Women and Church Eldership?


The following is a lengthy and comprehensive argument against women in eldership. Truth Watch has no subjective axe to grind on this issue. We would have no objection to gender neutral eldership if it were not for the fact that there is no legitimate biblical support for it. To ignore the plain meaning of Scripture on this issue involves contravening God's commands, but that has not stopped many substituting their own opinions on this subject for God's. Where is a love for God in this? John said to love God was to obey his commands (1 John 5:3). They are clear on the question of women in leadership. Those who deliberately ignore this fact are breaking the love/commands link central to the Christian's relationship with God; they prefer to love the spirit of this age instead, contrary to 1 John 2:15-17. Because Truth Watch exists to hold to the truth the relevant scriptural passages are taken to mean what they say and say what they mean.

Our analysis of this issue is built around scripture. For that reason many scriptural references are included, rather than simply rely on argument alone. Readers are encouraged to reflect on these scriptures.

For some reason, connected to the fact that we are made in the image of God, the relationship between men and women is fundamental to God's order. Genesis 2 and 3 are largely devoted to the relationship between the genders and the oneness they are to enjoy in communion with their Creator. In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul alludes to the special relationship between a husband and wife, linking it in some mysterious way to the relationship between Christ and the Church. There is a sanctifying order in the Kingdom of God which those advocating women eldership fail to respect.

Significantly, when this ordained order is tarnished by Satan's deception. Eve's gullibility and Adam's disobedience, the whole of creation falls under a curse, not just the man/woman relationship. We therefore need to be very careful about how we treat scripture relating to gender. This is especially true when gender, marriage and humanity's relationship with God coalesce within God's Church.

This is no peripheral issue. If we upset God ordained roles within the Church we are in a sense repeating Eve's deception and Adam's disobedience. We move into the situation of the beloved in the Song of Solomon - dripping with myrrh (anointed for burial) we cannot find our betrothed (Jesus) for he has hidden himself from us (Song of Solomon 5:6-8).

As indicated later, when referring to Deborah and Esther, women have a full role to play inside and outside the Church, providing eldership is not treated as some sort of litmus test for political correctness. The Church is in a covenant relationship with the God of all creation and not with the philosophic gods of this world.

The arguments for and against women in eldership rest on several key issues.  Each of them will be discussed. They are:

  • The meaning of the word 'head' (1 Corinthians 11:3-10)
  • The definition of the word 'authority' (1 Timothy 2:12)
  • Eisegesis verses exegesis
  • Women in the Bible

A correct biblical understanding of head and authority in the context in which they are used in relation to women is vital. If we understand Paul's use of these two words we should have the mind of God on this issue.

1. The Word "Head":

In examining each of these issues I will refer to the Bible (NIV), Strong's Reference Numbers and Vine's Dictionary.  The following passage is regarded by many as the key scriptural passage on the differences between men and women.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16

3 Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head.

5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.

6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;

9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,

15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

Strong's reference <2776> re 'Head'

2776 kephale {kef-al-ay'}, from the primary 'kapto' (in the sense of seizing); TDNT -

3:673,429; n f

AV - head 76; 76

1) the head, both of men and often of animals. Since the loss of the

head destroys life, this word is used in the phrases relating to capital and extreme punishment.

2) metaph. anything supreme, chief, prominent

2a) of persons, master lord: of a husband in relation to his wife

2b) of Christ: the Lord of the husband and of the Church

2c) of things: the comer stone

Scriptural cross-references

(some verses are underlined or italicised - the reasons are explained later)

  • Eph 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything/or the church,
  • Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, -we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
  • Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the -wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.
  • Php 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  • Php 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
  • Col 2:10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority.
  • Col 2:19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
  • Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
  • Eph 5:24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
  • Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
  • 1 Ti 2:11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
  • 1 Ti 2:12  I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
  • 1 Pe 3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives.
  • 1 Pe 3:5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,
  • 1 Pe 3:6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
  • 1 Co 3-23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
  • 1 Cor 15:27 For he "has put everything under his feet". Now when it says that  "everything" has been put under him. it is clear that this does not include God himself who put everything under Christ.
  • 1 Co 15:28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
  • Jn 5:23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
  • Jn 14:28 "You heard me say. 7 am going away and J am coming hack to you.' If you loved me. you would be pleased that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
  • Eph 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
  • Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms...


Those who argue against a straightforward understanding of the word 'head' bend over backwards to turn the plain meaning in on itself. The Strong's reference demonstrates that the word speaks of authority. Otherwise the references to submission vis-a-vis men and women elsewhere in the Bible makes no sense.

First argument

One argument offered against this view is that the order God - Christ - man - woman cannot be right because it places Jesus in a subordinate position to the Father. I have underlined some verses above which point to the fact that in some way, that we may never understand until we are with him, Jesus is submitted to the Father's will. No where does Jesus place himself equal with God and yet God puts everything under Jesus’ feet.

He humbled himself as a servant and did not look for equality with God (Philippians 2:5-8). Also, in ways that are a mystery to us, the Holy Spirit is under Jesus' authority (see below). So, despite the fact that the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one (John 17:11) there is a division of roles within the Godhead which is replicated in the relationship between men and women and the Church.  The 'subordination' argument simply does not wash, except for those who may think they fully comprehend the trinitarian Godhead. I have included verses below, which define roles performed within the Godhead and illustrate the structure of God-appointed authority structures.

