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Women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.

Many churches these days feature female pastors, preachers and teachers. This includes theologically conservative churches. Presuming that they believe the Bible is inerrant, how do church officials and scholars justify this? Is it based on other scriptures, textual criticism or what? (Not seeking opinions on church policy here, but I am interested in how biblical inerrantists who support women preaching in church deal with this issue hermeneutically.)

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Christianity Meta, or in Christianity Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:07
  • I'm going to purge all these answers too. If the question asks "how do church officials and scholars justify this? Is it based on other scriptures, textual criticism or what?" not just "biblical inerrantists" . Most Christian call themselves biblical inerrantists and call other Christians heathens or heretics or idolaters, so you'll need to look over that part of the question. This is simply, what is the Biblical basis for allowing women to preach - it's probably a duplicate question anyway...
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:11

3 Answers 3

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Given my back-to-front way of thinking, I looked at this question and thought:

"Why is the word 'preachers' in it? The Bible speaks often of women speaking up in congregations of believers; even before the Christian church was established, women like Deborah judged the nation of Israel and she prophesied. Her faith in God and her song of praise when God gave the victory (as he had told her he would) clearly shows the role that could be played by a woman, without her ever being called "a preacher". Same in the New Testament - nowhere is a positive, approving reference to "a woman preacher" to be found." Or, if it is, I will gladly stand correction.

The problem seems to lie in looking at things from our 21st and 20th century viewpoint in the West. We have our modern ideas about what 'preaching' is, and who preaches, and why. So, given that the question presumes 'biblical inerrancy' and just one 'proof' (?) text is quoted, would it not be helpful to start with what the Bible says about the role of women in God's arrangement of things (pre- and post-Christ) and collate all the scriptures that say anything on that subject? Then a conclusion might be arrived at to understand how we (few) who view the Bible as inerrant today should deal with what has become a vexed question.

To relieve this question of some of its vexatious nature, I would have asked, "Presuming biblical inerrancy, in what way are females authorized to speak in congregations of Christians today?" However, that is not what you asked. What you asked for seems to take it as understood that there are female preachers authorized to preach, but until clarification comes as to what biblical preaching is, I cannot begin to answer. Likewise, biblical inerrancy is categorically clear that there is a headship structure in congregations of Christians, to do with authority, the Head of the Church being Jesus Christ, with the men subject to him. For me, this means that the men, under Christ, are responsible for who does biblical preaching, and answerable to him. If those men who maintain biblical inerrancy say women cannot stand up in front of a mixed congregation that includes men to teach from the Bible (one definition of preaching) but other men say they could, and should, this calls into question the whole matter of what really is biblical inerrancy. And, yes, this question does deal with that.

As that is the one point I think I can answer, I would say that biblical inerrancy means that when the Bible says women are not to teach men in the congregation, that would exclude women preachers (in the modern sense). One of the other Bible verses on that is:

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

Notice how the matter of authority is a key point here? The one who teaches others is considered to be exercising authority over those being taught. Perhaps men may 'authorize' women to preach and teach in the congregation, but if that is done in violation of what the Bible clearly states, then is that man-made authority valid? Could it be that a real reason for the increasing numbers of women being ordained by men to preach today is the noticeable decline in mature Christian men coming forward as elders who have sufficient grasp of the Bible to teach it?

The issues raised by this question touch many raw nerves, and (as some have commented) "if something offends even a single hyper-sensitive soul, it is unacceptable", and also that it "challenges modern feminism", which "can rarely be tolerated today". The answer I offer is that churches that uphold biblical inerrancy would not authorize women to preach.

