Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

Paul, the Mission to Jews, and Women in the Churches

Victor C. Pfitzner, Luther Seminary

Consensus and dissent: an historical preface

The ‘Theses on the Office of the Ministry’, adopted in 1950 by the Joint Intersynodical Committees of the two Lutheran churches prior to union (1966), reflected a solid consensus. A woman could not be called into the office of the public ministry (Theses of Agreement VII, 11; DSTO 1989: A13). Scriptural support for this position was supplied by simple reference to 1 Corinthians 14:34,351 Corinthians 14:34,35
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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and 1 Timothy 2:11-141 Timothy 2:11-14
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11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience;

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. Exegetical notes and theological argumentation were not necessary; there was no controversy on the matter.

This consensus was not broken by the debate —still prior to union — over the right of women to vote at congregational meetings (1966; see DSTO 1989: F1). Nor was the situation much altered twenty years ago in 1978 when the General Convention at Parramatta ruled that ‘the right to act as delegates at conventions of the Church may be granted to men and women alike’ (The Role of Women in the Church; DSTO 1989: F2-3, 3). Considerable more theological argumentation was provided than in previous statements — behind the relative brevity and even-handed tone of the 1978 statement lay a great deal of battle heat and dust! But the fundamental principle of subordination and reserve for women was not called into question. Consequently, official statements of the L.C.A. after 1978 centred only on the application of the principle of male authority and the subordination of women. Women could serve on boards and committees of the church (1984; DSTO 1989: F3), and as elders in the congregation (1989; DSTO 1997:, D1), but were debarred from serving as lay readers (1993; DSTO 1997: F1).

Basic assumptions on which earlier statements were based have been increasingly challenged and more thoroughly debated since the 1986 decision of the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations to initiate a thorough study of the question whether women could be ordained. We have reached the point where original consensus has been replaced by dissent on a variety of exegetical and theological questions.

The purpose of these historical notes is to highlight two observations:

  • A genuine theological consensus lay behind the Church’s rejection of the ordination of women, but it was one that was largely built on assumptions as to how the key texts and other biblical evidence were to be read.
  • A great amount of detailed exegetical work has been devoted to disclosing as clearly as possible the original meaning of texts. The assumption seems to have been that explication and application are one and the same process. There has been relatively little reflection on the problems caused by an uncritical transposing of historical texts into a modern setting. Hermeneutical questions relating to the present application of texts have been addressed more fully in recent discussions of the church’s Commission on Theology and Inter-church Relations.

Adequate explanations
The purpose of this contribution is attempt a reasonable reconstruction — absolute proof is too much to hope for — of the historical circumstances which gave 1 Corinthians 14:331 Corinthians 14:33
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33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints,

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a-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,121 Timothy 2:11,12
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11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness.

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specific meaning, and then ask how the texts speak to our historical circumstance. The argument for the ordination of women – both here and overseas — has suffered from at least two problems. The first is this: it is a simple fact that there are no texts which say that women may be, let alone should be, admitted to the public ministry. It will not do to reply that no New Testament texts expressly say that men must ordained, since the contra argument does at least have two texts which call for women to be silent in public worship. But a simplistic citing of Bible passages on the assumption that their meaning is clear will not suffice. Both sides in the debate must argue inferentially. Here, as always in doing theology, it is a matter of combining evidence from the New Testament into a coherent argument. There is no biblical command to baptise children, but we conclude that this is God’s will from a number of clear scriptural truths, especially those that teach the universality of sin and the universality of grace. While the argument for the admission of women into the public office can produce no ‘proof text’, it can develop a coherent argument by inference, one that is just as compelling as the argument for the baptism of children.

The second problem of the pro argument is how to deal with the clear import of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, viz. that women are to act in a submissive and reserved manner in public worship. The two main texts have the following in common: women/wives are to remain silent; they are to show submission; they are to be learners or questioners rather than leaders and teachers. One can argue about the integrity of the textual tradition and about semantics, but the general import of the texts is clear.