Roles and the Godhead

  • John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
  • John 5:30 “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me”.
  • John 8:28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

  •  John 15:26 If "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
  • John 16:7 “ But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
  • Luke 24:49 “ I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
  • Acts 1:4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about."
  • John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
  • John 16:14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

Gender Roles and the Godhead

There is an important aspect of this role definition argument which relates to men and women. If Jesus was submitted to the Father and the Holy Spirit only says what is in accord with Jesus (the Logos) it is incumbent on Christians to recognise role definition and lines of authority also. We are taught to respect parents, ruling authorities and church elders. In the same way wives are to respect their husbands. The issue is about roles and the created order not superiority and power.

The secular world cannot conceive of role definition without the exercise of power because it cannot understand the biblical nature of agape love. The result is that biblical submission is branded as sexism and the Church hides from the truth to escape what is merely a politically correct swear word.

Jesus willingly submitted himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit speaks and directs only in accord with the Logos - Jesus. Why is it then so difficult for Christians to see beyond the attitudes of this present world and accept that there is within the man/woman image of God a similar division of roles? Christians engaged in circling around this biblically mandated reality are 'sifting gnats and swallowing camels' (Matthew 23:24).  If it is right and appropriate for the Godhead itself to accept role differentiation it must be both right and mandatory for mena and women to do the same.

A second argument

Another common line is the argument from culture. Its proponents get mixed up with Paul's allusion to common head covering practices in Corinth and ignore the universality of the God, Christ, Man nexus. Verses 12 and 16 of 1 Corinthians 11 also point to this universality. Like any good teacher Paul was using common local practice to illustrate the point he was making.

A third argument

The third well worn argument which seems to carry the most weight for scriptural revisionists concerns the word 'head', meaning 'source'. Vine's and Strong's do not refer to source. Apologists for this argument have to admit that the word source is on its own ambiguous and is only one of a number of different root words for kephale or head.  Nevertheless they box on and claim that the true meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:3 is that head means the 'source of being'.

Even using this definition it is very difficult to understanding why this phraseology changes anything. God is the Creator. Jesus is the Logos through whom everything was made. He was and is the source of all design, all creative acts and all power. The nature of headship does not change by playing word games.

This source argument is at best equivocal. At worst it is a denial of the sovereign power and authority of God by reducing him to merely a point of origin rather than the beginning and eternal sustainer of everything. If authority does not rest in that state (and from there divested to a man in a temporal but spiritual sense through Jesus Christ) then I cannot imagine where it rests or from whence it derives. The text demands the word head to mean something that is as Strong's and Vine's says it is; ‘prominent’, ‘chief’, ‘cornerstone’, ‘authority’, ‘direction’.

Also, reducing head to source of being (verse 3) leaves Paul simply stating the obvious. We are asked to believe that Paul thought it necessary to point out that Man came from God and woman came from a man. This is hardly instructive. It is like saying that heat comes from fire. Such an inane statement would also be completely out of context vis-a-vis the rest of the passage.

Paul refers to the creation of the first man and women (verses 8-10) to reinforce his teaching on lines of authority but is then careful to balance his teaching (verse 11) by again referring to the created order. Man and women were made for each other and a man must love his wife as Christ loved (and died for) the Church. Paul's teaching is essentially about roles within a spiritually defined order. He makes it clear in verse 16 that he will not countenance any other view on the subject - in all churches.

There is a further argument connected to the use of the word source. Some claim that kephale or head is not used elsewhere in an authoritative sense. This takes the rule about looking at context too far and is only valid if you have first accepted that head means source.

The plain rendering of the word kephale does overwhelmingly point to its use in an authoritative sense otherwise why would Paul refer to the Father and to Jesus who plainly have all authority. Strong's and Vine's plainly make the connection with authority as well. Perhaps Paul's word choice was based on the need to divest the line of authority of its purely controlling or power motifs. He clearly wanted to point to the spiritual application of authority instead which has quite different nuances.

Authority in a Christian setting is quite different to its secular exercise. Luke's reference (Acts 17) to the noble Bereans, who tested Paul's teaching against scripture, shows that spiritual authority must always be subject to critical biblically-based analysis. There is also the reference to the vital balance needed between submission and love referred to in Ephesians 5:22-23. These two examples demonstrate that Christian authority must be exercised under the watchful gaze of a God to whom we must answer for our actions - hence the creation based statement in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God".

Our understanding of the exercise of authority in a Christian setting is also explained in  Ephesians 4:15-16: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head (kephale), that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work".

This is the essence of kephale. By humbling ourselves, as Jesus did, and accepting God's ordained line of authority (which must always be exercised according to the Lord's precepts, (Psalm 19:7-11) we are built up in love as we accept the part that each of us can and does play in God's enterprise.

