UBBL476 - Women in Biblical Tradition
Dr. Kathryn Smith
April 22, 2003
Gender Issues from a Biblical Perspective: A Response to Evangelical Feminism
When dealing with the historical relationships between the church and gender, it was not long ago when the church body had used "scriptural authority" to oppress half of the body of Christ. Although it would be hard to label all of history in this category, it is true that for centuries the church as a whole used the Bible to create a theology that was skewed, and frankly, an inaccurate representation of what God had planned for the relationship between men and women in ministry and family. The recent problem is that now there is a different theory but relatively the same problem. The present academic appeal to an egalitarian approach to ministry and family maneuvers the church onto a path that reverses the issues within the church, but not the injustice done to the church. To suggest that the Bible does not speak to differences between genders except in the obvious physical and sexual roles would be a grave disjustice of the text. Throwing out biblical passages is not an option. This cannot be done on either
side of the issue. One
of the four criteria of canonical literature is that it has universal
application, meaning that what is spoken in the text (and in all the text)
somehow reaches beyond cultures and timeframes and has application in all
If the biblical literature ceases to do this, then the literature ceases to be the Bible. Without this, this paper's exegetical look at gender issues will be futile. However, for those who do hold the Bible to be the inspired word of God, the better biblical example of male and female relationships speaks abundantly about their differences, both pre- and post-fall. Therefore the stronger biblical approach is a complementarian view of ministry and family, meaning that men and women are designed divinely different by God to fulfill different roles within ministry & family.
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and, immediately following
his creation of these heavenly bodies, he began to engage himself in the
creation of the two greatest physical bodies: man and woman. According to
scholarship, there are two separate narratives found in Genesis 1:1-3:24. The
first division is Genesis 1:1-2:4a and is referred to as P for its priestly
source. The second division is Genesis 2:4b-3:24 and is referred to as J.
Alice Ogden Bellis writes:
The first story emphasizes the orderliness and goodness of God's creation. The second story tries to answer questions about how humans ended up with so much work to do, how men and women came to be attracted to on another, and how life became disharmonious. Adam and Eve should not be understood and historical individuals. They represent humanity. The name Adam is used both as the name of the first human in Genesis 2-3 and as a term for the human species. Eve means "mother of the living" (Gen. 3:20).
What is good about this theory of
Genesis is that the emphasis of the story should not be placed on the
literalness of a man named Adam and a woman named Eve, but rather on what the
text is stating about humanity. However, to understand the historical value of
creation stemming from one literal man and one literal woman is of vital
importance. To remove this concept is to remove the authority of what the text
is asserting. For years prophets, canonical writers, and non-canonical writers
have been basing their understanding of God (theology) on principles taken from
this Genesis text. The early text of Genesis must therefore be looked at as
foundational to Judaic/Christian theology in general, not just specifically in
priority given to Genesis, what exactly does the creation story say about
gender? The best way to look at the Genesis story is, first, what the text states,
and then, second, to apply meaning to it. Recent scholarship has attempted to
use Genesis 1 in regarding the creation of gender. Although it is an
interesting study and a worthy argument within feminist scholarship, Genesis 2
should not be overlooked as the primary text regarding the creation of gender.
Strictly according to the Genesis 2 text, the events were as followed:
created man first from dust of the earth (2:7)
created women second from Adam, and unlike the rest of creation, the woman is
taken from other creation, not nature (2:22)
3. Adam names
woman Eve (2:23)
relationship reason for man to leave his family to be with wife (2:24)
tempts Eve to disobey (3:1)
6. Eve brings
Adam into the matter (3:6)
7. Women are cursed because of Eve's actions (3:16)
8. Men are cursed because of Adam's actions (3:17)
The interpretation of these events
is where one differs. In her book God and the Rhetoric of
Sexuality, Phyllis Trible interprets the texts from a feminist point of view. According to her, because Adam was created first it implies that he is superior, and therefore Eve would be inferior. Event number two (above) indicates that Eve was denied her birthing right, and therefore a woman's existence depended on man. Event three meant that Adam had power over Eve, followed by man's desire to leave his home to setup another power structure. Trible combines event five and six and says that they show Eve is untrustworthy, gullible, and simpleminded. Trible interprets event seven and eight as a greater punishment for Eve as opposed to Adam, which therefore means that Eve's sin was greater.
