Head Coverings for Women

by Diogenesister 19 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Diogenesister

    Watchtower's ignorance around the historical background to many Biblical directives has had a very negative effect on the lives of Witnesses.

    For instance Paul said women should cover their heads because in Corinth prostitutes walked the streets plying for business with their heads uncovered.

    Hence head coverings were never a symbol of headship but a directive very specific to that period, as was the BLOOD DIRECTIVE!!

    Watchtower leaders have been lawyers, businessmen, civil servants and door-to-door book salesmen, never, ever historians or Biblical scholars. And it shows!

  • zeb

    I once saw a sister lead a group in prayer and she held a note book on her head...?

  • peacefulpete

    I don't find support for that often repeated interpretation of I Cor 11. Unless you have some new discovery you can share with me , I'd have to suggest it is based upon a misunderstanding of the 1000 temple prostitutes of Aphrodite mentioned by Strabo. By the time of Paul this temple no longer existed and there is no evidence of prostitutes identifying themselves this way. Paul gives his explanation straightforwardly by saying "For this reason" after espousing the subordinate nature of women to men. The woman was created "for" man while man was made in God's image. She simply wasn't on the same plane as him and "tradition" had dictated that women wear a head covering to acknowledge this. In short he was a sexist.

    However, I do heartily agree the Acts prohibitions surrounding blood etc. was a concession to not stumble Jewish converts as the text plainly says.

  • Christian guy
    Christian guy

    Today in major universities all over the world female professors instruct their students in all subject matters, including many which involve religion, spirituality and the Scriptures. And as most people know, they teach their students all these subjects just as well as male professors. Yet on Sunday mornings, in most Christian churches these same highly qualified teachers are not allowed to lead a discussion of “the Lord’s Prayer.”

    In the 20th-century, women such as Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India, and Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom served as the Prime Ministers of their nations. While doing so they proved themselves to be entirely capable of not only running a large bureaucratic government, but also providing millions of people with strong inspirational leadership. But in most of today’s Christian churches women are not allowed to make any decisions pertaining to the way their churches are run, or permitted to serve in any of their churches’ leadership positions.

    The Bible informs us that before God gave the nation of Israel its first king it was governed by “judges.” It also tells us that at that time God raised up a “prophetess” named “Deborah” to judge His people, and that under her direction the land of Israel “had peace for forty years.” (Judges Chapters 4 and 5) Yet today, in most Christian churches, women are not allowed to serve as church “elders” (also known as “overseers” or “bishops”). Why? Because that position often involves both teaching and making judgments on various matters. And supposedly God does not now want women doing such things in their Christian churches.

    Christian churches which do not now allow women to serve in these positions often tell us that they do not permit women to do so because the Scriptures tell us that God only allows men to serve as Christian church leaders. In fact, some Christians who believe this to be true also understand the Scriptures to say that God does not even allow women to speak in Christian churches. Those who understand the Bible in this way usually point to some of the apostle Paul’s writings to support their beliefs. But since their understanding of some of Paul’s written words seems to clearly conflict with other things he wrote, as well as with other parts of the Scriptures, we have good reason to wonder if those who understand his words in this way may actually misunderstand some of what Paul wrote.

    I believe they do. For my studies of Paul’s writings, which I will here present, show that the words attributed to Paul which are most often criticized as being "sexist" do not actually reflect what Paul himself taught about how women should be treated in the Christian church. Instead, I believe that the context of all of Paul's allegedly "male chauvinist" comments shows that they were actually the words of false teachers which had been sent to Paul for his critique, and which he repeated only for reference in his written response.

    The words written by Paul, to which I here refer, are those recorded in

    1 Corinthians 11:3-10, 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35, and in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Among other things, the words in these verses very clearly say that women should not be allowed to teach, or even to speak, in Christian churches.

