Saturday, May 02, 2009
Does the New Testament Forbid Women Teaching the Bible To Men?
The two primary passages that limit the teaching ministries of women are 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.
1 Timothy 2 forbids women from teaching men, or overseeing men. The over-all context of 1st Timothy pertains to life and ministry in the local church, since it's a "pastoral" epistle. When you put those two activities together, they add up to the role of an elder. Notice how teaching and leading are connected. Both are authoritative activities. Elders/overseers teach God's word, and they lead the church (Paul talks about this later in 1 Timothy 5, where he talks about honoring elders who rule well, especially those who work hard at teaching and preaching).
There were two reasons given why women could not teach or oversee men in the context of the Church: the order of creation, and the order of the fall. Both of these reasons are settled historical events, unchanging, and so they were not based on local culture or local circumstances. Paul also says that this was the rule for all the churches of God, so the limitation wasn't a limited response to a local problem. It wasn't that the Ephesian Christian women were uniquely obnoxious.
1 Timothy 3 goes on to make it clear that elders are men. The word episkopoi is in the masculine gender, and they're required to be a certain kind of husband and father. So women are forbidden from being elders/overseers. If you cross-reference to Paul's farewell to the Ephesians (in Acts 22, I think), you can see that "elder", "overseer", and "pastor" are synonyms. Paul called the Ephesian elders together, and told them to shepherd the flock of God, over whom the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. This is one way we know that women are not to be pastors, or called "pastor."
1 Corinthians 14 says, in the second half of the chapter, that the women were forbidden to speak, but were to remain silent, as the Law (Old Testament) says. Context is key here. Because the entire chapter is about rules for speaking tongues or speaking in prophecy, it makes sense to say that Paul is limiting speaking in tongues and prophesying. Not every kind of speaking.
And since the chapter is about conduct in the church when it gathers for worship, I conclude that women's public use of these gifts were being limited for the church gathered -- not other situations (like Phillip's four prophetess daughters, who must have exercised their gifts in other settings, or with other women). And because Paul bases this rule in the Law (= Old Testament; probably the general principle of the headship of men based in Adam, from Genesis), and makes it clear later on that every Christian church followed this rule, feminists are incorrect when they claim that Paul was just correcting a local, circumstantial problem.
Deborah and Huldah don't prove that it's okay for Christian women to teach or preach to men. This is because the New Testament is in authority over the Old Testament. The New Testament limits womens' teaching ministries.
But the fact is that this rule was also true in the Old Covenant. Deborah was a civil magistrate, not a priest. One can say that God did not consider it sinful for a godly women to serve as a civil magistrate in Israel. At least there's no evidence that God disapproved of what she was doing as a civil magistrate.
But she was a prophetess, someone will say. But prophesying didn't make someone a priest, any more than prophesying would make someone a pastor-teacher today. Bible teaching was, and is, an authoritative role. Under the Old Covenant, the teachers authority were the priests, all of whom had to be sons of Aaron. When God's Spirit came upon Deborah and inspired her to speak a prophecy, she didn't become a priest.
Someone similar in the New Testament might be Priscilla. Priscilla, along with her husband Acquila, instructed Apollos more accurately in the Gospel. But helping a Christian man understand the Gospel better, by interacting with him in one's living room, alongside one's husband, didn't make Priscilla a teacher or a pastor. She wasn't exercising an authoritative role, such as I exercise. She was being a good Christian sister.
You will also find that the Christian feminist position on this matter misapplies the verses that talk about gender equality in Christ. You'll hear feminists quoting Galatians, about hwo there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus. But the context of that verse is justification by faith.
1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 don't forbid women having preaching and teaching ministries, but they limit them. 1 Timothy 2 in particular forbids women from teaching or leading men. Another way to put this is to say that women are not to "shepherd" men, or be their "overseers", as 1 Timothy 3 goes on to discuss.
The fact that there were prophetesses in the past does not prove that women are allowed to teach or lead men, or be pastors/elders. Being a prophet didn't make you a priest (in the Old Covenant setting), and it wouldn't make you a pastor-teacher (in the New Testament setting). 1 Corinthians 14 gives several rules on how to manage the gift of prophecy; Christian women not prophesying to the mixed congregation is one of those rules.