In writing this blog, I promised to share my thoughts and I have been really lackadaisical about it. I haven’t posted a thing since I was on vacation two months ago. I keep telling myself that I need to just get on a schedule and stick to it, but I haven’t. This tweet is 100% true.
I have thought about writing topical things about Juneteenth and the conspiracies about JFK jr., aliens and the vaccine, and other topics that come up. I have thought about sharing how tired I’ve been or how Covid recovery has completely upended my routine. I wasn’t sure I had enough to say about any of those things to warrant an entire blog post. I thought to myself, it is about time I address women teaching in church. After all, I am writing a blog and that could be considered teaching because I am trying to impart knowledge and beliefs to anyone who reads this. Some people say I should not be doing this at all based on my gender. That I am an affront for doing so. I do not believe those texts were meant for all women of that time or any who came after. I will not allow people who would choose that I stay silent because they don’t like hearing what a woman has to say to dictate my blog. I am quite sure those people also don’t like what anyone who disagrees with them has to say. God loves and has gifted women with all the same tools that he gifted men.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:3-8
The man that wrote both those letters also wrote the letters that have been used to keep women in subjugation. Unless you believe that Paul has a double tongue, he could not have meant all people receive gifts for God’s use, but women cannot use theirs.
The only explanation for this restriction to women is that it was written to two particular churches, addressing groups of people who were disrupting the teachings at that time. It could not have been meant for all people as it was not written to the churches in Rome, Philippi, Galatia, etc. It was written to the churches in Ephesus and Corinth and nowhere else. I would think that if Paul wanted to silence all women, he would have said so in everything that he wrote. The man wrote 30% of the New Testament, he had ample chance to repeat himself often. He repeated himself quite a bit about other tenets. He said the Kingdom is near many times, warns against false teachers, grace not works save us, morals, unity, etc. Only in those two letters does he say that women should not talk. The word for this translates to the general word talk and probably does not mean formal speaking. In both cases, Paul is addressing the chaos that is happening in these worship services. He also addresses how proper use of gifts, speaking in tongues, civility, the roles of leaders, etc. It doesn’t seem to be an outright prohibition, especially since in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says that women can pray and prophesy in church. There is so much scholarly work based on these two scriptures that I urge you to take a look at it yourself. I suspect that won’t be enough for some, so let’s take a look at some of the women in the Bible who God gifted to lead and teach.
Miriam, a prophet
The sister of Moses. She is the very first person to be called prophet in Exodus 15:20. Some scholars say that Enoch is the first prophet mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 5:21-24. He isn’t called a prophet until Jude 12:14-15 when Enoch prophesied about God’s judgment. The phrase in Genesis used to describe Enoch is that he “walked with God”. This phrase was used for Adam’s relationship and Noah’s relationship with God. Was Enoch one of the first prophets, I would say yes. But the word is first used to describe Miriam. One of the things I have heard said is that God only taps women to lead when men won’t step up. This family proves that the untruth of that statement because the leaders were two brothers and a sister. This leadership is mentioned in Numbers 12:2 when Miriam and Aaron are angry with Moses and state that God has also spoken through them. It is confirmed again in Micah 6:4 when God has sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you. Miriam was a prophet and a co-leader appointed by God.
Deborah, a leader
Judges 4 and 5 are all about Deborah’s leadership. She is also called a prophet and is the only Judge to have both titles. What’s great about this story is the Bible simply says Deborah “was leading Israel at that time”. There are no arguments or justifications about a woman leading a nation, it’s just a statement of fact: Deborah was leading Israel at that time (Judges 4:4). How about that. When she tells Barak to lead an army to Mount Tabor and defeat another army on the way, no one questions her authority or that God spoke through her. In fact, Barak won’t go without her despite her warning that he will receive no credit for the victory if she goes and he’s fine with that. Judges 5 is all about the Song of Deborah. A song of victory was common practice and used to praise God’s glory. Judges 5:7 tells us that village life ceased until Deborah stepped into leadership.
