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    A Look at Female Ministerial Rôles

    Second Edition, 2013


    A great many misconceptions exist in the Christian community over the ministerial rôle of women in the Body of Messiah owing to faulty Bible translations and the fact that this ministry was still evolving at the time the NT was written.

    Most Christians agree that women were full and active members of the Messianic Community (1 Cor.11:4-5; 14:33-35; Col.3:18-19; Tit.2:1-10) but are disunited on their exact functions. The submissive relationship of wives to their husbands is clearly spelled out (1 Pet.3:1-7), underlining gender differences which needed to be recognised for healthy relations between the sexes. Such did not, however, give any licence for male chauvanism, nor its militant opposite, feminism.

    Men and Women are Equal but Different

    According to the apostle Paul, there are no distinctions between men and women in Messiah (Gal.3:28). His thesis is that there must be respect for gender differences and that external differences of appearance should be maintained. A man should never be mistaken for a man, or a man for a woman. No man can bear a child and no woman can assume the rôle of a husband. These are basic teachings on which Paul insists. The differences between men and women that exist do so because Yahweh created them; but in spite of differences, quality of the sexes must be maintained and emphasised. They are "join heirs of the grace of life" (1 Pet.3:7) -- in no way are they inferior to men in the sight of Elohim (God).

    On the other hand, it must be observed that Yahweh expects of each one the performance of duty as per his or her Yahweh-given endowments. Often in the Scriptures we find Paul recognising women as friends and co-workers in the Besorah (Gospel) (Rom.16:1-4). Paul does not differentiate between Priscilla and her husband Aquila. Rather, he calls them by the same name, sunergos, 'fellow workers' or 'companions in labour'. He does not distinguish between the work each can do because one is male and the other female. Later on in Rom.16:21, he calls Timothy by the same name, sunergos. In Phil.23 he calls all men who were his co-workers, among whom was Luke, by the same name.

    Bad Bible Translations and Cultural Prejudice

    The first real problem to this idyllic picture of co-ministry comes in a poor rendition of 1 Cor.14:33-36, of which the RSV is fairly representative:

      "..God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches {local assemblies} of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, even as the Law {Torah} says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in Church".

    That women were not allowed to speak in assemblies is an odd proposition given they were recognised teachers of the Besorah (Gospel). Are we to assume that they were only allowed to teach outside the assembly hall? This is unlikely since the word for 'assembly' (ekklésia) does not mean a building (there weren't any at this time -- they were mostly house fellowships) but the 'community or fellowship of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones)'. Following English translations of the NT logically, then, women were not allowed to teach the community of believers at all. In short, they were not allowed to teach.

    This cannot be correct. The context of 1 Cor.14 is Paul's remarks about another controversial topic in the Messianic community, namely prophecy and tongue-speaking which had got out of hand. Thus when we ask ourselves the question: "Does the Apostle Paul forbid women to speak at all or pray and prophecy in the Messianic Community (Church)?" We must relate it to what has gone before in the speaking of an unknown tongue which was evidently the practice at Corinth.

    The Delphic Oracle

      "Across the bay from Corinth was Delphi, Greece's most famous centre of oracles. It is impossible that what was happening in Delphi did not affect the Corinthians since intercommerce was common. As in many other cities, there was also a Corinthian treasury in Delphi. Those who wished to consult the Delphic oracle first sacrificed a sheep, goat, boar or other animal, after which, if the omens were favourable, they went into the room adjoining the Adyton or inner shrine.

      "It is interesting that Paul in 1 Cor.8 deals with sacrifices to idols, no doubt influenced by these Delphic sacrifices. At the inner shrine they waited their turn, which was determined by lot unless they had received from the Delphians the promanteia, or prior right of consultation. No women were admitted. They handed in questions written on leaden tablets, many of which have been discovered. The pythia, or priestess (note it was a priestess, not a priest) who delivered the oracle was a peasant woman over 50 years of age. At the height of the oracle's fame, there were three priestesses. After purifying herself in the Castalian fountain (compare with Christian baptism), drinking the water of the Kassotis (note the parallelism in 1 Cor.12:13: "and we all drank of one Ruach (Spirit)"), and eating a laurel leaf, she took her seat upon a tripod which was placed over the chasm in the Adyton. Intoxicated by the fumes from the chasm, she uttered incoherent sounds which were interpreted (note both speaking in an unknown tongue and the interpretation of it) in hexamter verse by a waiting poet. The interpretation, which was always obscure and frequently equivocal, was handed over to the inquirer who usually returned home more mystified than when he had come" (Stuart Rossiter, Greece, London, Ernest Benn Ltd., p.400).

