John T. Willis

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers--Part 4

The first biblical term we will examine is TEACHER.

There are several Hebrew and Greek terms in the Bible meaning "teach" or a synonym. In Hebrew, some of the terms are: zahar in the hiphil binyan, yarah in the hiphil binyan, lamad in the piel binyan, and bin in the hiphil binyan. But there are other Hebrew terms as well. In Greek, some of the terms are didasko, katangello, katecho, matheteuo, paideuo.

Obviously we cannot examine each and every term and biblical text. We will limit our study to significant texts with observations pertaining to the function of women or females as TEACHERS.

1. Several passages in the Bible emphasize that God the Father and thus God the Son is the GREATEST TEACHER of all.
a. Job 36:22 says: "See, God is exalted in power;
who is a TEACHER like him?"
The psalmist says in Psalm 25:4-5: "Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
TEACH me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and TEACH me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I will wait all day long."
See further Psalms 27:11; 71:17; 143:10, for just a few examples.
b. When people addressed Jesus, they often addressed him as "Teacher" or "Good Teacher." A very few examples are: Matthew 8:19; 19:16; Mark 4:38; 10:17; Luke 3:12; John 13:13-14.

2. In some biblical texts, it is clear that MEN taught other people. Good examples are Moses in Deuteronomy 4:5; Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:23; and Paul in 2 Timothy 1:11.

3. At the same time, it is VERY CLEAR that ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, God wants to use women to TEACH God's message. Here are a very examples.
a. 1 Chronicles 25:5-8 states that Heman had "fourteen sons and three daughters." They were ALL [males and females] under Heman's direction for the music in the temple. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman and their kindred were trained in singing to the Lord, all of whom were skillful, numbered 288. "And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, TEACHER and pupil alike." This text shows that God wanted to use males and females to TEACH God's people.
b. Romans 2:17-21. Paul addresses ALL JEWS, not just males, to TEACH others.
c. Romans 12:7. Paul enumerates GIFTS God has given to the church, each member of the body having a "function" (see 12:4). Paul specifically names the GIFTS of prophecy, ministry, TEACHING, exhorting, being generous, showing compassion. He gives NO IMPRESSION at all that any of these gifts is limited to MALES. These gifts are for BOTH MALES AND FEMALES.
d. James 3:1. James writes: "Not many of you should become TEACHERS, my BROTHERS AND SISTERS, for you know that we who TEACH will be judged with greater strictness." [In a previous blog, we emphasized that the word BROTHER in the Bible is not a gender specific term, but is an idiomatic term meaning males AND females. When Paul or Peter or James or John addresses "brothers," this usually means all Christians]. Hence, James assumes that both men and women should be teachers of God's people.
e. Acts 18:24-28. This text relates the story about a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, "well-versed in the scriptures," instructed in the Way of the Lord, but knew only the baptism of John the Baptist. Priscilla and Aquila "took him aside and EXPLAINED the Way of God to him more accurately." Priscilla, a female, TAUGHT a male, Apollos. God uses women, as well as men, to TEACH others.
f. Proverbs 31:26 says that the "capable wife"
"Opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the TEACHING of kindness is on her tongue."
g. 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Sometimes, people read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and assume this text means that it is contrary to God's will for a WOMAN to TEACH over a man. This assumption is incorrect.
1. 1 Timothy 2:11 is not a universal teaching from God for all people for all time, but a teaching directed to the church at Ephesus, where there were obviously unique situations THERE at that time in history. Compare this text with 5:3-16. Many texts in the Bible are SITUATIONAL, OCCASIONAL, CULTURALLY BOUND. Comparable teachings are footwashing, eating meat sacrificed to idols, wearing sackcloth, keeping a vow, and there are many others. 1 Timothy 2:11 fits in this category.
2. If 1 Timothy 2:11 applies to all people at all times in all situations, THEN God's people MUST do all of the following practices found in 1 Timothy 2:8-15.
Women must dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing,
WHICH MEANS [as Paul explains in this text]
Women must not wear braided hair
Women must not wear gold, pearls, or expensive clothes
Women must keep silent [they cannot say a single word--hence, they must not
sing or talk to someone else]
Women must bear children [If a woman has no child, she is in big trouble
according to this text].
3. In the context of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, it is obvious that Paul is attempting to correct an already existing situation at Ephesus that AT EPHESUS it was well accepted among God's people that women were very active and vocal in the church, and dominated men there. Paul desires to EQUALIZE that situation.
4. Paul himself does NOT declare that he is proclaiming GOD'S message. On the contrary, he specifically says: "I [Paul] DESIRE" that the following things happen. This is Paul's decision, not God's or Jesus Christ's decision. Paul speaks the same way in other texts, like 1 Corinthians 7:10, 12. Paul has no intention of binding this one everyone in all times, but is addressing a specific, unique issue at Ephesus.
5. In a different church, in a different situation or occasion (at Corinth), Paul openly states that it is quite acceptable for WOMEN to lead public prayers and preach=prophecy--1 Corinthians 11:2-16 [specifically 11:5].

Many people in modern times make sharp distinctions between men and women teaching AT CHURCH or in a BIBLE CLASS or whether women can TEACH baptized males or TEACH WOMEN ONLY. All of these ideas a human creations. They have nothing to do with the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear that according to God's will, God desires to use both Men and Women to TEACH God's word to others in all situations.

The words of Luke Timothy Johnson in The First and Second Letters to Timothy, The Anchor Bible 35A (New York: Doubleday, 2001), page 211, are worthy of careful consideration:

"Such engagement, however, will also recognize that contemporary assumptions concerning family structures and power relationships are not themselves absolute, but are relative and culturally conditioned in a way not unlike Paul's own assumptions. We may prefer them; we may regardthem as superior to Paul's; we may even hope that they represent growth toward God's will for the relations between the genders. But we cannot be so parocial as to think that further growth is not possible or even necessary. Finally, as we think about that growth, we might even be grateful to this passas as well as others in the Pauline corpus for reminding us that the nobles Christian ideals ("in Christ there is neither male nor female" or "God will the salvation of all") must always be negotiated within the hard and resistent circumstances of cultural contexts in which the power and privilege--as well as the complex and ambiguous embodiments--of difference are always present."

Our study of Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, and Preachers will continue. Be patient.

Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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