What Does the Bible Say about Women in Ministry?

St. Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens (1615)

The early church in the book of Acts gives churches and Christians today a framework of how Christ intended his church to function. Part of this includes two offices, elders and deacons, that are used to accomplish Kingdom work in local churches and the surrounding areas. Today, there is not so much confusion over what these offices are to do, but who is permitted to hold them.

The office of “elder” is fulfilled primarily through that of teaching, oversight of the flock, and sharing in the ministry of Christ.[1] The role of a deacon, or deaconess, is fulfilled by service. If the elder is an overseer and teacher, than a deacon is a doer. The deacons are those that do service within the church for the church, “they are to be practical servants (and not necessarily teachers).”[2]

The requirements for an elder can be found quite clearly in 1 Timothy 3:2-7: “Therefore an

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overseer must be above reproach…husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive…He must not be a recent convert…he must be well thought of by outsiders” (ESV). Likewise, the requirements for a deacon are found in the next passage: “Deacons…must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain…wives must be dignified…husband of one wife, managing their children and households well” (vv. 8, 11, 12).

In light of the role women may play in ministry, it is important to understand Biblically what was the case and to be careful to apply this to our current Church practice. First, a woman may not be an elder. Paul is quite clear that women are not permitted to teach men (2:12), and that an elder must be able to teach (3:2). These two verses quickly rule out women filling the role of an elder. Also, woman are not permitted to rule over men (2:12) and as an elder one is an overseer (3:2) that must care for God’s church (v. 5).

The office of deacon is different than an elder in qualifications, responsibilities, and in that women are permitted to fill this office. Although Paul states that a deacon is to be the husband of one wife (v. 12) he also records that there were women who filled this office by serving in the New Testament church during his time of ministry (specifically Phoebe who was “a servant of the church at Canchreae” (Rom 16:1)).

Some hold to the view that women are permitted to hold the office of elder and will reference Titus 2:3. What they fail to realize is that Paul states specifically, in verse four of Titus chapter two, that women are to teach “young women,” if they are going to teach. If Paul was permitting women to teach anyone of any age he would not have clarified his statement made in verse three. Some may also use Galatians 3:28 as a verse permitting woman to teach and be overseers. If they do use that verse for such a purpose they are grossly using it out of it’s context.

Others say that women should not be permitted to have any role in the church. There is simply no solid Biblical argument for such a view. Women played a large role in the ministry of Jesus (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3), were present at his crucifixion (Luke 23:27, 49, 55-56), instructed by an angel after his resurrection (Luke 24:6-8), and were present as helpers in the early church (Acts 1:14; 2:17-18; 9:36-43; 21:8-9; Rom. 16).

As far as limitations on women outside of the church go, there are none. Women can and do hold positions of authority over men (specifically in the workplace). In such a case, the wise man (and woman) will heed Romans 13: “be subject to the governing authorities…those that exist have been instituted by God” (v. 1).

With all of this being said, women can, and do, play a very important role in the local church. They can raise questions to have theological issues clarified. They can have leadership roles in the teaching of younger woman and children, and can also have very important roles in the management (specifically administration responsibilities) of the local church.

As stated previously, Jesus used women in his ministry. As this is the case, and where Biblically permitted, the church of today should not keep women from playing active roles in their ministry.


  • [1] Wallace, R.S. “Elder.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 369.
  • [2] Burge, G.M. “Deacon, Deaconess.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 320.

BibliographyBurge, G.M. “Deacon, Deaconess.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 320. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.

Wallace, R.S. “Elder.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 369. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.

Photo Credits:

Article header photo credit: St. Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens (1615). http://wp.me/p1EaDQ-24

Bibliography Photo Credit: http://www.maicar.com/GML/Bibliography.html

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52 thoughts on “What Does the Bible Say about Women in Ministry?

  1. You summed the article up nicely at the end.

    I was thinking about this the other night when I read breaking news that Sarah Palin was not running for President in the next Presidential Campaign. I started thinking about how as a society we have moved past the cultural barriers and have pushed the envelope in the past decade in allowing women to play a more prominent role in the world.

    In some cultures (China), women are viewed as inferior to Men. There are some cultures that refuse to allow women to have a say or be a voice in a world where Men overshadow their very existence.

    Women in Ministry I think is incredibly important as we break the barriers that are reluctant to allow women to be a voice and I am not just saying that because I’m a woman ;).

    I did some research on this topic and here are some interesting points that I wanted to address. These points are taken from the following article “What Makes Good Ministry Good? Women in Ministry” by Christopher Lind. I found this article through our University Database “Philosophy & Religion.”

    Key points of the article:

    – Women are discriminated against in wages,employment and advancement. But the greatest
    fear women have in ministry is fear of sexual harassment.

    – Women in the church want ministers to do a better job of maintaining boundaries between their
    personal and professional lives.

    The author concludes the article with the following: “We live in a sexist world that is unsafe for most women and some men. Women construct their ministry differently because of this reality. For a woman in ministry to construct her role in any other way (e.g. just like a Man) would actually
    put her in harm’s way. In order for a woman to be engaged in good ministry she needs to do ministry differently from Men.”


    • Julie,
      I totally agree with you. It’s a mans world and when we as women conduct ourselves like men we leave ourselves open to trouble. I’m learning that with my current job. I don’t want things to be different because I’m a female but the reality is, it is. We need way stronger boundaries because men have a harder time seeing them unless they’re concrete.