    What Paul wrote in 1 Cor.14:33-40 therefore, was undoubtedly influenced by this practice and the predominant participation of women at the oracles of Delphi. They were not allowed to go into the inner shrine, but it was a woman who was the priestess. Is it any wonder that Paul reacted to a practice so closely related to such paganism within the Messianic Community (Church)?

    On Hair and Head-Coverings

    Paul's comments in 1 Cor.11:2-16 in regard to the covering of the women's head were a reaction to the existence of a thousand priestesses in the Temple of Aphrodite on Acrocorinth. These priestesses, or temple prostitutes, were commonly seen without any covering on their heads and having short hair, unbecoming to a modest woman of those days. Paul's concern, therefore, was that Christian women should never allow themselves to be viewed in any way resembling those of low moral stature. It is interesting that in our day, where short hair and uncovered heads are often associated with feminism, that Yahweh should once again seek to re-affirm Paul's teaching that women cover their heads at certain times as a token of their submission to their husbands (see OB 6:2:11).

    In 1 Cor.11:3,16 Paul's concern is that a woman in worship should very clearly be identified as a moral woman, if by nothing else than the long hair or the covering of her head. After all, if one of the prostitutes became saved, the only way she should enter an assembly of believers was to wear a covering (Greek peribolaion) instead of long hair which would take a while to grow. This was the practice particularly in Corinth in view of the evil behaviour which was so nearby at Acrocorinth. It was good custom that had local meaning, just as it has today though in a different (but related) context, and it agreed with the Israelite practice. Why flaunt it and produce quarreling in the local assemblies? This was Paul's argument.

    This passage becomes clearer if we examine the conclusion in v.16: "But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the local assemblies (churches) of Elohim (God)". Good customs that are meaningful locally and harmonise with Torah practice ought not to be resisted, but to be kept for what they symbolise. This was the general principle enunciated in 1 Cor.11:2-16 and similarly in 14:33-40, but this time not in regard to Acrocorinth, but in regard to Delphi. "A priestess who speaks incoherently and leads men astray as in Delphi?", we ask ourselves. "Never!" That was, we maintain, Paul's point-of-view.

    The Tongues Question

    The main verse that constitutes the foundation of all that Paul says in 1 Cor.14 is v.14: "For Elohim (God) is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the local assemblies of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones)." Actually, the word "author" does not occur in the Greek text. It simply states that He is not an Elohim (God) of confusion. The interpreter of the oracles at Delphi always gave an ambiguous interpretation which would please the recipient and never expose the priestess who gave it, whereas Yahweh does not speak to confuse men. The verse applies to all that preceded it and all that follows it concerning the speaking of women in the assemblies. Paul makes it clear that in all the other assemblies, there was no confusion such as there was in the Corinthian Congregation to which he was writing. The peace in the other churches and the lack of confusion was due to the fact that there was not the same practice of speaking in an unknown tongue as the Corinthians, perhaps allowing their women to imitate the Delphic priestess. The prohibition of women speaking in assemblies may have come from such practices where the women, yielding themselves to the 'fallen mother', opened themselves up to subtle forms of demon-possession and began to exert authority over the men.

    Another very important instruction of Paul is found in vv.39-40, closing this total discussion that actually begins with 1 Corinthians 12. Paul's conclusion: "Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophecy," or be zealous about prophesying. This is the present infinitive which refers to constantly giving forth the Davar Elohim (Word of God). Because there was confusion among them, it didn't mean that they should stop teaching or witnessing. "And to speak in tongues, do not prohibit". Again, it is in the present imperative, koluete, meaning: "When a person does not speak our own language, do not forbid him to minister in his own language which can be interpreted." In v.40, Paul closes by saying: "Let all things be done decently and in order." Again, the imperative is ginomai, which means 'to let it be continuously and repetitively.' This as a principle applies to all the local assemblies although it was born out of a practice exisiting only in Corinth. Therefore his instructions to the Corinthians from vv.34-38 are to be applied among all the local assemblies.

    Silent Women in Messianic Community?

    When Paul says in v.24: "Your women in the local assemblies, let them be silent", it was not an instruction to the men in general in any assembly not to permit any women to speak, but for husbands to guide and teach their own wives lest they produce confusion and disturbance in a meeting, particularly with the exercise of a gift that they thought they had and were so anxious to externalise; namely, speaking in an unknown tongue as was the manner of the Delphic priestesses. The verb lalein, the infinitive of laleo and not lego is because laleo refers to the mere utterance of sounds without the speaker necessarily knowing what he is saying or others understanding. Lego on the other hand is saying something that is produced of one's thought.

