Not-So-Silent Women

Not-So-Silent Women

I don’t want to be a pastor or lead a church. But I would like the freedom to share my story and the message that God has laid on my heart with both men and women.

I’m not looking for power or authority; I just want a voice.

I’m not a radical feminist. But I’d like to publish a book that doesn’t have flowers on the cover.

This shouldn’t be too much to ask. 

Growing up in my conservative, patriarchal community, none of those ideas ever entered my mind. Women were created to be help-meets which meant they stayed home, cooked, cleaned, and produced copious amounts of children. Male leadership used verses like 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to keep us females in our place.

Strangely, even after I got out of my cultic-subgroup of Christianity, mainstream Christians still didn’t seem to understand how to interpret these passages of Scripture. People either declared them outdated and worth ignoring, or they continued to use the passages to limit women within the church.

Honestly, none of it really mattered to me until more recently. As my online following has grown and as God has zeroed in on the passions of my heart, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated. More than anything, I want to honor the Real God of the Real Bible. But if you’ve read any of my posts, you will know that I don’t believe all religious tradition is actually Real.

About eighteen months ago, I took a little journey through the Old Testament and one of the surprising things I discovered was that God didn’t seem to have a problem with Deborah being a prophetess. Taking that into account along with the way God specifically includes women in the genealogy of Jesus, makes sure to tell stories of women interacting with Jesus, and lets women be the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection…well, I started to wonder how much of this limiting of women in the church was just religious tradition and not truth.

A friend of mine passed the video below on to me this summer. It’s produced by a group that is affiliated with Asbury Theological Seminary. As I watched Dr. Gary Hoag explain 1 Timothy 2:9-15, my mind was blown. Of course there was background knowledge that we don’t understand. 1 Timothy is a letter written by a real person (the apostle Paul) to a real person (Timothy) at a real place (Ephesus).

My next step, thanks to a wonderful mentor, was to research the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo. These are the words that the LORD uses to describe Eve before He makes her. They get translated as suitable helper or help-meet, which is honestly nowhere near what the Hebrew means. I’m linking my favorite article here, but do yourself a favor and look these words up. It’s well worth it!

This brings me to yesterday. This fall my church decided to offer free Bible Institute classes on Sunday nights. I’m taking a Bible Study Methods class taught by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary. The point of the class on Sunday night was to use structure to understand meaning, that is how to take apart verses clause by clause. But I think our professor may have heard about the John MacArthur and Beth Moore mess that happened the day before, because he decided to demonstrate using 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. (Side note, the most accurate translation to practice this with is the NASB because it keeps the clauses in the same structure as the Greek.)

After organizing the independent (clauses that could be a sentence by themselves) and dependent clauses (ones that can’t), the verses looked like this.

The women are to keep silent in the churches;
          for they are not permitted to speak,
          but are to subject themselves,
               just as the Law also says.
     If they desire to learn anything
let them ask their own husbands at home;
          for it is improper
          for a woman to speak in church.

Our professor asked what we noticed. We responded that it looked like the women were asking questions in the middle of the service. He reminded us that culturally Greek (and Jewish) women were not educated, so they would have been missing some of the information readily available to men.

Next our professor had us back up and look at the whole of Chapter 14. We quickly noticed that the entire chapter was about having an orderly worship service. Other types of people were also told to “keep silent.” If there is no interpreter, then the person who speaks in tongue must keep silent (vs 28). Prophets needed to take turns and when someone else had a revelation, the first one must keep silent (vs 30).

The professor asked if these people had to stay silent forever. The obvious answer was no. He reminded us that the Corinthian church was a mess and most of Paul’s letter was addressing all of their many issues. And this particular chapter was about having a more orderly service. That’s it.

I left class feeling so excited and validated as a Christian women. 

I didn’t even know about the things John MacArthur said about Beth Moore yet. But the next morning I posted to my writer Facebook page and the post exploded.

The best quote from my Bible Study Methods class last night.

