Dale Pauls’ Reflections On Women’s Role

Neal Pollard

An article written by Dale Pauls, minister for the Stamford, CT, Church of Christ, is rapidly making its way across the internet (www.gal328.org/good-news-naomi-walters-named-minister-in-residence-at-stamford-church-of-christ/).  I do not know brother Pauls and certainly harbor no personal animosity toward him.  However, I very strongly disagree with his apology (i.e., defense) of women serving in pulpit ministry.  As his statement seems to have drawn so much interest from so many, please allow me to contribute a few observations about this situation.

This is not a new position for him.  For those unfamiliar with brother Pauls, you might assume that he has just studied himself into a position favorable to hiring the Christian sister as a part-time Minister in Residence job.  In fact, a June 1, 2006, article in the Christian Chronicle featuring that congregation revealed they had long established the practice of women deacons, the eligibility of women to serve as elders, leading in worship and even occasionally preaching (from “Exodus Connecticut,” Bobby Ross, Jr., 6/1/06, online ed.).  Thus, the congregation and Pauls were already clear on where they stood on the matter.

The majority of his defense of the position is either his interpretation of history or an appeal to emotion.  Pauls’ declaration was reposted on gal328.org, a site created to appeal to churches of Christ to place women in a fully “egalitarian” (i.e., equal) position when it comes to their role in worship and church leadership.  What is striking from his “Reflections on Announcement” is that his appeal is mostly built around a contrast between his genesis in ministry and the young woman’s.  Essentially, he says that we, as the church, are behind the times and will cause our own serious decline. He appeals to women like this young lady, with the desire and the ability, being unfairly denied the chance to act upon such.  Scant little scripture is asserted for their decision. In fact, direct reference to scripture appears in only two of the 14 paragraphs of his article.

His appeal to scripture for his position begs the question without proving anything. An uncritical analysis of his brief use of scripture might satisfy one who asks for biblical proof.  He asserts that the two passages that restrict woman’s participation, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, “address specific circumstances in the particular cultural context of their original first-century audiences.” Interestingly, he does nothing to prove that.  Here is why.  There is not proof.  The text allows for no such interpretation.  In 1 Timothy, Paul explains that the epistle was to allow him and Ephesus to know how the church was to conduct itself (3:15).  The role of women is just one of a great many “household matters” dealt with in the letter.  A weak and illogical comparison is made to Paul’s words to slaves to obey their masters, an apples (gender distinctions are present all places for all times) to oranges (slavery has not been all places in all times) comparison.  One is instruction for what a person does who happens to be a slave, while the other, in which Paul leaves his own culture to appeal to the beginning of time, governs on the basis of gender.  His other “proof text,” Acts 2:17-21, deals with the miraculous.  Ironically, this is a text that can be shown to be restrictive to a particular culture and time but Pauls uses these verses to appeal to the “universal” he attempts to establish.

To say that we are holding people back or down, that we do not respect them or believe in grace because we wish to respect, trust and obey Scripture is both dangerous and insulting.  If certain ones are intent on changing God’s command for the sake of their own preferences, they are going to do so.  Jeroboam did the same thing in 1 Kings 12.  But, as Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). No man can do that, but he can break himself trying.

33 thoughts on “Dale Pauls’ Reflections On Women’s Role

  1. I would encourage you to find his other writings (for instance, here: http://gal328.org/resources/congregational-studies-and-statements-on-gender/). He has made the Scriptural case elsewhere and often. As you mention, Stamford has held this position for a long time, after years of sutdy. These were just his comments on one Sunday, not his entire position. His purpose on Sunday was not to make the whole case, but merely to offer reflections. You are free to disagree with his position, but you are mischaracterizing his beliefs by suggesting they are not steeped in scripture.

    1. James, thank you for taking the time to write. I certainly would not want to mischaracterise either brother Pauls or his beliefs. However, I not only disagree with his position, I state that making 1 Timothy 2:8-15 cultural rather than normative is a misuse of the passage. There is no proof that 1 Timothy 2 involves a cultural matter. To the contrary, Paul goes all the way back to the creation as an illustration of the command he is giving. The apostle Paul transcends culture by that very argument. The burden of proof would be to show how Paul’s words could be cultural given no contextual clues or internal evidence to support that idea. 1 Timothy 3:15 reveals the purpose of Paul’s writing the letter to Timothy. This is a “household of God” matter and this (what he says in 2:8-15) is “how they ought to conduct themselves” regarding it. Good people can study matters for a long, long time, but if their conclusion is unsupported by scripture we must deduce that they drew an improper conclusion. Please know that I do not wish to sound mean-spirited or arrogant, but say such with much soberness of spirit and love. Again, thank you for weighing in.

