Much debate has come about during the past several centuries about whether women can be in the position of pastor, prophet, teacher, or apostle in the Christian Church. Most of the doctrine that limits women in ministry are the teachings of Paul in I Corinthians 14:33-35. These verses say that women are to keep silent in the church. The support this stance using other verses including one from the Old Testament Genesis 3:16 which states that because of the curse, women were subject to painful labor and that they would have to be subject to their husbands. Other verses that support this belief are also found in the Pauline epistle I Corinthians 11:5, 11:13: 14:22; 14:35, Ephesians 5:22, and First Timothy 2:11 and 12. In addition, they use I Peter to support their claim.
The verse in Genesis 3:16 speaks of women who are under the curse. I could argue that we are no longer under the curse through salvation through Christ. When taken in context of the locations where Paul told women to keep silent in the churches, therefore was for women in Corinth and Ephesus. When you understand that goddess worship was prevalent in both of these cities, it easy to understand why this order of women being silent in the church was specific instructions to the women in these cities.
Corinth was filled with influence of cults of the gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece. There, the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth. This temple, though in ruins by Paul’s time, but the influence was still present through local prostitution. The city catered to sailors and traveling salesmen and earned the unsavory reputation in its immoral activity. The name “Corinth” was at the time, in fact, synonymous with immorality.
Likewise, Ephesus was famous for its Temple of Artemis. Artemis of Ephesus is represented as a woman with many breasts.These breasts symbolized the vitality and the nourishing capacity of the earth.She is the goddess of nature, of productivity,,and the protector of wild animals and sailors.Her cult spread to the Mediterranean shores as even as far as Marseille and Spain. Visitors were provided with all sorts of entertainment and paid handsomely for statues of the goddess. Since Timothy was the pastor at Ephesus, the advise Paul gave him was also related goddess temple worship where many of the women who attended had left roles as temple prostitutes.
Women in Paul’s day were uneducated and were only able to obtain understanding of the teachings of Christ through their husbands. In Christian gatherings, women were told to submit to their husbands and learn about Jesus from them rather than trying to ask during a meeting. In addition, what understanding these women had of spiritual things came from worship of idols in the Greek goddess temples.
Examples of Biblical Christian Women Leaders
In Colossians 4:15, Paul identified a woman who had a church in her home. In the New International Version of this verse, it says,”Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house. Because there is no mention of her husband, there is little doubt that she was the pastor of that church. The King James version incorrectly translated the Greek Nympha (female) to Nymphos (male) because they thought that it could not be possible that Nympha was the right translation of that name.
Another example where a woman is identified as a leader over a church is in 2 John where the entire book implies a pastoral woman’s leadership. In verse ten, in the King James Version translation reads the “elect” lady. whereas other translations use the term “chosen lady”. Verses 9-10 (NIV) reads, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.” Verse 10 in the New Living Translation reads a little differently. It says, “if someone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth…” The operative word here is “meeting.” All would agree that during the times of the early church many church meetings were held in houses. and this chosen lady held a church in her home and directly was told not to allow anyone in the meeting to teach opposite Christ’s teachings. She was therefore in charge, making her, by any practical definition, pastor of the church.
Still another woman who was in leadership in the church was Phoebe mentioned in Romans 16:1-2. .Phoebe was a deacon (deaconess) in the church in Cenchrea. The Greek word translated deacon here is the same word that is translated deacon in I Timothy 3:8-12 (“diakonos”). Just because the role of deacon is stated as a role for men in the verses in I Timothy, does not mean that it excludes women from that office.(nor did it exclude single men like Timothy from pastorship).
We have the example of Romans 16:7 “Greet Andronicus and Juia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Junia was a females name in which Paul identified as an apostle who was in prison with him.
Donna Brown is an ordained minister. As Author Cygnet Brown, she has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener
She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues. Her upcoming book A Coward’s Solace will be available soon. Click here for more information about Cygnet Brown and her books.