A woman’s place

After the tips on the differences between men and women, it seems only fair that I share my opinion on what the Bible does and does not say about “a woman’s place”.  For the record, this subject has been a bit of a moving target for me over the last three decades, but I have had a fairly consistent view of it for about five years now. My changes in opinion over the years have been the result of what I see in Scripture based on ongoing study.

First the church – The Bible has no lack of commands and examples on the place of women in “church” – but consistency sometimes seems lacking. After digging through all the  impact of pre and post resurrection, culture, and the reality that much of what Paul wrote was correction, I have come to the opinion that there is no Scriptural limitation placed on what women may do in ministry. In my mind, the mention of a female apostle “of note” in Romans 16:7 pretty well trumps any “interpretation” that makes such an apostle wrong. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the Greek, but I am convinced that one cannot make the name male without violating the integrity of the Word. Additionally, I have come to see the limits Paul speaks of in a couple of places as based on culture – such as when he was speaking to a church in an area where a certain major cult was ruled by women.

The above said, I think that having created the differences in men and women, God fully understands those differences. I also think God tends to call us based on who He made us to be. That is not a back door way to limit women, but rather to say I would expect that certain positions would be predominately held by women, while other positions would be more predominately held by men. To fight that just to try to meet a gender-neutral quota seems unwise to me. God will use all of us as He wants, if we allow it for ourselves, and for others. I fear some are fighting God on this, and that is very costly!

In the household – No matter how I look at it, I am unable to lose or explain away the “headship” of the husband that I see in the Bible. I have some very good friends who don’t agree, so I’ve heard the “other side” a number of times and a number of ways. I always end up seeing what is said in Scripture as based neither on culture nor the times, but rather on something God set into motion long, long ago. I’ve seen the Greek tortured in passages about this, and it still does not break in my mind.

That said, I do not see headship as having any resemblance to what most people think of when you say “headship”. I see Jesus as my example – a SERVANT leader. Jesus leads, and those who wish to follow – He does not command, force, or push – He just leads. My goal is the same, to lovingly do my best to lead, and leave following or not following up to my bride.  (For the record, Lori, who has studied this even more than I, agrees with this, and thus does follow.) I see my job as husband to be full of responsibility, and lacking in authority unless my bride chooses to give me the authority.

In practice what Lori and I do is so subtle many folks assume we have what some call an “egalitarian marriage”. In reality we rarely disagree, and when we do we seek to come to consensus. It is extremely rare that we don’t get to consensus before a decision is needed. On those rare occasions, I have made a decision, and she has always chosen to follow.

As to the “why men” – I have no idea. It seems to me that a creature with two heads is bad plan, and as we are to become one in marriage, one must “lead” to avoid the problems of two heads. Why God picked men I can’t say. Historically women have certainly been hurt by “male dominance”, but in reality headship done as Jesus taught is more difficult for the leader than the one who follows (or chooses to not follow). The true servant leader is the lowest of the low – and that is what I, as a husband, am to seek to be.

So, have I managed to write a post that no one agrees with completely? :mrgreen:

8 Comments on “A woman’s place

  1. Thanks for making the effort to put this together. I know from experience that trying to reason out topics like this can be a thankless job. Yet, they are so important and basic, it seems impossible and irresponsible to just let them slide by.

    You’ve written enough that probably none of us will agree with you *completely*, but I think what you write is very rational, using the mind that God gave us to use to our best ability. Certainly, the ideas of doing things out of love, being a community and being equal in God’s eyes are central to our beliefs though one might disagree on other things. I hope that others who think they have arrived at different views in equally responsible ways will feel invited to respond.

  2. This is my first time posting though my wife and I have been following for years.

    This post is absolutely excellent and on target as far as I’m concerned. I’m teaching a Bible study on this very topic tonight and this will help.

    Some of your recent posts have been very, very good as well.

    Thank you Paul for your service to the Kingdom.

    -H.L. Hussmann

  3. I agree with you 100%. All please note: being the servant leader husband is a very difficult position to hold. It is not glamorous; humbling is how I would describe it. The servant leader husband is a role I constantly strive to improve upon and without fail, in every instance, it improves my marriage. The proof is in the glowing respect of my bride!

