Monday, January 23, 2017
“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.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (KJV)
What does Paul mean by “nor usurp authority over the man”? God’s definition of the phrase forbids a woman to do it! The problem is, whose “interpretation” of Paul’s statement is correct? Several are offered.
(1) Some believe a woman is not biblically allowed to teach a man the word of God except by example. (2) Some believe a woman may not open her mouth to teach or speak in the public assembly. (3) Most believe a woman may teach God’s word in the public assembly, but she is limited to two very restricted guidelines. (4) Others believe there are no limitations and a woman may do everything in the public assembly that a man can do. Number #3 believes women are limited in their speaking or teaching by universal biblical law (1 Corinthians 14:34b). That limited way does not violate I Timothy 2:11-12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This means she may join in on congregational singing and make the Good Confession. The question is, “Whose rule harmonizes with Paul’s statement?”
Most Bible students believe number (3) is the scriptural one. The passages cited to validate these actions, are Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Matthew 10:32; and Romans 10:10. This speaking or teaching is not the same kind of speaking or teaching restricted by those two passages.
In our culture, no one questions a woman singing in the public assembly. This is because four part singing is a well established tradition. Yet such did not exist prior to the 17th century. It was a “shame” for a woman to speak in the synagogues frequented by Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Paul. The Jewish Talmud stated that it was a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men. Some would say that Paul borrowed this Talmud law and applied it to the public assembly when writing to the Corinthians. Others point us back to Genesis 3:16. If “the law” of 1 Corinthians 14:34 refers to Genesis or some other biblical passage, does it allow a woman to speak in singing and confession without usurping authority or bringing shame? Apparently that law does allow such because most believe the “kind” of speaking a woman is involved in by those two actions is not “the kind” Paul condemned! If it did, then she could not perform those two actions in the public assembly.
With the development of the Roman Catholic Church, priesthood duties were occupied by men. It appears that our practice of singing four part harmony stems from the Protestant Reformation rather than the church in the first century. When Paul wrote Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, he could not be describing an action being performed in his day, which wasn’t practiced until churches introduced it seventeen hundred years later.
Although no one objects to a woman’s right to make the good confession standing before seated men and women in the public assembly, there is a question. How does a woman, without violating 1 Timothy 2 or 1 Corinthians 14, make an oral statement in an assembly where she is commanded to be silent? Our answer has been, “‘The kind’ of speaking she does when singing and confessing is a different ‘kind’ than that which Paul restricts in those two passages.”
Since this is our practice, this truth gives us two kinds of speaking and teaching. A woman can do one of those two in the public assembly without violating either 1 Timothy 2:11-12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. If she practices the other kind, she brings shame upon herself and is commanded to keep her mouth shut.
Since this is the case, how do we scripturally identify that kind which is allowed as opposed to that kind which is not? Those two practices prove that all teaching or speaking on the part of women in the public assembly is not restricted by Paul. We must make sure that we are neither going beyond what God’s word teaches, nor falling short of what has been delivered.
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9 (NASB).