    Naturally no thinking person will speak without others understanding him. Therefore, Paul uses laleo because among the Corinthians stress was placed upon the languages themselves and not necessarily the content of the speech involved, which is, incidentally, just what many charismatic evangelical churches do today. Since Paul in 1 Cor.11:5 assumes that a woman prays or prophesies, and this cannot refer to a restricted group, then the world laleo in 1 Cor.14: 34-35, if taken to be speaking generally, would contradict 1 Cor.11:5. There can be no contradiction in what Paul says, even as there is no contradiction in what he says about himself speaking in languages more then them all and at the same time telling them in v.23 that if a stranger came and heard them speak all at once in their unknown tongue, he would think they were all mad or maniacs. Paul would not include himself as a maniac!

    In v.18 he speaks of his knowledge of various languages. In v.19 he says he would rather speak five understandable words than 10,000 which were not understood. Paul would have someone translate his words if it were necessary. This was the orderly procedure in communicating a message. He refers to the same thing exactly in 1 Corinthians 14:34-38. The word laleo in 1 Corinthians 14:34 must mean to speak either in many languages together, which brings confusion, instead of speaking in one language which the people understood either directly or by translation, or speaking in an unknown tongue which people could not understand. It cannot mean to speak with understanding and being understood.

    One cannot take Paul's indirect imperative in 1 Corinthians 13:34: "Let your women keep silence in the local assemblies" as absolute. It must be taken in conjunction with what follows: "for it is not permitted unto them to speak." The word "speak" as I explained is lalein which should be taken to mean "uttering sounds that are incoherent and which are not understood by others." Paul says that instead of having anything like that, it is better to have silence.

    Paul uses the same word for "keeping silence" in v.28 when a man speaks in an unknown tongue without an interpreter. Also the same imperative sigato, "let him keep silent", is used in v.30, "If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace." Actually that phrase, "let him hold his peace" (in the KJV) is the same word meaning as, "let him keep silent". That is a man, not a woman. What Paul is saying is that only one man must speak at a time. If two speak at once, there will be confusion. That "let him keep silent" is, therefore, qualified even as the sigatosan of v.34 in the case of the woman.

    Conditional Silence for All

    The verb sigao is used by Homer only in the imperative with the meaning of "hush, be still". The imperatives here indicate linear action, i.e. it is not something that has a continuous effect but the action can be thought of as a line or line of dots. Every time one of these three actions appear on the scene during a worship service, the person should hush, be it a man or woman. In the first two instances it concerns men and in the last women: (1) If a man speaks in an unknown language without anyone interpreting into a language that others can understand; (2) If a man speaks and someone else gets up to speak; and (3) If a woman begins to act like Delphic priestesses speaking in an unknown tongue. Under no circumstances does the injunction of Paul in 1 Cor.14:34 indicate that women should not utter a word at any time during the assembly service. It is not men versus women, or women versus men, but it is confusion versus order. It makes no difference who causes the confusion. It is as bad if produced by men as it is when produced by women.

    Of Women and Wives

    Furthermore, the word gunaikes should not be translated as "women" in its genetic sense, but as "wives". It is wives who should submit (Gk. hupotassomai) to their own husbands (Gk. andras). The whole argument is not the subjection of women to men in general, but of wives to their own husbands in the family unit as ordained by Yahweh.

    Paul states the principle that it was the duty of husbands to restrain their own wives from such displays. It does not state that a man should restrain the wife of another. It is a shame for a woman to bring confusion into the local assembly (v.35), even as it is for any man to do so. Whenever Paul speaks of submissiveness on the part of a woman, it is always on the part of a wife to her own husband. It does not imply that a woman, simply because she is a woman, must be submissive to any man simply because he is a man.

    It is worth, at this juncture, to take a look at another passage in Paul's letter to Titus: "...as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. Bid the older men to be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in emunah (faith), in ahavah (love), in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the Davar Elohim (Word of God) may not be discredited" (Tit.2:1-5, RSV).

    Avoiding Sexual temptation

    Here Paul writes to Titus and tells him that the older women should teach the younger women. In v.4 the English says, "that they may teach the young women to be sober" (KJV). In Greek the verb sophronizo is used. It means to be 'sober minded' or to 'voluntarily place limitations on their own freedom'. And why should the older women teach the younger women? Because they are in a better position to deal with their problems than men, quite apart from the fact that a male minister might be compromised and give the appearance of evil. Here again we see Paul teaching that women should be good teachers or "teachers of good things." The word sophronas, the adjective of sophronzio, is used in v.1 and also in v.5. Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men (v.2) also also older women (v.3). But when it comes to younger women, he tells them to have the older women whom Titus instructs to be good teachers among younger women. In the NCAY, fully organised local assemblies have their own women's priesthood councils where the "younger" women (in the Ruach/Spirit) are taught by those who are "older". Women ministers are able to bring a ministry not always possible by men. Their ministry also prescribes compromising situations where the appearance of evil might be seen or where temptation may get the better of self-control. Clearly a similar practice obtained in the New Testament assemblies.

