Women Teaching

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On the subject of whether or not women should be allowed to preach, the following verses invariably arise:

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Cases of Women Prophesying and Teaching in the Bible

First of all, cases of women prophesying and teaching throughout the Bible can be readily identified. The four widowed (Grk. parthenos) daughters of one man all prophesied, per Acts 21:9. Godly women throughout the Bible prophesied. Deborah, a leader of Israel, was also described as a prophetess in Judges 4:4; and prophesied in Judges 5 following a military victory in which she was aided by God. There are a number of cases where godly women prophesied upon giving birth, see Hannah (1 Samuel 2), Elisabeth (Luke 1:42-45), and Mary (Luke 1:46-55). There is also the case of Priscilla, who with her husband Aquilla, instructed Apollos, who with Paul was one of the greatest teachers of the early Church. (Acts 18:26) Priscilla is one of several women Paul describes as fellow helpers in Romans 16, indeed she and her husband stayed with Paul while all working together making tents (Acts 18:2,18); Paul also mentions Phebe, and urges the early Church to assist her in whatever business she is engaged in, (Romans 16:1) who sent the entire letter of Romans on Paul's behalf, and may have even transcribed it for Paul. (Romans 16:27; cp. Galatians 6:11)

Paul's Exceptions

If reading 1 Timothy 2 in context, Paul allows for exceptions (women prophesying) when it comes to women who have born children and met standards of holiness and righteousness. (v. 15) As such there is no contradiction, Paul also allows women to prophesy in 1 Timothy 2:15. Widows in particular were a revered group of leaders in the early church similar to Bishops and Deacons, so long as they met standards of holiness and righteousness. (1 Timothy 5:9; cp. 1 Timothy 3) As such, Paul's statement in Galatians 3:28 that all Christians are one in Christ Jesus, without divisions of Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male or female should be given emphasis.

The Controversies Paul Was Addressing

It should be observed that Paul in 1 Timothy was addressing a controversy in the early Church where younger widows were abusing their speech, gossiping behind the backs of others and living promiscuously. (1 Timothy 5:11-16) Paul urged that they not be accepted among the number of elderly widows who had over many years shown themselves faithfully righteous. (1 Timothy 5:9-10) The early Church provided for such widows and saw that they were specially honoured and provided for (1 Timothy 5:3,16); indeed one of the earliest recorded acts of the early Church was creating a 7-member council to oversee welfare for widows. (Acts 6:1-7)

Hair Length

It should be pointed out that Paul was not advocating for a hijab, but for women to simply have long hair; which he considered more honorable and appropriate to the way they were made. Note 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, where Paul says that it is shameful for men to have long hair, but a glory for women to have long hair; Paul specifically says a woman's hair is her "covering" in v. 15. As such, the lack of female hair covering Paul addresses in vv. 5-6 appears to simply be short, man-like hair. Nonetheless, Paul refuses to enforce such a policy as God-given in v. 16, stating that there is no such official church policy, and he will not argue with those who insistently disagree; suggesting this was Paul's own opinion, not a commandment from God (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:6,25; 2 Corinthians 8:8).

Equality in the Church

As the Apostle Paul says, "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God." (1 Corinthians 11:11-12) Even though woman was made from man, yet man is made from woman through birth. As such, Paul's conclusion that all are one in Jesus without divisions of Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male or female (Galatians 3:28) should be closely scrutinized for its underlying principle. God does not judge on the basis of race, social status, or gender, and neither should the Church when it comes to prophecy and preaching.