Searching the Scriptures

Our discussion thus far leads us to the conclusion that the Bible's teaching on headship is still valid today--even as it has always been since creation. This understanding adequately explains the absence of biblical precedent for ordaining women, not only as priests in the Old Testament but also as apostles and elders/pastors in the New Testament. To show that the headship principle, not an accommodation to culture, is also the basis for the specific prohibitions against women having "authority over men" (1 Tim 2:11ff.; 3:2; Titus 1:6; 1 Cor 14:34-35) calls for further searching the Scriptures. In this chapter, we will examine certain issues which raise biblical obstacles to women's ordination. Does the Bible include gender among the qualifications for the leader of the worshiping community? What are the key Bible texts which bear on this question, and what do they mean? When these issues are clear, two other questions which are often asked will need addressing: Was the Bible's instruction on this theme shaped by the culture of those times (and therefore not applicable outside of that culture)? and Is the Bible silent on the question of ordination for women?

Qualification for the Office of Apostle or Elder/Pastor

The New Testament teaches that the offices of both apostle and elder/pastor should be filled not just by human beings of either gender but by males. In discussing the qualities for apostles and elders/pastors, the New Testament writers made clear that such an office holder should be a man, not a woman. If they had believed that any person could qualify, irrespective of gender, they would have used the generic term anthropos, a word which refers to human beings, male or female, without regard to gender. Instead, they employed the specific term aner/andros, a word that means a male person in distinction from a woman (see Acts 8:12; 1 Tim 2:12), a person capable of being called a husband (see Matt 1:16; John 4:16; Rom 7:2; Titus 1:6).

Replacement of One of the Twelve. The book of Acts records that shortly before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the 120 male and female disciples who were gathered in the upper room sought guidance to find a replacement

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for Judas. Significantly, they first sought biblical guidance on whether to fill the vacancy (Acts 1:14-20). Both the 120 and Luke, the writer of Acts, understood the apostleship as an oversight office; the Greek term used in Acts 1:20, translated "bishoprick" (KJV), "office" (RSV) and "leader" (NIV), is episkopos, the very word Paul used to describe the office of elder/pastor (1 Tim 3:1, 2; Acts 20:28; cf. Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Pet 5:1-3 for the corresponding term presbuteros). Notice the qualifications in choosing Matthias as an apostle in place of Judas:

"Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." . . . [After proposing Barsabbas and Matthias, the 120 prayed,] "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs" (Acts 1:21-25 NIV).

Why did the 120 men and women in the upper room appoint two men, and no women, as candidates from which to select an apostle to be added to the eleven? Were there no qualified women "who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us"? Was there no woman with a "heart" acceptable enough to God "to take over this apostolic ministry"? This is not likely. Obviously, there were capable women among the 120 disciples, since all of them--male and female--were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

The absence of a woman candidate is not happenstance, either, according to the text. The reason why women were excluded as candidates for the apostleship, even though some of them undoubtedly met most of the requirements set forth in verses 21-22, is clearly given in verse 21: "It is necessary to chose one of the men [andron, from aner] who have been with us." On the basis of Scripture, the 120 male and female disciples of Christ (including Mary, the mother of Jesus) understood that the oversight (episkopos, v. 20) function of apostleship may only be exercised by a male (aner), not a female. This decision by the 120 conformed to the pre-fall headship principle, which ascribed the leadership role to men. It was also in harmony with the example of Jesus Christ who, after a long night of prayer, chose twelve male apostles (Luke 6:12-16). The disciples in the upper room were "with one accord" (Acts 1:14; 2:1) in their choice of a male replacement, and the risen Christ rewarded their unity and faithfulness to Scripture by pouring out His Spirit upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Choosing an Elder/Pastor. In the action of the 120 disciples in choosing a replacement apostle, we find a prescription for Spirit-empowered ministry: unity,

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prayer, and fidelity to Scriptural guidelines. This last point was reiterated when the apostle Paul instructed that an elder must fulfill certain qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-6; Titus 1:5-9). Among these, an elder/bishop "must be . . . the husband (aner/andros) of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). [1] In other words, the elder or pastor should be a man, not a woman. An additional point underscores this: the elder should be able to exercise spiritual leadership in his home. He is one who "must manage his own family well" (1 Tim 3:4, 5 NIV; Titus 1:6). [2]