      1. You did not sound mean-spirited, and I appreciate that. You do better than many, who sadly resort to personal attacks. I personally think 1 Timothy 2 makes a much weaker case than you seem to think, but I won’t drag on the argument here. My point was simply that Pauls, and others, have articulated a more complete theology of this issue than your post gives them credit for. And an important part of that goes beyond the two “silence women” passages, looking at how Jesus treated and included women, the women referred to in Scripture as apostles and (perhaps) deacons, etc. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think they would say that you have to interpret 1 Timothy 2 etc. in a way consistent with the big picture of Scripture, and they find restrictions on women inconsistent with that big picture. I am sure you will disagree, and I understand that. All I was really trying to say is that arguing against the gender-inclusive position by just looking at Pauls’s remarks from Sunday is a bit of a strawman, because his purpose on Sunday was not to make a complete case for women in ministry, which has long been settled at Stamford. Thanks for the reply, and for your friendly tone, and God bless.

      2. James, thank you, too. I listened to Mike Cope’s sermon from when they incorporated women into an egalitarian role at Highland (I have relatives attending there). He articulated much the same particulars you include in your response above. I fear that we are mistaking the value of someone versus the role they are permitted by Scripture to have. One may have as much value (and be superior in some aspects) as an elder yet be restricted for one reason or another from occupying the role. Much of brother Cope’s argument through Scripture does not demonstrate authority or permission for her having an expanded role, but reinforces the great value of God’s woman. The woman of God has so much more value than the battleground of church leadership. Thank you for your heart and your interest. I appreciate you for that.

  2. Pollar’s appeal to scripture for his position begs the question without proving anything. An uncritical analysis of his brief use of scripture might satisfy one who asks for biblical proof. He asserts that the two passages that restrict woman’s participation, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 should be applied to every cultural context, indiscriminately. However, he offers no proof. There is not proof. The text allows for no such interpretation.

    His other “proof text,” Acts 2:17-21, he claims deals with the miraculous. He says, “Ironically, this is a text that can be shown to be restrictive to a particular culture and time but Pauls uses these verses to appeal to the ‘universal’ he attempts to establish.” However, again, he offers no proof as to why this text, and not the other, should be dismissed as referring to a particular culture and time.

    1. An exegetical study of 1 Timothy reveals that the purpose of the writing is stated in 1 Timothy 3:15. Paul says, “I write to you so that…” If this verse is not the thesis of the letter, what is it? From that framework (that Paul is writing so that Timothy and the Ephesus church might know how to conduct themselves in the church), Paul addresses a great many subjects. He deals with, among other things, the church’s disposition toward its leaders, women’s role, qualifications for elders and deacons, a minister’s discipline, the church’s obligation to widows, and the attitude of the wealthy toward their wealth. Would you discard the entire letter or just portions of it? If the New Testament in no way legislates, how do we determine truth and error? Do we get to be the standard of judgment on that? You can handle the context of 1 Corinthians 14 in the same way. Words have meaning and we can view context, which helps us understand the words’ meaning and message. Acts 2:17-21 is an explanation for the apostles speaking in tongues. It is said to be a fulfilment of Joel’s prophesy, which looked ahead to that very event.

  3. Seems one of the longest held reasons why we should do something is, if we don’t we’ll get left behind and our numbers will diminish. I’ve a few old articles from the period when the DoC was calling for the instrument, and it was said we’d lose people and die out if we didn’t keep up with the times. That kinda thinking opens the door to any and every fad someone likes, whether its wise or foolish, sinful or cultural, Biblical or not.

  4. It’s not surprising when so many are falling into the Devil’s snares to hear of another one trying to misuse the scriptures to try to win others over to Satan. They win a few battles now but the Lord has promised us that if we stay faithful He will reward us with a home with Him and I know that He will be victorious in the end and the war will be won. I’m thankful for the brethren like you and others I know that are trying to stand firm to the word and not yielding to the temptations of the Devil.

