And now for a little light relief…

The last few posts have been very heavy on theology, so a little light relief is in order.

This video is a hilarious satire that packs a punch. Produced by some friends of ours in Kentucky, it even shows our book, The Rabbit and the Elephant, now available in paperback under the title Small Is Big! Enjoy!

(If the video doesn’t show you can view it here.)

Confession is good for the soul (sigh)

A friend recently told me this story. He had just started a missional community and the question came up, “Are we a church?” The group decided together that they were a church. One young lady, who previously had taken an active role, stopped speaking. After a while they asked her why.

Her reply: “If we are now a church, then I’m not allowed to speak any longer.”

It’s stories like these that convince me of the need to communicate a different understanding of the challenging Scriptures that appear to limit women. I have read extensively around this topic, and I try to make complicated concepts simple enough that anyone can understand them. In the last post, I overstepped the mark. I should have been more careful and I apologize. (I’ve changed the blog post so that anyone reading it who does not go through the comments will not get incorrect information.) What I implied was that there was no word for “the” in Greek. (I had looked at 1 Timothy 2:12 and that statement is true for that verse). Thankfully someone commented to correct me.

It doesn’t change the basic concept. However, the explanation is a little more complicated. I’m indebted to David Hamilton and Loren Cunningham in their book Why Not Women: A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership for one explanation of this. (If I could have written one book on the topic of women, it would be this one.)

So here goes!

In 1 Timothy, Paul goes continuously back and forth between personal instruction to Timothy and teaching on the ministry of the church. This is called a literary interchange or an A-B-A-B structure.

There are two other forms of communication we need to be aware of in understanding 1 Timothy 2.

  1. Particularization is where a writer makes a general statement that he then illustrates with several specific examples.
  2. A chiasm is where a writer makes several points and then backpeddles through them in reverse order: so Idea A, Idea B, Idea C, followed by Idea C, Idea B and Idea A.

In this passage, we have particularization and a mini-chiasm within a literary interchange!

Have I lost you yet?

Here’s David Hamilton’s diagram:

 

This is how it works in 1 Timothy 2:

  • The general principle, and the core reason for the epistle is that God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2: 1-7, especially verse 4)
  • First example: Paul speaks to men–and how they are to pray  (1 Tim 2: 8)
  • Second example is a mini-chiasm: Paul speaks to:
      1. all the woman (1 Tim 2: 9-10). The women are likewise to pray (implied) and their modest dress (especially in a promiscuous city like Ephesus) is important
      2. a woman (2:11-15a). Instructions are given to a particular woman who was causing problems because of false teachings.  She is not to teach but is to learn in quietness with all submission.
      3. all the women (1 Tim 2: 15b). They are to continue in faith, love and holiness.

Certainly men were involved in deception in Ephesus. Paul mentions two of them by name–Hymaenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20). But the pronouns used in other places in the epistle are gender-inclusive indicating that women also were involved. (If anyone teaches false doctrines; some have wandered away from the faith etc).    The punishment for the two men was that they were thrown out and handed over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. It makes this woman’s fate seem mild in comparison!

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Understanding “I do not permit a woman to teach…”

Firstly, a big welcome to those of you who have come here via Frank Viola’s blog, Beyond Evangelical and his mention of my enhanced e-book on hearing God.  My blog, SimplyChurch, generally looks at different aspects of life in the Kingdom, especially as it relates to the simple/organic/house church movement. However, at present, I’m doing a series of posts on the topic of women because I’m in the process of co-writing a book on this subject. Frank is one of the contributors to the book.

I hate headlines like this one:

In this particular case, the lady, who had been a member at that church for more than 60 years and a Sunday School teacher for 54, was fired, at least in part, because of the verse in 1 Timothy 2:12. The pastor of the church wanted to be sure they were obeying the Scriptures. While I respect him for his desire to be Biblical, it is very sad, not only for the lady concerned, but also because of the negative publicity it engenders for the Body of Christ.

We all want to obey the Scriptures. So how can we understand a verse like this?

I discussed the background to the verse (which is very relevant) in this post. The purpose of Paul’s letter to Timothy in Ephesus was to stop false teachers who were causing problems in the church there  (1 Timothy 1:3-4). We also know that this is the only verse that apparently forbids women to teach–elsewhere there is every indication that women were free to bring a teaching.

Here’s the challenging passage in full:

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;  in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,  but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.  Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:8-15 NKJV)

Notice that sometimes the word “woman” is singular and at other times plural. Women (plural) are to adorn themselves modestly. However, “a woman” (singular) must learn in silence and is not allowed to teach or have authority over the man.  She (singular) will be saved in childbearing, and women (plural) are to continue in faith, love and holiness with self control.

Here’s the likely scenario that would explain it: There was a woman who was promoting false teaching in the church in Ephesus. Paul wants to stop this, and so he commands that this particular woman is to learn quietly, and is not permitted to teach. This is a disciplinary action against a woman who, like the “Jezebel” mentioned in Revelation 2:20, was causing problems by false teaching. Paul had no intention of it being applied to other women, just the one causing turmoil in the church.

