Anytime you have multiple passages in the Bible that talk about the same issue, you have to combine their individual meanings into a comprehensive whole. Only then is your perspective based on a genuinely biblical foundation. Otherwise, you’re formulating your convictions on human traditions and personal preferences more than you are Divine Absolutes.
For example, women occupy leadership positions throughout Scripture, yet Paul seemingly says that a woman should never teach or speak up in a worship setting.
How does that work?
A Bad Situation
First of all, in 2 Timothy 3:6-7, Paul references a situation where false teachers had wormed their way into the minds of some households where the women were loaded down with guilt and regret. Because they were listening to bogus content, rather than embracing what amounted to a biblically based transformation (2 Cor 3:17), these ladies not only subscribed to a facsimile of the real thing, they were the kind of unruly personalities who were not shy when it came to voicing their personal opinions.
It’s reasonable to believe that the situation described in 2 Timothy was what prompted Paul’s instructions to Timothy to tell the women in his church that they needed to stop being disruptive and cease those activities where they were trying to tell others how and what to teach…
11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. (1 Tim 2:11-14 [see also 1 Cor 14:34-35]).
Paul was addressing a situation where certain women were obstructing what would otherwise have been an orderly worship service. And while Paul is referring to the situation as it existed in Ephesus, it seemed to be an issue in Corinth as well (see 1 Cor 14:34-35). But to process his instructions as being utterly against any kind of female leadership or involvement is to ignore the original Greek as well as the numerous examples of the way in which women were used by God to lead and to teach large groups of people and even the nation of Israel itself.
Women Leaders in the Bible
Consider the following:
The English Language
The English language doesn’t possess the kind of expressive ability that’s characteristic of the Greek language. While Paul’s words can appear abrupt, the Greek word for “submission” comes from the Greek word “hupotasso” which is a military term that’s more about the voluntary alignment and organization of one’s resources beneath the heading of someone else’s authority. It’s not a forced obedience. The word word for “quietness” is “hesuchios” which refers to an “inner calm.” It’s not a dictatorial muzzle. It’s how you look and act when you’re at peace (click here for a full translation of 2 Timothy 2:11 as it appears in the original Greek).
Both Men and Women
So when you combine the multiple examples of women excelling in leadership roles throughout Scripture and the literal meaning of the words Paul used in the context of addressing difficult characters in the local church, it’s difficult to process Paul’s direction to the church in Ephesus and Corinth as universal prohibitions of women leading or teaching in general. Fact is, when you look at the resume of Deborah and the courage of Priscilla and Aquilla, it’s obvious that God has gifted both men and women with exceptional gifts and character traits that you wouldn’t ever want to dismiss based on a mere portion of God’s Word as opposed to Scripture evaluated as a comprehensive whole.