The problem this is that her argument is strictly interpretive and can be
interpreted in a different manner. There is nothing in the text that indicates
that her interpretation is what the writer of Genesis is trying to convey. If
anything, events like number two could be looked at as a mutual connection
between Adam and Eve from the beginning. Events five and six show that Satan
attacks at the weaker point, which in this
case is the woman because there is no evidence in the text that Eve heard
instruction from God directly about abstaining from eating off the tree.
Likewise, the punishment of Adam and Eve does not indicate a difference in
severity, but rather the punishments are just different in nature. Whether
Adam and Eve would like it or not, they were going into the fallen world
together and there were consequences for both
of their actions. The problem with Trible's interpretation of this text is that it removes that true essence of what is trying to be communicated. In a pre-fallen world, God designed the relationship between Adam and Eve to be totally egalitarian. To add anything more to that is forcing words into the writer.
In actuality, the ideal, initial relationship Adam and Eve shared was egalitarian. There was not a hierarchy of power; there were not roles for each of them to carry out, mainly because there was no need for it. The Garden of Eden provided everything they needed. The creation of a helper was not so much the creation of one to help as a servant would, but rather a creation of a person that would aid in the completion of humanity. Up until this point, Adam's life was not fully complete because it was in of a relationship, not a servant. The original intent of the story of Eve's creation was to bring value on who she was.
The problem that occurred following the creation account is the fall. As stated above, the serpent did not tempt Eve because she was weaker, nor should people see Genesis 3 as a theological example of a women's susceptibility to deception. The truth was that in this case Eve was at a disadvantage by not hearing from God directly, and the serpent took advantage of the situation. The purpose of the story is to explain how sin has entered the world through the serpents deceiving ability, not to show that women are more likely to be deceived. The reason the man was brought into the situation was not to illustrate that women have the ability to deceive men, but rather that from the beginning, man and woman would go through the fallen world together. Since they had become one flesh, it would have been impossible for this story to not have some aspect of the man coming into the picture. As the old wedding vow goes, Adam and Eve would experience life through better or worse.
a fallen world established, two things were created that previously were not
needed: ministry and family (in a technical sense). Before the fall, Adam and
Eve had a perfect relationship with God. They (notice that both of them) could
communicate to God, and God communicated with them. The problem is that, once
sin entered into the world, they no longer had a perfect communal relationship
with God. Because of this, there was a need for a method for the fallen
creation to remain in a relationship with its Creator. Of course, ministry
then looked nothing like ministry now; however, once God killed the first
animal to clothe Adam and Eve, ministry began. From that point on, because of
the fall, ministry was needed for humans to still maintain a relationship with
the divine. Therefore, ministry is a product of the fall.
The other institution that was created because of the fall was the family. The strict definition of a family fulfills three roles: protect, provide, and enable for the members of the family. Family members now have to have some form of protection from the outside world, have essential elements provided for in order to survive, and be enabled (or taught) in order to grow into maturity. The interesting thing is that, before the fall, a family would not need to be protected because they was nothing to be protected from, since there was no death and disease. In addition to that, the family would not need to have anything provided for because provisions were taken care of by God in the Garden of Eden. It was not until after the fall that a family had to work (toil) for its provision. Finally, family members (children especially) would not need to be taught (enabled) by other family because they too would be in a relationship with God like their parents were. This would mean that the offspring of Adam and Eve would be educated about the world surrounding them in the same manner their parents were -- by God. It is not being stated that it took the fall to create a loving relationship between family members, but as far as the "institutional" side of a family, there would simply be no need for it.