But beyond these arguments there is no doubt that kephale is used to convey the nature of true Godly authority. Consider these verses:

  • Ephesians 1:21-23 (and Christ is...) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head (kephale) over everything/or the church, which is his body, the fullness of him -who fills everything in every way.
  • Colossians 2:10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head (kephale) over every power and authority.
  • Colossians 2:19 He has lost connection with the Head (kephale), from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Kephale is obviously referring to authority. The argument about 'source of being' is weak, equivocal and unscriptural. It should be rejected by anyone with a concern for the maintenance of scriptural purity and truth. If we compromise the truth we are no longer connected to the Spirit of Truth - the Holy Spirit. Understanding that head does indeed refer to authority has a profound impact on our understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 and impacts on our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

2. The definition of 'authority'

In this section the meaning of the passage in 1 Timothy that goes to the heart of the debate on women in eldership will be examined.  We will begin with the passage itself.  Several Strong’s definitions for key words and some cross referenced verses will then be reproduced before going on to discuss the issues.

1 Timothy 2:11-14

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission <Strong’s 5292>.

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have (usurp authority in the Authorised Version [AV]) authority <831>over a man; she must be silent.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not the one deceived, <Strong’s 538> it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner <Strong’s 3847> (AV = transgressor).

Strong's <831> re 'authority'

831 authenteo {ow-then-teh'-o}, from a compound of 846 and an obsolete hentes (a worker);

AV - usurp authority over 1; 1

1) one who with his own hands kills another or himself

2) one who acts on his own authority, autocratic

3) an absolute master

4) to govern, exercise dominion over one

Strong's <5292> re 'full submission

5292 hupotage {hoop-ot-ag-ay'),//ww 5293; TDNT -8:46,1156; n f

AV - subjection 4; 4

1) the act of subjecting

2) obedience, subjection

Strong's <538> re 'deceived'

538 apatao {ap-at-ah'-o}, of uncertain derivation; TDNT -1:384,65;

AV - deceive 4; 4

1) to cheat, beguile, deceive

Note: This Greek verb is used here in a passive voice to indicate that the subject (the woman) is the recipient. The verb is also used in its aorist tense signifying that it is employed universally - without regard for past, present or future.

Strong's <3847> re 'sinner or transgressor

3847 parabasis {par-ab'-as-is}, from 3845; TDNT - 5:739,772; n f

AV - transgression 6, breaking 1:7

1) a going over

2) metaph. a disregarding, violating

2a) of the Mosaic law

2b) the breach of a definite, promulgated, ratified law

2c) to create transgressions, i.e. that sins might take on the character of transgressions, and thereby the consciousness of sin be intensified and the desire for redemption be aroused.

Scriptural cross-references  for 1 Timothy 2:12

  • Ge 3:16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
  • Es 1:20 Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.
  • 1 Co 11:3 Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
  • 1 Co 14:34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
  • 1 Co 14:35 If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
  • Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
  • Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.
  • Eph 5:24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
  • Col 3:18 H Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
  • Ti 2:3-5 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no-one will malign the word of God.
  • 1 Pe 3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives…
  • 1 Pe 3:5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands...
  • 1 Pe 3:6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Commentary on authority and 1 Timothy 2:11-14

I cannot think of any scripture that does not mean what it says, even though it may require spiritual discernment and diligent study to understand its meaning. Nowhere does scripture mean the opposite to what it is actually saying. The argument in favour of women eldership in the Church requires making 1 Timothy 2:11-14 mean the opposite to what it is plainly saying by breaking the first rule of biblical exegesis – look to the plain meaning first. If that step is taken the Church leaves itself open to any number of Gnostic heresies as churches come under increasing pressure (as we apparently already are in this case) to follow the ways of our neo-pagan world.

As highlighted above in the passage from Timothy Paul uses very strong language; 'fall submission' (AV = 'all subjection'), 'teach or have authority', 'deceived', 'sinner'. The Strong's definitions have been provided. They are all explicit. Again Paul resorts to Genesis to explain why woman must not teach or hold positions of authority. It was the woman who was deceived and was the first to become a sinner.

The fall (the Second Law of Thermodynamics is its obvious expression in nature) was universal in its effect. It is vitally important to recognise that Paul must have used the account of Eve's deception precisely because its effects were universal. Therefore, biblical revisionists break the next most important law of exegesis - they refuse to accept v.11 within its obvious context.

Paul was making the point that Eve's sin was so far reaching in its effects because it had something to do with her created nature which made her more spiritually receptive and therefore more open to deception. Paul's use of the word 'deceived' (Gk, apatao, Strong's 538) in 1 Timothy 2:14 in the passive voice and aorist tense proves that he was connecting all women to Eve's vulnerability (relatively speaking) to deception (see note re 'deceived' on p.9).

It was no accident that Satan picked on Eve. Nor was it simply luck that lead Satan to use the line '...you will be like God, knowing good and evil' (Genesis 3:5). In verses 2 and 3 Eve was able to quote what God had forbidden her to do but she failed to obey God's teaching when tempted by the promise of wisdom or knowledge (verse 6). Satan knew she was by nature open to deceptive lies.

Adam's sin lay in his willingness to be swayed by Eve's example and disobey God for the sake of his partner. In a sense his sin was greater than Eve's but the point in relation to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is Eve's susceptibility to spiritual seduction and her related easy abandonment of God's teaching.

Paul's obvious moratorium on women in eldership or teaching is based on his understanding about something fundamentally different in the deep nature of women within the created order which renders them unsuitable for a role which requires doctrinal leadership within the church (contextually the passage is about church life). To reduce this to the hoary old argument about local culture is an untenable contextual and logical fallacy.

