Shepherd His Sheep
"But I do not allow a woman to teach” – True? Not True?
"But I do not allow a woman to teach” – True? Not True?
 By Timothy Lin, Ph.D.
Special Topics
     Three feet deep of solid ice is not due to the frost of a single day! The impoverished Chinese church is not created by one or two problems. After a thorough examination of the various reasons, the author discovered that the basic weakness of the Chinese church is a lacking in ‘Foundation of the Truth’! For example, most believers cannot even answer the questions: What is believing in Jesus? Why do I have to believe in Jesus? What is salvation? What is the church? … Most believers are unable to answer or the answer is irrelevant to the question! With such a poor foundation in the faith, it would truly take a miracle for the Chinese church to have a bright and prosperous future.

     Among these foundational truths, there is one that the church throughout history has ignored, or in other words ‘smothered.’ It is the prohibition of ‘woman to teach’! Such an evil habit of male chauvinism was infiltrated into the Roman religion from paganism. Then it was transferred from the Roman religion into Protestant Christianity. Many gifted sisters were choked off and countless grace was wasted! If it is true that ‘woman is not allowed to teach,’ then the majority of seminaries that accept coeds have abandoned the faith, are disobedient and have willfully rebelled against God’s will! At the China Evangelical Seminary (CES), there is a strong emphases to train coeds to ‘prophecy,’. Is that treason?

     Some have suggested that there is a ‘need’ in this day and age. This is especially true in the Far East where many churches cannot find male missionaries. So, the coeds are trained to meet this urgency. If this kind of bully argument can be used to replace the principle of God’s truth, then Adam would not have been driven out of the garden of Eden! People are so smart in rationalizing their own thinking but the Lord who only has ‘yes in him’ will never accept such flowery talk that deceives oneself and God! “But let your statement be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything else is of the evil one” is a clear teaching of the Lord! Terms such as ‘because of’ and ‘it was allowed’ are excuses. May we abandon all our traditional church rules and subjective prejudice to study God’s revelation on this subject in the Scriptures carefully.

1. Is it true that woman cannot teach?

     We all know that this is recorded in 1 Timothy 2:12. The Greek word is ‘didaskein.’ This verb appears in the New Testament 97 times. It has been translated in the Chinese Bible 6 times as ‘share/proclaim’ and in this only instance as ‘preach’! In addition, it was translated as ‘tell,’ ‘instruct’ and ‘direct’ once. The remaining 87 times, it was translated as ‘teach/guide’ or ‘teach/declare.’ In fact, the 6 occasions that it was translated as ‘share/proclaim’ (Matthew 22:16, Mark 6:30; 12:14, Luke 20:21 (x2) and 23:5) should be translated as ‘teach’ as in the English translation because the original meaning is ‘teach.’ So, in this verse, it should also be translated as ‘teach/declare.’

     In the verse ‘But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,’ there should be two subjects and objects. In order to simplify it, these two phrases used one subject and one object. The first phrase has a subject and no object. The second phrase has an object but no subject. So, the complete sentence should be: ‘But I do not allow a woman to teach a man, I also do not allow a woman to exercise authority over a man.’ In fact, the context of this verse (1 Timothy 2:8-15) has nothing to do with a congregational meeting. These verses emphasize the common sense that the children of God should have on daily life at home. You cannot have two suns in the sky, two kings in a country, two tigers in the same mountain nor two masters in the same household! If so, war is assured! The gracious Lord desires a sister to respect her husband as the head of the house in order to live a happy and cordial life.

     Someone may ask the question as to how we know that these verses refer to daily living and not to a church setting? It is quite simple because verse 8 tells us: ‘Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands.’ Since it is ‘every place,’ then it is not only at a church meeting. Verse 9 also tells us: ‘…women to adorn themselves with proper clothing…’ This certainly does not mean that only when you go to church, you dress properly. Women should be properly dressed every day. Furthermore, verse 15 refers to childbearing, I am sure that women do not go to church to give birth! (Some have dreamed up all kinds of interpretation for this verse, and it is not even worth the paper it’s written on.)

     In addition, the term ‘woman’ appears in the New Testament 221 times. In 83 instances, it was translated as ‘wife.’ The term ‘man’ appears 215 times. In 53 instances, it was translated as ‘husband.’ Since this verse refers to daily living, it should be translated as:

“But I do not allow a wife to teach or exercise authority over her husband.”

