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Dr. Grant C Richison


  1. The unadulterated Word of God must govern our thinking on this issue.
  2. Revelation, Inspiration, Canonicity revolve around this issue.
  3. The system of hermeneutics is crucial to the issue.
  4. Affirmations and denials:

-church vs parachurch

-limits of truth

-if we affirm John 3:16 we also must affirm I Ti. 2:15

  1. Is culture dictating to Scripture or Scripture to culture?


Approaches to the role of women in ministry:


This view rejects the Bible as a timeless, absolute revelation.  Bible texts are sexist and thoroughly androcentric.  The Bible must be read with a critical eye.

The Bible is still regarded as a religious document by liberation theology, but it is not the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

Paul is viewed as a misogynist.  It was only natural that a misogynist society would affect his writing of Scripture.


This approach affirms the Bible as the infallible rule of faith and practice.  They view hierarchicalists as misusing texts that support hierarchy.  There is a strong emphasis on giving full weight to the cultural conditioning of parts of Scripture.  They pay close attention to the historically conditioned ad hoc passages.

They handle hierarchical passages in 3 ways:

-deny the Pauline authorship of texts viewed as “antifeminist”

-consider that Paul intended the texts to be temporary in nature, either because of cultural contexts or because of local church problems

-affirm that Paul struggled to overcome his chauvinistic background as he strove toward the ideal.


Hierarchicalists affirm the position of traditional Judaism and Christianity.  There is a different role between male and female.  Males are to lead and females are to follow in church government.  Only men are eligible for the office of teaching and ruling elder.

Hierarchicalists do not argue that women have no ministry in the church.

Hierarchicalists teach an authority structure where the man has priority over the woman in the church and home.


There is wide agreement between evangelical egalitarians and hierarchicalists in regard to the place of a women in society, home and church.

Both affirm woman as made in the image of God.

Neither teaches an ontological hierarchy of male and female.

Both agree that a woman’s role in the home and church is to a large degree culturally defined.

Both acknowledge the significant contributions women have made in biblical history and in the modern world.

Both take note of the place of women in the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels and of the high esteem Jesus Christ placed on women.

Both insist that there are many clear passages in the NT where women have a significant part in church life:

prayed, Ac 1:14

prophesied, Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9

engaged in benevolent work, Acts 9:36-43

hosted meetings of the church, Acts 12:12; 16:40; I Co 1:11; 16:19; Col 4:15

fellow-workers with the apostle Paul, Ro 16:3-5; Phil 4:2-4

hard workers, Ro 16:2,12

taught younger women, Ti 2:3-5

corrected a male’s deficient theology privately, Ac 18:26

Both emphasize the giving of spiritual gifts to every member of the body of Christ, I Co 12:7.

Both agree that women are not to be absolutely silent in the church, Eph 5:19; Jn 4:39-42; I Co 14:34-35


Ro 16:1 (Phoebe was a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae)

Ro 16:7  (“Junia” is outstanding among the apostles)

I Co 11:2-16 (“head” means source to the egalitarians and authority to the hierarchialists)

I Co 14:34-35 (Why is it shameful for a woman to speak in the church?)

Gal 3:28 (Is this the complete equality of women and men in the church?)

I Ti 2:11-15 (This is the Crux Interpretum passage; it is the pillar passage for the hierarchicalists and a problem passage for the egalitarians)

I Ti 3:11 (Are deaconesses or the wives of deacons in view?)


A.  I Ti 2:11-15

This passage plays the central role in the debate.

Egalitarian efforts to reinterpret this passage are contrived.

The setting is public worship.  Paul has just instructed the men to pray (vv1-7).

The word aner means male, not mankind.  The word for mankind is anthropos

Prohibition against women teaching

The words “suffer not” are in the emphatic position in v12.

“Teach” means to teach propositionally.  This is formal teaching of God’s Word.

“Usurp authority” is a hapax legomenon (occurs one time in the Greek NT).

Paul derived his thinking from the Creation and Fall narratives of Genesis.

Paul’s first basis for denying women authority over men is that Adam was created first (2:13).

The second basis of his teaching is that Eve was deceived whereas Adam was not (Gen 3:6).

The idea of quietness is similar to I Co 14:33b-35.

As in I Co 11:9 so in I Ti 2:12 man’s priority in creation is the basis for his authority.

Cf.  “Biblitheca Sacra” Vol 149 #594, “Women in Ministry: An Exegetical Study of I Timothy 2:11-15” by Ann L. Bowman of ISOT.

