For far too long we have remained uneducated and uninformed on God’s gender views. I read a wonderfully articulate book recently called, “Why Not Women?” by YWAM co-founder, Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton. Honestly, I think it is a tragedy that I have spent my life in the church and have not before been taught how to interpret scripture with regards to God’s views of men and women. I have had so many questions and insufficient answers. I have been saddled with a call of God on my life along with leadership and teaching gifts, somehow always wondering if my ministry as a woman can and will be truly legitimate in the sight of God and in light of scripture. At times my skewed perceptions of myself and other women have caused me to be lazy in stewarding my gifts. Because of a few misunderstood scriptures, we as Christians can often put women in permanent “special Ed” making them ride the “short bus” all the way to church. So much wrong thinking is promulgated by people with the best of intentions, which is why I will refuse to point the finger. For I have been one of those well intentioned individuals from time to time.

There is no way that I can summarize the extensive research of Cunningham and Hamilton, but I will take a step back and try to show you how we should be viewing the scriptures in a more accurate way.

First of all, the Bible was not written in English. This is elementary, and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence. At least I hope you do not think that Paul spoke in the good ole King James. It was written in Hebrew and Greek, sometimes Aramaic. Modern translators are human. They made assumptions in the way that they chose to interpret the scriptures into English. Elements like punctuation, syntax, and context goes into the fine art of interpretation. Most of our translations use the word “man” whether the original word reflects the word used for both males and females or whether it is specifically intended for the male gender. This fact alone can create some confusion as to whom the author was intending to speak.

The thing we need to rely on is the original manuscripts we have. For example, there is a symbol in the Greek that is difficult to translate. It means something emphatic like, “What? No way! Nonsense!” By leaving that symbol untranslated, we are left without an important piece of the puzzle. Such is the case of 1 Corinthians 14:35 where Paul says something to seem to contradict the way he esteemed women. He says, “for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” This statement seems to be totally inconsistent with his previous instruction for all people (including women) to prophesy and pray aloud in an orderly fashion. But when you insert the uninterpreted Greek symbol after it, meaning “Nonesense!” you can see that he was only making reference to an absurd saying of the day. You see Greeks and Romans had all sorts of sayings that discouraged women from speaking at all. In his next words, Paul comes down on this type of thinking saying, “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.” (1 Corinthians 14:36-38 NIV) He ends the chapter by encouraging “brothers and sisters” to prophesy and not to forbid the speaking in tongues.

Another example is the scripture about the meaning of the word “head” in the Greek. 1 Corinthians 11:3 speaks of the head of Christ and the head of woman, and the head of man. Head can mean authority, but with the particular word used, it most often means “source” or “origin.” Look at that scripture again in light of the word “source” or “origin.” “But I want you to realize that the source/origin of every man is Christ, and the source/origin of the woman is man, and the source/ of Christ is God.” Look at the context and it makes even more sense. Again, I cannot get into the intricacies of this scripture now. Suffice it to say that scripture emphasizes our interdependence and mutual submission, man and woman, Jesus and the Father. It was never Paul’s intent to pull out our differences, rather to unite us under some foundational principles intended for men and women of Christ.

Secondly, the world of Jesus and Paul, the Apostle, was much different than the world of today. Our lack of knowledge of the world of antiquity can cause us to misinterpret sayings and intents of the biblical authors. Women of Jesus and Paul’s day were grossly undervalued. This is not because of any Old Testament law, it was because of the sinfulness of mankind and the enmity that the enemy put between men and women after the Fall. This is the reason injustice has prevailed for hundreds of thousands of years.

The ideas we read and take for granted in the Bible were actually quite revolutionary in their time. For example, when Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12 ” I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet,” it was highly likely that he was speaking to one particular woman who was spreading false doctrine. This is evident from the clear change from the plural to the singular in the Greek. We are only seeing one side of the communication between Paul and Timothy. Timothy knew who he was talking about. He didn’t need to name names. Not only that, the fact that he said that this woman should learn from her husband at home was not a way to keep her down, it was a way to lift her up. It was a revolutionary concept of that day to educate a woman at all, let alone in serious matters of theology. In saying this, he was actually holding men responsible for the education of their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. These were radical, revolutionary ideas inspired by the Holy Spirit to propel women forward in the church and the pursuit of God.

This is a complex passage of scripture, but the gist of what Paul is saying is that we should all be silent and be in a stance of submission. Men are to lift up holy hands without anger or disputing, and women should remain in a posture ready to learn. In many of the pagan traditions of the day, the only way women could participate was to make loud noises, sound effects as the men would make the offerings. Paul was trying to counter this practice by advocating that women be elevated to the level of studious and serious learners along with the men.

Thirdly, we need to look at scripture in all of its entirety. Did you realize that nowhere in the Old Testament is it commanded for women to submit to men, or even for wives to submit to husbands? “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV) From the very beginning God clearly shows us his perfect intent is that we were both genders created in his image. No gender can express God fully without the other. Just as Jesus is not complete without the Father and the Holy Spirit, so we a not complete without each other.

I don’t even have time to delve into all the New Testament leaders of the church such as Pricilla, Phoebe, Junias (the apostle), and the groups of deaconesses that Paul mentions. Again, this can be a problem of versions. You see, some versions say “the deacons and their wives.” However, a much more accurate translation is “deacons and deaconesses.”

You may have wondered why Jesus, encountering such gender inequity, did not seem to do much to change the way things were for women of his day. Our general lack of understanding of the times blinds us to the ways he did radically promote the rights of women as human beings, equal with men. We also need to understand that Jesus did not have the time or calling to lead the march for women’s rights. Neither did he have time to eradicate slavery, abortion, or any other injustice of society. His mission in life was first to the lost sheep of Israel. In his death he was called to save the whole of humankind. Paul was called to reach the Gentiles, neither did he have time to eradicate prevailing ideas of male superiority of the day. But both Jesus and Paul did do their part to plant seeds of equality in the minds and hearts of people.

In later days, we have made great strides against the oppression of women, but I believe we still have much work left to do. We so easily forget that it was Christians who first paved the way for the suffrage movement. It was Christians who first decided to stand up and fight against the ideas that upheld the institution of slavery. We need to have the guts to move this issue to the front burner of our pulpits, our small groups, and our board rooms. We need men to care enough about this issue to bring it to light for others. There are people who keep the church at arms length because we portray a God who says he loves all people, but seems to put a on lid the potential of half the population. The churches that are growing and experiencing a move of God worldwide are being blessed because they are refusing to hold back their women. They are coming back to the way God originally intended from the Garden of Eden: men and women partners together, ruling and reigning together side by side.

I hope I have whet your appetite. Again, I highly recommend, “Why Not Women?” You can get it on Kindle for a very good price. Read for yourself, weigh the scriptures yourself and see if there is any Biblical evidence left to convict women to a life sentence of inequality, unfulfilled dreams, and unmet potential.

  1. Angie Carter says:

    very enlightening and educating. I commend you.

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