      • Lindsay,

        I work with mostly, if not all women. Women are a dominant force in the working environment I am in, but I am learning each day that we can’t allow ignorance and a battle of the sexes ego reign over our purpose in our occupation.

        We haven’t broken from the complete mentality that Women are just as valuable as Men.

        Even though the Bible stresses heavily the role of women (or lack there of) in Church, I think this verse sums it up perfectly:

        Galatians 3:28

        28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus

        As for as where we are now in a society, I’d say we are slowly very slowly breaking that barrier. Eventually we will get there, I think at the end of the day it’s about perspective.

        Women shouldn’t have to “sit quietly” in Church, their voice should be heard just as loudly and proudly as our fellow Men.

        If you really want to make a difference, forget what any one, any MAN thinks and live out your purpose. No one can keep you from them but you. And no one should have to live in the shadow of another person’s dream.

    • Julie, thanks for sharing your research on the topic. I absolutely agree with you that as a society we have pushed passed the dominance that men have had over women (in negative and extremely discriminatory ways). While there are cultures, such as China, as you mentioned, where women are viewed as inferior to men there are cultures where men are inferior to women, although this is extremely rare (and interesting!).

      There are some who would say that women should have ZERO role in the Church. I would invite people that say such a thing to read any one of the Gospels and specifically look for the ways in which Jesus integrated women into His ministry. There is no doubt that he valued women and wants us to do the same in His Church.

      As far as safety goes, I agree with the research that you mentioned. While the Church is supposed to be different than the world, sometimes leaders in the Church do not act according to how Christ has called them to live and act. This being the case women do need to guard themselves and their behavior so that they do not put themselves in harms way or give false impressions.

      Specifically, as I stated in the article, I believe that women can have, and do have, extremely valuable roles in the service towards the Church. My mom has been an administrator in her church for 13 years and has helped the ministry of that church succeed in numerous ways by the support she offers to those in leadership roles. I believe that in roles of service and of teaching other women and children, a woman can have a very effective ministry in her local church.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  2. You state that women can teach classes to other women and children. Do you believe they can teach in a mixed Sunday School setting. ( ie men and women)

    • Great question. 1 Tim. 2:12 is very clear that women are not to “teach or exercise authority over man” (ESV). Based on that I would say no, women cannot teach in a mixed setting.

        • As long as it is clear that her husband is heading the class (and has the respect of his wife as he does so with her “in front” with him) I would say this is ok. BUT, the topic is also of concern. I would say that topics relating to marriage and raising children are really the only two topics that would work in this type of an arrangement.

  3. Why did Jesus wait until there were only 2 women in the empty tomb to appear to them? He could very easily appeared first to John and Peter. He deliberately did not appear first to any males so that the message of his resurrection was give to women. What is the Great Commission: we are ALL to go and (1) evangelize and (2) teach. To lift a verse out of context to say that it is clearly “women are not to teach men” without knowing what goes on before the verse is very misguided. It goes against what Jesus did and it goes against what Jesus teaches. Paul was concerned about false teachers in the church in a society that worships Diana, a female god, with female priests prostituting in the temples. God has never, will never, condemn a woman for explaining His good word, for teaching His good word, and for bringing other people into the Truth. Since when is it a sin for a godly woman gifted with the Holy Spirit to teach people so that they will mature in the Body of Christ. Why is this only a man’s job? Is God sexist? Other flawed logic taken for granted as truth:
    Jesus chose 12 men, so only men can be pastors.
    Jesus chose 12 Jews, so only Jews can be pastors?
    All priests were males, so only men can be pastors.
    All priests were Levites, so only Levites can be pastors?
    women can teach only other women and children. When do children turn to adults? at what age?
    are women inferior, if not, why do women only teach women but men can teach both men & women?
    The Holy Spirit was poured equally on men and women, but only men can serve without restrictions. Really?
    Ephesian 4/11-12: being pastors and teachers is a GIFT, not a TITLE, nor an OFFICE.
    Gifts are from the Holy Spirit, who came upon men and women alike.
    THere are so many misguided truths being presented as truths that Christianity is no loner the religion that frees people. It is worse than the secular world when it comes to women. It seeks to bind them, to keep them as 2nd class citizens, to restrict their gifts, and then with a straight face tell them they are valued and are equal. I do not buy it.

    • Mabel,

      I appreciate you sharing your opinion on the matter. If you have the time I would like to see what Scripture you have in mind to support your points.



      • Jesus appeared to 2 women : Matt 28:1-10′ Mark 16:9 Luke 24: 1-9, John 20: 11-18. Read esp. John’s account: Jesus did not reveal himself while Peter and John were there. The message was given to women to give to men.
        Priscilla taught Apollo. Both Priscilla and Aquila taught, and Priscilla’s name was mentioned first in most accounts. You can check the scriptures, I don’t have them at hand.
        1 Cor 14:5: I would like EVERY ONE OF YOU to prophesy
        1 Cor 14:24: while EVERYONE is prophesying
        1 Cor 14:26 : brothers and sisters… EACH OF YOU has a word of instruction, a revelation
        1 COr 14:31 : you can ALL prophesy… so that everyone may be instructed
        1 Cor 14:39 brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy
        1 Cor 11: 5 : But EVERY WOMAN who prays or prophesies…

        I have heard restrictionists ( a more accurate term that describes what is commonly known as complementarians ) split hair between what is prophesy and what is “preaching” or “teaching with authority”. They forgot Eph 2: 14-22: a beautiful picture of unity in Christ that fits Gal 3:28. Read esp Eph 2: 20 The church is built on a foundation of apostles and prophets. Not the human beings of course, but what God had revealed to them. God revealed himself to both men and women.
        When Jesus’ apostles asked him to appoint an apostle on his left and one on his right ( hierarchy that restrictionists spend all their energy on defending as exclusive male domain) Matt 20:20-26. Not so among you.
        I do not fight for women’s dominance, women’s exclusive right for certain “positions” or “roles” in the “church”. I let God decide. I do not stand in the door of the Kingdom of GOd and point my finger at who can serve and at what capacity. It amazes me that Phoebe, clearly a deacon, was translated as servant . So when a man serves, he is a Deacon, when a woman serves, well , she serves. NT gives no man by name a local church leadership title.