When this qualification for the office of elder or pastor is understood in light of the pre-fall headship principle, and when we take into account the examples of Jesus Himself in ordaining the twelve apostles as well as that of the 120 in commissioning Matthias as an apostle in place of Judas, it is clear that Paul's prescription that an elder be a male (aner) is not arbitrary. Until it can be shown that the qualification for an elder to be the "husband of one wife" is no longer valid, women should not be ordained as elders or pastors of the church. Showing that this qualification is no longer valid will not be easy for advocates of women's ordination in light of two additional statements by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11ff. and 1 Corinthians 14:34. To these crucial Bible texts, we now turn our attention.

Crucial Bible Texts: 1 Tim 2:11-14; 1 Cor 14:34-35

The key texts linking the headship principle with the teaching authority of elders and pastors are 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Are these texts culturally conditioned to Paul's time and place (the local situation in Ephesus and Corinth), as some proponents of women's ordination suggest?

1 Timothy 2:11-14. Central to the debate on women's ordination is 1 Timothy 2:11-14:


As we have shown in chapter 3, the issue here is not muzzling women into silence. Still, because Paul does place some restriction on women in this passage, radical proponents of women's ordination argue that Paul could not have written such a text because it allegedly contradicts his statement in Galatians 3:28, [4] or that if he did write the text it was his own private opinion. Bible-believing Adventists reject these liberal interpretations, asserting that Paul's statement "I suffer not . . ." does not express mere private opinion but rather a divinely inspired judgment (cf. Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 7:25).

Our concern, however, will be whether 1 Timothy 2:11-14 has permanent validity for the leadership of the Christian church. "Moderate" or "progres-

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sive" proponents of women's ordination suggest either (1) that Paul's statement is culturally conditioned to his time and place, or (2) that if it is still valid today, it only applies to the relationship between husband and wife, not to the male-female relationship in the church. Both of these objections fail to account for what the text actually says.

First, Paul did not give cultural or sociological factors in Ephesus or in the New Testament times as the reason he prohibited women from exercising the role of authoritative teaching. Scholars have ventured myriads of contradictory guesses of "the real reason" behind Paul's statement. [5]Interesting though some of them are, these guesses reflect the reluctance of scholars to accept the explicit reason Paul himself gave in the text. Whatever the cultural or sociological situation may have been in Ephesus--Gnosticism, witchcraft, worship of the mother-goddess Diana (Artemis), mysticism, feminism, etc. [6]--the apostle Paul employed a theological reason to address the specific problem that occasioned his statement. His stated reason was, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Paul pointed back to the pre-fall creation ordinance of headship, reiterated after the fall. By appealing to the divine arrangement from creation as the reason why the woman is not to have authority over the man, the apostle dispelled any suggestion that his instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 was culturally conditioned or time-bound. (See "The Headship Principle" in chapter 5 above.)

The second argument favored by "moderate" proponents of women's ordination, that the prohibition applies only to marriage and not to the church setting, overlooks the passage's context which deals not only with the relationship of men and women in the home but also includes the church. Paul stated his purpose in writing the epistle: "I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will kow how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:14-15 NIV, emphasis added; cf. 1 Cor 11:3-16). Significantly, the context of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is not a discussion about husbands and wives but about men (Greek aner) and women (Greek gune), whether married or not. [7] The immediate context for the passage is found in verses 8-10, which give instructions on Christian dress and adornment. In order to deny that verses 11-15 apply to church life, one must limit the instructions on dress and adornment to apply only to the home setting, a view no Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventist will support. Moreover, the passage immediately following verses 11-15 (1 Timothy 3:1-7, describing the qualities of an elder/pastor) clearly shows that Paul was addressing the church context. Thus, the larger context not only establishes the headship principle but also applies it to the church setting (3:14, 15)--not just to the local church at Ephesus, but to the Christian church at large. [8]

Paul grounds his restriction on women in Scripture itself, showing by example that theological issues must be settled by the written Word of God, the Christian's ultimate source of authority. It is also significant that Paul gave

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this command in the context of church matters, indicating that his prohibition of women to "teach and have authority over men" goes beyond the home.

