First off, since I know this may be a somewhat controversial question in today's climate, let me just state that I'm not intending to take any part in that controversy. I'm just asking this question because I'm curious.

The position of scripture on women being ordained seems to be quite clear. I guess 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are the most well-known examples.

What I'm wondering is how this teaching originated. Unless I'm wrong, it is mainly the apostles who speak about it, rather than Christ himself, or for that matter the prophets, and I haven't been able to find any source in the old testament in general. Certainly, it's not like I think that the apostles just made it up of their own volition, either.

Is it part of pre-existing Jewish law, quite simply? If that is so, how come it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the old testament? Was it simply so "obvious" at the time that there was felt no need to codify it, or did the law evolve between the relevant writings of the old testament and the time of Christ? Also, has it ever been considered by any ecumenical council (or other church authority) to have been abrogated by the new covenant? (I'm thinking that if it was considered a specifically Jewish law, then it might have been considered.)

One specific thing I'm having a hard time comprehending is the seeming conflict with the fact that there have been women who have been considered prophets and saints. If women can be bestowed with such authority, how come that priesthood is considered completely beyond them?

Keep in mind that what I'm asking about is primarily about women in ministry, not "women's rights in the Bible" as some more general question.


3 Answers 3


This appears to be a Jewish tradition rather than any precept of God, since the only Biblical reference I can find is in Paul's letter to Timothy:

1st Timothy 2:11 through 15 KJV

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Since Paul was a well schooled Pharisee, this might be a hold over concept from those teachings. Before the time of Jesus the Sanhedrin had so polluted Judaism, that many of the stringent restrictions were the ideas included at the desire of Religious leadership.

Some Denominations today hold on to this concept because it was espoused by Paul.


Women appear in ministry functions and even recognized roles in both the Old Testament and New Testament (source). I believe, that the earliest mandate for women in ministry is that given right at the beginning - the command given to co-steward the Earth (in conjunction with men):

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” - Genesis 1:26-28 ESV (emphasis added)

A consequence of the fall, was that the deception of Eve resulted in a curse on her to be under the rule of her husband in a way that worked against her own desire for him (a subjection - cf. Genesis 3:16). It is true, that Adam was made first and there is a sense that Eve was made 'for him'; but it is also true that a male/female partnership with both being co-image-bearers was in God's heart as evidenced in the passage quoted above - the curse bought a sense of dominance as opposed to 'first among equals'. This curse was unfortunately transmitted to subsequent generations and indeed had a highly deleterious effect on women's ability to minister according to their original dominion (co-)mandate and remained in effect until it was broken at Calvary*. The ministries of Deborah and Huldah in the OT were exceptions that gave a glimmer of hope that God's grace was sufficient to overcome the curse by those who put their trust in Him.

The most significant verse on the matter in the OT is not the examples of the two women mentioned however, but:

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. - Joel 2:28-29 ESV

Which of course received initial fulfilment on the day of Pentecost but remains an aspect of the 'now but not yet'-ness of the Kingdom of God - until the cloudbursts of the latter rain, it will be those who press in to the Kingdom that will lay hold of this truth, while others will fail to grasp it.

I believe that it is in this over-all context, that a deeper meaning than just implied by the immediate context can be seen in the oft-quoted (by egalitarians) Galatians 3:28 -

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, women are liberated from the curse of domination to become all they can be in him - including walking in a life of good works prepared for them (cf. Ephesians 2:10) for:

Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 GW

Many will still say, but what about 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12? I would answer that these passages must be examined very carefully in light of the context of what the whole of scripture tells us - they represent examples of what 2 Peter 3:15-16 is talking about -

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. - ESV (emphasis added)

For those who are interested in further study of these matters, I would direct them here,here or here.

*In an analagous way to how scripture teaches us of other Calvary associated benefits (e.g. healing), I believe that this benefit must be appropriated by faith in God's grace.

  • I realise that there are many members of the Christianity.SE community who will disagree with this doctrine, it is requested that you do not downvote without first providing constructive criticism (and preferably after thoroughly researching a viewpoint that may be initially unfamiliar to you). Jul 18, 2014 at 17:08

During that time period, obviously women didn't have very much say in really anything, as we see from historical documents and our general knowledge. I think partially it was said that "it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church" because that was what the times where, women were seen as the weaker and more dependent. On the other hand, there were the women Judges, like Deborah, who were strong and put in power by the hand of God. We see that others are faithful to Him like Esther and Ruth, etc. And of course, we should glean from our Godly husbands and men who truly know God, but do not lean and depend on them for knowledge of God. It says ask and you will receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you. It does not say, men, come and ask, and seek, and knock. I think that the But I think this shows that God does want women to be in power and authority, if they are walking with him: "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 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. And this is quoted from the prophet Joel, who was in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament they are reaffirming this fact. And a lot of times the Bible it refers to men, it is also referring to brothers and sisters, or a human being, whether male or female. I believe that God IS calling women to the place of the ordained, maybe in a formal way, maybe not! So even if some people do not credit the ability of women even now, so us women should prophesy in the streets and shout God's name on the rooftops because he has called all of us, not just men, to be his messengers of light. I do believe that women have a place in the ministry because they hear from God just as men do, and can impact people's lives in the same way.

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    I'm not arguing the validity of what you say, but this would be a much better answer if you had supporting references. As it is, it reads like a personal interpretation rather than an established teaching. See What makes a good supported answer? Also, I understand that many people are on mobile devices, and they can be a pain to type on, but paragraph breaks really make answers more readable and therefore helpful. Apr 17, 2014 at 4:36

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