I Co 14:33-34 is the only other passage that specifically restricts the ministry of women.

This passage is muddied by the affirmation of right of women to prophecy in church meetings.

The churches agreed on three points:  Women are to be silent at church meetings, are not to speak and are to submit themselves.  Paul backs this with 2 arguments:  1)  the practice of the churches and 2) the Word of God.

The command to prohibit women from speaking in the church appears contrary to the teaching in I Co 11:2-16 which refers to women praying and prophesying.  The word “speaking” seems to be a general prohibition.  They could learn from their husbands at home.


This is the foundation text of Christian feminists.  Jewett calls this passage the Magna Carta of Humanity.

What does “neither male nor female mean?”  Feminists believe Genesis 1:27 (implied in context–LXX) concerns the ontological nature of male and female–both were made in the image of God.  Paul developed his teaching on the authority of roles for women from the Creation and Fall narratives of Gen. 1-3.  Gen. 1:26-28 concerns the ontological nature of male and female.  Both made in God’s image.  The differences of the sexes is no longer relevant to their position before God.

The verses immediately preceding Gal 3:28 pertain to the nature of justification and how a person can be included in the Abrahamic Covenant.  We enter that covenant by faith, not works.  Man and woman are ontologically equal in position before God.

However, this does not mean equality in role or function in the church.  The emphasis is upon the unity in the one man, not social equality between the pairs.  To inject implications of function in society in a passage that deals with one’s position before God in salvation is to disparate the context.  Any person has access before God.  It is non sequitur to say that because we have the same position we should have the same roles before God.


D.  I Co 11:2-16,  “Should a woman prophesy or preach before men?”


In context Paul was dealing with the abuse of freedom (chapters 9-10).  He now corrects the abuse of freedom by some women in the assembly.  The context is public worship.

Now Paul argues the inherent order of creation between male and female and God and Christ and Christ and man (v3).  This refers not the essence of individuals since God is the head of Christ.  This refers simply to function.

The significance of v3 lies in the word “head.”  God, Christ and man are “head.”  Feminists say that “head” means “source.”  Of over 2000 instances of kephalj (head) in the classical and Hellenistic Greek periods, no clear instances of such a meaning exists.  Only when the word is in the plural can that meaning be sustained.

Paul’s usage of “head” reflects its meaning in Septuagint when kephalj is used for the Hebrew roash.  Though this is not the regular word for authority, it does connote authority.

The use of the term “head” in referring to Christ becomes paramount because the husband’s headship in I Co 11:3 and Eph 5:23 is paralleled with the type of headship Christ has.

If we argue that the woman comes from the man means that the man is the source one would have to argue that God is the source of Christ.

The key to a proper role relationship of man and woman is to recognize that Christ has headship over man even as man has headship over woman.  Assuming the truth of the first and third parts of v3, Paul proceeded to demonstrate that the center portion of his threefold proposition is also true.  Subsequent verses indicate that the headship of the man is the focal point of the passage.

Since women were allowed to prophecy in the Corinthian congregation, the nature of their activity must be discerned.


In the OT 4 women were prophetesses.

Miriam, Ex 15:20

Deborah, Judg 4:4

Huldah, II Kg 22:14

Noadiah, Neh 6:14

With the coming of the church age there seemed to have been more opportunity for women prophets, Ac 2:17-18.

Though a prophetess could give an inspired utterance, she was restricted from the office of teaching.  Some people believe that women according to 2-16 and I Ti 2:8-15 can serve as preachers or teachers over men in public so long as they do not usurp authority over the men of the church.  Preaching and teaching are founded on an intelligible exposition of the Word of God, whereas prophecy is based on revelation.  To argue that since women prophesied in Corinth, women are allowed to proclaim the gospel in public worship does not follow.  Preaching is honored over prophecy (I Co 12:28).

Certain women were prophesying in Corinth without having their heads covered.  Such a practice was a lack of respect for their husbands.  Women could operate in a prophetic role but in order to preserve their prophetic role they must wear a sign of functional subordination.

Man is the image and glory of God while the woman is the glory of the man.  The word “image” means something that is similar or like another.  To be in the image of someone is to be a representation of him.  “Glory” signifies “brightness” or “splendor” or “honor.”  Woman brings honor to the man by fulfilling her role of functional subordination and vice-regency with him, while man brings glory to God by fulfilling the functional role of leader in God’s creation.

