A quick list of examples where God treated women better than any other culture did until “Bible Times”:
1. In 1 Cor 7:3-5, Paul talks about how couples shouldn’t deprive each other of physical intimacy. Paul says that a woman should give her body to her husband (which would have been normal in that culture). But the profound thing was that a man was to consider the needs of his wife as well. Intimacy wasn’t to be a selfish act where a woman is treated like an object of pleasure, but rather two people selflessly focusing on the other.
2. Eph. 5:22 tells a woman to be subject to her husband, but 21 says for EVERYONE to be subject to each other. Which would include the husband to the wife. The word submit means voluntary cooperation. Also, 25 and following talks about husbands treating wives as Christ treated the church (Jesus served the church, died for it, gave all he had to it, etc.).
3. Women had spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12-14). This was different than most other religions.
4. Women prophecied (Which is generally the same thing as preaching… I’ll give references below).
5. Some of Jesus’ last words on the cross and first words after the resurrection were to a woman.
6. Gal. 3:28 says that God looks at men and women the same.
7. Women usually weren’t considered property owners in that time, but the apostles would say things like “home of Aquila AND Pricilla.”
8. The story of Mary and Martha, where Martha was cleaning, and Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet as He was teaching, is profound because women usually weren’t allowed to learn from a rabbi (also, look at John 4 with the woman at the well).
9. Luke 8 says that women financially supported Jesus’ ministry.
10. Women were the first evangelists after the resurrection (the “Marys” at the tomb).
11. Women were made equal to men, not second-rate citizens (Gen. 1:27). In fact, the absence of women in the world was the first thing God said wasn’t “very good.” So he gave women as equal helpers (Gen 2). The word “helper” doesn’t mean slave or servant. It is used most often in the old testament to talk about God. It means a fitting companion. The problem of women being mistreated wasn’t until Gen. 3 when sin (aka: selfishness) entered the world. God’s original plan was always to treat women as a gift to be treasured and appreciated.
Women preachers and leaders in the Bible:
1. Miriam Moses’ sister in Ex. 15:20-21
2. Deborah in Judges 4:4-5
3. Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14
5. Joel 2 mentions that when the Holy Spirit comes, women will preach.
6. Anna in Luke 2:36-38
7. Mary, Jesus’ mom in Luke 1
8. Woman at well in John 4
9. Women who first witnessed Jesus after He rose from the grave.
10. Acts 2 mentions Joel 2 again in verses 17-18
11. Philip had 4 preacher daughters in Acts 21:9
12. Romans 16 Phoebe was a deacon and financial supporter of Paul’s ministry (possibly elder?).
13. Romans 16 Junias was some sort of apostle.
14. 1 Cor. 11:5 says that women were preaching and praying in the public church setting.
15. 1 Tim 3:11 possibly suggests women deacons.
Only 3 verses in all Scripture say anything that “seems” negative against women as leading figures:
1. Gen. 3 Eve was told to be under her husband’s leadership (leadership means influence), not the leadership of EVERY man.
2. 1 Cor. 14:34-36 says that women are to be silent in the church (the assembly) as the “law” says. However, there is no NT or OT law that says that up until this point, so the “law” must be in reference to culture, local laws about women speaking publicly, or maybe Jewish tradition. They were used to priestesses for the goddess Aphrodite in the city of Corinth. This would contribute to the context as well. We should note that Paul often mentions things the Corinthians say or questions they had (from their previous letter, 7:1) and then explains how those things are wrong/misunderstood and gives answers to their questions. For instance, when he says, “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful,” he is stating an answer to something wrong they are teaching. Another example is when he is talking about head coverings in chapter 11. He said women should wear coverings, and then he contradicted that and said that there isn’t a command in the church for such a thing and that while man was made first, man comes from woman and are one under Christ. He does this often. Notice in 14:34-36 how he does something similar. He says for woman to be quiet, and then he basically says, “what are you talking about? The Gospel (resurrection news) originally came out of woman’s mouth, and it is for both man and woman.” It is also worth noting that the Greek word for “woman” also means “wife,” depending on the context. It has to mean “wives” because it mentions husbands. And by saying “the” or “those” women, it means that he is talking about specific women. It is also worth remembering that three chapters earlier in 11:5, women were publicly preaching and praying publically. Is Paul being inconsistent? I don’t think so. Either there are certain women who are causing trouble who needed to be quiet until they learned to behave, or Paul was telling the church at Corinth that while THEY say “women should be quiet as the law says,” he thinks the men should remember who preached the Gospel first (the “Marys”…women). Admittedly, there is a lot we don’t know, but either these things are right, or Paul is being inconsistent.