        “husband of one woman” refers to marital fidelity, not gender of Elder. Remember, in those days, women do not have multiple partners. Paul would not say wife of one husband. That would be ridiculous. A one woman man means a man who is faithful in marriage. The emphasis is on character and holiness, not on gender.
        Roman 16:1 is NT’s clearest identification of an individual with a church office “Phoebe, deacon of the church in Cenchrea”
        Since Phoebe carried Paul’s letter to Rome, she would be the one answering any questions about the Romans letter from those reading it.
        We should not read the Scriptures with hierarchy in mind.
        I agree that there are different functions in the body of Christ, I just cannot, after studying this issue for the last 5 years, agree that any spiritual functions ( NOT BIOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS, NOT PHYSICAL ID’s) are gender specific. To believe so will require me to read every single bible verse in a different light, e.g. the great commission will read: go ye into all the worlds ( man as leaders, and women go as subordinates only) and teach them the word of God (only men can teach everyone, women must only speak to women and children, and then only outside the bldg called church, not inside) baptize them in the name of the Father…. (remember, only men can baptize, women cannot)
        If what you believe is correct, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for me to read the bible and believe that it is written for me as much as for you.

        Read Romans Chapter 16. Paul has many female co-workers, some went to prison with him. They didn’t go to prison for just sitting in “church” (think NT house churches, not 2011 megachurch, bldg w/ a steeple) and being silent. not leading (whatever that definition is) and just being submissive.
        The Holy Spirit came upon men and women equally, do you agree? Acts 1:12-14, 2:1-4, 18 Only men prophesied? I have read Scriptures being twisted to separate prophesy and teaching, ignoring the fact that the church was built on prophets and apostles.

        • Mabel,

          First, Galatians 3:28 is not written in the context of the Church but of the gift that is available to us through the death of Christ on the cross. Through that death we are all able to receive the same promise.

          Second, Eph 2:14-22 is in the context of circumcision, and is also speaking to the fact that gentiles are no longer “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope without God in the world” (v. 12, ESV).

          Also, I would argue that “husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2) should be understood in the light of moral and sexual purity. The Greek here is literally “one-woman man”. This man is totally devoted to his wife, if he has one, and is pure in thought and deed. (And in v. 11, speaking to the role of a deacon, the greek word for “wives” can be translated as “women,” allowing women to serve as deacons, which as you mentioned, was the case Romans 16).

          All of these details aside, and as I mentioned in my post: “Jesus used women in his ministry. As this is the case, and where Biblically permitted, the church of today should not keep women from playing active roles in their ministry.”

          Also, as I stated in a previous comment to Julie, I have absolute respect for women who serve in their local Church. My mother has worked on the staff of her Church for 13 years and has served wonderfully and has been an invaluable asset to that ministry. I also know other women who serve as deacons and again, do a fantastic job at meeting that ministry need.

          This topic is one that will continue to be a topic of interest for the Church. While I do not believe it is a foundational issue, it is something that Churches should seriously consider Scripturally before coming to a decision.

          Thanks for all of your thoughts on the matter.


    • Mabel, thanks for sharing the book recommendations, as well as the resources from CBE and from Marg. Marg shared specific articles in her comment and I have saved them to read. Thanks again for sending your recommendations along.


  4. Hi Aaron,

    You asked Donald about some egalitarian articles. Here’s a link to some of mine.

    Here is a link to articles about New Testament women who were ministers. http://newlife.id.au/tag/new-testament-women/

    And here’s a link to an article about Paul’s qualifications for church leaders. http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/

    I recommend this article. http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/women-teaching-and-deception/

  5. Well in our looking at historical notes, stories and Biblical lessons there are several different ways to slice the pie… As a student of history, a friend gave me some advise in interpreting what you read, do not just read the story as told by the victors {BTW: Most all history is written by the victor!} This is to say, we must come to the just of the conversation or the key point of what we are reading or learning… What does it really mean, and how does it affect us?
    If we all stand around at the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, auguring who goes in first, or who has the right, or which thing each one did right or wrong; then we missed the whole lesson!
    There is only one interpretation that counts, that is The Word of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit! The Holy Scriptures were never meant to be stumbling blocks, rather they are to give light to your eternal pathway! Therefore we (you) should not take so much effort to hold a private interpretation of the scriptures; this only invites contention and strife!
    2 Peter 1:16 – 21
    16For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

    19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

    Dear friends; what we need to remember is that The War is Over; Jesus conquered all over 2000 years ago, so stop struggling with sin and judgment in your life… You have already got it {Eternal life once you accept Jesus as your Savior} As evident in reading

    Eph 2: 1And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) 6And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
    So why keep worrying about what position someone thinks you should hold in a particular church; when Jesus has set you free; and you have the Holy Spirit to guide you?
    Matt 6: 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
    34 Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Amen!