    Many Christians have a hard time understanding how the apostle Paul could have ever written the words found in these three passages of Scripture, for several reasons. First, because Paul encouraged Christians to, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) And we know that Jesus always treated women with respect and gladly discussed spiritual things with them (Luke 10:36-42; John 4:7-27). Second, because Paul was the same man who said that, among those “who have been baptized into Christ … there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:27-28). Third, because we know Paul did not object to his female missionary companion, Priscilla, teaching men about Christ. (Acts 18:26) And finally, because we know Paul allowed women to act as both “prophets” and “servants” (or “deaconesses”) in their churches. (Acts 21:9; Romans 16:1) And in his letter to the Romans, Paul used the same Greek word, “diakonos” (Strong’s Greek word # 1249), to describe the position that Phoebe held in her church that he used to describe the positions held by male “deacons” in their churches. (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12, 13)

    But how could Paul have approved of women serving as “prophets” and “servants” in their churches if he did not allow them to teach or even speak in those churches, as 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 would seem to indicate? With this question in mind, I will here present strong evidence which shows that the apostle Paul was, in these passages of Scripture, actually referencing false teachings, which were then being promoted by false teachers in Christian churches, for the purpose of correcting those false teachings and severely rebuking those who were then promoting them.

    I will now discuss these three controversial passages of Scripture one at a time.

    First, the evidence shows that the words Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3-10 contain a false teaching that was then being promoted by some in Corinth which the Corinthian church leaders sent to Paul for his critique. Paul's words in the preceding verse serve as an obvious tip-off that he was about to directly quote and then comment on a false teaching that was then circulating in the church. For in verse 2 of this same chapter Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, "I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings just as I passed them on to you.” The next words Paul wrote, those recorded in verses 3-10, contain the false teaching which the Corinthians had sent to Paul for his comments, and which he there referenced for the purpose of reminding them of the teaching they sent to him for his critique.

    That teaching was this: "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."

    The contents of the next several verses, 1 Corinthians 11:11-16, show them to be Paul's rebuttal to the false teaching he had just referenced. For the words in these verses clearly repudiate the misogynistic teachings being promoted in the words Paul recorded in verses 3-10. Thus they must be understood as the apostle Paul's own explanation of the true Christian position on this issue, the position he was really then promoting. That position was this: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God."

    After quoting those who demanded that women wear head coverings, in addition to their natural head coverings, their own hair, to show their submission to men, Paul expressed his disagreement by writing: "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair it is her glory?” Paul was here reminding his readers that “nature” tells us if anyone needs to have their heads covered it is men. For as most men know all too well, we naturally lose much of our hair as we age, and many of us end up losing nearly all of it. For this reason artificial head coverings are, in fact, more needed by men than they are by women. And here, in his response to the false teachers who wanted women to cover their heads to show their submission to men, the apostle Paul in his own inimitable way clearly said so.

    Paul then facetiously reminded those who were demanding that women cover their heads when praying in the presence of men that God had already responded to their concerns. For unlike a lot of men, Paul pointed out that women already have their heads covered. “For long hair is given to her as a covering." Paul did not, however, here say that a woman’s naturally fuller, and thus typically longer hair, should be seen by anyone as a sign of her submission to men. Instead, he said a woman’s hair was intended by God to display “her glory.” So, contrary to the false teachings he had just referenced, Paul was here saying that women do not need to wear any additional head coverings when praying to God in the presence of men.

    Furthermore, Paul clearly pointed out in verse 12 that men and women were equal in the faith. He did so by writing, "For as woman was made from man [Eve being made by God from Adam’s rib], so man is born of woman. And all things are from God." This argument made by Paul clearly refuted the false teachers' assertion he referred to in verses 3 and 8 that, "The head of woman is man," because "man did not come from woman, but woman from man."

    The now common “sexist” understanding of Paul's words developed in large part due to the way in which Paul wrote. His use of sharp contrasts in place of clear transitional phrases is largely responsible for causing some of what he wrote to be widely misunderstood. However, Paul’s words would have been perfectly understandable by those to whom he originally addressed his letters. For they knew what Paul had previously taught on such matters. And they knew the teachings of others which they had asked Paul to comment on. However, when we now read Paul’s letters we do not have such "inside" knowledge. And without it, it is sometimes difficult to recognize when exactly Paul was quoting the words of false teachers he had been asked to critique and when he was actually presenting his own true Christian teachings.

