The Truth About Women Preachers

woman with bible

I recently read an article titled, “God Never Called a Female to Be Pastor.” This statement presupposes that the writer knows everyone that God called both past and present, and none were women.  If you agree with this kind of broad statement, I would like to ask you a question.  There are 2 scriptures in the Bible in which elders were ordained (Elders were in the 5-fold ministry), Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5.  Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in all the cities where they had preached and Paul also commanded Titus to ordain elder.   My question is–can you name one man that was ordained at this time?  You can’t because we don’t know the names or the genders of all those that were ordained.

In Genesis 29:9, Rachel was a shepherdess.  The Hebrew word used is RAAH (pronounced RAW-AH) – Strong’s # 7462.  The same word is used in the 23rd Psalms and throughout the old testament.  In Jeremiah 23:2, the same Hebrew word RAAH is translated Pastors.  Rachel was a Shepherdess/Shepherd/Pastor; take your pick.  Let me remind you that the old testament is types and shadows of the new testament. What the old testament conceals, the New Testament reveals and fulfills.

Having said all that, I’d like to point out that there are no Old Testament scriptures that make a women subservient to a men based on gender.  In fact, before the fall, God gave dominion to both men and women together as a species and not to man by virtue of his gender, Genesis 1:26, (Man was created male and female and they ruled creation together).  It was only after the fall that husbands began to rule their wives.  God states in Genesis 3:17 that the husband would rule over the wife.  Notice that the scripture does not say that men would rule over women based on gender or other men for that matter. He is specifically speaking about the relationship of husband and wife.

With that in mind, I will later share some New Testament scriptures that those who are opposed to women in ministry use to justify their position, but indulge me for a moment as I touch on some outstanding women leaders of the Old Testament.

Have you ever looked at Micah 6:4?  Here is the NIV version of that same passage: “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.”  It is clear from the text that Miriam was also a leader along with Aaron and Moses.

Deborah was also a great leader among God’s people.  God raised up Deborah and used her to deliver His people from their enemies.  Her leadership during a time of national crisis has secured for her a place among Israel’s greatest champions.

Huldah the prophetess was another outstanding female leader of God’s people. In 2 Kings the 22nd chapter, Josiah the King discovered a book of the Law of the Lord in the temple. Realizing the great wrath of God that was against Judah, he sent Hilkiah the priest Ahikam, Achbor, and Shaphan to Huldah the prophetess,  2 Kings 22:13.  King Josiah sent 4 men including a priest to a woman to inquire of the LORD.  Was there a man that they could have gone to?  I’m sure there was, but at that time, she was God’s voice to the king, to the people, and to all Judah. These are some salient examples of women leadership in the Old Testament.  One would have to be intellectually dishonest and or spiritually blind to deny that these women were great leaders of God’s people.

These are anecdotes of women in leadership under a system that was extremely restrictive towards women.  Are we to assume that the glorious liberty we all have through the New Covenant by the shed blood of Christ is more restrictive than the Old Covenant?  I think not.

Now, let’s take a look at what the New Testament really says about the role of women in the church.  Here are a few favorite scriptures of opponents of women in ministry: 1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11, and 1 Timothy 3:1.

Before I get into these passages, I would point out that there is no Greek word for wife and there is no Greek word for husband. Woman and wife are translated from the same Greek word, Gune (GOO-NAY).  Likewise, man and husband are translated from the same Greek word, Aner.  Therefore, one has to determine from the context of scripture whether the writer is referring to women in general or wives, men in general or husbands. As we take a look at the scriptures, keep in mind that in Genesis 3:17, the husband’s rule was only over his wife.

1 Corinthians 11:3, Is Paul saying that man by virtue of his gender is the head of any and all women? Of course not! The only woman that I have authority over as a man is Mrs. Thomas. I am not the head of Mrs. John Doe nor do I have any authority over her in any shape or form by virtue of my gender, and God does not expect Mrs John Doe to be subject to me because I’m a man. Ephesians 5:22-23 harmonizes perfectly with the previous verse.  Obviously, this passage is dealing with the relationship of a husband and wife. Amen? I submit to you that the only man a wife has to be subject to is her husband. In the case of single Christian women, they are subject to their parents and church elders as also are men under their leadership. All of us married or single are to be subject to those who have the rule over us in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is probably used more often that any other scripture  by those opposing women in ministry.  Is this a universal law forbidding all women to minister?  If so, then churches with the most draconian rules against women are, themselves, condemned because women are allowed to sing and testify in those churches.

