquilla taught Apollos in Acts 18″… Debatable at best because (1) grounding Apollos in the way of God (e.g. gospel or preaching) is not the same as teaching (didasko), and (2) it was a husband and wife team. It was not solely Priscilla taking him aside and supposedly doing it. Also (3) debatable if this would count as leadership position in the Church too as it’s private.
- “But Junia was an apostle”… a critical word study at the Greek episemos from that passage means noteworthy or well know among the apostles, not that she was an apostle. Most scholars think she’s a woman now, but a minority think she’s a man. Who knows. Whatever the case, it’s not convincing.
- “But Titus 2…”
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good (kalodidasko), 4 so that they may encourage (sophronizo) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
It’s pretty clear that this passage is directed at older women teaching younger women (not men and/or mixed congregations) and it is directed at a specific list of good things which is what follows. I’ve covered why that is in women teaching women. You can’t reinterpret loving husband and children or being sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, or subject to husbands. It’s straight forward: no interpretation needed.
Lest we also know that Titus 1 goes over the qualifications of elders (leadership) in the Church again like 1 Timothy 3 with the qualification of “the husband of one wife.”
- “But Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another in the fear of Christ”… no, that’s for the general congregation of believers, not the elders/leadership positions. In other passages, it says to submit to any leadership, including the Church. It also says to submit to husbands too, which unifies with 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.
- “But Galatians 5 we’re all one in Christ and there’s no male or female”… no, that is talking specifically about salvation. It’s not talking about different roles or parts of the body of Christ, some of which appear to be prohibited from women.
- The only example that is somewhat controversial it seems is Phoebe as a deacon (Greek diakonos). Though the word is contested as it also means “servant” (just a gune also mean woman/wife and aner means man/husband). If you unify it with 1 Timothy 3 covers qualifications for elders and deacons, which contain the phrasing “husband of 1 wife” and “managing their households well.” It’s likely she was serving and noteworthy in some capacity, but probably not in a leadership position.
A few things that I’ve never seen the opposition counter:
- The pattern of husband as the head of the wife is present before the fall, after the fall, in the Law of Moses, and in the New Covenant. God wants men to lead families. If this is the case for families, why would it not be for the Church?
- The pattern in the the gathering of the peoples starting with Abraham, Moses, and so on down the line of kings. Jesus Himself could’ve broken the mold and chosen women as disciples but did not. It seems Jesus wants men to lead the Church.
- As I mentioned in Lessons from Ephesus, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Revelations all have some commentary to Ephesus. Both Ephesians and 1 and 3 Timothy espouse male headship in the home, and same with 1 and 3 Tim. Revelations commends the Ephesians for holding fast and rooting out bad apostles (and their bad teachings).
- The early Church could have included women in leadership but never did either. Not the Church before the Great Schism. Not the Church after the Reformation. Only in the last 50ish years. Orthodoxy and Catholicism still don’t.
Overall, I really don’t see it when one looks at the particular nuances of the Scriptures. Especially in conjunction with the rest of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Lots of Christians like to make up stories about how 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 were “just that Church” (even though it says later that this is “for all the Churches”) or that it was just in those Churches but doesn’t apply today. It’s the old fallacy of cultural relevance.
Changing the course of the day 1 to 2000 year interpretation of the Scriptures from the early Church until now to fit a similar cultural narrative is quite the stretch. Christians are supposed to be set apart from the world, not agree with it.
This is not to say that going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a bad thing. There have been some cases that I’ve known that men have influenced the Church leadership and board to remove women from these positions over time with godly doctrine and counsel. God can have you at a particular in a season to be a good influence on those who may be in doctrinal error. This is something that needs to be considered prayerfully and aligned in the specific season that you’re in.
This is the same with any other doctrinal errors that may be present such as complementarianism. If you only went to Churches that taught everything right, you probably wouldn’t be gathering with believers much. We must always remember that the work of the Spirit is inside-out transformation. He can use us to influence others toward Truth.
On the other hand, it would probably be unwise to go to Churches with actual heretical beliefs such as those that deny tenets of the Nicene Creed.