    Sadly, because of such difficulties in understanding the apostle Paul's letters many of the words he wrote to refute false teachings later became widely used to promote them. And in the process both the apostle Paul and the God of the Bible acquired very much undeserved reputations for being "anti-woman."

    I will now comment on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Though I normally use the New International Version of the Bible, I will here use the 21st Century King James Version because in the following verse, verse 36, the New International Version is missing one very important element. (The Revised Standard Version and several other translations may also be referenced here. For they contain this same important element.) Here we read: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

    Here again, like in 1 Corinthians 11:3-10, we can see that Paul was quoting the words of false teachers which the Corinthians had sent to him for his review. And we can see that he was doing so for the purpose of rebuking those false teachers and correcting their heresies. We can do so by simply reading the three following verses. For in 1 Corinthians 14:36-38 Paul wrote: "What? Did the Word of God come out from you? Or did it come unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."

    Paul identifies false teachings with either a strong rebuke or by clearly pointing out the error and correcting it, or by doing both. But he does so, as I mentioned earlier, while using very few transitional words. Here his transitional words are extremely scant. In fact, they consist of only a single word. But for Paul it only took one word to identify a false teaching. That word was one very strong word of rebuke. In this case, for those who missed it, that word was, "What?" In the beginning of verse 36 the Greek word “e” (Strong’s Greek word # 2228) is translated as "What?" in the King James Version, in the American Standard Version, and in the Modern English Version of the Bible. And it is translated as “What!” in the Revised Standard Version and in other translations of the Bible. This small Greek word is defined in Greek lexicons as "a primary particle of distinction between two connected terms." Unfortunately, it is here missing from the New International Version and from several other Bible translations.

    By Paul's use of this Greek word to begin his thoughts recorded in verse 36 he was expressing both shock and outrage at the blatant sexism that some false teachers were then promoting as Christian doctrine. For those who question if this was truly the sentiment that Paul meant to convey by the first word he used in verse 36, the many words of rebuke which followed his "What?" or “What!” show beyond all doubt that he was disgusted that such sexist teachings were then being promoted in the Christian church. And he reminded the Corinthians that, unlike the false teachers who were then demeaning Christian women, "The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (Verse 37) One of the things to which he obviously here referred was his teaching that within the body of Christ, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

    More importantly, the content of this passage, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, clearly indicates that the sentiments expressed therein could not have been those of the apostle Paul. For verse 34 says that women "are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law." But since God’s laws to Israel (also known as “the law of Moses”) contained no such commands, the words Paul wrote saying that “the law” required women to be obedient to men must have referred to the “oral law” of the Pharisees (their traditional interpretations of the law of Moses which they considered to be just as sacred and binding as the Mosaic law itself). But we know that Paul was the apostle who continually preached Christian freedom and often reminded Christians that God’s people are no longer “under law,” either “the law of Moses” or the Pharisees’ “oral law.” (Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:11, 13, 17; Galatians 2:4; 3:24-25; 5:1; Colossians 2:14) With these things in mind, the idea that the apostle Paul would have appealed to the Pharisees’ oral law to support his own teachings is absurd. So when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and elsewhere that women should be treated differently than men within the Christian Church, he must have been referencing the false teachings of some very legalistic Jewish Christians that he had been asked to comment on. When Paul repeated the sexist sentiments of those false teachers in his letters, he did so only for reference. And their words, which he then critiqued, bore no resemblance to the apostle Paul on this matter.