Since the fall did take place, and these institutions were brought into creation, God had to establish some boundaries so that they could most effectively be used. This is the reason for gender roles in our current society. All three players in the fall were issued curses that would control them for the rest of their lives. It was prophesied that the serpent would be destroyed by an offspring of the woman's, which the early church claimed was Christ's victory over sin. This should not be misinterpreted, however. It is true that Christ defeated the serpent; however, the effects of sin on this world and on the community of God will not be taken away until the end of time. This is true for the curses and provisions God has impressed upon man and woman. No matter how ideal a community the church becomes, women will never escape the pain of childbirth and the desire for male headship.
Likewise, men will never expect to have all their needs provided for. This does not mean that women cannot use advances in medicine to ease the pain of childbirth, or that men cannot use "labor saving" devices, but rather, the process of these two functions still requires pain and toil.
Women will tell you that the pain involved in child birth is not simply the
delivery. There is emotional and physical pain through out the entire process
of child birth. No matter how advanced medicine becomes in reliving pain
during delivery, there will always remain pain the process of child birth.
Likewise with men, it is not that the job itself has to be toilsome, but rather
that the process of providing is toilsome. There are many people who like
their job, and do not view it toilsome and it is not wrong. However, nobody
can argue that there is still not toil involved in the process of provision. The
lack of these punishments were privileges Adam and Eve experienced before the
fall, but they cannot come into realization again until the end of time. It is
because these privileges cannot be realized in this world that God ordained
gender roles as the ideal method of interacting in a fallen state. If this is
true, to deny the need, or importance of gender roles, would be to deny that
the church still lives in a fallen world.
the fall, Adam and Eve had to move out of the Garden of Eden. This meant that
for all of their offspring, they too would live outside the Garden of Eden.
Provisions were no longer provided for by God (at least directly), and disease
and death had entered into the world. Because of this, the natural progression
of humanity was to form families and tribes. From now on, there was an order,
a status within a family. Eventually this has become known as patriarchy,
which in its simplest form should be understood as a hierarchic structure
within a family or tribe where a man assumes the unquestioned leadership. The
question raised should be, does the Bible support or only allow patriarchy? In
addition, does God ordain or subvert patriarchy? Was patriarchy set up by men
(assuming women would not have set it up) or did God set it up?
is no doubt about it that for centuries, including all of the biblical account,
patriarchy was the accepted familial type of governance. The man was in charge
of not only the family, but multiple families because of the slaves and
servants that were a part of his household. As the years developed, and the
descendants of Adam eventually formed into the tribes of Israel, the tribes of
Israel fell into bondage. Once freed by their bondage they were governed by
judges, and eventually requested a monarchy. It appears that patriarchy
followed them wherever they went. The question is not whether or not
patriarchy existed, but what expectation was assumed because of it.
Take Sarah and Abraham for example. Clearly, as a nomadic tribe, Sarah and Abraham fell heavily into a patriarchal system. Because of this, Sarah is usually seen as a quiet and submissive wife that does as she is instructed (Gen 12 & 20). The problem is that, at times Sarah is seen in this role, but other times she takes on authority and control, sometimes even given to her divinely (Gen 21:12). From the first husband/wife relationship in God's covenant people, the Bible illustrates that patriarchy is not necessarily what some might coin as forcing the woman to be a doormat. God uses Abraham and Sarah to establish the model for further generations of how, in a fallen world, to protect and provide for a family through a patriarchal system with love and concern for one another.
As the people of Israel develop, the book of Exodus begins with a story involving what would eventually be the man in charge of freeing God's people. But like every good leader, there is no one that got there without some help from women. In the case of Moses, the midwives subvert what is typically understood in light of the cultural understanding of patriarchy by lying to the Pharaoh regarding the Hebrew women (Ex 1:19). God uses the text once again to illustrate that women's roles in a patriarchal system is not necessarily bystanders. They were important and influential in sustaining Israel.