  5. I had not seen this article, but I appreciate the way you handled it, Neal. As always, your goal is to be biblical, fair, and loving, and it shows. Appreciate you, brother!

  6. I appreciate the tone of your article and others have pointed out my thoughts that Paul’s full apologetics on the matter can be easily found elsewhere. I do not appreciate the tone of the commenter that says this church is trying to lead people to Satan. Disagreement on a matter of doctrine should be treated with love and lots of grace, for that is what Christ died for. If we could all have perfect doctrine and perfect morality we would not need Christ. But thankfully his blood covers me even when I am wrong. When we learn to accept others as fallen individuals the way that God does we can work together for his glory.

    1. Yes, as much as we can, brother, we need to lead out with reason rather than emotion–which can lead us to harshness or overreaction. I am covered by blood as I strive to follow in Jesus’ steps, but when His apostle’s instructions are set aside or reinterpreted in light of our culture I must be careful that I have not left the Light. How would we go about to work together on this specific issue, Matt? It’s a difficult dilemma, striking the biblical balance on this. Loving without endorsing, reaching out without compromising divine truth. That’s the tension. Thanks for weighing in. God bless.

  7. Paul’s must have arrived at his decision much in the same way as Mike Cope and so so many others “by much prayer and study of the scriptures. Begging to know the will of God and how to show that will to the lost.” Folks, he cannot prove this idea either from linguistic, exegetical, expositional, early Christian historical and certainly not by any proper concept of hermeneutics. It is time for those still side with the Biblical church and the Biblical Christ become more militant (urgent) in the work that God has given to us. We cannot allow these sidelines to sidetrack our goal of pressing into the kingdom of God. Nuff said.

  8. Pauls defense for his (and his congregation’s) actions are extremely weak and self-serving. This self-avowed historian’s argument is that the cultural and historical setting for commandments were the male-dominated, patriarchal society of the 1st century, but this completely ignores the cultural and historical setting for the Scriptures referenced. The two Scripture references cited were to Christians in Corinth (I Corinthians 14:33-35) and Ephesus (I Timothy 2:9-15, where Timothy was preaching when Paul wrote to him the letter). Corinth was the host city of the temple of Aphrodite, whose priestesses numbered more than 1,000. Ephesus boasted the temple of Artemis (Diana), which was served by many young ladies, dressed in short skirts and with one breast exposed, in the fashion of the Amazon huntresses who, according to legend, were credited with the founding of the temple. The Gentile converts in those cities had been exposed to and even participated in the “worship” of those religious centers.

    As you can clearly see, the commandments to these churches regarding women were not in conformity to the culture, but were actually counter-cultural, which is the exact opposite of the argumentation made by Pauls, thus making his line of reasoning void and the actions of their church baseless.

    1. RE: the place of women around the time of the NT…

      Sarah Pomeroy points out that:
      “Roman women were involved with their culture and were able to influence their society … Roman women dined with their husbands and attended parties, games, and shows.” (Sarah Pomeroy, in Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves p 189)

      Eva Cantarella makes some similar observations:
      “The Romans did not believe that women should be shut up in a special part of the house or that they should be forbidden to dine with men or go out in the street … Perhaps the liberality of the Romans toward their women is not altogether accidental. Given their duties, women had to participate in some way in men’s lives in order to assimilate their values and become more faithful transmitters of them” (Eva Cantarella Pandora’s Daughters p 134)

      William Ramsey notes that in Asia Minor (in the time of Paul) Roman women were elevated to full and equal status with men without distinction by gender. (Cited by Don McWhorter, in Gender and Ministry, from The Church in the Roman Empire.)

      J. Shannon Clarkson writes of Corinth at the time Paul would have walked its streets:
      “Social status was important enough that class and status took priority over gender, giving high-status women certain authority and autonomy in conducting business, owning property, and heading households.”( J. Shannon Clarkson and Libuseng Ketshabile, Conflict and Community in the Corinthian Church, pg x of the introduction. Publication of the Womens’ Division, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church . 2000.)