    Paul was certainly circumspect in regard to permitting himself to be found in the company of a sister in Yahweh, not because he hated women, but because he never wanted to allow himself to give the appearance of evil or (possibly) fall into temptation. The translation of 1 Cor.9:5 says: "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and brothers of the Lord and Cephas {Peter}?" (RSV). The basic generic meaning of gune is "woman" and not "wife" which suggests that the brethren also took sisters with them when performing pastoral duties, though more than likely these were their own wives. Clearly it is not evil for a man to take another man's wife, or an unmarried woman, with him on Kingdom business (as the other apostles did). But Paul wishes us to be circumspect so as not to give the enemies of the Messianic Community opportunity to lay false charges of impropriety or unchastity.

    But equally it is possible that for spiritually immature ministers a female companion might be too great a temptation for him and there is no doubt in the history of Christianity that much evil has followed where the weak have been overcome by their passions and marriages have been destroyed as a result. Therefore Paul, as does this community, emphasises the need to safeguard both the young women and men teachers. And whilst a spiritual leader has the authority to do so, it is best to follow Paul's example and avoid such temptation by appointing older, spiritual women to such tasks, as occurs in our community where such responsibility falls to the women's priesthood councils.

      "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have deleivered them to you. Now I want you to understand that the head of every man is Messiah, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Messiah is Elohim (God). Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head, but any woman who prays or prophsies with her head unveiled dishonours her head -- it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of Elolhim (God); but the woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the malakim (angels). (Nevertheless, in the Master woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman. And all things are from Elohim (God).) Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to Elohim (God) with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long her, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognise no other practice, nor do the assemblies of Elohim (God)" (1 Cor.11:2-16, RSV).

    The Custom of Head-Covering

    We come here to another important passage of Paul's concerning the relationship of women to men. As we have already seen, Paul is writing here to the Corinthian Christians who, living in Greece, found their custom of complying with Greek traditions in harmony with fundamentally important spiritual principles. Men had their heads uncovered and the women covered theirs which, as was the practice before the Talmudic Rabbis changed the practice - see our articles on Headcoverings. The question which faced the Corinthians was what to do with the existing custom of their day. Paul's advice is examine the symbolism of the custom and to make sure it harmonises with Torah. If it has nothing that is contrary to the Davar Elohim (God's Word) or order in creation, and it enhances existing emet (truth), accept it. Do not allow contentions to arise regarding customs which symbolise something that is proper (vv.13,16).

    In this case, the Greeks believed that by not covering their heads, the men declared their independence as contrasted to the slaves who had to cover themselves. The women covered themselves, symbolising the protectiveness that they enjoyed from their husbands. Paul intimated that there is nothing wrong in this, for in creation Yahweh created man, and from man there came the woman. That is good as far as it goes, but remember that man also, in spite of the fact that he prays without a covering, still has a Head, and that is Messiah (v.3). In v.11, however, he equates both man and woman in Yah'shua (Jesus) as is also stressed in Gal.3:28 and 1 Pet.3:7.

    In spite of this equality in Messiah, still in creation and in the present order of things, the husband is head of the family. Yahweh made him physically and emotionally stronger than the woman in order to protect her. He ought to recognise his position as protector and show it overtly, and she should recognise her protector and abide under his care. Yahweh is responsible for the difference in the make-up of male and female, and no man (or woman) should at any time endeavour in any way to diminish the difference between the two either in physical or emotional constitution, appearance, or function of life. Since this custom of head coverings showed beautifully that which is true in creation and also in the order of things, why should the Corinthian Christians living in Greece reject the Greek custom and assume the emerging false Talmudic ones?

    The whole Scripture teaches that existing customs, as long as they are not contrary to the morals and Scripture, are to be adhered to for the sake of unity and not to be flaunted. The little phrase at the end of v.10, "because of the malakim (angels)", means that when a young woman covers her head or wears her hair like a woman it accomplishes four things:

      (1) She gives a visible attestation to her womanhood;
      (2) She shows that she recognises her husband's protectiveness and authority over her;
      (3) She does not disturb a good custom with harmonises with Torah; and
      (4) She knows that heaven is pleased by her action.