In order for the church to endorse women's ordination to the gospel ministry, proponents will need to show from Scripture that Paul was mistaken in his teaching that male headship/leadership was established at creation and reiterated after the fall (1 Tim 2:11ff.). They will also have to justify from the Bible the basis for limiting the headship principle only to the home or marriage setting when the context does not do so.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Another key text in the debate over women's ordination 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 a home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. [9]

As noted earlier, Paul's command that women "keep silence" in the church does not mean that women cannot pray, prophesy, preach, evangelize or teach in the church. For in the same letter to the Corinthians in which Paul tells women to keep silence, he also indicates that women may pray and prophesy, provided they are dressed appropriately (1 Cor 11:2-16). Also, the instruction that women should "keep silence in the churches," just like the command in the same chapter that tongue speakers with no interpreter present should "keep silence in the church" (1 Cor 14:28), suggests that Paul wanted women to exercise their gift to "speak," but within certain appropriate guidelines.

Our concern in this passage is, therefore, whether 1 Corinthians 14:34 has permanent validity for the leadership of the Christian church. Just as they do 1 Timothy 2:11-14, "moderate" or "progressive" proponents of women's ordination want to consign 1 Corinthians 14:34 to the culture and times of Paul. They interpret "the law" in this passage as a reference to "a Jewish custom."

Two brief responses will be given. First, if "the law" refers to "a Jewish custom," how could such a custom apply to the Corinthian church, which no doubt had Gentile converts? How could such a "Jewish" command be binding "in the churches," including the non-Jewish churches? Similar questions will still be raised if one argues that "the law" is a "Corinthian civil law," for how could a civil law in Corinth be binding on non-Corinthian Christians "in all the churches"? [10] Would it not be more consistent biblically to understand "the law" as a reference to the divine arrangement of role differentiation established at creation (see 1 Cor 11:3, 8-9; 1 Tim 2:13)? In fact, in an earlier verse (1 Cor 14:21) Paul uses "the law" to mean the Old Testament Scriptures, suggesting that when he ses "the law" in verse 34, he has in mind the pre-fall headship principle recorded in the Old Testament (Gen 2:20b-24). This principle or "law" the apostle now applies to women (including married women [v. 35]) "in the churches."

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Second, in Paul's prohibiting women to speak, the key phrase "but they are commanded to be under obedience" indicates that the kind of speaking Paul ruled out is one which involved not being "under obedience," that is, one which constituted an exercise of authority inappropriate to them as women or wives. Thus, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, like 1 Timothy 2:11-14, prohibits women from exercising the authoritative teaching function entrusted to leaders of the worshiping community. This explains why Paul restricts the teaching and leadership role of elder or pastor to males (aner, 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6).

Significantly, Paul supports his restriction on women on the basis of Scripture ("the law," 1 Cor 14:34; cf. 14:21) and not on socio-cultural barriers; this is in harmony with the view that the Bible must always remain the ultimate authority on issues of faith and practice. It is also worth noting that the command was given to govern the conduct of women, whether at church or at home (1 Cor 14:33-37). Paul saw a connection between the pattern of authority in the church and in the home.

In order for the church to approve ordaining women as elders or pastors, proponents must show that Paul's prohibition (in 1 Cor 14:34-35) of women exercising the authoritative teaching function is not grounded theologically on God's divine arrangement, but rather on a socio-cultural basis.

Conclusion. As we have seen, these two texts have permanent validity because the headship principle which they teach is established on the creation arrangement. Consequently, the principle is valid today for both the home and church families.

This discussion of the key scriptural passages governing the male-female relationship has pointed out some major biblical and theological obstacles to ordaining women as elders and pastors. Besides the absence of biblical precedent for women in headship roles such as priest, apostle, elder, and pastor in the worshiping community of God, specific texts of Scripture seem clearly to forbidwomen "to teach or to have authority over men" (1 Tim 2:11, 12; cf. 1 Cor 14:34) and restrict the offices of elder and pastor to males (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). These prohibitions are not addressed to the specific cultural situations in Ephesus and Corinth, but to the Christian church at large; they should not be explained as "God's adaptation to sinful human conditions," but rather as God's pre-fall creation ordinance for all humanity. [11]

Until it can be shown otherwise, our deliberation on the crucial biblical texts on the relationship of man and woman in both the home and the church settings leads us to conclude with the British evangelical scholar John Stott that "all attempts to get rid of Paul's teaching on headship (on grounds that it is mistaken, confusing, culture-bound or culture specific) must be pronounced unsuccessful. It remains stubbornly there. It is rooted in divine revelation, not human opinion, and in divine creation, not human culture. In essence, therefore, it must be preserved as having permanent and universal authority." [12]

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Cultural Accommodation or Biblical Principle?