      Sarah Pomeroy (Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves) tells us:
      “The cult of Hellenized Ceres (Cybele) was exclusively in the hands of women. Greek priestesses were brought from Naples or Veleia (Elea) to supervise… These priestesses were granted Roman citizenship and held positions of prestige.” (P 216) and points out that…
      • That hundreds of years before Christ, women played prominent roles in public religious life among the Greeks.
      • In Roman world both the worship of Isis and Cybele gave women opportunities and status. In some periods of the Roman empire Isis and Cybele granted women status equal to men.
      • If civic affairs were not always open to women, in the goddess cults women were the equal and even the superiors to men in the 1st century.
      • All-women gatherings were common.
      (pps 75; 214-226; 219; 176)

      The historical data on the 1st century has over-turned a lot of statements we’ve heard made about the place of women in the 1st century. When Paul walked the streets of Corinth or Ephesus, no Greek / Roman would have thought twice about a woman acting in a role analogous to a prophetess or priestess. Paul’s instructions are indeed, Counter-Cultural, not concessions to culture.

  9. Everything in the Bible was written in a particular historical/cultural context, and it is a mistake to completely ignore this perspective when considering any biblical text. Nevertheless, as you have correctly pointed out bro. Neal, Paul bases his women’s-role directives on creation order rather than temporal culture (1 Tim. 2:13). I’ve never heard anyone who argues for a broader role for women address this particular point. Good article bro. Neal. Keep up the good work.

  10. Kevin, thank you for emphasizing that point. Christ’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, like this, is built upon the creation. It is normative rather than cultural. I appreciate you and your efforts for Christ.

  11. I really enjoyed your article and answer to Pauls article. I also read his and wondered at the comments that was left how so many people could agree with him. So many people are departing from the faith. They can not simply accept GOD’s word for what it is. I am proud to be a woman and I accept whole heartedly GOD’s position for me. I do not feel slighted in any way. GOD has given me plenty of work to do with out abusing the scriptures to perform those works. I DO NOT want to usurp authority over the man. Maybe men are bringing this up not to give women rights to do these things, but to shirk their own responsibility towards GOD and HIS word. Just a thought.

  12. I encourage those replying to remember that we are all on the same side. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have freedom to our own opinions and can not always agree. However when we do we should not say such mean spirited things towards one another. To call Dale weak and self-centered after reading a piece of his work is not fair. And it especially saddens me to hear of others connecting him with the work of Satan. Dale’s central message has been and always will be about love, the greatest command. There is no reason to attack someone based on their beliefs.

    1. Sallie,

      While I appreciate your willingness to respond, I must respectfully disagree with your statements and assessments of the statements of myself and others.

      You wrote, “To call Dale weak and self-centered after reading a piece of his work is not fair.” Please re-read my post – I wrote, “Pauls’ defense for his (and his congregation’s) actions are extremely weak and self-serving.” I did not call Dale anything except a “self-avowed historian.” Instead, I called his defense of their actions “weak and self-serving.” Before you attack someone’s statements by calling them “mean spirited,” it might be prudent to be certain that you comprehend what, in fact, they are actually saying.

      As noted in my post regarding the worship environment of the cultures of Corinth and Ephesus, his defense was extremely weak, because it is based upon conjecture and not historical facts. Additionally, Scott replied to my post with additional well-referenced historical facts regarding other aspects of the first century culture that disprove Pauls’ contention. Pauls is just plain wrong on the facts.

      Since his contention regarding the first century culture is wrong, to knowingly use an argument based upon falsehoods is self-serving. His argumentation is not set forth to show what he has gleaned from the Scriptures in connection with its historical context; rather, it is for the sole purpose of supporting a forgone conclusion based upon his (and his congregation’s) preferences regarding the role of women in the public assembly, and that is, by definition, self-serving.

      We do, as you say, have the freedom to our own opinions…but this is about NT doctrine, not opinion. To relegate this subject matter to the realm of opinion is to cause subjectivism to rule the day and to disregard the clear teaching of Scripture.