Paul argues that the woman was created to meet man’s need (11:9).  This reflects the narrative of Gen. 2.  Man’s position of authority over woman resides in his priority and thus in his being economically the image of God.

11:10 is a transition verse relating to authority.  Believers are in a cosmic spectacle before the angels.  Covering their heads while prophesying served as a sign of their high position over angels.  The term “authority” always has the active, not the passive sense, of possessing power.  The covering is a sign of the woman’s authority.  This is not a unilateral right; she operates as a vice-regent with man in the world and in the church.

The word “however” in v11 builds a bridge from the subordination of women to the interdependence of the two.  Paul puts into proper perspective the administrative and ontological relationships of man and woman.

11:13-15 appeals to creation, not social custom.  The evidence was plain enough through the created order for his audience to agree with him.

11:16 is an answer to 11:13.

III.  Women in the Church

From the very beginning of the Christian church women fulfilled a vital role

(Acts 1:12-14; 9:36-42; 16:13-15; 17:1-4, 10-12; 18:1-2, 18, 24-28; Rom. 16; I Co. 16:19; II Tim. 1:5; 4:19).  Women played an important role in the church from earliest days but not a leading role.  The incarnation was in a Man, the apostles were all men, the chief missionary activity was done by men, the writing of the New Testament was the work of men (though some feminists would have us believe Priscilla wrote the Book of Hebrews), and generally leadership in the churches was entrusted to men.  Still, women had a prominence and dignity in the early propagation and expansion of the gospel that they did not have in Judaism or the heathen world.

While the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Rom. 16; Phil. 4:3), he appointed no women elders or pastors.  In his epistles, as he wrote instructions to the churches, he urged that men were to be the leaders and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (I Tim 2:12).

The ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, but the New

Testament gives no basis for women becoming pastors or elders.  While women are spiritual equals with men, they are excluded from leadership over men in the church.  The New Testament finds no conflict here though twentieth century feminists insist that these principles contradict one another.

The Apostle Paul is completely consistent with Jesus in regard to women.  Paul had a high regard for women and shared his labors for the gospel with many of them.  But, like Jesus, he never appointed them to positions of authority over men in the home or the church.  As active as women were in the early church, nowhere did Paul ordain them as elders.

CONCLUSION = where may women minister today?

Women were not allowed to serve in a position of spiritual authority over men in the church nor to teach propositionally.

Private teaching is possible, Ac 18:26.  Priscilla set forth the way of Christ more accurately to Apollos.

This does not mean that women are not gifted equally with men.

Women worked alongside the apostle Paul and other great leaders of biblical times. They played a powerful role in ministry.

Since women are equally gifted for the work of the ministry, and since they ministered with Paul, for example, women are to be encouraged to ministry through many avenues in ministry.

Administrative positions are not precluded by the above passages.

The Bible makes no assertions about parachurch organizations except in reference to traveling mission teams where women worked with men.

Contribution of women to the church in the first century:

-prophesying, Acts 2:17; 21:8; I Co 11:5; Rev 2:20; cf. Ex 15:20; Jud 4:4; II Kg 22:13-20; Ne 6:14; Is 8:3; Lu 2:36

-teaching, Ti 2:3; Rev 2:20; cf. Pr 31:26

-ministering to physical and material need, Ac 9:39; I Ti 5:10

-contribution of material resources, Lu 8:3

-evangelistic witness, Jn 4:28-29,39; Phil 4:3

-public testimony & praise concerning healing, Lu 8:47; 13:13 (not in the church, however)

-deaconess, Ro 16:1

There are some kinds of service we never find women fulfilling:

apostles or elders

shepherding God’s people

miracles, healing, governing, distinguishing between spirits


Women in Biblical Ministries

Dr. Grant C Richison

Jesus included many women on his missionary tours (Lu 8:1-3). Three women are specifically named: Mary Magdalene (from whom the seven demons had been cast out), Joanna the wife of Cuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, who is not mentioned again in the Scriptures. Luke wants us to know that these women were not mere “clingers-on,” they were active contributors to the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. In addition to these three, who are named, were many other women who supported the Lord’s mission financially:

“… and many other. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:3).These women, who followed Jesus during this Galilean campaign, continued to follow Him to and through the end.

Many women were there [at the cross], watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt. 27:55-56).

“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Jesus, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (Mark 15:40-41).

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment … It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 23:55-56; 24:10-11).