Advocates for women's ordination do not accept the permanent validity of the headship principle as the most biblically consistent explanation for the lack of scriptural precedent for ordaining women to certain leadership roles in the church, such as priests in the Od Testament and apostles and elders/pastors in the New Testament. They argue that this lack of biblical precedent should be understood as cultural accommodation to oppressive structures (race, gender, religion, etc.) in existence during the Bible times. Thus, they claim, the failure of Jesus to ordain women as apostles, the New Testament church's failure to ordain women as elders and pastors, and the statements of Paul prohibiting women from "having authority over men" were concessions they had to make to accommodate the (supposedly) insensitive, male-chauvinistic or anti-women cultural practices of their times so as not to jeopardize their ministries prematurely.

One cannot deny that in New Testament times (just as in our day) there were oppressive structures that often treated women and some races as inferior. For this reason, some try to compare the headship issue to slavery, which was also current in Bible times. But the headship principle is different from slavery in two major ways: (1) the headship principle was a creation ordinance, while slavery was never instituted by God; and (2) as a pre-fall creation ordinance, the headship principle is morally right and therefore morally binding on all God's people, irrespective of the place and time in which they live; but slavery, as a post-fall distortion of God's will for humanity, is morally offensive and cannot be justified under biblical Christianity. [13] (The book of Philemon shows this.)

Despite any existence of oppressive structures in Bible times, the real question is, Can we place the headship principle on a par with racial or gender insensitivity? Did the New Testament writers and Jesus, who accepted this biblical principle of headship, give in to the racial and gender injustice of their day in order not to jeopardize the spread of the gospel?

To argue that in Old Testament times women could not be priests because their culture would not have allowed it fails to recognize that most of Israel's neighbors had both men and women serving as priests in their religions. [14] Thus the culture of Old Testament times would have welcomed women priests in Israel. The reason women in Israel were not ordained as priests was not because of their culture, but rather because Israel understood the pre-fall headship principle that permitted only men to be spiritual leaders within the worshiping community.

Similarly, to argue that women were not ordained as elders and pastors in the New Testament churches because their culture could not have permitted the apostles to do so overlooks the fact that women were active in gospel ministry in the New Testament church--in spite of the "patriarchal culture." We have already noted the significant roles of women such as Mary, Martha,

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Joanna, Susanna (Luke 8:2-3; Acts 1:14), Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Lydia, Phoebe, Lois, Eunice, Priscilla, Tryphena, Tryposa, Persis, Euodia, Syntyche, and Junia (Acts 16:14-15; 18:26; 21:8-9; Rom 16:1-4, 6, 7, 12; Phil 4:3). There is no evidence that the religion of the Bible adopted the views of some rabbis who looked down upon women as physically weak, intellectually feeble, and emotionally unstable, as some have claimed. Rather, the New Testament writers express abundant appreciation for the labors and contributions of women such as those named above. Yet these women were not ordained to the roles of apostle, elder or pastor because the New Testament church understood the headship principle that precluded women from exercising the leadership function in the worshiping community. [15]

Furthermore, to suggest that Paul's statements prohibiting women from having "authority over men" (1 Tim 2:12; cf. 1 Cor 14:34-35) were concessions he had to make to accommodate the (supposedly) anti-women cultural practices of his times is to ignore Paul's own clear explanation of his reasons and to charge him with theological inconsistency, if not religious hypocrisy. Since in 1 Tim 2:11ff., the apostle himself gave a theological reason as the basis for his prohibition ("For Adam was formed first, then Eve. . . "), those who attempt to explain Paul's statement on the basis of cultural accommodation are in effect saying that Paul misconstrued or misapplied the Old Tetament in order to justify his lack of moral courage to stand against unjust cultural norms. How can the apostle Paul, the champion of the "neither male nor female" principle (Gal 3:28), be so characterized by proponents of women's ordination? Only a few verses before the one in question, the apostle himself protests, "For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Tim 2:7, emphasis added). Paul's reason for prohibiting headship authority to women was not culture; rather, he understood clearly the permanent validity of the Old Testament principle of headship.