      You wrote, “There is no reason to attack someone based on their beliefs.” Did you read Dale Pauls’ statement? Regarding those who resist change on this (women’s public role in worship), he said, “But they are not studying the Bible. They are not doing their homework. They do not seek the original intent of Scripture nor do they seek to understand Scripture in its historical context.” Three more times in the same paragraph he makes the statement, “They do not understand.” Let me kindly ask you, Sallie, have you written Dale to chastise him for attacking those of us who “resist change on this” and claiming that our beliefs are predicated upon ignorance? How does he know what I (and others) do and do not understand? How can he charge me with not studying the Bible and not doing my homework?

      Perhaps, as you say, Dale’s central message has been and always will be about love. However, in light of his teachings as compared with John 14:15, Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21-23, and many other Scriptures, his definition of “love,” and the “love” spoken of in the NT are not same. Those words are not mean-spirited…they are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      1. Mark, you will not be surprised, I trust, to learn that I do not believe the defense for what we are doing in our church is weak or self-serving; I will simply disregard your “extremely” as rhetorical flourish. You will not be surprised to learn that I am not knowingly using an argument based on falsehood (what a thing to say!). And you will not be surprised to learn that I do not believe I am just plain wrong on the facts. Your saying so does not make it so.

        It’s convenient to suppose that what I think is based on conjecture and what you think is based on historical facts, but again your saying so does not make it so. As for Scott’s “well-referenced historical facts”, I see that he relies heavily on Sarah Pomeroy’s Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves. This is ironic, since this book is a feminist classic and, in fact, a closer reading of the texts Scott cites reveals Pomeroy is making a strong distinction between the freedom of upper-class Roman women and the seclusion of women of similar class in Greece. My point, exactly. All in all, getting to the truth on such matters takes far more than lifting citations out of context.

      2. “Scott’s “well-referenced historical facts”, I see that he relies heavily on Sarah Pomeroy’s Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves. This is ironic, since this book is a feminist classic and, in fact, a closer reading of the texts Scott cites reveals Pomeroy is making a strong distinction between the freedom of upper-class Roman women and the seclusion of women of similar class in Greece. My point, exactly. ”

        So, your “point, exactly” is that there was no single, monolithic, trans-cultural ‘women-are-chattel’ society in the 1st C. and so, in places like Corinth and Ephesus it’d be culturally acceptable to see women acting in a priestess-like role in the 1st c. church?

        The only irony here is that it’s feminists who are debunking the idea that all women in the 1st C. are nothing-but-chattel. That what Aristotle wrote about women in 350’s BC or Sophocles said about them in the 5th C. BC was not true of all women, everywhere, in the NT era.

        Paul’s injunctions regarding women’s roles in Corinth and to Timothy in Ephesus are not concessions to culture. As I noted:
        “Social status was important enough that class and status took priority over gender, giving high-status women certain authority and autonomy in conducting business, owning property, and heading households” (J.Shannon Clarkson)

        Such a woman would not have been viewed as chattel, nor in Corinth / Ephesus where women took leading roles in religion, would she be excluded from religious office. There simply is no basis to assert it would suddenly be contra-cultural for a woman to take such a role in the Corinthian/Ephesian congregations of the church. She would have been culturally accepted in such a role. Such were the nature of my quotations.

      3. Dale, your trust is not mislaid for I am not surprised – disappointed certainly, but not surprised. Likewise, I am certain that you will not be surprised by my rebuttal. By the way, you are correct that my “saying so does not make it so.” It is so because of the facts.

        In your “Reflections on Announcement” dated July 7, 2013, you wrote, “So they do not understand that those passages that restrict women’s participation in public worship – 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 – address specific circumstances in the particular cultural context of their original first-century audiences. They do not understand that Paul is calling his readers to live gracefully as disciples of Christ within the strongly patriarchal patterns of their day. They do not understand that he is guiding Christians in the setting in which they live; he is not advocating their patriarchal, even misogynistic, setting for all time.”

        The historical record does not support your contention. For the sake of discussion, let us look only at the epistle of First Timothy was written by the apostle Paul (early-to-mid 60s) to Timothy, whom he had left in Ephesus. The same historical study can be provided regarding the setting in Corinth.