    • Kermit,

      Thanks for the comment. My interpretation on the matter is entirely based on Scripture. Something to keep in mind: while the world may function one way, the Church is to function differently (according to Scripture). While the world has female CEOs (which I am 100% okay with) and other female leaders (which I am okay with, and of which I have been under for certain jobs I have held), the Church has instructions to operate differently, and maybe for reasons we know not. We are to remain committed to the Word of God, even if it stands in stark contrast to the ways of the world.

      Thanks again for the comment,


      • Of course we are to remain committed to God’s word. But we are also to do our best not to misinterpret it. If you really want to remove your blue lenses I can help you as I have done it myself, but if you want to keep wearing them, no one can stop you.

  6. I recommend the articles at CBE and at Marg’s site to you. If you wish to discuss any of them, I will make myself available, you know my email from this post. I am glad that you have decided to follow the wisdom in Prov 18:17, may your wisdom continue to increase!

  7. Aaron,

    I appreciate anyone who is willing to honestly post his views BUT I have to disagree with your post. Your view of what 1 Timothy is saying is built on a misconception based on trying to make a letter by Paul that was written to Timothy as a means of correcting problems he was having to deal with in Ehesus apply to all of history when the letter itself was meant to apply to the church in Ephesus. The letter is loaded with references to what could be called “proto-gnostic” beliefs that had infiltrated the church, probably through men and women who had come directly out of the paganistic religions that were so deeply entrenched in the society of Ephesus. Paul had told the elders of Ephesus two years or so earlier that this would occur and that some of them would also fall away from sound teaching:
    Acts 20:29 – 30 (ESV) 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

    It is much easier to understand what is going on in this letter by using a historical approach and limiting its instruction to the church in Ephesus.

    Of course, realizing that there is also bad modern translation and interpretation is also important. Translation from the Greek to English is a highly variable activity and is controlled by the preconceived ideas of the translator and the historical time the translator lives in. An example of this is 1 Tim 3:11 regarding the qualifications of a woman being a deacon. Here are several examples from popular modern translations:
    1 Timothy 3:11 (NRSVA) 11Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.
    1 Timothy 3:11 (ASV) 11Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.
    1 Timothy 3:11 (NIV) 11In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
    1 Timothy 3:11 (ESV) 11Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
    The NRSVA and ASV translations both recognize women as being deacons, which is in agreement with the view that Phoebe was a deacon, as recognized by Paul in Romans 16.
    However, the NIV and the ESV both set qualifications for wives of deacons. This is not in agreement with other parts of Paul’s writings such as Romans 16. This particular translation (NIV,ESV) is not supported by the greek which literally says “women similarly grave, not slanderers…”. The word for women could be translated as “wives” but this would be out of context with the qualifications given for elders wives (none are given!).

    In regareds to Romans 16:1, this is another area where differences in rendering the translation create confussion::
    Romans 16:1 (NRSVA) 1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,
    The NIV, ASV, and ESV read slightly different using the word servant rather than deacon, although the greek words are the same:
    Romans 16:1 NIV) commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. The Youngs Literal Translation is a little different:
    Romans 16:1 (YLT) 1And I commend you to Phebe our sister—being a ministrant of the assembly that is in Cenchrea.
    All translations illustrate the possibilities of one word from the Greek. However, each translation gives a different meaning to the same word.

    The problems with these examples also apply to various other verses such as the qualities of elders, the so called permanent restriction of women to teach men (1 Tim 2:11-15) which cannot be understood in a modern context without first understanding the historical basis for what Paul said and realizing that this was a statement made to Timothy to correct a problem that existed in Ephesus, not else where. It must be understood in the light of the earliest gnostic beliefs that Paul was telling Timothy how to correct. The permanent silence of women in the assembled worship of the church is also tied up in this bad translation/interpretation problem.

    Also, how can you say that a woman cannot hold authority (elder/deacon/teacher/minister/etc) when Paul recognizes Junia as an apostle who was held in high regard by the other apostles? (another verse that has translations/interpretation problems).
    Romans 16:7 (NRSVA) 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
    In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul recognizes the role of individuals who are gifted by the Holy Spirit in their order of importance:
    1 Corinthians 12:28 (NRSVA) 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
    He does not limit these roles to just one gender or the other and there were indeed more apostles than just the Twelve and we are warned about false apostles.

    The Junias translation, a male gender version of Junia which is used by several translations has been proved to be a very bad translation that is based in the idea that a female cannot be an apostle. To better understand this problem translation, I recommend reading the following study:
    “Junia, The First Woman Apostle” by Eldon Jay Epp This is considered to be the most indepth study of Junia and the problems with the translation that has been published in recent time. For those who want to know the technological thinking regarding the greek, the translation problems, and the history of the translation, this is the study that one should read.

    To understand the problems with 1 Tim 2: 11-15 I recommend reading the following study:
    “I Suffer Not a Woman” by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger. This study focuses on 1 Tim 2:11-15. It is based in the historical information available and includes a good deal of information about the earliest gnostic beliefs that were talked about by Paul in his letter to Timothy.

    To understand the problems with 1 Tim 3:11 and recognizing that the early church did indeed have female deacons, I recommend the following:
    “Deacons: Male and Female?” by J. Stephe Sandifer This study is an indepth look at the role of deacon and who can be a deacon. It is a historically based study done for the Churches of Christ.

    For a good overall view of the egalitarian vrs the patriarchal/complimentarian views, I recommend reading the following:
    “Women in the Church: reclaiming the ideal” by Carroll Osburn
    This study also addresses some of the translations problems but not as indepth as the other studies. It also looks at the different approaches to gender.