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

\Jesus elevated women above the status given them by society. Throughout the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus loved and esteemed Throughout the gospels, Jesus describes women in a very favorable light.

Jesus used and encouraged women in ministry. Luke’s account of these women who followed Jesus and supported the Galilean campaign is a tribute to them and to their ministry. It commends women for their faithfulness and commitment to the Lord and it values their ministry as a partnership in the proclamation of the gospel.

Jesus differentiated the ministry of women from that of men. Jesus did not use women in ministry in the same ways that He used men. He did not choose 6 men and 6 women as apostles; He chose 12 men. He did not send out 36 men and 36 women from city to city (10:1ff.); He sent out 72 men. Jesus did not send out women to preach to people. Jesus used women in ministry, but in a way that is entirely consistent with the principles and practices of the apostle Paul. Those principles and practices that are viewed as “narrow” by some evangelicals and most others. Jesus did not use women in ministries that caused them to teach or to have authority over men.

Jesus did not allow His culture to dictate the ways in which women were used in ministry. Today, some Christians are tempted to think in this way: Jesus elevated women above the culture of their day. Therefore Christians should continue to press for women’s rights and ministry that surpass society’s standards and structures. If Jesus was a “liberator of women” in His day, the church should seek to liberate women today.

One’s spirituality or significance to Christ is not measured by one’s prominence, power, or position, but by one’s heart for God and devotion to Him. The reason why both men and women clamor for the “right” to possess positions of power and prestige is because we think that our significance to God is measured by standing before men.

Prophetesses – Women clearly functioned as prophetesses in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Miriam is explicitly called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20, and she led the women in singing for Yahweh’s triumph over Egypt (Exodus 15:21). The prophetess Huldah was consulted by the messengers of Josiah in 2 Kings 22:14-20. Other women probably functioned as prophetesses in the Old Testament but are unmentioned (cf. Isaiah 8:3), and Ezekiel pronounces judgment against daughters who prophesy falsely (Ezekiel 13:17-24). Compare also Nehemiah’s words against the prophetess Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14). The problem here was not that these women prophesied, but that they did not prophesy according to the word of the Lord. Deborah (Judges 4:4-5) — Evangelical feminists consider Deborah particularly significant because she functioned as a judge over Israel, which would include judging men, and she exercised authority over the man Barak, who was a commander of the Israelite troops.

In the New Testament, too, women prophesy, and there may even be some indication that it was more common for them to do so. The prophetess Anna thanked God and spoke of Him when Jesus was brought to the temple (Luke 2:36-38). Peter cites Joel’s prophecy that when the Spirit is poured out both “sons and daughters will prophesy… . Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18; cf. Joel 2:28-32). Philip’s four daughters are one indication that this promise was fulfilled, for they all prophesied (Acts 21:9). Paul also encourages women to prophesy, with proper adornment (1 Corinthians 11:5). [Acts 2:17; 21:8; I Co 11:5; Rev 2:20; cf. Ex 15:20; Jud 4:4; II Kg 22:13-20; Ne 6:14; Is 8:3; Lu 2:36].

Women Teachers — When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos teach, they took him aside and explained the gospel more accurately to him (Acts 18:26). The inclusion of Priscilla indicates that she must have taught Apollos as well. In fact, Luke mentions her first, and some suggest this implies that she did more of the teaching. Such ministry by Priscilla does not seem to be a one-time affair. In Romans 16:3, Paul greets both Priscilla and Aquila. He labels them his fellow-workers in the gospel, which implies that they shared in the gospel ministry with him. Their involvement in ministry is also confirmed by 1 Corinthians 16:19, for there Paul says that a church is in their house. [Ti 2:3; Re 2:20; cf. Pr 31:26]

Women as Fellow-workers and Laborers — In Romans 16:3 Paul calls Priscilla a “fellow worker” (sunergos). In Philippians 4:2, he exhorts two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to agree in the Lord. In 4:3, he says that they struggled together with him in the gospel along with Clement and the rest of the fellow-workers. The implication is that Euodia and Syntyche were fellow-workers. They struggled together in the gospel by helping Paul spread the good news of salvation. In Romans 16:6, Paul instructs the Romans to greet Mary, who labored much for them. And in Romans 16:12, three women, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, are said to have labored much in the Lord.

Women Deacons — In Romans 16:1, Paul says that Phoebe was “a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae.”