        The city of Ephesus had been evangelized during Paul’s third missionary journey, as seen in Acts 19 (early-to-mid 50s). Ephesus was a large religious center. It was here that the temple of Artemis (Diana) was located, which was the most striking structure in the region. It was burned down by Herostratus in 355 B.C., on the very night that Alexander the Great was born of Olympias in Macedon. It was rebuilt at great expense, and was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is said to have taken 220 years to rebuild. It was constructed of marble, 340’ long and 164’ wide, and was supported by one hundred twenty-seven large columns. In the center of the temple, shrouded by curtains, was the image of Diana (Artemis), the fertility goddess, which was said to have “fallen to earth.” The temple was attended by females, dressed in short skirts and with one breast exposed in the fashion of the Amazon huntresses.

        The temple had a tremendous effect on the economy of Ephesus, and was the core of her prosperity. Many artisans traded in miniature images of Diana (Acts 19:23-41). Visitors from many regions would visit the temple to worship. Yet, perhaps the most economically beneficial practice of the temple was that of a banking institution. Private citizens, kings, and cities would deposit their money in the temple for safe keeping. Xenophon, the Athenian, described such a deposit with the “sacristan of Artemis,” together with a testamentary deposition regarding the disposal of the money in the event of his not surviving the campaign ahead of him. As the amount of money on deposit because greater, the temple began to make loans, which led to an economic boom.

        Paul was assaulting a stronghold of pagan religion, together with the active life and commerce associated with a large heathen cult, in a key city of the Mediterranean region. This is specifically what led to the unruly mob scene of Acts 19, and ultimately to Paul’s departure from Ephesus (Acts 20:1).

        Due to the incredible religious and commercial impact of the temple, all those in the church at Ephesus would have been intimately aware of the happenings within the religion practiced therein. Many in the church would have been formerly practitioners of that religion, leading to the damage to the silversmith trade upon their conversions. It is in this historical and cultural setting that Paul addresses Timothy, and by extension, the Christians in Ephesus.

        The thesis statement of First Timothy is found in 3:14-15, “These things I write to you…so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” This is the common thread throughout and applies to the entirety of the epistle as shown in 1:3, 4:6, 16, and 6:3-4, where Paul continues to remind Timothy regarding the purpose of this instruction. Towards the conclusion of the epistle (6:13-14) Paul urges Timothy to “…keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.” To “keep” (tereo) means to stand guard over, protect, and preserve. The “commandment” (entole) can also be translated commission, precept, or mandate, which comprises all that he had been ordered to do with respect to the ministry of the gospel and the government of the church. How long were the contents of this letter to be guarded, protected, and preserved? Paul, by the Holy Spirit, says until Jesus’ return.

        This is the proper context of 2:9-15, which you wrote had been lifted out of context. It is in the historical and cultural setting that was heavily influenced by the temple of Artemis, the public religious practice of which was conducted by women. The instruction of the passage was counter-cultural, not an appeasement to the “cultural context of their original first-century audiences.” You see, Paul, I DO understand that Paul “is guiding Christians in the setting in which they live.” Contrary to your assertion, however, the setting was not “strongly patriarchal,” nor was it “misogynistic.” Due to the fact that this doctrine was to be enjoined until the return of Christ, combined with the knowledge that all societies rise, fall, advance, and revert, as is the case with the society known as Ephesus, this doctrine is not bound by the cultural setting in which it was written or in which we live. Neither is it affected by liberal, conservative, progressive, or Pharisaical schools of thought.

        As you can see, though I am trained in the field of theology, I have done my homework in the historical and cultural settings in which the Scriptures were produced, and will gladly provide you with the references should that become necessary. The historical and cultural facts are not on your side in support of your actions and teaching regarding women’s role in the public assembly of the Lord’s church.

        I stand by my statements that your defense is extremely weak and self-serving, as it cannot be supported by the historical or cultural facts, or by the scriptural context. That is not me saying so, but rather the facts speak for themselves.

  13. “This is the proper context of 2:9-15, which you wrote had been lifted out of context. …The instruction of the passage was counter-cultural, not an appeasement to the “cultural context of their original first-century audiences.”

    Mark, I might add that above section is tied to vs 8, by the “Likewise” (ASV) beginning v. 9. This makes the teaching applicable, according to Paul, “in every place”. Everett Ferguson, who seems to have some acquaintance with history of the NT era, the “every place” would be “every meeting place” or “every place of assembly” This makes it a trans-cultural, trans-regional teaching, not limited to the women of Ephesus. See Everret Ferguson, “Topos in 1 Timothy 2:8” Restoration Quarterly 33 p 65-73. 1991.

