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Titus 1:

5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

By saying that an elder must be a "man whose children believe" did Paul prohibit a woman from being an elder of a church?

Related: Did Paul in 1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 require potential elders to already have children?

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  • 1
    Sometimes it surprises me that questions haven't been asked before. Despite this verse being a crucial one in the question of female elders/ministers/priests, it doesn't look like there's a duplicate!
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 3 at 23:58
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This is an explosive subject that is, unfortunately, the subject of "cafeteria" theology - picking verses that suit one's taste and leaving the rest.

Short Answer

The Short answer to this question of gender in Christian officers is that 1 Tim 3 cannot be used to restrict the gender of elders and deacons in the church because the male word διάκονος is used of Phoebe in Rom 16:1.

  • Paul had female co-workers, in Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2, 3) as well as Junia the apostle (Rom 16:7). Nympha appears to be the leader of the church that met in her house at Laodicea (Col 4:15). John also addressed an epistle to a female church leader (2 John 1).
  • Women were allowed to teach men. The female leader, Priscilla taught the Apostle Apollos “more adequately”, Acts 18:26. It is significant that Priscilla is listed before her husband, Aquila, in this passage. King Lemuel was taught by his mother, Prov 31:1-9.
  • Women were permitted to pray and prophesy in public meetings, 1 Cor 11:5.
  • Gal 3:28 declares that all gender distinctions are out of place for the Christian congregation

Longer Answer

I can now hear the cries of some who ask about some troublesome texts in the NT about women being "silent". There are tricky so I will deal withy them in the appendices below.

APPENDIX 1 - 1 Tim 2:11, 12.

The Greek text of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12, according to Nestle-Aland (UBS 5th Ed) is the basis for most translations in English. According to the Majority Text (eg, Farstad et al), the Byzantine Text (Robinson and Pierpont), Family 35 text (Wilbur Pickering), the Patriarchal text, and the Textus Receptus, the order of the first three words of v12 is reversed, but this changes neither the translation nor the meaning of the text.

As commonly translated in modern versions, the NIV is typical, but its margin offers a significant alternative.

“(v11) A woman [wife]margin should learn in quietness and full submission. (v12) I do not permit a woman [wife]margin to teach or to assume authority over a man [husband]margin; she must be quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 NIV.

It is no wonder that this single passage is both the magna carta of ecclesiastical sexism and a thorn in the side of gender equality.

Therefore, how are we to understand this verse? Understanding this verse is complicated by the fact that the central verb, “authenteo”, translated “assume authority over” occurs only here in all the New Testament. It is immediately obvious that such a translation is inconsistent with both the theology of Scripture and its practice. See the above list to observe the remarkably liberated status that women enjoyed under Bible ideals.

Therefore, to properly understand this verse, we must better understand the vocabulary and idiom, because it is clear that such a simplistic translation, as above, is out of place in Paul’s writing and the rest of the Bible.

This verb, “authenteo” is used only here in verse 12 in all the New Testament. It is an unusual choice if Paul simply intended the idea of “authority” for which a variety of more common words are available. Indeed, the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek NT (Friberg et al) entry is, “strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over”. The BDAG entry is even stronger: “assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to, … practically = ‘tell a man what to do’”.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (400 AD) translates this word as “dominari” = domineer. A very impressive study by Albert Wolters clearly shows that this verb (and its cognate relatives) means to “have mastery over”. (See also its use as a noun in Wisdom 12:6, “murderer”, and 3 Macc 2:29, “master”.) Cynthia Long Westfall agrees, “In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō [which includes the infinitive authentein] refers to a range of actions . . . . However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden, because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.”

Such behaviour is out of place in both the home and the Christian congregation for anyone including women. Indeed, Jesus and the apostle Peter specifically forbade Christian leaders (or anyone else) “lording it over” other members of the congregation (Matt 20:25, 26, Mark 10:42, 43, 1 Peter 5:3). Thus, a domineering attitude is inappropriate behaviour for both men and women, but presumably, Timothy had particular problems in his congregation(s) with some difficult and bossy women that Paul advised him to address.

Further, Paul’s advice in Eph 5:21—28 gives authority to husbands over wives, but only consistent with the loving, self-sacrificing attitude of Christ to the Church. Again, complete mastery of anyone over another is out of place in the Christian community and home (Eph 5:21) by both men and women.

It is very instructive that that the immediate context of this instruction is vs 9 and 10 where Paul instructs women to dress with modesty and decently (ie, not provocatively or to call attention to themselves). It appears that he then expands upon this point about how women are to teach – without being domineering; and to learn in calmness.