Women ministering to physical and material need, Ac 9:39; I Ti 5:10


Some Restrictions on Women in Ministry

Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner


[Article adapted by Dr. Grant C Richison as found in Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood ]


Women participated in ministry in the Scriptures, but their ministry was a complementary and supportive ministry to men, a ministry that fostered and preserved male leadership in the church.

A.    Prophetesses

1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This passage is absolutely crucial for rightly understanding a woman’s relationship to man as she prophecies.

Women who prophesy must do so with proper adornment. Because a woman’s adornment says something about her relationship with men (11:3-10).

11:3 is the key to the passage: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”. Adornment shows that a woman is submissive to male headship, even while prophesying. The way she is adorned indicates whether the man is the head, i.e., the authority.

The only passage that creates any difficulty for such a supportive and complementary view of prophecy is Judges 4 where Deborah commands Barak and is a judge in Israel.

Deborah is a special case because she seems to be the only judge in Judges who has no military function. The other judges also lead Israel into victory in battle, but Deborah receives a word from the Lord that Barak is to do this (Judges 4:6-7). Deborah is not asserting leadership for herself; she gives priority to a man.

There is an implied rebuke of Barak because he is not willing to go to battle without Deborah (Judges 4:8). Because of his reluctance, the glory that day will go to a woman (Judges 4:9), but note that the woman is not Deborah but Jael (Judges 4:17ff.).

Both Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) exercised their gift of prophecy differently from the men who possessed the gift. Note that Deborah did not prophecy in public. Instead, her prophetic role seems to be limited to private and individual instruction. Judges 4:5 says, “And she used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment”.

A confirming argument for this view is found in the case of Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20). She did not publicly proclaim God’s word. Rather, she explained in private the word of the Lord when Josiah sent messengers to her. She exercised her prophetic ministry in a way that did not obstruct male headship.

The prophetic ministry of Miriam is no exception to this, because she ministered only to women. “Then Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them …” (Exodus 15:20, my italics).

It is instructive to note in the Old Testament that some women were prophets, but never priests. It is the priests who had the more settled and established positions of leadership in Israel. This is not to deny that the Old Testament prophets spoke with great authority. Indeed, they criticized priests who abused their authority. The point is that prophecy is a different kind of gift from teaching, and when women functioned as prophets they did so with a demeanor and attitude that supported male leadership.

B.  Teaching and Spiritual Gifts

Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26), and women have all the spiritual gifts, including teaching (Titus 2:3-4) and leadership.

It is hard to tell from the Acts account to what extent Priscilla taught Apollos, since both Priscilla and Aquila are named. It is precarious to base much on this text, since it is an argument from silence to say that Priscilla was the primary teacher.

Even if Priscilla did all the teaching, this is not the same thing as teaching publicly in an authoritative position of leadership. Surely, Abigail “taught” David in 1 Samuel 25, but no one would say she had a position of leadership over men. More is often established from the example of Priscilla and Aquila than is warranted from the text.

Women surely have all the spiritual gifts, but does that mean that there are no restrictions regarding the exercising of those gifts? If our interpretation of passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is correct, then women cannot publicly exercise their spiritual gift of teaching over men. This is not to deny that women have the gift of teaching or leadership. The point is that they are primarily to exercise those gifts among women. The idea that women are to exercise their gifts of leadership and teaching with other women harmonizes with Paul’s instructions to older women in Titus 2:3ff.

C. Women as Fellow-workers and Laborers

It is inferred that if women were fellow-workers and labors they must be leaders, but is only convincing if these words are technical terms for positions of leadership, and it is not clear that the terms are technical. That women played a significant role in gospel ministry is clear from the use of these terms, but it is unwarranted to derive from these terms alone the nature of their ministry.

The clear teaching of Paul elsewhere (1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33b-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-15) must be the guide for understanding the role of women rather than the appeal to terms that are too vague to support the idea of women sharing full leadership with men. Women could, for example, be prophets and probably deacons (see below) without violating male leadership, and yet surely such women would be fellow-workers and laborers.

It could still be objected that Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and fellow laborer (1 Corinthians 16:16). Paul says in verses 15-16, “Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer”. What is crucial to see is that the command to be subject (hypotasso) to every fellow-worker and laborer is found in a particular context, and thus it cannot be generalized to prove that women were church leaders. Verses 15-16 make it clear that the household of Stephanas and others who worked with them were the leaders in the Corinthian church. There is no evidence in the context that any of these fellow workers and laborers in Corinth were women. In fact, the only leader mentioned, Stephanas, is clearly a man.