Paul is clearly concerned about maintaining doctrinal purity in the Church. His references to women elsewhere indicates that he fully supported the role women could play in the wider life and growth of the church. But he draws the line at women assuming elder and teaching roles within an established church. Women hosted and supported Paul's apostolic ministry and local churches. In secular affairs women like Deborah and Esther were used of God. Women have always been involved in church-planting. Nevertheless, these facts do not override apostolic, spirit-led (2 Peter 1:21) teaching about the role women may not play in an established church. However, they do prove that women have a fall part to play in the life of the Church. The only exception is church eldership.

Paul never endorses the role of women as church leaders and teachers. Nowhere does he even come close to the clear contrary statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. To do so would have invalidated both his teaching and Peter's teaching about submission in marriage. A married women in leadership would by definition have authority over her husband thus creating an absurd Jekyll and Hyde situation for the couple. The only expansion, within marriage, to this general rule that I am aware of is found in Titus 2:4 where the older women are instructed to teach the younger women and children.

Within the Church women also have a teaching role to play, mandated by Colossians 3:16.  But this role cannot contradict 1 Timothy 2:12 or other scripturally defined role boundaries. Therefore, the teaching referred to in Colossians would be informal teaching by women directed at behavioural and other issues – not doctrinal matters.

Doctrinal Purity

Paul's teaching in 1 Timothy 2 is based on his concern for the maintenance of doctrinal integrity. He bases his instruction on the universality of a women's susceptibility to doctrinal deception. He expresses his concern for the maintenance of doctrinal purity in many places. Here are some scriptural references which demonstrate the importance of sound doctrine. Extensive quotes are presented for it is absolutely vital to understand the apostolic concern underpinning Paul's instructions to Timothy about authority in the Church:

  • Ps 11:3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
  • 2 Cor 1:3-4 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you  accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
  • 2 Co 11:29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
  • 2 Co 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
  • 2 Co 12:21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
  • Ps 119:53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law.
  • Ga 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.
  • Ga 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
  • Ga 4:11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
  • Php 3:18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
  • Php 3:19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
  • Ge 3:4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
  • Ge 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
  • Jn 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  • I Ti 2:14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
  • Re 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • 2 Co 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.
  • 2 Co 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
  • 2 Co 11:15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of  righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
  • 2 Co 4:2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
  • Mt 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible.
  • Ac 20:30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
  • Ac 20:31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
  • Ga 1:6  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.
  • Ga 2:4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
  • Eph 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
  • Eph 6:24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
  • Col 2:4  I tell you this so that no-one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
  • Col 2:8 See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
  • Col 2:18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen,  and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.
  • 2 Th 2:9-11 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.
  • 1 Ti 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer
  • 1 Ti 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
  • 2 Ti 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
  • 2 Ti 4:4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
  • Titus 1:10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.
  • Heb 13:9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.
  • 2 Pe 2:1 T[ But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.
  • 2 Pe 2:2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
  • 2 Pe 2:3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
  • 1 Jo 2:18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
  • 1 Jo 4:1 If Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
  • Jude 1:4  For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
  • Re 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world, astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • 2 Co 1:12  Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.
  • Ro 16:18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
  • Ro 16:19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

False Ideas

In Colossians 2:8 there is a warning about false philosophies. The reasoning that says Paul's statements about eldership can somehow be opened up to become all inclusive have hopped off the narrow road onto the broad road of false ideas. Some resort to the culture argument. Others look to women referred to in scripture to validate their position.

Whatever the argument they cannot get around the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Any effort to do so is unsafe, unwise and dangerously Gnostic. The argument which rests on references to women in scripture is particularly so (see Part 4).

The 'Other Authority' Argument

Some maintain that the Greek word used by Paul for 'authority' (831, anthenteo) is so unusual that Paul must be referring to exceptional cases of overbearing female leaders. This is an untenable sand castle argument. It ignores the reliance placed on the universal example of Eve used by Paul (discussed earlier) and also takes the word completely out of the context in which Paul is using it. He is not talking about dictatorial female leaders. Rather he is telling Timothy that in the context of church life woman must learn in 'full submission'. If he wanted to warn Timothy about power-crazed female leadership I am sure he would have referred to Jezebel and not Eve.

It is also a totally equivocal argument. The contra point is that because it is a unique use of the word Paul must have selected it to highlight his insistence that women cannot be elders. Vine's makes the point that 'anthenteo' originally referred to one who kills either him/herself or another with their own hand. Cain is an obvious early example. Paul is therefore using the word to convey the idea that a women who exercises eldership in the Church does so by their own authority and on their own account without apostolic sanction.

Adam's Sin

Adam's actions following Eve's sin deserves further attention. Rather than holding to the instructions he had received from God Adam weakened and followed his partner's advice. He was the first but not the last to disobey God. Saul fell victim to the same weakness. When instructed by God to completely destroy the Amalekites and all their property he failed to do so. What was his excuse?

1 Samuel 15:24-25 'Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back -with me, so that I may worship the LORD.'

But Samuel's reply signalled the end of Saul's reign when it had only just begun:

Verse 26: But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!

Verse 29: He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind."