“People who think they can understand the text using just the English translation are…let me think of an inoffensive word…simple.”

Then the professor proceeded to tear apart 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 where it says women should be silent in the church. He TORE IT UP! And laid it out again just by looking at the structure of the clauses. And in the process he validated all Christian women and boldly handed me my voice.

This incredibly smart professor is my new hero. 😁

Everyone wanted to know what my professor had said. Hence this blog post.

As in so many other areas, I’m personally looking for truth in tension. I am okay holding onto two seemingly opposite truths. I still believe in male headship and female submission, two concepts which are totally Biblical. But they don’t look the same as they used to in my mind. Empowered Christian women can still choose to come under male leadership, similarly to the way a basketball team follows their captain. But…

Submission is not the same as oppression.

And leadership does not mean lordship.

John MacArthur was quoted during the conference this past weekend as declaring “When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority,”

I’m just not sure those “teachings” are actually biblical which means that the authority wouldn’t be biblical either.

People who are reading this, we have never had easier access to study tools and information. Let’s question, and learn, and dig into Scripture for ourselves. Don’t just accept religious tradition at face value, but don’t mindless throw things out because you don’t like them. Let’s find out what the Bible actually says and let’s be willing to live in the Awkward Middle Way, in the tension of truth. I’m linking a few of my favorite study tools below. Happy digging!



Favorite Study Links: and within that

Blue Letter Bible

12 thoughts on “Not-So-Silent Women

  1. Thanks I love your article and the resources you have brought together here. I have found so much freedom in the last few years learning to start over and remove preconceived religious traditions when reading the Bible.

    Interesting your teacher is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. As recently as six or seven years ago Dallas wasn’t allowing their students to take certain glasses for credit in Isreal at the University of the Holy Land because they were taught by a woman. These classes were on geography and culture of Isreal they didn’t even cover anything theological exactly and even that wasn’t okay for their Seminary students to be taught be a woman. I wonder if there is change coming to Dallas?

    • It’s possible… But the class I am taking is in no way affiliated with DTS, so I think it’s also possible that the professor is an egalitarian at heart and was sharing his views apart from DTS. That’s partly why I have kept him anonymous.

    • Hello Gayle,
      That’s interesting. As a Th.M. grad of Dallas Theological Seminary, I never heard that was the case. I was a student from 07-11 and I took my first two semesters of Biblical Hebrew from a woman professor, Dr. Dorian Coover-Cox. She was fantastic. I also took CE classes from a couple other female professors. All that would have taken place between 8-12 years ago.
      DTS has always had a very simple statement on men’s and women’s roles in the church. Simply, something along the lines of: we believe the role of senior pastor and elder is designated for men. But outside of that, I saw a great deal of freedom. It was a very gracious, open complementarianism. The allow a healthy tension on these distinctive issues among faculty, as well. Some would lean more to the left and others to the right.

  2. Good article. It is time to question the teachings of the institutional church and doctrines and scripture interpreted by men. Take away the labels and realize we are all human beings who are loved by God. We are all equally important functioning members of the body of Christ. Women have just as important part as men in living for God and teaching others about the love of God.
    — Jim Gordon

  3. What about saying “husband headship and wifely submission to her own husband, while both submit to each other and the husband lives his wife”? I know it’s a mouthful but I don’t see women being called to submit to all men.

  4. I like your Prof, even though I have never met him 🙂

    Let me remind you of something: any time you want to write a book, you go ahead and do it. Any time you want to write a blog post, you go ahead and do it. See where I’m going with this? The naysayers have *absolutely no* control over what you write. The day they broke faith with your family was the day when everything you owed Church structure in terms of ‘obedience’, ‘service’, or indeed anything else, was set at naught. You are no longer answerable to them and you don’t have to even think about their rules anymore. Welcome to the glorious freedom of the Children of God!

    One more thing: I know I have written this before, but everything you write here blesses more people than you will ever know this side of the veil. This is one reason why the enemy fears you so much.


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