Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the
Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)
|154th GS MINUTES,
MAY 21, 1976, pp. 65-112
COMMITTEE ON ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Dr. James B.
Hurley introduced the report, calling on the Rev. Stephen Smallman
and the Rev. Herman Mischke to speak on the history of the report.
Time and distance have made the committee's labor
difficult. The committee has been able to meet only by conference
In order to assist members of Synod in evaluating this report, an
outline of the full projected report is provided, indicating texts
to be examined, conclusions reached, and recommendations. Members
of Synod should be aware that owing to time limitations involved
in mailing between committee members, a provisional draft is being
published. The essential elements of the report and the conclusions
have been approved by a majority of the committee but the actual
text has not been finally approved by the committee. It is anticipated
that by Synod time the remaining text will be complete, reviewed,
and amended by the committee (and perhaps supplemented by a minority
INTRODUCTORY AND METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
The relation of men and women within
society, within the church, and within marriage is the subject of
much debate at the present time. The 153rd General Synod of the
RPCES reconstituted the Study Committee on the Role of Women in
the Church established by the 152nd General Synod with a mandate
to provide exegetical support for the conclusions presented by the
committee to the 153rd General Synod and "to enlarge the scope
of the study to include the role of women teaching in the church,
Sunday school, youth groups, etc." In an effort to fulfill
its commission, the present committee has reviewed the materials
passed on to it by the previous committee and examined additional
In the light of the extensive literature
now available regarding the relation of men and women, the committee
initially felt it unnecessary and unwise to seek to present a comprehensive
report such as that presented by the Christian Reformed Church.
The role of women is a topic which could include extensive historical
research into the role of women in the OT period, in the NT documents,
and throughout the post-Apostolic period, extensive exegetical treatment
of all relevant biblical texts, and extensive operational suggestions
regarding the development of the role of women in both present society/ies
and potential future societies. Obviously such a program is too
broad and extends beyond the actual intent of the synod in the establishment
of this committee. The focal concern of our churches has been the
role of women in the offices of the church and within the more organized
functions of the visible Body. In order to approach this task with
precision and without endless volumes the report is divided into
the following three sections:
I. Introductory and Methodological
II. Exegetical Foundations
A. Galatians 3:28
B. I Timothy 2
C. I Corinthians 11
D. I Corinthians 14:33b-36
E. Genesis 1, 2, 3
F. I Timothy 3
III. Conclusions and Recommendations
The report itself is designed to be
read by both those with and those without a technical knowledge
of Greek and Hebrew. Accordingly all Greek or Hebrew words are accompanied
by their English equivalents. At certain places the discussion hinges
on finer points of grammar. We have endeavored to explain such points,
and beg the indulgence of those who do not have technical training.
B. The Current
Surveying the present situation, Dr.
George Knight remarks, that it has been questioned
"whether there are indeed any roles
at all that the New Testament recognizes or prescribes.
Certainly the church has thought that it ascertained such
roles in the New Testament. It spoke of the role relations
of citizens and civil authorities, of the church membership
and those who ruled over them, of parents and children,
even at times of servants and masters, and of husbands and
wives. With the exception of servants and masters, which
relation it has come to understand the New Testament was
regulating as an existing situation, but not presenting
as based on God's order, the church understood the other
relationships to be roles established by God for which basic
guidelines were given by the Lord and the apostles. Included
in these role relationships was that of the male and female
in the marriage relationship. This role relationship is
still recognized as normative among evangelicals. Likewise,
for the same considerations that pertain in the male-female
relationships in marriage, the position of the historic
Christian church has upheld a similar relationship between
males and females in the ruling/teaching functions in the
church. In particular, the passages of I Timothy 2:11-15,
I Corinthians 14:33b (or 34)-38, and the arguments of the
passage, I Corinthians 11:1-16, have been understood as
normative for this area.
But this understanding of the historic Christian
church, even though it has stood as the position for centuries,
has in recent years been challenged and in certain cases
set aside as erroneous.
Vigorous discussions took place in Germany
and the Scandinavian countries which led the majority of
the Lutherans in particular to abandon the earlier position.
Similar studies took place in the U.S.A. and resulted in
a predominance of American Lutherans following the Europeans.
On a broader level, most of the older American denominations
have also altered their previous positions. The World Council
of Churches studies indicate that a great number of the
member churches have take this same position in principle.
On the other hand, the Reformed Ecumenical Synod at its
last two meetings, (1968 Netherlands, 1972 Australia) reaffirmed
as the teaching of Scripture the historic Christian understanding
of the passages in question. Also studies coming from the
dominant conservative wing of the Lutheran Church, Missouri
Synod, have reaffirmed the normative character of the passages
in I Timothy and I Corinthians. So one might be tempted
to generalize that the more liberal wing of the church has
abandoned the historic Christian position and the more conservative
wing has reaffirmed that position, and that this reflects
their respective views of the Bible, its inspiration, inerrancy,
and absolute authority.
However, a new element has been interjected
into the discussion. The editor of Christianity Today
has taken the position in his latest book that the position
of Paul is an expression of the culture of his day and not
normative for today. This has been followed by a couple
of editorials in Christianity Today seeking to implement
such a decision. Two women writing a book setting forth
their understanding of the Biblical basis for women's liberation
have taken an even more vigorous position which would not
only see Paul's view of ruling and teaching as culturally
relative, but also affirm an "equalitarian" marriage.
A majority of the invited participants of the Thanksgiving
Workshop on Evangelical Social Concern voted to seek women's
ordination in the teaching/ruling offices of the church,
although there was a large dissent. The Permanent Judicial
Commission of one of the older denominations refused to
ordain an evangelical because he said that his understanding
of the Scriptures would prohibit him from ordaining a woman
to the teaching/ruling office. The divergence of opinion
reflected, the intrinsic importance of the question and
the existence of several passages that purport to deal with
the subject inexorably draw us to ask again: 'What do the
Scriptures say?!' "
Discussions such as those of European
and Scandinavian Lutheran churches proceed from a view of Scripture
which is not acceptable within evangelical circles; other discussions,
such as that of Lindsell, the editor of Christianity Today,
proceed from a higher view of Scripture and come to conclusions
which have caused much debate within evangelical circles. Most of
the contemporary conservative discussion can be divided into two
groups according to the starting point of their exegetical investigation.
One group begins its consideration of the respective roles of men
and women with Galatians 3:28, stressing oneness in Christ as the
plumbline for NT ethics. Accordingly, those passages which seem
to fall short of placing men and women in a par tend to be viewed
as being somehow culturally conditioned. Lindsell and Jewett fall
into this category. The other major group of conservative exegetes
begins its consideration of roles with passages such as I Timothy
2:11-15, or I Corinthians 11:1-16, stressing the subordination of
the wife and the prohibition of the elder/teaching role to women.
Knight and a vast majority of traditional exegetes take this approach.
The consequences of these starting points are strikingly different.
The former leads to the appointment of women as elders, and, in
some cases, to egalitarian marriages. The latter position leads
to maintenance of sexual discrimination with respect to the eldership
and marital headship, and, in some cases, to prohibition of the
deaconate, Sunday school instructional roles, and vocal participation
in worship to the women. Advocates of either side accuse adherents
of the other with failing to deal adequately with Scriptural teaching.
These accusations are, of course, serious ones. It is appropriate
that this report begin with principial considerations relating to
the choice of an exegetical starting point.
It has long been held in evangelical
circles that Scripture is to interpret Scripture and that we are
to interpret the less clear passages by the more clear. Applied
to the problem at hand these tenets require (a) that social considerations
and historical "progress" not be made the first principles
of interpretation, but rather that scriptural exegesis guide the
selection of a starting point, and (b) that we carefully examine
the texts which may be used as starting points in an effort to determine
their precise intent and, if possible, which texts more directly
address the issues at hand. We will examine Galatians 3:28 and I
Timothy 2 to see whether either is a suitable starting point. Having
reached a provisional conclusion with regard to Galatians 3:28 and
I Timothy 2:11-15, it will be appropriate to consider other texts
shedding further light on the issue.
PART II. EXEGETICAL FOUNDATIONS
A. Galatians 3:28:
A Viable Starting Point?
Galatians 3:28 is perhaps the most
appropriate place to begin our exegetical task. In it Paul proclaims,
"There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither bond nor free,
there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ
This declaration manifestly sweeps
aside all distinctions within the number of those who are "one
in Christ Jesus." It is crucial that the import of this be
explored. Is Paul intending to imply that Jews and Greeks are indistinguishable,
that no distinctions between men and women are to be observed, that
elders and non-elders, apostles and non-apostles, bond and free,
are indistinguishable? Does he mean to suggest that our ideal must
be the elimination of all distinctions between believers, that we
should eliminate such distinctions as soon as possible?
The context provides some indication
of Paul's thoughts. The letter of the Galatians revolves around
the tension between the Judiastic legalism and Pauline salvation
by grace. A review of its theological content provides a context
in which to evaluate 3:28. The first part of chapter 3 develops
at length the thesis that faith, not works, provides the basis of
salvation and that those of them who approach God by faith will
be blessed with faithful Abraham (vv. 6-14, cf. esp. 9, 11). It
is Paul's manifest purpose to establish that the fact that God saves
by faith makes it possible not only "that (Jews) might receive
the promise of the Spirit by faith," but also, "that upon
the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham, by faith"
Having treated the law negatively to
establish that "the one who is righteous (before God) lives
by means of faith (not works)" (vv. 6-14, cf. 14), Paul goes
on in vv. 15-25 to argue that the promise antedates the Law and
that the Law is intended as a caretaker (paidagogos: slave
who leads the child to his lessons) for a period lasting only until
the children should be full sons through faith in Christ (vv. 25,
26). When considered in this fashion, of course, it is clear that
the usefulness of the Law for this task fades with the maturity
of its charge. This is the burden of the latter portion of chapter
3. Chapter 4 proceeds to develop the new sonship of those who are
no longer children under the watchcare of the slave/tutor.
It should be clear from this summary
that the central issue at stake in Galatians 3 and 4 is the role
of the law in relation to faith. A strong, secondary theme is that
of the basis upon which the Jew and the Gentile may come before
God. Paul deliberately established that the Law is not a special
avenue of approach to God, open only to Jews, but a statement from
which God condemns Jews as well as Gentiles (v. 22). Because all
are thus shut up to sin and can be saved only by faith, all
come before God on equal footing, their race, sex, or state of bondage
(Jew/Greek, male/female, bond/free) having no effect whatsoever
on their right to stand before God. It is in this frame of reference
that Paul declares, "You are all sons of God through
faith in Christ, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ
did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither
bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all
one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's
seed, heirs according to the promise" (vv. 27, 28).
Verse 26 defines clearly the scope
of Paul's thought in this crucial section. The debate has been over
the role of the Law in establishing our relation to God: Is is through
the Law that we become Sons of God? Is it only those who keep the
Law that can be acceptable to God? Paul's answer is clear and in
the negative: You are all sons of God through faith
in Messiah Jesus. . . and if you are Messiah's (by faith) then you
are Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise (not social origin)
(vv. 26, 29). Set within this context, it must be concluded that
Galatians 3:28 denies that racial, sexual, or civil factors play
any role in deciding whether an individual may be acceptable to
God and included among his people. We must now ask whether this
text goes beyond saying that any human whatsoever may become part
of Christ's body and that a full reception must be granted to all
who do in fact belong to Christ.
Some recent exegetes have held that
Galatians 3:28 is programmatic for the church, and that we should
therefore strive to achieve a totally democratic church form, erasing
all distinctions. Does Paul wish to teach this? It should be noted
that Galatians 3:25-29 are in no way to be construed in the future
tense. They were clearly present reality; albeit the Galatian
practice was not consonant with this reality. Whether this indicative
of equality has imperative consequences for behavior will be considered
below. We conclude that, if Paul intended to present this text as
a future goal rather than as a present fact, he has failed to communicate
this fact. If we would infer that v. 28 is a future goal, we must
justify our inference by exegetical consideration of other passages.
Other exegetes have held that Galatians
3:28 does indicate a present reality among the Pauline churches.
With this conclusion we agree. Paul considered that at that moment
they were all, regardless of race, sex, or state of bondage, sons
of God. On the basis of this conviction he instructed them to cease
doing those things which were a denial of the "sonship"
of all believers. Chapters 4 and 5 are filled with commands regarding
their freedom. The fact that Paul commanded them to act
upon their freedom, upon the reality of that oneness which is pointed
out in v. 28, is of great significance for our task.
We must carefully note that while Paul
commanded the cessation of those Galatian practices which denied
the reality of the oneness and the liberty pointed to in 3:25-29,
he also commanded that his churches should establish or maintain
practices which involve formal distinctions between apostle and
non-apostle (I Corinthians 14), husband and wife (I Corinthians
7), parent and child (Ephesians 6), but not (as far as inclusion
within the oneness of the body goes) between slave and free (I Corinthians
7; Philemon) or Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:28). How are we to
interpret Paul's commands to reject some distinctions and to establish
others? Three central alternatives present themselves: (1) Paul
was inconsistent, commanding various things which really cannot
be integrated, (2) Paul's goal was the overcoming of distinctions,
but historical circumstances caused him to delay implementing his
goals in some areas for the sake of growth in others, i.e., Paul
knew he was inconsistent but was willing to delay implementation
of some implications of their new status in Christ, (3) Paul did
not consider that the distinctions which he commanded prejudiced
or rejected the oneness upon which he insisted.
The first alternative is to be rejected
for various reasons. Those within evangelical circles are principally
committed to the integrity of Scripture and to its sufficiency for
life and practice. For such, the first alternative is principially
to be rejected. Principial considerations, however, are not the
only basis for rejecting the first alternative. It is methodologically
unwise to accept so simple and shallow a conclusion if other options
are available. Paul's letters show that the role of women arose
as a problem within his congregations on numerous occasions. It
is unlikely that the seeming tension between the position of Galatians
3:28 and that of I Timothy 2:11 would have gone without notice.
It is surely best methodologically to work from the assumption that
Paul was aware that he demanded some distinctions and forbade others
and that some explanation or some rationale is to be sought. The
contrary assumption terminates scholarly investigation before it
begins; we make no progress if we plead inconsistency every time
we cannot yet integrate what we have.
The second possible explanation has
recently found increasing favor. Could it be that Galatians 3:28
expresses Paul's goals but that he considers cultural prejudice
or social structures too great to take on? Does he leave some implications
of his Gospel undeveloped? It seems at first that this may well
be possible, yet various factors force us to reject this option.
Least weighty among the factors is the fact that Paul offers no
indication that he considered cultural issues as determinative of
the situation. While it could be said that such thoughts were implicit,
it is a weak argument from silence which makes unspoken cultural
More important and indeed decisive
is the fact that Paul did not hesitate to reject utterly the prejudice
of Jew against Gentile. It would seem strange that Paul would be
bold to violate cultural perspectives regarding race and bondage
(Phm) while fearing to challenge the cultural prejudice regarding
sex. This reticence of Paul's becomes especially strange when we
remember that Greek culture admitted women to the role of priestess
and that Christian women were permitted an unusually large role
both in worship and in Christian community,
at least as compared with Jewish practice. It is unobjectionable
to Gentiles and was less offensive to Jews than worship of Jesus
or the inclusion of the Gentiles. In the face of Paul's failure
to give any indication of cultural determinants of his decision,
and of his willingness to take on more serious cultural prejudices,
we think it unlikely that the second option above is to be preferred.
The third option, that Paul did not
consider that certain role distinctions within the body of Christ
prejudice the oneness of believers, seems to us the most likely
in that it, in contradistinctions to the other positions, offers
an explanation of Paul's evident feeling of freedom to argue both
distinctions and oneness without developing their relation. Our
study below will seek to develop this, which appears to be Paul's
view, at greater length.
In the light of the preceding discussion,
we conclude that, while Galatians 3:28 is central to our understanding
that any human whatsoever, upon credible profession of faith, may
and must be received with joy and rejoicing into the fellowship
of sinners saved by grace, we must reject it as a primary text when
we begin to consider the distinctive role of women within
the Church of the Lord Jesus.
Before turning to I Timothy as a possible
starting point for a study of the role of women, it is well to comment
somewhat further on the NT teaching concerning the equality of believers.
Foundational to Paul's understanding of man are the twin teachings
of the creation of man as the image of God and of the "recreation"
of believers in the image of Christ (Acts 17:26; Romans 8:29; II
Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:10,11). Paul's discussion of personal
renewal in Christ (Colossians 3), of the gifts of the Spirit (I
Corinthians 12), and even of marital distinctions (I Corinthians
7), shows clearly that he saw an equality
of the sexes with respect to their being and functioning as God's
image. In this respect, then, Paul's teaching faithfully reflects
that of Genesis 1:27: both sexes are the image of God.
Peter too discusses the equal relation
of husband and wife with respect to redemption. I Peter 3:7 carefully
identifies wives, women, as "joint heirs (sunkleronomoi)
of the grace of life." It is of considerable importance to
note that Peter's position resembles Paul's as described above in
that Peter evidently feels no tension between the role distinctions
upon which he insists in vv. 1-6 and the equality of sexes proclaimed
in v. 7.
B. I Timothy 2:
With the exception of the Methodist,
Revivalist, and Pentecostal branches of the church, the Christian
church has historically viewed I Timothy 2 as normative with respect
to the role of women in the church. In recent years these historical
conclusions have been questioned by various persons within Evangelical
and Reformed churches. It has been held that Paul's instructions
in I Timothy 2 are not properly made normative, but must rather
be viewed as counsel for a given historical, cultural setting. If
this view is adopted, it is, of course, appropriate to consider
afresh whether women may serve as elders and pastors. Let us consider
the setting and content of I Timothy 2 with the specific intention
of discovering not only what is says, but also whether and/or in
what respect(s) it should be viewed as culturally limited.
The Content of I Timothy: Culturally
It is generally accepted within conservative
circles that Paul wrote I Timothy with the intention of providing
Timothy with a clear statement on certain topics which were either
specifically at issue or were typically at issue within his churches.
The letter thus forms something of a "spiritual will"
left by Paul for Timothy. Paul indicates that he hopes to come to
Timothy, but fears that he may be long delayed (3:14-15a). Recognizing
the possible delay, Paul writes, "I write these things to you.
. . .that you may know how it is appropriate to behave in the household
of God (pos dei en oiku theou anast rephesthai) which is
the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth"
(3:14a, 15b). It is not altogether clear whether these remarks are
intended to refer to the letter as a whole, or to their immediate
context. The former appears the more likely as the latter as a whole
discusses conduct within the Body of Christ. However extensive the
scope of the remark, it is clearly intended to include chapters
2 and 3.
Paul's word choice in 3:14 has direct
bearing on the problem of the normativity of chapter 2. Paul wrote,
"pos. . . .dei anastrephesthai" (how. . . . it
is fitting to behave oneself). Dei is an impersonal verb,
generally translated "it is necessary," "one must,"
"one has to," "one should/ought." The New Testament
use of the word always indicates a strong degree of necessity and
generally indicates divinely based moral necessity. Paul uses it
24 times, the majority of which refer to historical necessities
required by divine rule over history (e.g., Romans 1:27; I Corinthians
11:19; 15:25,53; II Corinthians 2:3; 5:10; I Thessalonians 4:1;
I Timothy 3:2; 3:7; I Timothy 2:6, 24; Titus 1:7, 11). Paul's use
of it in I Timothy 3:15 is presumptive evidence that he considered
the information concerning conduct in the household of God normative.
It remains, however, to be asked whether he considered this advice
permanently normative or contextually normative.
(to conduct oneself) offers some help here, as does an examination
of other subjects which Paul included as necessary conduct in God's
household. Anastrephesthai (to conduct oneself) is a present
infinitive, taking no person or number. Its use here lends a gnomic,
abstract character to Paul's instructions. Owing to the lack of
person and number, interpreters have had to decide whether Paul
was referring to Timothy, or whether he intended a more general
reference. Thus they have translated either "how you (sing.)
ought to conduct yourself" (KJV), or "how men ought to
conduct themselves" (ASV, Beck, NEB, NIV, Phillips, Williams);
or "how one ought to conduct himself (NASV, RSV). The latter
is perhaps to be preferred as it maintains Paul's ambiguity. With
the exception of the KJV, translators are agreed that Paul's language
is cast in a general form, that he instructs Timothy concerning
how to conduct oneself in the family of God.
What sort of instructions does Paul
have in view as necessary for the household of God? Are they of
a culturally relative nature? Chapter 2 deals with prayer for rulers,
manner of prayer for men, teaching functions for women. The first
part of chapter 3 touches on qualifications for the eldership and
the diaconate. Chapters 3b and 4 consider the mystery of the faith
and its future rejection. Chapter 5 turns to relations between classes
of persons in the church (widows and elders). It should be obvious
from this subject matter that Paul did not consider his letter simply
occasional or cultural limited. Prayer for rulers, qualifications
for the eldership, the mystery of the faith, classes such as elders
and widows are hardly passing issues. The subjects concerning which
Paul wanted to instruct Timothy were not temporary, nor have his
instructions in other areas than that of women been taken as culturally
restricted. It must be concluded that the context of the letter
does not support the argument that I Timothy 2 is culturally bounded.
Although the general context of I Timothy
2 does not suggest cultural limitation, it may still be that the
immediate context will suggest that Paul's discussion is culturally
limited. The chapter reads as follows:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession
and thanksgiving be made for everyone--
2. for kings and all those in
authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all
godliness and holiness.
3. This is good, and pleases
God our Savior,
4. who wants all men to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
5. For there is one God and one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
6. who gave himself as a ransom
for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.
7. And for this purpose I was
appointed a herald and an apostle--I am telling the truth,
I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
8. I want men everywhere to lift
up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
9. I also want women to dress
modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair
or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
10. but with good deeds, appropriate
for women who profess to worship God.
11. A woman should learn in quietness
and full submission.
12. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13. For Adam was formed first,
14. And Adam was not deceived;
and the woman, quite deceived, was in transgression.
15. But women will be safe through
childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness
[NIV, slightly altered]
Verses 1 and 2 set the tone for the
chapter: Paul wishes to discuss prayer in the church. Appropriate
subjects for prayer is his first topic (vv. 1, 2). He directs that
prayers are to be made for "all (kinds) of men, for kings and
all who are in authority that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life."
Unless this be taken as establishing kingship as the only legitimate
form of government, it would seem that Paul's instructions are transcultural.
Verses 3-7 go on to explain that such prayer is appropriate and
is pleasing to God, who would have all men saved, and who has appointed
Paul to teach the Gentiles. Verses 3-7 thus constitute a theological
rationale for the practice of vv. 1, 2. It would be possible to
contend that the command to pray (vv. 1-2) is limited to the time
of Paul and his ministry, but we suspect none would wish to take
such a position. The church prays for those in authority with confidence
that this is pleasing to God, that Paul's instructions in
I Timothy 2:1-7 are not culture-bound.
I Timothy 2:8-10: Problems Marring
Verse 8 continues the discussion of
prayer and leads on into a discussion of behavior appropriate to
the sexes. It is unclear from the context whether Timothy was facing
a particular problem or whether Paul considered these topics important
for some other reason. Despite our uncertainty we are able to reconstruct
the sort of situation Paul had in view. Verses 8 and 9 could be
generic, but vv. 11 and 12 clearly make reference to a situation
of public instruction.. If we assume that the passage from v. 8
through v. 12 is a single unit, we conclude that Paul has in view
public worship situations in which there is prayer and teaching.
Verses 8 and 9 address men and women
respectively. Some have interpreted these as directing that men
should (and women should not) make public prayer and that women
should dress modestly as befits their role. These verses are then
lined up with I Corinthians 14:34,35 (commanding silence from women)
against I Corinthians 11:1-5 (permitting women to pray and prophesy)
to show that Paul silenced women entirely in church in order to
preserve proper authority structures.
I Corinthians 14:34, 35 will be discussed below. We will restrict
our present attention to vv. 8, 9. Close examination suggests that
this plausible explanation is to be rejected because it does not
actually present Paul's intended contrasts but treats v. 8 (men
praying with holy hands) as if it stood next to vv. 11ff. (women
learning in silence). It is not clear, however, from v. 8 whether
Paul intends to stress that men should do the praying everywhere,
or whether Paul intends to concentrate our attention upon attitudes
which should accompany prayer. In the former case we should paraphrase:
"I want the men to do the praying everywhere, and, as they
lift up their hands to do so, they should not be filled with wrath
and dissension." In the latter case we should paraphrase: "As
the men everywhere pray they should be sure that the hands they
life up are holy, without wrath and dissension." The
former alternative focuses on the contrasting sex roles; the latter
focuses on a weakness to which men are prone when they gather in
the assembly. Which is Paul's intent? The following considerations
suggest the latter.
(1) If the intended comparison is the
sex roles, the comment on "holy hands without wrath or dissension"
as well as v. 9 which builds upon it become a parenthetical aside
which seriously obscures Paul's central but unspoken point,
that women should not pray.
(2) A close look at v. 9 strongly indicates
that Paul's intention in vv. 8 and 9 is not to announce the prohibition
of women's prayer, but to speak to the manner in which it should
be offered. Verse 9 reads: hosautos (kai) gunaikas en katastole
kosmio meta aidous kai sophrosunes kosmein heautas me en plegmasin
kai krusio e margaritais e himatismo polutelei all'ho prepei gunaixin
epaggel omenais theosebeian di'ergon agathon ([and] likewise
I desire the women to adorn themselves in modest/respectable clothes,
not with braided-hair-and-gold-or-pearls or costly garments, but
[I desire women to adorn themselves] with good works, which is appropriate
for women professing godliness.) Hosautos (likewise) introduces
an elliptical construction. Translators must supply a verb. At first
glance it looks as though the ellipsis might be boulomi proseuchesthai
(I want. . . to pray), specifically instructing that women pray.