3. Then 1 Tim. 2:11-12 says that women need to be submissive and quiet in the church. Verse 8 says for men to pray in “every place,” but I do not see men literally praying every single place they go. It also says for men to always lift holy hands and not be angry, but I see men become angry, and I don’t literally see men walking around lifting hands. Verse 9 tells women not to wear nice clothes or things that aren’t cheap, they should never tie up or braid their hair or wear any kind of jewelry, but almost every woman in the church does the complete opposite of this. Then we get to verses 11-12, and we tell women to shut up. It doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems very inconsistent. Why is one verse either about culture or metaphor, and the other verse in the same context is not cultural or metaphorical? It is important to recognize that the word “quiet” in verses 11 & 12 is the same word used earlier in the same chapter in verse 2 where Paul says to live “quiet lives.” He does not mean to literally walk around all your life without saying a word. The word means peaceful, like “quiet waters.” It is likewise important that the word for “take authority” means to dominate in Greek, which means to rule over or take full control. Paul even told the elders not to do this in a similar way in 1 Peter 5:2-3. So, in other words, he is saying not to teach by taking full control and lording over a man. It doesn’t make sense for him to say this unless women were already trying to do this. He then reminds the particular women that Eve sinned first. Why would he do this? Because 1 Timothy was written by Paul to Timothy while he was evangelizing with the church in Ephesus. Ephesus is the capital of the Greek goddess Artemis (AKA Diana), who was the virgin goddess of fertility and beauty. Women were some of the leaders in the temples, and they would worship her and dress in expensive and extravagant ways. If they pleased her, she would protect them while they give birth. Many new converts would mix the two religions out of fear of losing their children or their own lives. Paul tells them not to dress in those ways but find beauty on the inside. He tells them not to spread this false teaching around but that, if it was God’s will, he will save them through childbearing, not a false god. Proof of women spreading this false teaching is in 1 Timothy 4:7 and 5:13. Really, the whole letter is about false teaching and the mixing of Christianity and other religions. Paul once again seemed to be talking about specific women who were in a city where female gods were the authority. Even in 1 Cor. 14, the god of that city was Aphrodite, the goddess of physical love. The context determines the meaning. The Bible only gives us one side of the conversation.
· Only two passages in the whole Bible say anything against women preachers/deacons while dozens of passages say otherwise, even in the NT. And the two passages that do say something against it are most likely talking about specific contexts.
· Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:11, and church history all teach that there were women deacons. Deacon just means a servant or minister over a particular area of ministry. The word necessarily carries authority with it. Preachers don’t have much authority either. They are teachers and influencers. The only ones with anything that looks like “authority” are elders, and even they are told not to rule over people but to lead and show their authority by example and through wisdom and prayer.
· Scripture doesn’t just tell women to be submissive but for us all as Christians to be submissive to each other (Ephesians 5).
· I am not convinced that the early church had women elders (that said, I do not believe it is a “salvation issue” for someone to disagree with me because there are some good arguments for it). But there is proof that there were women preachers, deacons, and women saying public prayers in the church assembly from the very beginning.
· If a woman wanted to publicly be a deacon/minister, to pray, or to speak in some way in the church setting, all she would need to do is talk with her elders about it, and then she would be free to do so.