According to Philip B. Payne in his excellent theological treatise, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters,  the verb “permit” with one dubious exception, never refers to a universal or permanent situation. So the chances are that this was a temporary disciplinary measure.

I’ll be looking into other aspects of this passage in future posts, but I’m interested in your comments as to where we are so far.

 

Women aren’t allowed to teach? Really?

Is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse.


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Renowned Chinese teacher, Watchman Nee, benefited greatly from the teaching of two Chinese missionaries/leaders. So when they visited him one day, he wanted his church to hear them. But there was a problem. They were women, and therefore could not teach the men. In order to “fulfill the letter of the law,” he strung a curtain along the middle of the meeting room. The two Chinese missionaries taught the ladies on one side of the curtain while the men sat and listened on the other side!

Consider the following:

  • 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women cannot teach men.
  • Paul and Timothy had traveled together for some time, and Timothy would have known if Paul forbade women to teach (I Corinthians 4;17). It would have therefore been surprising if Timothy and Paul hadn’t made that clear right from the start in Ephesus, and even more surprising that Timothy was allowing women to teach and the practice needed to stop.
  • Paul acknowledged the very real role that women had in teaching Timothy  (his mother and grandmother).
  • Priscilla (named first) and her husband, Aquila, taught Apollos a “more accurate way.” (Acts 18:26)
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in. “When you come together, each one has…” The Greek word for each one, hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it ?
  • A number of gifts to the church, including teachers, are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. For some of these gifts there are female examples in the Scriptures (Junia was an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied), but there’s no qualification here that women aren’t allowed to teach. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” While the obvious answer to this question is “no” there is no implication that some of these gifts are gender specific.
  • Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to teach and admonish one another.
  • In Revelation 2, the church in Thyatira is chastised for allowing “Jezebel” to lead people astray. It’s what she teaches that is the problem, not the fact that she’s a woman teaching.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 is the classic passage on discipleship. It is often rendered “The things you have heard me say…  entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The word “men” in the Greek is anthropos, a generic term for humans rather than gender specific.

This verse, then, appears to contradict what Paul says in other places. So is there another explanation for what Paul says in this verse?

Follow the next few posts…

Now for the really challenging passage…

The passage that is most negative towards women and often used to “put women in their place,” comes in 1 Timothy 2. Here’s what verses 11 to 15 say:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

At first sight, the meaning is clear. Women are not to teach or to have authority over men.

The context is important. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus when he traveled to Macedonia. The reason?  Paul wanted him to correct false teaching  (1 Tim 1:3-4).  People were involved in endless discussions of myths and spiritual pedigrees. The likelihood is that some women had become involved in the problem.

It is good to understand the cultural context too. Ephesus was dominated by worship of Artemis or Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the world and drew crowds of people to it. The operation of the temple and its associated activities were the primary economic resource of the city, most inhabitants getting their livelihood in some way from the temple. Artemis was also the goddess of fertility, virginity and protection during childbirth. Eunuchs and many young female priestesses served in the temple. Girls were initiated into the cult at puberty, and when they married, had to lay something that symbolized their virginity (such as a lock of hair) on her altar. Worship of her included magical and orgiastic rites.

The Amazons were said to have founded Ephesus. The Amazons were famous female warriors of that region who believed they were superior to men.

It is against this backdrop that Paul wrote his letter to Timothy.

More to follow…

 

The goddess Artemis

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Unladylike

Speaking as one who is searching for a title for a book on women, I think Unladylike by Pam Hogeweide is a brilliant one.

 

In this book, Pam describes her own journey from acceptance of the status quo (that women are somehow second class in the church and that gender inequality is acceptable) to her current conviction that women are equal in every way. One of the things that most struck me about the book was how Pam makes the issue of marginalization of women by the church into one of justice rather than theology. Christians are supposed to stand up for the downtrodden and oppressed, and it is sad that often the church herself is responsible for injustice and lack of dignity towards women.  This is one of the areas the book I’m co-writing on women covers, so it was of special interest to me.

Pam also covers the topics of complementarianism versus egalitarianism, and how women can resist resignation. One of her practical suggestions is for “listening gatherings” for women.

Pam writes interestingly and the book is a compelling read. I recommend it.

Free chapter from the book I’m co-writing on women

I’ve been fascinated by the dramatic increase in the number of subscriptions I have to my blog since I started posting about women. I believe this topic is one that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the forefront of people’s attention in many different ways.

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My longing is that this would be a powerful move of the Holy Spirit–not a feminist movement where a group of women promotes their own agendas, but something that God is doing right across the denominations as well as within the simple/organic/house church movement.

As a teaser to the book, I’m offering a free chapter to anyone who signs up for my blog. Those of you who already subscribe will receive an email giving you the option of downloading it. The chapter is one that I’ve written myself and looks at the topic of why many women, even though they have freedom to do and be everything God is calling them to, fail to exercise that privilege.

