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Female Roles in Christianity
Backward Fundamentalists?   

Q. I read your article on "Biblical Feminism" and "Women Saved Through Childbirth?" Are you some kind of backward fundamentalist-female who thinks women should be kept barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen? Are you saying women are inferior to men? Is that what 1 Timothy 2:9-15 means to you?


Scripture - God's Word

Thank you for your question. I really do understand the hostility behind your statement. The role of women in the church is something that arouses anger and heated discussions just about everywhere.

When I was in graduate school I attended a few seminars and lectures given by biblical feminists. Some were aggressive, unpleasant females who poked fun at conservative, Christian women. Others were lovely, educated speakers who shed much light on this subject.

Please understand that it is not that I believe women are inferior and subservient to men at all. Instead, I believe that women who revere the Bible need to stand up and defend Scripture as God's Holy Word given to mankind.

66 Books - 40 Authors - Written over 1600 Years

There are lots of reasons to believe the Bible is God's Word, and there are plenty of materials to study supporting this evidence. For one thing,
…"the Bible consists of 66 separate books penned by over forty authors over a period of several thousand years. Yet, it is an integrated message system. Every passage, every word, every number, and every place name is there for a specific reason. A skillful design pervades the whole"
(Missler 2002, 1).

Think about it. We can't even find consistency from the Encyclopedia Britannica! They have to change and update information from year to year. Yet, the Bible was written over a two-thousand year span and is still relevant and accurate today.

Obeying God - Not Men

People of faith who believe the Bible is God's Word feel they must obey it no matter what others think of them. As Peter and the apostles said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Paul's Dilemma about Women in the Church

Okay…now on to 1 Timothy 2. And remember that I am only dealing with this particular passage and not the entire issue of womens' roles in the church. That subject is for another day.

Italian Women

The poor apostle Paul was dealing with cultural clashes right and left as he left Jerusalem to plant churches elsewhere. For instance, the Italians (Romans) did not want their women to wear head coverings. Women were freer there. They owned businesses and engaged in careers with menfolk.

Greek Females

However, the Greeks wanted women to cover their hair if they were married. If they didn't cover their hair they were advertising that they were single and available.

Oriental Women

On the other hand, the Orientals wanted all women to cover their heads. Then, the Jews had their own traditions. They were legalists who wanted every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed. What a mess!

Paul's Instruction of Women

In the middle of this mess Paul said something rather amazing. He said that women should be "instructed." In other words, they were no longer to be treated like inferior beings. They could learn about their new faith and they were to be treated with dignity.

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness."

Then Paul went on to say that women should not teach or exercise authority over a man - rather she is to remain quiet.

Order Needed in the Houses

The likely sense of this passage is that Paul did not want women to "dominate" men. The people Paul addressed were not meeting in formal churches. They were meeting in homes. It was informal and casual.

Friends who hadn't seen one another for a few days were glad to meet with each other. They chatted, interupted the studies, and became noisy and boisterous during the partaking of communion.

As a result Paul wanted order in the house churches, women "learning" (!) quietly, and for the newly converted women not to teach or to be dominant over the men in the group.

The Amazing Teacher(ess) of a Man

We suspect this rendering to be correct because in other scriptural passages women clearly "spoke" in church! Some had the gift of prophecy. Others spoke in tongues. Indeed, one actually taught a man! Priscilla actually tutored Apollos about Christ!

It is helpful to remember that Apollos was a circumcised Hellenistic Jew who was also a traveling Greek philosopher. He needed help, and Priscilla was one of the faithful, educated ones to help do it.

Held Captive to the Bible?

At any rate, before having a biblical discussion about women's roles in the church we must first agree or understand that the Bible is God's Word. If we do not, then the argument isn't about women's authority or place in the church. Instead, the argument is whether or not we believe the Bible is truly a message from God.

Like Martin Luther, I am held captive to the Word of God. As such my challenge and yours is to do a good job of studying and learning what the Bible says - not what we want it to say.

I hope you can now see that we are not "backwards fundamentalists." But, neither do we fit in churches who have an extremely liberal interpretation or point-of-view, either.

Recommended Books&Related Articles:

Emilio, V.&K. Biblical feminism. Article category: education. Available from: RemnantReport.com.

—-Women's exemplary roles. Article category: marriage&family. Available from: RemnantReport.com.

—-Women saved through childbirth? Article category: education. Available from: RemnantReport.com.

Grudem, Wayne. 2004. Evangelical feminism&Biblical truth. Colorado Springs: Multnomah.

Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the bible in 24 hours. Nashville, TN: Nelson.

Witherington, Ben. 1988. Women in the earliest churches. NY: Cambridge University Press.

—-1990. Women and the genesis of Christianity. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Author Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins, and a Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

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