    I hope your mind is not closed to what myself and several others above have posted. If you read these studies with an open and inquisitive mind, you will find alot of valuable information in them that will not be taught in many of our seminaries and biblical theological schools.

    • Wiley,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on this topic. I appreciate your time.

      I agree with women deacons, as found in 1 Tim. 3:11 and Rom 16, and understand the greek found in 1 tim. 3:11 to be translated as “women” which permits then a women holding such an office (also mentioned this above to Mabel).

      I also understand that verse 11 speaks to women, as just mentioned, and verse 12 is speaking to men, or as the greek says, a one-women man, which is speaking more closely to his moral and sexual purity instead of his marital status (also mentioned this above to Mabel).

      As far as a female apostle (of which did not exist) by the name of Junia, the text is quite clear that she was “of note among the apostles” (NKJV), not AN apostle.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. My mind is absolutely open to hearing the views of others, and if adequate support from Scripture is presented I will not hesitate to adjust my thinking on such matters.

      As always, sola scriptura.

      Thanks again,

      • In the Greek, the primary meaning of what we call Rom 16:7 on Junia is that she was an apostle. So wrote the early church fathers, that she was as apostle. In other words, people that deny that Junia was an apostle are doing special pleading, claiming that Junian means Junias, not Junia or claiming that “en” should not be seen as meaning of “within” when that is the primary meaning or that apostolos does not mean apostle.

      • Aaron, Thanks for the reply. Junia was indeed an apostle. She was an apostle before Paul and some scholars believe that she and Andronicus may have been present on Pentecost. Apostleship was not limited to just the Twelve who were Jesus’ chosen disciples. There are indeed various renderings for this particular verse, however, this is one of those cases where we have supporting evidence in the writings of the early church fathers who were very close to the time frame. To doubt the words of those who were closest to the time Junia existed and take the modern translation/interpretation 1900 years later does a disservice to true scholarship as all evidence must be considered when forming a translation. If Junia is not an apostle, then Andronicus must also be denied that distinction, even though he is a male.

        Please take the time to obtain a copy if Epp’s study on Junia. It is the most indepth study done on the subject and is highly regarded among scholars. Also, here is a link to an artical about Junia that a friend of mine published and has allowed me to republish on my web site http://www.wherethespiritleads.org/articles/Junia.html
        I hope you will enjoy his short but thorough analysis of this debate.

        Grace to you and peace.


  8. Aaron,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and how you’re wrestling with the text.

    I’m curious, as you seem to be applying 1 Tim 2:12 as a literal instruction not only from Paul to Timothy but from Paul to us in 2011, how do you apply 1 Tim 2:8-10 (the preceding verses)?

    I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

    Would you allow a woman to wear braided hair or gold or pearls or “costly attire”? Is there a limit to how much gold or pearls a woman can wear or how “costly” her attire can be? My wife doesn’t wear any gold jewelry that I’m aware of but she does have a platinum band for her wedding/engagement ring which has a diamond on it – she also has two diamond earrings I gave her for our first anniversary. Is she in the wrong for wearing these or is Paul only speaking specifically about gold and pearls?

    In addition, I’m curious about how you might apply 1 Tim 3:2-7 in the following scenarios…

    Can a widower or a man who’s been divorced and remarried be an overseer? If a man is overweight and struggles with self-control when it comes to eating – can he be an overseer? If a man struggles with self-control when it comes to pornography – can he be an overseer? If a man’s teenage children rebel against him and are no longer “submissive” to him, must he step down from his position as an overseer? And finally, I know a lot of people who don’t think highly of a number of pastors/overseers. They see them as judgmental, mean, or hungry after money – the pastors aren’t exactly “well thought of by outsiders.” Should they resign? Or is that a sign that they’re simply doing the Lord’s work since they’re “hated by the world?”

    In addition, in a semi-related issue. Paul writes in the 5th portion of this letter that (1 Tim 5:8) “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    Some have taken this to mean that a man should work and the woman should stay at home and care for the household and the kids – not the other way around. I’ve written about this idea elsewhere (http://casadeblundell.com/jonathan/1-timothy-58-how-do-you-read-it/) but I’m wondering how you read the passage and if it’s OK for men to stay at home while the women go to work – or are they denying the faith by doing so?

    There are a number of “straw men” arguments/questions here but I’d be curious to how you apply the text in these different scenarios. And I’m wondering if the answers would be as black and white as you seem to suggest when it comes to women as overseers.

    Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s always good when we can wrestle with the text in community, generosity and love.

    • Hey Jonathan!

      Thanks for the comment and for your input on the topic.

      As far as 1 tim. 3:8-10:

      “men should pray” (ESV) – speaking to men leading in the church when together for corporate worship.

      “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” – this is speaking to several things: 1) dressing modestly for obvious reasons, also to reflect a chaste heart; 2) “braided hair” and onward speaks to not dressing as to distract, or call attention to themselves. not only in a sexual manner, but also in a class, i.e. a wealthy woman could make a poorer woman feel lower than her, or cause a poorer woman to envy.

      moving on to 1 Tim. 3:2-7

      “Can a widower or a man who’s been divorced and remarried be an overseer?” – yes. this verse is not so worried about the marital status, but is more concerned with the sexual and moral purity. the literal greek is “one-woman man”. Also, the Bible does permit remarriage in certain circumstances (see my post on this for more), and thus would not disqualify a man from the role of elder.