The story of Deborah and Jael is once again an illustration of women at work in a patriarchal system (Judges 4-5). After the men of Israel refused to do what they were supposed to do, God used a Deborah and Jael to rescue Israel once again from their evil ways. Because of this, Jael got the glory of killing Sisera, and Deborah got the privilege of becoming Judge of Israel. This elite leadership position did not happen by accident and it required two things: God's anointing in a specific situation, and the people's acceptance of it. It seems to be a big leap of mindset to form a theory that says women were void of public authority and then because of one military victory were allowed to take on the primary leadership role in Israel. Even today, where one could argue America has had 80 years of equal rights for women, many Americans would find it awkward to have a woman as president. Current American society is one of the least patriarchal systems in the world of all time, and it still would find a woman ruling it to be something out of the ordinary. But the text in Judges 4-5 does not seem to illustrate this. There is no indication that the people refused Deborah as their judge. There is no indication that this was even questioned. How can a culture go from predominantly being patriarchal to all of the sudden allowing a woman to rule it? Mainly because the patriarchal system is not what it is understood to be. As all this text indicates, patriarchy is not a system that has to be oppressive to women. It
does not force women into a state of submission that requires their obedience
in all situations to the men who have power over them.
jump from the time of the Judges to the Greco-Roman period is, needless to say,
taking a huge leap through time. However, over the years there has been a good
amount of scholarship dealing with the cultural influences on people such as
Jesus and Paul. Of course, as all humans, Jesus and Paul were influenced by
their culture. Even as divinely inspired by God, they were men who lived in a
specific time and place. Given that Jesus and Paul lived in a patriarchal
system requires a look into potential biases they could have implanted into
In the 5th
century B.C., Socarates made the statement that "being a woman is a divine punishment, since a woman is halfway between a man and an animal."
At the time, Athens had become a philosophical headquarters for the entire world. Men like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all found themselves discussing and dealing with some of life's greatest questions. The only problem with it was that they were wrong in many of areas, especially in the understanding of women. The problem with projecting the Athenian understanding of women onto other teachers like Jesus and Paul is that the further you got away from Athens, the less philosophers agreed with what the Athenians had to say. Take for example Athens' neighbor Sparta. According to John Temple Bristow:
The women in SpartaÉenjoyed considerable freedom and political responsibilities. The economic role of women in Sparta is reflected in the fact that at one time in that nation's history women owned two-thirds of the land.
He goes on to make the point that
Egypt, even more than Sparta, respected their women citizens. One could
conclude that the further you go from Athens, the further the Athenian mindset
of the treatment of women would be.
What else is quite fascinating when looking into the "culture biases" Paul had to face regarding patriarchy is a story about his teacher, Gamileal:
One notable exception was Gamliel, the teacher of Saint Paul. He told a delightful story illustrating the worth of women. In it, an emperor expressed his own interpretation of the creation story. "Your God is a thief," the emperor said to a Jewish sage, "for in order to make the woman he had to steal a rib from the sleeping Adam."
The wise man, Gamaliel went on to say, did nod not know how to reply to this criticism of God. But the wise man's daughter hearing what had been said, went to the emperor and cried, "We demand justice!"
"What for?" asked the ruler
"Thieves broke into our house in the night. They took away a silver ewer," she explained, "and they left a gold one in its place."
The emperor laughed and replied, "I wish I could have burglars like that every night!"
"Well," said the woman, "that is what our God did. He took a mere rib from the first man and in exchange for it he gave him a wife."