    The website greek-language.com informs us that, “The ancient Greeks did not have any equivalent to our modern device of punctuation. Sentence punctuation was invented several centuries after the time of Christ. The oldest copies of both the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament are written with no punctuation. In addition, the ancient Greeks used no spaces between words or paragraphs. Texts were a continuous string of letters, with an occasional blank line inserted to mark the end of a major section, though even this was not always done. They also had no equivalent to our lower case letters. Texts were written in all capitals.” Despite all of this, I believe Paul may have still formatted some of his written words in a way that made it clear to anyone who read his original letters when exactly he was writing his own words and when he was quoting the false teachings of others. For instance, he may have used larger or smaller letters to clearly identify the words of the false teachers he was quoting. Or he may have underlined or indented their words. By doing so, though none of the content of Paul’s words would have changed, he may have been able to clearly convey to the original readers of his epistles which were his own words and which were the words of the false teachers he was referencing. I believe Paul most likely employed some such form of formatting in his first letter to the Corinthians and in his first letter to Timothy that clearly differentiated his own words from those of the false teachers he was quoting only to correct. Unfortunately, whatever means he may have then used to do so would have almost certainly been lost the first time his letters were copied.

    I also find it very relevant to this discussion that Paul rhetorically asked those false teachers in 1 Corinthians 14:36 if “the Word of God” came “out from” them. Why? Because I believe “the Word of God” Paul then referred to was Jesus Christ Himself. For “the Word of God” is one of the titles the Bible bestows upon Jesus Christ elsewhere in the Scriptures. And it does so using the identical Greek words, in the same order, that Paul used them in 1 Corinthians 14:36. (See Revelation 19:13.) For the Greek word, “exerchomai” (Strong’s Greek word # 1831), that has been translated in this verse as “come out from,” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to someone’s parentage or ancestry. For instance, Hebrews 7:5 informs us, while using this same Greek word, that the Jewish people “come out of the loins of Abraham.” With these things in mind, we can understand that in 1 Corinthians 14:36 Paul rebuked false teachers by, in effect, sarcastically asking them, “Did the Word of God, Jesus Christ, come out of the body of a man or did He come out of the body of a woman?” Of course they knew that Jesus was born of a woman named Mary. So by asking those false teachers this rhetorical question Paul was reminding them just how much intelligence and holiness women often do possess.

    Paul’s following words, which are most often translated as “or did it come unto you only?” may have been better rendered by Bible translators without adding the words “did it” to this verse. For those words do not appear in the Greek text. They have been added by translators who apparently understood that Paul was here referring to the Gospel message as “the Word of God,” rather than to the person of Jesus Christ. This part of verse 36 may have been better translated as: “or [did He] come to you only?” Such a translation would allow us to more easily see that Paul was here disingenuously asking those false teachers yet another question: Did they think “the Word of God,” Jesus Christ, came only to men and not also to women? I understand that in 1 Corinthians 14:36 the apostle Paul was severely chastising those who were then promoting sexism within Christ’s Church. I believe he did so by, in effect, telling them, “What you are saying is rubbish! The Word of God, Jesus Christ, did not come out of the body of a man. He was ‘born of a woman.’ And He did not come only to men. He also came to women, who were in fact the first people He chose to visit after His resurrection.” (Galatians 4:4; Luke 24:1-10)

    The evidence also indicates that 1 Timothy 2:8-15, like 1 Corinthians 11:3-10 and 14:34-35, contain words that were written by Paul quoting false teachers. For in the last verse of 1 Timothy chapter 1, Paul told Timothy about Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he said he had "handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." Thus, we have reason to believe that in the early part of 1 Timothy’s second chapter Paul was refuting some of the teachings of these two men. For in verse 7 Paul forcefully pointed out that, "I am telling the truth, I am not lying - and am a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles." These words of Paul indicate that he was there contrasting his position as a teacher of truth with the false teachers he had just been discussing and whom he was about to quote.

    With this in mind, we can see Paul’s words recorded in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 as a false teaching he was quoting for the purpose of exposing it as such. There Paul wrote, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A 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." Part of what helps us see this is that in his very next words, those recorded in 1 Timothy 3:1, in referring to what he would next write, Paul said, "Here is the trustworthy saying." With these words Paul clearly indicated, as he did twice more in this same letter to Timothy,

    (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:9) that he had just been referring to either untrustworthy people or untrustworthy ways of thinking.