      “If a man is overweight and struggles with self-control when it comes to eating – can he be an overseer?” – self-control (“good behavior” in the NKJV) is translated “orderly” in the greek. this speaks to one who has an orderly life, with the idea that if one has an orderly (instead of a chaotic) life he will help to bring or keep order in the church.

      “If a man struggles with self-control when it comes to pornography – can he be an overseer?” – Pornography is a different issue and would fall more into the “husband of one wife” (see parenthesis below). As this particular sin is causing a man to not be pure in his sexual life, yes, it would disqualify him from the service as an elder.

      (I would argue that “husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2) should be understood in the light of moral and sexual purity. The Greek here is literally “one-woman man”. This man is totally devoted to his wife, if he has one, and is pure in thought and deed. (And in v. 11, speaking to the role of a deacon, the greek word for “wives” can be translated as “women,” allowing women to serve as deacons, which as you mentioned, was the case Romans 16)).

      “If a man’s teenage children rebel against him and are no longer ‘submissive’ to him, must he step down from his position as an overseer?” – yes. if his children are no longer submissive to him, he must do everything he can to regain the order of his family. His stepping down from being an Elder allows him the needed time to do get his family back in order. Once this is the case, he is permitted to return.

      “And finally, I know a lot of people who don’t think highly of a number of pastors/overseers. They see them as judgmental, mean, or hungry after money – the pastors aren’t exactly ‘well thought of by outsiders.’ Should they resign? Or is that a sign that they’re simply doing the Lord’s work since they’re ‘hated by the world?'” – I believe this is speaking to not how he is necessarily perceived, but whether or not the unbelieving community respects him. If he is at the very least, liked by the community they will allow him room to talk with them which will lead to the preaching of the gospel. if he were disliked in the unbelieving community they would not allow him the time of day. and although they do not agree with how he lives (morally) or what he believes (his theology), they may like him as a fellow human being. The snare of the devil is leaving the ministry because of the supposed dislike from the unbelieving community. While we are to look to Christ for all strength and approval, to deny that we are at times susceptible to the opinions of others denies that we are fully human. I look to Philippians 2:15 on this topic as well.

      Wrapping up: 1 Tim. 5:8
      The context here is crucial. not only is this in the context of Paul’s continued instruction for the Church, but also for the care of widows. “members of his household” should be understood as “household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). In particular application to the context of widows, if we do not provide for those who may not be able to provide for themselves, we have “denied the faith and [are] worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

      Make sense?

      Hope I answered everything. If you find any loose ends that I didn’t touch on or have more questions let me know.

      Thanks again for your comment and the time you took to leave it.


      • Aaron: bottom line: you insist that the passage limits certain ministries to men. This interpretation is problematic when viewed with the rest of Scriptures. A “one woman man” is an idiom, the emphasis is on holiness, not on gender specific teaching. Why would God degree gender specific roles? God never acted that way before. In the OT, women can be leaders, and come NT, all of a sudden, God took away that? NT is about all christians being baptized by the Holy Spirit, and not in hierarchy and rigid gender roles. I want you to set aside what you have been indoctrinated and think without bias: does God really set rigid gender divide in the Kingdom of GOd?
        I absolutely do not buy the argument that “women are very valued” and “women contributed a lot” Sexism is sexism. Would you, as a white man, say to a black men: I value you, there is a lot you can do in my company, but I only appoint white people to be supervisors, department heads, etc. But you are equal, you can do the work, we just don’t want to call you dept heads, supervisors, etc.
        Do you not see that a lot of women are actually doing what elders do? They teach, they care, they plan, they lead, etc. Everybody is comfortable with those women doing all those things. As soon as someone says: Let Mary (who has been functioning as an elder all along) be an elder, all hell breaks loose. Oh, read the Scriptures, the Scriptures clearly forbids that. etc. etc. Do you not see that what we are doing in the church is playing this Title Giving Game? Go back to Debra, Huldah, etc. God appointed them to lead men. People who say they read the Scriptures do not insist women cover their heads. Why? the issue does not affect who can be pastors. As long as women are not pastors, elders, and in Southern Baptist, deacons, men are comfortable. Women can wear gold, pearls, braid their hair. Those verses can be explained away as meaning this that and the other.
        We are still reading the Scriptures with veils over our eyes.
        Gal 3:28 is NOT ABOUT SALVATION!!! In the OT, women can be saved, gentiles can be accepted into the faith and Paul does not need to repeat it here. What is different is: while they were not treated equally before, they will be now.
        Men being leaders: think about it. It brings too many problematic theological questions. Do God’s words only go to men? Does God speak to women too? Only men can preach the word of God? Are men mediators between women and God? What does lead mean? by authority or by example? only men’s examples can be followed and not women’s?
        Aaron, I challenge you to read more books and articles refuting the CBMW male supremacy teaching. It cannot be consistently practiced. That’s why when asked “what can women do in church?” Wayne Grudem, the male supremacist guru, came up with a list of 80 items in order of descending authority. It is funny if it has not caused so much women grief, humiliation, and restriction. He insists on exclusive male authority, exclusive male leadership, rigid gender roles in ministry, etc. My roommate at this year’s CBE conference once studied under Wayne Grudem. She did so well that Wayne Grudem urged her to get a PhD in theology. She asked him: What can I do with a PhD in theology? He said: teach Sunday School (children’s, of course). I dont need a PhD to teach childrens’ sunday school. After awhile, he said: you can write a book under the authority of a man. Aaron, do you see what I am getting at? this position is ridiculous! This poor woman also goes to John Piper’s church. When she told John Piper she has felt this strong calling from God to be a full time minister. that she has the gift of teaching and preaching, John Piper said to her: you have the right desire, but the wrong gender. Would you agree with John Piper?
        We live in a multi media society. We don’t go to church to listen to sermons only. Aaron, would you tell men they cannot read a theology book written by a woman? since men are not to learn from women from the pulpit. Can they learn from women away from that pc. of sacred furniture?
        Men can learn from women, agreed? women can learn from men? absolutely, so what’s the gender role here? men have more authority? do you see the problem here?
        Don’t come back too soon with party line answers. I have spent years learning. This change of heart will not come to you in a few hours. I grew up in a Baptist church. I am not a minister, nor an elder, nor aspire to any one of these positions, but God led me to see how wrong the church is in teaching this, and I speak up whenever I can. If I can be instrumental in leading just one person to see the light, I have done God’s work. I do not see this as a secondary issue. When one gender claims to be exclusively God’s agent, it is not a secondary issue. I hope sexism goes the way of racism.

