Three Points to Prove Paul’s Support of Women in Ministry
by Pastor Tenickia Polk
At first glance, the Apostle Paul’s comments concerning women seem contradictory. In some passages, Paul seems to affirm women in ministry (Romans 16:1-2 and Philippians 4:2-3), while in others he seems to restrict them (1 Corinthians 16:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36). However, we know the bible is infallible (2Tim 3:16 and Proverbs 30:5), and we also know God is not double-minded. Therefore, this paper aims to resolve some of the seemingly inconsistencies concerning Paul’s views of
women in ministry.
Below you will read three quick points, that when accepted, will diminish any doubt concerning Paul’s support of women in ministry.
Women Ministers Roll Call
Some theologians argue the lack of biblical precedence for women in ministry. However, Paul identified several women ministers in the New Testament. Namely, he noted the four virgins which did prophesy (Acts 21:9), and he highlighted the ministry of Phoebe, who brought his letter to the Roman church. Phoebe is described as a servant (Romans 16:1). The Greek word for “servant” was the same Paul used to describe himself. Keener, in “Was Paul for or Against Women in Ministry” notes “whereas Paul greeted about twice as many men as women in Romans 16, he commended the ministries of about twice as many women as men in that list.” Paul also commends the husband/wife ministry team of Priscilla and Aquilla who taught Apollos (Acts 18:24). And finally, Paul includes the female Junia in the list of apostles in Romans16:7.
You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!
On the flip side, one of the most referenced scriptures to justify the position that Paul prohibits women in ministry is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.). I admit that I’ve wrestled with this scripture for years, but thank God for the new revelation he has given me!
In “Fashioned to Reign,” Kris Vallotton highlights the necessity to understand the scripture in context, once we’ve obtained a clear understanding of verse 36 (What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?). He describes verse 36 as an expletive of disassociation denoted by the Greek word G2228 in the Strong’s
Concordance. The word translates in English as “What?” or “Nonsense!” or “No way!” In common urban vernacular; I like to translate into the common sarcastic phrase we use, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
When we understand 1Corinthians 14:36 to mean “You’ve got to be kidding me!”,we can understand that Paul is actually quoting or mocking the men in 1Corinthians 14:34-35; instead of instructing them. Alternatively, Vallotton suggests verses 34-35 could be read as the questions posed by the Corinthian church; and verse 36 is
Paul’s answer to the questions. In this light, the scripture can be understood as follows:
- 1 Corinthians 14:1-33 is Paul giving instructions to the church.
- 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is Paul quoting or mocking the men of the Corinthian church.
- 1 Corinthians 14:36 is Paul correcting the men of the Corinthian church.
To me, this flow of logic and interpretation is the only way the entirety of 1
Corinthians 14 can make sense. Otherwise, verse 36 seems blatantly out of place. Paul had no intention on silencing women in the church; instead he was correcting the Corinthians for trying to do so.
Separation of Church and Home
Historically, theologians have used Paul’s writings in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression) to prohibit women preachers and teachers in the church. However, in the article “Does the Bible Really Forbid Women Preachers?”, the author explains
that Paul does not forbid women preachers. Instead, this verse is misinterpreted because Paul shifts from addressing the general church population in 1Timothy 2:9-10, to addressing the marriage relationship in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. This shift is seen in careful review of the text, where the plural “women” and “men” discussed in verses 9-10 are changed to singular “woman” and “man” in verses 11-15.
Since Paul uses men/women in verses 9 -10; he is addressing all men and women generally. But since Paul uses man/woman, singularly, in verses 11-15, he is referring to a marriage relationship- one man and one woman. Therefore the restrictive clause to prevent a woman from dominating a man is confined to the husband and wife relationship. Again, this seems to be the only logical interpretation of this text. And it is consistent with the full counsel of the bible.
Additional cultural and historical arguments can be made to support Paul’s consistent view of affirming women ministers. However, I believe God’s word transcends culture and time, so I decided to highlight the arguments that transcend culture and time. Paul’s support of women in ministry is right in the meaning of the Word of God. Understanding the history and culture surrounding Paul’s epistles can be helpful, but I don’t think it is entirely necessary.
Upon researching Paul’s writings concerning women in ministry, there isn’t a contradiction at all. Instead, the contradictions come from misinterpretation and improper translation. Paul’s writings are consistent concerning women in ministry; Paul affirmed women in ministry.
"Enrichment Journal - Enriching and Equipping Spirit-filled Ministers." Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry? N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.
"Gospel Answers - Women Preachers: Forbidden in the Bible?" Gospel Answers - Women Preachers: Forbidden in the Bible? N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.
Vallotton, Kris. Fashioned to Reign: Empowering Women to Fulfill Their Divine Destiny. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.