This story claims that from creation, women had immense amount of value. There are two interesting points that uplift women in this story. First, the more obvious, is that women are looked on creatures created from a substance with the value of silver but being as valuable as gold. The second, and slightly more obscure, is that the "wise man" of Israel is quoted as being perplexed by the question, but it was his daughter that had the answer. This was the man whom, Paul is
said to have studied under when he was a Pharisee (Acts 22:3). It was this
patriarchal cultural bias that Paul had to deal with, not the typical
understanding of Athenian patriarchy.
last interesting point is to note the difference between canonical and non-canonical
views of patriarchy. The Gospel of Thomas states that Simon Peter once said:
"Let Mary leave us, for females are not worthy of live." Jesus said, "Behold, I shall guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
Again it is shown that there were other theories on patriarchy and gender roles circulating after Jesus' and Paul's death. But what should be understood by this is that these theories, even in the time when patriarchy was stronger than today, were seen as fallacies. The men in charge of, and more importantly the Spirit involved in, deciding which books would become canonical understood that theories revolving around oppressing women into a mindset that said they had to become men was wrong. Since the cultural bias should not be as strong of an argument as others have tried, the sayings and actions of Jesus and Paul will shed more light into what they had to teach regarding gender issues.
It is evident in Jesus' life that women were a vital part of his ministry. They followed him on the road, they provided financially, and without a doubt they were a source of encouragement and worship. The question that rises is why were men and women only seen performing certain roles? Why did not Jesus have six men apostles and six women apostles? Recent critique of this theory indicates that if one uses this judgment, then gentile ministers would also not be allowed to be ministers. The problem with this is if one supports the theory that Jesus' main factor of apostleship was that they were Jewish, this would be a more demeaning theory to women than
before. To make the claim that all that has ever mattered in regarding Jesus' apostles is that they were Jewish is to claim that the women Jewish disciples that were with Jesus were not worthy for some other reason, because
they did fulfill the Jewish requirement. Frankly, the gospels often paint the
women disciples in a much better light than the male apostles. If the only requirement for Jesus' apostles was that they were Jewish, he had plenty of amazing women to choose from. The reason ethnicity was an issue in the selection of his apostles, but should no longer be looked at as an issue in the selection of primary leadership roles is because Jesus had not yet brought the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles in the masses. Given this it would only be logical to assume that he would not make any gentiles his apostles. It took the final apostle, Paul, to bring the message of salvation to the Gentile masses.
It might seem that
give the time period it would have been impractical to send women on the road
to minister. The problem with that is that it did not prevent him from teaming
a man and a woman, or two men and a woman up and send them out. Some might say
sending men and women on the road together would have seemed illicit and
improper. However, Christ traveled with women, specifically Mary Magedelene
who potentially was a prostitute. He did not seem to be a concerned with what
people claimed was improper. Why did a man who lived his life challenging
authority, seemingly cower if the role of women in ministry and family needed
to be challenged as well? The reason he did not challenge this aspect of
ministry and family is because he did not want this aspect of ministry and
family challenged. Although he never specifically addressed gender roles in
ministry or family, it should be understood that, like a lot that is addressed
later by the apostolic writing, it was not the focus of his message.
The Apostle Paul's writings are some of the most disputed of the Bible, especially those regarding gender roles within the church and family. For the purpose of this essay, his texts are going to be broken down into two sections: those typically understood as dealing with gender roles, but in actuality have little to do with gender roles, and those directed towards separate gender roles. In order to be fair to the topic, both need to be addressed and focused on.
One of the harshest texts of Paul's writing in the New Testament is 1Corinthians 14:33b-35. At a casual read of the passage, one could assume that Paul expects the women in "all the churches of the saints" to remain silent in church. Many scholars today see this passage as one that is added later by an editor, or another writer. This "interpolation theory" points to the fact that some ancient manuscripts place these verses in a separate location. Others appeal to the text being interpolated because it seems to directly contradict what Paul had said only three chapters earlier in 1Cor. 11.
in turn there seems to be three theories that derive from this conflict: (1)
Paul actually wrote the text, (2) Paul did in fact address this situation, but
wrote it to a limited form and others elaborated, or (3) Paul did not write
The problem with the interpolated
text theory is that despite claims to earlier manuscripts, there is not much
evidence in the Greek to support the idea that these verses were added to the
In addition to that, L. Ann Jervis adds three reasons why she feels there cannot be a gloss added to Paul's original writing:
(1) there is no precedent in the Pauline letters that I know of for a gloss intended to contradict directly Paul's own view; (2) there is precedent for Paul adding words late in the processes of composing a letter and for this resulting in a variety of textual traditions, and (3) the passage appears in every extant manuscript, which should caution us against too readily adopting an interpolation hypothesis.