A closer examination, however, prohibits this as there is an infinitive
in v. 9, kosmein (to adorn), which is most likely a supplementary
infinitive attached to boulomai (I desire) rather than epexegtical
of the woman's prayer. Thus we can supply only boulomai (I
Interpreters have debated the relation
of Paul's command for women to his command for men. Many have come
to the conclusion that the two are not really parallel at all, that
the command to men is intended to instruct that they only should
pray, while the command to women instructs them to wear modest clothes
at worship. On this basis the second half of v. 8 and the whole
of vv. 9 and 10 are incidental on the thrust of v. 8, breaking the
flow of Paul's thought. The following interpretative paraphrase
draws out the implications of this interpretation:
Wherever Christians meet, I want
only the men to pray. In addition, I want the men who pray
to be sure that the hands they lift up are not marked by wrath
or dissension. And women, who may not pray, must attend worship
in proper clothes, modestly and discreetly dressed. . . ."
This reading of the text, although
very common, fails to take adequate note of Paul's connective, hosautos
(likewise). The reading above reduces hosautos (likewise)
to the status of kai (and). While various commentators have
proposed such a weakening of the force of hosautos (likewise),
it is without precedent in Paul, NT usage, or the lexicons. Without
fail, hosautos (likewise) refers back to an antecedent and
sets it parallel to its own referent. In Paul's usage it refers
back to a central element of the preceding passage. We must therefore
ask which element of v. 8 is being referred to. There are, in fact,
only two options. Either Paul refers to prayer by men (v. 8a) or
to the lifting up of "holy hands" (v. 8b). Let us consider
these two options from the "men-only-should-pray" perspective.
It would be most natural to assume
that when Paul says "likewise women," he is setting them
parallel to "men." Such an assumption would set his direction
to woman parallel to his direction to men. This is impossible if
the central (unspoken) thrust of v. 8 is the exclusion of women
from prayer. The meaning of hosautos (likewise) is destroyed
and the sentence rendered meaningless if we read, "I want men
(only) to pray. . . . likewise I want women (who cannot pray) to
dress modestly. . . ." Only by a grammatically unjustifiable
reduction of hosautos (likewise) to kai (and) can
such an interpretation be sustained.
The second possibility for the "men-only-should-pray"
position is that Paul refers back to his instruction that men who
pray should have holy hands. If this is the antecedent of hosautos
(likewise), the parallel of other Pauline uses of hosautos
(likewise) suggests that "holy hands" is not an incidental
element of v. 8 but a central one, which in turn suggests that Paul's
point was not the (unspoken) exclusion of women from prayer, but
the regulation of the manner in which men prayed. If, contrary to
other Pauline usage, we assume that Paul used hosautos (likewise)
to refer to a minor element of the preceding verse, his train of
thought in chapter 2 is essentially disjointed, discussing in sequence
topics for prayer, who should pray, incidental thoughts concerning
how men should pray and how women should dress, and the prohibition
of women teaching at worship. While this is of course possible,
the chapter is better integrated if the men-only view is discarded.
On the regulating-prayer-by-men-and-women view, the train of thought
moves from topics for prayer in public worship to deportment of
men and women who pray and from these (via the mention of women
and public worship) to the deportment of women with respect to proclamatory
authority in the worship service.
Let us now consider the problem of
an antecedent for hosautos (likewise) from the regulation-of-prayer-by-men-and-women
perspective. On this basis, v. 8 is not to be divided into two segments.
Instead of seeing Paul's remark about holy hands as incidental,
it is to be seen as central to his purpose. The verse may be interpretatively
I want men everywhere to be sure
that as they pray they lift holy rather than stained hands,
hands not soiled by wrath or dissension.
Verses 9 and 10 become the complement
of v. 8, directing that women, as they pray, not seek to ornament
themselves with fancy clothes, but rather with good works. The parallel
force of hosautos (likewise) is this perfectly guarded in
that Paul first identifies his audience, then addresses them with
respect to a fault: men--wrath; women--unbecoming dress.
If we adopt this view, Paul's focus
in v. 8 is on a problem which has marred the prayers of his churches:
men have had wrath and unresolved hard feelings toward one another
as they prayed. As David and the Lord before him (Psalm 24; Matthew
5:23, 24), Paul considered that unholy wrath and unresolved hard
feelings were not appropriate to those who would approach God in
prayer. If v. 8 discusses an issue which is important with respect
to men as they pray, a besetting sin, it would be natural to infer
that hosautos (likewise) is intended to introduce a similar
conviction, a besetting sin typical of women. Such appears to be
the case. Women, as they pray, are not to dress as the loose or
ungodly women do. As we have seen, it could be argued that Paul
was not thinking that women should pray but rather that, being present,
they ought to be dressed in a godly fashion. We have rejected this
position because it destroys the thrust of hosautos (likewise)
by making v. 9 incidentally related to the central theme of v. 8.
A second reason to be noted below is the fact that the related passage
in I Corinthians 11 discusses precisely the question of women's
adornment as they pray. It is only in the light of I Corinthians
14:24 and I Timothy 2:11ff. that exegetes have rejected the inference,
clear in I Corinthians 11:5 and implicit in I Timothy 2:9, that
women prayed and prophesied in the Pauline churches.
We conclude then, concerning vv. 8
and 9, that they are a continuation of Paul's discussion of prayer
and are best understood as discussing problems particular to the
sexes as they attend worship. Men must be careful about wrath and
dissension; women must be careful about using fancy clothes as adornment
instead of a godly life. While it may be argued that the verses
are compatible with a situation in which women are silent, it is
only by the questionable inference that Paul meant (but did not
say) that men only should pray that we can construe vv. 8,
9 as prohibiting prayer by women. In the light of I Corinthians
11, which parallels I Timothy 2 by discussing both prayer and adornment
of women, we must question whether it is at all a tenable inference
that women were silent at all times in the Pauline assemblies.
I Timothy 2:11-15: Women and Ecclesiastical
Verses 11-15 have often been taken
as indicating that the conclusion just reached is in error. In them
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
12. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13. For Adam was formed first,
14. And Adam was not the one
deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
15. But woman will be kept safe
through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness
Paul's instructions are very strong.
Their strength must not be sidestepped; nor must it be misdirected.
We must ask how v. 11 is related to vv. 8-10. It is manifest that
Paul's attention has moved from the topic of prayer to the topic
of teaching and learning (manthanein, didaskein). The context
of the activity is presumably still a public worship service. Most
commentators note the sudden introduction of this topic. As we try
to determine whether v. 8 prohibits prayer by women, it is important
to consider both the flow of Paul's thought from vv. 8-10 to vv.
11-15 and the abrupt transition between v. 10 and v. 11. If we assume
that vv. 8-10 are stressing that men only should pray, vv. 11-15
not only reinforce the point but preclude the possibility of other
than men praying. For if women cannot speak (vv. 11, 12b),
they cannot pray, nor can they teach! It is often assumed that vv.
11-15 are intended to strengthen the implicit directions of vv.
8-10 that women must not pray. They certainly would accomplish this
end, but, perhaps, too much on the traditional interpretation.
On the traditional view the burden
of vv. 8-10 is that men rather than women should pray. Verses 11-15
are interpreted as closing off to women not only the teaching but
indeed all speech in the assembly. It is difficult on this basis
to understand why Paul took so many words and so indirect a path
to achieve his simple end. If he had simply said that women are
not to speak in the assembly (which, on some readings, he appears
to have said in I Corinthians 14:34 in contradiction of himself
in I Corinthians 11:5) he would not have had to spend so much time
with his hints that men should pray, or that women may not
teach. These difficulties lead us to question once again
whether the center of Paul's thrust is indeed the silence of women
or whether it could be that he intended to regulate various sorts
of behaviors in the assembly. Paul's abrupt transition between v.
10 and v. 11 suggests that he was aware of moving to a new topic.
We would propose that the transition at v. 11 ought not to be understood
as a return to the oft-supposed, implicit-but-never-explicit topic
of v. 8, the forbidding of women to pray, but rather that it ought
to be understood as a transition from the topic of the first portion
of the chapter (prayer) to a new topic (the manner in which women
are to relate to authoritative teaching [preaching?] ). This point
of view has much to commend it. Firstly, it better maintains the
integrity of chapter 2. Instead of having vv. 1-8a deal with prayer,
vv. 8b-10 as an aside, and vv. 11-15 a discussion of women and authority,
this view presents vv. 1-10 as a integrated discussion of prayer
turning in vv. 11-15, via the discussion of women's vocal role within
public worship of the congregation by means of prayer, to consider
the silent role of the women during the teaching portion of public
worship. Secondly, this view explains the incidental role of the
topic of silence in the passage. We have noted above the traditional
view's problem of the indirect manner of Paul's approach to what
has often been taken as a blanket insistence upon the total silence
of women. Why did the problems of prayer, prophecy, and teaching
arise if he never permitted women to speak in his churches? Is it
not strange that this topic should need such elaborate, circuitous
discussion at this late stage in Paul's career?
If, on the other hand, vv. 9-10 regulate
women's vocal role in prayer, vv. 11-15 may be understood as making
it clear that permission to participate in the corporate prayer
is not to be interpreted as permission to teach or to rule over
men. (Individual participation in public prayer has sometimes been
interpreted as an exercise of ecclesiastical authority [i.e., leading
the congregation in prayer]; it need not be so viewed, but can be
simply viewed as participation). Verse 11 thus stresses that, in
contrast to her vocal participation in prayer a woman must learn
(receive teaching) in quietness and with all submissiveness. The
necessity of such explicit instruction is easy to understand when
it is considered that the Jewish portion of Paul's churches was
used to women not only being silent, but even to their not attending
at all. The great jump from such a role to participation in prayer
must have seemed a discarding of all barriers and all distinctions!
I Corinthians 11 appears to reflect just such a situation in which
the congregation was uncertain which distinctions remained.
Verse 12 goes on to further develop
Paul's thought concerning the role of women in the teaching portion
of public worship. In v. 12 Paul shifts from the learning side of
the matter to the teaching side. He stresses that he will not permit
women to teach or have authority over men. It should be noted that
v. 11 talks of learning (manthaneto) and subjection (en
pase hupotage). Verse 12 picks up the same two concepts, but
from the other side, stressing teaching (didaskein) rather
than learning (manthaneto) and exercise of authority (authenthein)
rather than subjection (hupotage). Paul's repetition of hesuchia
(silence) at the end of v. 12 completes the parallel (in silence,
learning in subjection/not teaching, not exercising
authority, but in silence) and shows that his thought
pattern is still the same as that of v. 11. An interpretative paraphrase
of the verses might read: A woman's role in teaching portions of
the public worship service contrasts with what we have just said
of prayer. Let a woman take her proper role of godly subjection
to proper authority. She should be a silent learner. I do not permit
a woman to stand over men by teaching them in the worship service,
nor otherwise to exercise ecclesiastical authority over men. She
must rather be in silence at time when these things are done.
We conclude with regard to vv. 11,
12, that Paul meant to instruct that women may not teach nor may
they exercise authority over men.
It seems appropriate, before considering
vv. 13-15, to reflect once again upon our question as to whether
the content of I Timothy 2:1-12 suggests that it is culturally limited
and therefore should not be applied today as a ban to women becoming
elders. As has been noted above, the basic commands of the chapter
thus far are clearly not time bound. Prayer for rulers (vv. 1-7)
is of continuing relevance. Men are surely still to pray without
being filled with wrath or dissension (v. 8). Modesty (aidous),
sobriety (sophrosunes) and good works are surely still appropriate
to women who profess godliness (vv. 9-10). With respect to v. 9,
some might be prepared to debate the need for modest clothes, but
that number would presumably be very small and may be overlooked
for the moment. This leaves as the only aspects of the chapter from
v. 1 to v. 10 which would be questioned as to their continuing relevance
those items specified by Paul as things not to be used for adornment:
braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothes. Taking the costly
clothes first, we quickly sustain this as relevant in the present
if we understand Paul to be making a relative judgment. What are
costly clothes? The answer depends upon one's socio-economic and
historical position. It is fairly obvious that Paul has in view
excessively expensive and ostentatious clothes. Now, as then, such
clothes mark their wearer as a woman who is centered upon herself
and who disdains others of the body of Christ. Such an attitude
does not become those who would pray to God.
an expression which is little understood today. It refers to a custom
which originated with the courtesans of the day. Such women did
their hair in eleven to twenty-one small braids and put circular
or teardrop gold ornaments or pearls every inch or so along the
length of the braids. This created a shimmering screen of ornaments.
Such a display of wealth evidently became a custom among those who
could afford it. Paul uses this as an example of immodest, ostentatious
adornment. As such, it is an appropriate parallel of ostentatious,
In the light of the preceding review,
it may be safely concluded that the only thing in I Timothy 2:1-10
which is manifestly culturally limited is this one illustration
of immodest dress. Even there, the basic principles are clearly
isolable from the examples of their application to then present
customs and thus present no exegetical or hermeneutical problems.
We must conclude that the chapter thus far offers no internal justification
for culturally relativizing any portion of it save the hair reference
of v. 9. With this conclusion in mind, let us continue our examination
of the chapter with a careful exegesis of the text and a conclusion
as to whether the chapter as a whole is culturally limited as our
1 Timothy 2:13,14: Theological
Rationale from Pre-Fall Creation Order
It was noted during our study of Paul's
discussion of prayer in w.1-10 that Paul offered a theological rationale
for his directive that prayers be offered for all men. Verses 11,12,
as has been noted, discuss another aspect of the worship service,
the teaching situation. Verses 13 and 14 appear to offer Paul's
theological rationale for his directive that women learn in silence:
specifically the prior formation of Adam and the deception of Eve.
Paul's appeal to the prior formation of Adam is often difficult
for modern exegetes to understand. Paul does not elaborate to explain
how the priority of Adam's formation relates to men's priority of
authority in ecclesiastical settings. Any explanation which we offer
must, therefore, be inferential. I Corinthians 11:8,9 offers a useful
parallel discussion. In explanation of the necessity of maintaining
the subordinate role of wives during the worship service, Paul says:
the man is not out of (ek) the woman, but the woman
out of (ek) the man.
9 Neither was the man created
for the sake of (dia+accusative) the woman, but the
woman for the sake of (dia+accusative) the man. (NIV
Verse 9 implies clearly that the woman's
subordination in marriage is a direct function of her having been
created for the sake of the man, to relate to him. Verse 8 is harder
to understand but clearly implies that the derivation of the woman
from the man is either illustrative or causative of her subordinate
role. The derivation of Eve from Adam (Paul's point of I Corinthians
11:8) presumes his prior existence, that he was formed first by
God (Paul's point of I Timothy 2:13). We are therefore on safe exegetical
ground if we conclude that the train of thought of I Corinthians
11:8,9 and that of I Timothy 2:13 are the same. In them Paul indicates
that the prior formation of Adam and the derivative formation of
Eve are reasons for the subordinate roles of women in marriage and
in the church. His argument makes pre-fall, creational relations
of men and women normative for the post-resurrection church. This
form of argument all but closes off the possibility of cultural
relativism as a valid reason for discarding Paul's instructions.
In order to do so it would be necessary to show why creational norms
should be binding in Paul's day but not in our own. Cultural "progress"
will not suffice as a reason unless we can provide an exegetical
basis on which to interpret it. Galatians 3:28 is often advanced
but, as we have seen above, it does not provide the necessary support.
We conclude therefore that, whether or not it is popular, Paul taught
marital (I Corinthians 11) and ecclesiastical (I Timothy 2:11-14)
subordination of women as relevant to the church of Christ and as
grounded in creational rather than cultural structuring of their
Some recent interpreters have sought to explain Paul's argument
from creation as itself culturally bounded. Thus, it is explained,
Paul used Genesis in a way which is to be explained by his own first
century outlook. According to such a position a close examination
of Genesis 1-3 suggests that Paul's exegetical treatment of the
text is inadequate or not a full reflection of it.
Although we will delay an exegetical consideration of Genesis 1-3
until later, it should be noted here that this form of argument
is not new in our day. The argument that NT theologizing and hermeneutics
are culturally relative and not normative for our hermeneutics has
traditionally been called demythologizing. The position outlined
above serves not only to relativize Paul's teaching on women, but
serves also, in principle, to relativize all of Paul's hermeneutic
and theology. Those who take the Scriptures seriously will not be
willing to adopt such an approach to them.
I Timothy 2:14 offers a new rationale for women's subordination
in teaching. Paul says "Adam was not deceived (ouk epatete),
but the woman genuinely deceived (exapate eisa) was in transgression."
Once again Paul's words are cryptic and it is not possible from
the actual language to discern his precise meaning. Is he saying
that Adam was not deceived and did not sin? Is he saying Eve was
the cause of the Fall? Does he mean that Eve was gullible, that
other women are gullible, and therefore that women should not teach?
Does he mean all women are to be punished for what Eve did?
We may dismiss out of hand the suggestions that Paul meant Adam
was not sinful and that Eve was the guilty source of the Fall. Although
the rabbis and the church fathers have sometimes identified Eve
as the guilty party, Paul in Romans 5:12 is explicit in identifying
Adam as the one who sinned and through whom sin and death entered
the world. With respect to I Timothy 2:14, we conclude that Paul's
point was not that the woman was at fault, but rather that. She
was not at fault as was Adam because she was deceived while
he was not! He deliberately and knowingly chose to
sin: he was not deceived; she did not understand: she was quite
deceived. Christian men cannot indulge themselves by saying, "Oh,
that Eve had not done it!" Paul indicates that Adam, not Eve, did
it and that he did it knowing full well what he was doing!
It is more difficult to assess whether Paul intended to say that
all women are as gullible as was Eve. Titus 2:3 offers some help,
however, in that it directs the older women to teach the younger.
It would appear that Paul did not consider that women were too gullible
to be able to teach! In this vein we should note also Paul's association
with Priscilla and Aquila who, according to Acts, both taught Paul's
fellow worker Apollos.
Our examination of I Corinthians 11:8,9 and I Timothy 2:13 has suggested
that Paul appealed to God's created order as the course of his teaching
on the role of women. In both cases Paul illustrated from the pre
fall narrative the role patterns which he taught as currently
normative. Is it possible that I Timothy 2:14 may be another example
of the normativity of the prefall situation? If it is, we must ask
what pre-fall element is in view. Verse 14 clearly focuses upon
the deception of the woman. In contrast to her husband, she was
deceived on the central theological issue of the veracity of God.
Can this be relevant to Christian worship? It is if the point is
that it was not the woman's role to render the decision concerning
the fruit. On this basis the import of I. Timothy 2:14 is roughly,
"The man, upon whom responsibility for leading in marital and worship
matters fell, was equipped to deal with the serpent's temptation.
He was not deceived, but stepped deliberately into sin. The woman
was not given the role of leader in religious or marital issues
and was in fact not prepared to discern the serpent's lies. She
was quite deceived by him. Christian worship involves a re-establishing
of the creational pattern with men teaching and women listening
but not exercising authority over men." This interpretation commends
itself as it lines v. 14 up with Paul's other remarks about the
role of women, making the fact of the woman's deception parallel
with the facts of man's priority and the woman's derivative nature
as indicators of the respective roles assigned men and women by
1 Timothy 2:15: Salvation by
A subsidiary question arises which
this report cannot decisively answer. Does Paul imply that women
are not capable of making theological decisions, or that they must
maintain the patterns of creation even if they are in fact as capable
as men? Paul does not answer this directly. Examination of the next
verses, however, suggests that the latter alternative may be the
preferable. Verse 15 says that women
will be kept safe (sothesetai) through childbearing (dia
tes teknogonias) if they continue in faith and charity and holiness
with sincerity (meta sophrosunes). Interpreters have had
to wrestle with the meaning of sothesetai (be kept safe,
be saved). Some have interpreted the verb as indicating salvation
by the work of childbirth. This reading is quite possible on the
face of the text, but it is to be rejected as hostile to the Pauline
gospel which would never place childbirth as a necessary grounding
for salvation (cf. I Corinthians 7, which asserts the value of the
freedom of celibate life for both men/women for the service of God.)
Other interpreters have suggested that dia tes teknogonias
(through childbirth/through the childbirth) may be best rendered
"by means of the birth of the child." This reading suggests as its
background the promise of Genesis 3:15 and the promise to Abraham.
While it is linguistically possible, it is not contextually likely
as the context reflects on the need for redemption only indirectly
and it is not probable that Paul would have made salvation contingent
upon faith, charity and holiness with sobriety.
Having rejected both salvation by childbirth and a reference to
Genesis 3:15, we would like to propose that the verse be understood
in terms of the discussion of role which is the dominant theme of
the passage from v. 11 to v. 14. On this basis v. 15 describes that
role in which a woman will be kept safe. Childbirth and a godly
character, continuing in faith, charity and holiness will protect
her or at least be a means of protection. It must be asked from
what precisely the woman will be saved. The two interpretations
thus far proposed presume judgment and Hell as the threat. We would
propose that the fact that the context is focusing upon the prevention
of women taking a wrong role with respect to men suggests that the
essential point is that the pattern of life suggested by Paul will
guard women from adopting wrong roles.
Modern interpreters of this passage must ask a number of serious
questions. Does Paul command marriage for all women? I Corinthians
7:1, 10-40 answers this question decisively and in the negative.
Paul considered both marriage and celibacy gifts and preferred the
latter to the former (I Corinthians 7:7). He specifically acknowledges
that both marriage and celibacy are options for men and for
women (I Corinthians 7:32-34).
Is this passage permanently normative or culturally relative? We
have just seen that Paul presumed in his churches that there would
be exceptions to the very general rule he had laid down in 1 Timothy
2:15, he expected some would not marry. Thus
the verse cannot be a fixed rule. In its original context it did
not prohibit single life; it does not do so now. In all societies
the norm has been marriage rather than single life. Up to and including
the present, most marriages produce children, and the women must,
by virtue of their physiology, be the bearers of the children. Paul's
use of childbearing is, therefore, going to be of continuing trans-cultural
relevance. We conclude that v. 15 indicates that women (generally
speaking, cf. I Corinthians 7) will be kept safe from taking men's
roles by means of establishing marriage bonds and participating
in marital life (as symbolized by childbearing). This participation
extends beyond childbearing to include hallmarks of Christian character
whose outworkings produce the adorning works of v. 10.
Conclusion: 1 Timothy 2-A Valid
Starting Point for the Present
We are now in a position to draw conclusions
as to the usefulness of I Timothy 2 as a starting point for the
development of a view of the NT teaching on the role of women. The
preceding discussion has shown that there is but one aspect of the
entire chapter which provides exegetical grounds for the designation
"culturally relative." That portion, the mention of braided-hair-and-gold-or-pearls,
presents no difficulty as it is clearly an example of ostentatious
dress. We have found nothing at all in Paul's discussion of subject
matter for prayer (w. 1,2), the manner in which men and women should
pray (w. 8-10), or the manner of women's reception of public instruction
which even vaguely suggests that Paul's words are culturally limited.
On the contrary, we have found that Paul's defense of his position
is not in the least grounded in the then present culture, but is
rather squarely based on the pre-fall situation which he felt normative.
We conclude that I Timothy 2 is indeed an appropriate place to begin
a study of the NT teaching on the role of women. The following interpretative
paraphrase of vv. 8-15 is offered to refresh the reader's memory
of the exegetical conclusions thus far reached:
As a herald and apostle, an ordained
preacher and teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth, I
express my wish that men everywhere who pray take care that
their hands are holy as they are lifted, that they not be
defiled by wrath or dissension. The women likewise must take
care not to be defiled as they pray. Women should adorn themselves
with modest clothes, with decency and propriety, not trying
to be impressive by wearing many braids festooned with gold
or pearls or expensive clothes. Such ostentatious adornment
is not appropriate to Christian women. Your adornment should
be good deeds, which are appropriate to women who profess
to worship God. Although women may enter vocally into public
prayer, they must not enter vocally into the teaching or other
authoritative exercises in the service. A woman should learn
in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman
to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent.
The order of creation is not an accident; there are things
to be learned from it. Adam was formed first, then Eve. His
priority of creation reflects a divinely established headship
in the house and in religious matters. Within those relations
the theological decisions rested with the man. Thus although
Adam was not deceived but deliberately chose to sin, Eve was
quite deceived and became a transgressor. A woman's natural
marital role helps guard her from taking over a man's role.
She will be kept safe from wrong roles through childbirth
and a marital role, although these are not alone sufficient
to protect her. Her life must be marked by other Christian
virtues such as faith, love, and holiness in propriety.
C. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16: Prayer
and Prophecy By Women, in The Worship Service?
I Corinthians 11: 1-16 contains the
longest single discussion of women in the New Testament. For the
purposes of this report, however, it does not contain a great deal
of information needing examination. (For a recent approach as to
this passage, cf. J. B. Hurley, "Did Paul Require Veils or the Silence
of Women? A Consideration of I Corinthians 11:1-16 and 14:33b36,"
Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 35 , pp. 190-220
and N. K. Weeks, WTJ, Vol. 35 , pp. 25ff). The passage
is primarily concerned with the expression of the marital role relations
in the worship service. It would appear that the Corinthians women
had rejected marital roles as appropriate in worship and discarded
outward signs of that relation. Paul contends that the relation
still obtains and that its signs are to be maintained even during
the service. For the purposes of this report the most important
portions of the text are vv. 5 and 13, which read as follows:
woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying
disgraces her head . . .
13 Is it proper for a woman to
pray to God (with her head) uncovered?"
These texts clearly presume that the
women in view did pray and prophesy. Some have sought to argue that
Paul argues ex concesso, conceding for the sake of
argument the point at issue. Such a case can be made for 1 Corinthians
15:3-19 where Paul discusses what would be the case "if the dead
are not raised." There is, however, no indication in chapter 11
that such is Paul's intent. He nowhere even hints that he disapproves
of the practice of women praying and prophesying and makes elaborate
arguments concerning regulations during prayer and prophecy. These
arguments become utterly pointless if he in fact wishes to denounce
Some, who wish to interpret this passage as not permitting prayer
by women, have held that Paul wishes to make a theological point
here in chapter 11 and therefore holds off his silencing of women
until chapter 14. While it is possible that this is the case, it
is singular that Paul fails to give any hint of his intent here
in chapter 11 and actually leaves the topic with his true intention
unannounced, only to break his train of thought in chapter 14 to
insert a parenthetical remark prohibiting women from speaking, which
remark would have fit much better at the end of 11:1-16. If another
approach to 14:33 b-36 relieves this awkward situation, it would
Can 1 Corinthians
11:5 refer to a prayer meeting?
