IT’S A WOMAN’S WOR(L)D TOO

 “Woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.   And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.” (1 Timothy 2:11-15/ NIV)

Some women leaders in the Body of Christ in Bukidnon. Taken during the Philippine AGLOW National Conference in Cebu City on Nov. 1, 2012. The author at extreme right.

1st Timothy 2:11-15 is one of the more controversial passages where gender relation is concerned.  It is one of those passages in the Scripture that is being used by many in the Christendom to justify women’s subordinated position in the Church, society and even in the home.  For many generations, women have unnecessarily lived with the consequences of these erroneous rendering of the Pauline passages.  Patriarchy within the Body of Christ is perpetuated and facilitated by this uninformed interpretation of the Scripture.  Hence, a deconstruction of these passages, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15, is necessary for women to be liberated from the traditional view of leadership in the Church so that they may be able to participate more meaningfully and effectively in the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

God has made His design and purpose for man and woman very clear from the outset.  Yes, sin tarnished and perverted God’s original design and purpose for humankind, but the Lord Jesus Christ did not ascend without settling this issue.  In fact, the Lord Jesus’ entire ministry focused on restoration that is, restoring humans’ relationship with God and restoring them to one another.  When asked about the two most important commandments, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[1] This answer by the Lord Jesus amplified His intention of restoring human relations to how it was from the beginning before sin came into the picture.  It is noteworthy that Jesus, at the early part of his ministry, went back to Nazareth and read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the hearing of all those present in the synagogue during Sabbath:

            “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Luke 4:16-19)[2]

In reading that, Jesus was signaling the beginning of the Lord’s favor, meaning his arrival was the much awaited Jubilee for those who were oppressed and in bondage.  Patriarchy is an oppressive system not only for the women, but also for the children and men themselves.  The Scripture clearly shows that equality and mutuality between men and women was the divine plan.  When God first made known the blue print of human creation in Genesis 1:27 hierarchy, domination and inequality were never part of His plan.  One of the consequences of sin was the reversal of equality and mutuality between the man and woman.  Gill and Cavaness wrote, “Sin damaged relationships between people and God, between people and nature, and between people and people – Adam and Eve… Jesus Christ- the virgin’s seed – would one day come to restore God’s plan and reverse the effects of the Fall into sin.”[3] The Fall gave rise to patriarchy, a system where men dominates over the women and children in the home and in the society.  Groothuis also believes that inequality between men and women is the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  Groothuis, comparing the Old and New covenants, wrote:

“In the Old Testament, women had membership in the covenant community through their male family members because of male circumcision was the sign of the covenant.  While women were members of that community, their status was derived from and secondary  to that of the men… a woman not only was barred from priestly service, but also had less spiritual authority than her father or husband.”[4]

Under the New Covenant she pointed out the following:

      “… all members are equal members, with full privileges of membership in the Spiritual body of Christ.  Men and women are not just “equally saved”…. Rather, men and women have equal status in the community into which their salvation has secured their membership.  All are not simply equally in the community of believers, but all enjoy equal opportunity to participate in the spiritual and religious life of the community.”[5]

The patriarchal culture during the Old Testament time was apparently carried over into the New Testament era that made it difficult

Women members and leaders of Christ Miracle Gathering (CMG)- a full gospel church – in Daet help each other generate extra income for their families.

for the first century church to embrace God’s original purpose and design for gender relation.   During Jesus’ ministry, He challenged patriarchy and taught His disciples that this should not be the way for His followers.  Katherine Haubert describes Jesus as “God’s revolutionary agent sent to restore the dignity of all humans.”[6]  Jesus wrought havoc in the minds of the religious leaders when he opened his ministry to the women as well.  He challenged the patriarchal culture during his time and showed his followers how men and women should to treat one another.  When Jesus “left,” the old Jewish social system slowly found its way back into the newly formed community of believers.  Little by little patriarchal traditions crept in until it was back to its old place and women’s voices were muted once again.  After the Apostolic age,  the marginalization of women in the Church became worse.  Hence, women had to struggle their way through discrimination after discrimination, to be able heed the call of the Holy Spirit and use their spiritual gifts.