    As I mentioned here earlier, Paul's scant use of transitional phrases, clearly distinguishing his own teachings from the false teachings he sometimes referenced, is largely to blame for the problems we now have in understanding some of Paul’s allegedly “sexist” words. And Paul's use of such transitional phrases is again quite scant before Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Fortunately, however, we here have an additional reason to understand that Paul must have here been quoting the words of false teachers. For we know Paul could not have here been presenting his own beliefs about women, because he had already shown in 1 Corinthians 11:12 that the argument, "Adam was formed first, then Eve," in no way proves that man is superior to woman. For, as Paul there pointed out, "As woman came from man, so also man is born of woman." So, why would Paul have tried to convince Timothy that man is superior to woman by using an argument that he himself had previously shown to be badly flawed? (1 Timothy was written after 1 Corinthians.) The evidence shows that he would not and that he did not. So we must conclude that Paul’s written words in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 contain the false teachings of Hymenaeus and Alexander, and that in this passage of Scripture he was quoting their teachings for the purpose of informing Timothy that he considered them to be neither "true" nor "trustworthy."

    Something which also helps us to identify the teachings recorded in

    1 Timothy 2:8-15 as being those of false teachers is the fact that they are full of regulations and restrictions typical of legalistic Jewish-Christian sects that were already beginning to appear in the first-century. It seems these sects promoted a form of prayer, during which only the “men” raised their hands. It also appears that they promoted a dress code for women that prohibited expensive jewelry, fancy clothing and elaborate hairstyles. These prohibitions left more money for the men to spend on themselves and give to their leaders, all on the pretense that God was being served by the way they treated women.

    As I read the words of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, "A 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," I recalled the movie "Yentyl" with Barbra Streisand. Anyone who has seen this film can appreciate the effect such teachings once had, and often still have on women, and why Jesus Christ’s apostle Paul would have condemned those who promoted such sexism.

    Finally, I will here note that the Greek word “ego” (Strong’s word # 1473) which appears numerous times in the New Testament, and is there translated into English as the personal pronoun “I” or “me,” does not appear in the Greek text of any of the three passages of Scripture we have here just considered.

    (1 Corinthians 11:3-10, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, and 1 Timothy 2:8-15) So whenever we see the personal pronoun “I” in the English translation of these passages of Scripture, apparently originally written by the apostle Paul in Greek, we need to remember that it did not appear in what Paul originally wrote in these passages, and was added to his words by Bible translators in order to form a complete English sentence. However, as Strong’s Greek Dictionary Of The New Testament tells us regarding the Greek word “ego,” this “primary pronoun of the first person” was not used nearly as frequently by the writers of the Greek Scriptures as we now use the word “I.” Instead, it was “only expressed when” someone wanted to be “emphatic” about his identity. So since Paul failed to use the Greek personal pronoun “ego” (translated as “I” in English) to emphatically identify himself as the original author of all the words contained in these three passages, he left open the possibility that these words, and the sentiments they expressed, were not his own.

    These are the passages in the New Testament which are most often criticized for allegedly containing "sexist" Christian teachings. However, there are two other passages of Scripture that were written by the apostle Paul that are also sometimes called “sexist.” They are Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 5:9-14.

    In Titus 2:3-5, Paul wrote: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God." These do not appear to me to be sexist remarks. Though I can see that there here exists an opportunity to take offense, especially if someone is looking for such an opportunity.

    In 1 Timothy 5:9-14, Paul wrote: "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." The early Christian church had the custom of financially supporting widows. Here Paul was advising Timothy to no longer put young women who had lost their husbands on the list of widows who would be supported by the church. For Paul felt that supporting young widows who were fully capable of supporting themselves gave them too much time on their hands, time which often ended up being used in nonproductive ways. Paul also felt that young widows were capable of finding new husbands who would help support them, and by so doing they would no longer pose a financial burden to their fellow Christians. These words of Paul cannot be considered sexist because he probably would have also said the same things about young widowers, if they were being supported by their churches. But they were not, so he did not.