Some argue that Jesus could not ordain women as apostles because the culture of His time would not have permitted Him to do so without prematurely jeopardizing His ministry. Are they, in effect, charging our Lord Jesus Christ with insensitivity or accommodation to the "injustice" women suffered in His day? How could this be, when Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus never yielded to sin (Heb 4:15)? "Sin" surely includes the sin of gender injustice.

While Jesus attempted no political reforms to correct the corrupt and oppressive structures of His day, He was not "indifferent to the woes of men." He understood that the remedy for any form of injustice (race, gender, religious, etc.) "did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men [and women] individually, and must regenerate the heart" ( The Desire of Ages , p. 509). He established the church as a counter society in which freedom and justice would truly reign. If Jesus had considered the restriction of the apostleship to males to be an issue of injustice, He would not have chosen only men. Christ attempted no civil reforms, but He surely did attempt to establish his own church on clearly different principles.

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To suggest, as proponents of women's ordination do, that Jesus' choice of male apostles was a mere concession to the "male-dominated" social structure of His time is to misunderstand who Jesus really was and what He stood for. The gospels clearly reveal that Jesus' teaching and actions rebuked the pride that leads men and women to belittle each other because of race, gender, religion, social status, and any other type of class bigotry. Christ was not afraid to break social customs when they conflicted with Scripture. Against custom, he ministered to Gentiles, spoke to a Samaritan woman, and ate with tax collectors and sinners. He condemned the social injustices of His day when He spoke out against divorce and remarriage (Matt 19:8); when He drove from the temple those who were profaning it and exploiting others (John 2:14-17; Matt 21:27); and when He criticized religious leaders to their faces for their hypocrisy (Matt 23:13ff.). Christ's own life, as well as the thrust of His Sermon on the Mount, reveals that our Lord would not bow to any cultural pressure when moral issues were at stake. He denounced the scribes and Pharisees and all those who accommodate biblical principle to their cultural norms when He demanded, "Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matt 15:3 NIV).

Christ could easily have chosen and ordained six men and their wives as apostles, since the wives of apostles frequently accompanied them (1 Cor 9:5). But He did not. Christ could have chosen and ordained at least one of the women who were actively involved in His ministry, traveling to the places He was teaching and supporting Him and His disciples with their own money (see Luke 8:1-3). But He did not. He could have ordained His own mother, since she already had heaven's certification as "highly favored" (Luke 1:28, 30). But He did not. He could have chosen and ordained Mary, just as He commissioned her to bear witness to His resurrection (Mark 16:9ff.; John 20:11ff.). But He did not. Christ could have ordained the Samaritan woman as an apostle, since she defied several "cultural" stigmas (a woman five times divorced, living unlawfully with a man, and a Samaritan) to become a powerful and successful evangelist (John 4). But He did not. Instead, after spending all night in prayer (Luke 6:12), Christ appointed twelvemen as His apostles (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19). Why? Not because He lacked the courage to stand against gender injustice in His culture, and not because women were not capable or qualified, but because Jesus understood the headship principle of Scripture and submitted to its authority.

Conclusion. The "cultural argument" is a futile attempt to explain the lack of biblical precedent for ordaining women to headship roles in both the Old and New Testament worshiping communities.[16] The Holy Spirit's role in the inspiration of Scripture ensured that the Bible writers were not prisoners of the oppressive structures of their day (race, gender, religion, etc.). "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were

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carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20-21 NIV). The Holy Spirit's inspiration was more powerful than cultural force in the writing of the Scriptures. Led by the Spirit, the prophets and apostles as well as Jesus did what was right on this issue. The headship principle is the most biblically consistent explanation for the absence of Bible precedent for ordaining women to leadership roles in the church--as priests in the Old Testament, and as apostles and elders or pastors in the New Testament. And this principle has permanent validity.