    She does what she does also "on account of the malakim (angels)". The preposition dia is better translated "on account of". Whatever we do on earth we must make sure that it also has the approval of heaven. Malakim (angels) here are, one the one hand, representitives of heaven watching the believers as per 1 Cor.11:10; and on the other, the demoninc or fallen malakim (angels) who are hereby warned not to approach the woman so-covered (because they are protected by Heaven) as they once did before the Flood when fallen Watcher malakim (angels) lusted after women, married them, and bred a race of degenerate giants through them that attempted to destroy the Messianic bloodline through the corruption of their own genes. In all of this discussion, Paul's main concern is that no woman would appear as a woman of immoral character by having short hair or a shaved head, because in this manner she dishonoured Elohim (God) and her husband's character as well as her own, and sent a signal to fallen malakim (angels) that she was 'available'.

    The general attitude of Paul is that one should not flaunt customs if such customs are good ones and Torah-compliant ones. If the acceptable code of behaviour indicates a definite distinction between the mode of dress of a man and a woman, adhere to the mode of dress which characterises one's sex. And if there is a way whereby a women and men are differentiated from the way that they care for their hair, by all means maintain that accepted distinctive demonstration.

    In our unisexual Western society the question is often not maintaining existing customs but restoring lost ones. We therefore face a problem that Paul did not need to deal with and for this the need for contemporary revelation becomes obvious. It therefore becomes important for us to emphasise the difference between the sexes in the way that we dress and to make a clear distinction between godly women and women of immorality.

    A difficult case once presented itself to Christian missionaries in an African community where women going topless was the norm and where those who covered up were regarded by the community as being women of ill repute, i.e. prostitutes. When members of this tribe converted to Messiah, the default rule imposed by the missionaries, that would have been valid, expected and normal elsewhere, caused the newly converted women considerable difficulties. Because they began to cover up they were viewed by the society in which they lived as prostitutes, causing the work of evangelism to suffer, and in the course of time leading the converts to revert back to their paganism and for the women to regain their esteem in society as women of high moral principle once again. What should have been the proper ruling by the Missionaries? In this case, the Pauline principle should have been applied, resulting in counsel to the effect that the women be allowed to continue to dress as before according to their local custom, so as not to bring shame upon their families. Outside of their local community the default rule of covering up could then reasonably and sensibily be applied. This is a perfect example of the proper use of the liberty given to believers in Messiah.

    Modesty of Dress

    In 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which we reviewed above, we looked at Paul's attitude to the way women dressed, where he is concerned about women dressing themselves modestly. There is one Greek word in v.9 which provides the clue for the interpretation of this whole difficult passage. It is the Greek word sophrosune translated as "sobriety" in the KJV. The adjective is sophronzio, and the result is demonstrated by the substantive sophronismos. There is absolutely no English equivalent to this beautiful Greek word. To make its meaning simple we should say that it is the voluntary limitation of one's freedom of thought and behaviour. The closest in English would be "sober-mindedness".

    Freedom and Headship

    The emet (truth) of the matter is that in Christianity women became free, equal to their husbands as far as the reception of salvation is concerned. The danger, however, was always present that they might misuse this new-found freedom and take it beyond the limitations that Yahweh had placed in appointing man as head over woman in the marital relationship. There can be absolutely no two people or things exactly the same. The inherant differences in people and things must be recognised by a sophron person. This is a person who recognises who he is, what he is, what he can do and cannot do, and how he must behave in certain given circumstances. The whole thesis of the apostle Paul is that women should not try to look or act like men and should not attempt to usurp the position of their husbands in the home and in the local assembly, thus maintaining the parallel of the Messianic Community as the bride of Messiah.

    This in no way implies that men are superior to women, but to function properly, everything needs a head, including a family. This is true in all relationships constituting a unit made up of varied personalities. In marriage, two (or more) people constitute a single unit, and yet in that one body there are two (or more) personalities. These two (or more), if they are going to be united, must have a headship, and that one is the man according to Yahweh's creation and ordinance. Paul's concern is that a woman should not dress in such a way as to attract or lure men other than her own husband. A Christian woman should not be a man's woman but her man's woman (1 Tim.5:9), the same as an exemplary Christian man should not be a "lady's man" (1 Tim.3:2,12; Tit.1:6).

    Submission to Husbands not Men

    The relationship in this passage is not that of women being inferior to men other than her own husband. Observe 1 Tim.2:11. It does not say "women" but "a woman", and better still, a wife, depending on the context. In this instance, since it stands in apposition to the word andros (the genitive singular of aner here meaning only "husband" and not "man" generically), it must be translated as "a wife". It is because of the mistranslations of these passages that the Christian world has had so much difficulty in understanding the proper position of a woman in the Messianic Community and at home.