Enjoy it!

Once upon a time, before there were conferences and books…

… there was a magazine called House2House.

I remember the occasion well. It was in the fall of the year, 2000. Jim Mellon and David Underwood, both leaders of simple/organic/house church networks in Central Texas, contacted Tony and me.

“Can we get together with you. We’ve had this great idea and we’d like you to get involved.”

When we met up at a House of Pancakes in Waco, TX,  they floated the concept of a print magazine to encourage and resource people who were interested in house churches. We loved the idea because we had seen the impact of magazines on a move of the Holy Spirit in which we had been involved in the UK. So we agreed to help.

Over the course of the next 8 years or so, we produced several issues of the magazine, mailing them out to thousands of people around the world. The response was outstanding. We heard from many people about the impact the magazine had made in their lives and in that of their churches. We heard story after story of how it sparked conversation when other people saw it sitting on a coffee table. It communicated a powerful message that contributed to the growing movement. Now there are millions of Christians meeting together as the church in homes, coffee shops, businesses and wherever they can.

As the Internet gained traction, we eventually stopped producing it as a physical magazine, (at least in part because of the expense), but over the years, we have often discussed the benefits of producing another one.

Enter Kickstarter.

For those of you who are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is a “funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.”

Here’s how it works. People develop a product that they put up on Kickstarter with a financial goal that would enable them to bring it to fulfillment. They tell everybody they know about it and people can pledge to support the project. “Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.”

Since its inception, Kickstarter has enabled more than 10,000 projects to fund.

Would you like to see the House2House magazine back again? We have started a House2House Kickstarter campaign,  hoping to raise $14,000–the amount we reckon it will take to produce another issue (that includes layout, design, editing, printing etc etc). Are you willing to consider helping us? If so, click here to learn about the project, and then tell all of your friends.

 

King James had it right…

I’m not one of those who believes King James to be the only inspired version of the Bible (as used by Paul and the other apostles), but sometimes this version gets it right.

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One of the more complicated ways to explain what Paul was getting at when he said that women should be silent in the church is best understood from the King James version.

Here’s how it reads:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? (1 Corinthians 14:34-36)

Since the Old Testament law does not command women to be silent or to be obedient, this “law” must refer to the Talmud, a collection of oral rabbinical teachings. Here’s an example:

Women are sexually seductive, mentally inferior, socially embarrassing, and spiritually separated from the law of Moses; therefore, let them be silent. (Summary of Talmudic sayings) taken from an unpublished chapter by Frank Viola on the subject of why women are able to fully participate in the life of the church. (I highly recommend this essay by Frank.)

Paul does not say, “I do not permit a woman to speak.” He is referring to others who have taught that women should be silent and he is going out of his way to refute this teaching.

In the original Greek, there were no such things as quotation marks. Remember that Paul was writing in response to questions the Corinthians had written him. So try putting the first couple of sentences in quotation marks–a quote from their original letter.

Paul’s response is one of indignation and horror. “What?! Did God’s word originate with you?” The Greek participle which the KJV translates as “What?”  has the effect of negating what has come before.

So rather than Paul being a misogynist, one who was trying to “keep women in their place,” he is actually standing up for their right to speak in public.

 

Women–silent in the church? Are you sure about that? (Part 2)

The Scripture is quite plain, women are to keep silent in the church!

 

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.  If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

These verses have been used to keep women silent in church meetings–in some cases an absolute silence. Obviously there are many exceptions, but often women are permitted to sing, pray and prophesy, but any kind of teaching or authoritative word is forbidden.

The word “silent” used here is the Greek word sigao, and the word for speak is laleo. What many people don’t realize is that two other sets of people are told to be silent in this chapter, both in the context of speaking (laleo). In verse 27, a person speaking in tongues is to be silent (sigao) if no interpreter is present. In verse 30, if a person is prophesying and another person hears from the Lord, the first person is to be silent (sigao) and let the second one speak.

In neither of these two situations are people silenced for all time within a church gathering. It’s easy to see that the silence applies under certain conditions only.

Here’s the likely scenario for these passages. Paul is answering questions the Corinthians have asked in a previous letter (1 Corinthians 7:1). In the first two instances, the question the Corinthians asked is obvious.

“Paul, what do you do if someone gives a message in tongues but there is no one to interpret it?”

“Paul, what should we do if someone is prophesying and another person gets a message before the first one has finished talking?”

The answer to both involves silence, but within those proscribed circumstances..

The problem with the verses about women is that Paul doesn’t state the question within his answer. Perhaps he thought it was obvious. But you can picture the question.

“Paul, what should we do if women disrupt the meetings by asking a lot of questions.”

As with the other situations where people are to be silent, it’s under certain conditions only. If women have a lot of questions– and remember, women in those days were uneducated–then let them ask their husbands at home.

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