Some exegetes, mindful of the apparent
conflict between the prayer of women in chapter 11 and their silencing
in chapter 14, have sought to interpret chapter 11 as having reference
to a prayer meeting or other informal meeting of the church. On
this basis women could speak at informal gatherings but not at the
formal congregational meetings. This view does relieve the tension
between chapter 11 and chapter 14, but it is doubtful that the case
can be sustained exegetically. If faced with no other alternative
which would achieve a reconciliation of Scripture with Scripture,
this solution is perhaps to be adopted. We will offer an alternative
below. Let us examine the context of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 to see
if there are any indications as whether a prayer meeting or a worship
service is in view.
The text of chapter 11 itself does not indicate what sort of service
is in view. The Pauline literature in general offers no real help
in that Paul never discusses what sort of meetings his churches
had. The context of 1 Corinthians, however, does offer some indication
of the sort of issue Paul seems to have been dealing with. Chapter
11 discusses women's coverings and aberrations in connection with
communion. The discussion of communion clearly assumes a full worship
service. Verse 18 specifically identifies the situation of communion
as "when (the Corinthians) have gathered together in the assembly/church"
(sunerchomenon humon en ekklesia). There can be no debate
as to whether this refers to a full gathering of the congregation.
Chapters 12 and 14 discuss the exercise of spiritual gifts with
particular reference to the public worship service with chapter
13, the discussion of loving behavior, between them. The fact that
chapters l 1b, 12, and 14 discuss the public worship service supports
the thesis that chapter 11a ought to be seen as dealing with such
A closer examination of chapters 12 and 14 reveals further links
with chapter 11a. It is of particular importance that chapters 12
and 14 discuss the exercise of spiritual gifts, including prayer
and prophecy, for these are precisely the gifts exercised by women
in chapter 11. Chapter 12 discusses the fact that God has distributed
his gifts as seemed fitting to him, but for the purpose of building
up the whole body (12:7, 11, 18). Chapter 14 continues the discussion,
focusing in on the problem of speaking in tongues and prophecy.
The essential argument of the first part of the chapter is that
prayer in tongues, without an interpreter, produces only edification
of the speaker (w. 1-12) while interpreted prayer in tongues
(which, by virtue of its interpretation into intelligible speech
becomes prophecy) and prophecy contribute to the building up of
the body of Christ. Thus the first part of chapter 14 applies the
central point of chapter 12 to the topic of tongues and prophecy.
The middle portion of the chapter (w. 20-25) stresses the orderly
exercise of gifts, tongues, and prophecy in particular in the worship
service, presuming that outsiders will be present at the meeting
and consider unregulated tongues speaking an exercise of madness
(v. 23). This sort of context leaves no room to assume that anything
less than a full meeting of the congregation is in view. It is quite
unlikely that Paul is discussing any sort of "prayer meeting" or
informal gathering. The last portion of the chapter, to be examined
in more detail below, wraps up Paul's general discussion of the
value of prophecy as compared to tongues with a series of specific
regulations for the ordering of the worship service and for the
limitation of charismatic expressions of both tongues and prophecy.
That this is the case can be seen from v. 26, where Paul specifically
includes that he is thinking of their assemblies: "when you are
assembled together" (hotan sunerchesthe, cf. v. 23: if the
whole church should assemble together (ean ... sunelthe he ekklesia
hole); w. 4, 5, 12 where the assembly ekklesias) is to
be edified; and I Corinthians 11:18 where the gathering in the assembly
(sunerchomenon en ekklesia) is also in view. We conclude
of chapters 12 and 14 that they have in view the use of gifts, especially
tongues and prophecy, in the public worship gatherings of the church.
Conclusion: 1 Corinthians 11:5
probably refers to public worship service
We have now examined chapters 11b,
12, and 14 to see if they provide clues as to the nature of the
meeting described in chapter 1Ia in which women participated vocally
by prayer and prophecy. We found that all three of these chapters
appear to have public worship services in view. In the case of chapter
14 we found that the specific activities of 11:5, prayer and prophecy,
are central to the discussion. In view of the presence of close
links between the various chapters and the absence of any contrary
indication, we conclude that it is most natural to assume that chapter
11a discusses the same sort of situation as chapters l1b, 12, and
14, the public worship service. The text does not close off the
possibility that 11a may have some special meeting in view, but
that conclusion would require compelling external evidence to make
it more than a weak possibility. It is the opinion of numerous exegetes
that such evidence is forthcoming from I Corinthians 14:33b-36 in
which Paul specifically commands that women be in silence. It is
to that text that we must now turn our attention.
D. 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36: When Must
the Women Be Silent?
in all the congregations of the saints,
34 women should remain silent
in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must
be in submission, as the Law says.
35 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.
36 Did the word of God originate
with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?
37 If anybody thinks he is
a prophet or spiritually, gifted, let him acknowledge that
what I am writing to you is the Lord's command.
38 If he ignores this, he himself
will be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers,
be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
40 But everything should be
done in a fitting and orderly way."
I Corinthians 14:33b-40, NIV
Recent attention given to the role
of women in the church has focused critical attention on 1 Timothy
2 and 1 Corinthians 14 in which Paul makes strong statements with
regard to the silence of women. Many exegetes have rejected both
as non-Pauline on the grounds of perceived conflicts with 1 Corinthians
l l and Galatians 3:28. Others have concluded that these texts show
us a "theologian in process." Such positions would explain that
Paul was a man of his day and a servant/tool of God. In Galatians
3:28, we see the servant speaking; in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy
2 we see the man of his day. Thus, it is sometimes contended, we
see the humanity and divinity of God's Word. Many have raised serious
objection to such an approach on the grounds that it makes our perception
the arbiter of revelation, in that we decide when Paul is inspired
and when he speaks only as a man of his day. This report rejects
the two approaches above as inadequate for those who are committed
to the Scripture as the Word of God and as dubious for any scholar
who would be fair to the manuscripts which we possess. With regard
to the former position, holding that this passage is incompatible
with other Pauline passages, we would suggest that the fact that
we are unable to reconcile two passages does not necessarily indicate
that the text is at fault. The option that the interpreter is at
fault must be seriously considered. In this case we are in the process
of offering a view which we feel does not leave the texts in opposition
to one another. With respect to the latter position, seeing Paul
as a theologian in process, we would suggest that such a position
must be a position of last resort in that a methodology which permits
the scholar to discard his subject as inconsistent without having
tried all avenues of resolution is predisposed to incomplete work.
Those who take a strong view of Scripture will further feel that
men are not at liberty to edit Scripture according to their own
theological or historical prejudice. Unless a clear hermeneutical
principle establishing which passages are "in process" and which
are "normative" can be developed, the procedure is purely subjective.
Further, it is a questionable enterprise to discard as subjective
a text such as 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 when in the very next verse
Paul commands that the Corinthians "acknowledge that the things
which I (Paul) write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone
does not acknowledge this, he is not to be recognized."
Are the manuscripts
unclear about 14:34-36?
A more serious question has been raised
by some scholars with respect to the manuscript evidence for vv.
34-35. A few early manuscripts place them after v. 40. Examination
of the chapter and the manuscripts causes us to reject this evidence
as reason to deny the verses either a place in the text or their
present place in the text.
The group of manuscripts which transpose vv. 34-35 to follow v.
40 are generally acknowledged to be relatively poor. They are headed
by D G 88*. Manuscripts supporting the present arrangement include
p46, [ALEPH], A, B, K, [Psi].
There are no manuscripts which omit the verses. While it is possible
that the weaker set of manuscripts may preserve the true reading,
it is decidedly less likely on the basis of the external evidence.
It should be noted that the manuscript evidence lends no support
whatsoever to the thesis that the verses should be omitted. The
internal evidence of the passage is also against the transposition.
The easier reading is that of D G 88* in that w. 33 and 36 discuss
the subject of prophecy while vv. 34 and 35 discuss the silence
of women. Verses 34 and 35 thus appear to be sandwiched in an awkward
place, dividing a discussion of prophecy. They fit much more comfortably
after v. 40 which commands that all be done decently and in order.
By moving them from their present location to follow v. 40 the text
reads more smoothly in that the silence of women need not be included
under the heading of a discussion of prophecy and may be included
as part of the discussion of church order. This rationale explains
why D G 88*, which tend to be edited, might make this transposition.
It is very hard indeed to provide a rationale for a scribe making
the reverse transposition. On the basic principle that the more
difficult reading is to be preferred, we must conclude that the
internal as well as the external evidence strongly support the thesis
that vv. 34 and 35 are to be received as correct in the place in
which they stand. We will deal with the text exactly as it stands.
The Structure of 1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians 14, as noted above deals
with the exercise of gifts and with chaotic behavior in the Corinthians
assemblies. The first portion discusses Paul's preference for prophecy
over tongues while the latter portion deals with chaos in the assembly,
fittingly concluding with a command that all things be done in an
orderly fashion. While the original manuscript no doubt lacked paragraphing,
we are used to it and not only make mental divisions of the text
but also make formal printed divisions. The choice of paragraph
breaks is of crucial important in I Corinthians 14. Modern versions
have differed in their paragraphing of the latter half of the chapter,
but a majority make the divisions at vv. 29, 33b or 34, 37, and
39. Paul's discussion, on this basis, moves from orderly worship
and prophetic expression (vv. 29-33) to silence of women (vv. 34-36)
to Pauline authority over prophets (vv. 37,38) to a summary about
orderliness (v. 39). This construction puts v. 36 ("Was it from
you that the Word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you
only?") with the silencing of women and isolates vv. 34-36 from
their context, which discusses prophecy rather than women. As will
be explained below, we believe the major divisions of the text come
at vv. 29, 36, and 39. On this basis the discussion of women falls
under the heading of order for worship as either an independent
topic or in connection with prophecy. If it is taken in connection
with its surrounding context which discusses prophecy it is possible
to discover a strong rationale for its present location in the chapter
and to reconcile it with the teaching concerning women in chapter
We would propose that the entire section from v. 29-39 is a discussion
of prophecy and of its handling in the assembly. Each of the segments
of the section is to be interpreted within such a frame. Verse 29
outlines principles which should govern the exercise of the prophetic
gift. They parallel those which govern the exercises of tongues
(v. 27). Two or three prophets are to speak and the others are to
pass judgment. Verses 30-33a elaborate upon the first portion of
v. 29, regulating the speech of the prophets: they are to maintain
order and be silent if another is giving a message. Verses 33b-35
elaborate upon the last half of v. 29, prohibiting women from joining
in the examination of the prophets. It would appear that for women
to join in the judging of the prophets would be for them to enter
into the judgment of men, which role was forbidden them by Paul.
It is clear from chapter 11 that Paul did not consider prayer or
prophecy by women to be violations of created authority structures.
Such exercises involve no ecclesiastical authority on the part of
the speaker. We have seen in our study of I Timothy that Paul did
oppose women having teaching or other formal authority over men.
If the women were to participate in the examination of the prophets
at the worship service, passing judgment upon the messages of men
and women prophets, this would involve them in precisely what Paul
prohibited; accordingly he commanded that they be silent. It should
be noted from his language that his concern was not simply that
there be silence rather than speech. He indicated that the speech
in view would be a violation of the Law and a rejection of women's
role of submission. Paul's concern is exactly the same here as in
I Timothy 2, that, in keeping with the creational pattern, men rather
than women exercise cultic authority.
Some students of this passage have sought to interpret Paul's word
for speech (lalein) as prattle or babble. While the lexicons do
permit such a translation, it is without support from other Pauline
passages and does not help elucidate the text in view. It is hard
to see why Paul would discuss subjection and learning if the issue
at stake in w. 34 and 35 is simply babble and gossip.
It is helpful to the modern reader to understand that men and women
were separated in the synagogues. It is likely that Paul's churches,
which first met in the synagogues, followed this pattern of separation.
The women were therefore not able to reach their husbands during
the service itself. To have reached the men would have caused a
great deal of commotion and disturbance. The consequences of this
division for the judgment of the prophets is not hard to discover.
If we assume that after a prophet or perhaps several had spoken
the congregation followed Paul's instructions and examined the prophets
as to their message and as to its faithfulness, we have a setting
in which Paul's directions make good sense. The examination of the
prophets would be a time of much education and edification as well
as a time of formal judgment. The women, who could not reach their
husbands, could either sit silently or participate by asking questions.
If they were not allowed to ask questions, how could they learn?
If they were allowed to ask them, would they not be participating
in ecclesiastical judgment of men? Paul directed that the problem
of judging was the more vital one and that the women could not participate.
He expressed his concern for their learning, however, by directing
that they ask their husbands any questions which they had when they
get home. An expanded paraphrase of w. 29, 34, 35 may help the reader
understand the import of what has been said. "
"Let two or three prophets speak and let the others pass
judgment (as to whether what was said was true to the gospel)
34 Let the women keep silent
in the assembly (and not enter into the judgment of the prophets
for they are not permitted to enter into the judgment of men).
Let them rather subject themselves as the Law also directs.
If they desire to learn anything (about the prophet's teaching,
they should not pose them during the judging of the prophets,
nor should they disrupt the service by walking over to their
35 let them ask their husbands
Verse 36 belongs with w. 37 and
A further word is in order concerning
v. 36, "Was it from you that the Word of God first went forth? Or
has it come to you only?" Many versions have taken this as a criticism
of the women who were so bold as to speak in the assemblies. Taken
as such it appears to criticize women who would dare speak or prophesy.
Close reflection on the text suggests that this view is a serious
mistake. It is difficult to see how women who spoke to judge men
could think that the word came first from them or that it came only
from them . . . after all, they were judging others who were prophets!
Even if we understand the text as silencing all women prophets,
it is hard to grasp the thrust of Paul's remark, for it would not
prohibit women speaking as prophets, but rather concedes that women
do speak God's word; it insists that they are not the only
ones who do. Is it likely that the women at Corinth claimed to be
the first and only proclaimers of God's word?
We would suggest that the problems outlined above are dispelled
entirely if v. 36 is taken with vv. 37 and 38 and that, further,
Paul's grammar decidedly refutes the thesis that v. 36 is directed
to women. Verse 37 asserts Paul's authority over all prophets and
spiritually gifted persons in the congregation, insisting that they
recognize his words as the commandments of the Lord. Verse 36 prepares
the way by questioning those proud Corinthians who think their insights
superior to Paul's. Paul ironically asks them whether the word came
first from them. Their answer had to be, "No, you first preached
it to us and our knowledge of the truth came through you." His second
question follows up the first, "Has God's word come only to you?"
They had to reply, "No, it came to you first and then, when we had
heard it from you, we believed." Paul follows up on this by insisting
that his words be recognized by all as from God. Not only does the
context of vv. 37 and 38 suggest v. 36 ought to be taken with them,
but the Greek of v. 36b conclusively shows that Paul did not have
women alone in view. Paul wrote, e eis humas monous katentesen
(or has [it] come only to you). Monous must refer to either
a masculine or masculine and feminine group of individuals. It definitively
indicates an audience of men only or of mixed composition. It cannot
indicate a feminine audience! Paul would have used the feminine,
monas, if he had intended to speak to women only. We conclude
that verse 36 is not directed to the women of vv. 34 and 35 but
rather prepares the congregation for vv. 37 and 38 which insist
that the Corinthians prophets and "spiritual" leaders acknowledge
1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 prohibit women from judging prophets
Our examination of I Corinthians 14
has indicated that, contrary to many popular readings, these verses
are not a disruption of the discussion of prophecy intended to verse
permission to pray and prophesy given three chapters earlier, nor
are they a directive for "ordering" the congregation by silencing
women at all times as they might be if the verses were transposed
to follow v. 40. Our investigation has rather suggested that these
verses are an elaboration of v. 29 concerning the evaluation of
the prophets. As elsewhere, Paul is concerned with the exercise
of ecclesiastical authority; in particular he intends to guard against
the confusion of the roles of men and women. Far from intending
a blanket silence of women, from whom the word of God did come by
prophecy Paul intended only that they should not judge men. As presented
this text does not at all violate the instructions of chapter 11
which insists on proper marital authority structures in the assembly
when women pray or prophesy.
E. Genesis 1,2,3:
Pre- and Post Fall Relations
Our examination of Pauline texts has
brought to light the fact that in each of the instances where Paul
discusses the relation of the sexes within the church he makes allusion
to the Old Testament, particularly to the Genesis accounts. In I
Corinthians 11, the allusion is explicitly to the pre-fall situation
(w. 7,8,9,12 and implicitly so in v. 14). (For a lengthier discussion
of the argument of these verses, cf. Hurley, Man and Woman,
chapter 2, and "Did Paul Require Veils," WTJ, vol. 35 , pp.
190-220). 1 Corinthians 14:35 makes an ambiguous reference to "the
Law." It is difficult to assess precisely Paul's intention. He may
be referring to the creation accounts, or he may be referring to
the general tenor of the Old Testament. It would seem more likely,
on the basis of his other remarks, that he is alluding to the creation
accounts. 1 Timothy 2 makes specific reference to the pre-fall relation
of Adam and Eve (v. 13) and to the situation at the fall (v. 14).
Our discussion above has suggested that Paul's point vas not that
the woman vas gullible, but that theological authority did not belong
to her. In view of Paul's consistent use of the creation narratives,
it is appropriate that we concentrate our attention at least briefly
upon these passages. This attention is particularly appropriate
at the present time because much of the present discussion of sex
roles centers around the thesis that Paul faithfully reflects the
creation accounts at Galatians 3:28 and elsewhere falls victim to
his rabbinical upbringing and violates the intent of God's creation.
Genesis 1:26-31: Male and female
created he them.
God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our
likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and
over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all
the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God
He created him; male and female He created them.
28 And God blessed them; and
God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the
earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing
that moves on the earth.' 29
Then God said, `Behold, I have given you every plant yielding
seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every
tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for
30 and to every beast of the
earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that
moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green
plant for food'; and it was so.
31 And God saw all that He
had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening
and there vas morning, the sixth day." (NASV)
The creation account of the first
chapter of Genesis presents mankind as the image of God. Theological
debate has risen over the exact nature of the image described in
this passage and over its implications for the relation of men and
women. Some exegetes have joined Karl Barth in identifying the duality,
the male and female pair, as constitutive of the image. On such
a basis, the essence of humanness and of the image of God is the
dynamic interrelation of the pair. Whatever the meaning of "image,"
it is very clear from the text that no hierarchy is contemplated.
Those who make this first biblical text the first and primary definition
of man-woman relations tend also to stress the egalitarian element
of this text. Does this text teach that God's design for men and
women is that they rule over the earth in an egalitarian relation?
It must first of all be noted that the plural forms accompanying
the Hebrew 'adam (man/mankind/Adam) make it clear that we
must understand the verses to be saying, "Let us make mankind
in our image ... and let them rule ... and God created mankind
in his own image, in the image of God created he it (mankind); male
and female created he them." It is not the man Adam but the race
which is in view. This fact affects our interpretation of the text,
for, whatever final view is taken, it must take account of the fact
that the race is being discussed.
Karl Barth and others would isolate the duality of the race as that
which is in the image of God. Thus the loving communication and
joint rule of the pair are drawn to the fore. Does the text really
support such a reading? Chapter one of Genesis has laid great stress
upon the sovereign commands of God and on his creation of various
orders of beings. The animals are not considered as individuals
but rather as kinds throughout the chapter. In addition, they are
noted as ruling or functioning in their appropriate spheres. The
creation of mankind follows this pattern precisely. God indicates
that he will make mankind in his image (w. 26,27,28). The text then
proceeds to inform us more about the implications of this fact.
Specifically it stresses that man will rule the earth. If all else
is missed, the rule of God over his creation would stand out in
Genesis 1. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the focus
of the discussion with respect to mankind's role as image should
be mankind's rule. The entire passage from v. 26 to v. 30, with
the exception of those statements that mankind will be or is God's
image and the remark that man-kind is male and female, is a discussion
of mankind's rule over the creation. With the exception of the identification
of mankind as male and female, there is no suggestion at all that
distinctions between humans are in view. In view of the overwhelming
stress on mankind's rule and the subsidiary nature of the remark
that mankind is both male and female, it seems foolish to assert
that it is the relation of the sexes that constitutes the image!
It would appear from the fact that mankind as a whole is in view
that this passage is not the one to investigate if we are to discover
whether the Scripture intends to make distinctions between humans.
The passage is intending to contrast humans with the rest of the
earth and to compare them to God.
The text does seem concerned not only to make the point that all
mankind is appointed by God to image him by ruling over the earth,
but also to indicate that women as well as men are the image of
God. As we have noted, v. 27 reads: "God created man(kind) in his
own image, in the image of God created he him/it (mankind); male
and female created he them." The Hebrew 'adam (man/mankind/Adam)
is inherently ambiguous as to its meaning. Whatever its meaning,
it would demand a masculine pronoun at the end of the verse (created
he him/it). It would appear that Moses vas keenly aware of the possible
misinterpretation of his words, that some might hold that men only
were in view at the end of v. 27 and that therefore only men were
the image of God. By making v. 26 unambiguously a corporate reference,
by adding to V. 27 the fact that they (mankind) were created male
and female, and by making the command/blessing of w. 28-30 plural
references, Moses prevented all but the most foolish from limiting
the image to the males. (Some have failed to note that Paul does
not identify men exclusively as the image of God in I Corinthians
11:7. He specifically avoids doing this. For more on this topic,
cf. Hurley, Man and Woman, pp. 56-66).
We conclude that these verses are intended to inform us as to the
origin of mankind and as to the role which God intended for the
race. There is no distinction drawn between men and women, and no
intention of discussing their distinctive roles. The text compares
mankind with God and discusses them with reference to the other
kinds of creatures. All who would be at all fair in their handling
of the text must acknowledge the parity of the male and female as
image of God and as rulers of the earth under him.
Genesis 2:18-25: An appropriate
Whereas the creation account of Genesis
I discusses the sorts of realms and rulers created by God, Genesis
2 focuses upon the people created to rule over the earth. Chronologically
Genesis 2 must be planed within the sixth day of chapter 1 as it
discusses the creation of people. We must investigate the role relations
of the pair described in chapter 2. The purposes of this report
are sufficiently limited that it is unnecessary to review the entire
chapter. The portion relevant to our task is reproduced below:
"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man
became a living being.
18 Then the Lord God said, `It
is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper
suitable for him.'
19 And out of the ground the
Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of
the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would
call them; and whatever the man called a living creature,
that was its name.
20 And the man gave names to
all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every
beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper
suitable for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep
sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one
of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 And the Lord God fashioned
into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and
brought her to the man.
23 And the man said, This is
now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be
called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.'
24 For this cause a man shall
leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were
both naked and were not ashamed." (NASV)
These verses give a more detailed
look at the activity of God in the creation of mankind. Whereas
some modern (and ancient) scholars have sought to set the accounts
of the two chapters at odds with each other, we will presume them
complementary to one another. The central issue for this report
is the relation between the sexes in this account. Verses 7, 21,
and 22 discuss the creation of the man and the woman. The man is
created prior to his partner but it is not good that he should be
alone (v. 18); accordingly God forms a "helper who is appropriate
to him" (ezer kenegdo). Much has been written as to the meaning
of the prior creation of the man, of the derivative origin of the
woman, and of the terminology used to describe her. Do these indicate
any form of subordination? Is the woman ontologically inferior because
derivative? Is she economically (functionally) inferior?
Let us first consider the term helper ('ezer). Some exegetes
have sought to derive from the fact that the woman was created as
"helper" that she was therefore inferior. This interpretation depends
on making "helper" the equivalent of "lesser assistant." It is highly
questionable whether this is a legitimate reading of the word. The
Hebrew word is never rendered assistant. It most often describes
one who will help in time of need and frequently describes the relation
of God to needy Israel (eg. Ex. 18:4; Psa. 70:5; 115:9,10,11; 146:5).
If any conclusion is to be drawn from the choice of "helper" ('ezer)
in Genesis 2, it is that the woman was made to help needy Adam and
may actually be his superior as God is superior to needy man. It
is unlikely that the latter inference is to be countenanced, but
it is certainly to be affirmed that the fact that the woman is the
helper of man does not make her his inferior. What of the other
information concerning the relation of the man and the woman?
We have already noted that Paul chose to use the prior creation
of the man and the derivative origin of the woman to indicate that
the woman was in a subordinate role. He further indicated that the
woman was made for the sake of the man rather than vine versa. Does
the text support or deny Paul's interpretation? The text itself
does present the man as the prior and the woman as the derivative.
There can be no mistake on these points. Further, the text makes
it clear that the woman was made to provide company for the man.
The Lord's words regarding the solitariness of the man indicate
that the woman was made for the man (Let us make a helper
for him who is appropriate to him, v. 18). Although these
texts are formally amenable to Paul's handling of them, a question
lingers in the minds of most exegetes: Do the texts really propose
Paul's interpretation, or are they "merely compatible" with it?
If taken by themselves, it appears to us, the texts do not compel
one to adopt Paul's position. The temporal priority of the man and
the derivative nature of the woman are not developed as indicative
of her subordinate role, although against a Hebrew social background
it might be inferred that the first made would correspond to the
firstborn. This association would carry with it the conjunction
of temporal priority and priority of authority. Similarly the derivation
of one being from another would have its parallel in childbirth
in which the derivative being is subordinate to the generating beings.
Having observed these parallels to Hebrew social order it is necessary
to note that, although we may draw these analogies, the text does
not specifically do so. The most which may be said of the actual
text of Genesis 2 is that it is amenable to several interpretations.
Three basic interpretations would be as follows: (1) Female superiority:
Eve's role as helper could be interpreted as parallel to the Lord's
role as the helper of Israel and therefore as that of helper of
one in great need and with lesser ability. This view demands that
nothing at all be inferred from the sequence of the creation of
the man and woman and, insofar as it indicated dependent need, is
probably in violation of the text. The man is not pictured as having
desperate need, but rather as needing company and assistance. (2)
Equality of the sexes: on the face of the text, without any inference
from the priority of the man, the most likely inference would be
that the woman was a companion for the man who would join him in
his work. This would not necessarily suggest any subordination.