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  • Anne, 1 Tim. 2:12, not 2 Tim. The original sources are inerrant but I do not think we can claim that the translations are inerrant. There are some problems of bias and preconceived ideas that have twisted many verses in the translations.
    – Gina
    Dec 4, 2023 at 12:51
  • @Gina Thanks for flagging up the ref. typo; have corrected it and adjusted my last para. Yes there are problems of bias and preconceived ideas, but a fresh Q would be needed before I launch into that!
    – Anne
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:18
  • @Gina if translations are not inerrant what about the possibility that, as some textual scholars think, a copyist's gloss has unintentionally slipped into the text as if it Paul's teaching when it is actually the copyist's personal policy in his congregation? Dec 4, 2023 at 14:49
  • @DanFefferman - I think that is a legitimate concern. It is why I always look for the original words in the Interlinear, and compare the translations at these troubling scriptures. The troubling verses are often considered "troubling" b/c ppl are applying current "language of the day" to 2,000 year old scriptures w/o knowing the 1st audience perspective.
    – Gina
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:54
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You ask on what basis do the churches that believe the scriptures to be inerrant authorize women to preach and be pastors. The question is based on an assumption that those churches believe the scriptures are inerrant. As Anne has pointed out many people today are rationalizing that modern day cultures overrule the sexist cultures of the past, and they then reason that as women were active in the history of God's people (Deborah, Anna), especially during the ministry of Christ and Paul, that women can be allowed to teach men in the assemblies. However, there is some legitimate concern over the unusual words that only occur in 1 Tim. 2:9-15.

There are several objections brought forward. Deborah was a prophetess who was a judge in ancient history (Jud. 4-5); the women of the New Testament were teachers of men (Acts 18:26), women were speaking and praying in the assemblies (1 Tim. 2:9), and were working with Paul (Rom. 16:1-2).(2) They argue that 1 Tim. 2:12 was a specific restriction for a specific problem in the church at Ephesus caused by the wealthy women of Rome, and the pagan worship of the goddess Artemis. (1)

An objection is also raised by Jerome's possible mis-translation in the Latin Vulgate of the Greek "authenteo" Strongs 831, which was originally used for an act of violence / murder or asserting authority based on one's own initiative. (2) They posit that translating it to mean "asserting authority over" is not the original use of the word, but was caused by Catholic bias in the 4th century AD.

There certainly is basis for this concern as the influence of Catholic teaching at 1 Tim. 2:15 that a woman will be saved through "her" child-bearing is absolutely wrong, since that false teaching establishes two methods of salvation when there is only one method which is of Christ. 1 Tim. 2:15 says "the child-bearing", a specific child bearing which was the birth of Jesus Christ both in the flesh, in the spirit (Matt. 3:16-17) and as the first fruits resurrection from the grave (1 Cor. 15:20). His is the only child-bearing that saves.

The issue at 1 Cor. 14:34 is addressed specifically to the wives of the prophets - "let your wives" - and their behavior in the assemblies. Most likely the wives were questioning their husbands' prophesies during the meeting, and disrupting the service.

The Bible must be taken as a whole, and one verse cannot be used to create a new theology out of whole cloth. There are specific verses in other of Paul's letters that set out qualifications for elders and bishops (Titus 1:5-9) are addressed to blameless husbands that "he may exhort". To exhort is to teach. And, this raises the question then, as a woman may not be an elder, may she teach? (3)

Notes:

