Posted by: minnow | September 14, 2008

Women Who Rock the Boat

Recently I received an e-mail asking me to explain how Brian McClaren’s writing helped me to have hope for the Church.  The writer also mentioned that he had gone to one of my favorite blogs and one I recommended he visit if he was interested in a study on what the Bible really says about women in ministry, Abandon Image.  He said there was too much for him to wade through and asked if I could suggest one post in particular.  The answer to that question is no, not really since there are several scripture passages that seem to restrict women in ways men are not restricted and to do a thorough job looking at them takes the multiple posts Tia has done the work to provide.  However, the following is my best summary of some of the points Abandon Image gives much studied detail to prove.  McLaren will come later.


First, scripture provides multiple examples of women in leadership roles.  Deborah is an Old Testament example of a woman God used as a military leader, judge, and spiritual guide.  In the New Testament Phoebe and Junia are women who Paul refers to in Romans 16 as a decon and leader, and an apostle respectively.  In verses 1 and 2 the key words to describe Phoebe are: adelphe which means sister, diakonos which means deacon, minister, or servant and prostates which means patroness, protector and leader but is translated helper.  In the earliest manuscripts Junia is left alone and no question is raised about Paul referring to her as an apostle.  Around the 13th century however her name is translated as Junias, the masculine version.  Today, instead of suggesting Junia is a man the argument is that she was only known by the apostles Which is a bit of a stretch since it was never suggest before that Paul wasn’t referring to two apostles.  Other passages that mention women in leadership type roles are: 1 Corinthians 16:19 and Colossians 4:15 (Priscilla and Nympha who have churches in their homes), 1 Corinthians 11:5 (discusses women praying and prophesying).


Two passages cause the most frequent problems for the idea of women in Church leadership.  They are 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  Both seem to say women cannot hold positions of leadership, teach men, or even speak when we limit our examination to our modern English translations and have little understanding of the cultural conditions in which the Church was birthed and these passages were scribed.  Yet passages, such as the ones sited above, indicate that women were in these positions even in the early Church with Paul’s approval. 


In the I Corinthians passage realizing that the original language lacked punctuation goes along way toward explaining what Paul might actually be doing. Paul could possibly be quoting from the letter he says he is responding to in 7:1 and then correcting the Church’s assumptions.  Text in 14:26-33 is about order in worship.  Then we have the quote in 35-36 and Paul’s response which is basically restating what he already said.  The phrase “As the Law says” is confusing unless it is taken as a quote since there is no such law in the Torah or OT.


In the Timothy passage the phrase found in 1 Tim 3:2 and 12 “Husband of but one wife” is the only gender specific phrase in the list of requirements and may have been used in a gender specific way because men were the only ones in the culture allowed to have more than one spouse, thus it did not apply to the women.  In 1Tim 3:11the word “wives” is mistranslated and should read “women”.  Mistranslations in 1 Tim 2:11-15 include Hesuchios/Hesuchia which is translated “silent” but should be translated peacefulness or quietness, Authentein which is translated “to have authority over” but actually should be translated to dominate (a forcefulness is implied, not an authority).


The dress modestly, Adam was created first, and Eve was deceived portions are in direct response to the secular Ephesians who taught that Eve was created first and got special knowledge when she ate from the tree of Knowledge that was passed on through temple sex rituals.  Paul also is insisting that the women BE TAUGHT (not just allowed to learn if they want).  If women were the targets of the false teaching and the spreaders of them Paul wanted what they were hearing to be replaced with sound teaching, for example that Adam was created first.  The high death rate during childbirth (for women and infants) made the cult of Artemis (goddess of fertility) tempting, even for Christians.  Thus verse 15 should indicate that women will be safe during childbirth not saved by it.  Jesus alone saves.  Surly Paul would not be suggesting otherwise.


For Ben, I hope this helps.  For others I hope you are maybe a bit more interested in studying out passages that seem to contradict other passages or examples within scripture.  I know some of you will remain unconvinced.  It is sometimes just easier to do things the way they’ve always been done and accept what our leaders say without question.  In fact most people don’t like rocking the boat.



  1. thanks for this entry. Very intersting. Will do more studying on these passages.

    as far as rocking the boat…. I’ve always looked at myself as the one in my family/circle that was the boat rocker. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions, be different or bring up issues that were sort of hush hush. I think most of my peers/family/circle just want to say to me… why do you think so much? why do you feel the need to challenge? you’re too much….

    I sort of felt like I just caused unwelcome commotion. unwanted attention on certain issues.

    I don’t think I’ve changed in anyway… but I did learn some things, and learned how to love on others more. I have learned a lot about people skills and mercy. I have soo far to go but I did realize that the way I was rocking the boat was nothing but destructive. I have learned (and am still learning) how to rock the boat without carelessly throwing people out of it without 2nd thought to them at all and where they were spiritaully….

    Always being challenging, always wanting to bring up issues, always wanting to talk….. isn’t a great thing if done without being others-focused and done without tact. There’s ways of doing things, appropriate times and ways and I didn’t follow the road of mercy and love and being others-focused at all in my rocking the boat.

    People don’t want to be around others who are always critical, complaining and condemning. They don’t want to listen to people who only focus on the negative in everything and everybody…. and really people don’t care about what you say until they know you care and trust you.

    Also so much of my rocking the boat I know was my personality — I am a driver and love to challenge, love change ……. and after marrying a man totally opposite in personality – I realized that my personality is a huge reason I rock the boat —- and just because a person isn’t vocal about their passion or not adamant outwardly wanting to bring to light issues all the times doesn’t mean they are stupid, stagnant, or okay with the status quo. they are just differnet than me. live differently. work for change differently. communicate differently. express faith differently. think differently.

    anyway – I am totally just rambling. this has nothing to do with you at all hahaha just wanted to share what was on MY haert about rocking the boat hahaha

    thanks as always

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