Various reasons have been offered to explain why we should not apply these texts in a literal way today. The proposition that Paul was a misogynist is hardly worth considering, and not only because it lacks proof. It also places Paul’s apostolic authority in question.

Another solution, one we might call the cultural argument, comes in various forms. Its general thrust is that the early Christian movement arose in a male-dominated, patriarchal society. Strictures that applied to the conduct of women in society were simply taken over by the early church. Since our cultural and societal values place women on an equal footing with men (in theory if not in practice), the New Testament regulations about women speaking in public can no longer apply.

There are several defects in this argument. In the first place the concept of ‘culture’ is too general. Which culture are we talking about: Greco-Roman or Jewish? Do we mean Palestinian-Jewish or Diaspora-Jewish? In the Greco-Roman world culture was not a consistently uniform reality. There was a difference between the status accorded to women in the West and East of the Roman Empire — but even that is a generalisation! Nor can we make easy distinctions between Jewish faith and the cultural expression of that faith. The cultural argument by itself must logically finish with the inference, if not explicit claim, that it is our improved cultural values (the equality of women in our western societies) that determine how we read the old. Such a view is problematic.

It is hardly deniable that we read ancient texts through cultural glasses, but our situation does not determine the original meaning of texts two thousand years ago. A far more differentiated reading of the key texts is required. It is vital that we give proper attention to their historical setting and specific purpose. The thesis of this presentation is that the insistence on women keeping their reserve in public worship was part of Paul’s mission policy that in no way invalidated or militated against his gospel principle of the equality of all baptised. To insist that the policy must remain in place in the twentieth century, even though the original mission situation no longer obtains, is to compromise the gospel principle. Here we can indicate the argument in no more than broad strokes.

Pauline principle
By Paul’s gospel principle we mean that aspect of Paul’s missionary proclamation which says that, on the basis of baptismal incorporation into Christ, the old disunity between people based on ethnicity, gender, and social status no longer applies in the church. In the version of the baptismal formula that Paul cites in Gal. 3:28Gal. 3:28
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28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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, the last phrase clearly refers to Genesis 1:27Genesis 1:27
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27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

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. ‘There is no longer male and female‘ recalls the creation of ‘male and female’ (the phrase is missing in 1 Cor 12:131 Cor 12:13
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13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit.

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and Col 3:11Col 3:11
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11 where there can’t be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

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; see Reumann: 109). Something that belongs to the old created order is changed in the new.

It would be totally preposterous to read Paul as saying that the gospel immediately and automatically transforms the whole of society. It did not do so then, and does not do so now. Baptised Christians did not cease to be Jews or Gentiles, men and women, free people or slaves. Paul’s immediate and main point is that people, no matter what their background and social position, are ‘all one in Christ’. The text proclaims the unity of all in Christ. Does it do more than that?

The implications to be drawn from Gal 3:28Gal 3:28
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28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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have been much debated, especially in connection with the debate over the ordination of women. Some insist that Galatians l 3:28l 3:28
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28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er,

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states a faith reality not to be translated into social reality. More specifically, it is viewed as referring to an eschatological truth that will be realised only at the consummation.

When Paul looks at human relations within the family of the baptised he does not rest content with making faith statements about eschatological realities. He orders relationships in the light of the gospel, and in such a way as to show that equality of people in Christ is part of their unity in Christ. A few examples will suffice to illustrate the point:
* Onesimus may not have ceased to be a slave, but Paul obviously expected Philemon to treat him very differently now that he had become a Christian (Philem 15-17).
* Early Christians could not change whether they were of Jewish or Gentile background, but Paul expected each side to embrace and treat the other as equal in honour and standing (see Rom 15:7-9Rom 15:7-9
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7 Therefore receive one another, even as Christ also received you, TR reads “us” instead of “you” to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Christ has been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore will I give praise to you among the Gentiles, And sing to your name.”

