• Laura Evans Coombs

Did God Really Command Women to be Silent in the Church?

I was invited to write an article by the publisher of Salt Radio Ministries who wanted subjects with an edge. My first thought was, “No problem. There are a whole lot of subjects avoided or glazed over by the church that would be considered 'edgy.'" I decided to explore the profound statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-14. My question: Was this statement God's command or Paul's own opinion? As a woman who wants to work out her salvation with fear and trembling, along with many other women, I need to have an answer.

The text in the New International Version reads like this....

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived and became a sinner; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." ~ 1 Timothy 2:11-14

Now, if we stop there and fail to look at this statement in context and then compare it with other statements made by this great apostle, we could possibly err and create a whole new church doctrine. The text that this quote is taken from are the 'Pastoral Letters'. In this letter, Paul advises Timothy on such matters as worship procedures, control of unruly women, leadership standards and policies regarding widows, slaves and rich people. Of course, unruly men and women in church would be something no one would want, even in the present age. But, Paul did not say this was the Lord's command. These were guidelines to help Paul's understudy, Timothy, smooth out troubles in this fledgling church.

In earlier texts, Paul differentiated between his opinions, cultural beliefs, and the Holy inspired commands of God. 1 Corinthians 7:10-12 is one place.

“To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is will to live with him, he must not divorce her." ~ 1 Corinthians 7:10-12

In 1 Timothy, Paul said “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.” He didn't say the Lord said. As for the woman sinning first, go back and read the text again. Genesis 2:16 Adam was told not to eat of the fruit by God first, and in Genesis 3:6 he was standing there with Eve as she ate and shared the forbidden fruit.

Understandably Paul was working to strengthen the character of the early church, as did Jesus. He was the apostle to the Gentiles; they came into following Christ with a lot of reprehensible practices and behavioral baggage. With that said, I take what Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as his opinion and not God's permanent design for women.

Paul wrote with a clear slant toward men. Common practice for his day and in the centuries that preceded him. Stories of strong women in the bible, like Judith and Ester, were either changed or dropped during its canonization. He seemed to follow in that same vein. Paul, a man strong in his traditions and cultural beliefs would not be easily persuaded otherwise. Hence God's heavy handed approach to Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus and throughout Paul's ministry.

I always look to the ministry of Jesus when in question. In John 4:26 it was a woman that Jesus approached first and revealed his divine identity. And she was not a pious or honorable woman either. Had he treated any woman without dignity or respect, it would have given credence to the contemporary belief of the times that women were less important than men. Instead, Jesus didn't turn them away telling them to go be quiet somewhere because of their gender. He came to their defense, even after being caught in their sin. No, God's design and plan for women didn't end with Eve screwing up in the garden. Proof of that is in the countless anointed ministries women have been blessed with. None of which would be considered unruly and many of them having men sit under their teaching.

The bible is God breathed. We just need to seek the Kingdom of God and look below the top layers. Letting go of the scriptures that seem to suit some and not others. Truth is there if we dig in and aren't afraid to look. I think sometimes if we don't understand a scripture or it doesn't go along with what we've been taught, we glaze over it. That's when we ask the Holy Spirit to increase our understanding. And He is faithful to answer.

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