The Alleged "Silence" of the Bible

Our discussion in chapters V and VI, highlighting biblical and theological obstacles to women's ordination, should put to rest the argument that the Bible is silent on the question of ordaining women as elders and pastors. As we have shown in this document, the Bible is not silent on the issue of women's ordination to the leadership role of the worshiping community. The lack of Bible precedent, as well as the presence of clear prohibitions in Scripture against the practice, speaks loudly against the so-called argument of silence. The only silence in Scripture on this issue is the same kind of silence awaiting those who search the Bible fruitlessly for a justification for Sunday keeping. Thus, with respect to the attempt to ordain women, just as with the bid to change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, we respond that the testimonies of Scripture indicate that God the Father did not do it; the Old Testament is clear that the patriarchs, prophets and kings never did do it; the gospels reveal that Jesus, the Desire of Ages, would not do it; the epistles and the acts of the apostles declare that the commissioned apostles could not do it; Ellen White, with a prophetic vision of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, dared not do it. [17] Should we who live at the turn of another millennium do it?

The Bible is not silent on the issue of women's ordination. It teaches clearly that men and women have equal standing before God as created beings, as sinners in need of salvation through Christ, and as people called to the same destiny. The Bible is equally emphatic in upholding role differentiations between male and female. Within the complementary relationship of male and female equality, male headship charges the man to be the Christ-like spiritual leader/overseer in both the home and church families, while the corresponding female role calls upon the woman to support/assist him willingly and nobly in his leadership function. This arrangement is not an indication of superiority of one over the other. "When God created Eve, he designed that she should possess neither inferiority nor superiority to the man, but that in all things she should be his equal" (Testimonies for the Church , 3:484).

Any attempt to ignore or even reverse this divine arrangement will ultimately lead to a fate similar to that of our first parents when they yielded to Satan on this same kind of temptation. "Eve had been perfectly happy by her husband's side in her Eden home; but, like restless modern Eves, she was flattered with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had

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assigned her. In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it. A similar result will be reached by all who are unwilling to take up cheerfully their life duties in accordance with God's plan. In their efforts to reach positions for which He has not fitted them, many are leaving vacant the place where they might be a blessing. In their desire for a higher sphere, many have sacrificed true womanly dignity and nobility of character, and have left undone the very work that Heaven appointed them" ( Patriarchs and Prophets , p. 59). This statement does not condemn women's aspirations for self-improvement or a better life. Rather, it calls for all to seek to live according to God's plan.

Conclusion. In this chapter and the previous one we have found that the headship principle was not a result of sin, but was instituted at creation, reiterated at the fall, and can only be truly realized "in the Lord." As a part of the creation order, it is still valid today. The example of Jesus and the apostles and the instruction of Paul show that the principle applies to the church and not just the home. The New Testament consistently indicates that the ones chosen for the leadership role in the church are to be males. The Bible texts from Paul's writings which speak most directly to this issue give a theological reason for the restriction, tracing it to Creation and to "the law." The culture of both Old and New Testament times would have accepted female leadership in the church. Neither Paul nor Jesus lacked the courage to stand for the right in this matter; their actions were not cowardly accommodation, but fearless fidelity to God's established order. In light of these things, though the Bible nowhere uses the expression "women's ordination," it is far from silent on the issue, giving clear instructions regarding the leadership of the church.

So wherein does our problem lie? What obstacles do we still have in our way that would prevent us from finding solutions that honor both women in ministry and the instruction of Scripture? Since all problems trace their origin back to when the man and the woman first took the forbidden fruit, perhaps we will find some answers in a "forbidden issue" that involves them both. This will shed some light on how some are searching the Scriptures.