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; Eph 2:11-22Eph 2:11-22
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11 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision,” ; 12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, 15 having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace; 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility thereby. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

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).
* Husbands and wives remain men and women with their own sexuality, but marital relationships are now determined by the love, respect, and mutual submission that they share as partners in the gospel (see Eph 5:21-33Eph 5:21-33
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21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; 30 because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. 31 “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. 33 Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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).
That the gospel principle has practical ramifications for the way in which men and women relate to each other is clear from two other texts. In sexual relations between Christian partners, in the intimate expression of the union of a man and woman, there is no lording of one party over the other; neither party rules his or her own body (1 Cor 7:41 Cor 7:4
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4 The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife.

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). It is difficult not to read Paul’s words on the background of Gen 3:16Gen 3:16
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16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

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b: ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’.

Paul’s side comment in 1 Cor 11:11,121 Cor 11:11,12
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11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God.

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— that the Christian husband and wife are not independent of each other, but remain interdependent — is highly significant precisely because it occurs within an argument for the clear distinction between men and women, husbands and wives. Even the creation argument cannot be used to argue for the priority of the one gender over the other, ‘for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman’.

It is just this last passage which raises the problem. How is it that Paul can enunciate what we have called the gospel principle, and in the same breath call for behaviour of women in public which suggests that they are ‘under’ men in the sense that they are to reflect honour on their husbands? Some of the problems of 1 Corinthians 11:2-161 Corinthians 11:2-16
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2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

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can be solved by reading the text on the background of ancient concepts of shame and honour (see Malina: 25-48). But the most important question remains, How does principle relate to policy, that is, to the practical demands of the Pauline mission?

Pauline policy and practice
Though it proclaimed a radical gospel the early Christian movement was conservative in its practice as it moved from the Palestinian mother-soil into the Diaspora of the Gentile world. It did not seek to change social structures. This was due not only the precarious social position of the church and the conviction that the return of the Lord was imminent — see how these two considerations govern Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7 that people ‘remain’ where they are in society. Those considerations were important, but there was another that meant, in particular, that the Pauline congregations could not radically change the position and function of women. We are talking about the Apostle Paul’s missionary strategy and the Jewish beginnings of the church.

This is not the place to attempt anything like a summary of Paul’s missionary policy and practice. The apostle was never burdened with the modern necessity of perpetually drawing up mission statements and strategies! His task came with his call; everything was now placed in the service of fulfilling that call. There could be no compromise over the gospel, but Paul seems to have been amazingly elastic when it came to how the gospel reached people. Even if people preached Christ out of false motives, including rivalry with Paul, he could still be happy. ‘What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice’ (Phil 1:18Phil 1:18
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18 What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice.

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; NRSV). He could not only accept the work of others badly disposed towards him; he could also adapt himself to those who needed to hear the gospel, becoming a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles (1 Cor 9:19-231 Cor 9:19-23
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19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law , that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 Now I do this for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.

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). He could do this not because flexibility was itself a virtue, but because of his mission. ‘I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel. . .’   (1 Corinthians 9:22,231 Corinthians 9:22,23
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22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 Now I do this for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.

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).

It is Paul’s concern for the expediencies of mission that help to explain why he does not insist on a radical application of the gospel principle. At this point we need to be a bit more specific about the focus of the Pauline mission. Though he was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul never ceased to be also an apostle to the children of Israel (see Acts 9:15Acts 9:15
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15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel.

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). That is certainly how Luke saw the Pauline mission: from beginning to end he made the Jewish synagogue and community his starting point (compare Acts 13:6Acts 13:6
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6 When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar Jesus,

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with 28:17h 28:17
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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).