And earlier...

Verses 22-23: But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices (c.f. Is 58:6) as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king."

There is a salutary warning here for those leaders who think they can appease others (v.24) and by extension reject the word of God where doing one thing contradicts the Lord's clear instructions. Like Adam Saul listened to others and forgot to heed his God. He had been given clear instructions. Similarly, Timothy was given clear instructions on church eldership, which he presumably followed. Are we today going to follow Saul's example or are we going to hold onto the simplicity and clarity of scriptural authority?

Some people try to get around unpalatable passages like 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 by claiming Paul was in error, he made mistakes. Such views can be dismissed with the same disdain any evangelical Christian should reject the views of 'Bishop' Spong or Lloyd Geering. Such men can only make such claims because they have rejected the authority of scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...


At the beginning of this section various Strong's word definitions from 1 Timothy 2:11-12 were listed. Included was the phrase 'full submission' (Strong's <5292>) which is derived from <Strong’s 5293> 'submit'.  Submit is used in Ephesians 5.22; Colossians 3:18 and Titus 2:5 in relation to spousal relationships.

These verses also underline other more general principle expressed in:

  • Nu 30, where Moses explains the responsibilities of a father or husband in relation to women.
  • 1 Pe 2 and Ro 13, where submission to ruling authorities is discussed.
  • Eph 5:25; Mat 9:15, 25:1-10; Mk 2:19-20 and The Song of Solomon, where the relationship between Jesus and the Church is likened to a bride and bridegroom.
  • 1 Cor 11:3, where the line of authority emanating from God the Father is described.
  • 1 Pe 3:1-7, where a wife's example to win over an unsaved and unsanctified husband is taught. Incidentally, this passage makes it clear that submission is something willingly given by the woman not eamt by the man.

As a review of the following definition of 'submit' reveals the act of submission is very much a voluntary giving of oneself on the part of a woman in honour of the fact that the husband is instructed to give of himself to his wife in the same way that Christ gave himself for the Church (his bride).

Strong's <5293> re 'submit'

5293 hupotasso {hoop-ot-as'-so}, from 5259 and 5021; TDNT -8:39,1156;

AV - put under 6, be subject unto 6, be subject to 5, submit (one's) self unto 5, submit (one's) self to 3, be in subjection unto 2, put in subjection under 1, misc 12; 40

1) to arrange under, to subordinate

2) to subject, put in subjection

3) to subject one's self, obey

4) to submit to one's control

5) to yield to one's admonition or advice

6) to obey, be subject to, A Greek military term meaning "to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving, co-operating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.

The key to understanding this relationship again goes back to Genesis (c.f.2:24) as stated in Ephesians 5:31-32: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church."

These verses talk of a profound mystery - the fact that Christ and the Church are to become one. The marriage relationship reflects that union. Therefore the honour each spouse gives the other comes out of the proper application of submission and love.

Another verse in the same chapter adds to our understanding of the relationship between a man and a women: Ephesians 5:33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The word 'respect' (AV = reverence) used in verse 33 underlines the nature of submission by linking it to fear in the sense that we talk of the fear of God being the beginning of wisdom (Strong's 5399 phobeo - fear 62, be afraid 23, be afraid of 5, reverence).

The point of this discussion is that the relationship between Christ and the Church is linked to a man and his wife. To tamper with that relationship by claiming that a woman can have authority and teach in the Church requires her to cut across the God-ordained basis for relationship between a man and a woman. As stated earlier a man and a women complement each other in the 'made in God's image' sense. If we mistakenly upset that relationship we have done something profoundly and mysteriously wrong. The issue is therefore not something peripheral to the Church which can be cavalierly passed over.

1 Corinthians 14:33-34: Women to Keep Silent

Many people struggle with this passage because its plain meaning leads to the view that women must not speak at an official church gathering. However, the absence of the universality principle connected to Adam and Eve is significant. In both 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 Paul links his teaching to them. In 1 Corinthians 14 he does not. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that he meant this particular instruction to local situations where women should not speak if local traditions forbid it. For example, Jewish tradition forbids women to speak in the synagogue - a practice still followed by orthodox Jews.

Some believe it refers to situations where women speak out without the ‘covering’ of their husbands or fathers. In other words they comment on matters that may be at odds with the husband or father’s view and therefore break the unity in the spirit that should underpin the relationships. In verse 26 it is stated that everyone should participate in Christian gatherings. Again it suggests that v.34 cannot be a blanket prohibition but a conditional qualification. Whatever anyone takes v.34 to mean, it cannot be disregarded. It reinforces 1 Timothy 2:11 by indicating that women have a qualified right to speak in churches. As such v.34 underpins rather than stands apart from 1 Timothy 2:11.

3. Exegesis versus Eisegesis

No one should play any part in putting any woman in a position where she might find herself disobeying God. To put women in such a position is irresponsible and potentially rebellious. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The only legitimate approach to scripture is to discern and accept what it actually says (exegesis). Reading into scripture what you want scripture to say (eisegesis) is disobeying God by adding to scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18).

  • Deut 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract/row it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
  • Deut 12:32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.
  • Pr 30:5-6 "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar."

Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them. God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

Historically evangelical churches are the legacy of a sacrificial determination to maintain doctrinal purity. It is therefore disturbing to discover that evangelicals are now so easily swayed by popularist feminism. I can find no other explanation for the ease with which many Christians today are willing to side step clearly stated scriptural teaching. In Colossians Paul warns against adopting the false philosophies of this world:

Colossians 2:8  See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Claiming that apostolic teaching was only meant for a particular time (the cultural argument) or that women were fully involved in the life or the early church are poor substitutes for proper biblical exegesis. Instead these arguments are little more than eisegesis - reading into scripture what one wants to be there to fit some contemporary paradigm.

A graphic example is to be found in the December 1997 edition of 'Reality' written by Chris Marshall, a Bible teacher at the Bible College of New Zealand. Without reference to clear apostolic teaching on the subject Chris constructs an argument for gender neutral eldership. To do so he passes over 'those few texts' which he dismisses because they 'silence and subordinate women' (Pg 25).

He relies instead on oblique non-doctrinal references to women involved in the early church (which rather suggests they were not silenced and subordinated anyway) to override clear apostolic teaching in 1 Timothy 2. This is eisegesis in its 'classical' form. Jesus subordinated himself to the Father without any reduction in his effectiveness. Chris has made the all too common error of revising scripture because of its inappropriate application in the past.

The end result of eisegesis is doctrinal error. If 1 Timothy 2:11-14 cannot be taken at face value then all of Scripture can be turned to just about any meaning a revisionist wants – as apologists for ‘Christian homosexuals’ have demonstrated. Chris Marshall's view encourages one to step into the murky world of relativist Christianity. Our God is not the God of confusion nor will he remain neutral if we disobey him. The fear of God must come before any interpretation of scripture which effectively turns its obvious meaning on its ear. The appointment of a woman to eldership does just that.

Korah (a priest who should have known better) and his associates turned God's clear meaning and purpose around and claimed it meant just the opposite (Numbers 16). God treated his actions as rebellion. In verse 13 two of Koran's mates, Dathan and Abiram make this remarkable statement:

Numbers 16:13 'Isn't it enough that you have brought us up out of a land/lowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us?'

Here is eisegesis in action. Korah's rebellion is clearly based on the premise that God's true intent was to keep the people inEgypt despite the slavery they endured there. They made the mistake of looking at current difficulties and ignoring all that God had done or told them in order to return to the known rather than face the unknown.

This current eldership issue faced by the evangelical churches bares all the hallmarks of a similar rebellion. Faced with contemporary secular attitudes to gender issues leaders seek to return apostolic doctrine to the Egypt of the known secular world. The 'wilderness' of doctrinal exclusivity is an uncomfortable place. The promise of a reward for steadfastness remains only a stones and dust reality with little to recommend it when compared to the ever present and easier accommodation one can find on the wide road back to Egypt.

This is the true nature of eisegesis and it has dogged the relationship between God and His people from the beginning. Humanity has persisted in inventing doctrines contrary to God's will. In 1 Kings 19 Elijah despairs of this rebellious habbit. He had to be reassured by God that there were seven thousand other who were still true to Him.

4. Women in the Bible

Using Chris Marshall's piece in 'Reality' I will demonstrate the way eisegesis rather than exegesis is used. The article looks at various women mentioned in the New Testament and seeks to put together a doctrinal position based on these references. Before looking at each reference study Strong's definitions of 'elder' and 'deacon' as a preface to this part of the argument:

Strong's <1249> re servant or deacon;

diakonos {dee-ak'-on-os}, probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands, cf 1377); TDNT-2:88,152;nm/f

AV - minister 20, servant 8, deacon 3; 31

1) one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

la) the servant of a king

Ib) a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use

Ic) a waiter, one who serves food and drink

For Synonyms see entry 5834

<5834> synonyms

1249 represents the servant in his activity for the work; not in his relation, either servile, as that of that 1402, or more voluntary, as in the case of 2324, to a person. 1402 opp. To 1249 denotes a bondsman, one who sustains a permanent servile relation to another. 2324 is the voluntary performer of services, whether as a freeman or a slave; it is a nobler tenderer word than 1402. 5257 suggests subordination.

Strong's <1984> re elder

1984 episkope {ep-is-kop-ay', from 1980; TDNT - 2:606,244; n f

AV - visitation 2, bishoprick 1, office of a bishop 1; 4

1) investigation, inspection, visitation

la) that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad

1b) oversight

1bl) overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder

1b2) the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

There is a distinct difference between the use of the word servant or deacon

(Gk=diakonos) and the word elder or bishop. The former refers to someone who willingly serves another. The use made of the servants by Jesus at Cana (John 2:5-9) is a good example. The word for elder (Gk=episkope) refers to an overseer, one who watches over or presides over a church. There are two key differences between an elder and a deacon.

Firstly, an elder had to be able to teach while there was no such requirement stated in scripture for a deacon. Secondly, a deacon's role was to provide a service to the church or its leader(s) but not to exercise authority beyond what was required to perform the service. The elder on the other hand was a leader - someone who guided the church and maintained sound doctrine through wise teaching. For these reasons the list of qualities required of an elder is considerably more comprehensive than for a deacon.

Chris Marshall's claims concerning various women in the Bible based primarily on the two definitions included above will now be examined.