Some may conclude that the reference to “the household of Stephanas” shows that women must be included. This argument, however, proves too much. Surely, no one would say that the children in Stephanas’s house were church leaders, and yet they were part of his house. Those who want to prove that women held positions of authority over men must prove their case with arguments from indisputable examples rather than from the vague wording that Paul uses here.

D.  Women Deacons and Elders

Phoebe is called a deacon in Romans 16:1. It should be noted, however, that the word diakonos, as we pointed out above, is often a general term, and thus one cannot be sure that Phoebe was a deacon.

It is very unlikely that the word prostatis (Romans 16:2) is being used to say that Phoebe was a leader. Paul commends Phoebe to the Romans and says “help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper [this is the word some think should be translated “leader”] of many, and of myself as well.

That Phoebe is being called a leader here is improbable for three reasons.

It is highly improbable that Paul would say that Phoebe held a position of authority over him. He says that about no one except Christ, not even the Jerusalem apostles (Galatians 1:6-7, 11), so confident is he of his high authority as an apostle (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).

There seems to be a play on words between the word prostatis and the previous verb, paristemi, in 16:2. Paul says to help (paristemi) Phoebe because she has been a help (prostatis) to many, including to Paul himself. It fits the context better to understand Paul as saying, “Help Phoebe because she has been such a help to others and to me.”

Although the related masculine noun prostates can mean “leader,” the actual feminine noun (prostatis) does not take the meaning “leader” but is defined as “protectress, patroness, helper.”

Even if women were appointed as deacons, they were not appointed as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Two qualities demanded of elders—being apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) and governing of the church (1 Timothy 3:5)—are not part of the responsibility of deacons (cf. also 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:9; Acts 20:17, 28ff.). The deacon’s task consisted mainly in practical service to the needs of the congregation. This is suggested by Acts 6:1-6, where the apostles devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (6:4), while the seven are selected to care for the practical concern of the daily distribution to widows. Elders were given the responsibility to lead and teach the congregation.

Those who find a reference to women elders in Titus 2:3 are clearly mistaken. Paul uses the word presbytidas here, which means “older women.” The usual word for “elders” who served in church office in the Bible is related but different: presbyteros (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22ff.; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Timothy 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5). Someone might say that Paul uses this different word because in Titus 2:3 he is referring to women elders. The problem with this is that the usual word for “elders,” presbyteros, could easily have been made feminine (presbytera) if Paul wanted to refer to women elders. Paul did not use a feminine form of the word presbyteros here; he used a distinct word that never refers to elders.

Titus 2:2 demonstrates clearly that Paul was not speaking of women elders in Titus 2:3. In verse 2, Paul addresses the “older men.” Now it is clear that Paul is not referring to elders here who hold a church office of authority, for he does not use the word that indicates such an office, presbyteros. Instead, Paul uses a word that always refers to “older men,” presbytas (cf. Luke 1:18; Philemon 9).

E. Women Apostles

If Junias was a woman apostle (Romans 16:7), then a tension is created between the apostleship of Junias (if Junias was a woman) and our other arguments, for apostles were certainly the most authoritative messengers of God in the New Testament.

But it should be said from the outset that this passage is unclear. Here we have a single verse. The passage is unclear in three ways.

The name may be a contraction of a man’s name, Junianus.

Even though some claim confidently that the verse means that Andronicus and Junias are outstanding apostles, it is also possible that the text is saying that they are “outstanding in the eyes of the apostles.”

Even if we grant that Paul is speaking of a woman and he designates her as a distinguished apostle, what does he mean by the word apostle here? The word apostle in Paul could be used in a non-technical way refer to “messengers” or “representatives” (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25).

It is remarkable that Jesus did not select a single female apostle, and the other clearly apostolic figures in the New Testament are men: Paul, James, and Barnabas.

Not one indisputable example of a female apostle can be given in the New Testament.

It should also be said that some who argue for no restrictions on women in ministry argue from isolated and ambiguous verses.



What Does It Mean for Women Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men

1 Timothy 2:11-15

Dr. Douglas Moo


[adapted by Dr. Grant C Richison

Article in Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood ]


“…how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15).

False teachers had persuaded many women to follow them in their doctrines (1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7).

False teachers encouraged women to discard traditional female roles in favor of a more egalitarian approach to the role relationships of men and women.