    1 Tim.2:11 should be translated: "Let the wife learn [the indirect imperative of the present tense which means continuously to learn at any time and at all times] in tranquility in her positioning under." The word translated "in silence" is the noun hesuchia. In the NT it occurs in Acts 22:2, 2 Thess.3:12, and 1 Tim.2:11-12. It is unfortunate that it is translated as "silence" indicating muteness, the absence of talking. The adjective of the same word is hesuchios, and is used in 1 Tim.2:2 as is translated with the word "peaceable," and in 1 Pet.3:4, it is translated with the word "quiet". In both instances it means "tranquil, not disturbed". The verb is hesuchazo and in Lk.14:4 it is translated as "held their peace". In Lk.23:56 it is translated as "rested". In Ac.21:14 it is translated as "ceased". In 1 Thess.4:11, it is translated as "to be quiet".

    Silence vs. Tranquility

    The correct meaning, therefore, of the word hesuchia in this text is not silence, but it is "tranquility, not in a disturbing way."

    Another important word in 1 Tim.2:11 is the word hupotage, which is translated as "subjection" in the KJV. This noun is made up of the preposition hupo, "under", and the verb tasso which means "to place under proper order". There are many derivatives of this verb. What did Paul want to teach in 1 Tim.2:11? It was that a wife should display a tranquil and gentle spirit in her attempt to learn.

    We must bear in mind here that during that period only men had the privilege of education. If the word hesuchia meant complete silence, how could she ever learn or satisfy her hunger for knowledge if she did not have the opportunity to ask questions? Paul encouraged a wife to ask questions and to learn, but always to realise that her questions should not be of a nature which would disturb the peace that existed between her and her husband or which in any way would embarrass her husband in public. She should bear in mind the proper positioning of a wife in relationship to her husband, who is her head, and consequently responsible to provide for and protect her.

    Subjection to Patriarchal Headship

    "To be in subjection" means to recognise one's position in relation to one's husband. [The same principle of hierarchy extends to every other level of existence where groups of people are organised. This is especially so in the Messianic Community where the same sort of respect and submission should be shown to leaders, not because the leaders are superior (for they are equal) but because Yahweh has placed them over the people to nurchure and protect them in the emunah (faith). At the same time the Besorah (Gospel) provides various checks and measures to ensure that unrighteous dominion is not exercised over the people. As a husband rules his family in ahavah (love) and righteousness, so too should congregational ministers rule their flock].

    The two who constitute one body have one head under Messiah, and that is the husband. V.12 is again poorly translated in the Authorised Version (KJV). It should not be "But I suffer not a woman to teach", but "I suffer not a wife..." As Paul continues the discussion, the word gune is used in contrast to aner, "husband", and not "man" as the KJV has it. Gune in this verse must also be translated as "a wife" as in v.11. Paul says, "I do not permit a wife to teach." The word for "teach" in Greek is the infinitive didaskein in the present tense which means to teach continuously. The situation presented is that of the common presence of a wife and husband in the home, or the local assembly, or anywhere else. Paul says, "I do not want a wife to constantly teach." If she did, she would undermine her husband's position, giving the impression that she is the head of the husband, which is contrary to Yahweh's ordained order between husband and wife. A wife should place limitations on her own liberty in Messiah in both her dress, her adornment and her speech. Paul does not want women to be drab or mute, but to be careful lest they go beyond the bounds of accepted propriety. A wife should be characterised by sophrosune, sober mindedness, and also aido, modesty, so that her husband may not be embarrassed.

    In view of vv.9-10 we are told that she should not dress in such a way as to be the centre of attraction, but rather should express her goodness by her good works. The word translated "to usurp authority" is the Greek word authentein or authenteo, and this is the only place in the New Testament that it occurs. Interestingly enough, in Classical Greek an authentes was an autocrat, a person who ruled even to the point of committing murder. In one instance, it referred to a murder of one of the same family. The noun authentia means 'absolute sway' or 'authority'. In other words, a wife in her private or public life should not do anything to kill the position that her husband has been given by Yahweh. A wife should never be a usurper of the rôle of a husband or a father.

    In v.13 Paul explains why, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve." It is not because her husband is better or more intelligent or more worthy. It is simply the order originally ordained by Yahweh, and as such it must be respected. Two or more personalities constituting one body, one flesh, can only have one head. This is intrinsic in Yahweh's creation. The word sophrosune, again translated "sobriety", is used at the end of v.15 which indicates as previously explained, personal limitation of one's freedom.