If this interpretation is made, it is perhaps a bit surprising that
there is not further attention called to this equality as it would
be so unusual against a Hebrew background. (3) Female subordination:
if inferences are drawn from priority or derivation, or from the
"created for the sake of" aspects of the text, it is possible to
interpret the text as indicating female subordination. This reading
is perhaps the most likely when the text is read against a Hebrew
backdrop in which subordination would be an established fact and
presumed unless otherwise rejected. How is the exegete to choose
between these possible interpretations? Those who take a conservative
view of Scripture will side with Paul and adopt the latter position.
The clarity of Paul's chosen interpretation makes the issue one
of little real debate for conservatives. Despite the clarity of
Paul's view, however, most interpreters will find themselves wishing
that the text of Genesis were just a bit more clear. If we consider
the third chapter of Genesis, the text is more clear and
Paul's interpretation not only possible, but the only really likely
one. It is to this text that we now turn.
Genesis 3: Extant Relations Distorted
The third chapter of Genesis has received
a great deal of attention during the last few centuries. In recent
years, in terms of the present debate, it has often been held that
Paul built his view of the role of women from this chapter rather
than the preceding one. On such a basis, Paul is condemned for not
having recognized the true genius of the Gospel ... or damned with
faint praise for having sometimes recognized the "advance of the
Gospel." We have argued above that a close examination of Paul's
treatment of women finds that he does not base his position on this
third chapter at all. However, although it is not the basis of his
position, it is vital to a proper understanding of it. We will not
examine the whole chapter, but will focus upon the curse section
"And the Lord God said to the serpent, `Because you have
done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than
every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and
dust shall you eat all the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity between
you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he
shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on
16 To the woman He said, `I will
greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall
bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.'
17 Then to Adam He said, `Because
you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten
from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, "You shall
not eat from it"; cursed is the ground because of you; in
toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it
shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because
from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you
shall return."' (NASV)
The curse section of this narrative
consists of three distinctive curses for the three major actors
of the Fall. Let us consider first the curse upon the serpent (for
lengthy treatments of the fall narrative, see G. Vos, Biblical
Theology, Eerdmans, 1948, pp. 52-55, and, at a slightly less
technical level, E. J. Young, Genesis Three, Banner of Truth).
The first part of the curse (v.14) announces the cursedness of the
serpent beyond all other animals of the field and goes on to comment
on the manner of locomotion which marks serpents. It is unclear
whether this portion involves a new situation (i.e., the serpent
who previously walked or flew now crawls) or whether it is simply
an announcement that the serpent's lowly posture and constant licking
of the dust is now to be seen as a sign of his cursed state (thus
paralleling the use of the rainbow in the opposite direction when
it became a sign of blessing to Noah). Whichever the case, the locomotion
is a sign of the role of the serpent. The second half of the curse
is more immediately relevant to our present task. In it (v. 15)
we learn of the new relation which obtains between the woman and
the serpent and between their respective seed. It should be carefully
noted that the new thing is not that they relate to one another,
but the manner of their relation. Where previously there had not
been enmity, there is now to be such. The relation has become one
of pain (bruising) and hatred. The fall has distorted relations.
The same basic pattern can be discerned in the curse upon the man
(w. 17-19). As a consequence of his disobedience the ground is changed
and their previous relation is distorted. Whereas previously he
had dressed the garden and eaten from it with freedom (2:15,16),
the fall produced a situation in which the man would eat in sorrow
all the days of his life (3:17). Although it would continue to yield
its fruit and he would continue to eat of it (3:18, cf. 2:15,16),
the ground would now resist his efforts and raise up thorns and
thistles to cause him pain. Man's role as guardian of the garden
of God, in fellowship with the source of life, was changed to that
of an exile laboring in the sweat of his face until he dropped from
toil under the judgment of the Lord (3:19). That which is new is
not that the man will work the soil or that the soil will yield
to him its fruit. The new element of the post-fall situation is
that the two will fight with one another and the relation will be
With the curses on the serpent and the man as background, let us
turn to consider the curse upon the woman. It consists of two basic
parts: sorrow and childbirth will be greatly multiplied and her
relation with her husband will be difficult. Let us consider first
the question of childbirth. The commands of creation (1:28) include
an obligation to multiply and fill the earth. Unless we wish to
posit a major change in reproductive process as a result of the
fall, childbirth was a part of the pre-fall process. The text specifically
implies this in that it does not say that childbirth is the curse,
but rather that sorrow which will be involved in it constitutes
to curse. The post-fall relation is not new but distorted as compared
to the pre-fall situation. What of the second part of the curse
upon the woman? What does the text mean when it says that her desire
shall be to her husband and/but he shall rule over her? Does this
mean that she is newly subordinate and he newly ruler? Is it possible
that the newness is precisely the desire and the rule where previously
partnership had been the rule? The analogy of the preceding portions
of the curse is against such a reading. In the case of the serpent
there had always been a relation of subordination with the humans;
the new aspect was the enmity. In the case of the man and the land,
his task was always to subdue the land; the new element was the
resistance and strife which emerged. In the case of childbirth there
was no issue of subordination, but the strife between mankind and
physical nature comes to the fore in God's gracious continuation
of mankind's ability to reproduce while deserving only of total
judgment (reflected also in the sign of circumcision). Whereas childbirth
previously served to help man fulfill God's command to multiply,
it will henceforth no longer do so without pain. In the case of
the husband-wife relation the force of analogy suggests that the
new element is not the subordination of the female partner, but
rather that the extant subordination be marked by strife. This view
is the most natural to the text, but demands that the desire (shuq)
of the wife and the rule (mshl) of the husband be understood
in a negative sense. The import of the text must be, "Your desire
shall be to (usurp, or be in challenge/the place of, i.e., to rule
over) your husband and/but he shall (nonetheless, despite your assaults)
rule over you." It may be asked whether the text can bear such a
negative interpretation. The next chapter of Genesis provides us
with a definitive answer to this question. In speaking to Cain,
the Lord says, "Sin lies at the door and his desire (shuq)
is to (rule over) you, and/but you must rule (mshl) over
him" (4:7). The parallel with Genesis 3 is obvious. The desire of
sin is to (overcome) Cain, but Cain must overcome it. The woman
will now desire to (overcome) her husband, but he will in fact overcome
We conclude that Genesis 3:16 does not teach that subordination
is the curse any more than childbirth. The curse is that the woman
will not receive the rule of her husband and that the rule of the
husband will no longer be peaceful. The pre-fall relation has been
distorted and is a source of pain. This conclusion has direct implications
for our reading of Genesis 2. It implies that Paul is right when
he infers a hierarchy prior to the Fall. While modern interpreters
might not choose the creational equivalent of primogeniture or the
corresponding derivative nature of the woman's creation as their
vehicle for illustrating the subordinate role of the woman, they
cannot fault Paul for reading into the text what is not there. Paul
has picked up (albeit with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) what
modern writers often missed in Genesis 3: the creational pattern
was one of subordination of the woman.
Genesis 3:6: A suggestion as to
the "deception" of the woman
Although we have found Paul's handling
of primal subordination to be consonant with the text of Genesis
2 and 3, there are a few more issues to be dealt with. The first
one to be examined is the "deception" of Eve. We have suggested
above that Paul's point in 1 Timothy 2 was that Eve was deceived
but Adam was not. The text of Genesis 3 does not discuss Adam's
state of deception, but it does relate Eve's claim to have been
deceived (3:13). It may be, as many commentators remark, that the
deception of the woman did not constitute the fall of the race and
that the actual fall awaited the sin of the man who stood as representative
of the race. Such a position may not be faulted as it certainly
lines up with Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Another suggestion,
however, may be made. Genesis 3:18 says, "She took of the fruit
thereof and ate, and she gave also to her husband with her, and
he ate." The text seems to imply that the woman ate, took some to
her husband, and that he too ate. If the text is read as sequential,
the woman disobeyed God before her husband. The style of Genesis
and of Hebrew genealogy suggests another way of reading the text.
English narratives tend to follow a more or less strict historical
sequence. Hebrew narratives and genealogies do not always do this.
The simplest example of the Hebrew style of the relation of Genesis
1 and 2. Genesis 1 is concerned to discuss the creation, to note
God's benediction of the completed creation and to conclude with
the Sabbath of God in 2:3. As we have previously noted, the events
of Genesis 2:4 onward have their start on the sixth day of Genesis
1. It would seem that the composer was quite satisfied to follow
his train of thought in Genesis 1 through to its end on the seventh
day and then to dip back into the chronology of that account to
supply details which are vital to the understanding of 2:4ff, i.e.,
the preparation of the garden and creation of the people, belonging
on the sixth day. This same sort of thought pattern is evidence
in many of the genealogies which name a central figure (e.g., Noah
in Genesis 10) and his multiple sons (e.g., Shem, Ham, and Japheth)
and then follow each of the son's lines out at some length. Thus
Genesis 10 traces the line of Japheth from v. 2-v. 5, the line of
Ham from v. 6-v. 20, and the line of Shem from v. 21-v.31. The start
of each genealogy represents a move to a time period prior to the
end of the previous genealogy. The more important genealogy for
the biblical narrative is that of Shem which comes last and is repeated
in a different form in chapter 11 where the descent of Abraham is
These two examples of Hebrew willingness to follow an account to
its end and then recommence at a significant point within the previous
narrative offer a potential explanation of the account of Adam's
fall. The account of Eve's temptation runs from 3:1 to 3:6. It is
concerned with the temptation and fall of Eve. This account has
its natural terminus with the fact that she adopted the serpent's
interpretation of theological reality and acted upon it by eating
the fruit. We would suggest that, instead of conceiving of the last
segment as verse 6 (she gave to her husband with her and he ate)
as continuing on in historical sequence from 6a, we conceive of
it as following the pattern established by the temporal regression
of the narrative from 2:4 onwards, that we should consider that
the author has stepped back into his chronology to give us vital
information concerning the actual events of the fall. On this basis
the narrative at the end of v. 6 confirms to us that it was not
the woman's role to make theological decisions, that it was the
man's. It explains that the deceived, but not yet sinful woman took
fruit to her husband and explained to him the serpent's interpretation.
The man, not at all deceived, took the fruit, exercised his husbandly,
priestly role and said, "OK, we will accept that God is a liar and
that the serpent really has our best interest at heart. Let's eat."
On this basis the responsibility is squarely upon his shoulders
and the last segment of the verse an example of the sort of style
seen in Genesis 2 and in the genealogies. This basic reading is
mildly supported by the fact that both the serpent and the man are
cursed because of their actions; the serpent was cursed for what
he did to Eve (he deceived her) and Adam for "hearkening" (yielding,
not listening) to the voice of his wife. Eve, on the other hand,
is given no particulars concerning the basis of her curse. We suspect
that it comes to her because she was represented by Adam rather
than simply because she was deceived. This reading of the text finds
Paul's remarks to be exegetical keys to the text rather than rabbinic
The reader should note that it is not necessary to concur with this
section to approve of the report.
Multiple Roles: A problem when
interpreting the first pair.
Interpreters of Adam and Eve face a
major problem. The relation of this pair is an intricate superimposing
of many roles. The two of them constitute family, church, and race
all in one. The activity of Adam as husband is difficult to distinguish
from his actions as priest or as head of state. The text does not
seem concerned to separate these roles. If we are to separate their
respective roles, it must be by inference from other passages. It
is only as we examine God's design for more complex societies that
we can begin to discern the distinctive roles of the sexes in God's
social institutions. This examination of more complex societies,
however, is complicated by the Fall which distorted basic relations.
As we move chronologically through the history of redemption, we
find that beyond the distortion of the Fall lies partial restoration
in the present in Christ, and still further ahead lies complete
restoration of God's people at the return of Christ and its attendant
manifestation of the glory of the liberty of the sons of God (Romans
8). In the case of marriage we are able to discern various portions
of the changes with the progress of redemption. In the garden the
woman was subordinate but not oppressed. After the Fall we find
strife between the partners but continued subordination. Ephesians
5:21-33 points to a restoration of the harmonious relation as the
two partners are restored in Christ. Matthew 22:30 points to a further
change at the resurrection, one in which marriage is done away.
If this last passage indicates the end of husband wife relations,
we see the time when the authority of the husband will be done away.
Until that time, it would appear, his role remains. This perspective
was manifestly Paul's. We may assume a similar sort of perspective
for the cultic aspect of life. Adam, Cain and Abel, Noah, the Levites,
and the (also-male-only) elders of the church seem to be God's appointed
holders of ecclesiastical authority. We are neither free to dismiss
God's pattern nor free to presume that it is based upon some sort
of inherent superiority of males over females. God has not informed
us of the reason; speculation would be vain.
The scripture delineates three great societal institutions: family,
church, and state. We have argued for the continuing subordination
of woman to men in two of the three (family and church). Does the
Scripture also teach the subordination of women in the social order?
It is an impossible task to answer this question with respect to
Adam and Eve. We cannot distinguish a social order between them.
We can, however, examine this theme at later points in the history
of redemption. We note that women were generally under paternal
or marital authority in the Old Testament and that it is therefore
hard to assess whether they might also have independent social status.
There are, however, sufficient examples of women who were not under
such authority that we can answer our question. Three great women
of the Old Testament stand out as having played major social roles:
Miriam, Deborah, Hulda. The case of Deborah is perhaps the clearest
for our purposes. If it is immoral for a woman to rule over men
in the social realm, God is surely at fault in establishing Deborah
as judge over Israel. It must be noted that this role was not at
all typical for Israelite women. Typically it was men who had the
role of prophet or judge. The most common occurrence cannot, however,
be determinative for principle. The question of principle is established
by the appointment by God of a woman judge.
We conclude that women are not by creation design subordinate in
the social sphere. Were there more space, it would be possible to
examine the role of the wife in Proverbs 31 who clearly ruled over
a fleet of servants and who was engaged in buying land (birthrights!),
the rights of a widow to stand on equal footing with men, the role
of women in the ministries of Paul and Jesus. We conclude that the
nature of Adam and Eve's situation was such as to preclude clear
differentiation of roles within the spheres of family, church, and
society. Examination of further biblical information strongly indicates
that in the spheres of family and church, female subordination continues
to the present. In the sphere of society, there is little early
information, but there is clear later example establishing that
it is not a matter of divine principle that women should be excluded
from equal participation with men in the sphere of society.
It must, however, be further noted that certain situations might
make it unwise for a given woman to take social authority over a
given man (e.g.., a wife over her own husband).
F. 1 Timothy 3:8-13:
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, not double
tongues, not indulging in much wine, and not greedy for dishonest
9 They must keep hold of the
deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
10 They must first be tested;
and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve
11 In the same way, their wives
are to be women worthy of respect, not slanderers but sober
and faithful in everything.
12 A deacon must be the husband
of but one wife and must manage his children and his household
13 Those who have served well
gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith
in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
The discussion of women as deacons
brings with it much emotional response within the church. Some denominations
have placed deacons on the ruling body of the church. This practice
makes the election of women deacons the functional equivalent of
giving them ecclesiastical authority over men. Such a practice is
not the tradition of the RPCES. This denomination has understood
the roles of elder and deacon to be distinguished precisely by the
inclusion of responsibilities in the area of oversight. On the basis
of passages such as I Timothy 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews
13:17; 1 Peter 5:2,3, of the obvious parallels between the elders
of the New Testament congregation and those in Judaism, and of the
New Testament paralleling of presbuteros (elder/presbyter)
and episkopos (overseer/guardian), the Presbyterian church
has seen one of the distinctive elements of the elder's role as
distinguished from that of the deacon to be the possession of ecclesiastically
binding authority. The essence of the deacon's role is defined by
the name which the office bears, diakonos (minister/servant).
If this distinction is maintained, there need be no question of
setting women in authority over men by ordaining them as deacons.
The ordination of women deacons, however, does not hinge upon this
consideration alone. It hangs upon the demonstration of biblical
warrant. This, we will suggest, is to be found in I Timothy 3:11
when carefully examined and taken in conjunction with Romans 16:1.
Exegetical debate over 1 Timothy 3:11 centers on the meaning of
the word gunaikas (women/wives) found at the start of the
verse. The Greek word may be translated either "women" or "wives."
There is no way to tell which is intended from the word itself.
Translations have differed, the KJV, NEB and NIV preferring "wives"
and the ASV, RSV, and NASV preferring "women." The specific issue
is whether Paul intends to speak of (a) women in general, (b) wives
of elders and deacons, (n) wives of deacons, or (d) women deacons.
We may confidently dismiss (a) and (b) on the grounds that it would
not be probable that Paul would break his train of thought concerning
deacons to insert a remark about women in general which requires
them to behave like men deacons and that it seems very unlikely
that Paul would return without remark from wives of deacons and
elders (v. 11) to deacons (w. 12, 13). It is much more likely that
he had in mind either deacons' wives of women deacons. Which of
these options is to be preferred? We think the latter for a variety
of reasons. If Paul had intended to discuss the wives of deacons,
he could easily have made this clear by adding "the" (tas)
or "their" (auton) before gunaikas (women/wives).
Translators wishing to interpret this passage as discussing wives
must either implicitly or explicitly supply gratuitously either
"the" or "their." Two further considerations speak against the "wives"
interpretation. Firstly, it should be noted that Paul has not commented
upon the qualifications required of elders' wives. It is very unlikely
that he would carefully comment on deacons' wives and neglect those
of the elders. Further, Paul might have introduced the "wives" in
a fashion parallel to that in which he introduced the children in
v. 4: "having wives (gunaikas echontes). He did not so choose.
Instead of paralleling the introduction of children or having an
article or pronoun, gunaikas (women/wives) is introduced
in v. 11 by hosautos (likewise). This makes reference bank
to w. 2 and 8. The three verses (2, 8, 11), taken in sequence, require,
"elders must be ... likewise deacons ... likewise women . . ." The
force of the parallels requires that the women of v. 11 be a class
parallel to the elders and deacons rather than a class subordinate
to deacons such as wives.
Against this it is sometimes urged that Paul return to deacons in
v. 12 and thus seems to isolate the "women" of v. 11 as a parenthetical
group. A closer look offers a more likely view of the situation.
The requirements for the deacons and the "women" are strikingly
worthy of respect
not double tongues
not indulging in much wine
not greedy for gain
worthy of respect
faithful in all things
The close similarity of the requirements
suggests that the women may have jobs similar to those of the men.
If the close parallel be granted, it remains to be explained why
Paul returned to the topic of deacons in v. 12 and why he did not
call the women deacons "deaconesses" rather than "women." Dr. John
Warner remarks in correspondence with the committee,
The requirements of verses 1-11 have
to do with qualifications for the offices themselves. But
verse 13's aorist participle indicates that verse 12's requirement
has to do with something that will be true of a man after
he has served as a deacon (perhaps, that he becomes a likely
candidate for elder: why else would leadership ability be
required of these men as it is of elders?). This change, from
requirements for an office to a requirement that has reference
to something post-office, is sufficient to explain why verse
12 occurs after verse 11, even if verse 11 refers to an office
other than that of deacon.
Dr. Werner's remarks explain the return
to the topic of deacons.
There remains only the matter of the choice of "women" rather than
"deaconess" (the NIV suggests "deaconess" in the margin). Romans
16:1 may shed light on this aspect of the matter. In it Paul identifies
"our sister Phoebe" as a deacon (diakonon) and commends
her to the Roman congregation. Because the word diakonos can
be translated either "deacon" or "servant" it is important to note
that Paul did not choose to use the feminine form of the word
but rather broke gender to identify Phoebe with the masculine form
of the noun. This very strongly suggests that he was not simply
calling her a "servant" of the church at Cenchreae but was rather
using a formal term identifying her as a "deacon" of the church
a Cenchreae. It would be somewhat parallel to the manner in which
we would address a woman press dent. She would be addressed as "Madame
President" rather than as "Madame Presidentess." If, as Romans 16:1
indicates, the women deacons were called "deacons" rather than "deaconesses,"
it would explain Paul's choice of words in 1 Timothy 3:11. Having
identified the male deacons by the masculine noun "diakonos"
(deacon) in v. 8, he could hardly go on to intro dune the women
deacons by the same term. That would read, "the elder must be .
. . likewise deacons . . . likewise deacons . . ." Such clumsy and
confusing style could be avoided by simply writing what Paul did
write, "elders must be . . . likewise deacons . . . likewise women
..." We may Paraphrase Paul's remarks as follows:
Elders must be . . . Likewise (there
are requirements for deacons.) Deacons must be worthy of respect
. . . Likewise (there are requirements for) women (deacons.
They) must be. .."
We conclude that the best interpretation
of 1 Timothy 3:11 would understand Paul to be giving instructions
regarding the qualifications for those women who are to be considered
for the office of deacon rather than giving instructions concerning
deacons' wives or deaconesses. Inasmuch as this office has no ruling
authority and inasmuch as Paul used the same word to describe both
male and female deacons, there seems to be no significant reason
why the contemporary church should not ordain-women as deacons or
should segregate male and female deacons.
PART III: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Our exegetical studies have brought
the following conclusions:
(1) All mankind may enter the Body of Christ upon faith in Christ.
There are no racial, social, or sexual differences at this level
(2) Paul consistently taught that sexual differences were to be
maintained in the marital and the ecclesiastical realms (1 Timothy
2:8-15; 1 Corinthians 11:8,9; 1 Corinthians 14:34,35). Specifically
in the ecclesiastical realm he acknowledged women's privilege to
pray and prophesy in the public worship service (1 Timothy 2:8-10;
1 Corinthians 11:5) while carefully prohibiting them from exercising
formal ecclesiastical authority (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians
(3) Paul consistently and legitimately employed the early chapters
of Genesis and, on theological grounds, considered them normative
in his own day. We see no reason that the present church should
not continue to consider them relevant (1 Corinthians 11:8,9; 1
Corinthians 14:35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
(4) Paul's churches knew and utilized women deacons (1 Timothy 3:11;
of Exegetical Conclusions to the Present Situation
The application of our findings to
the present situation requires an assessment of the actual functioning
of the church. Our discussion will be divided into two sections
dealing with the special offices of the church and with other functions
respectively. It will become clear that while knowledge of the biblical
principles allows many decisions to be made, specific situations
will require specific, painstaking, contextual decisions rather
than general rules.
Women and the Special Offices
We will confine our remarks in this
section to the special offices of elder and deacon.
Eldership: We have noted above that the Scripture clearly
restricts the exercise of formal ecclesiastical authority to men.
This authority rests with the elders. It therefore follows simply
that women are not called to be nor may they be ordained as elders.
To do so would explicitly violate 1 Timothy 2:12 and cannot be permitted
by those who would submit themselves to the Word of God. This conclusion
pertains whether one holds a two or three office view.
Diaconate: The office of deacon is not an office which involves
the exercise of ecclesiastical authority. In the Pauline churches
it was open to women. It must therefore be open to qualified women
in our churches. There appears to be no reason to identify "women
deacons" as "deaconesses" if that implies a separate office.
Women and Other Functions Within
The question of the role of women in
church functions other than those of the special offices is a particularly
vexing one. There has been much debate as to whether women could
teach Sunday school, lead Bible studies, be missionaries, serve
on church boards, or vote in congregational meetings. In many instances
these issues have been debated without any clear cut principles
save "women are not to have authority." This principle is very simple,
but of course it needs further explication for it does not specify
what constitutes having authority. Our previous discussion has established
that the area in which women may not have authority over men
is that of ecclesiastical authority, which authority is vested in
the elders. As we shall see below, this observation in conjunction
with the fact that the Scriptures recognize as basic offices
the special offices of elder and deacon and the so-called general
office of all believers, provides some guidance as to what areas
may be prohibited to women. With respect to authority, it must be
stressed that women are under their husbands' authority in marriage
and under the elders' authority in the church. Apart from these
structures of family and church (i.e., in society), they are not
by creational role subordinate to men. "Women-in-general" are not
under the authority of "men-in-general"; neither are women somehow
of lesser rank than those men within the congregation who are not
elders. A central principle, therefore, regarding the role of
women within the church is that with respect to ecclesiastical authority,
there are but two groups within the church: elders and non-elders.
On this basis, the debate over whether or not "women" may undertake
a given activity within the church is seen to be basically misguided,
for it presumes that there are not only elders and non-elders, but
also that male non-elders (men-in-general) are of greater authority
than female non-elders (women-in-general). Let us consider this
principle of authority as it relates to some of the present practices
of the church.
Voting church membership
When the church corporations meet,
the women attend as full voting members. On this basis they may
conceivably outvote the males of the corporation. At present our
churches do not consider this an improper exercise of authority.
The principle outlined above would similarly hold this to be a legitimate
activity as the corporation has no formal binding ecclesiastical
authority. The authority of the elders is not undercut when non-elders
(of whichever sex) have corporation votes.
When our congregations meet to issue
calls or to conduct other church business a similar situation may
arise in which the women might outvote the men. At present our denomination
does not consider this situation to be in violation of the apostle's
commands. While it might be debated whether such a vote is in fact
a violation of apostolic directive, it would seem that the doctrinal
authority of the session vis-à-vis the non-elders is not undercut
by such votes.
Women frequently serve on various congregational
committees (e.g.., pulpit committees, flower committees, missions
committees). It has been held that such committees do not violate
apostolic directives as they serve under the appointing sessions.
According to the principle laid out above such activity is legitimate
for women if it would be appropriate for non-elder men of the congregation
to participate on such committees. The authority of the elders would
be as much undercut if given to non-elder males as if given to non-elder
Testimony in Worship
Services Our denomination has permitted
women missionaries to speak from behind the pulpit during Sunday
worship services in order to tell of what they have experienced
in the field and learned of the Lord via such experiences. Does
this constitute "teaching men" or "exercising authority"? It would
seem that such activity could verge into preaching on virtually
anyone's definition of the term. It does not follow, however, from
this fact that women could not so speak. It does follow that they
and elders should exercise care that there be no confusion or overstepping
of biblical bounds at this point. There might conceivably be situations
in which a given audience would be unable to make the required distinction
between praise/testimony which is legitimate for all congregational
members and preaching. In such a case wisdom might dictate that
the woman not speak. It would be important in such a case that the
difference between what is lawful and what is expedient be clear
so that the dignity of our women members not be inadvertently undercut.
The Synod has, to date, heartily approved
the commissioning of women to take the gospel abroad as missionaries.
Their specific goal is to spread the Word and to help build churches.