     This would not only be more appropriate for the context but also much more understandable. Why did the Chinese and English Bibles translate this verse in this manner? It could be possible that after they had first translated 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, the thought stayed with them. So, when they came to this verse, they adopted the 1 Corinthians point of view and caused this very unfortunate translation!

2.Is it true that women are not permitted to speak?

     Although we said what we said, didn’t 1 Corinthians 14:34 clearly state ‘Let the women keep silence in the churches for they are not permitted to speak…’? This prohibition is not only unreasonable but even lacks common sense! How can sisters not speak in the church? We are all God’s children and when we meet each other, are we not allowed to greet each other? If there are matters brought up, how can we not discuss? If this is the truth, then sisters should not teach Sunday School! There is also a problem with the last words in this verse: ‘just as the Law says.’ Paul is a master in setting people free from the Law. The law mentioned here is not recorded in the Old Testament laws. He definitely will not uphold people’s law as the principle of truth. Furthermore, he said in 11:5 that women can prophecy! So, he would not contradict himself to such a situation! As to the comment that ‘it is improper (shameful) for a woman to speak in the church,’ it is certainly not made by Paul. He definitely knows about the Old Testament judge Debora; the prophetess Miriam who sang the response with Israel; and the prophetess Huldah who proclaimed judgment on King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:22-28). Even Joel also prophesied that in the last days, God will pour His Spirit upon His bondslaves, both men and women. ‘And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy.’ So, the Bible never had such a prohibition.

     If this is the case, then in the verse, ‘Was it from you that the word of God first went forth or has it come to you (plural) only?’, who is the ‘you’? Since the second person in grammar does not distinguish the sex, we cannot identify whether they are men or women. Most Bible expositors feel that it is an accusation of the sisters by Paul. But according to common sense, this does not appear so. The sisters never resisted Paul or asked Paul for women’s liberations. Paul need not scold them with such a loud voice and in such anger. So, who are the ‘you’ here? We need to think this through carefully as follows:

     In the second person ’you,’ there is no sex indicated. So, there is no clue as to whether this verse is addressed to sisters or brothers. But thank God, the adjective ‘only’ (menous) is masculine. From this, we know that this verse is addressed to the men. So, the verse about not allowing woman to speak is not Paul’s teaching! Rather, it is Paul quoting the prejudiced opinion of some of the brothers at the church in Corinth. Paul’s meaning is:

‘You do not permit the women to speak and prophesy, I want to ask you: Did God’s word come only to you men?'

     Then he followed and emphasized his rebuke saying: ‘If anyone thinks he is a prophet, he should know…’ If the above verse refers to sisters, he would definitely have said, ‘If anyone thinks she is a prophetess, she would know…’ Right?

     Sisters, God commanded you to desire the gift of prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1). He wants you to speak on behalf of the Lord. Not every sister will be called to be a prophetess. Today, the spiritual enlightenment and response received by some sisters are no less than the brothers. Because some are unclear on ‘women prophecy,’ many sisters have held back. This has resulted in a great loss of the Preparation Kingdom of God! The Scriptures said, ‘The Lord gives the command; the women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host!’ Arise, sisters, the Kingdom of God needs you!

     Some might say, is it not dangerous to lift up sisters? Have you not seen some church denominations or organizations started by women have gone on the broad way of heresies? They put themselves above everyone else and without shame declare themselves as the only true ones! Yes, this is because such women have allowed the flesh to fulfill their female chauvinistic desires. They did not keep the order God gave them. Consequently, God was not with them in the end! God desires brothers and sisters to represent the church and Christ. The sisters are to honor the brothers as the head just as the church honors Christ as the head (refer to 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23-24). The Old Testament prophetess Debora had such an understanding. Even though she was ‘Israel’s mother’ (Chinese translation), she asked Barak to go in front while she hid in the background. Whosever does not follow God’s order, they are the lawless ones. As for the lawless ones (Chinese translation is evil doers), the Lord said, “Depart from Me!” May some of the self-promoting ‘female chauvinists’ leaders who use the name of the church be willing to step down from their thrones. They would no longer ‘call themselves prophetesses and teach and lead my Lord’s bondservants astray.’ Then the Lord need not say, ‘Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness!’ Please note that while God has unlimited patience, it is not bottomless!