    Paul argues in vv.14-15 that it was the woman who was deceived by Satan, but that in childbearing she has regained her position before Yahweh in equality with man. However, she must beware lest she misuse that freedom granted to her by Elohim (God) (see comments above on Tit.2:1-5; 1 Pet.3:1-4).

    Saved in Child-Bearing?

    Another area of dispute in the Christian world is what it means when Paul says a woman will be saved in childbearing. This can be especially distressing to women who cannot have children and can lead them to erroneously conclude that they cannot be saved. This is admittedly a difficult passage, if interpreted literally.

    The team that served on the translation committee of the Amplifed New Testament (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1975) make a useful contribution to an understanding of this enigmatic passage:

      "For Adam was first formed, then Eve (Gen.2:7,21-22); and it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression (Gen.3:1-6). Nevertheless (the sentence put upon women [of pain in motherhood] does not hinder their [soul's] salvation), and they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control; [saved indeed] (Gal.4:4) through the Child-bearing, that is, by the birth of the [divine] Child" (1 Tim.2:13-15, AmpV).

    This is certainly more in harmony with everything else that Paul teaches on salvation, viz. that salvation is by emunah (faith) in the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). The implication of the Amplified Version's translation is that the child-bearing is not the Christian woman's giving birth to children that saves her but Mary's birth of the Messiah-child in whom salvation is found. An understanding of this passage cannot really come about without comprehending its background, which is Gen.3:16, where Yahweh curses Eve for her disobedience in Eden: "To the woman (God) said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen.3:16, RSV).

    The Amplified Old Testament (Tanakh) puts the same passage rather more graphically: "To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of child-bearing; with spasms of distress you shall bring forth children; yet your desire and craving shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Ibid.). Eve will suffer in having labour pains with the emphasis on hard work (Hebrew 'itstsabouwn, the first "sorrow" in the KJV) and 'etseb (the second "sorrow" in the AV), with the emphasis on the actual pain of labour and giving birth. The word for children in child-bearing (in the AV, "bring forth children") is ben and specifically refers to sons.

    Moreover, this word has numerous usuages that can only be clarified by the context. Eve's "desire" (t'eshuwqah) is quite a strong word in the Hebrew and means a "stretching out after, a yearning, a longing, a desire". It only appears three times in the Old Testament and two of them refer to sexual attraction. [One is in the context of love and joy (Song 7:10) and the other (here) in the context of sin and judgment (Gen.3:16)].

    The third passage describes personified sin as being like a crouching animal ready to pounce on Cain (Gen.4:7)]. The word "husband" (Heb.'iysh) literally means a "man" or a "male", a "husband" or a "mate" and is used over 2,000 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). But as a word alone it has no meaning for 'iysh is maleness contrasted with femaleness, just as Elohim (God )is contrasted with humanity (Num.23:19).

    Finally we come to the word mashal which means "rule", "reign", "govern" or "have dominion". It is used for the first time in Gen.1:18 to indicate the prominence of the sun over daytime and the moon over the nightime and it should be seen in the same light relative to Eve being ruled by Adam. As Gen.3 is about cursing, so 1 Tim.3:15 is about blessing or salvation. They directly parallel each other. Both these passages are immeasurably deep and it would be unwise of anyone to make a superficial interpretation or exegesis. It is important that causes are separated from manifestations, symptoms from the disease.

    Finally, the Aramaic Peshitta, the original(s) which predate(s) the Greek Messianic Scriptures (New Testaments) that form the basis of English translations, gives a rather different but simpler picture, describing not so much a woman's salvation but her "life" of "life-purpose" in bringing forth children:

      "But [the woman] has life by the hand of her children, if they remain in faith and in love and ins anctification and in sobriety" (1 Tim.2:15, HRV).

    In other words, if her children show forth these fruits, then her life has not been in vain.

    Broken Relationships

    The fall is essentially about broken relationships -- first between Elohim (God) and mankind, and secondly between husband and wife. The peaceful bliss that Adam and Eve had in Eden was ruined by disobedience -- for Adam, it was to experience "sorrows", "thorns" and "sweat" (Gen.3:17-19) which are figures of speech meaning "difficulties in life". Adam's curse was not work itself (for he worked in Eden before the fall) but physical desires which made sin dominant and life difficult and complicated. This was to be paralleled by difficulties of a womanly kind for Eve. She too would have physical appetites, "cravings", which would tend to distract her from spiritual pursuits and which she would have to overcome. And because she shattered her relationship with Adam by allowing herself to be deceived, she is constantly yearning for that union she had with him in Eden before the fall, a union which was purely spiritual (not excluding the sexual but rather hearkening back to the relationship unspoiled by sin and all the selfish desires that that brings), made more complicated by physical desires in a fallen world. Within the story of Adam and Eve, and salvation in childbearing, is also a deeper root, which is of the disunion of male and female, and their desperate attempts to find union again.

