"Let a women learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." 1Timothy 2,11-12
Background on Ephesus And the Fledgling Christian Church There
The battle to prevent the failure of the Christian church at Ephesus in some sense defines the very lives of both the Apsotle Paul and his faith son Timothy.
Paul stated that he "fought with beasts at Ephesus" (1Corinthians15,32) and he wasn't kidding.
John the Revelator addressed Ephesus as the first of the seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 2). Furthermore, this church was also the worthy subject of another letter, a master spiritual treatise, "the letter to the Ephesians."
Ephesus was the third largest city in the Greco Roman world, and the gateway for the gospel in Asia, and the base for all the churches of Asia Minor, and the Roman provincial capital.
It was "beastly" because the local patroness-goddess was "Artemis of the Ephesians", a virgin huntress goddess. The Romans knew her as "Diana," the Greeks as "Artemis."
Since 600 BC she had a temple- bigger than a professional soccer field- dedicated to her.
When it burned down in 356 BC, it was built again. It was known as one of the "Seven Wonders of the World."
Prior to being "Artemis", she was a native Asian fertility goddess "Cybele" which Paul and his fellow Christian Jews knew as "Asherah" back in Canaan.
Scholars tell us that in 263 AD the Goths destroyed this temple, and yet as late as 500 AD the battle between Christianity and Artemis was still on in that they found a Christian inscription rejoicing that the cross had replaced her idol (Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Paul Achtmeier, Editor, 1997, p. 73).
Anyway, in the Apostolic days the Ephesus Chamber of Commerce was very zealous in protecting the local silversmiths who sold little cash cow idols of her. So since Paul wouldn't stop preaching his Jewish Christian monotheism, and their trade sufferred, they rioted and started to round up Christians (Acts 19,33ff).
Yes Ephesus was quite a mix, of tumult within the church and riots against Christians without. And it also has with what we moderns now call "gender" issues, in that some church women were steeped in the cult, and more liberated culture of Artemis of Ephesus.
Not to mention Ephesus was also of supreme strategic importance, and pastored by a young and wimpy Timothy, and Paul had burned his bridges. And by the way, it also arguably the biblical test church to see if one Apostle could pass on a church to another.
Only by attempting to understand this local, scriptural and apostolic context can Paul's scathing comments about women in the church there be explained, and perhaps localized.
What Was Going On With The Ephesian Church Women?
Some of the Ephesian church women were too blinged out, and too sexy for themselves, and for public worship. And besides, with a newcomer's enthusiastic unawarenesss for protocol, some disrupted services by asking questions out loud, 1Timothy 2,11.
And then some others, under a false charismaniac spirit disrupted public worship by prophesying (ie teaching) either as scheduled by Timothy, or spontaneously, 1Timothy 2,12.
It is interesting that this verse 12 group of women were silenced personally by Paul (note he takes pains to say "I" do not permit women to teach so as to likely take Timothy off the hook, who probably gave them permission). They were likely silenced by Paul because what they said was uninspired and invalid, and they wouldn't back off, and this left Timothy in over his head.
This is the more likely scenario than Paul didn't value the gospel contribution of women. He sure liked Prisca, and Lydia, and many others.
But here in Ephesus he had to step in.
If what the women were preaching was kosher, or they had backed off, Paul would never have pulled rank on Timothy.
Moreover, some other Ephesus folks- we don't know if this was gender based- were heeding "seducing" spirits that forbad marriage and meat eating (1Timothy 4,1-3). Perhaps, this was a group of church women literally emulating the virgin huntress Artemis, and had foresworn marriage- forswearing marriage is not good for a new church.
These were likely part of the old wives fables referred to in 1Timothy 4,7.
Given the above three tumultous gender based situations, 1Timothy 2,15 takes pains to decree that women will be saved by child bearing, faith and self control within marriage.
Finally, there was the pressing issue concerning the Christian protective order of widows who lived on the church debit card. There were too many young and restless ones (1Timothy 5,3ff), and thus Paul had to limit this group to those over 60 years old (v.9).
Some of the widows apparently were doing a door to door evangelism type of thing, "speaking things which they ought not." (1Timothy 5,13). This likely either means they were spreading the aforesaid bad teachings of their erring sisters, or just spreading ordinary church gossip.
Is Paul's Local Silencing of Women in Ephesian Worship Per 1Timothy A Ruling For All The Church Now?
Given the above tumultuous context, wherein the present and future stability of Christianity in crucial Asia Minor is under real threat from the ruling principality of Artemis (cf Ephesians 6,12), the silencing of women in Ephesian church is more likely a local issue of false prophecy rather than a springboard for all church praxis thereafter.
It may also help to make clear that the pastoral teaching gift, prohibited to women by Paul at 1Timothy2,12, is distinct from the evangelist gift per Ephesians 4,11 in that an evangelist doesn't necessarily have teaching authority over men, only the local pastor has that.
And no one can dispute that women were the first Christian evangelists- those at the empty tomb, and the first to see him risen, Mary Magdala. No one can dispute that at one time in Corinth women were welcome to prophesy, which is a arguably a higher gift than either pastoring evangelizing. 1Corinthians11,5, Ephesians4,11-12.
The claim of women being silent in public worship thereafter (tell that to Miriam, or Deborah, or Sarah, or Mary, all prophesying and magnifying the Lord) up until the late 19th century is not surprising. It was the culture and tradition of the church, up until the Pentecostal movement in the late 19th century when the Holy Ghost started to change the church and its culture in this regard.
And as every Christian knows, the word (properly discerned) and the Spirit govern the church in every age. And there is little doubt after 100 years of women preaching, and the vastly speeded up wave of women preachers in the last 20 years, that the Holy Ghost wants it to continue everywhere.
It may not be your churchs' politics, but politics in the present era, as it has always has (see Revelation 1,9) boils down to who gets to preach and can they preach Jesus alone and his gospel?
It's time to let women preach Jesus with power and conviction.
Or let me put the issue this way- is there anyone baptized in the Spirit who still doesn't think women should be evangelizing in 2012?
My testimony- if it helps- is this. The most blessed pastoral directions I ever followed, from the Holy Ghost Himself, right from the start of ministry, was first to empower men to act as men in church, and then shortly thereafter, to let women preach.
Women preaching in today's church is not a "liberal" innovation.
It's part of Jesus waking us up.
Is not the Spirit saying "What's taking so long?"
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...