• Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington

Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington

I would ask that you visit the Patheos blog post I am linking you to. It’s very long but a good read. I am only providing some excerpts from that page here on my blog.

Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington, June 2015, on Patheos

….Never mind that the Bible does not have categories like ‘senior pastor’ or ‘pulpit minister’, the NT has been used over and over again to justify the suppression of women in ministry— and as I was to discover through years of research and study, without Biblical justification.

…So in this post I am going to deal with the usual objections to women in ministry, one by one.

….1) Women can’t be ministers, because only males can be priests offering the sacrifice of the Mass etc.

The root problem with this argument is that the NT is perfectly clear that apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons ARE NOT PRIESTS IN THE NT.

There is no need for a separate order of priests in the NT because Christ’s sacrifice made obsolete the entire OT sacerdotal system of priests, temples and sacrifices.

….3) Women can’t be Christian ministers because specific passages in the NT prohibit it.

Here, especially for very conservative Protestants is the nub of the matter. It is believed that 1 Cor. 14.33b-36 and 1 Tim. 2.8-15 prohibit women from teaching and preaching in the church.

[At this point, he addresses 1 Cor. 14.33b-36, which I will not be excerpting here on my blog]

…What about 1 Tim. 2.8-15? This is sometimes, wrongly, seen as the ultimate proof that women should not be ministers. But again this ignores the context and nuances of the text, which of course is the major problem with proof-texting anyway.

Paul here is giving Timothy some instructions about how to handle his fledgling new converts probably in Ephesus (see my commentary on the Pastoral Epistles– Letters and Homilies for Gentile Christians Vol. One IVP).

Now the problem as it surfaces in 1 Tim. 2.8-15 clearly has to do with particular women, high status women who have fancy clothes and hairstyles and are expecting right off the bat to be teachers of one and all in the church.

….Here are some details about the exegesis of 1 Tim. 2.8-15. Once again nothing is said about women submitting to men here. The Greek is clear enough.

Here the word for ‘quietness’ is used rather than the word for silence which we find in 1 Cor. 14, and once again the issue is their being in submission to the authoritative teaching of Timothy and others.

Secondly the Greek verb “I am not now permitting” as Phil Payne has shown over and over again, is not a verb that implies an infinite extension of this refusal to permit. It means what it says “I am not presently permitting…”

Why not? Because the women needed to learn before they taught.

Thirdly, the Greek, since we are dealing with a text where a correction of behavior is being offered should be translated as follows “I am not currently permitting women (in this case the women referred to with the hairdos and bling and expensive attire) to teach or usurp authority over the (authorized) men.

This is a prohibition of an abuse of a privilege, It does not rule out the possibility of a later authorization of a proper use of the privilege of offering Christian teaching, indeed we hear elsewhere in the Pastorals about more mature Christian women doing some teaching.

The verb authenteo here is a rare one, meaning either to exercise authority, or to usurp authority, and it occurs only here in the NT. Here is a good example of why you can’t study the language of the Bible in isolation from its larger context, in this case the context of usage elsewhere in Greek. Elsewhere, in a corrective context the verb refers to an abuse of power, a usurping of some role or function that others have. It does here as well.

[He also addresses the “creation order” argument some complementarians like to raise, as well as other arguments from 1 Timothy that complementarians use]

Read the entire post by Witherington on Patheos


More posts on this blog:

Gender Complementarian Trinitarian Analogies Do Not Work

Christian Gender Complementarianism is Christian-Endorsed Codependency for Women (And That’s Not A Good Thing)

Bible Passage Used to Stop Women Become Ordained ‘Added Later’, Academic Claims

The Biggest Myth About Our Brains is That They are “Male” or “Female” Lila MacLellan

Viking Warrior Discovered in Sweden Was a Woman, Researchers Confirm

On Men Not Believing Women and Being Blind to the Sexism and Harassment Women Often Endure

Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington

Even Warm and Fuzy, True, Correctly-Implemented Gender Complementarianism is Harmful to Women, and It’s Still Sexism – Yes All Comps (Refuting “Not All Comps”)

The Shifting Goal Posts of Complementarianism Show How Bankrupt It Is

Christian Gender Complementarian Analogies Do Not Work

Gender Complementarianism Does Not Adequately Address, or Address At All, Incompetent, Loser, Or Incapacitated Men

The Semantic Games of Gender Complementarians

Yes, Complementarianism Infantilizes Women – and the Complementarian Tie-Breaking Vote Doctrine

Yes, Complementarianism Infantilizes Women – and the Complementarian Tie-Breaking Vote Doctrine

Complementarian Marketing To Men Doesn’t Work, but It Doesn’t Stop Comps From Blaming Women – Churches Are Not ‘Too Feminine”

Examples of Girls and Women Being Assertive at Work, in Life, Women as Rescuers and Heroines

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2 thoughts on “• Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington

  1. I saw this article. I heard him speak recently. He is a very button down guy and scholarly. As is Phillip Payne who has done a yeomans work and really helped me see 1 Corinthians 11 through a more historically accurate lens.

  2. “The verb authenteo here is a rare one, meaning either to exercise authority, or to usurp authority, and it occurs only here in the NT. Here is a good example of why you can’t study the language of the Bible in isolation from its larger context, in this case the context of usage elsewhere in Greek. ”

    Yep. And on another note, Chrysostom uses the same word in one of his homilies stating a “husband should not authenteo his wife”. So we know it’s a bad thing for men to do, too.

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