Which Women Was Paul Talking About? (Week 51)
Women Silent in Church?
I don’t know about you, but I was often left scratching my head wondering what the apostle Paul meant when he seemed to want women silent in the church, void of any authority. There appeared to be a contradiction in what he said and what he practiced. Women served in churches and were allowed to pray and prophesy in services. One cannot prophesy and be silent! And one cannot prophesy without exercising some sort of spiritual maturity and authority.
Paul also appeared to be addressing some major cultural problems, but what were they? Then there was the issue of translation. The one verse in 1 Timothy where Paul says he does not allow a woman to teach is rife with translation issues and variants. The word order is strange, and there is one Greek word in that verse that does not appear anywhere else in the whole New Testament. Was Paul really saying women were not to teach or exercise authority over a man at all times and all settings or that the women were not to teach a certain doctrine popular in that culture at that time?
The Key is in the Culture
To begin to answer these types of questions, we must learn about the church of Ephesus that Timothy was leading. The city of Ephesus was the fourth largest in the Roman Empire and known throughout the world for the magnificent temple of Diana. The cult of the female goddess in which women served as priestesses and prophetesses nurtured doctrines of female domination and spiritual superiority. The mystical part of the cult encouraged magic and gnostic doctrines that twisted the Hebrew Bible story of creation and the role of Adam and Eve.
These doctrines and practices were making their way into the early church, and Paul had to set the record straight and advise Timothy how to keep them out of his church. Women teaching this doctrine were to be silent. Understanding this pagan culture and context helps us to better understand what Paul was really saying and which women he was talking about.
To understand Paul’s directives about women better, join me for this Out of Zion podcast, “Which Women Was Paul Talking About?” Walk Thru the New Testament with me each week by downloading our New Testament reading plan, and get started reading right away!
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About this episode:
In Paul’s final letters he advices the young leader Timothy how to handle specific problems in the church under his care. Only when we understand what was happening in Ephesus and the small church there do we understand why Paul said what he did about not allowing the women to teach. Too many times these verses have been applied to all women at all times. This week we will discover which women Paul was talking about. This episode complements the daily readings from our Walk Thru the Bible reading plan for January 17-23, covering 1&2 Timothy, Titus, 1&2 Peter, Jude, James.