    I Cor 14:33 indicates that Paul’s injunctions on Tongues Speakers, Prophets and the Sisters also is a matter of how things are in “All the churches of the Saints” (ASV). Again, a trans-cultural statement not limited to but one congregation.

    Seems whenever Paul has to address the matter, his teaching is consistent in all the churches of the Saints, in every place.

  14. Enlightening discussion about history and the factual role of certain women in that era. Thank you. Scripture applicable to all people of every culture for all time… until the return of Jesus Christ!

  15. From Scott to Dale: “So, your “point, exactly” is that there was no single, monolithic, trans-cultural ‘women-are-chattel’ society in the 1st C. and so, in places like Corinth and Ephesus it’d be culturally acceptable to see women acting in a priestess-like role in the 1st c. church?”

    No, this is exactly not my point. My point is that unlike upper-class women in Rome respectable women in Greek society were secluded. Otherwise they would come across as cult priestesses or prostitutes. Paul was understandably against this.

    As for Mark, if he continues his study into the Ephesian context, perhaps he will discover that in the shadow of the great Temple of Artemis worshipped as the Mother Goddess, there were those in Ephesus, and apparently in the church there as well, who believed that women were created first (a more widespread belief in the ancient world than most suppose) and that women had special insight. Paul observes that the biblical creation account offers no support for such views. So he is contesting a specific notion of creation. He is not anchoring female silence and subordination in creation. He is challenging notions of female dominance and primacy. For more on this, one can check out http://gal328.org/resources/congregational-studies-and-statements-on-gender/ where these points are further developed. There is also an extensive bibliography on this same website that merits being consulted.

    Scott also cites Everett Ferguson who does, I agree, have substantial acquaintance with the history of the NT era. His is one viewpoint. For other Restorationist viewpoints, I would commend further reading in the two volumes on Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity edited by Carroll Osburn.

    1. “No, this is exactly not my point. My point is that unlike upper-class women in Rome respectable women in Greek society were secluded. Otherwise they would come across as cult priestesses or prostitutes. Paul was understandably against this.”

      Hi Dale,
      Been out of town a couple days, just catching up on correspondence and found your response. Sorry for the delay, you weren’t being ignored, I was out of pocket.

      So, we are agreed, there is no monolithic misogynist culture in place in the ancient world, what was true of some women in some places is not true for others. It seems you argue in Ephesus women were secluded, except when they weren’t. That Paul’s counter-cultural statement was a concession because of but one class of women? I’m curious about your use of ‘respectable’ in ‘respectable women in Greek society were secluded’ this strikes me as an anachronistic view of ‘respectable’. Priestesses/ prophetesses in Ephesus would not be respected by the pagans who worshipped in those temples?

      However, your difficulty is that – as I noted earlier – you seem to have missed the injunction on the Sisters in Ephesus in 1 Tim 2 is an “Everywhere” or “Every place” injunction not limited to Ephesus. And likewise, the injunction on Tongue speakers, Prophets and the Sisters in Corinth is an “as in all the churches” kind of thing.

      For the sake of anyone who might still be following this thread, it’s likely they may have access to McGuiggan’s book on 1 Corinthians. The Greek city was destroyed by Rome, and later Julius Caesar built a roman colony on its ruins. Until at least 69 AD, Latin was the official language. More Roman than Greek, there is simply no reason for Paul to offer the injunction on Corinth on the grounds of Greekness. Particularly in light of your acknowledgement of freedoms of Roman women.

      What we have is a transcultural injunction in 1 Tim and 1 Cor regarding women, and there simply is nothing in the texts to support the idea that this is limited to sisters in Ephesus and not intended to be true in all the churches.

      Everett Ferguson points out illegitimate strategies used by folk who wish to “relativize the Biblical injunctions.” He writes:
      “One strategy is to limit the apostolic directions to the circumstances that gave rise to the correction.