The work of these women has been viewed as distinct from that of
those men who preach, organize, discipline, and administer sacraments
on the field. It would appear that this is another case in which
it would be possible to confuse proper boundaries. Women serving
as missionaries must be sensitive not to usurp the role of elder.
They are free, however, to act as members of the general office
who share the Lord's command to take the gospel to all the nations.
Women are therefore appropriate missionaries of the church of Jesus
A major problem facing those who ask
concerning the place of women on the boards of the agencies of Synod
is the vague definition of the boards. As they presently stand
they have no ecclesiastical disciplinary power whatsoever and
labor under the direction of Synod. Members of the agencies who
require discipline are dealt with by appropriate elders (the session
of their local church in the case of non-elders and presbytery in
the case of elders). It is hard, on this basis, to see how women's
participation on boards could affect the authority of the elders.
Further, we have or have had non-elder men serving on the boards
as well as men who have no formal connection with the RPCES whatsoever.
If non-elder men and non-elder, non-RPCES men can serve, on what
basis can non-elder RPCES women be refused membership on the boards?
A secondary problem arises with respect to the boards of the church:
do they in fact undertake decisions which ought to be the province
of elders? It could be argued that the directing of the missionary
outreach of the church ought to be the work of the elders. This
issue must be discussed seriously. The decision, however, must not
be weighed in terms of a men/ women division. The proper division
would be elder/non-elder.
Here, as with the boards of the church
and the missionary issue, there has been an historical tendency
to pose the question in terms of sex. It would seem once again that,
while wisdom might dictate that in a given case there would be so
much confusion that a woman should not be appointed, or while it
might be concluded that a given person would tend to usurp the role
of an elder, it would presume an unbiblical division of the general
office to consider the sex of the youth leader a principal bar to
her appointment. If ecclesiastical authority is involved, the elder/non-elder
distinction must be the axis of debate.
Informal Bible Studies
Two questions arise with regard to
informal Bible studies and women. The more simple is that of participation.
Clearly women may participate in such activities, and, in the light
of our previous studies, it can hardly be doubted that they may
participate vocally. A further question arises with respect to their
taking turns leading such activities (occasionally or regularly)
if men are present. Our basic principle that the church has only
two classes with respect to ecclesiastical authority helps relieve
the debate here. A "woman" may lead if a "man" may lead; a woman
may not lead if only elders may lead. On the side of cautious wisdom
it ought to be asked whether such a Bible study has begun to substitute
itself for the proper function of the church or whether the non-elder
leader (of either sex) has in fact begun to function as an elder
in structuring the faith of the flock. If either is the case a problem
has arisen which must be confronted, but not along sex lines.
Formal Bible Study
It is difficult to specify what would
be "formal Bible study." Essentially, we are talking of the official
teaching times of the church. This seems manifestly covered by 1
Timothy 2:11 and 12. Such times of teaching belong to the elders.
Among the most difficult problems of
definition with regard to authority is that of Sunday school. Is
it formal instruction or is it not? Who should teach: elders, deacons,
men, anyone? It seems to us that the primary issues are but twofold.
If the Sunday school time is a primary teaching time of the church,
the elders (who are to be apt to teach) ought to teach the adult
classes. This is not basically a sex-role matter but an elder-role
matter. If, as is often the case, the Sunday school teachers are
conceived as being under the direction of the elders, but somehow
nonetheless quite authoritative, it would seem that more definition
is necessary. If they are clearly under the elders, then, in principle,
any non-elder could be appointed to teach; if they are clearly authoritative,
only elders should teach. If there is uncertainty as to the nature
of "Sunday school," it might be wise to avoid further confusion
and not to appoint women to teach adult men until matters
are further clarified in the minds of the congregation. The question
of the appointment of women to teach men in Sunday school is thus
one of the definition of the nature of Sunday school rather than
one of the role of women.
Conclusions Regarding Applications
As drawn out above, the basic principles
to be observed with respect to the role of women in the church are
(1) that the work of an elder is restricted to men, and (2) that
the Scripture knows only two specific classes with respect to ecclesiastical
authority, elders and non-elders. We have examined the outworking
of these principles with respect to specific activities of the church.
The committee cannot define all potential situations and must not
try to provide detailed regulation for situations as yet unseen.
We do believe that these guidelines provide the church with the
basic information which it sought as it constituted this committee.
A Note on the Service of the General
The center of focus in this report
has been the subordination of women. The more positive side of the
service of women has not been developed at any length. This lack
constitutes the greatest deficiency of this already-too-long report.
Our conclusions regarding the status of all believers in the general
office has implications for the activities of non-elders in the
congregation. The Scriptures (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, etc..)
make it clear that each believers has a gift or gifts for the upbuilding
of the assembly. The Lord's giving of gifts calls his people to
exercise them and to make opportunities for others to exercise their
gifts. Non-elders, whichever their sex, have gifts which the Lord
of the church wishes to have used for his people. Historically the
gifts of women have often been more neglected than those of men.
The church must be careful to correct this tragic waste of God's
blessings. It would be a hollow outcome of a report such as this
one if women were permitted to take their place alongside men as
non-elders within the assembly but then left sitting alongside the
men with neither having anything to do. The contribution of non-elders
to the life of the church must be carefully garnered!
On the basis of the preceding exegetical
and applied studies, the committee recommends that Synod consider
and affirm the following statements in sequence and take the actions
recommended below. Members of Synod should note the following two
(1) The committee is not asking
members of Synod to approve the details of the lengthy exegetical
portion of the report. They are asked only to affirm the six statements
to follow and to take action on two specific motions.
(2) Your committee itself is not unanimous
with regard to the exegetical details of the report. It has voted
to endorse the affirmation and the two motions and to present them
to Synod for action.
(a) that God has created mankind, men
and women, in his own image and as equals in salvation: justification,
sanctification, and glorification (Genesis 1:26,27; Genesis 2:18ff;
(b) that God has given gifts to both
men and women and that these gifts are for the building up of his
church rather than for their recipients alone (1 Corinthians 12:4-11;
Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10,11).
(c) that God has not called women to
the authoritative teaching and ruling office (elder) in the church
(1 Timothy 2:11,12; 1 Corinthians 14:34,35).
(d) that in our power-structure oriented
world those entrusted with authority must attend carefully to the
Scripture's commands that none should "think more highly of himself
than he ought" (Romans 12:3) and that "whoever would be first among
you must be your slave" (Matthew 20:26-28).
(e) that elders must take special care
to see that all members of the one body of Christ both men and women
are encouraged and enabled to make Scriptural use of all those gifts
which have been granted them by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-11;
1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
(f) that God has called out some women
full of the Holy Spirit to exercise the ecclesiastical office of
deacon (1 Timothy 3:11; Romans 16: 1).
On the basis of its study the committee
recommends that women be permitted the office of deacon within the
local church and that they should enjoy the same privileges, ordination,
and installation that the men deacons have traditionally received.
Further, the committee recommends that the position of elder, both
teaching and ruling, be limited to men of good report as specified
by the Bible. The tasks of women deacons and the respect granted
to them would be identical to the tasks and respect assigned by
the local church to men deacons.
On the matter of women participation
on the boards of denominational agencies it is the committee's recommendation
that the agencies be permitted fully participating women members
if they modify their by-laws accordingly.
Since a Board of Trustees acts with
authority only when it is in session (no additional rights obtain
to the individual board member out of session) and since the board
is under the oversight of the Synod, which is a body of ruling and
teaching elders, the committee does not feel board participation
by women would give individual women authority over men.
Your committee recommends that the
Synod pass the following motions:
(a) that women be permitted the office
of deacon within the local church and that they enjoy the same privileges,
ordination, and installation that the men deacons have traditionally
received and that the Form of Government be appropriately changed.
(Specific alterations of the FOG such as those suggested by the
Study Committee on the Role of Deacons [see these Minutes, pp. 58-63]
would achieve the changes proposed above).
(b) that the agencies be permitted
to have women as members of their boards if they modify their by-laws
James B. Hurley, Chairman
Gordon D. Shaw
John M. L. Young
Hermann Mischke (dissenting)
The introductory and exegetical portions
of the text of this report (less material from Dr. Knight) are extended
quotations from previously written material, for which copyrights
have been applied.
Affirmations (a) to (e) were approved.
With regard to affirmation (f) and
recommendation (a), it was moved, seconded and passed to recommit
and request that the study committee on the Role of Women in the
Church be continued, and enlarged by including more of those with
divergent viewpoints; that the minority report be written and submitted
to the committee for study; and that the committee clarify what
is meant by the ordination of elders and deacons.
The orders of the day having been extended
to 5:00 p.m., it was voted to recess until 9:30 p.m. to consider
recommendation (b) of the committee's report.
Dr. J. Barton Payne led in the closing
prayer at 5:05 p.m.
At 9:30 p.m., Moderator Auffarth called
the meeting to order and the Rev. Frank Smick was asked to lead
By motion the orders of the day were
set for recess at 10:30 p.m.
After lengthy discussion on recommendation
(b), the motion was put to a vote and lost by show of hands, 65-67.
The following motions were made and
approved on Wednesday morning but are reported here for convenience:
1. That Synod instruct the Role of
Women Committee to send a bibliography and additional materials,
including a minority report, to presbyteries for their study by
December 31, 1976.
2. That presbyteries study the current
report and additional materials and report their comments and finding
regarding both the original report and the additional materials
to the committee by March 1, 1977.
155th GS MINUTES, MAY 20, 1977,
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ROLE OF WOMEN
IN THE CHURCH
Dr. James B. Hurley presented the majority
report (Hurley, Jones, Pickett, Shaw, Young), the first minority
report was given by Rev. George Miladin and Harold Mare (Mare, Miladin,
Wallis), and a second minority report by Rev. Hermann Mischke.
Fathers and Brethren: The 154th General
Synod directed the Study Committee on the Role of Women to prepare
written minority opinion(s), a bibliography, and materials further
clarifying the meaning of ordination of elders and deacons. These
materials were to be prepared and circulated to the presbyteries
by December 31, 1976. Your committee prepared and circulated these
materials as directed. The presbyteries were directed to respond
to both the report to the 154th Synod and the supplementary materials
by March 1, 1977. Less than half of the presbyteries did so. Their
findings expressed a variety of opinions. For these the committee
is grateful. The presbytery reports did not offer materials which
need to be added to the report of the committee.
The written report of the Committee
to the synod includes a supplement to the majority report of last
year (dealing with the subject of ordination and including an important
correction to the report of last year) and two minority reports.
Commissioners are urged to read them carefully.
John M. L. Young
THE MAJORITY REPORT
During the debate at the 154th General
Synod, the members of Synod expressed repeatedly their concern over
the precise nature and implications of ecclesiastical office and
ordination. In particular it was frequently asked whether the ordination
of women to the office of deacon would not place them alongside
men as having authority over the church of Christ, thereby violating
I Timothy 2:12. The committee report expressed the view that that
which was prohibited to women in I Timothy was binding teaching
(disciplinary) ecclesiastical authority (i.e. the eldership). It
observed that Presbyterian churches have "seen one of the distinctive
elements of the elder's role as distinguished from that of the deacon
to be the possession of ecclesiastically binding authority. The
essence of the deacon's role is defined by the name which the office
bears, diakonos (minister/servant). If this distinction is
maintained there need be no question of setting women in authority
over men by ordaining them as deacons." (Minutes, 154th General
Synod, pp. 102-103). The Synod partially concurred with this definition,
affirming that the office of deacon "is characterized by service
and is distinct from the teaching-ruling office, to the oversight
of which it is subject." (Minutes 1976, p. 62; sent to presbyteries,
During the debate at Synod a number
of men expressed their concern that, although the office of deacon
is not intrinsically one of ecclesiastically binding authority,
it does involve some sort of "authority" and "formal ordination."
The question was asked whether such authority and in particular
such ordination would not constitute a violation of 1 Timothy 2:12
if given to women. Other presbyters noted that our denomination
does currently have women deacons, but that they are not ordained.
It was felt by many that such a solution was an effective one. In
view of the uncertainty expressed by many, the Synod asked the committee
to clarify the meaning of ordination of elders and deacons. Your
committee met this fall and explored these questions in the light
of Scripture. The conclusions reached by the committee at that time
concur substantially with some, though by no means all, of those
reached by a Committee of the Christian Reformed Church in 1973.
This report has been included in the communications offered to presbyters
and should be read prior to reading this discussion of supplementary
Historical Confusion Concerning
the Meaning of "Ordination"
Within the Christian church, the concept
of ordination has undergone various shifts of meaning. Within Roman
and High Anglican polities, the term connotes the investing of an
individual with certain powers and qualifications communicated successively
from generation to generation by apostolic succession. Within other
Protestant polities its meaning is more diverse, ranging from views
close to that of Rome to views which see ordination as no more than
the ecclesiastical consummation of democratic election procedures.
One member of this committee surveyed a variety of RPCES members
(students, faculty) at Covenant College, asking them, "What is ordination?"
Those surveyed answered, in almost equal proportions, in terms of
either the ceremony, the laying on of hands during the ceremony,
or a more abstract concept of appointment to office. When the questioner
inquired concerning the significance of the laying on of hands the
respondents showed real confusion regarding its function. Some thought
in virtually Roman terms, others saw it as a graphic demonstration
of solidarity. When asked what might be meant by the question, "Are
you ordained?", all responded that it meant, "Are you a pastor/minister?".
Questioned further, all noted that ordination is also appropriate
for deacons and elders and that their initial response represented
a confusion. Some wished to extend ordination further to include
missionaries and other representatives of the church. The results
of this quick survey demonstrate the necessity of further examination
of the concept of ordination and help to explain the potential expressiveness
of the concept of "ordaining" women deacons. It should be clear
that many would understand such "ordination of women" as the establishment
of women as pastors. As a denomination the RPCES is committed to
the Scriptures as the rule of faith and practice. It is therefore
incumbent upon us to examine the biblical concept of ordination
and then to consider how best to communicate this the conclusions
of the CRC paper on office and ordination, and develop other materials
of its own. Presbyters are urged to examine the CRC paper itself
and to test all conclusions by examination of the biblical texts
appealed to. Presbyters should not be satisfied with this document
or with the CRC paper; they must search the Scriptures.
Biblical Teaching on Ordination
The Term "Ordination"
A significant problem arises as soon
as one begins to study "ordination" in the Greek Testament; although
the concept is generally present, there is no single technical term
corresponding to our English term "ordination." This coupled with
the fact that the KJV uses "ordain" for a variety of Greek words
has had serious consequences in our present situation, for the student
of the English Bible is given mistaken impression that it is a technical
term. The CRC report comments: "When one tries to make a word study
of the word ordain in our English translations of the Bible,
he is bound to be disappointed. To be sure, the word ordain
is used in our English Bible versions, particularly in the King
James Version. But there is no evidence that this word in the King
James Bible is meant to be an exact translation of a Hebrew or Greek
word designating precisely what we today commonly understand by
"As far as the Old Testament is concerned,
the word ordain occurs 15 times in the King James Version.
Five of these occurrences have to do with appointing a man to some
kind of specific task; these five instances, however, are translations
of four different Hebrew words. In the American Standard Version
three of these five passages are rendered appoint rather
than ordain. The Revised Standard Version has used the word establish
in one of the two remaining passages where the word ordain
is used in the King James Version.
"The situation is similar in the New
Testament. The word ordain occurs 20 times in the King James
Version of the New Testament. Eight of these occurrences have to
do with ecclesiastical functionaries, but these eight are translations
of five different Greek words. Two of these Greek words are rendered
appoint by the King James translators in other places. In
the case of seven of the above-named eight passages, the words in
question have been rendered appoint by both the American
Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version; the case of the
eighth of these passages, the word in question is translated with
become in both versions.
"It seems clear, therefore, that the
word ordain in the King James Version does not translate
either a single term or a group of terms which convey precisely
what we today commonly understand by ordination. Rather, the word
ordain in the King James seems to be a translation for words which
mean to `appoint' or `to put in charge."' (Acts of Synod
1973, Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church [Grand
Rapids, 19731, [Hereafter: Acts 1973], p. 638).
After surveying the Old Testament and
New Testament words rendered "ordain," the report concludes:
"Summing up what we have learned so
far, we have seen that the New Testament uses several words to express
the idea of "appointing," "putting in charge," "selecting for a
certain task." The way in which these words are used, however, does
not indicate whether the congregations and churches described in
the New Testament had anything comparable to our ceremony of ordination.
We do read, to be sure, of a laying on of hands in connection with
the appointment of the seven in Acts 6, but we have no precise details
about this ceremony, and nowhere in the New Testament are' we told
that whenever people were appointed for a certain task in the church
there always had to be such a ceremony" (Acts 1973, p. 640).
This conclusion is significant for
it forces us to examine Scripture at a deeper level than the term
"ordain." We must pursue the substance of the texts in view to discern
the biblical teaching. In particular it is well to follow the CRC
example and to examine those situations in which there were ceremonies.
Two kinds of ceremony are essential
for such an examination: anointing and laying on of hands.
Ceremonies Accompanying Appointments
Anointing: The studies of the
CRC regarding anointing produce the following salient points: 1.
Anointing was considered indispensable for certain tasks; 2. One
was anointed for a specific task, not for any and all tasks; 3.
The impression is left that the anointing conferred something upon
the anointed which he did not have before; 4. Citing Isaiah 61:1
and Psalm 105: 15, it was noted, "this non-literal use of the word
(mashach/anointed one) strongly suggests that in the minds
of the ancient writers the reality symbolized by the act of anointing
was far more important than the symbol itself' (pp. 640,641). The
report goes on to discuss the difference between the Roman Catholic
and Protestant interpretation of the current relevance of these
data. It is crucial that those who study New Testament office make
a clear distinction between the Old Testament priest and the New
Testament elder/pastor with respect to both function and ceremony.
To fail to do so is to open the way to the Roman Catholic view of
the Lord's supper as repeated sacrifice rather than memorial sacrament.
The report develops its point as follows:
"The Scriptural data with respect to
anointing have been interpreted and applied in two different ways
within the Christian community, a) One group of Christians sees
in this material the basis for a setting aside of their clergy by
an act of anointing which invests them with powers and qualifications
not granted to others (see The New Catholic Encyclopedia,
1967, VII, 82ff.). b) Another group of Christians finds the Old
Testament rite of anointing in connection with appointment to office
to be pointing specifically to Jesus Christ. This group of Christians
observes that in the New Testament only Christ is referred to as
the Anointed One. Nowhere do we read in the New Testament that apostles,
evangelists, elders, deacons, or others were anointed for their
specific "offices." On the contrary, all believers are said to have
been anointed (1 John 2:20,27; also 2 Corinthians 1:21, which should
probably be understood as referring to a general anointing of believers
rather than as an anointing of apostles only). For this general
anointing of believers the Old Testament paved the way. The close
association between anointing and the reception of the Holy Spirit
is seen repeatedly in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 10:1,9; 16:13;
Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:1-14, esp. v. 6). The Old Testament indicates
that in the last days there will be an outpouring of the Spirit
on all flesh (Joel 2:28ff., Acts 2:16ff). It is also said that in
the latter time consecration to the Lord will be most comprehensive-even
to the bells on the horses (Zechariah 14:20).
"We opt for the second of these two
interpretations of the biblical material on anointing. As far as
specific office is concerned, Jesus Christ is now The Anointed
One, The Messiah, The Christ-our chief Prophet, our only High
Priest, and our eternal King (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 31). All
believers are now anointed by the Holy Spirit who has been given
to them (Acts 2:38, 10:47; Romans 8:9,11; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1
John 2:20). The New Testament, however, does not instruct the church
to anoint those who have been appointed to special tasks or `office'
within the Christian community" (Acts 1973, pp. 641,642).
Certain questions will linger in the
minds of those considering the relation between anointing and ordination.
Certain similarities exist which set anointed figures parallel to
"ordained" ones (i.e. special offices): both are set aside to a
particular task, both perform public functions, both have a qualified
mediatorial role (sharper in the case of the elder than the deacon).
How are these to be interpreted? A study of the practice of laying
on hands helps us to understand these similarities.
Laying on of Hands: In the Old
Testament, the laying on of hands is a technical term and can be
closely studied. Of the three basic Hebrew words used to describe
the practice, samak is the most relevant for our purposes
as it is used in situations in which a person is appointed to an
office. Having examined the use of the term In connection with sacrifice
and the scapegoat (Ex. 29:10; Lev. 1:4; 4:4; 16:21), the appointment
of the Levites In the place of the firstborn (Num. 8: l0ff.), and
the appointment of Joshua as Moses's representative and successor
(Num. 27:15ff), the CRC report concludes:
"Summing up our study of the Old Testament
words used to describe this ceremony, particularly the word samak,
we conclude that the laying on of hands in Old Testament times was
usually a public rite. It was to designate a representative, a substitute,
or a successor.
"We now go on to look at New Testament
Instances of the laying on of hands. We find that In the New Testament
the ceremony of the laying on of hands is used In a way analogous
to the Old Testament ceremony In the samak passages: namely,
as designating representation, substitution, or succession" (Acts
1973, p. 643).
This conclusion helps us to identify
with more precision those aspects of the role of the anointed priest
which were parallel to those of our ordained special officers. The
public representative function of the one upon whom hands have been
laid is the essential common feature. The laying on of hands designates
its subject as a formal representative of those performing the act.
Presbyterians have held that congregational election is, by biblical
example and providential supervision, an external sign of a person's
calling by God to be an elder or deacon. Appointment to office
carries with it authority to exercise an office which In the case
of elders Involves binding teaching/ disciplinary authority and
In the case of deacons Involves the authority to act as ministers
of mercy on behalf of the Church of the Lord Jesus.
If we synthesize somewhat the discussions
above, we conclude that the Old Testament anointing priests is not
a practice to be emulated by New Testament believers. The New Testament
simply does not Instruct the church to anoint men for office; the
biblical theology of the priesthood helps us to understand why.
The other Old Testament Induction ceremony, the laying on of hands
applied to the Levites and others, is of continuing relevance to
the church for it is expressly practiced by the New Testament church.
This laying on of hands Involves (1) the appointment of a person
to a representative office and (2) authorization to perform such
acts as may be appropriate to that office. Because this report is
concerned with the ordination of women to the decorate, it is especially
appropriate that we examine somewhat the New Testament passages
which deal with "ordination." We will turn to these and draw both
from our own exegesis and that of the CRC. Presbyters will note
that this report is somewhat selective In its adoption of conclusions
drawn by the CRC report. This selectivity stems from two basis facts:
some conclusions are specifically designed to deal with the central
topic of that report, the role of the layworker In evangelism, and
some conclusions seem to us questionable. Because it is not the
purpose of this report to critically review the report of the CRC
and because that report is available to presbyters we will offer
no extended criticism of it.
Of particular importance to our task
is the selection of the seven deacons of Acts 6. These men were
selected to undertake service (ministry/diakonia) of a particular
sort. The apostles could no longer supervise the distribution of
the communal food supplies and asked that the congregations select
men to perform this diakonia/service (which must Indeed have
been a chore for there were by now thousands among the congregations!).
The qualifications of the men were simple but high: they had to
be men of good repute, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. These
men selected by the congregations were presented to the apostles,
who then prayed and laid hands on them (v. 6, Interpreting "they
prayed and laid hands on them" as a reference to the apostles rather
than to the congregation). Here we see a public "ordination" ceremony
authorizing certain men to perform a given task. The task is not
specifically a ruling task In the sense of exercising a conscience
binding authority (as do elders) but does Involve "ruling over"
the distribution of food. The prayer and laying on of hands cannot
be construed as having equipped the men with gifts of wisdom or
with the Spirit as these were prerequisites for their appointment;
the "ordination" (note that the word is not actually used) (1) did
announce the church's conviction that God had called these men to
certain responsibility within the body, (2) did set the men apart
to their task and publicly "authorize" them to perform it, and (3)
was performed (apparently) by appropriate representatives of the
church. It may be noted parenthetically that In 1 Timothy 4:14 the
presbytery constitutes the appropriate body for the "ordaining"
A similar setting apart of called and
gifted men is to be seen In Acts 13. Verses 1-3 Indicate that the
Spirit directed that Paul and Barnabas be "set apart for the work
to which I (the Holy Spirit) have called them." The men In view
(Saul and Barnabas) are prophets and teachers, apparently already
elders and certainly members of the group which, In v. 3, "ordains"
them by prayer and the laying on of hands. It is well to ask what
exactly was being done to Saul and Barnabas. Were they being ordained?
To what office? Were they being commissioned? To what task? We would
submit that this cannot be "ordination" to the office of deacon
or to the office of an elder. It is rather "ordination" or "setting
apart" of gifted men to a public role In which they will represent
the church according to the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit.
Their "ordination" carried with it authority to perform their appointed
task. Saul and Barnabas, at the command of the Spirit, were "ordained"
In the text above the word "ordained"
has been placed In quotation marks to Indicate that it is not being
used In our usual contemporary sense. This passage calls to our
attention the particular connotation which "ordination" has come
to have In the church. It is a term which we tend to use with regard
primarily to the setting apart of teaching elders (Are you ordained?),
secondarily with respect to ruling elders, and only In a tertiary
sense with regard to deacons. In addition we tend to identify it
so closely with the activity of the laying on of hands what it seems
Inappropriate to lay hands on anyone apart from the context of the
"ordination" of special officers. In this passage we have an explicit
and virtually unchangeable example of prayer and the laying on of
hands as a non-special office "ordination" and we are forced to
realize that the distinctive aspect of the ordination of an officer
is NOT the laying on of hands but the task, calling, or office
to which the Ind.- visual ordained is set apart, not the action
by which, but the calling to which the individual is set aside.