  1. Concern for Ephesus

  2. Lost in Translation

  3. Is a Woman Commanded to Keep Silent...

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  • So is the linked article in the OP mistaken in its characterization of the churches it mentions? I notice that one of them affirms the bible's "full inspiration" and "infallibility". Does this provide room to wiggle out of inerrancy? Dec 4, 2023 at 14:52
  • The word inerrant means free from error, which means infallible. So, I don't think the word play gives them an out. Claiming they believe the scriptures to be inspired and infallible does not prevent them from twisting or misusing those scriptures. I have issues against each of those denominations for misusing the scriptures.
    – Gina
    Dec 4, 2023 at 15:00
  • @Gina that point about Catholic interpretation of 1 Tim:2 sounds like it came straight out of a Chick Tract.
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:05
  • @PeterTurner - Vs. 15? The Catholic teaching of that vs. is wrong. I did not get it from a" Chick Tract, but from the BIble. The idea that a woman's child bearing is her salvation violates Jesus words, John 14:6 - "I am the way..." It also contradicts Paul's own statements that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,...male nor female...", Gal. 3:28. There is not a different salvation for women, than for men. Men can also give false teaching. So men are not exempt from error. See more -bible.org/seriespage/…
    – Gina
    Dec 6, 2023 at 8:13
  • @gina that is simply not a Catholic teaching. The Bible says what it says, but the Catholic Church, the catechisms, popes, doctors of the church, church fathers, etc. never said that the means of salvation was different for men or women. The Church does teach one needs to have faith and works (which she argues based on a scriptural basis same as Protestants would), but doesn't distinguish the works based on sex. I would really like to know where you heard that the Catholic Church teaches what you're saying.
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 6, 2023 at 13:10
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1 Cor 14:34 Women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.

The question of to which law does Paul refer has come up. Is it the Mosaic law or the Roman law or some other law?

I looked for a cross reference in the Mosaic law where it says "women are not allowed to speak", but didn't find anything.

Besides, there are a number of females that Paul congratulates for "speaking up". Timothy's mother and grandmother, Phoebe, Justia, Lydia, the women (and men) of Acts 9:2, and others. And of course, there's the gender neuter of the all in Christ.

As to Roman Law, this was said,

Women had limited engagement with politics in the public sphere; among the elite, moralists extolled female domesticity. Rome's political system involved citizen men exclusively — as politicians, representatives, magistrates, executives or voters. Wiki

So, it's not clear that Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law, Christian Law, or Roman Law of the times. Most likely, unless someone can find otherwise, he speaks about the Roman law of his time.

TO ADD RE 1 Timothy 2:13, Eve was deceived, etc.

Paul begins the chapter asking for pray for those in authority (v1).

He then asserts he was sent to the Gentiles, first, before any other preacher (v7).

Men should pray (v8) and women should dress a certain way (v9). Is this followed today?

Anyway, why Paul? Adam, like Paul, came first. Women were deceived, who apparently were teaching something besides the pure gospel (1 Tim 1:3).

Can a woman be saved if she doesn't bear children (v15)? Of course, but what is Paul saying?

In his next letter, he praises Timothy's grandmother and mother who taught Timothy.

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. 2 Tim 1:5

First. Timothy's grandmother must have learned from the first Paul. Timothy was a gentile.

So, the books of Timothy are more about learning the truth first and then teaching that. We now have the whole Bible to help.

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    The text I quoted in my answer gives as Paul's reason, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Tim.2:13-14). His reason goes far further back than the Mosaic law. It strikes me that the reason has to do with how sin corrupted the first couple, and everyone else ever since. The man was not deceived; the woman was. Man is blamed for sin entering in, not the woman, but the man is then given authority over the woman. Women who try to take that authority transgress further? Quite a thought.
    – Anne
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:29
  • I understand there are other arguments against (and for) women in authority, but the OP quotes solely 1 Cor 14:34. My request, therefore, is for someone to quote the part in the Mosaic Law that says women must be silent in the church/assembly. Without that support, then Paul must be speaking about the Roman Law extant in his time. Christians weren't liked. Accused of cannibalism, etc. Paul may simply be telling them/us to obey the laws of the land (Titus 3:1).
    – SLM
    Dec 4, 2023 at 15:43
  • @Anne Re Adam/Eve, Adam sinned intentionally. He was not deceived. He knew. Eve was deceived. She did not know. God told Adam "do not eat ..." before Eve, but Eve didn't directly know, so didn't intentionally transgress the command. The serpent asked, "did God really say?" Eve was thus deceived as a mistake, but Adam intentionally transgressed God's command. What's this mean? The "it is written" of the New Testament was not complete. Women may be deceived, hard to counter, so no teaching, until the NT is written/assembled. Rev 2:21, 14:8-female deceiver.
    – SLM
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:30

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