Romons 16:1-2 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

The words 'servant' and 'help' (AV = succourer) used in these verses are extrapolated by Chris to mean a teacher and preacher (p.21) despite the fact that Paul does not describe her by using the word for elder (Gk = episkope). If he had then it would have been clear that Pheobe was recognised by Paul as more than a helper. Instead he refers to her as one who serves, principally as a patron who uses her resources to help others and Paul himself.

I have no doubt that Pheobe was an important person in the Church and entrusted by Paul with important tasks. This does not make her an elder as defined by Paul in his first letter to Timothy.

Any argument that uses Pheobe as an example of a woman elder in the early Church has to read that into the scriptures (eisegesis). Chris Marshall does just that. His claims for Pheobe are therefore entirely equivocal and cannot be relied upon doctrinally.  They also contradict 1 Timothy 2:11.


Listed below are the verses referring to Priscilla and her husband Aquila:

  • Ac 18:2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native ofPontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them…
  • Ac 18:18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.
  • Ac 18:19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
  • Ac 18:26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
  • Ro 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.
  • 1 Co 16:19  The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
  • 2 Ti 4:19 Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.

Chris' point (p.22) that Pauline communities were remarkably egalitarian underscores my earlier remarks about the full part played by woman in the Church. But translating the above verses into an apologetic for woman eldership is again going too far. Such an assertion is little more than mere speculation and is no basis at all for overturning Paul's teaching on the subject in 1 Timothy 2:11.

Notice that Paul always brackets Priscilla with her husband, which is completely in accord with what he has to say about headship in 1 Corinthians 11. The use of the words 'fellow-workers' (Gk=sunergos) in Romans 16:3 means just that. They laboured with Paul and other Christians as members of a dedicated Church-building team. In 1 Peter 5:1 Peter refers to his 'fellow elders'. No one is suggesting that they shared Peter's apostolic anointing simply because he used the word 'fellow'. Again the use of such a term is indicative of an egalitarian burden-sharing without any loss of role definition by either Peter or the elders.

In 1 Corinthians 16:19 it states that a church met at Priscilla and Aquila's home. This does not vicariously make Priscilla an elder but rather the wife of an elder (1 Timothy 3:2). Because she is often mentioned before her husband it may be that Paul had greater respect for her as a worker in Christ than he did for her husband. However, this conjecture cannot eclipse all that Peter and Paul has to say about headship and eldership. To claim otherwise, as Chris does, is again reading into scripture what simply is not there.

It is perhaps useful at this juncture to point out that Priscilla may well have spoken often in the church at her house. She may have shared encouraging news or information or had a testimony on some point. Chris Marshall seems to think she may have had a better public persona than her husband.

In any event what she would not have done is delved into doctrinal teaching. She would have left that to her husband irrespective of the fact that she may or may not have been a better speaker (The gospel truth does not require eloquence but conviction – see 1 Corinthians 2:3-5). Paul does not refer to her as an elder and therefore within the church she could not have been a teacher of doctrine (1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 3:2).


Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they-were in Christ before I was.

Chris Marshall heralds this passage as suggesting (p.22) Junia, a woman, was an apostle. He boldly claims that this reference to Junia is 'firm evidence' that women were apostles and therefore teachers. Apart from the obvious clash with 1 Timothy 2:12 this reference falls far short of being 'firm' evidence of anything of the sort. It suggests she may have had strong links with the apostles but it does not say she was one of them.

There are good reasons for this view: Because Andronicus and Junia are bracketed it may well be that she was the formers husband. It is recorded that an Andronicus eventually became a bishop (or elder) in the Church. They may therefore be referred to as outstanding among the apostles because Paul recognised them as one in marriage in accord with his teaching in Ephesians 5:31. On this basis alone Chris' claim of firm evidence that Junia was an apostle in her own right is of dubious reliability.

The NIV rendering of the original Greek is also disputable. The NIV is littered with poor translations. About 160 are recorded (for a detailed discussion on this point refer to H.H.Meyer's 'Battle of the Bibles', 1993).

A review of other translations is revealing. The AV says: Romans 16:7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

The Amplified Bible renders 'of note' as 'held in high esteem among the apostles'.

The ASV translates the text as '...held in high esteem among the apostles'.

Other revised versions tend to repeat the NIV’s rendition.

The whole issue is consequently highly subjective. The reader can 'pick and point' according to their own bias. Hardly a good foundation for the 'firm evidence' asserted by Chris. On the basis of the clear and therefore firm evidence vis-a-vis the relationship between men and women discussed throughout the scriptures it is more exegetically rigorous to adopt the translation in the AV (who are of note among the apostles). Once again Chris Marshall's argument is (at best) entirely equivocal

Remaining References

Continue to deal with each of Chris' remaining references to the likes of Mary, Tryphaena and Euodia would just lead to repition of the arguments presented already. In each case the references to them do not contradict Paul's teaching on authority, teaching or headship in the Church.

There are a few remaining points worthy of mention connected with these women. Chris' reference to Chloe (p.24) is self-defeating. It would appear that the church of which Chloe was a part was experiencing serious doctrinal difficulties which is generally the product of poor leadership and teaching. If we adopt Chris' eisegetical approach it could be argued that we have here a good example of what Paul was determined to avoid when he placed limits on a woman's role in 1 Timothy 2.