  9. Hi Aaron,

    What you are doing is like wearing “blue lenses” when reading the Bible, altho it may not appear to be the case from where you sit. I hope reading and meditating on some of the excellent literature mentioned here will help you see that. I used to wear blue lenses myself, but taking them off is wonderful.

  10. Pingback: Seeking the Truth! | Simply Truth

  11. Can a woman teach men? 2 King 22. 8f. King Josiah sent the High Priest Hilkiah to “go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THIS BOOK that has been found”. So Hilkiah brings the book to Huldah, a prophetess and wife of Shallum. Huldah interpreted the words in the book and delivered a prophetic message to Hilkiah, the high priest, for King Josiah. SO, male leaders took Scripture to a woman to find out what it meant. SO, she is teaching men Scriptures, not only ordinary men, but men in high positions. God spoke to the men through a woman. Huldah speaks for God: “tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord ‘this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:…….” Men holding a position of spiritual authority seeking spiritual direction from a woman. They even receive a blessing from the Lord because they listened. Luckily, these men never heard of the teaching that there is to be hierarchy in the body of Christ, that spiritual authority is only given to men, etc. etc. I would look at what God did here and any interpretation of Scriptures that so blatantly contradicts with God’s action is wrong.

    • Mabel, on this note you are applying an instance from the Old Testament (when there was no Church) to a New Testament teaching that is to apply to the Church, the body of Christ, of which is our present institution (Matt. 16:18).

      • Yes, but the idea that a woman can teach men with spiritual authority in the OT can only mean that she can do it in the NT, as Jesus now ushered in a New Covenant with more freedom, not with less, with more spiritual gifting, not with less, with more freedom, not with less, etc. The thinking is, God cannot mandate something that he himself was guilty of. In the NT, Priscilla definitely taught with spiritual authority. In a culture that husbands are unquestionably the patriarchs, it is remarkable that her name goes first in 4 out of 6 times the 2 were mentioned together.

  12. Ok, fellas, let me tell you all how it is. 1Timothy 3 gives the qualifications for deacons. There are only two.

    No 1 is that they be a Christian of good moral character and raising their families that way.
    No 2 is for the one choosing a deacon and tells them to have compassion. They not to choose a man who has many wives and kids because that would be overburdening this man to have to take care of another family.

    Now you know. This is a scripture of qualifications and compassion.

    It is not about a man being married, or being divorced, and it has nothing to do with gender.

    Why would it be anything else?

  13. Look at 1 Timothy 3 with an open mind. Is there any other place where Paul speaks to men with many wives? He is not condemning them for having more than one wife. I would, but Paul is not. So why does he bring up the fact that they must be husbands of one wife?

    Churches for years have said it is because Paul means that only men can be deacons. Then they decided that it meant men who have been divorced can’t be a deacon. Many churches allow men who have never married to be a deacon. They have all concentrated on the gender of the deacon, and not what Paul was really saying.

    What does gender have to do with being a deacon? Nothing. Paul is not condemning them for multiple wives, or for divorcing. So there must be some other reason.

    The Bible is for people. Read Matthew 23 and see where the religious men were judged by Jesus for this rigid adherence of the law, and for overlooking the needs of the people. We are still overlooking the needs of the people when we insist that this scripture is about men only being deacons.

    Compassion is the reason. These men already have enough on their plate so don’t add to their burden.

    • Shirley,

      Thanks for the comment. On 1Tim 3 you are misinterpreting what Paul is saying because your English translation does not say what was really said. The greek translation for “husband of one wife” is “one-woman man” and is speaking more to the moral and sexual purity of the man.

      Second, on your point of rigid adherence to the law: are we to pick and choose what we obey? Can we say to single/married men and women, “sleep with whomever you want” and choose to ignore the commandments to not do so? Where is this line drawn? Why are verses stating that women are not to have authority over man allowed to be ignored, but other commands are not?

      • Aaron,

        You said: “Why are verses stating that women are not to have authority over man allowed to be ignored, but other commands are not?”

        They are not being ignored. Check my first post and you will see a reference to this. I said: ” To understand the problems with 1 Tim 2: 11-15 I recommend reading the following study: “I Suffer Not a Woman” by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger. This study focuses on 1 Tim 2:11-15. It is based in the historical information available and includes a good deal of information about the earliest gnostic beliefs that were talked about by Paul in his letter to Timothy.”

        The word “authentein” is only used one time in the NT and It has historically been a very poorly understood word with only a few known occurences in historical writings until the 1970’s when a large store of writings was discovered and more useages of “authentien” were found.