It seems that the overwhelming
evidence points to a non-interpolated theory, and therefore should be
understood to be Pauline. Given this, instead of looking for excuses out of
the somewhat contradicting text of 1Cor. 11 and 1Cor. 14, one should attempt to
find the value in both passages and how they relate to each other.
William Barclay probably gives the best understanding of the text because he sees this passage by no means attempting to "quench anyone's gift." The purpose of the passage is to produce an orderly worship experience in which certain women are not distracting. It is Barclay's interpretation the reason Paul wrote this text is because there were a collection of women in the Corinthian church that were purposely exercising their freedom in Christ to speak inappropriately. Therefore, they were being reprimanded for rude behavior. Paul by no means had in mind to limit universally women's ability to speak in churches, but simply wanted to stress the importance of orderly worship services.
Therefore, this text should not be one that is used to either support or
disregard gender roles: it is neutral. The reason it should be addressed in
this paper is because over the years it has usually been a text that is used to
suppress women into quiet submission, and it needs to be made clear that is not
what this text has in mind.
Another passage of Paul's that is often misinterpreted is 1Timothy 3:1-13. Paul addresses those who desire to become oversearers and deacons. One of his requirements for both is obligating the person to be "the husband of one wife." Some have interpreted this to mean that in order for a person to be a deacon or oversearer, one must be male, because only males can be husbands. The problem with this logic is that if the same logic is applied to other parts of the Bible, females are excluded. Take for example Exodus 20:17 (cf. Deut 5:21) where the tenth commandment to the Israelites is that they should not covet their neighbor's wife. The emphasis of this passage is on the action of coveting, not the one doing the coveting. The same is true for 1Timothy 3:1-13. The emphasis of this passage is on the character of the person (not partaking in polygamy) not the person itself. Although other passages of the Bible speak more clearly about the roles in which women and men should and should not be apart of, this passage should not be used as one of them.
So far two passages have been looked at that typically are used to support gender roles within the church, but in actuality prove to be quite neutral. This goes the other way as well. Galatians 3:28 is often used in support of an egalitarian approach to ministry, but it should not be used in this manner. The surrounding context of the famous "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," passage deals with salvation, and only salvation. To infuse gender roles as part of Paul's speech during this passage would be to make the passage say something it is not. One should not understand from this passage that Paul is saying that there are no longer male or female when it comes to ministry, but only that there are neither male nor female when it comes to the security of their salvation. Women are no longer saved in relation to their husband or father, but only in the security with their relationship to Jesus Christ.
Despite the somewhat neutral approach thus far in analyzing Paul's writing in relation to gender roles, it should not be understood that Paul was therefore neutral on the topic. Just because for centuries, the church has been doing an injustice to the text by falsely using some of the text to suppress women, does not mean that there is not value found in other parts of the text. Contemporary scholars are doing just as much of an injustice to the text to ignore these passages as the church was when using other passages incorrectly.
The issue of the headcovering passage is one of the most confusing. The first question one raises in regards to this topic is what does Paul really expect women to do? Were they expected to cover themselves completely, were they expected to wear long hair, or were they just expected to have a shawl on? Most likely it is the last one because there is no evidence from Paul's time of women ever covering themselves completely, similar to some modern Islamic women.
second question that arises from this text is what does Paul mean by Christ is
the head of every man, and man is the head of every woman. The first question
that must be answered is what Paul means by the Greek word kephal!"
, most often translated head. The two most popular theories in modern scholarship translate the word to mean either source or authority. The problem with the word meaning source is that it is never used in the Septuagint in that manner, and it is the Septuagint where Paul derives much of his theology. In addition, to translate some of Paul's references as the "source" only confuses the text more.