Did Paul himself view his mission in the same way? Galatians 2:7,8Galatians 2:7,8
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7 but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Gospel for the circumcision 8 ;

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should not be pressed to mean that Peter could go only to Jews and Paul only to Gentiles. Paul’s passionate concern for his fellow Jews, a concern reflected in Romans 9-11, meant that the gospel first had to be brought to them. It is not going too far to say that the Jewish synagogue was the seedbed of the church in the Greco-Roman world. The first Pauline converts were, in the main, either Jews or ‘God-fearers’ from the synagogue. And the focus of the mission of these churches did not look away from the local Jewish communities once the church was founded.

The Jewish synagogues at Corinth and Ephesus figure prominently in the Lukan history of the Christian communities in those two cities (for Corinth see Acts 18:8,17Acts 18:8,17
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8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. 17 Then all the Greeks laid hold on Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. Gallio didn’t care about any of these things.

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; for Ephesus see 18:26e 18:26
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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and 19:8). Despite this, Corinth has traditionally been seen as the prime example of a Gentile Christian community with little in the Corinthian correspondence to suggest a strong Jewish presence. Ephesus has been commonly regarded as the prime example of the success of the actual Pauline mission in confronting Greco-Roman paganism—in this case, the cult of the Ephesian Artemis.

Both views can be challenged. It is wrong to suppose that the errors addressed in the Corinthian correspondence must have originated only in pagan Hellenism, that they could not also have appealed to — even originated with — hellenistic Jewish converts. Jewish Christians were present at Corinth, and with such non-Jewish names as Crispus (Acts 18:8Acts 18:8
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8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized.

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; 1 Cor 1:141 Cor 1:14
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14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius,

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), Sosthenes (Acts 18:17Acts 18:17
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17 Then all the Greeks laid hold on Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. Gallio didn’t care about any of these things.

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; 1 Cor 1:11 Cor 1:1
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Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1 1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

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), Jason and Sosipater (Rom 16:21Rom 16:21
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21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my relatives.

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; cf Acts 17:5-9Acts 17:5-9
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5 But the unpersuaded Jews took along TR reads “And the Jews who were unpersuaded, becoming envious and taking along” instead of “But the unpersuaded Jews took along” some wicked men from the marketplace, and gathering a crowd, set the city in an uproar. Assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out to the people. 6 When they didn’t find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers The word for “brothers” here and where the context allows may be also correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” before the rulers of the city, crying, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 whom Jason has received. These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!” 8 The multitude and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things. 9 When they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

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), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2,18,26Acts 18:2,18,26
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2 He found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. He came to them, 18 Paul, having stayed after this many more days, took his leave of the brothers, The word for “brothers” here and where the context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” and sailed from there for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. He shaved his head in Cenchreae, for he had a vow. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

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; 1 Cor 16:191 Cor 16:19
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19 The assemblies of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you much in the Lord, together with the assembly that is in their house.

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; these two also have connections with Ephesus). This should alert us to the possibility that other Corinthian Christians mentioned in Acts 18, 1Acts 18, 1
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18 1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth.

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Corinthians 1 and 16, as well as Romans 16 (see Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity, 1982, 94,95) could have been Jews as well.

In the case of Ephesus, Rick Strelan (1996) has made a convincing case that Ephesus was not a success story for Paul’s Gentile mission, as often maintained. The Artemis cult continued to flourish despite the small Jewish Christian community at Ephesus that survived as a Johannine rather than Pauline community.

We have looked at the origin of these two churches since they are the faith communities addressed in the key texts. Paul’s appeal for consistency of practice in all the churches (1 Cor 14:331 Cor 14:33
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33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints,

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b) was surely motivated by his concern for the preservation of unity in the service of the church’s mission. Common practice suggests a common situation: the need to ensure that practice did not shock Jews or provide fuel for the customary Roman distrust of new and foreign cults (see Keener: 140-142). The texts themselves should be able to tell us whether Paul’s ultimate concern was the preservation of a creational or liturgical order, or whether his concern was simply good order so as to avoid setting up skandala for both Jewish converts and potential Jewish and non-Jewish converts.