First, an encouragement to abstain from marriage.

Second, the counsel in 1 Timothy 5:14 to young widows “to marry, to have children, to manage their homes”—i.e., to occupy themselves in traditional female roles—is issued because some “have … turned away to follow Satan” (verse 15).

Third, the false teaching involved the denial of a future, physical resurrection in favor of a present, “spiritual” resurrection (2 Ti 2:18; 1 Co 15, 1 Ti 4:8), and led to incorrect attitudes toward marriage and sex (1 Corinthians 7; 1 Timothy 4:3), toward food (1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Timothy 4:3, although the specific issues are a bit different), and, most importantly, to a tendency on the part of the women to disregard their appropriate roles, especially vis-à-vis their husbands (see 1 Co 11:2-18; 14:33b-36; 1 Ti 2:9-15; 5:13-14; Ti 2:3-5).


1 Timothy 2:8 caution about anger and quarreling during prayer was occasioned by the impact of the false teaching on the church, for one of the most obvious results of that false teaching was divisiveness and discord (1 Timothy 6:4-5).

The exhortation of verses 9-10 where Paul encourages Christian women to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety,” with “good deeds” rather than with elaborate hair styles and ostentatious clothes, is directed against the false teaching in Ephesus.

Paul warns them about further

In verse 11, he commands them to “learn in quietness and full submission.” It is not the fact that they are to learn, but the manner in which they are to learn that concerns Paul: “in quietness” and “with full submission.”

The underlying issue in verse 11 is not just submission to the teaching of the church but the submission of women to their husbands and to male leadership of the church. This is suggested by Paul’s use of the word submission (hypotage„). Submission is the appropriate response of Christians to those who are in authority over them (e.g., to government [Ti 3:1] and, for those who were slaves, to masters [Ti 2:9]. The word (or its related verb) is a consistent feature in passages dealing with the appropriate response of wives to husbands (Ep 5:24; Co 3:18; Ti 2:5; 1 Pe 3:1, 5; 1 Co 14:34).


The phrase full submission is the hinge between the command in verse 11—“A woman should learn in quietness and all submission”—and the prohibitions in verse 12—“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.

We may, therefore, paraphrase the transition in this way: “Let the women learn … with all submission; but [de] ‘all submission’ means also that I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.”

A. The Word “Permit”

Paul’s use of the word permit are often taken as indications that Paul views the injunction that follows as limited and temporary.  However, nothing definite can be concluded from this word.

B. The Meaning of “Teach”

The word teach and its cognate nouns teaching (didaskalia) and teacher (didaskalos) are used in the New Testament mainly to denote the careful transmission of didactic truth (1 Ti 4:11: “Command and teach these things;” 2 Ti 2:2; Acts 2:42; Ro 12:7). This is usually restricted to certain individuals who have the gift of teaching (see 1 Co 12:28-30; Ep 4:11).

In the pastoral epistles, teaching always has this restricted sense of authoritative doctrinal instruction. One of Timothy’s main tasks is to teach (1 Ti 4:11-16; 2 Ti 4:2) and to prepare others to carry on this vital ministry (2 Ti 2:2).

The teaching prohibited by women here includes what we would call preaching ( 2 Ti 4:2: “Preach the word … with careful instruction” [teaching, didache]), and the teaching of Bible and doctrine in the church, in colleges, and in seminaries.

Paul did not prohibit women from all teaching. The word man (andros), which is plainly the object of the verb have authority (authentein), should be construed as the object of the verb teach Male/female differentiation pervades this passage and comes to direct expression in the word that immediately precedes verse 12, submission.

Paul’s position in the pastoral epistles is, then, consistent: he allows women to teach other women (Ti 2:3-4), but prohibits them to teach men.

C.  The Meaning of “Have Authority”

The verb “have authority” (authentein) means “have authority over.” Governing or ruling function exercised under God by some Christians over others is a constant principle in Scripture (1 Th 5:12; He 13:17). Paul ascribes this governing activity to elders (see 1 Ti 3:5; 5:17). Paul’s prohibition of women’s having authority over a man would exclude a woman from becoming an elder in the way this office is described in the pastoral epistles.

On the other hand, this does not prohibit women from voting in a congregational meeting. This is not the same thing as the exercise of authority ascribed to the elders.

This does not prohibit women from most church administrative activities.

This does not prohibit women teaching or having authority over men in government, business, or education. Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is specifically the role of men and women in activities within the Christian church.