Give the fact that kephal!"
should be taken as headship, one must then ask what
does it mean for a man to have authority over a woman just like Christ has
authority over the man?. The interesting thing to note about this text is that
it refers to all three members of the Holy Trinity. Thomas R. Schreiner
C. Kroeger objects that to make God the head over Christ is to fall into the Christological heresy of making Christ subordinate to God. But this would only be a heresy if one asserted that there was an ontological difference (a difference in nature of being) between Father and Son. The point is not that the Son is essentially inferior to the Father. Rather, the Son willingly submits Himself to the Father's authority. The difference between the m embers of the Trinity is a functional one, not an essential one.
He continues on to say, "One can posses a different function and still be equal in essence and worth. Women are equal to men in essence and in being; there is no ontological distinction, and yet they have a different function or role in church and home."
two points illustrate the true essence of what the text is stating: although
God has created men and women differently, and are expected to carry out different
roles, this by no means gives anyone authority to assume a superior role.
apply this passage to the current church one must distinguish between the
fundamental principles that underlie the text and its application. Women
should not be expected to wear headcoverings, because that no longer has any
cultural value. Men and women should understand that they are created
differently for a divine purpose. This text illustrates that men are to assume
the role of leadership, while women have a complementary and supportive role.
It should be noted that this passage of scripture does support the idea of women participating in worship because of Paul's reference to them praying and prophesying. As was noted before earlier in the essay, the realization of women remaining silent in the church is not what was expected by Paul for women then, nor should it be an expectation in today's churches. 1Corinthians 11:2-16 should be used in support of women assuming a role within churches that expects their participation.
Passage like these of course lead to the ultimate questions of what exactly is Paul's opinion of woman in ministry. There are two approaches that need to be looked at in reference to this question: what did Paul do and what did Paul say?
It seems evident from his other writing that woman were in ministry with him. He named woman often in his writings as companions to his ministry. Some have chosen to neglect Paul's statements of gender roles because, amongst other reasons, it appears that women ministered alongside of him. However, there appears to be a stark difference in the ministry the women partook in, as compared to the men. Take for example Chloe and Prisca. Chloe is evidently a single woman, or does not have a tie to a man. However, the problem is that it is unclear if Chloe herself is even a follower herself. What the reference does refer to is that there is a "house of Chloe" within the Christ following community. One could conclude that because Chloe has a movement within Christianity, and Paul addresses this, that therefore Paul does not see any value in gender roles in ministry.
The problem is that the reference
is too vague and there is relatively little known about the actual person of
Chloe (as compared to Prisca), so it would be large jumps to derive a gender
model off of her.
The other woman
often referred to is Prisca. However, the main point is usually missed with
her. Most of the time Paul mentions her she is also mentioned with her
This indicates to me that Paul is
exemplifying a perfect model of ministry. Yes, Prisca had a vital role in
that, but it is in the complementary relationship that true ministry is best
utilized. Paul might refer to Prisca more because he, personally, has a better
relationship with her, but that does not give strong enough evidence to believe
that Prisca still did not submit to the authority of her husband.
Ephesians 5:21-33 needs to be discussed in order to understand a biblical perspective of gender roles within the family. The basic summary of the passage is fourfold: both husband and wife should treat each other with respect and mutuality, the husband and wife's role are different (headship, submission, respectively), the attitude of the husband and wife are love and respect, and the analogy of a marital relationship between Christ and the church.
The passage begins
with reference to mutual submission between the husband and wife. What should
be noted is that although there is an aspect of mutual submission that is
involved in any relationship between husband and wife (it should never be
self-serving), there is a special emphasis following v. 21 for the woman to
submit beyond the mutual submission that both should participate in. There is
no indication Paul is attempting to use synthetic parallelism, which would make
the repetition by the author redundant and simply have no value.