The specific focus of the key texts
My argument is that the teaching of Paul on the subordination and silence of women in worship not only makes sense in a Jewish Christian setting; there are features in the texts which are best explained on that presupposition. But first a caveat is in place. I am not suggesting that all that Paul says on the behaviour of women in 1 Corinthians 11, 141 Corinthians 11, 14
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14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?

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and 1 Timothy 2 is motivated by concern to keep peace and order in Jewish-Christian congregations. Nor is he concerned only with avoiding the giving of offense to Jews who are yet to be won for the gospel. The vision of Paul goes beyond Jews.
* The reference to what is ‘proper’ or ‘degrading’ in 1 Corinthians 11:13,141 Corinthians 11:13,14
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13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?

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embraces wider societal values in Corinth than merely Jewish sensibilities.
* The instruction in 1 Timothy 2:9-151 Timothy 2:9-15
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9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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is framed by an appeal to the concept of modesty. Modesty, like sensible and seemly behaviour (v 9), was valued in women by hellenistic society generally, not merely by Jews.
The two key texts are not identical in form and content. First Corinthians 14:33b-38 cites the regulation, undergirds it with citations of authority, and anticipates the objections of charismatics who might want to dispute the apostle’s ruling. The rationale for the ruling is given in v 35b: ‘For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church’. First Timothy 2:11,12 states the rule for the silence of women in apodictic manner. But here a more elaborate rationale for the practice is provided (vv 13,14).

Despite differences, there are three points that the two texts have in common. Women/wives are to remain silent; they are to show submissive behaviour (neither text actually speaks of them submitting themselves to men/husbands); they are to be questioners and learners. The best way of understanding these three points and the one lesson they develop is to recall synagogue practice. After the reading of Torah and Hafterah, these lections from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets could be discussed, but only by male members. Participation of a woman in the discussion was impossible as was any woman reading the sacred text in the synagogue or studying it in private at the feet of a rabbi. Thus the women/wives are to ‘ask their husbands at home’ if they want explanations (1 Cor 14:351 Cor 14:35
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35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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); they are to learn rather than teach (1 Tim 2:11,121 Tim 2:11,12
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11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness.

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). It is not difficult to understand how Jews or Jewish converts or would have found any other behaviour anything but ‘shameful’ (1 Cor 14:351 Cor 14:35
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35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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).

It may be that the two texts have another feature in common. The appeal to ‘the law’ in 1 Corinthians 14:341 Corinthians 14:34
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says.

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without further specification or quotation, has continually puzzled commentators. Is he referring to the Old Testament as a whole, to the Mosaic law, to one passage like Genesis 3:16Genesis 3:16
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16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

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, or to rabbinic law? That Paul is even referring to Jewish custom should not be too quickly dismissed. Billerbeck (468) points out that custom could count as Torah. It is reasonable to assume that Paul could refer to the ‘the law’ without further specification because Jewish Christian would know what he meant.

The rationale for the silence of women in 1 Timothy 2:13,141 Timothy 2:13,14
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13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience;

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also causes problems with its reference to the Torah, the Genesis account. The argument for authority on the basis of temporal priority is a common Jewish argument, employed also in the New Testament (see, for example, John 1:15,30; 8:58John 1:15,30; 8:58
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15 John testified about him. He cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.’” 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”

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; Gal 3:17Gal 3:17
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17 Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect.

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; Heb 7:4-10Heb 7:4-10
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4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the best spoils. 5 They indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brothers, though these have come out of the body of Abraham, 6 but he whose genealogy is not counted from them has taken tithes of Abraham, and has blessed him who has the promises. 7 But without any dispute the less is blessed by the better. 8 Here people who die receive tithes, but there one receives tithes of whom it is testified that he lives. 9 So to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receives tithes, has paid tithes, 10 for he was yet in the body of his father when Melchizedek met him.