This observation helps us to understand
why the questions asked of RPCES elders, deacons, missionaries,
church agency board members, and trustees are virtually identical
in form (cf. FOG, V, 3, (1)-(9), especially (8), (9), pp. 29-31
and V, 8, a, pp. 44,45). The extent to which the Form of Government
perceives the distinctives of ordination as related to the office
rather than the form of service or questions asked is further indicated
by the sections V, 5, r and V, 9, d, concerning the reception of
newly ordained officers. Although pastors, ruling elders, deacons,
and trustees answer virtually the same questions (7 of 8 are identical)
and, in the case of the special officers, have hands laid upon them,
they are to be differently received after the ceremony. Pastors
are welcomed by members of presbytery with the words, "We give you
the right hand of fellowship to take part in this ministry with
us." Elders receive the pastor with the words, "As elders we welcome
you as a minister to the fellowship of this presbytery." An elder,
after ordination, is received by fellow elders with the words, "We
give you the right hand of fellowship to take part in this office
with us." A deacon, after ordination, is welcomed by fellow deacons
with the words, "We give you the right hand of fellowship to take
part in this ministry with us." It is clear that the special offices
are not distinguished by form of ordination, but are distinguished
according to task.
The crucial difference then between
the ordination of an elder and that of a deacon is not the form
of the questions posed them but rather the differences to which
they are set apart. The setting apart of Saul and Barnabas at Antioch
was not a special-office ordination, but the appointment of those
men to represent the church as missionaries of the Gospel. It entailed
the obligation and authority to perform that task.
Our confusion regarding the concept
of "ordination" would be greatly reduced if we were able to discard
the word "ordain" with ac its many overtones and connotations and
return to the actual biblical language. We would then talk of setting
apart, appointing or electing persons to this or that task, calling,
office. We would also draw much less emotional response if we talked
of the biblical example of "setting apart' Saul as a missionary
instead of "ordaining" him. In a similar vein there could be a less
emotional response to "laying hands on a woman," or "ordaining a
woman," which phrases do not necessarily mean more than appointing
them to function as missionaries but are interpreted by most to
mean making women pastors. The discarding of the term "ordain" seems
unlikely in view of its long history and its (perhaps unjustified)
place in the KJV. A second option which seems incumbent upon those
who would faithfully reflect the biblical language and concepts
involves freeing the term "ordain." from its present restricted
use, beginning to use "appoint" and "set apart" as well as "ordain,"
and educating our people as to the biblical teaching regarding ordination/setting
apart. These steps seem appropriate regardless of one's view of
the propriety of setting women apart as deacons.
Observations from Presbyterian Law
and the RPCES FOG [i.e., "Form of Government"]
Presbyterian history shows that the
exact nature of valid ordination has been debated. A. J. Hodge's
volume What Is Presbyterian Law provides evidence that the
church has recognized that prayer and the laying on of hands are
appropriate, but that the laying on of hands is not essential to
ordination (Hodge, A.J., What Is Presbyterian Law, 1907,
p. 309). The stress on the nonessential nature of laying on of hands
seems to stem from the Reformation conflict with Rome over the importance
of external observations. Charles Hodge, in his volume on Church
Polity, provides further information on this matter. Regarding
the significance of laying on of hands he remarks:
"The Committee of Bills and Overtures
reported an overture from the Presbytery of South Alabama on the
subject of ordaining elders and deacons with the imposition of hands.
The committee recommended that it be left up to the discretion of
each Church session to determine the mode of ordination in this
"Under the old dispensation and in
the Apostolic Church, the imposition of hands was used on all solemn
occasions to signify the idea of communication. It is a fitting
and becoming ceremony whenever the rights and privileges of a sacred
office are conferred; but there is evidently no necessity or peculiar
importance to be attached to it. There would seem to be something
of the leaven of the Popish doctrine of the communication of a mysterious
influence, producing the indelible impress of orders, still lurking
in the minds of some of our brethren. If grace, in the sense of
divine influence, was given by the laying on of hands, then indeed,
it would be a serious question when that ceremony should be used.
But if grace, in such connection, means what it often means in Scripture,
and in the language of the English Reformers, office, considered
as a gift; then it is obviously a matter of indifference, whether
those in authority express their purpose of conferring a certain
office by words or signs, or by both."
"Turrettin remarks, that in reference
to ordination and the appointment of church officers, we must distinguish
between `essential, and accidentals.' To make forms essential is
the essence of formalistic ritualism, and utterly subversive of
God's law, and of the best interests of the State and of the Church.
What is marriage but the covenant between one man and one woman
to live together as man and wife, according to God's ordinance?
Wherever this covenant is made, there, in the sight of God, and
in fero conscientue, is marriage. Different States have enacted
different laws prescribing the forms or circumstances which should
attend this contract and the modes in which it shall be attested;
and it is the duty of all living under such laws to conform to them.
But suppose that from ignorance or recklessness any of them are
neglected, is the contract null and void? To answer in the affirmative
is to trample the law of God under foot. For a long time the laws
of England required that all marriages should be solemnized in church
by an episcopally ordained minister, and within canonical hours.
While these laws were in force, it was the duty of all Englishmen
to obey them. But suppose any man was married by a Presbyterian
minister, after twelve o'clock, noon, would his marriage in the
sight of God be void, and would it be pronounced void by the civil
courts, without doing violence to the divine law? In like manner,
ordination is the declaration of the judgment of the Church, through
its appointed agents, that a certain man is called to the ministry.
The Church directs that this judgment shall be signified in a certain
way, and with certain prescribed solemnities, such as laying on
of the hands of the presbytery. Suppose any of these prescribed
formalities are neglected; suppose the presbytery omit the laying
on of hands, (as we have known very recently to be done,) is the
ordination void? No man but a Papist or Puseyite would answer, Yes.
In the case of a ruling elder, the choice of the church, and the
consent of the person chosen, is all that is essential. The rest
is ceremonial. Prescribed forms should be observed; the neglect
of them should be censured. But to make them essential is, in our
view, to abandon the fundamental principle of Protestantism and
of common sense. It would invalidate the acts of half the sessions
in the country." (Hodge, Charles, Church Polity, pp. 295,
This historical material should help
us maintain a proper view of ordination and free us from emotional
responses to laying on of hands which would see it as the sacred
essential of "ordination."
Relevance to Synod's Mandate to
The Synod's mandate to the committee
required that the meaning of ordination of elders and deacons be
clarified. The observations made in the above sections of this paper
provide substantial material to meet Synod's request. "Ordination,"
we have seen, is really not a technical term in Scripture. The ceremony
of prayer and laying on of hands indicates the setting apart or
appointing of an individual to an office for which the Spirit has
gifted and to which the Spirit has called him. This setting apart
should be accomplished through prayer and the laying on of hands,
but may be accomplished through other means such as election and
acceptance alone. Such setting apart is not restricted in the biblical
text to the special offices. That which distinguishes the "ordination"
or setting apart of elders, deacons, and missionaries from one another
is not the fact that individuals so se apart are called, gifted,
selected, prayed over, or have hands laid on them; that which distinguishes
them is the task or office to which the individuals are ordained.
This observation forces us to move behind the formalities of "ordination"
if we are to answer the basic question which Synod was approaching
in its mandate to the committee, the setting apart of women as deacons.
The Distinction Between the Special
As noted above, the exegetical paper
submitted by this committee to Synod in May, 1976 and the Synod
itself in its action on the report of the Study Committee on the
Role of Deacons have sought to clarify the distinction between the
special offices of deacon and elder. The essence of this distinction
appears to be that the elder is involved in ruling, guarding, directing,
shepherding tasks while the deacon is involved in tasks of service.
Numerous discussions of these offices make this clear. What implications
do these distinctions have for the ordination of women as deacons?
Authority and Ruling Authority
Many who object to the "ordination"
of women feel that "ordination" would place them in authority over
men. As we have seen above, "ordination" or setting apart does not
necessarily confer authority to rule over others. It does,
however, confer authority to represent the church and to perform
a given task. The deacon's authority to go in the name of the church
with alms for the poor or to minister in the church's name to those
in prison is indeed authority, but such authority is not authority
to rule over others. The situation becomes slightly more
complex in the case of, let us say, authority to direct the ministrations
of others, for instance the taking of food to those who are sick
or to homes in which the mother is ill or has had a baby. Such authority
is genuine authority, but is in no way an elder's ruling authority;
it is a serving authority which is appropriate to deacons.
Confusion of the Eldership and
the Decorate as "Special Offices"
The fact that the "special offices"
are grouped together has led to confusion of their distinctions.
The term "special office" is used to indicate the two perpetual
offices as distinguished from the "general office" of believers.
This is, of course, not biblical language but does serve well to
call attention to their distinctive nature. Many, however, who are
not conversant with the particulars of the offices tend to misunderstand
why these two public, perpetual offices are grouped together and
set apart. They tend to blur the distinctions and assume that, for
instance, the decorate possesses ruling authority in lesser degree
or that deacons are some sort of junior elder. This particular problem
is aggravated by the fact that many independent and baptist churches
use the terms elder and deacon synonymously or reserve the term
elder for the pastor and have "deacons" or even "trustees" who function
as do the elders of the Scripture. We must not allow the cultural
and historical confusions outlined in the paragraphs above to distort
our understanding of the distinctives of the biblical offices. God
has ordained that there be two perpetual public offices within the
church. Despite confusions it is clear that this fact does not at
all require that those offices both share the rule of His flock.
Concerning the Task of Deacons
The task of those who would decide
whether women may be set apart as deacons pivots upon two considerations:
1. whether the prohibitions of 1 Timothy 2, forbidding that women
should teach or exercise authority over men, apply to both offices
or whether they have in view the role of the elder rather than that
of the deacon, and 2. whether there are evidences of a female decorate
in the New Testament.
The first question has been approached
in the exegetical studies of the report to Synod, 1976. A few additional
observations may, however, be in order. Those who have studied church
history are well aware that the role of the elder has proven much
easier to define than that of the deacon. The office of the deacon
has often fallen into disregard or eclipse while that of the elder
or bishop has risen to great prominence. The biblical text itself
is much more specific with regard to the office of elder than with
that of deacon. A moment's reflection upon the nature of the respective
tasks of elders and of deacons may help to explain this fact. The
church, in whatever age it may find itself, will have need of shepherds
to rule the flock by counsel, teaching, rebuke, and discipline.
It will have a similar need to show the love of Christ to the needy.
The job with relation to the needy, is however, much more culturally
structured. Financial and physical assistance are always to be rendered,
but each societal structure generates distinctive needs which must
be creatively met through physical and financial assistance. The
church no longer has a communal life style and we no longer appoint
deacons to function as quartermasters to our thousands. The dole
of the widow has changed as Western society has become richer and
Social Security has provided some relief for the aged. Christians
must continue to care for the aged widow, and the deacon must be
active in such work, but the particular form which it will take
is different today because of the changed needs of widows. The vague
definition of the service of the deacon (diakonos/one who
serves) combined with its association with the prominent, well defined
ruling task of the elder has contributed both to the general impression
that the deacon's office somehow shares the "authority" of the eldership
and to general confusion as to its nature.
A closer look at the task of the deacon
in the Scripture and in the early , church suggests some directions
in which our modern deacons might move to re-establish the visible
demonstration of the serving mercy of Christ which is their particular
task. While any area of human need is a valid subject of Christian
ministry, the early church seems to have focused upon the aged and
the prisoners, while the Old Testament focuses upon the sojourner
and the fatherless as well as the widow, but pays little attention
to the prisoners. The prominence of these groups in their respective
time-period reflects the differences between those problems generated
when the people of God lived under the theocracy and those generated
when they were under Roman society. In American society as a whole
there are fewer orphans, sojourners, and destitute widows, but there
are still prisoners and certainly there are needy aged of both sexes.
Within our cities the situation is different, especially within
our ghettos. There poverty is much more pronounced, as is the plight
of the fatherless and the widow. The frequent relegation of our
deacons to ushering, receiving the offering, and cutting the grass
speaks poorly for our creativity and compassion. (Presbyters may
wish to consult Document No. 4, by Bingham, on the role of deacons).
Within the early church there were
deacons and deaconesses. Specific ordination instructions for both
classes exist in the Apostolic Constitutions and other places. Their
tasks specifically involved ministries of mercy to the needy. In
these tasks they represented the church. Women deacons were especially
used in situations in which men would be suspect. Thus women often
visited the prisons and dealt with other women. (cf. Bingham, Document
No. 4, for further details). Can we appoint women deacons, and if
so, can we use them?
The report to Synod, 1976, suggested
that the office of deacon does not impinge upon the binding teaching
and disciplinary authority of the elder's office. If this is so,
and if Paul directs his remarks to the authority of the elders in
1 Timothy 2, then the appointment of women to the office of deacon
does not prejudice biblical restrictions upon this office. It is,
however, possible that our present vagueness about the special offices
and the tendency in some quarters to view the office of the deacon
as a stepping-stone to the eldership rather than a valid office
might encourage some to see the appointment of women to the decorate
as a first step in the direction of appointing women as elders.
This danger requires that, if women are set apart as deacons, careful
measures be taken to explain the meaning of such action and that
it not become a first step to violation of the clear teaching of
I Timothy with regard to women elders. Fear of such error, however,
must not cause us to fall short of taking appropriate biblical steps
any more than fear of sexual sin may cause us to ban marriage or
to fail to instruct our children concerning the proper role of sex.
What Tasks Might Women Deacons
In the early church women deacons ministered
to prisoners, women, children, and the aged. Ours might well do
the same. The women's auxiliaries of most churches are in fact doing
tasks which would belong to women deacons. Welcoming newcomers,
providing food for brothers in need and families without mothers,
encouragement for women who are struggling with their family roles,
support of missionaries by food, linens, money, and prayer are all
appropriate activities. The role of women missionaries has been
a long-standing problem of our mission boards. Are these women preaching
the Gospel or simply assisting elders to do so? The Canadian Presbyterian
church has established a pattern similar to that of the early church
by insisting that its women missionaries be deaconesses with proven
service at home. If this denomination chooses to ordain women to
the decorate the recognition of the serving gifts of women missionaries
through ordination as deacons might be appropriate.
How Would the Women Deacons Relate
to the Men Deacons?
It is sometimes felt that if women
deacons were established and if they should happen to outnumber
the men, then women deacons, by virtue of their greater numbed of
votes, would exercise authority over men. This is certainly true.
Our previous exegesis and discussion, however, has shown that if
churches should choose to have joint deaconess boards, and if they
should choose to appoint more female deacons than male, even then
the women would not exercise the sort of authority which Paul prohibits
in 1 Timothy 2. Their votes would have no relation to binding teaching/disciplinary
authority which is in the hands of the elders alone. A simple parallel
is to be seen in every congregation in which women may vote on congregational
matters and in which the women members outnumber the men. The congregation
does not exercise binding teaching/disciplinary authority and thus,
as our denomination holds, the vote for women does not violate Paul's
This study of the meaning of ordination
of elders and deacons has suggested that the subject of ordination
is one of considerable confusion and that the biblical teaching
concerning ordination/setting apart individuals to tasks is in fact
irrelevant to the discussion of women deacons except as a red herring,
far the distinctive element of setting apart/ordination is not the
act but the office to which the individual is set apart. A decision
concerning women deacons must turn upon the Biblical materials such
as those presented in the various studies of Galatians 3:23; 1 Corinthians
11,14; 1 Timothy 2,3; Romans 16.
Historical evidence submitted in conjunction
with this report indicates that women deacons were known in the
church until the twelfth century and that they have appeared sporadically
from the reformation. Within our sister denomination, the Reformed
Presbyterian Church in North America, there are currently ordained
An Important Remark Concerning
Phoebe in Romans 16
The report submitted to Synod, 1976
contains one error which requires correction. On P. 104 it was indicated
that Paul chase to break gender to identify Phoebe as a deacon.
This was seen as evidence far women in the office of deacon. This
impression was considered strengthened by the services which Phoebe
performed with respect to Paul. The conclusion regarding Paul's
breaking gender results from a misreading of Bluer, Arndt and Gingrich
an this Paint (cf. Xerox portion submitted with this report as Document
No. 6). They show diakonos as the entry-ward. Further dawn,
the feminine usage of diakonos is indicated by he d., followed
by a series of references. In the writing of the report it was erroneously
assumed that he d., stood for he diacone, a feminine
form of diakonos. It does not. It stands far he dankness,
the noun used with a feminine article. This correction means that
the reference to Phoebe is intrinsically ambiguous. Diankonos
in Romans 16:1 may mean either deacon or servant. On P. 104 of the
Minutes, 1976, paragraph 2, the section from "Because the
ward diakonos" to "Paul's choice of wards in 1 Timothy 3:11"
(four full sentences) should be deleted and the following substituted:
Exegetes have long debated the exact
, meaning of Paul's reference. Is Phoebe a servant of the
congregation of Cenchreae, or a deacon? The ward is inherently
ambiguous and the debate cannot be, settled by grammatical
studies. Same exegetes take note of the functions which she
performed in Cenchreae and the formal request which Paul makes
soliciting Roman assistance far her and derive from this that
Phoebe was a deacon from Cenchreae an a mission to Rome. Others
Perceive the Passage as commending a helpful woman who, in
Paul's opinion, is worthy of the assistance of the Roman congregation.
Each exegete must make-his or her own decision at this Paint.
Regardless of the decision achieved here it is important to
note that women deacons would have to be identified by the
same term as male deacons awing to the use of the masculine
farm far bath men and women. This fact may shed light upon
Paul's choice of wards in 1 Timothy 3:11.
 The committee wishes to acknowledge
the Christian generosity of Dr. George W. Knight, III, of Covenant
Seminary, who has granted it permission to draw freely from his
pamphlet, The New Testament Church.
 cf. P.K. Jewett,
Man as Male and Female, pp. 86-103).
 For a lengthier
discussion of this latter passage, see J.B. Hurley, Man and Woman,
Chap. 2, pp. 56-57.
 Peter's description
of the woman as the weaker vessel (asthenesteros keuei) is
apparently a physical reference to women's stature rather than a
moral or intellectual metaphor.
may be a reference to the judging of the prophets mentioned in I
Corinthians 14:29-34, cf. J.B. Hurley, Man and Woman, pp.
71-77 and the discussion below.
 Paul employs the
singular in the first portion of the sentence, and a plural in the
end. The context suggests that he still has "Eve, the prototypical
woman," in view from v. 14. His shift to the plural in the latter
portion of the verse indicates the basic direction of his thought.
Accordingly in our present rendering the singular is neglected and
read as a plural.
 We do not mean to imply that Paul did not expect
these characteristics to mark Christian women. We mean only to note
that Paul generally took great care to leave no possible inference
of auto soterism. )
 Some interpreters consider this 'passage to
be enjoining marriage and use the contrast with I Corinthians 7
thereby generated as an argument against the authenticity of I Timothy.
REPORT NUMBER ONE
I. By Dr. W. Harold Mare
By Rev. George C. Miladin
I. By Dr. W. Harold Mare
It is to be noted that the major question to which
the 1977 report on the Role of Women in the Church signed by Dr.
James B. Hurley (for the Committee) is addressing itself is clearly
set forth on page 78 of that report as follows: "Because this
report is concerned with the ordination of women to the diaconate
(italics ours), it is especially appropriate that we examine somewhat
the New Testament passages which deal with ordination." We
believe that the emphasis should rather be on the question of what
the New Testament teaches about the position and service
of women in the Church.
However, in the light of the emphasis placed on
ordination on page 78 of the report, we will first of all address
ourselves to the meaning and use ordination in the New Testament.
The Greek word used to express this idea, epitithemi, and
its cognates, strictly have the meaning of "placing (the hands)
upon" in the sense of setting one apart or aside for some specific
God-given purpose. In examining this Greek word in three New Testament
passages where it carries this kind of emphasis ,
let us suggest the proposition that in its use in this way we can
discern more than one kind of ordination. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul
charges Timothy not to neglect the God-given gift that was given
him with the laying on of the hands of the presbuterion (the body
of elders) (compare also 2 Timothy 1:6). Certainly this was a special
setting aside or ordination to the specific role of being an elder,
a special technical kind of ordination to the office of elder in
In Acts 6:6, epitithemi is again used when
it is said that the Jerusalem church set the "Seven" deacons
before the apostles and that "as they prayed they placed their
hands upon them" (i.e., ordained them). the latter clause may
well be interpreted to mean that the apostles were the ones who
placed their hands on the Seven since the word "apostles"
in the text is the nearer antecedent to the verb "they placed."
At any rate, this was all done before and under the influence of
the apostles, just as the setting aside, or ordaining of Timothy
was under the directions and influence of the body of elders, the
presbyterion (1 Timothy 4:14). It is to be noted that the apostles
and elders functioned together in the role of preaching, ruling,
and disciplining in the New Testament section of the Christian church
as seen in the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council. In these two passages,
1 Timothy 4:14 and Acts 6:6, we see men set apart, that is, ordained
to the special church offices of elder and deacon in the New Testament
Church, a church that was growing and developing in its form of
In the third reference, Acts 13:2,3, where epitithemi
is used of men being set aside, or ordained, with the laying on
of hands it does not so clearly show itself to be the same kind
of ordination as is seen in the examples above. Acts 13:2,3 says
that the church at Antioch fasted and prayed and, at the command
of the Holy Spirit, laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul, setting
them apart for their missionary task. There is not indication here
that this "setting side" was under the direction and leadership
of the elders and/or apostles and unto a New Testament church office,
although Acts 13:1 does mention prophets and teachers in the Antioch
The New Testament thus indicates in these examples
that there was a particular setting apart of men with the laying
on of hands to the offices of elder and deacon. Secondly, the New
Testament also seems to indicate that there was a more general use
of the ceremony for the setting aside of individuals for a task,
such as being commissioned to carry out missionary work for the
Church. But in no one of three instances examined are there any
women indicated as being involved. In 1 Timothy 4:14, it is Timothy
who had the hands of the elders laid on him, elders we can argue
whose office had come down through the male eldership of the Old
Testament (Leviticus 4:15; Numbers 14:24, etc.) and of the synagogues
and Sanhedrin of the New Testament (Matthew 21:23). In Acts 6:3-6
it is the command of the apostles that the church find seven males
(andras) of the believing company who were to do the work
of serving (v. 1, diakonia), and thus they chose seven men.
In Acts 13:1-3, there are only men mentioned who were the prophets
and teachers and two of these, Barnabas and Saul, were the ones
who were set aside, or commissioned by the laying on of hands for
the mission work. Men were the ones to be ordained by the laying
on of hands to the church offices and men were set aside by the
laying on of hands for missionary work.
Our second major focus is on the meaning of 1 Timothy
3:11 concerning which we are setting forth the proposition that
this text in no way speaks of Christian women as deacons.
Inasmuch as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 does not make reference
to women but only to men, we assume, on the basis of the decision
made at last year's synod, that no one of our company would argue
that Christian women are to hold the office of elder.
However, although women are mentioned in 1 Timothy
3:11 in the midst of Paul's exhortation to men who are deacons,
we would argue that the apostle is not addressing these women as
female deacons for the following reasons:
(1) Very little is said to these women (v. 11) that
corresponds to what is said to the male deacons (vvs. 8-10, 12-13).
The only term used for the women that strictly corresponds to those
terms used for the male deacons is semnos, "worthy of
respect." It is true that the women here are told to be nephalious,
"temperate," a word also used in warning the elders in
1 Timothy 3:2, but no one would argue that because of this word
these women are to be identified as female elders.
(2) There is a great deal of instruction given to
the male deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13, at least some of which
would be expected to be given to the women mentioned in verse 11
if Paul meant to be charging them as women deacons. The male deacons
are charged to be leaders who do not indulge in much wine. They
are not to be pursuing dishonest gain. They are charged with keeping
hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience and
are to be first tested and then they can serve as deacons (vv. 8-10).
The male deacons are to be husbands of one wife (i.e., not involved
in unlawful divorce) and are to rule over their children (Ephesians
6:4) and households well (v. 12). Then in climax, the male deacons
are given the challenge that those deacons who have served well
will "gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their
faith in Christ Jesus" (v. 13). None of these things are said
to the women mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:11. It is true that the women
are told not to be malicious talkers (diabolous) and are
to be trustworthy in everything, but these expression do not correspond
to the serious things with which the male deacons are charged. One
very serious omission in the charge to the women, if the apostle
meant to be charging them as deacons, is the lack of mention of
their being wives of one husband, a subject Paul counted as being
important when charging the elders (1 Timothy 3:2) and male deacons
(1 Timothy 3:12). Elsewhere, Paul counts this subject important
when he charges the enrolled widow to be the wife of one husband
(1 Timothy 5:9).
(3) The use of hosautos (vvs. 8, 11) also
argues against the view that the women mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:11
are to be taken as female deacons. The use of hosautos in
v. 8 about the deacons argues that the lives of the deacons are
to exhibit godly characteristics like the qualities that are to
characterize the elders mentioned in vv. 1-7, and does not argue
that the deacons are to be like the elders in all respects or that
they are to function in the office of elder. The hosautos
then in v. 11 also must mean that the women mentioned there are
to exhibit godly characteristics like the deacons or possibly their
deacon husbands, as they assist them in the work of the Lord, and
it need not mean they are being considered by Paul as having the
same office as the male deacons.
The conclusion then to be drawn is that Paul is
not addressing the women of 1 Timothy 3:11 as female deacons but
as the wives of the deacons mentioned there, charging them to develop
a general godly character, that in assisting the deacons or their
deacon husbands, they may be a help, not a hindrance to the work
of the Lord. Paul may also be suggesting that the women here mentioned
are to function as auxiliary helpers to the church, a position which
some churches may want to call that of deaconness. It is suggested
that any such boards of deaconnesses established by individual churches
be under the direction of the board of deacons. Since the ceremony
of laying on of hands in ordination has been shown in 1 Timothy
4:14 and Acts 6:6 to be that used in ordaining male elders and deacons
and used in Acts 13:1,2 in setting aside men for special Christian
work, the teaching in 1 Timothy 3:11 about women being auxiliary
helpers to their husbands and deaconnesses of the church gives no
warrant to their being set aside for this work by ordination in
the laying on of hands.
An example of an auxiliary helper in the church
is Phoebe who in Romans 16:1 is called a servant diakonos
of the church in Cenchrea. How she was serving we do not know, but
we know that the word diakonos can have a general, non-technical
meaning in which it can indicate a servant of a king (Matthew 22:13)
doing menial service as a slave (doulos, Matthew 22:3) or
a servant doing more exalted service for God in ruling a nation
Women auxiliary helpers or deaconnesses in a church
might do a number of things similar to those things which women
in the New Testament were doing, such as supporting Christian work
(example, the women's support of Jesus, Mark 15:40,41; compare the
money spent by Mary for the anointing of Jesus, John 12:1-8), serving
at the funeral (Mark 16:1), helping the poor and making robes and
clothes for them (Acts 9:36-39), opening one's home for prayer meeting
(Acts 12:12); having a special ministry of prayer (Acts 16:13,14),
having a teaching ministry in the home (Acts 18:26), etc.
Part II. By Rev.
George C. Miladin
While acknowledging a wide area of agreement with
the majority report, and also affirming my deepest appreciation
for Dr. Hurley and his many helpful insights, I cannot agree with
one critical point - a pivotal one.
In the section entitled "possible causes of
action," it is stated that both sides [of the debate]. . .
.were prepared to concede that the Word does not conclusively prohibit
nor permit women deacons. I cannot make this concession since I
believe that the Word does conclusively prohibit women becoming
deacons on the strength of Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:11 -
"I do not permit a woman to have authority over a man."
The report indeed gives considerable weight to this
statement, even according it a pivotal position. However, it concludes
that the ordination of women deacons is not incompatible with it.
This it does by making a distinction between ruling authority on
the one hand and serving authority on the other; the former in the
hands of the elders, the latter in the hands of the deacons. Such
a distinction in my judgment does not carry the weight to make Paul's
statement compatible with ordaining women to the office of deacon.
Consider the following: Elders are set apart unto service
rather than status (cf. Paul's self-designation in Ephesians 3:7
and Colossians 1:23) with the essence of their rule being that of
leading and caring for (cf. Greek of Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Thessalonians
5:12,13); it is also true that deacons are set apart as representatives
of the congregation with authority to lead in encouraging the congregation
to unitedly demonstrate the love of Christ to the needy. In short,
the distinction between ruling and serving authority doesn't appear
to be wide enough to allow women into the "special office"
of serving. A woman in such a position, in my opinion, would be
exercising authority over a man, contrary to Paul's injunction.
My opposition to ordaining women deacons does not
extend, however, to appointing (ordaining) deaconnesses, providing
they be construed as helpers to the deacons, i.e., an auxiliary.
My reason for this is as follows: While there is no explicit, unambiguous
biblical evidence for women deacons, there is ample explicit biblical
evidence of women performing many service functions in Scripture.
This explicit evidence joined to the testimony of church history,
linked with the ambiguous biblical witness (Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy
3:11) impels me to the mediating view that what Paul most likely
had in mind when he wrote in 1 Timothy 3:11, "gunaikoas
in the same way are to be women worthy of respect . . . .,"
is deaconnesses--godly women appointed to the task of serving
as an auxiliary (helpers) to the male deacons (cf. Hendriksen's
commentary on 1 Timothy).
Thus, as a recommendation for prayerful consideration,
I propose that Synod should affirm that women may not be deacons
but may be appointed (ordained) deaconnesses in the sense of helpers
to the deacons.
is used also in 1 Timothy 5:22 of ordination but the gender
of the indirect object is inconclusive. Of course epitithemi
is also used in contexts of placing burdens on someone, healing
MINORITY REPORT NUMBER
By Rev. Hermann W. Mischke
This report has been formulated, at the present
time, for a twofold reason:
(1) To present a constructive biblical basis for
the role of the women in the church in some contrast to the conclusions
found in the Majority Report as presented to the 154th General Synod.
(2) To comply with the mandate of the brethren of
the 154th General Synod to the committee (see action in Synod minutes
of 154th synod, p. 112).
Words such as minority and dissenting are expressions
that reflect either vain recalcitrance or substantial resourcefulness.
They are words that will animate the mind of the unbiased or imprison
the discernment of the prejudiced.
This report is composed and presented with the inherent
conviction that its content has significant substance that can augment
and even alter presently existing conclusions and practices on the
matter at hand. This report is also only viewed as a springboard
for much, much deeper and more organized studies--studies that will
definitely focus the entire picture of the male-female relationship
to its minutest detail. Details that reveal the beauty of divine
intimacy and the splendor of divine coefficiency. It is the belief
that the church has not ministered to the area of the male-female
relationship in any part of the spectrum of that relationship. Attempts
have been made in the emphasis of marital relationships but these
attempts are usually quickly diluted by the individuation emphasis
in church activities. Sunday school has literally burst the family
concept to shreds by placing every family member in his own separate
category. Much of the word-ministry is on what our duty is as individuals
to the Lord in heaven, not to the Lord in and among us. The programs
are mainly geared to accelerate worship with formal privacy and
not the informality of in-depth contacts. Many of our churches are
filled with members whose intimacy extends only to the knowledge
of a few details as names and faces and telephone numbers.
The attempt has been made in this report to discuss
to some length the meaning and significance of the image of God.
This stress on the image of God is used as the basis for the male-female
relationship. The male-female relationship in turn is viewed as
the indispensable means as the arena of the practical outworking
of God's truth. This relationship is further exhibited as a unit
of two distinct, yet equally valuable, persons.
Footnotes and bibliographies have been omitted because
this report is intended to present the reason for being a biblical
view on the role relationship of the sexes.
It is the hope that this report will aid us to arrive
at conclusions that come very close to divine intention and a harmony
of thought and doctrine in our churches.
The Image of God
The image of God is the fundamental element which
determines the nature of man's being, the uniqueness of the personality
of man, and the quality of his relationships. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer
in his book Death in the City claims that Christians live
today in a "post-Christian world." He insists that there
is the urgency for the occurrence of a "reformation, revival
and constructive revolution." He is not proposing this for
the world but rather for the church. Dr. Schaeffer defines reformation
to be "restoration of pure doctrine," and revival to be
"restoration in the Christian's life." The cause of the
"death in the city" is exhibited by his exegesis of Romans
1:21,22. Man's reasoning became vain and his foolish heart was darkened
when he ceased to glorify God and relinquished his gratitude toward
God. Dr. Schaeffer sums up by saying, "in turning away from
God and the truth which He has given, man has thus become foolishly
foolish in regard to what man is and what the universe is. He is
left with a position in which he cannot live, and he is caught in
a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions." These tensions
are vividly displayed in the Scriptures:
Christ's interrogative averment, "a blind man
cannot guide a blind man, can he? will they not both fall into a
pit?" shows the tension that results from emphasizing, primarily,
accomplishment rather than being. Christ's warning, "beware,
and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when
one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
admonishes to avoid the tension caused by the pursuit of hoarding
things rather than the formation of the personality (Proverbs 22:1).
Christ's parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
explicates the tension that is an inevitability of individuation
(Isaiah 65:5). It is foolish man's propensity to stress the individual
rather than the relationships of individuals.
When man ceases to glorify God and abandons his
praise toward Him, the emptiness of man's reasoning and the hollowness
of his worship that results is the evidence of a radical recession,
if not a total eclipse, of the image of God in man.
The image of God is encountered basically in five
different circumstances in the Word of God:
(1) The Blueprint for Man. ". . . Let
us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . ."
(Genesis 1:26). This statement confronts man with the only basis
for his origin, function and objective as a creature of God. It
is the pivot on which every study of every thing in regard to man
and the rest of creation is balanced. No one, if he is determined
to be correct, draws conclusions about man without a comprehensive
consideration of the essence and significance of this divine image.
(2) The Distorted Image. ". . . just
as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the
image of the heavenly . . ." (1 Corinthians 15:49). The very
fact that Paul declares, "for this perishable must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality," indicates
that the "image of the earthy" is the bondage of the corrupted
image of God in man.
(3) The Totally Degraded Image. ". .
.and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in
the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals
and crawling creatures." Here as well as in Psalm 106:20, is
the utter foolishness of man as he subjects his reasoning to the
consequence of his wayward search for God. But worse yet, it is
the most ignominious blasphemy of the entire concept of God.
(4) Immanuel - The True Image. ". .
. he who has seen Me has seen the Father. . . " This is Christ's
affirmation that He is the IMAGE of God. Paul, very explicitly,
echoed that fact twice in his epistles (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians
1:15). The holy man of God who wrote Hebrews expanded Christ's affirmation
in saying, "He is the radiance of His glory and exact representation
of His nature." These declarations, among others, result in
the general consensus that Christ, being bearer of full humanity,
is the unblemished image of God in man.
(5) CHRIST - The Image Pattern. ". .
. whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestinated to become conformed
to the image of His Son. . . " Conformity to the image of God's
Son is the biblical pattern for the divine renewal of fallen man.
Regeneration is the restoration of the original constitution of
the LIKENESS of God, (Colossians 3:10); the same likeness as exhibited
by Christ and as maintained in Adam and Eve prior to the fall.
In each of these five circumstances the issue centers
emphatically on the implied significance of the divine image; especially
(for all practical purposes) in regard to the function of
those who are called the elect of God. Those who are the elect are
summoned to undergo the restoration of the image of God as it was
once evident in Adam and Eve prior to the fall. According to Colossians
3:10 this restoration is to be viewed with a threefold consciousness:
1. ". . . the new self who is being
renewed . . ." The present tense participle declares
this renewal to be a moment by moment process (2 Corinthians
2. ". . . to a true knowledge. . ." The
preposition translated "to" determines true knowledge
to be the ultimate objective of the renewal process (1 Corinthians
13:12; Colossians 2:2,3).
3. ". . . according to the image of the One
Who created. . ." demonstrates to us the fact that
God's image is the irrevocable norm for the renewal process.
Thus, whatever he may be termed, the Spirit-filled,
progressive, mature saint views his entire life (Romans 8:28) as
a renewal procedure. His excessive yearning is to know Him (Jeremiah
9:23,24; Philippians 3:10). His blessedness is the continuous consciousness
of growing in the likeness of God (Philippians 3:14).
In consequence of the preceding emphasis it behooves
every believer, at least those with the gift of discernment, to
search deeper into the meaning of the "image of God."
The Westminster Confession and Catechisms are too
terse for more advanced elucidation on this subject. From them we
are mainly informed that knowledge, righteousness, and holiness
are conceivable in man to such a degree that they are comparable,
in quality (not quantity), to that of God; and that only through
God's specific grace. Anyone who diligently studies the creation
of man, primarily as given in Genesis 1:26-30, will have to experience
the tantalization of this brief description of the complex creature
called man. There are some important fundamentals in this creation
account. Two protrusive allusions nudge any alert student. The one
is the plural pronoun when God refers to Himself, the other is the
double emphasis on the norm for man's make-up: image and likeness.
The interpretative opinions vary. The plural is seen in three different
1. God reciprocating with the angels (Delitzsch:
1 Kings 22:19-22; Isaiah 6:8; Daniel 4:14; Job 1; Luke 2:9ff;
2. The communication of the three Persons in the Divinity
(Lange: Isaiah 40:13,14; Romans 11:34; John 1:1,2; Isaiah
3. The plural of sovereign dignity and authority as referring
to the fulness of the divine powers and essences which God
Variation also exists in understanding "image"
and "likeness." Some say it is synonymy for emphasis (Keil-Delitzsch,
Luther), others say there is more than merely stress, e.g. Lange.
In spite of this variegation of views we can safely draw some firm
1. More than one person is involved in the
process of making man.
a. more than one works simultaneously, or
b. more than one works consecutively,
c. more than one aims at a particular achievement,
d. more than one administers attributes unique to themselves.
2. The production of man is based on a mutual contract.
a. necessity for correlative effort,
b. voluntary assumption of status,
c. offering of required properties.
3. The mutual contract of the more than one person exhibits
diversity of personal properties.
a. One is not the Other,
b. Each one is unique in Himself,
c. Each functions as a separate Entity.
Thus far we see in the One who created Adam (male and female)
1. multiplicity; 2. harmony; 3. diversity.
4. There is an implicit broaching of the glory of the divine
a. reciprocal respect for the Other's dignity,
b. unconditional humility toward One another,
c. absolute mutual trust in each other.
5. Each divine Person has the same creative power.
a. One complements what the other assumed status does not
b. Simultaneous, consecutive cooperative energy,
c. cause and effect creative activity.
6. There is the anticipation of the finished product in
a. knowledge according to a plan of action,
b. righteousness of the composition,
c. holiness of the completion.
7 Each of the creating Persons is communicative toward the
a. inter-Personal omniscience,
b. blending of the wills of each Person,
c. uniformity of purpose.
As tedious as it may seem, it is of utmost importance
that, for more expanded and sharper spectrum of the image of God,
we saturate, at least, our thinking with the dynamic components
of the divine nature. The scripture, after all, was not only given
to give us a transcendental theology, but also a communicable theology
intrinsic to the divine image radiating from the believer. 2 Peter
1:3,4 says to us,
". . . seeing that His divine
power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and
godliness, THROUGH THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM who called us
by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted
to us His precious promises, in order that by them you might
become partakers of the divine nature. ."
How can anyone become partaker of the divine nature
unless that one ceaselessly appropriates the very essence of those
There is an undisputed consensus among reformed
covenant-believers that God's image belongs to the central issues
of the Scriptures. It is agreed that this image determines not only
the fiber, but also the warp and the woof of man's being and consequently
his understanding and appreciation of, and relationships with, himself,
his Creator, and the rest of creation. Without this divine likeness,
man is "chaff, salt without taste."
Do these preceding seven conclusions and implications
substantiate themselves within the total framework of the Scripture?
They do. By way of the doctrine of the Trinity we believe that by
being Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God consists of multiple Persons.
The entire doctrine of the covenant of grace demonstrates that their
activity is based on a harmonious, mutual contract. Every aspect
of the work of bringing the elect into being and to glorification
exhibits the diversity of personal properties in each of the divine
Persons. The uniqueness of divine love is so emphatically displayed
as one Person glorifies the Other by utter respect for, humility
toward, and trust in the divine dignity of each of the Persons.
God's Word causes us to meet each of the three Persons in the Godhead
as equally having the same glorious creative power. Whether it is
the Breath of God, the Word of God, or the eternal Father, each
is seen as the cause of creation. Because the entire process of
creation is pregnant with the anticipation of a completion date
with a finished product, the Bible everywhere makes saints aware
that all creation is based on truth, righteousness, and holiness.
The glorious completeness of the infinite intimacy within the Trinity
is strongly maintained by those parts of Scripture that express
communication between the three Persons. This is the God of whom
the inspired writers said:
"But Thou art the same, and Thy years
will not come to an end." Psalm 102:27;
"For I, the Lord do not change; therefore you, O sons
of Jacob, are not consumed." Malachi 3:6
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes
and forever." Hebrews 13:8
The immutability of God gives us the certainty that
God is the same in our time as He was before the fall of Adam.
Therefore if we view man in God's image it is not sufficient to
be satisfied with quoting the appropriate portions of the Westminster
Confession and the two Catechisms. As true as the confessional statements
are in reference to the three elements of the image this intentional
succinctness is basically only the tip of the iceberg in the study
of the divine image. Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology
refers to them as "elements of the image of God,"
not the image. The reader must also be reminded that the
King James Version does not (nor the recent NIV) respect the Greek
in Ephesians 4:24. The NASB and others do. The emphasis in this
verse is not on abstract righteousness and holiness but rather on
truth--truth that is righteous and holy. That is the reason for
starting the next verse with, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood,
SPEAK TRUTH. . . ." The same emphasis is in Colossians 3:9,
10. "Do not lie to one another, since you have laid aside the
old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who
is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the
One who created him."
What is knowledge (epignosis) according to the image
of God, the God who cannot lie? Titus 1:2. It is truth.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the
life. . . ." He told Pilate, ". . . for this I have come
into the world, to bear witness to the truth. . . ." He told
his disciples, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall
make you free." Of the Holy Spirit Christ said, ". . .
when He, the Spirit of truth, comes He will guide you into all the
truth. . . ."
Anyone possessing a particle of diligence will discover
from God's emphasis in His Word that the supreme issue is truth
and its consequences versus the lie and its consequences. Everything
hinges on this. The entire drama of God's glorious grace centers
on truth--the knowledge of it, the righteousness of it, and the
holiness of it. This is the impressive objective for the image renewal
in man. It is truth that sanctifies the saints, (John 17:17) and
it was truth that was the issue at the temptation. Paul writes in
"For they exchanged the truth
of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather
than the Creator. . . ."
Adam and Eve were the first ones to demonstrate
this utter abasement as they worshipped the serpent by heeding his
words more than God's. Ever since that heinous moment man has always
been motivated by the dictates and demands of his sinful situation
rather than the truth of God.
The uniqueness of the being of man, his personality
and relationships are inseparable from the truth of God. Man in
this likeness of God was so constituted that divine truth is the
only logical necessity. When this truth was exchanged for a lie
this image became man's dilemma. Paul's affirmations in 2 Corinthians
6:14-16 and Romans 7:14-24 illustrate this clearly. Now, in which
way is man like God? Some very basic descriptions of this likeness
are presented in the first part of Genesis. They are as follows:
1. As does his Creator, so does the first
Adam exist in multiple fashion.
Genesis 5:2: "He created them
male and female, and He blessed them and named them Adam in
the day when they were created."
|This is unavoidable fact, Eve is
also Adam. Man is not only male but male and female. God's intention
for divine resemblance lies in the multiplicity of man.
|2. As is his Creator's so man's
activity is based on a mutual contract.
Genesis 2:18: "I will make him a helper
suitable for him. . . ."
Genesis 2:24: ". . . and they shall become one flesh."
|Man is so arranged that it is not
good for him to be alone. As divine image bearer man is destined
for correlative effort, assumption of status, together with
a continuous offering of required potentials, unique to each
of the two.
|3. As his Creator, so does man
exhibit diverse personal properties.
Genesis 2:22: "And the Lord God fashioned
into a woman the rib which he had taken out of man."
Verse 23: ". . . she shall be called woman because
she was taken out of man."
|Certainly, this difference of personal
attributes is beyond the biological make-up of man and woman.
The difference is not only for reproduction but also for the
perpetuation of the true psycho-spiritual sphere of man and
|4. As is Creator, so is man a demonstrator
of divine love.
Genesis 2:24: "For this cause
a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave
to his wife. . . ."
|These words "shall cleave to
his wife" are explained by Christ to be a divine fusion
of permanent duration, (Matthew 19:4-6). As Christ says in the
explanation, this union is maintained properly only through
a true heart from which issues forth "the perfect bond
of unity" (Colossians 3:14). In this union each person
manifests respect for the other's dignity, together with unconditional
humility for, and trust in, the other.
|5. As does his Creator, so does
man, both in the male and female, show creative power.
Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed
them; and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and
fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over. . . ."
|The blessing and mandate came to
both, male and female. Under this umbrella of divine providence,
one, by specific endowment, complements what the other does
not supply. They are to operate either consecutively or simultaneously
in cooperative effort. As one is not the other, they were intended
as a mutually beneficial unit.
|6. As is his Creator, so man is
designed to be absolutely conversant within himself.
Genesis 2:25: "And the man and
his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
|In comparing Genesis 2:16,17 with
3:2,3, we see this conversancy at its best. Man was to express
the blending of wills and endeavor in a uniformity of purpose.
|7. As is his Creator, so man was
to be in anticipation of a finished product in any area of his
Genesis 2:15: "Then the Lord
God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate
it and keep it."
|We must perceive here the implication
that man was to function, not by instinct, but by knowledge
according to purposeful plans of action. All his procedures
followed the channels of righteousness and culminated in the
holiness of the anticipated glory of achievements.
|There are a few more specific fundamentals
that impose themselves on us from these chapters in Genesis.
They are definite reflections of God in man as seen in other
parts of the Scriptures.
1. Both constituents of man are made
in the image of God.
Implication: inherent equality of dignity in each, male and
2. Both, male and female, have dominion over the creatures.
Implication: a correlative impact on creation and responsibility
3. Both, male and female, were liable to the test of faithfulness.
Implication: Both experienced the knowledge of the good through
4. Maleness and femaleness are categorical characteristics.
Implication: distinction of being and function of irreversible
5. Reference to male, and creation of the same, is first.
Implication: inviolable principle of sequence of male-female
6. The male predominantly bears the name Adam.
Implication: On the male rests "divinely allotted"
precedence of responsibility to God.
With these singular characteristics man is different
from all other creatures. This is why the truth of God is so eternally
crucial for man. Anyone who thoroughly studies Romans 1:18-32 discovers
that truth is the central imperative for man's proper function.
Notice that the first result of the oppression of truth by unrighteousness
is the alienation between man and woman (verses 26, 27). This alienation,
even though in embryonic form, was certainly a fact at the fall:
". . . . they knew that they were naked;. . . and made themselves
loin coverings." The list that is given in Romans 1:28-32 is
to demonstrate the ferocious consequences of a mind that is destitute
of the truth of God.
The Fall of Man
In the fall of Adam we see the incongruity of
man, made in the image of God, commencing a life based entirely
on falsehood, (John 8:44). It is comparable to the removal of the
force of gravity out of our entire solar system. The ingenuity of
Satan's procedure is seen in the medium for his attack. Genesis
3:1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field
." Whatever the word crafty implies--it is used in the good sense
(Proverbs 14:15,18), and in the bad sense (Exodus 21:14)-we can
safely deduct that the serpent's capability, being of surpassing
condition, was most suitable. What is the reason? Matthew 10:16
and Proverbs 14:15 seem to imply that "crafty" embraces the idea
of "knowing how to proceed effectively." Therefore, it was a creature
nearest to rational man that was to be an instrument of mediation.
However, the weight of the aptness of the strategy lies more in
the fact that the medium was a creature over which Man had dominion.
It is very important to realize the consecution
of authority. In joining Genesis chapter one with 1 Corinthians
11:3 and maybe Luke 10:18, this consecution of dominion is clearly
explicated. It proceeds from the Highest to the lowest, from the
ruling to the ruled. Notice the allusion of this gradation of government
in Genesis. God makes the covenant of life with Adam prior to the
making of Eve. From Eve's knowledge of the covenant (Genesis 3:3)
it can be held that it was all inclusively communicated to her by
Adam. Man's dominion over the creatures is clear from Genesis 1:26,28.
Also, we see definitely a chain of command demonstrated by the three
Persons in the deity. The Father has the leading role: ". . . Father,
if Thou art willing ... yet not My will, but Thine be done." So
speaks Jesus in the Scriptures toward the Father. Of the Holy Spirit,
Christ says, ". . . I will send Him to you ... He shall glorify
Me ...," thus displaying commissioning power over Him. It is only
logical that this divine economy becomes a strong aspect in the
life of man as he reflects the glory of God.
Therefore to secure a sure deterioration of this
likeness, Satan was determined to choose a creature that was subject
to man. Notice the way the consecution of dominion is thus reversed.
The serpent does not approach Adam, the head, but rather the woman.
This is contrasted later by God calling out, "Where are you?" He
is calling the man. But Satan takes the reverse by utilizing a subservient
one to assume the leading role. From the serpent to Eve, and from
Eve to Adam: ". . . and she gave also to her husband, and he ate,"
from Adam to God. God's covenant of life was broken by insubordination
through the reversal of the order of governmental sequence. The
importance of this is shown later when God comes into the situation
and we see Adam passing the blame on to Eve, and Eve to the serpent.
It is usually assumed that the reason for selecting Eve was that
she was the "weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). But that kind of exposition
is only indicative of the tacit claim that the woman is somewhat
less in dignity. The weight if the fall centers in insubordination.
The reader is encouraged to study Proverbs 30:21-23. Also, We mist
remember that Satan used the same strategy in Christ at the temptation.
Remember? Like 4:3,9: "If you are the Sin if God ..." Satan was
soliciting Christ's insubordination to His Father, which would have
resulted in the worship if the creature, and a self condemnation
as given in Psalm 115:4-8. One may ask, what comes first, the lie
or the insubordination? According to Romans 1:21-28, bit especially
verses 21 and 25, it is both, one and the same. Therefore the exchange
if the truth for a lie began in the "paying attention to deceitful
spirits and doctrines if demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). Such contumacy
was king Sail's downfall. Fir Samuel, speaking fir God, said:
"For rebellion is as the sin if divination,
and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because
you have rejected the word if the Lord, He has also rejected
you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:23)
This verse pits both together-rebellion and insubordination
are parallel to rejection if God's Word.
Definitely, the fall if man was the result if insubordination
to the truth if God, the indispensable sustenance fir man's proper
being, function, and relationships.
The Consequence of the Fall
Reference has been made to the immediate effect
of the exchange of the truth for the lie. Man's abrogation of dominion
over the creature, his instantaneous suffocation of reciprocal intimacy
with himself and his prompt abandonment of communion with God become
the cornerstones if the life if fallen man.
As one reads through the Scriptures, it becomes
apparent that man, without divine restraint, degrades himself to
the very point that cessation of his earthly life becomes an inevitability.
The Flood, Sodom and Gomorra, the destruction if the Canniness,
the disintegration if the nation if Israel are all indicative that
as man bases his life in falsehood he is always in a collision course.
Christ's eschatological discourses are drenched with this very idea--that
the whole history of this world is heading to its final crash. Within
one of His discourses, Like 17:20-37, Christ, with a very succinct
phrase, reiterates the intrinsic inclination if man to accentuate
the worship if the creature rather than the Creator. Christ says,
"Remember Lot's wife." It must be remembered that the immediate
emphasis is in the fact that many will follow the path of deception
into destruction, especially at the return of Christ. The wider
context focuses on the effective kingdom of God. In this context
the kingdom strongly implies man's submission to God. This, Lot's
wife is presented to us an epitome of insubordination. Now, the
tendency is to view only the obvious: her recalcitrance and resultant
ruin. When Christ says, "Remember Lot's wife," He wants us to remember
not only her, but also her husband Lot and the circumstances connected
with them. With that terse, yet pungent statement our Lord introduces
us not only to a character that is tenaciously entangled in the
retrogressive pragmatism of a lascivious society, but also to the
society itself. A society in which the solidity of the male character
had reversed itself to a sordid and spineless personality, and the
confident reliance of the female in the male had transformed itself
into a contriving restlessness. Any careful study of both Lot and
his family, and the situation of Sodom, quickly displays some implied
details. As we view the frantic drama of vacillation of persons
with a feeble and twisted conception of truth and its righteousness,
it becomes apparent that at its core lies the lack of practical
subordination to God's truth. The final consequence is sex perversion
at its ultimate state. It is one step beyond pederasty, as forbidden
in Leviticus 18:22,23. Lot was so extremely harassed (2 Peter 2:6-8)
that he was a man of no respect. He was mocked by his in-laws, deserted
by his wife, defied by his neighbors, and finally abased by his
incestuous daughters. We are clearly instructed that the end-time,
culminating in Christ's return is AT LEAST, as it was in Lot's circumstances.
This is an awesome warning to the elect if God. It is nit an accident
that Lot's family is flashed before is. It is to show is how the
godless society will tend to shatter the families if saints, if
God's truth is nit in the center if knowledge and practice. If we
are living in the time if the end we mist anticipate therefore another
and final attack in the image if God in man. This attack will come,
if necessity, as exchange if truth for a lie, (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
In 2 Timothy 4:3,4, an apostasy from truth is announced very candidly.
The reason for it is the pursuit if pleasures rather than the live
if God, (2 Timothy 3:4). The effect that it will have in the male-female
relationship will have to exceed the imagination if present man.
Certainly, Peter, in his second epistle, chapter two, presents is
with an idea if how it will be.
We all know that the cessation if worship if the
true God is never followed by a vacuum if worship. Such cessation
is rather always the result if idol worship, called spiritual adultery,
e.g.. Psalm 106:34-39. We also learn from the Word that idol worship
is always followed by malignant propensities such as greed fir things,
list fir pleasure, and acceleration if malevolence. All this, and
much mire, is nurtured in the heart if one who, having been so constituted
to operate in truth, functions in falsehood. Examples are plentiful
in the Bible. Israel's oscillation between Jehovah and Ball is the
mist illustrative example if how ugly it is when vessels if honor
are filled with falsehood. Probably the mist heinous if all perversions
is the perversion if the sexes. By that is nit primarily meant the
biological, but rather, and foremost, the psycho-spiritual sex perversion.
A perversion in which the male has list the acute sensitivity to
his headship in behalf if the female, and the female, in consequence
if the male's relinquishment, has become an intimidating expert.
Essentially, this is where sex perversion finds its inception into
the following generations if man. This perversion is, mist likely,
the orifice out if which flows every type if lawlessness. The very
fact that God made the male and female to be the foundation fir
the world's humanity, and their relationship the source if universal
health and well being, provides the certainty that every succeeding
generation is programmed by the preceding one. The sinful nature
is given in to the next generation without alteration and demands
individual regeneration in every new offspring. The parents' regeneration
has no such effect on them. Every actual transgression of the parents
is quickly and subtly incorporated into the habits of their children.
Thus, any male-female relationship which is not based on regeneration
goes toward total corruption. Unless this retrogression is hampered
by common grace or reverses by specific grace, the society becomes
quickly liable of God's vengeance. A thorough study of Samuel, Kings,
and Chronicles verifies this all too well. Who introduced the misery
into the royalty of Israel? We read in 2 Samuel 12:10: "Now therefore
the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised
me and taken the wife of Uric the Hittite to be your wife." David's
corruption of the male-female relationship had a devastating effect
on all succeeding rulers. Perhaps, Ahab and Jezebel protrude as
the worst of all the rulers. It is clear from 1 Kings chapters 21
and 22 that sex perversion was proceeding toward full maturity.
We see from that perversion flowing covetousness, bitterness, deceit,
and murder. The consequence of the fall is always seen first in
the male-female economy. It is best seen to be so in the following
Transmission of original sin-Psalm 58:3
Perpetuation of sinful practices--Ezra 9:1,2; Isaiah 3:12 (2:22-3:15)
The Image Renewal and the Male-Female
As individualistic as the actual event of regeneration
is, it is, however, never, in any way, detached from the male-female
relationship. By the very fact that regeneration means birth, we
are reminded of the cooperative effort of the two sexes in the physical
area. Christ's relationship to the church is that of male-female
marriage. Our entrance into heaven is integration into the "family"
of God. Saints are considered to be sons and daughters (2 Corinthians
6:18), and brothers and sisters (James 2:15). The very term "household
of God" (Ephesians 2:19) bears down on the economy of the sexes.
The inclusive expression "commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12)
carries with it the intricacies produced by this man-woman combination.
The covenant of grace, made with Abraham, embraces the fusion of
the two, together with the offspring. In its inception we see Abraham,
Sarah, and son Isaac together with the whole household included
in this gracious agreement. What does God say about this fountainhead
of the Christian faith? In Genesis 18:18,19, God says the following:
" . . since Abraham will surely become
a great and mighty nation and in him all the nations of the
earth will be blessed. For I have chosen him, in order that
he may command him and his household after him to keep the
way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order
that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about
The very fact that Sarah is not mentioned says
so much in relation to Scripture passages where she is specifically
referred to (e.g.. Isaiah 51:1,2). This silence toward Sarah demonstrates
the attitude of God toward the sex-union. As far as God is concerned
they are one and known as Abraham. Even as Adam was one (Genesis
5:1,2). The very interesting picture of this oneness of Abraham
is not one of exchangeable parts. This oneness is shown to us as
a harmony of a leader with his follower, a head with a body, a dominator
with his dominated one. 1 Peter 3:5,6 makes the Abrahamic Covenant
intensely practical for the male-female relationship of all those
who are in Christ. Every Christian woman is a child of Sarah on
the basis of subordination to the male. In Genesis 18:18,19 we are
given the foundation for divine blessings. This foundation is the
male-female relationship, so perfect that it permits a successful
commanding of the offspring and the household to follow the way
of the Lord. From these two verses we are instructed that the proper
oneness is the key that unlocks the treasures of heavenly blessings.
This is fundamental for the Christian Church. Oneness, in spite
of extreme diversity. The opposite, says Paul, is carnality (1 Corinthians
3:1-4). Ephesians 5:21-33 depicts the husband and wife oneness on
the basis of the economy that exists between Christ and the church-the
head and the body. The same goes for many other passages that refer
to marriage. We are forced to conclude that marriage consists of
two persons with an allotment of distinct assets, parts, places,
and functions. They are categorically characteristic and therefore
never exchangeable. The husband is to love and lead his wife and
the wife is to respect and aid her husband. It is this marriage
relationship that produces the general attitude and communion between
the two sexes. Out of the atmosphere of the Abrahamic family come
men and women who will have a male-female attitude that reflects
the diving image, single, widowed, or otherwise. The entire stir
of the "role of the women in the church" finds its origin in marriages
that were very little like it was originally intended. Marriages
where the male did not love as Christ loves and the female did not
respect as the church does. Consequently there is a gradual change
of role in the families which results in confusion and tension.
This confusion and tension certainly becomes more and more apparent
in the Twentieth Century, and specifically in our day. Supposing,
that we are heading toward the final showdown where rebellion is
at its worst; where, do you suppose, will it find its fertile soil?
Nowhere, except in the breakdown of the authority structure of the
male-female relationships--Esther 1:12-20.
It is useless to argue against the fact that this
authority and obedience reciprocation is in the Scriptures. It is
a fact of life as much as our very being. The very term "kingdom"
of God carries with itself the entire concept of submission and
categorical participation. Therefore, all thinking about the renewal
of the image of God (John 5:24). As that happens both male and female
will have to ask the question, "What am I to be as a child of God-how
am I to relate myself to others in my present status-what and how
am I to contribute my particular endowments?" (Romans 12:3; Colossians
3:18-4:1). What will the new convert become conscious of when he
or she looks for answers to those questions? The first and foremost
answer will be as the Westminster Shorter Catechism gives it, "Man's
chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The convert
finds out, glorifying means to reflect, and enjoying means to benefit
from. Thus, he or she discovers the norm for the new life, the image
of God. So, because Christ is the very image of God, a study of
Christ begins. The first characteristic of Christ is His origin
coupled with His unconditional humility (Philippians 2:5-10). He
is the Son of God with immaculate obedience to His Father. The next
characteristic is that Christ is the Head, the Lord of the Church,
the Groom of the Bride (Ephesians 1:22; 5:25,32). Further study
of God's Word quickly reveals that the practical outworking of this
Christ-likeness finds itself in the male-female relationships of
any part of the spectrum of the society of man. The male convert
finds that God has made him to function properly as a male, and
the female as female. Therefore, as any concerned convert becomes
image conscious, he will have to search through the creation and
re-creation evidences in order to know how to grow and function
properly. He finds that recreation implies a restoration of an original
purpose. But, what is this original purpose for creating man? In
Genesis 2:23,24 we read:
"And the man said, `This is now bone
of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of man. For this cause a man shall
leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh.' "
Both Christ and Paul reiterate the point of those
two verses (Matthew 19:4,5; Ephesians 5:30,31). In each case the
emphasis is on "oneness." It is a oneness where diversity is brought
into perfect functional harmony-a oneness where differences are
dove-tailed-a oneness where benefits are only true when they are
fruits of cooperative efforts-a oneness that culminates into pleasures
that are characteristic of God (John 15:11). Male and female are
to experience a oneness that is in every way typical of God (Deuteronomy
6:4; John 10:30). The achievement of oneness is only possible on
any level-whether in marriage, in society, in church, in the church
with Christ, or in the Godhead-as each participant knows his constitution,
function and responsibility.
The Male-Female Place and Function
in the Church
What goes on in privacy, inevitably affects the
public. The way Christians perform their marriage has much to do
with the way they function in the church. That this is true is seen
from the fact that no one can become an elder or deacon unless his
private and his home life is conforming to the truth of God (1 Timothy
3:4,12). Therefore, what is normative for the marriage union is
also normative for the harmony of the church. That this is true
is seen from the insistence that the church is compared to a family,
in which there are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters (Ephesians
3:15; 2 Corinthians 6:18; James 2:15) who are molded and nurtured
on male-female principles. To miss this is the creation of a dichotomy
between the home and the church and thus a severing of the shepherds
from the flock. It would be a disintegration of the whole import
of the covenant of grace. For it is the covenant that ties the family
as a unit into the warp and woof of the church. Thus if the church,
in practice, does not uphold the male-female relational principles
it will soon be the foremost contributor of the decay of the marriage
harmony. If this concept, "what is normative for marital oneness
is normative for the oneness of the church," can be held as a scriptural
doctrine, then we can draw some very powerful conclusions in behalf
of the "role" of the women in the church, especially as to the thinking
of Paul and Peter when their writing touches that very issue. It
is very obvious that Paul's mind goes in the direction of tying
the marriage relationship to the relationship that exists- between
the church and Christ. So, as Paul, in Ephesians 5:21-33, briefly
touches the mystery of Christ and the Church, he gives us the extent,
the intensity, and the distinctions that exist in marriage. This
demonstrates how acutely conscious he is of the importance of the
proper order in the male-female relationship. This is seen in 1
Corinthians 11:3-16. Here Paul places great weight on the order
of government. We must conceive verse three not to be restrictive
merely to the church, but rather it must be viewed as a universal
maxim. For the unbeliever it is an offense, and for the believer
it is a means of blessing. Why, according to verse 4, does the man
disgrace his head when covered, whereas the woman (verse 5) disgraces
her head when uncovered? What is the norm for that? The norm is
given in verses 7, 8, and 9. Man is the basis for the being, function,
and responsibility of the woman; that is, what the man is and does
determines the woman's being and action. Another implication that
can be drawn from this is that the male-female relationship is comparable
to that which exists between God and the Messiah (see the emphasis
in Luke 7:8--"for I am also a man placed under authority ...").
] From the context the covering does not seem to be a reference
to a veil, cloth, or any such thing, but rather it refers to the
fullness and length of the hair. The very fact that in verse 6 the
two words shear and shave are used, we have reason to believe that
this is so, for shear implies a decrease in length and shave the
removal of the hair. In Israel a person with a head shaven was indicating
that he was undergoing a cleansing from some defilement (Leviticus
14:8; Numbers 8:7). The purification from uncleanness by shaving
is seen also in Deuteronomy 21:1014. A woman prisoner from a foreign
country considers her background an unclean and shameful thing and
signifies it by shaving. Verses 13-15 prove even further that the
issue is the length of the hair as an indicative of the chain of
command. In verse 15 particularly, Paul couples the three words
into a parallel unit. To him long hair is a glory, an indication
of her practice of reflecting the role of the male. It is the propriety
of the length of the hair that makes it a covering. The normative
covering in turn is indicative of the fact that she recognizes and
practices her function as a reflector of the male authority over
her. This recognition and practice of her function is specifically
seen in her relationship to God: prayer, and her relationship to
other women: (Titus 2:3,4) prophesying. From the following references
we know that prophesying is not basically "forecasting," but rather
transmitting the word of God (Exodus 4:10-16; 7:1,2). Thus, when
a woman prophesies she is basically transmitting what she has heard
the male saying, since he is her next order of authority. That this
is true is seen from Paul's instruction as given in 1 Corinthians
14:33-35. Here the woman is very typically asked to practice silence.
The reason for the silence is only logical, on account of the presence
of males who do the prophesying, and a medium to the women is not
necessary since they can all listen to what the males are saying,
Thus, Paul says, if women have any questions to ask, they can be
resolved at home (even for single and spiritually widowed women).
And let at be said here, the explanation that has been offered for
the silence of women, e.g.., silence as prohibition to women of
evaluating a prophecy, as so terribly poor and inconsistent with
the immediate context. The two phrases, ". . . but let them subject
themselves . . ." and ". . . for at as improper for a woman to speak
an church ...," alone say enough that Paul as stressing the male-female
principle of the consecution of command (see also Acts 21:8-12,
where Agabus prophesied, not Philip's daughters). To further strengthen
this powerful principle of the order of authority we come to the
strongest of all the New Testament portions where Paul as very firm
and unequivocally decisive. In 1 Timothy chapter two Paul, moved
by this principle, and with apostolic determinism, firmly reaffirms
the difference of the "roles" of male and female. This difference
extends also into the area of prayer. Chapter two begins with "parabola
oon"--"I exhort therefore ..." The word therefore always carries
on a previous emphasis-the emphasis of 1:18, e.g.. the command to
fight the good fight. This fight as to maintain faith and a good
conscience. In chapter two Paul begins to gave instruction for this
fight. Who as Paul addressing with these instructions? Mainly Timothy
(1:2). Timothy was to make sure that proper doctrines were taught
(1:3). Here lies the key of the whole epistle. Paul starts has epistle
with the focus on the establishment of "sound doctrine according
to the glorious gospel of the blessed God," (1:10,11), and he ends
up with the same urgency, e.g.. 6:20,21. Within this frame of insistence
for sound doctrines Paul arranges for Timothy the practical picture
of proper conduct an the household of God (3:15). This practical
conduct as the consequence of avoiding other doctrines (4:6,7,15,16).
Very logical and basic as Paul's procedure an arranging this picture
of orderly conduct, as he introduces an chapter two the concept
of humility. Humility through prayer for all mankind (anthropos).
In this passage (2:1-7) we see prayer as a means of bringing about
benign political conditions, conducive for both Christian maturity
and evangelism. Paul presents this as an objective for the saints:
prayer for authorities to secure the flourishing of Christianity.
Notice, in verse 7 Paul brings into the picture his apostolic calling.
Why? Whenever Paul presents an imperative for the thoughts, words,
and actions of the saints, he does at to show that what he says
as normative and must be heeded as being the word of the Lord (Ephesians
2:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 1: 1,5). Verse eight bases itself
on the emphasis of verse 7. This as the reason for beginning verse
8 with "bulimia oon"-"I determine therefore." The "I determine"
reflects has apostleship, whereas the "therefore" to the previous
prayer emphasis. What does he determine? Paul determines something
for both the male and the female by coupling two infinitives to
the word "bulimia." For the men he determines "to pray," for the
women "to adorn." This as not to put a damper on the women's prayer
life-not at all. Remember, Paul lays the groundwork for observable
and effective conduct for the view of legislative people. It as
therefore only reasonable that Paul wants saints to present the
beauty of the image of God, e.g.. subordination to the truth of
God as the logical imperative for the male-female relationship.
With Paul's maxim we see then the emphasis on the
male leadership by way of prayer, and the female's purposeful reticence.
This reticence as access plashed with simplicity of dress (not ugly
or slovenly) and good works. This maxim of the male-female role
takes on stronger solidity when Paul brings an further marks of
distinction. This as not to create a gap between the two sexes but
rather to emphasize the inherent uniqueness of the two distinct
persons who were destined for oneness. It as important, before we
go on, that we take a look at the meaning of the word "quiet," which
is an the Greek "haysychia." Dictionaries define this word with
more than the meaning of vocal silence as seen an Acts 22:2. This
word's meaning as closer to the concept of peace and therefore,
when used, focuses more on the disposition of the situation or person
referred to. Its thrust as more on tranquility that comes from knowing
and feeling absolute security. This inner tranquility as only possible
an a disposition of unconditional surrender to authority. To prove
this the reader as encouraged to study 1 Peter 3:1-7 where Sarah's
tranquil heart as used as an illustration and basis for the female's
attitude toward the male. Thus when Paul proceeds in 1 Timothy 2:ll
ff., he as not making merely a marginal remark, but rather he as
establishing a course from which every spiritually progressive woman
would strongly desire to graduate cum laude. For I in this course
lies the mystery that makes possible the "virtuous woman" of Proverbs
chapter 31. Paul commands (learn as an the imperative) a woman to
learn tranquility an every area where her subjection as applicable.
In verse 12 Paul shows the two areas where agitation and fretfulness
occur foremostly, e.g.. teaching and authority. The structure of
verse 12 is important. Laterally in the Greek it says, "but for
a woman to teach I do not permit, neither to dominate a man, but
to be in quietness." It as usually understood that the teaching
and dominating are both in reference to the man but does not exclude
the possibility of a woman teaching another woman and also children.
Certainly, there are so many exceptions once we deal with situations
arising out of imperfect conditions. However, before we get so involved
in exceptions we must first lay some rules down to which we can
return whenever exceptions have been made, otherwise very soon the
exception becomes the rule. Paul's emphasis to Timothy all through
this epistle is the teaching of sound doctrine in order to avoid
heresies. Therefore has prohibition to woman in reference to teaching
and taking authority over the male, heretic or not, as absolute.
The reference to women teaching other women in Titus as entirely
a different sphere of instruction and has to do with the practical
aspects of homemaking. It should be remembered that in the Hebrew
mind at was inconceivable to see a woman teach boys. Compare Proverbs
with that idea, and you wall find that 30 of the 31 chapters are
all about a father instructing has son. The well-known verse, Deuteronomy
6:7, as addressed to the father who as to instruct has sons. The
scripture everywhere implies that the word of God as issued to the
male as a tool by which he as to fulfill has responsibility to the
From the rest of this second chapter in First Timothy
we learn that the sequence of command is not a result of the fall
but is rather inherent in the creation of Man.
There is too much evidence for any doubt or dispute
that the male-female consecutions is closely interwoven into the
concept of the image of God. Such relationship is the permanent
means for the truth of God to bring about the divine radiance that
was so manifest in the Person and life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The beauty of the Song of Solomon is an evidence that this relationship,
saturated with eternal truth, becomes the most wonderful expression
of the relationship within the Deity.
In view of the emphasis made in this report it is
believed that the word of God teaches us not to neglect this fundamental
concept of the male-female relationship. Every practice, no matter
how small or seemingly insignificant, needs to be emphasized to
establish this role consciousness in every area of our life. Therefore,
when we think in terms of the functions of the ones who are distinguished
in the congregation by way of special emphasis, we must realize
that the male-female relational principle becomes a very crucial
issue. These men are sorted out by way of ordination to become patterns
of maturity in Christ. Thus, in I Timothy 3:1-13 the two functions
of congregational leadership, e.g. overseer and deacon, cannot be
assumed by anyone who does not demonstrate the upholding of the
principle of the relationship of the sexes. The same phrase is used
both for the deacon and elder, "mias gynikos andres" (vs. 2,12),
meaning "one-woman men." The much disputed verse 11 will certainly
continue to be a target of much debate. However, whether Paul refers
to the wives of both the elder and deacon (preferable to this writer)
or to an auxiliary women's group, one thing must become clear in
our thinking: there is not a single precedent in the Scripture where
a woman has been specifically set aside for leadership functions.
Leadership rests on the male, not because he wants it, but because
it is a Divine intention.
Conclusions and Considerations
Jesus Christ in His high priestly prayer in John
17:26 says, " . and I have made Thy name known to them, and will
make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be
in them." This part of the prayer indicates clearly that Christ
has requested for us the same love that exists in and among the
Persons of the Trinity. In Romans 5:5 we see that this love has
been poured out into the hearts of the saints. We all know that
divine love is the bond of perfection. No matter what the differences
are, love harmonizes any distinction into a beautifully merged oneness.
Such oneness is indicated in Galatians 3:28. That verse was never
intended to emphasize the extinction of distinctions. On the contrary,
it is a statement that expresses oneness in spite of permanent and
extreme diversity. With all our distinct and unique attributes none
exceeds the others in dignity or preference. After all, it is the
darkness that veils the differences and neutralizes all of creation.
The light, however, will always permit each one to exhibit himself
as he is, and appreciate it. Love, with its essential constituents
of respect, humility, and trust, is the only way the saints can
demonstrate their union with Christ.
Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit by which the
Father is glorified. It is the sum-total of the law of God--His
word. Our regeneration is the consequence of the word. Our sanctification
grows daily on that heavenly sustenance. It was mentioned at the
start of this report, man lives with tensions with which he is unable
to cope. These tensions originate from the exchange of the truth
for a lie. Under these conditions man has lost the consciousness
of a reward in eternity and therefore his ambitions are to reward
himself with anything now and here. Consequently, and unwittingly,
1. accomplishment rather than being,
2. things rather than development of personality,
3. emphasis on the individual rather than on the
relationships of individuals.
Christians must not deceive themselves that they
are so easily delivered from this carnality. Almost every epistle
of Paul shows that we are very easily entangled in this web of worldly
pride. For example, Paul's urging in Philippians chapter two could
not be any clearer. He says, ". . . have this attitude in yourselves,
which was also in Christ Jesus ..." We all know the attitude of
Christ --He sought no status, no recognition, no reputation--His
attitude was to fulfill His calling to the minutest detail for the
glory of God. Let a male fulfill his function as a Christ-like leader
and lover and the female her function as a reflector of the church
and her attitude toward her Lord, and anticipate recognition, reward,
and praise in heaven. Let this anticipation be, not because of what
we have done for the Lord in accomplishment, in accumulation and
statistics, but let our anticipation be because of how we have surrendered
ourselves to the image renewal; because of how we have submitted
ourselves in service toward others; because of how we loved, prayed
for, and praised our enemies, etc.
Based on the emphasis of this report, and its biblical
imperatives, the appeal is to the assemblies of Jesus Christ to
accentuate the physical and psycho-spiritual distinctions of both
parts of MAN, male and female, to the smallest detail. Let the male
totally assume any spiritual teaching anywhere, public and private,
and let the females busy themselves with good works and teach only
those things that make better homes where our covenant children
are reared. Reverse the trend of sinful man that removes the authority
structure of the image of God. [End of Minority Report # 2]
[NOTE: This affirmation was slightly amended so
as to read as follows]
An Affirmation Concerning Biblical
"Ordination" as seen in the New Testament is
the solemn setting apart of an individual to represent the Church
of Jesus Christ.
In accordance with Scripture the special officers of the church
(teaching and ruling elders, and deacons) are set apart to their
tasks by means of distinctive, formal "ordination" or "setting apart"
ceremonies. Presbyterian, and we believe biblical, church polity
understands that ordination ceremonies do not convey special grace
nor the ability to be an officer. The Holy Spirit give gifts to
believers. When both the body and the individual recognize the Spirit's
gifts to and calling of that individual to a special office, that
person is "set apart" or "ordained." The ceremony is an acknowledgment
of the gifts and calling of the Holy Spirit.
That which essentially distinguishes the ordination of an elder
from that of a deacon is neither the form nor the ceremony, but
rather the specific task to which the individual is set apart.
An elder is set apart to serve the community by teaching, exhorting,
and ruling. He exercises a disciplinary authority. The deacon serves
the community as its representative in matters primarily of physical
need. The deacon does possess delegated authority to represent the
church in deeds of mercy. Such serving authority is not to be confused
with the teaching and disciplinary authority of elders. The deacon
serves under the direction of the session (elders) and, in the capacity
of deacon, disciplines no one.
In this day of general ignorance as to the meaning of "ordination,"
Reformed Presbyterian elders should be especially careful to educate
their congregations as to the nature and meaning of biblical ordination.
ACTION: Synod adopted the affirmation.
The report was continued in the afternoon meetings (see below).
Synod recessed for lunch. Rev. Robert Hamilton led in prayer.
ROLE OF WOMEN, continued
At 2:20, Dr. Hurley made the following
motion on behalf of the majority:
That some women, full of the Holy
Spirit and with appropriate gifts from him, may be called of God
to serve the body of Christ as deacons and that women so gifted
and called may be set apart (ordained) to the office of deacons.
After the majority position was debated, Mr. Miladin moved the following
We affirm in the absence of any compelling biblical
evidence to support the ordination of women to the special office
of deacon, that this office be limited to qualified men. At the
same time acknowledging that the Scriptures contain many examples
of serving women, and also mention "women" in 1 Timothy 3: 11, suggesting
a possible third class of serving people in conjunction with elders
and deacons, we affirm the right of a local church to have a separate
body or board of women (which may be called deaconesses), auxiliary
and subordinate to the deacons, to be compatible with Scripture.
After lengthy debate and several amendments, the
minority position read as follows was adopted at 10:15 p.m. Negative
votes were recorded by W. Zumbach and R. Freiwald.
We affirm in the absence of any compelling biblical
evidence to support the ordination of women to the special office
of deacon, that this office be limited to qualified men. At the
same time acknowledging that the Scriptures contain many examples
of women who serve, we affirm the right of a local church to have
a separate body of unordained women who may be called deaconesses.
[Stated Clerk's Note: The afternoon session was
extended by motion to 5:15 and was closed with prayer by the Rev.
Mr. Thomas Waldecker. Synod voted to reconvene at 8:30. The session
resumed with Dr. John Buswell leading in prayer. After several motions
extending the time, the evening session was adjourned with prayer
by Rev. George Bragdon at 10:20 p.m.]
Documents of Synod, pages 390-437.
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