Many Christians today seem to have very short memories. For them, “Historical Christianity” started sometime around the 1500s. For the rest of us, there is a much older, richer, and more vibrant Christlike historical faith that began with Jesus and carried through to those early Apostles, then to the early Church Fathers and then took an unfortunate detour around the time of Constantine in 313 AD.
For those who define Christianity as having started with Jesus, there is a refreshing emphasis on the inclusion of “everyone” into the Body of Christ and a long list of women who were with Jesus from day one.
We have Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha [the sisters of Lazarus], Joanna, whose husband Chusa was Herod’s administrator; Susanna; and many other women who travelled with Jesus and even financially supported his ministry.
We especially have the scandalous example of Jesus taking on a woman as a disciple, as evidenced when Mary sat the feet of Jesus – an obvious posture of a disciple – and Jesus’s affirmation that she not only had chosen something better than making sandwiches for the males in the room, but that her decision to become a disciple [along with the men] was something that “shall never be taken away from her.”
We also have women who stood vigil at the crucifixion [while the male disciples were hiding away in fear], and women who were witnesses to his resurrection [as the men refused to believe them until they saw for themselves], and a woman – Mary Magdalene – who was the first “Apostle to the Apostles”, being sent by Jesus to proclaim that he was alive.
Following Jesus’s radical inclusion of women, the Apostle Paul also honoured women. In fact, if it weren’t for Paul’s specific mention of these women who helped to found the early Christian church, we wouldn’t know any of their names! It’s quite simply because Paul took time to name them and to affirm their hard work serving as deacons, elders, apostles, pastors, prophets, evangelists, teachers, house church planters and leaders that we have a record of their essential value to the early Christian communities.
These are women like:
*Tabitha – An early disciple of Jesus who made clothing for the poor and served others in love [Acts 9:36]
*Junia – A Jewish follower of Jesus who was imprisoned for her faith and an apostle according to Paul [Romans 16:7] who, for several centuries, was turned into a man by having her name mistranslated to “Junias” because men were uncomfortable with her Apostleship.
*Phoebe – A deacon of the Church in Cenchrea [Romans 16:1]
*Priscilla – A “co-worker in the service of Christ” with Paul who, along with her husband Aquila, taught the Apostle Appollos about the Holy Spirit, and also travelled with Paul on his Missionary/Church-planting journeys. [Acts 18:2-26]
*Lydia – A gentile convert to Judaism who heard Paul speak and followed Jesus. She was an entrepreneur and she pastored a Church in her home. [Acts 16:14-40]
*Euodia and Scyntyche – Two women “who…labored side by side with [Paul] in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of [Paul’s] fellow workers…” [Phil. 4:3]
And there were hundreds more women just like these who went unnamed for centuries in the early church. They were allowed to prophesy, to pastor, to serve as deacons, to travel as evangelists and apostles planting new communities of faith as they went, and without them there would be Christian faith today.
So, please join me in affirming, honoring and celebrating these faithful, spirit-filled, anointed women who were – like all believers – licensed and ordained by the Holy Spirit into the full-time ministry of the Gospel of Christ.
Women were essential to the ministry of Jesus. They were pivotal in the formation of the Christian faith. They were allowed, encouraged and relied upon to help spread the Gospel of the Kingdom from the very beginning.
Don’t let any man in any pulpit tell you otherwise.
If they want to point you to a verse in 1 Timothy or one in 1 Corinthians that contradict all of those references and try to erase everything that Jesus, Paul and the early Church did to include, honor and celebrate women, please feel free to walk away. Because even they know better than to establish a doctrine on one or two verses in the Bible while ignoring dozens and dozens of other verses that are clear as day.
But…what about where Paul says “I do not permit a woman to teach in order to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” [1 Tim. 2:12]?
Well, first of all, the Greek for this verse is actually worded like this: “I am not now at this time allowing a woman to teach…” which suggests that at other times he did allow women to teach. [And we know full-well that elsewhere Paul flat-out affirms the teaching and prophetic ministry of women].
