Guest post by Jon Zens: Selecting Scriptures to silence the sisters (part 1)

I am so grateful to Jon Zens and the contribution he makes to the conversation about women. Jon is a Biblical scholar who has made a long-term study of the Scriptures about women and he carries an authoritative voice on this subject. Jon is author of several books including What’s With Paul and Women? and No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood Jon is one of the contributors to the book I’m co-writing on women. Here are Jon’s insights.

 Is it right to use two passages to mute the voice of so many others?

 If a person you were talking with about Christ brought up John 14:28 – “because the Father is greater than I” – and used it to prove that He was human, not divine, what would you say? Well, one vital perspective you could rightly raise would be, “Now, wait a minute. You can’t just magnify this one text and negate the input of many other Scriptures that reveal more about the Lord.”

Unfortunately, there are those who do the same thing with regard to female functioning in the body of Christ. They cite 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as if these two passages settle once and for all that women must be silent in the ekklesia.

But is this a proper way to use Scripture? Absolutely not. One must look at all the revelation about a matter, not just a few texts. And when a person pays attention to the flow of Scripture, it is readily apparent that Christ’s daughters do not have to tape their mouths.

Consider the following overview of women’s participation in Christ’s kingdom. It is imperative for us to receive the impact of this overwhelmingly positive picture of Abraham’s daughters painted in the Scriptures. This information cannot be dismissed or forgotten when reflecting on the two “problem” passages.

  • Female prophets functioned openly and without issue in Israel.
  • Neither the Gospel narratives nor the recorded words of Jesus ever put restrictions on the ministry of women.
  • Jesus fully accepted women as his disciples and they accompanied him in his travels with the male disciples (Luke 8:1-3).  These women also supported the mission of Jesus with their own resources.  These facts may be much more significant that it initially appears.  In the first century it was unheard of for a Jewish rabbi to have female followers. Luke reports this rather matter-of-factly, yet this band of women, men and Jesus was hardly kosher to the curious onlookers as they went from city to village.
  • After Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and saw God’s salvation, Anna the prophetess “gave thanks to God and spoke of him [Jesus] to all the ones expecting redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38).  Anna did not just proclaim Christ to women, but to “all.”

To be continued… 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • JASimon

    There appears to be two ways to look at these verses; either take the two passages (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12) at face value and attempt to reinterpret all the passages that reinforce the functioning of women, or take the all the verses that encourage mutual participation and reinterpret the two limiting passages. Seeing how Jesus treated women, observing how Paul encourages everyone prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:39), and observing the numerous examples of women in leadership in the New Testament (Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, Phillip’s daughters, Euodia and Syntyche to name a few) should naturally lead to discovering other ways to interpret the two limiting passages that are consistent with the thrust of the New Testament. Understanding the circumstances surrounding the Ephesian culture as well as addressing translation problems from Greek to English help illuminates some of the problems in misinterpreting these verses.

    I highly recommend Jon Zens’ book, “What’s with Paul and Women,” an outstanding resource that enlightens the reader as to the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

    • felicitydale

      That’s a really clear way to put things. Thank you. And Jon Zens’ book is excellent.

      • JASimon

        I find that those who interpret 1 Timothy 2:11-12 woodenly accuse those who disagree as being unscriptural, failing to see that their position can be more so. Many beliefs are colored by our world view, who has been influential in our lives, our definition of church, etc. Hearing that women can teach may contradict years of teaching from a parent, pastor or institute. Unfortunately this makes the argument degrade from one of facts to one of opinion and offense. Experiencing the free-flow of Christ in a meeting of brothers and sisters only magnifies the need for mutual edification. Desiring freedom for the female half of the body of Christ is a natural extension of these experiences.

        • felicitydale

          1 Corinthians 14:26–each one has–where the list includes a teaching or word of instruction, is one of the clearest reasons to include women in everything that goes on. And I agree, once you’ve experienced this kind of open participation meeting on a regular basis for a while, it only makes sense to include women fully.

  • kenneth dawson

    the actual real reason why people say females cant teach men is because of that saying in scripture about eve being deceived by satan–so they assume that men cant be deceived by men?–its like I used to tell catholics who insisted that the pope was sinless–I told them lets put the pope on a deserted island and I will hire 10 good looking prostitutes and offer them 10 million if they can seduce him

    • felicitydale

      Interesting thought!

  • jeremiah

    well I do agree that we need to listen to all of scripture on a topic and not just one or two. I think that as a first introduction or part one of a topical discussion it would be more inviting to genuine discussion to due without the accusational tone of the opening sentence and the following one of taping shut the mouths of the daughters of God.

    I look forward to what is to come, we must humbly listen to the scriptures.

    • felicitydale

      Thanks for your comments, Jeremiah. Hopefully you’ll join in the discussions on this and other posts.