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). It is an argument that would make little sense to the non-Jewish mind. Likewise, the statement that Adam was not deceived cannot be taken purely at face value. It does make sense in the light of Jewish discussion over Eve’s guilt (see Keener: 114,115). A certain reading of the Genesis story is assumed, and that reading most reasonably belongs to the readers’ Jewish past. Specific injunction in a specific circumstance explains the use of a specific way of arguing.

Meeting some objections
It might be objected that there is no other evidence for what we have proposed, namely, that practical conclusions were not drawn from a principal because of the Jewish origins and continuing mission of the early church to Jews. There are, in fact, two examples that show how mission expediency rather than insistence on principle could determine missionary practice—without leading to the surrender of the principle itself.
* The Pauline principle was that circumcision counted for nothing in the new covenant of grace (Galatians 6:15Galatians 6:15
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15 For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

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; 1 Corinthians 7:191 Corinthians 7:19
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19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

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), yet the apostle circumcised young Timothy so as not to give unnecessary offense to Jews in a potentially ripe mission field.
* The principle enunciated by the Apostolic Council was that Gentile Christians were to be free of the law as a condition for entry into God’s people (see Acts 15:7-11,19Acts 15:7-11,19
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7 When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, TR adds “Christ” just as they are.” 19 “Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God,

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). Yet the minimum requirements of Gentile converts laid down by the Council did include one or two (depending on the meaning of ‘blood’) prohibitions which had Jews in mind. The avoidance of offense to potential Jewish converts was clearly a top priority (see Acts 15:19-21Acts 15:19-21
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19 “Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

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with its reference to those who in every city listen to Moses being read in the synagogue). This decree, issued with the authority of the Holy Spirit as well as of the apostles, and outlined three times (see also 15:29; 21:25so 15:29; 21:25
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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), was never repealed. The need for it simply lapsed.
Secondly, it might be objected that the above argument still sees culture as determinative for the behaviour of women in church. To this it must be asserted that the principle is Pauline, not drawn from the values of our present western society. Changes to the status of women in our society mean that the policy is no longer required (it would still most certainly be required in Islamic countries). For many — especially women — the insistence on the continuation of the practice is a skandalon, a cause of offense.

Finally, it is repeatedly pointed out that equality does not necessarily mean exercising the same functions. In any case, the equality of Christians applies to their life together in the general priesthood, not to the public office. Here again, a basic distinction must be made. True, equality does not mean common functions; but there is no equality without the possibility of holding common functions. Pastors come from nowhere else but from the general priesthood, just as politicians, including premiers and prime ministers, come from the citizenry. Citizens are not equal because they are all political leaders, but because they all can become such. To say that men and women are equal in the Body of Christ is not to say that all must have the same function. It is to assert that some can have the same function because what is determinative in assigning the function is only the call of the Lord and gifting for that function, not gender.

References

  • Billbeck, Paul
    1926 Die Briefe des Neuen Testaments und die Offenbarung Johannes erlaeutert aus Talmud und Midrash, C.H. Beck, Munich
  • Keener, Craig S.
    1992 Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson, Peabody MA
  • Lutheran Church of Australia
    • 1989 Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions of the Lutheran Church of Australia, vol 1, rev ed, Adelaide.
    • 1997 Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions of the Lutheran Church of Australia, vol 2, Adelaide.
  • Malina, Bruce J.
    1981 The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology, John Knox Press, Atlanta.
  • Reumann, John H.P.
    1987 Ministries Examined: Laity, Clergy, Women and Bishops in a Time of Change. Augsburg, Minneapolis.
  • Strelan Rick
    1996 Paul, Artemis, and the Jews In Ephesus, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York.
  • Theissen, Gerd
    1982 The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.
Presentation at the Symposium
“Ordination of women in the LCA – Yes or No?”
held at Luther Seminary, Adelaide, South Australia
July 24 and 25, 1998

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