      A typical procedure when neither the text under consideration, nor another source makes explicit what the problem was, it to use clues in the text to reconstruct the situation addressed in the text. (In this case, 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2). This procedure is quite proper to an extent and often the only way to proceed in trying to get a deeper and more accurate understanding of the text. The next step that is taken, however, is problematical, This step is to limit the instructions to the reconstructed situation, making them local and cultural. Hence, the conclusion is drawn that the instructions in the passages apply to the present day only to the extent the situation is the same. This is an approach not allowed on other passages. For example, take the teaching on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor 11:17-34. Does a church have to have the same problems of division in the congregation (11:18) and selfish disregard of the poor (11:21-22) for the instructions about proper participation in the bread and the fruit of the vine (11:23-32) to be normative today?

      … To limit the instructions given in a particular historical situation to that situation is an interpretive judgment and does not derive from the text (unless the text itself makes that limitation). One’s judgment about the application of the text is not the same as a ‘word of the Lord.” … The text itself is our authority, not our reconstruction of the context.

      Another strategy is to identify what one perceives to be the trend or goal of Biblical revelation and then to regulate one’s interpretation to that principle. … For instance, the Bible is seen to be one on the side of liberty (as God freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt and Jesus bringing freedom from the guilt of sin) so that liberation (and that maybe economic, social, or psychological as well as religious) becomes the key to interpreting how the Bible is to be applied to present day situations. … teaching about male and female is identified as egalitarianism, and that principle is then made normative for the interpretation of texts.

      The fallacy and subjectivity of this strategy of trying to discern the goal of Biblical revelation may be seen if the same approach is taken in the interests of female subordination (which is different from Biblical submission). If subordination is seen as the prevailing tenor Biblical teachings, then other passages may be interpreted in terms of overruling principle. … but the principle is then absolutized so that everything else is either interpreted in terms of the chosen principle or ignored as interpretation as temporary or irrelevant. This approach leaves our theology or our interpretation as the authority, not the words of scripture. [Everett Ferguson, Women in the Church, p 38-40]

      I have read some Osborne, he is interesting, but he’s no Ferguson.

      When I have caught up on other (more urgent) things, I’ll come back to your link.

    1. Depends on what you mean by ‘deaconess’. The word translated “deacon” means servant. All Christians are to be servants, not all who serve in the church are “Deacons” in the official capacity stated in Scripture.

      The folk in the NT church co-opted terms already in use. Sometimes those terms were generic in use, sometimes they were co-opted into a specialized usage.

      Diakonos = servant.
      • It refers to Apollos and Paul in 1 Cor 3.
      • It refers to Onesimus – the runaway slave – in Phil 13, he was a “minister” = he was a servant, a slave.
      • Jesus was ‘ministered’ to by women in Matt 27:55; Mk 15:41.
      • When Peter writes (1 Pet 4:10-11) to speak as the oracles of God, he says “if you minister, minister according to the oracles of God.”
      • We read of a gift of ministering or service, in Rom 12:7

      Anyone who serves, let him serve according to the precepts of the context.

      The context of being a minister in Rom 15:16 indicates Paul’s service to the Gentiles. Phil 2 has Epaphroditus as a minister, and the same word covers the ministering to the Lord of Acts 13:2.

      Basically, considering the different applications of the word Diakonos, the idea is one who serves in relationship to his work. Diakonos in general means to serve, Christianity used the term in its normal (non-specific) sense, but it also co-opted the term to also describe a specific office. (Not an honorary title, but a functioning office)

      Whether the diakonos carries the weight of a servant in general, in which case we are all supposed to be deacons=servants, or, a specific office, which is limited to some men (husband of one wife – would exclude the sisters and unmarried men) we’re dependent on context to determine.

      In the case of Pheobe , she was well regarded for her service to church. Was she also installed in the office of “deacon”? There is nothing in the scriptures to suggest that she was, and as a woman – like unmarried men – she would not meet the standard that is laid on those who were to be officially installed in that specific position.

      Some folk will try to get around the plain teachings of scripture on the roles of the Sisters in relation to leadership by citing Phoebe. This is the logical fallacy of equivocation. Such folk tend to practice what LaGard Smith calls, “Post-script Theology” using a statement made in the post-scripts of Paul’s letters – WITHOUT supporting evidence – to make theological assertions that contradict plain statements in the letters.

      [Some of the above, I’m leaning on Ralph Gilmore. See also F. LaGard Smith, _Male Spiritual Leadership_]

      Hope this helps,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.