Question: What does the Bible say about women being pastors in ministry and teaching others?
The main issue is not discrimination or chauvinism, but a matter of biblical interpretation. There are plenty of women who feel that women shouldn't be in leadership, and there are men who feel that women should be in leadership. The answer to whether it is alright for women to be pastors depends on how we interpret and understand the Bible.
On the one side, there are many parts to the Bible that are not up to interpretation, as Peter explains, "no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20 WEB)
However, Paul clarifies that sometimes he gives recommendations that are not directly from God, such as when he discusses marriage in 1 Corinthians, "But to the rest I – not the Lord..." (1 Corinthians 7:12 WEB) Paul is clarifying that he is giving the recommendation, not God.
Likewise, Paul also gives recommendations that are cultural, such as greeting with a kiss, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." (Romans 16:16 WEB; also see 1 Corinthians 16:20) In many modern cultures, such a recommendation would be scandalous and even sinful.
In many modern cultures, people do not greet each other with a kiss, so this recommendation makes little sense. In fact, in some cultures kissing is reserved only for romantic relationships, which would make following this recommendation even sinful.
Another example of a cultural recommendation is Paul's discussion on head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is not speaking about a spiritual head covering; he is speaking about literal head coverings. This is a letter written to real people in a specific culture. For cultures where women never cover their heads in public, this instruction makes no sense; whereas to a culture where woman typically cover their heads in public, this recommendation applies.
The reason why these cultural elements exist is because much of the New Testament consists of letters written to specific people, or churches, in specific cultures.
Therefore, when Paul writes to Timothy, saying, "Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I don't permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. " (1 Timothy 2:11-12 WEB) It is important to realize that Paul is writing to a specific person in a specific culture. Therefore, whether it is good for women to be pastors cannot be determined from this cultural statement made by Paul, especially when considering the answer for a modern culture so different.
What we do know about Paul is that he didn't want Christians to be perceived as evildoers. This is the reason why Paul instructs believers to obey governing authorities in Romans 13.
We also know that Paul wanted worship to be orderly, not
chaotic or distracting (1 Corinthians 14:40). It is for these reasons that he gave these instructions in his letters.
Therefore, in reality, the real question is what does "God" think about women being in ministry.
Due to the fact that God has a history of sometimes establishing women in ministry (Prophetess Deborah in Judges 4, Prophetess Miriam in Micah 6:4, etc.), the biblical evidence would suggest that it is okay for the women to be in ministry (with clarifications from Paul that it is okay as long as it is culturally acceptable, so that Christians are not perceived as wrongdoers).
However, ultimately, if God places a women in a position of authority, then His decision overrules the residing culture.
For more information on women leaders in the Bible, visit Who’s Who Among Biblical Women Leaders
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