[1] The word aner (translated "man" in the English translations) means a male of the human race. Therefore, the Greek phrase, mias [of one] gunaikos [woman] andra [man], literally translates as a "man of one woman," or "one-woman-man," meaning "a male of one woman." When used of the marriage relation it may be translated "husband of one wife" (KJV) or "husband of but one wife" (NIV). Because in this passage the words for "man" and "woman" do not have the definite article, the construction in the Greek emphasizes character or nature. Thus, "one can translate, 'one-wife sort of a husband,' or 'a one-woman sort of a man.' . . . Since character is emphasized by the Greek construction, the bishop should be a man who loves only one woman as his wife." (See Kenneth S. Wuest, The Pastoral Epistles in the Greek New Testament for the English Reader [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1952], p. 53.) Also, because the word "one" (mias) is positioned at the
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beginning of the phrase in the Greek, it appears to emphasize this monogamous relationship. Thus, the phrase "hsband of one wife," is calling for monogamous fidelity--that is to say, an elder must be "faithful to his one wife" (NEB). For an excellent summary of the various interpretations of this text, see Ronald A. G. du Preez, Polygamy in the Bible with Implications for Seventh-day Adventist Missiology (D.Min. project dissertation, Andrews University, 1993), pp. 266-277. Some have questioned whether Paul's instruction requires that the elder or pastor be married. While most likely the congregational leaders were married, two lines of scriptural evidence suggest that marriage was not an inflexible requirement. First, the apostle Paul himself seems not to have been married during his ministry (see 1 Cor 7:7-8). Second, he recommends the unmarried state to those who can accept it, so that they may be "anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord" (v. 32; see vv. 25-35). These considerations lend support to the idea that we may understand 1 Timothy 3:2 as referring to a "one-woman kind of man," one who, if married, is faithful to his one wife.

[2] The effort by some to see the "aged women" (presbutidas) of Titus 2:3 as referring to women elders is misdirected for two reasons. First, the usual word for elder is presbuteros (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22ff.; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Tim 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1, 5); the word refers to older men but also to those holding the office of elder. If Paul had intended to speak of "women elders" he could easily have used the corresponding feminine form, presbutera, though no office of "woman elder" is attested. Second, the context of Titus 2 makes it clear that Paul is not addressing those holding the office of elder but rather the different groups of people in the church: "aged men" (v. 2, presbutas, plural from presbutes, not from presbuteros), "aged women" (v. 3), "young women" (v. 4-5), "young men" (v. 6) and "servants" (v. 9). Having addressed "aged men" in verse 2 (cf. Luke 1:18; Philemon 9), Paul employs a related word, presbutidas, in verse 3 for "aged women," making it clear that he was speaking about older women and not "women elders." Hence the reinterpretation is invalid. The only kind of elder the apostle Paul recognized is the person who, among other things, is the "husband of one wife" (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2). The idea of a "woman elder" is thus an oxymoron.

[3] On the different methods of interpretation applied to this passage and their implications for Seventh-day Adventists, see Gerhard F. Hasel, "Biblical Authority and Feminist Interpretation,"Adventists Affirm 3/2 (Fall 1989): 12-23.

[4] See the discussion of Galatians 3:28 in chapter V under the heading "Realized 'in the Lord'" (p. 48).

[5] Even though the epistle to Timothy informs us of false teaching in the church of Ephesus, Paul did not give much detail regarding the specific nature of the false teaching. Some were engaged in speculative theologies based on "myths and interminable genealogies" and were creating confusion (1 Tim 1:3-7; 6:3-5; cf. 2 Tim 2:14, 16-17, 23-24; Titus 1:10; 3:9-11); other false teachers were stressing asceticism--e.g., abstinence from certain foods, marriage, etc. (1 Tim 4:1-3, 8); some convinced women to follow them in their false doctrines (1 Tim 5:15; 2 Tim 3:6-7), including usurping the role of men (1 Tim 2:11ff.). Beyond this general picture of the false doctrines being spread in the church, scholars have attempted to reconstruct what they think occasioned Paul's writing. Christians should be cautious about accepting any of these hypotheses, however enlightening they may appear to be. In the text under consideration, the apostle Paul stated clearly his reason for prohibiting women from having authority over men (see 1 Tim 2:13, 14).

[6] For a recent attempt to establish the setting of 1 Timothy 2:11ff., see Sharon Marie Hodgin Gritz, A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First Century (Ph.D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1986).

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[7] The Greek words used, aner and gune, refer to men and omen respectively. When used of the marriage relation, they may be translated as "husband" and "wife" (cf. 1 Pet 3:5, 6 and Eph 5:22-24). The context of 1 Timothy 2:11ff. is the church, suggesting that Paul was not just speaking to husbands and wives within the marriage institution but to men and women in the church, whether married or not (see a parallel instance in 1 Cor 14:34-35).