The service rendered to Timothy by his grandmother Eunice and his mother Lois (p.24) are perfectly within the scope of a loving, nurturing family. They clearly taught Timothy well for he became a well-respected leader. Eunice and Lois acted in accord with Proverbs 31:26. However, 1 Timothy 2 11-12 still stands because it refers to teaching and leadership -within an established church and not a family where both parents have a teaching role to fulfill. Chris takes the reference to these two ladies out of context by implying they are deacons performing 'leadership functions'. In doing so he extends Paul's reference to them beyond what was intended.

Incidentally, in 2006 Chris Marshall co-chaired a Presbyterian church meeting in which Muslims were allowed to present a defence of their faith.  His actions and comments showed he was a keen apologist for Muslim-Christian dialogue around ‘common beliefs’.  Read Truth Watch's article on Islam and the God of the Bible.

Deborah and Esther (not referred to in Chris Marshall's article)

Deborah was a leader, judge and prophetess. Her leadership is the exception rather than the rule. She sought to pass the leadership of Israel onto Barak who reluctantly lead the armies of Israel against their oppressors only after he had an assurance that Deborah would go with him. Deborah criticised him for this, declaring that his lack of fortitude would be reflected in the death of the enemy king at the hands of a woman. This is all described in Judges Chapter 4. In the next chapter Deborah and Barak sing the praises of many leaders and princes who took up the fight against their enemies. The fact is that Deborah was a leading instigator of a fight for freedom. She did not act alone but sought out men to carry the fight to the enemy. Deborah does not support an argument for making 1 Timothy 2:11-12 mean the opposite to what it clearly says. In any even Deborah was acting in the geo-political arena well outside the church related scope of Paul's letter to Timothy.

Esther is a wonderful example of a courageous women who risked everything for her people. But she did not act outside of the headship order described in 1 Corinthians 11. She demonstrated true humility and obedience to her husband the king, and to Mordecai her adopted father (Esther 2:7).

Women in God’s ‘economy’

Both Esther and Deborah are good examples of the fact that women have a full part to play in God's will and purposes for his Church. God can and does use women to save and lead nations. He uses them to evangelise and found churches but he draws the line at women playing an eldership role in established churches.

One of the underlying prime-movers for the mounting pressures to appoint women to eldership is the unhealthy focus on the church gathered. The effect is to focus attention solely on roles within the Church rather than the far wider context in which Christians can find meaning and purpose. There is much in the scriptures that validates this important point.

Coincidentally, there is another article in the December 1997 edition of 'Reality' entitled 'Women Talk about their Place in the Church' which highlights this very point. The focus by various women is on their place in the Church rather than the part they can play in the wider building of God's kingdom. The article is symptomatic of the fact that we have institutionalised God.

Concluding Comments

Behind Jesus' teaching on the law and the commandments (Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 5:21-26; and Matthew 5:27-30) there lies a principle which is of paramount importance when considering any doctrinal matter. This principle is stated succinctly in the following scriptures:

Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Luke 16:17 It is easier/or heaven and earth to disappear than/or the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

1 Peter 1:25 but the word of the Lord stands for ever. "And this is the word that was preached to you.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever."

Every part of God's Word that is linked to holiness, truth and doctrine stands complete forever for the Logos is Jesus Christ who is the 'I Am' - the beginning and the end. For this reason we must limit ourselves to sound and safe (read, conservative) exegesis. The minute we decide to pass over part of scripture or redefine it in ways that do not accord with the Logos we sin by failing to accept its unchanging nature. The extent to which we sin depends on the importance of the scriptural truth we ignore or disobey.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is a clear unambiguous apostolic teaching carrying the imprimatur of the Logos through the Holy Spirit. The limitations placed on women in church eldership goes right back to something captured by God in our created essence. If we disobey God on this issue we are breaking some deep-seated tie or compatibility linking God to humanity, created in his image.

In the fight against the rulers and powers of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12) eisegesis is extremely foolish. It is no coincidence that gender issues have arisen in this present time. We should be deeply suspicious of anything born of secularism which seeks to plant itself within the Church. Satan is the Father of Lies and constantly looking for those he can deceive just as Eve was deceived.

The Church can stand against oppression and injustice in any form without compromising scriptural integrity. On gender issues in particular what the Church needs is a well framed, scripturally sound 'apologetic' (1 Peter 3:15) not a poor man's eisegetical apology that overturns scripture's plain meaning.

Parting shots:

1. We would do well to remember that Paul (1 Corinthians 4) warned us to follow the scriptures and not put too much stock in the reputations and opinions of other people.

1 Corinthians 4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

2. Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (soon after their ordination as priests) offered 'unauthorised fire' outside of any of the ceremonial instructions given to them by the Lord (Leviticus 9:3). They went beyond 'what is written' and it cost them their lives. Eisegesis is the doctrinally incorrect process of offering 'unauthorised fire'.

3. In Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21 death and sin are recorded as entering the world through the one man, Adam - not through Eve or Adam and Eve. The implication, which accords with scripture, is that in the final analysis the man is held responsible. It is the ‘buck stops here' allusion which runs congruently with the headship teaching of 1 Corinthians 11.