Hendiadys

In verse 12 there is a Greek construction, often used by Paul, called “hendiadys”.
In 1 Tim 2:12, the construction, “neither teach nor domineer”, idiomatically means, “do not teach in a domineering way”; “do not ram your ideas down men’s throats in an overpowering way”, or similar.

Silence or Quietness?

The final sentence of this tricky verse 12 contains Paul’s injunction, “she must remain quiet” (NIV), or, “she is to keep quiet” (NRSV), or, “but to remain quiet” (NASB), or, “but to be in silence” (KJV & NKJV), or, “she is to remain quiet” (ESV), etc, with similar results for v11.

We first observe that the phrase in v12 begins with the conjunction, “but” which necessarily introduces a related but opposite idea. Again, it is clear that Biblical women were NOT required to be silent and this is clear by a simple comparison of the translation of the same word, hesuchia, earlier in the same passage, verse 2, which applies to all Christians to be “peaceful/tranquil and calm”. As used here, this obviously does not imply that Christians are to remain silent or quiet!

Therefore, for consistency we should use a similar idea in verse 12, thus rendering the latter part of verse 12, “but to be calm”, without implying quietness or silence.

Singular vs Plural

Up to verse 10, Paul uses the plural, “women”, presumably applying to all Christian women. However, in verses 11, and 12, he switches to the singular, “woman” or “wife”. I am inclined to think that Paul specifically has wives in mind here, hence his change of grammatical number. However, whether this is true or not does not alter the point – silence is NOT advocated so much as calmness.

Again, the same word, hesuchia, is used to describe the way a wife should learn and teach; and, again, it does not imply quietness; indeed, both the Socratic and Rabbinic teaching methods involved much discussion and dialogue between the student and teacher .

Therefore, Paul simply states what modern pedagogy has confirmed: that a student cannot learn while arrogant or surly. Thus Paul says (v11), “Let a wife learn in calmness and subjection.” As such, this is a perfect introduction to what comes after in verse 12 about eliminating domineering attitudes in the family.

Of course, such advice is applicable to husbands (as shown above) as well as wives but the more urgent problem in Timothy’s parish was possibly with overly bossy wives, as further evidenced by the “reason” quoted immediately after about Adam and Eve to encourage over-confidant women to be a little more humble and less arrogant.

Translation of 1 Tim 2:11, 12

Let us now translate 1 Tim 2:11, 12 using the above principles:

“Let a wife learn in calmness and subjection. I do not permit a wife to foist her ideas on the husband, but to be calm.”

With this understanding, we have much better agreement with the rest of Scripture and a more sensitive handling of the Greek idiom. Further, it is consistent with other Scriptural instruction to be humble and imitate Christ such as Matt 11:29, Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.

APPENDIX 2 - 1 Cor 14:34, 35.

Again, the NIV provides a good, representative translation of this verse.

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” 1 Cor 14:34, 35.

We should immediately observe three points about this text that are obvious:

  • The women (or wives) being in subjection should be read in the context of ALL Christians being subject to one another (Eph 5:21)
  • Paul’s instruction here does not mean that women (or wives) should remain silent in church or that they are forbidden to speak or preach. 1 Cor 11:5 makes this clear by providing instruction on how women were to speak and preach.
  • The advice Paul gives is in the context of calming the rabble that had developed in Corinth as various “prophets” competed to speak in tongues and prophesy. Thus it is not a plea for silence as much as order as confirmed in 1 Cor 14:40, “let all things be done decently and in order”.

There may have also been a local cultural component to this advice as well.

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  • On the question of Phoebe see hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/37779/16757
    – Michael16
    Jun 4 at 18:00
  • @Dottard " the male word διάκονος is used of Phoebe in Rom 16:1" and now you are getting close to understanding the riddles of the Gospel of Thomas. "Women must be made male". Paul says he speaks the mystery of Christ and the church. Christ is the teacher, the church is the student. Gender, as a secondary metaphor refers to those who understand and can teach, vs those who don't understand. And Jeremiah says all men will be pregnant: those who understand will be fruitful and multiply, by the fruit of the Spirit and teaching. He doesn't allow those who don't understand to teach.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 29 at 14:30
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Can a woman be an elder of a church?

The apostle Paul was inspired to write the words at 1 Timothy 2:12 which help to clarify the matter:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but she is to remain silent.

This falls in line with 1 Corinthians 11:3 in detailing the headship arrangement:

But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.