[8] Clearly the instructions given in 1 Timothy are not meant merely for the local church in Ephesus but for the whole Christian church. The nature of subjects discussed in the book demonstrates this. From the first chapter to the last, Paul covers themes such as the proper use of the law in character development, the work of Christ (chapter 1), prayers for rulers and worship procedures for men and women (chapter 2), qualifications of church leaders and practical suggestions for ministry (chapters 3 and 4), and how Timothy, and hence all leaders, should relate to old and young members, widows, elected elders, false teachers, and worldly riches (chapters 5 and 6). In light of these things, it is illegitimate to confine 1 Timothy to the local situation of Ephesus, and hence, to argue that the prohibition in 2:11ff. is of temporary or local application.

[9] For a critique of the many interpretations of this text, see D. A. Carson, "'Silent in the Churches': On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, pp. 140-153.

[10] See 1 Corinthians 14:33b, which most translations connect to v. 34.

[11] We therefore reject the suggestion that in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, God was adapting to sinful human conditions, specifically the cultural situation at Corinth and Ephesus (e.g., see Andrew Bates [pseudonym], "The Jerusalem Council: A Model for Utrecht?" Ministry,April 1995, p. 22).

[12] John Stott, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today (Old Tappan, N. J.: Revell, 1990), pp. 269-270.

[13] For more on this, see Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, "Saved by Grace and Living by Race: The Religion Called Racism," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 5/2 (Autumn 1994):37-78.

[14] Some have also argued that the reason why Israelite women were prohibited from serving as priests was that God did not want them to engage in the kind of immorality that the pagan priestesses engaged in. Besides lacking any basis in Scripture, such an argument implies that women are more prone to sexual immorality than men--a sexist argument that is yet to be proven.

[15] In an effort to show that women may exercise headship/leadership in the church, some who favor women's ordination have suggested that when Paul commends Phoebe in Romans 16:2 as "a servant of the church" and as "a succourer [prostatis] of many, and of myself also," the Greek termprostatis (translated "succourer" [KJV], "help" or "helper" [RSV, NASB, NIV]) should be rendered "leader." Translated in this way, Paul is made to say that Phoebe was "a leader [prostatis] of many, and of myself also" (Rom 16:2b). Two brief responses should be made. First, while the related masculine noun prostates may mean "leader" in some later Christian literature, the feminine noun used here (prostatis) is never attested with the meaning "leader" but is defined as "protectress, patroness, helper" (see Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament an Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 718. But a more important consideration is the context. Translating prostatis as "leader" makes Paul say that Phoebe was "a leader. . . of myself also." The suggestion that Phoebe held a position of authority over Paul is highly unlikely, given Paul's insistence that with the exception of Christ, no other person (not even the Jerusalem apostles) had authority over him (Gal 1:6-

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9, 11; 2 Thess 3:14; 1 Cor 14:37-38). Also, this same Paul prohibits a woman to have "authority over men" (1 Tim 2:11ff.). Thus, prostatis can only be translated legitimately as "helper" (not "leader") in Romans 16:2. The reason why Paul urges the church to "help [paristemi] Phoebe" was because, as "a servant [diakonos] of the church," she has been such a help [prostatis] to others and to me" (Rom 16:1, 2, NIV). See chapter 3, note 2 above for a discussion of the termdiakonos.

[16] Some have also claimed that the headship principle is no different from God's alleged accommodation or concession, in Old Testament times, to sinful human conditions such as polygamy, and divorce and remarriage. Two brief responses are in order. First, the pre-fall creation ordinance of headship that was instituted to govern the male-female relationship should not be equated with a post-fall distortion of the marriage institution (polygamy, and divorce and remarriage); the former is morally right, the latter are not. Second, the fact that God gave people freedom to choose and live in sin should not be interpreted as God's toleration of these sinful practices. Bible students will benefit from the following two works which challenge these "accommodation" hypotheses: Ronald A. G. du Preez, Polygamy in the Bible with Implications for Seventh-day Adventist Missiology (D. Min. project dissertation, Andrews University, 1993); J. Carl Laney, "Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and the Issue of Divorce," Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (Jan-Mar 1992):3-15. Both works offer biblical evidence showing that God at no time tolerated polygamy, divorce and remarriage.

[17] For a detailed discussion of what Ellen G. White taught regarding the ministry of women in the church, see William Fagal, "Ellen White and the Role of Women in the Church," a document that also discusses the statements of Ellen White regarding the ordination of women. Copies are available from the Ellen G. White Estate at a cost of $1.20 [US Dollars], which includes postage in the U.S.A.

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