        Also, the translation of 1 Tim 2:11-15 must be viewed in its context to what was occuring in the Ephesus church at the time, which was an infiltration of the earliest forms of gnostic teaching. Paul had warned the Ephesian church elders of this about 2 years before writing 1 Timothy. This is addressed in the study I referred you to. Based in this principle a correct and better translation of these verses on authority and silence is similar to this translation taken from the NT translation called “The Source”:
        1 Tim 2:11- A woman must learn and she is to learn without causing a fuss and be supportive in everything. 12 I most certainly do not grant authority to a woman to teach that she is the originator of a man -rather, she is not to cause a fuss – 13 for Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman made a mistake as she was beguiled, 15 and she will be saved by means of the Birth of the Child if they continue to be trustworthy, loving and holy and have good sense.

        To understand what Paul is referring to in vrs 12 ff requires some understanding of paganistic and early gnostic beliefs of the mid 60’s AD and the customs in Epesus at the time. Paul is telling Timothy that he does not want women to teach with “authentein” that man originated from woman. That was a popular belief in Ephesus of the time period that had apparently worked its way into church teaching. Another understanding of verse 15 is as a reference to the gnostic practice of not being desirable to have children and that by having children, the woman will be going against the Gnostic practice through child birth.

        Several scholars I have read address “authentein” in this manner and this view is apparently slowly starting take hold. However, before the discovery of the manuscripts and the research done by the Kroegers, which was published in 1992, your version was the only one available that I am aware of, however incorrect it might be.

        I hope this has been food for thought.

        Grace to you and peace.


  14. Ah, Aaron. Paul has already addressed morality, so he is not doing it here. When he says “one woman man” he is talking about men who have more than one wife, legally because it was legal. Still is legal for Jews to have more than one wife. That law was never rescinded. It changed in practice because of Christians.

    Nobody is talking about sleeping with whoever you want. The discussion here is whether or women can be deacons. Baptist churches and others say they can’t because of these scriptures which say “husband of wife.” We have refused to look beyond and see why Paul would insist on a man having only one wife. It has nothing to do with sexual relations. It is because these Christians should have compassion on a man who has more than one wife, and give the responsibility of taking on charity to widows and kids, to some man who has only one wife.

    We have chosen to be narrow minded in this and have chosen to see it only as qualifying men to be deacons.

    • I am aware that we are not talking about promiscuous sexual behavior. You did not answer my question though: “on your point of rigid adherence to the law: are we to pick and choose what we obey? Can we say to single/married men and women,’sleep with whomever you want’ and choose to ignore the commandments to not do so? Where is this line drawn? Why are verses stating that women are not to have authority over man allowed to be ignored, but other commands are not?”

  15. Aaron,
    On the term “one-woman man” of “husband of one wife” found in 1 Tim 3:

    Are you aware that a Bible scholar has reported that Ephesus contains gravestones with Greek “mias gunaikos andra” applying to both men and women, Jewish and non-Jewish? It seems it was a generic term for “faithful spouse”. The details are in “Women and Men: In the Light of Eden” by Bruce Fleming, available at Amazon.

  16. Jesus spoke to simple people. Ok, so they knew Greek, or Hebrew, which I don’t. But the religious leaders had complicated their religion so much that they themselves couldn’t follow it, and devised all manner of ways to get around it. Our churches have done the same thing. You are doing these same things in these discussions about what a woman can’t do. None of these discussions are about what a man can’t do.

    It simply doesn’t make sense that a Book about the love of God would limit women. Paul says that without women, none of us would be here. God did not make a lesser human being to mate with men. He made a fully spiritual human being to be equal with her mate.

    Those men of you in this disccusion who feel that their wives are not qualified fully to serve God in all capacities have my sympathy. That means that you have decided to accept less than what God offered you. He offers you a complete woman – your equal, your helpmeet – to stand beside you while you raise your children, and in later years to be beside you as you grow older. That is the beautiful design that God made. Open your eyes and look at the woman beside you and thank God that he gave you this complete person.

    • I actually agree with you, mam. However, I don’t think that those who hold to the Complementarian interpretation necessarily want to dominate women, etc. Some, sure. Those who love the Lord do not believe that this teaches that women are inferior or lesser, just that the Lord designated a different role. Jesus submits to the Father voluntarily, but He is equal to Him.

      Clearly, in the OT women could not be in the Temple as priestesses because of their menstrual cycle (unclean). That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love them. In the same way, people who were cripple could not serve. God still loves them, but was teaching about His absolute holiness through the priesthood.

      And I have seen plenty of discussions about what men cannot do. They are not supposed to lord it over their wives, etc.

  17. How interesting! Peasants’ roles in life was to serve nobility (their betters), and complementarians teach that women’s roles in life is to also serve their betters. I had to chuckle about what men cannot do: They are not supposed to lord it over their wives. What a restriction! Where is that in the church by-laws? Who wrote that one down and every time a woman joins the church says: “husbands, don’t lord it over her.”

    You;ve got to read my book Dethroning Male Headship when it comes out in the spring. I think much of it is directed at you. Meanwhile, give some serious thought as to why God would choose men over women. God who is no respecter of persons, seems to have a definite superior love for men and you know that is not true.

    So women are to be compared to cripples because they have a female body. And, sonny, if it weren’t for women’s menstrual cycles, you wouldn’t be here. You might need to remember that “not supposed to lord it over women” but then the whole complementarian belief would crumble.

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