Is it possible that Paul was correcting a problem of wives disrupting services by asking their husbands questions (Women were uneducated and scripturally illiterate at that time).  Obviously the latter because Paul instructs them to learn from their husbands at home.  So, again, this passage is dealing with the dynamics of the husband-wife relationship. If you interpret this passage any other way, you have to be consistent and strike Acts 2:18 from the bible.

Another scripture used to heap condemnation on woman who have the temerity to answer the call of God on their lives is 1 Timothy 2:11-12.  Again, wives were to be in subjection to their own husbands, and they were not permitted to teach or have dominion over their husbands. Once again this harmonizes with Genesis 3:17 and the other scriptures I’ve cited.

Let’s go deeper. In the aforementioned scriptures, Paul uses the gender specific words, Gune and Aner to describe wives/women and husbands/men respectively. In most cases the context in which these words are used speaks to the relationship of a husband and wife in an assembly, obviously.

Paul uses a different word, however, in 1 Timothy 3:1.  This text is not about the husband wife dynamic but about men and women who aspire to the positions of bishop and deacon.

Instead of using the gender specific word Aner, which would have ended the debate on whether a woman could be in ministry, he uses another word–Ei tis.  Ei tis is a Greek word that refers to whosoever or whatever.  The NIV correctly renders the (GK) Ei tis in this verse “anyone.” The Numeric New Testament also correctly renders the (GK) Ei tis in this passage “one.”  This passage should read: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone set his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task NIV.  So, if we’re honest, we can conclude from this scripture that anyone can be a bishop, if of course, he or she meets the qualifications enumerated in verses 2 through 7.  Are you still with me?

The qualifications for men who aspire to be bishops or deacons are enumerated in 1 Timothy 3:1-10,12.  The qualifications for women who desire to be bishops or deacons are found in 1 Timothy 3:11.

The qualification of “husband of one wife” was cited by a preacher who outright rejected my exegesis.  “A bishop has to be a man,” he said,  “because he has to be the husband of one wife,”

To answer the “husband of one wife” question, take a look at 1 Timothy 3:11-12. Both the KJ and the NIV use the phrase “must their wives” in verse 11.  The words “must their” is not in the original manuscripts but was added by the translators. Therefore, context dictates that “women” has to be the correct translation.  Paul is obviously not addressing the husband-wife relationship as in the aforementioned passages.  He’s not talking about the wives of deacons but women who aspired to the office of deacon or bishop.  The Numeric New Testament and The American Standard Bible are better translations of verse 11.  Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things, ASV.

Further, men aspiring to be deacons or bishops were required to be the husband of one wife along with the other qualifications listed.  Notice in verse 8 of 1Timothy 3, Paul uses the phrase “In like manner” or “Likewise” which connects the qualifications for both bishops and deacons.

Women who aspired to those offices had to be grave, not slanderers, temperate, and faithful in all things.  Obviously, they could not be husbands because they were women.  We know, however, that women could be deacons because Phoebe was a deacon.  She was not the husband of one wife, so that particular qualification was for aspiring men who wanted to be bishops or deacons. Women who aspired to those offices only had to be grave, not slanderers, temperate, and faithful in all things.

In Romans 16:1, the Greek word Diakonos is translated servant in this passage, but in 1Timothy 3:12 the same word is correctly translated deacon. (By the way, the word deaconess is not in the Bible)

Here are some facts:  Phoebe was a deacon; as such, she had to be proved, 1 Timothy 3:10; She had to meet all the other qualifications laid out for a woman aspiring to that position.  The Church at Cenchrea was to assist her in whatever matter she had need of them.  She was sent by the apostle Paul, and she had authority.  Also, this is the only place in the Bible where the qualifier deacon “of the church” is used.  Anyone can be a deacon simply by serving, but Phoebe’s position was one that required testing, and meeting certain qualifications.  Only those who met the criteria could be considered deacons of the church.  So, if you still want to argue that women can’t hold positions of leadership in the church, your argument is against these scriptures.