Huldah, a teacher
Huldah is another woman who has been given the title prophet (2 Kings 22:14). While working on temple repairs, a book of the law was discovered. When it was read to King Josiah, he told the priests to go to Huldah for interpretation. She tells them that God is angry and will reign disaster upon them because they have forsaken him. She also says that because the King has torn his robes and wept that God will not harm them. The King asked several men including the High Priest to ask a woman for answers. Huldah was married and they weren’t to ask her husband. 2 Chronicles 34:14-33 tells the same story. It adds after they took her word to the King, he then shared it with all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, the priest and Levites, and all the people. There were also other male prophets at the time, but the King chose her. She is a teacher who is sought out by the powerful.
Samaritan woman at the well, evangelist
John 4 is mostly about this unnamed woman. It is the longest recorded conversation in the Bible. We know she went there to get water for her household. Once Jesus talked with her and she understood who he was, she abandoned her water jars to tell the town that she has met the Messiah. John 4:39 states that many of the Samaritans believed in him because of her testimony. By verse 42 the townsfolk are telling her that even though her testimony caused them to listen, Jesus’ words have made them believe. She is a great example of what evangelism is and how to do it. We are to share our stories of belief and hope with those around us, even if those people do not like us. If necessary, we drop what we are doing or abandon our work to share this good news. There is nothing more important or work more valued than evangelism. Because of her testimony, a town was transformed.
Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, first preachers
Each of the four Gospels (Luke 24:9, Matthew 28:7, Mark 16:7, John 20:17), tells the same story the same way. The women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. It was gone. They learned that Jesus had been resurrected and were told to announce it to the disciples. It has been said by many preachers that this story must be true because no one in their right mind would claim the first witnesses as women if they wanted to be believed. These women were honored by Jesus in his life, were respected by his followers and by later church leaders. These women did not remain silent but followed the command to preach to the men what they knew to be true.
The disciples had a great appreciation for gifts that God bestowed upon women. In fact, they wrote about many of them and their roles in the early church. Luke 2:36 mentions the prophet, Anna. He says that she praised God for this child who would bring the redemption of Jerusalem. He also states that she never left the temple that she worshipped, fasted, and prayed constantly. These sound like the words of a man who admired her devotion. In Acts 21:9, Luke mentions that Philip in Caesarea has four, unmarried daughters who all prophesy. I would like to mention that a prophet is defined as a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God. These women were considered trustworthy in the eyes of others.
Priscilla, a co-worker in Christ
According to Acts 18:18, Priscilla and her husband Aquila were from Rome but living in Corinth because the Jews were ordered to leave. Paul took Priscilla and Aquila with him when he traveled to Ephesus to teach. In Romans 16:3 Paul refers to Priscilla & Aquila as fellow workers who risked their lives for him. He gives them praise from all the gentile churches.
Phoebe, a deacon of the church
Paul commends Phoebe as a deacon and servant of the church to his readers. Scholars believe she likely carried Paul’s letter to its audience. This means that it was her job to explain the letter, which infers that Paul sees her as a leader and commends her as such to the Romans. Other women worked with Paul, Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15), Apphia (Philemon 2), Euodia, and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3). Each of these women were leaders in their churches and were not told to be silent in any of Paul’s letters.
Junia, outstanding among the apostles
Junia is a woman who gets a lot of attention. As well she should. Paul called her outstanding among the apostles. As if apostles weren’t outstanding enough, here is a person being praised beyond that. There are many arguments about whether or not that phrase means she was an outstanding apostle or the apostles found her to be outstanding. We know that the apostles aren’t limited to the original 12 because James, Paul, and Barnabas are referred to as such. So, was she an apostle? Maybe. I’d like to think she was given the recognition she clearly earned as a true and faithful follower of Christ. Should women be silent in church? No. It is clear to me that a patriarchal society acknowledged women leaders by name and some unnamed throughout the Bible. It did so without stating that it was unusual or unfeminine. If Paul and those so closely aligned with God in the New and Old Testaments valued the teachings of women, then why shouldn’t we. The gifts bestowed on these women were heard and seen despite their culture of oppression. The gifts bestowed upon today’s women need to be as accepted by today’s men as they were by those writers of the Bible.