    In these two letters that Paul wrote to Titus and Timothy he encouraged Christian women to be good wives and mothers and instructed them to willingly submit to their husbands at home. By doing so Paul hoped that Christian wives might help bring their unbelieving husbands to Christ and be good examples of Christian humility to all. However, women were never told by Paul that they must submit themselves to men within the Church. Wives willingly submitting themselves to their husbands within their homes and women being required to submit themselves to all the men in their church are two very different things. We should remember that Christian slaves were also encouraged by both Paul and Peter to continue to willingly submit themselves to their masters. (Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 2:18) However, this did not mean that Paul and Peter considered slave masters to be superior to their slaves in any way. Neither does it indicate that Christian slaves were not allowed to hold leadership or teaching positions in early Christian congregations. For within the Christian church Paul said there was to be "neither slave nor free." (Galatians 3:28)

    Paul's intent in instructing Christian wives to continue submitting themselves to their husbands and Christian slaves to continue submitting themselves to their masters was to cause both Christians and Christianity to become well-spoken of among the nations. Paul asked Christian wives and Christian slaves to willingly surrender outside of the church what they were given inside of the church, full equality with their fellow male believers and full equality with their masters. He asked them to do so in order to help spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, who, as Paul and others reminded them, also willingly suffered unjustly for them. (1 Peter 2:18-21)

    The Scriptures reveal that in the early church men usually took the lead in most matters, as they still tend to do today. And Paul's letters were written with that fact of life in mind. But this does not mean that women were then, or should be today, excluded from being appointed as elders and teachers in their churches.

    Some also now use Paul's words in 1 Timothy 3:2, where he said that "an elder must be ... a husband of but one wife," to support their teaching that Paul did not permit women to serve as church "elders." However, it is obvious from their context that these words of Paul did not exclude women from serving as "elders." For we see that in verse 12 Paul wrote that a “deacon” also “must be the husband of but one wife.” But as I showed earlier in the case of Phoebe, Paul allowed women to serve in this same position. So Paul's words in 1 Timothy 3:2 must have been intended by him to be understood only in a very general way. We can also see this by the fact that even though Paul wrote that, "an elder must be ... the husband of one wife," few who use this verse to prove that an "elder" must be a man also say that an "elder" must be married, or that he cannot be a widower. Also to be considered is the fact that Paul said that an elder must have "children who obey him." (Verse 4) So according to the "an elder must be a man because Paul said they must be husbands" logic, all elders must also have children, but not just any children, children who still live in their parents’ home. For only such children are required to "obey" their parents.

    But it is not reasonable to believe that in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul was saying that all elders had to be married men with young children. For to believe this we would also have to believe that Paul required that elders give up their positions in their churches whenever their wives died and whenever their children grew up and moved out on their own. For those elders would then no longer be "husbands of one wife" and they would then no longer have "children who obey them."

    These things show that the only reasonable way to read 1 Timothy 3:2 is to understand that in this verse Paul was simply indicating that most of the time elders were going to be men because at the time Paul wrote his letter to Timothy few women had enough education to be "able to teach," which is what elders largely did. Also in the first-century, before such things as birth control, disposable diapers, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and frozen dinners, the vast majority of women were far too busy at home to be able to take on the responsibilities of teaching and shepherding a Christian church. So Paul knew that few women would then have the time to serve their churches as "elders." However, as I have here shown, Paul's words in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 do not disqualify women from doing so.

    It should be here noted that even though most Christian churches do not now permit women to officially serve as “elders” many churches have long allowed women to serve as “deacons,” either officially or unofficially. For the English word “deacon” is simply a transliteration of the Greek word “diakonos” which means “servant.” And women have long been given various “servant” positions in their churches. The servant positions that women now often fill in Christian churches include teaching children’s “Sunday school” classes and sometimes even teaching adults in “limited” ways. However, even though such women are now often judged by their churches’ leaders as being “able to teach,” very few Christian churches will now appoint them as “elders.” But this makes very little sense. For the only difference between the qualities Paul said someone needed to become a “deacon“ (or “servant”) and those he said were needed to be appointed as an “elder” was being “able to teach.” (Compare the qualifications of “elders” to those of “deacons” in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and 8-13.) So, since many Christian women are now often appointed to serve in their churches as “teachers,” they are now effectively being appointed as “elders,” without the title. For again, the only biblical difference between a “deacon” (or “servant”) and an “elder” is that “elders” need to be “able to teach.”

