Guest post by Jon Zens: Selecting Scriptures to silence the sisters (part 3)

This comprehensive list by Jon (see parts one and two) of how God used women in the New Testament is both instructive and far-reaching.  Two passages have been used to muzzle women for centuries–1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. But in the passages listed by Jon, we see that the trend and tenor of Scripture does not support the traditional interpretation of these two passages. And both can be interpreted with integrity in other ways. We are wise not to use individual verses to disprove or negate the general principles and examples of Scripture.

Again, my thanks to Jon.

Here is the completion of Jon’s list.

  • Junia and Andronicus (wife/husband or sister/brother) were greeted by Paul as “outstanding among the apostles” (Rom.16:7).  They were his relatives and had been in prison with him.  There were people called “apostles” who were not among the Twelve, like Barnabas.  Junia was also among such apostolic workers.  There is no reason to think that she was the only such female apostle.
  • Among all the people Paul greeted in Romans 16, ten were sisters among whom were “Tryphena and Tryphosa [who may have been twins], women who work hard for the Lord” (Rom.16:12).
  • In line with Acts 2:17-18, Paul encouraged brothers and sisters to prophesy in the gatherings (1 Cor.11:4-5; 14:23-24).
  • The open meeting Paul described in 1 Cor.14 envisioned all the men and women – “the whole assembly” – “each one of you” – “you may all prophesy one by one” – functioning together in an encouraging manner.
  • Gal.3:28 indicated that “in Christ” human distinctions, like male and female, are no longer norms of judgment in the congregation.  In the first century, prejudices abounded in folks’ minds when certain people like “Gentile,” “Jew,” “slave,” and “woman” were mentioned.  Paul stated that in the body of Christ this should not be the case.
  • Women were prominent in the assembly at Philippi, beginning with Lydia’s home.  In Phil.4:3 Paul asked for two sisters – who must have had no small spiritual influence in the body – to be at peace with one another.  He called Euodia and Syntyche “co-workers” and “co-strugglers” in the gospel.
  • 2 John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children.”  This probably referred to a respected sister in whose home the saints gathered.  She had apparently exerted significant spiritual influence upon a number of people.  Women’s homes were mentioned as meeting places for the brethren in Rom.16:5, 1 Cor.1:11, 16:9 and Col.4:15.
  • In Rev.2:20-24 Christ rebuked the Thyatiran congregation for allowing a false prophetess, nicknamed “Jezebel,” to “teach” some of the Lord’s servants to sin grievously.  If it was such a crime for a woman to teach the brethren, why didn’t the Lord just condemn the assembly for even allowing a woman to instruct others?  This incident in Thyatira implies that the assembly permitted other male and female prophets to teach the truth.  Christ’s bone to pick with them wasn’t that a woman taught, but that what she taught was false teaching.

This survey of Biblical highlights concerning women is important because it reveals the freedom of the sisters to function in the kingdom.  In the general flow of the New Testament there are no jitters about “restrictions” upon Christ’s daughters.  Such a survey should also serve as a corrective to those who squelch and intimidate the sisters by using their interpretation of two passages – 1 Cor.14:34-35 and 1 Tim.2:12 – to cancel out the ministry of sisters unfolded in other Scriptures.

It simply will not do to functionally dismiss and throw out as irrelevant all the positive revelation about women that has been presented. We can be sure that the intent of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 was not to silence the sisters. We can also be assured that it is an improper use of Scripture to elevate these two passages in a way that causes all other information about the sisters to be invalidated.

For a detailed interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15, one can read my What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 (2010)

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