Before I proceed, I would like to share some Bible uses of the Greek word, Ei tis, MT 16:24.
The word man in this passage is also translated from the Greek word Ei tis, which means whoever, whatever, whosoever. Himself is a personal pronoun referring to Ei tis. A similar scripture is found in 1 Cor. 14:2.  Paul is obviously talking about men or women.  The Bible is replete with scriptures like these.  A few are: MK 4:23, MK 9:35, MK 11:25, Romans 8:9, James 1:23, and 1 Corinthians 8:3.  It is clear that these scriptures are referring to both men and women.  In light is these scriptures, 1 Timothy 3:1 has to be viewed the same context.  Amen?

Interestingly, when speaking about the 5-fold ministry, Paul uses a similar word that refers to mankind.  He uses the GK, Anthropos which also means men or women:  Ephesians 4:8.  Ephesians 4:11 spells out the gifts that he gave to ANTHROPOS, men & women.  I know this is difficult to receive and it cuts against the orthodoxy, but THIS IS THE TRUTH.  According to this passage of scripture, Anthropos, men or women could be in the 5-fold ministry.

In Romans 16:7, Paul lists Junia, a female apostle, as being of note among (The operative word here is “among” not “by”) the apostles.  Early church fathers and scholars alike all regarded Junia as a female apostle.  Chrysostom wrote:  “O how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!  Origin of Alexandria (c 185-253 AD) regarded Junia as a female apostle; so did Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate).  There is a consensus also among modern scholars that Junia is a woman.  It wasn’t until the 13th century that Archbishop Giles of Rome added an s to Junia in an attempt to change the name from feminine to masculine.

Dr Dennis Swift wrote concerning Gile’s sleight of hand:
“Giles cleverly added an “s” to Junia thinking that he had changed it to a male name, Junias. However, your sins will find you out because the proper male ending would have been “ius” not “ias”.

According to Daniel B. Wallace, no instances of the name Junias have surfaced in Greek literature (absolutely not one). We have numerous examples in Greek literature and on ancient grave inscriptions of the name, Junia, and it is always in the feminine form.”

Later translations of the scriptures followed Giles in this misogynistic attempt to erase the fact that Junia was a female apostle, but the KJV, ASV, and the Numeric New Testament all correctly render Romans 16:7 Junia.

let me share a few facts about the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila.  Romans 16:3,4,5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 says that Priscilla and Aquila’s home was used as a meeting place for the church.  Priscilla and Aquila obviously pastored a this church in their home.  Amen?  Priscilla and Aquila expounded to Apollos the way of God more perfectly, Act 18:26; both Priscilla and Aquila traveled with Paul in his missionary work; they were both fellow workers with him in Christ Jesus, Romans 16:3; Both Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for Paul, Romans 16:4.

In fact, in all of the scriptures referencing the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila, with the exception of Acts 18:2 and 1Corinthians 16:19, Priscilla is always mentioned first.

Consider the following passages: Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26, 2 Timothy 4:19.

This order is very important and telling.  In Bible times, women were seldom mentioned, much less being mentioned ahead of their husband who were in the 5-fold ministry.  Most will agree that Aquila was a pastor.  Can you imagine a Pastor in today’s culture receiving a letter from another minister or ministry and his wife, who is not even in the ministry is addressed first.  It would read like this– Dear Mrs. Priscilla and Pastor Aquila.  It would be considered disrespectful and insulting to say the least.  When writing to any couple, a letter is always addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Paul, however, accorded this woman the utmost honor by always mentioning her first in order.  I have to conclude that Priscilla was very prominent in ministry, and was probably used more prominently than her husband.  Truly, in Christ there is neither male or female.

I think it’s interesting to note that the translators of the KJ Bible put their bias on full display when they translated Acts 18:26.  The KJ version has Aquila first in order, but the Numeric New Testament, the American Standard Bible, The New American Standard Bible, The New International Version, and the Amplified Bible correctly has Priscilla first in order. Here is the ASV:  And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila had heard him , they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately.  It is unconscionable that men, because of their bias against women, would twist the scriptures.  Unfortunately, many men who read these sound teachings will choose to hold on to their biases and traditions rather than accept the Word of God

How do you explain Galatians 3:28? “….In Christ there is neither male or female….”

Finally brethren, In this coming move of the Holy Ghost, God is going to use His sons and daughters and handmaids to prophesy and do many marvelous works. The world, once again, will be turned upside down.

I encourage you to look at these scriptures and study them without any preconceived notions or ideas.

To my dear sister’s in ministry,  I pray that this treatise will arm you with the scriptural knowledge needed to silence any misogynistic attack on the legitimacy of your calling.

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