    With all these things in mind, we have no reason to believe that women were prohibited by Paul from serving as elders in early Christian churches. The fact of the matter is, despite the efforts of false teachers to the contrary, we know that women did serve as teachers, and thus as “elders,” in first-century Christian churches. For Jesus Christ Himself told us they did. He did so when He instructed His apostle John to write to the Church in Thyatira and rebuke them for tolerating the false teachings of a woman named "Jezebel." Though Jesus said He was displeased with what that woman was then teaching, He did not say that He was unhappy with the fact that a woman was teaching. That the church in Thyatira had allowed a woman to hold a teaching position for what was apparently a long time clearly shows that women were allowed to teach in first-century Christian churches. (Revelation 2:18-25)

    Some may now ask, “If this understanding of Paul's words concerning women is correct, why do the writings of many of the early ‘Church Fathers’ indicate that they treated women as second class citizens in the church?” The answer to this question is that even during Paul's lifetime false teachers were busy trying to corrupt what he taught concerning full equality of the sexes within the body of Christ. And by the time the early "Church Fathers" wrote on this subject matter the thinking of the false teachers who had been so busy promoting sexism in Paul's day had already taken over most Christian churches.

    With all these things in mind, it is simply neither fair nor accurate for anyone to refer to the apostle Paul as a "sexist." For the facts show that the man God used to write much of the New Testament did not, as is often alleged, promote sexism. Rather, the apostle Paul was actually a very strong promoter and defender of full equality of the sexes within the Christian church.

  • days of future passed
    days of future passed

    The WT and it's founders, like women to be in subjection. I don't think they would embrace your argument.

  • Xanthippe

    When I was in India I was interested to see that women wearing saris would use the veil to protect their heads when it got really hot.

    I realised that Hindu women have used the veil either with the sari or chemise and trousers for protection from the hot Indian sun centuries before Islam arrived on the scene and made it mandatory for women to cover their heads.

    Perhaps it was like this in the middle East and Asia minor too. Why then did it become a rule?

  • punkofnice

    Head coverings for females are redundant in my own view. I see it as typical, bonkers rubbish from a book (or books) of fables and dangerous stupidity.

    I know I was once an ardent, true believing christian; but looking back, I think I was a real twit for believing that garbage. But then, we didn't consider the whole bible, only the happy, fuzzy bits. We deluded ourselves.

    christianguy - I couldn't read your post....too long, mate. No disrespect.

  • BluesBrother

    Christian Guy.

    I enjoyed reading your post. I am not sure that I agree with your conclusions but it was a good read and made me want to read those scriptures again, in full context.

  • Spiral

    Well, there's no way of telling at this point in history if Paul even wrote all of that, and if so, in what context. He doesn't come across as someone who respected women as equals, but really we can't tell from this distance. Many writings were in circulation at that time under many different names. No way to verify anything.

    In any case, personally, it doesn't matter to me what was written or decided 2000 +/- years ago. I don't think anyone, man or woman, should be held to those rules, however they might be interpreted.

    That's the essence of it for me.

  • blondie

    I would wear a head covering in areas that require it by law, to be respectful.

    As far as I know there is no law requiring it in the USA (some people here actually want laws preventing women from wearing traditional headcovering) and no law or rule that was enforced in the WTS. During the time the WTS began, it was custom for women to wear head covering at church. Not so much now, apparently.

    The WTS has actually a "talmud" of explanations for the elders regarding when a jw woman should or should not wear a headcovering. A female jw family member for many years, could not understand why sisters weren't required to wear head coverings when giving talks in the ministry school or commenting at the meetings, since they were teaching from the platform and in the congregation

    (She was not very submissive, which I liked about her)

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