The Awake! article entitled "The Bible’s Viewpoint: Do Women Belong in the Pulpit?" helps to see what Paul was expressing:

The differences center on teaching and authority. Women are barred from serving in an official teaching capacity in the congregation and from exercising spiritual authority over fellow congregation members. In his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul plainly states: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”​—1 Timothy 2:12.

Paul next points to the basis for not allowing women to be teachers​—a divinely appointed relationship between man and woman. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve,” he writes. (1 Timothy 2:13) God could have created Adam and Eve at the same moment, but he did not. Adam existed for some time before Eve. Does this not reveal God’s purpose for Adam to direct, to be the head, rather than Eve? (1 Corinthians 11:3) And to teach is, in effect, to act as a master, or head, over those taught. Those taught listen and quietly learn. Thus, in the congregation only men are to be teachers and overseers.

Paul is not prohibiting women from teaching others. In fact, he encourages women to do so at Titus 2:3-5:

Likewise, let the older women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, not enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good, 4 so that they may advise the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sound in mind, chaste, working at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively. [bold mine]

Further insight into this can be found in the following articles:

[All scripture quotations are from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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    Your points are well-stated. Due to the politically correct world in which we live, white becomes black, up is down, and lies become the truth. Far to many seem perfectly willing to reject the plain, spoken Word as though it was strictly intended for the first century: it was not. It is to our shame that we are willing to so easily justify behavior contrary to Scripture. Paul could not be clearer in 1 Tim. 2:12, 1 Cor. 11:3, 14:34, Titus 2:3-5, and others. These passages apply to all generations, including ours. No twisting of Scripture will alter the fact. +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 4 at 3:08
  • You need to mention ref of the Titus 2 quote
    – Michael16
    Jun 4 at 17:22
  • @Michael16 I can, but I'm not sure why I "need" to. Can you explain the need?
    – agarza
    Jun 4 at 17:40
  • @agarza it is a rule, you must quote the reference, how would the readers know which passage is it? and preferably quote the version name in the quote itself.
    – Michael16
    Jun 4 at 17:44
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    @Michael16 I see what you are talking about now. Sorry for the misunderstanding and thanks for pointing out my mistake.
    – agarza
    Jun 4 at 18:05
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To give a precise answer: yes Paul does forbid women from speaking and teaching in the assembly and to have an authoritative role in the ministries that includes elders, pastors position 1Tim 2:11-12; 1Cor 14:33-38, it was his rule as he says, "in all the churches", no commandment was unique to one church and time. From Gotquestions site:

There are two primary viewpoints on the question of whether women can serve as elders in the church. The egalitarian view holds that women can serve as elders as long as they fulfill the requirements as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The complementarian view affirms the opposite and states that women are not allowed to serve in the capacity of elder within the church of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7: "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." (ESV)

The first thing to notice in this passage is the number of masculine pronouns (“he” and “his”). The pronouns "he," "his," and "him" occur 10 times in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. As a result, just a cursory reading of this passage would lead the average person to conclude that the role of an elder/overseer must be filled by a man. The phrase “husband of one wife” also indicates that the office of elder is assumed/intended to be fulfilled by men. The same points are also made in the parallel passage of Titus 1:5-9.

The passages that describe the qualifications and duties of elders/overseers do not open the door for women to serve as elders. In fact, the consistent use of male pronouns and terminology argues strongly for the office of elder/overseer being restricted to men only. As with other issues in this debate, the question of women serving as elders is not a matter of chauvinism. In no sense is this a matter of men being superior to women. Rather, God restricts the office of elder to men only because that is how He has structured the church to function. Godly men are to serve as leadership, with women serving in the crucially important supporting roles.

Also see "Can women be pastors?": No

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The question seems to be like that: "When Charlemagne issued a law that affirmed that any military commander in his army should have had a wife and a family, did he prohibit women from being military commanders by this law?" And the answer will be that he did not prohibit, but did not even entertain the possibility of women serving as his military commanders so as to rule out this possibility by the law in the first place.

Similarly here, Paul does not even entertain a possibility of women serving as elders at least in this particular church and community he addresses so as to prohibit it. So, he not only does not prohibit, but even does not entertain this idea that women could be elders and if present political-correctness-infected mindset finds it irritable, all the worse for this political-correctness-infected mindset.

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  • Would Paul (or Jesus) be considered "woke" by today's standard of "wokeness"? Social Justice Warriors? Jun 5 at 20:53
  • @CoryHaffly I do not think so. The "woke" guys are hysterical and they shun calm logical discussion, in serenity of Holy Spirit, like a rabid dog shuns water. Nothing like that in Paul. Jun 5 at 21:36

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