This epistle begins by telling us that there are certain individuals in this Church who are causing division and trouble:
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” [1 Tim. 1:3-7]
So, there seems to be a problem in this specific Church in Ephesus with a woman who was wanting to exert her authority. This is what Paul is trying to help Timothy respond to.
Also, please remember this: There is another category of person that Paul did not allow to teach as a way of exerting authority over a man – MEN!
In other words, NO ONE is allowed to exercise authority over ANYONE in the Body of Christ. Why? Because Jesus commanded his disciples not once but twice that they should never “lord it over one another” because “the greatest among you shall be your servant.” [see Matt. 20: 26-28]
Please also keep in mind that this letter isn’t necessarily something the actual Apostle Paul wrote himself. So, perhaps we should take the disputed letters of Paul and hold them a little more loosely?
There are numerous other problems with reading this text in 1 Timothy without understanding the cultural and religious environment of the city of Ephesus which was the nexus of Artemis worship where the great temple to Artemis stood. [This is also a huge issue in the book of Acts [19:28] when Paul is attacked by Artemis worshippers who chant “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” in protest of his ministry for over 3 hours!]
Once you understand the complexities of Artemis worship you’ll understand why Paul says in 1 Timothy that “women will be saved in child-bearing” and it has nothing to do with salvation by way of motherhood. [See my in-depth article on this verse HERE]
As for the passage in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 where Paul seems to say:
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Well, first of all, Paul as a Pharisee of Pharisees would have known beyond any doubt that the Law never commands any such thing. So, what’s going on here?
The biggest clues are that this letter is a response letter to one sent to Paul earlier. As Paul goes through this letter back to them, he is answering questions and responding to issues that they have raised in their previous communications.
The other clue is that the Law doesn’t teach that women should not be allowed to speak, but the Talmud does. In fact, the Talmud almost verbatim says “it is a disgrace for a woman to speak” and that “a woman’s voice is filthy nakedness.”
Bottom line: This sentence is NOT from Paul. It’s Paul quoting back to them something they had put into their letter to him. And Paul’s response to this? He says “What?! 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. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” [1 Cor. 14: 36-39]
The problem is that most modern English translations of this passage leave out the exclamation “What?!” so that the next verse seems to agree with that verse forbidding women to speak. However, once you add that back in [because it is in the Greek text], then you can see that Paul not only does NOT agree, he reminds them to “acknowledge what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command [not the Law]” and that they should all “be eager to prophesy and not forbid speaking in tongues” [something Paul had already affirmed earlier in this very same letter].
Bottom line: Women ARE one hundred percent equal to men in every way. The Spirit of God was poured out on all flesh at Pentecost – both the men and the women!
Men who continue to contradict Jesus, and Paul and the numerous Scriptures that affirm their essential role as pastors, teachers, evangelists, and apostles are false teachers. Ignore them.
If you’re not afraid of women, I invite you to join us for Transform, a collection of curated conversations with some amazing authors, teachers, speakers and spiritual guides who also happen to be female.
- Kristin Kobes Du Mez – Author of Jesus and John Wayne
- Rev. Dr. Katy Valentine – Founder of The Metaphysical Christian Facebook Group and co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour podcast
- Leanne Hooper – A multiple Near-Death-Experience survivor
- Nora Sophia – Spiritual coach and co-founder of Shaia-Sophia House publishing
- Brenda Davies – Host of God Is Grey podcast
- Iris Poyser – International speaker, ordained pastor, entrepreneur, wife and mother
These exceptional women walk us through ideas that are central to spiritual Transformation such as learning to trust our inner voice, escaping toxic theology, embracing truth in all its wondrous forms and discovering our own path to resurrection life in Christ.
The Transform sessions are available on-demand and will be unlocked and available starting Saturday, May 22, 2021. So, you can watch them at your own pace and re-watch them as needed whenever you like.
I hope you’ll join us for Transform. Registration is open now>
Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of the best-selling “Jesus Un” series of books, including “Jesus Unforsaken: Substituting Divine Wrath With Unrelenting Love” which is available now on Amazon.