    Male and female existed in perfect harmony in Eden but that unity was shattered. As everyone knows, male-female relationships are extremely complicated. Marriages are frought with difficulties, even amongst the good-intentioned, because of this fracture in the pre-fall male-female harmony resulting from perfect divine tavnith (pattern).

    Since salvation is essentially a spiritual process with physical manifestations, we should look upon "salvation in childbearing" from the spiritual angle first of all. What is to spiritually "give birth"? When we exercise faith in Yahweh, He plants seeds of light in our souls that grow and come to fruition. If they are nurchured properly through "faith, love, and holiness, with sobriety" (1 Tim.2:15), a spiritual "child" is born, and our whole nature becomes transformed through Messiah. It is female principle that is the womb, the nurchurer (whether in men or woman) and a man (or woman) can only be saved through being receiptive to Yahweh's implanting of divine seed.

    Salvation, in the context of 1 Tim.2:15, means nothing more or less that a soul working out his salvation in fear and trembling (Phil.2:12). A woman, if she is able to, is called to do many things, one of the most important of which is to bring forth physical children and to bear the pain and suffering of that process. For a man, it is to earn the family's keep. But man is no more saved by earning a wage than a woman is by having children, at least not in the primary sense. This is the meaning of Paul's words as far as this study goes, though this is the basis of an entire study by itself.

    The Qualifications of Pastors, Deacons and Deaconesses

    We conclude this study by an examination of parts of 1 Tim.3:1-13 which talks about the qualifications of pastors, deacons and deaconesses:

      "The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of a bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the married, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for Elohim's (God's) people? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into the reproach and snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the emunah (faith) with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons. The women (KJV, 'their wives') likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married, and let them manage their children well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim.3:1-13, RSV/NCV).

    Based on the studies made here an previously a better translation, based on the NIV has been made by this ministry:

      "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being the presiding elder {pastor/overseer/bishop} of a congregation (local assembly), he desires a noble task. Now the presiding elder must be above reproach, be faithful to his first wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach; abstain from alcohol, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the Messianic Community?). He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold to the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be weighed {tested} (like the presiding elders); and if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way deaconesses [NIV fn] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his first wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their emunah (faith) in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus)"(1 Tim.3:1-13, NIV/NCV).

    There has been much misunderstanding over the meaning of this passage both in regard to the married state of ministers and the fact that women are ministers also.

    Female Priesthood

    Firstly, the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) teaches that all Christians, whether male or female, hold a ministerial or priesthood calling in one degree or another, unlike the ministry or priesthood of the Old Covenant which was the sole preserve of either the Tribe of Levi or the Kings of Judah: "But you {believers} are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, Elohim's (God's) own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet.2:9, RSV).

    Secondly, the Scriptures plainly teach that deaconesses did minister in the Messianic Community, as in the case of Phoebe:

      "I {Paul} commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess [NIV fn] of the local assembly in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Master in a way worthy of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me" (Rom.16: 1-2, NIV/NCV).

    Though the NT does not definitvely say so, the close association of Deacons with Deaconesses in 1 Tim.3:1-13, the fact that all are a 'Royal Priesthood', the fact that, Paul regarded men and women as equally his 'co-labourers' or 'ministers', the fact that women were not supposed to be 'silent' in Messianic Community, the fact that all are equal in Messiah and the recipients of the same grace, the fact that women were teachers (a calling of both Elders and Deacons), and many other factors, implies that the NT Community also consisted of Eldresses. The existence of such a ministry would not do violence to any NT teaching. Accordingly this community considers the calling of Eldresses, backed by modern revelation, to be in harmony with Yahweh's will. It is readily apparent that one of the major sources of confusion in understanding Scripture is a lack of knowledge of the original languages in which they were written. In the case of the New Testament, which was written in koine Greek, it is important that sufficient scholarship is at hand to unambiguously make good translations. Since most members of this ministry are not scholars, nor have the time to be scholars, we must rely a great deal on contemporary revelation so that its time is invested in preaching the Good News of Messiah.

    A real test of contemporary revelation comes in cases such as inspired retranslations made of ancient scriptures where scholarship is always developing, giving fresh insights. We find, then, that the retranslations made by modern prophets have been vindicated by scholarship, and especially in the area of study that we have selected on this occasion, namely, women in the New Testament Messianic Community.

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    This page was created on 8 March 1997
    Updated on 21 December 2013

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