  4. I have to say I think I agree completely. I have a question about your female apostle though. I agree the name has to be female, but are you certain the phrase “of note among the apostles” means she was an apostle and not that she had a good reputation with the apostles? This is the first I have heard of a female apostle and I would just like to be sure. Since you seemed to have studied the issue in the Greek I was wondering how certain you are about that part of the verse.

  5. I appreciate the thoughts and would say by God’s grace my wife and I seek the same consensus. I never have to ‘lay down the law’ and see such a notion as ridiculous given our roles as servant leaders.
    I do have a serious question about the ‘in the church’ part though. In 1 Cor. 11 Paul is writing to inform of God’s plan for headship/authority (for whatever reason God chose). He ‘commends’ them to ‘understand’. In Chapter 14:33 he is again, informing and correcting (like an apostle does) when he says “As in all the churches of the saints, [34] women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” To put the cultural spin (women’s cult) on this when it says, ‘all the churches’, and leave ‘cultural context’ out of headship and authority in 1 Cor. 11 could be a mistake, no? Paul then instructs women to learn more from their husbands at home [14:35] which stays in step with the teaching of headship and authority! I 100% believe women have a place in ministry, but can’t ignore the fruit of a nation that has women who go and teach Sunday School while their husbands stay home or take the back seat. I guess I feel male headship is easier for us to grasp and women being quiet in church is too far of a paradigm shift for where we have gotten to (thus we don’t accept it).
    I have been involved with many churches and can say that the healthiest ones are ones where their is a better balance of men and women teaching and men can learn from men who are committed to the Word and understand the severity and joy of what Christ calls us to as servant leaders. These men also understand then also the call to lead their marriages and entire households.

  6. There is a reasonably good discussion of Romans 16:7 in the NET Bible translator’s notes: http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Rom&chapter=16#n8

    The NET gives this as the translation:

    “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my compatriots and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.”

    And here is the translator’s note regarding “well known”:

    “Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term ἐπίσημος (epishmo”) is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”). The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30). When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients. In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.” See M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001): 76-91, who argue for the elative notion here.”

    In short, it’s a bit of a straw man to suggest that one would need to “make the name ‘male'” in order to think there weren’t any female apostles — it seems to be a question over the sense in which ἐπίσημος should be interpreted. The evidence doesn’t seem extremely conclusive one way or the other, and as such, I would be _extremely_ hesitant to use this as a single prooftext verse one way or the other.

    While I’ve appreciated many other of Paul’s Biblical interpretations here on TGH, I’m not really comfortable with so much emphasis being placed on that verse here. I’m sure there are other verses to back up his views, I’m just leery of using this one as a capstone.

  7. @ All – thanks for the comments on a difficult subject. A few quick notes that don’t go as far as needed. My goal here is not to convince anyone of anything, but rather to let you know what I believe as that will influence how you see what I write about marriage.

    Re: Cor 14:33– I see that as about the passaged that proceed it, not as saying that what follows is common practice. The on to vs 34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (NKJV)” The problem with this is that “The Law” never says any such thing – and Paul would not have made such a mistake. The explanation that I have heard that makes the most sense to me, is that Paul is using sarcasm here to slap those who are teaching a false doctrine (so this would be the same as saying “You should plant in north south lines, just as the law says” to combat a teaching based on the occult to plant in such a way). I realise such an explanation seems contorted, but I given that Paul uses sarcasm in other places, it’s not really a reach.

    Re: Ro 16:7 and if it says Junia was an apostle, or was well regarded by the apostles – a good point, I will have to study that. A quick look at other uses shows both, I will have to consult with those who actually know Greek on this.

  8. I think that this verse The on to vs 34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” What actually means is that “The Law” commands women to be subject to men (male), therefore, if they say they cannot talk, they should remain silent because of such commandment to obey. I don’t think it is referring to God’s will for women to be let out of the ministry. I think we, as God’s creatures are created equal, even in ministry.

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