It has already
been established in this essay that the word Paul uses in reference to
, is best translated to
mean authority. The other important word that needs to be clarified in the
text is the Greek word hupatass1
. The word used by Paul here is the same word used by the apostle Peter in 1Peter 5:4-5 when he instructs the young men to be submissive to those who are older. The Bauere-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Greek-English lexicon describes this as "submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love."
With the word choice here pointing to Paul's expectation of male headship in a marital relationship, and a wife's willful submission to her husband, there must be a couple of things clarified. First, no where in the New Testament does it support any forced submission. The command by Paul for women to submit to their husbands is not in an active verb form, but rather in middle/passive. This means that it is not up to the husband to force her wife into submission, but rather the scripture does encourage women to willfully make that decision on their own. The second point is that Paul only makes the submission reference to wives in relation to their own
husband. This point is clear in the Greek text, however, the NIV failed to
translate it into the English text (see NASB). This command is not a universal
command that all women submit to all men, in all circumstances. Paul does continue
this formula for leadership by including the church in 1Timothy 2:11,12.
George W. Knight
III best puts the basic conclusion from the Ephesians passage when he states
The instruction about wives and husbands found in Ephesians and Colossians, expressed in the key terms "be subject" for wives and "head" for husbands, teaches distinctive roles for wives and husbands. That instruction may be summarized both as a divinely mandated leadership role for husbands in the marriage relationship and a divinely mandate submission to that leadership for wivesÉThus the roles should reflect the actions and attitudes appropriate to that wonderful relationship between Christ and His church. Husbands must therefore exercise their headship with a "love" that "nourishes and cherishes" and that puts aside all bitterness." Wives must voluntarily submit themselves to their husbands "as to the Lord" with "all respect" because this is in accord with their standing "in the Lord."
Ephesians 5:21-33 illustrates that Paul's intention in his teaching was to emphasis gender differences that produce different gender roles. Knight also states that, "This is by no means an abandonment of Paul's earlier teaching that "there is neitherÉmale nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Rather, it is an appeal to one who is equal by creation and redemption to submit to the authority God has ordained." 
better biblical model of gender roles within the church (ministry) and family
should be seen as a complementation model. This means that God had ordained
that certain roles be carried out by men/husbands, and that other roles should
be carried about women/wives. This is by no means is a statement of
incompetence or unworthiness towards women, but the best method of interaction
in institutions that are products of the fall.
Allison, Robert W. "Let Women Be Silent in the Churches (1Cor. 1433b-36): What Did Paul Really Say, and What Did it Mean?" Journal for the
Study of the New Testament 32 (Fall 1988):
Arnold, Bill T., and Bryan E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament:
A Christian Survey. Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker Books, 1999.
Bellis, Alice Ogden. Helpmates, Harlots, Heros: Women's Stories in the Hebrew Bible. Louisville, KY:
Westminister/John Knox Press, 1994.
Bristow, John Temple. What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988.
Cotter, Wendy. "Women's Authority Roles in Paul's Churches: Countercultural or Conventional?" Novum Testamentum 36
Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997.
Jervis, L. Ann. "1Corinthians 14.34-35: A Reconsideration of Paul's Limitation of the Free Speech of Some Corinthian Women." Journal for the
Study of the New Testament 58 (1995):
Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the
First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993.
Kloppenborg, John S., Marvin W. Meyer, Stephen J. Patterson, Michael G.
Steinhauser, eds. Q Thomas Reader.
Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1990.
Knight, George W. III. "Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church: Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-19." In Recovering Biblical
Manhood & Womanhood: A response to Evangelical Feminism, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 165-178. Wheaton,
IL: Crossway Books, 1991.
Schreiner, Thomas R. "Head Coverings, Prophecy and the Trinity: 1Corinthians 11:2-16." In Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A
Response to Evangelical Feminism, ed. John
Piper and Wayne Grudem, 124-139. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991.
Trible, Phyllis. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality: Overtures to
Biblical Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress