As Molly Hatchet sang, "I'm flirting with disaster", especially with a title for a post such as the one I went with. But it must have worked because you're reading this, aren't you?
You may have noticed the last two sermon audio posts (found here and here) my voice wasn't heard. In fact, the voices you heard were of a softer tone, or perhaps a slightly higher pitch. They were of course from my great aunt Grace Baughman, an ordained Church of the Nazarene minister, and my wife Buffy, who is in the ordination process for the Free Methodist Church. They preached to a congregation, on a Sunday morning, giving to us the message the Holy Spirit gave to them.
WHAT?!?!?!?! The Bible says that women can't be preachers! Paul is very clear on this point! By having them speak in church, let alone preach, that must mean you don't take the Bible literally or follow what it says!
I've heard that. My wife has heard that. Other female pastors I've known heard that. It's one of those things that gets tossed around with the label "well the Bible says...", and is about a true to scripture as "Cleanliness is next to Godliness", "God helps those who help themselves", and "Jesus is my co-pilot."
But to be fair, there is that one passage in 1 Timothy, but is a face value reading of that passage really conveying what is meant?
Timothy was a relatively young minister appointed by the Apostle Paul to the Church in Ephesus. The city itself was a major port city of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It had power and influence, both economically and religiously, as it was also the home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But as an important religious center and port city, many ideas about religion would have been promoted and openly discussed in the markets and other public places.
Generally speaking, women were not as well educated as men were, but in Roman Ephesus that seems to have not been the case. Women were not only educated along with the men, but also held important civic and religious offices as well. Women were a powerful force to be reckoned with in Ephesus (and other places throughout Asia Minor).
But what is interesting is that in the passage from 1 Timothy (read it again), Paul moves between the singular and the plural. He wants women to adorn themselves modestly (as a protest to Artemis worship?), but then says a woman must quietly receive instruction and learn in submissiveness. He also does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. It is then at this point Paul switches back to the plural.
What makes this interesting is that Paul initially came to Ephesus with Aquilla and Priscilla, a husband and wife pastoral team. It was in Ephesus they instructed Apollos more completely, and helped to establish the Church there initially. So right from the start Ephesus has had a female pastor. If Paul is saying that women are prohibited from being pastors, then why would he work alongside one in establishing the Church that he is writing to Timothy about? On top of that, there are several places where Paul commends the work that women have done to spread the gospel. In the case of the Philippian Church, Lydia and a group of women met by the river to pray. Paul met with them, and they helped to establish the Church.
This whole issue though is most fascinating how Paul switches between the plural, then the singular, and then back to the plural. If this were a prohibition on women being pastors, why not stick with the plural? And if it God's rule, why say "I do not allow" or "I do not permit"? And is to not allow or permit something carry with it a sense of permanence? Or is it only for a time?
Let's consider in Joel 2:28 that "daughters will prophesy" means God intended women to proclaim His message. That's what a prophet did, proclaim the message God gave them. Peter saw the Day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of this prophecy, and said so as much in Acts 2.
In Luke 8:1-3, women were counted among the 12 disciples, and actively supported their ministry. I think then the question becomes would Paul, who was supportive of women ministers and worked alongside them, come out with an extra-biblical teaching that the prophet Joel, Peter, and Jesus Himself would not have supported? Given that Paul combated extra biblical teaching, I highly doubt this would be the case.
I do believe however that it was bad theology he was actually speaking against. Christianity was a threat to Artemis worship, and it may not have been uncommon for one of the priestesses of the Artemis cult to disrupt the worship service in Ephesus and begin teaching something contrary to the gospel. Considering everything, this interpretation would be the most in line with scripture and with who Paul was.
There is one last thing to be considered though. We read in the first two chapters of Genesis that God has created everything good. And He formed man out of the dust of creation and breathed into him His own breath, and placed His image on the man. Yet this is the first time we see something is "not good", because the man is all alone. There is nothing else that is like him. So, when God brings him the animals to name, he is exercising dominion over them, and he is realizing that none of them is his equal. In order to give something a name and have that name be recognized as that thing's name, the one doing the naming must have some authority above that which is being named.
As the man has recognized that he has named the animals, he understood for himself that he needed someone like himself. So God formed out of man "woman." What should be noted here is that adam or "Adam" is the Hebrew word for humanity, and not necessarily a proper name. The adam was an ish, or male. But that's not what we know him as. It is however a description of adam. God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, by which isha, or woman was formed. Woman likewise is not a proper name. In fact, call a woman "woman" as though that's her name, she'll slap you! The man recognized the woman as being like him, just as ish and isha are similar, but different. Isha was not named "Eve" until after the fall of creation.
If we believe that Jesus came to redeem and restore creation, not just give us personal salvation, then we must recognize that God fully intends on restoring the equality that He made us to have. To say women are not allowed to be pastors in the church is to perpetuate the brokeness that sin introduced into the world, the very sin that has itself been broken by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.