The Apostle Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 reverberates Jesus’ ministry.  A deconstruction of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 does not support the view that women are unfit to occupy key positions in the Church.  A scrutiny of the so called “difficult passages” such as 1st Timothy 2:11-15 unveils an androcentric rendering of the verse that fed patriarchy and bred a tradition and a culture that have relegated women to the margins of the Great Commission.  The Scripture always pointed to the fact that gender is never an issue in the Great Commission.  To reiterate once more what Paul said in Galatians 3:26-28, “You are all sons [children] [7]of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[8]

Paul seems to be the most misunderstood among the Apostles.  Later church fathers were able to conveniently weave through their prejudices into the Pauline epistles.  A closer look at the entire process of translating, interpreting and rewriting of the Scripture may just lead us to a “eureka” moment.

Fiorenza pins the blame on what she calls the “androcentric framework” that biblical scholars used in the interpretation and translation of the Scripture.     The whole process of translating, interpreting, selecting, transmitting and even in canonizing had all been done under the male gaze and from men’s perspective. [9]   Women’s leadership in the Great Commission had met criticism and cynicism from the men.   The situation was worse at the turn of the second century when church fathers begun the process of canonizing.  Fiorenza wrote of a bitter struggle that ensued between those who recognized women’s leadership in the church and those that she called the “patriarchal patristic” who opposed such moves.[10]

A young mother in Tayabas, Quezon sells inihaw na saba to augment the family’s income.

Many societies around the world continue to marginalize and violate women simply because they are women. One of the greatest challenges facing Christendom is how to confront and dismantle the oppressive structures deeply embedded in societies and in the Church.    The best place to start is here, in the Body of Christ and the best time is now.  By now, it is already a cliché among Bible scholars, but for this purpose, it is worth mentioning once more – let us go back to what the Scripture is saying sans all our presuppositions, sans all our traditions, sans all the hypocrisies of our cultures and just yield to the Holy Spirit.  As Gerald Bray wrote of the Scripture, “It also serves as a reminder to each generation of interpreters that after their theories have come and gone, the text itself will remain inviolate, ready to speak to the next generation with the same freshness it has always spoken with in the past.”[11]  If we refuse to listen now and ignore the cries of the women, their call for justice and freedom, as did the generations of Christians before us, then we will be missing this great privilege to be a part of a beautiful transformation that can take place if we heed the call of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible was written by and for a people whose time, experience and culture were shaped by their own context that is quite distant from our own.  Notwithstanding this the Holy Scripture remains relevant to our time as it was to them.  The modern reader needs to distinguish between what was then from what is now, be able to say with certitude which principle was specific for the early faith community and which are the ones that continue to speak to us today.   There are texts that speak to a specific time and to a specific reader or community of believers which when taken from their original context may lead the modern reader to an erroneous rendering of these passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  The Old Testament served as a beacon that guided God’s people then.  In it was written how they were released from bondage and slavery, within its pages are the assurance of God’s favor and protection.  In our time, the Holy Scripture plays the same role it played for thousands of years.     The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth, and He will not rest until His truth is made known to His children.  As Gordon Fee entitled one of his book, Listening to the Spirit in the Text,  it will be for our own good if we to listen to the Spirit in the text and not preempt Him.

Again, the truth is simple:  God created both male and female in his own image.  He blessed them and gave them the command to be fruitful, increase in number, subdue the earth and rule over all the other living creatures He had made.  This was the blue print, the divine design and purpose for the creation of humans.  The life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ should end all quarrels pertaining gender relations and roles in the Great Commission and in the Church.  God’s Word, the Holy Scripture, is also for women as this world was meant to be shared by the men and women of God.


[1] Mark 12:30-31 (New International Version).

[2] Luke 4:16-19 (NIV).

[3] Deborah M. Gill and. Barbara Cavaness, God’ Women: Then and Now (Springfield, USA: Grace and Truth, 2004) p. 40.

[4]  Rebecca Merrill Groothius, Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality (Michigan: Baker Books, 1997) p. 33.

[5] Ibid.p.35.

[6] Katherine, M. Haubert, Women as Leaders: Accepting the Challenge of Scripture (California: MARC, 1993) p. 23.

[7] Italicized mine.

[8] New International Version Study Bible (NISV).

[9] Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Construction of Christian Origins. 10th ed. (New York: Crossroad, 1993) p. 42.

[10] Ibid.p.53.

[11] Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1996) p. 18.

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