Women Preaching


There are some today who feel that the New Testament scriptures give the okay for women to be in the pulpit. They use especially the writings of Paul to back this up.

Looking at some of these verses, they might be stretched to be interpreted that way. Also by keying in on small words and wrangling over them. But, if we use the Torah as our basis and foundation -- our starting place -- and build on that, will we reach the same conclusion? The law and instructions were given in the Torah. And Yahshua said that none of it would pass away -- be destroyed, eliminated, done away with, changed -- as long as heaven and earth remain (Matthew 5:17-18).

Well, we're still here. The earth is still beneath our feet. So let's look at the woman's role, starting in the Torah and moving forward.

Eve was the first woman on earth. Genesis 2:18-24 tells us she was created because there was no partner for Adam. She was designed to be a helpmeet for the man. She and Adam were to become one. That's the same as Yahweh and Yahshua being one -- one pair, one couple, but two individuals. Do we really understand the concept? Man and wife are to each be one-half of a whole. Then in verse 16 of chapter 3, we learn that the man would have the rule over his wife.

In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 3100 under the article "Woman", it says, "Far more than being a mere assistant, 'helper', she is man's complement, essential to the perfection of his being. Without her he is not man in the generic fulness of that term. Priority of creation may indicate headship, but not, as theologians have so uniformly affirmed, superiority. Dependence indicates difference of function, not inferiority. Human values are estimated in terms of the mental and spiritual. Man and woman are endowed for equality, and are mutually interdependent."

In I Peter 3:5, it makes reference to the "holy women" of old times. It says they trusted in Yahweh and were in subjection to husbands. Wives should be in subjection to their husbands, not from dread or fear, but from a desire to do well and to please Yahweh. Sarah, mentioned in verse 6, was the wife of Abraham, who was called a friend of Elohim. But note that it says that she obeyed Abraham.

The Levites were chosen of all the tribes of Israel to serve Yahweh in His tabernacle, and Aaron's family comprised the priesthood. See Numbers 3 and 4; 8:13-26 and Deuteronomy 10:8-9. They were divided up into groups and given specific duties. Please notice that this pertained only to the males. The women were given no duties in the tabernacle. There were no priestesses of Yahweh.

Judges 4 and 5 relate the story of Deborah. At one time she was a prophetess and judge in Israel. She was a very capable woman, one who feared and heeded Yahweh. She was not preparing a study or sermon to preach for sabbath services, but Yahweh gave her specific messages for specific people. As for judging, she sat much like a judge does today to hear people present their cases. Given her close association with Yahweh, she had been blessed with discernment and wisdom.

The story of Huldah is told in two places: II Kings 22:14-20 and II Chronicles 34:22-28. She was a prophetess. Notice what she said. It was not words prepared from study and I doubt she was expounding the scripture. The words were "Thus says Yahweh." Those words were directly from Him to Huldah. She and Deborah were the vehicles through which Yahweh spoke at a specific time.

The book of Esther presents her story. Esther never did a Bible study or preached a sermon. But look what great things she did. She was circumspect, patient, obedient to her uncle and respectful to her husband. Her demeanor should be an example to all women today. Esther did not make demands or take charge. She entreated the king and pled her case. The outcome? She saved hundreds of lives. What did she use to help her do this? Prayer and fasting (Esther 4:16). She was willing to sacrifice her life for her people.

Many of these women can be said to have had leadership roles in ancient Israel. But is there room in the Torah to say they taught or preached? Publicly? We've talked about two prophetesses. They delivered specific messages and Deborah made judgments. But they did not do the religious teaching and duties. That was the job of the Levites! There is no precedent in the Torah for a woman to preach or teach in a public setting where both men and women are present nor from a pulpit. Let's keep that in mind as we move to the New Testament. We aren't going to look at each little word -- just look at the principles. Yahshua said the law has not changed -- Matthew 5:17-18. Neither He nor the Father have changed -- Malachi 3: 6; Hebrews 13: 8; and James 1: 17.

Joanna was the wife of Chusa, Herod's steward. Yes, she may have had the chance to talk to people there and witness -- one on one. We are told to be ready to give an answer -- when asked questions (I Peter 3:15). But was she in a pulpit? No. Joanna was one of the women who traveled with Yahshua and the twelve. As a teacher? No. Luke 8:3 says she was one of those women who ministered to Yahshua of their substance. They helped finance the trips and even though it may sound chauvinistic to some, it is very likely they made sure the men had something to eat or drink when needed and saw to many of their other needs as an assistant or hostess would have done. They were also available for any who came there with needs of some kind or with questions, especially other women. In those days, it was not the custom for women to approach men and talk to them, especially if they were unfamiliar.

The sisters Mary and Martha, along with their brother Lazarus, were dear friends of Yahshua. He visited them and stayed in their home. They were hospitable and saw to His needs, but they also listened to Him teach. They were busy learning, not teaching or preaching. After the women witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus as related in John 11, I'm sure they told many people about it. In just the same way any of us do when relating outstanding events of our lives. But preach a sermon? On what evidence?

Acts 9:36-42 tells us of a much-loved woman named Dorcas. She was full of good works and made clothes and coats for needy people. She did her preaching through the example she set with her own life. There's no mention of her teaching anyone. Just the fact of her resurrection was a witness to many (verse 42).

Priscilla and Aquila. Can you really read something into whose name is mentioned first? Sometimes his is! You will notice she is never mentioned alone -- but always in conjunction with her husband. They were good friends of Paul and opened their home to him (Acts 18:2-3). While with them, he worked in the same craft they did -- tent-making. Some make a big deal about her teaching Apollos. But read it carefully in Acts 18:24-26. They took them in unto themselves (into their home?) and expounded. Did what? It's like inviting a person into your own home, relating your experiences, the things you've seen and learned, and explaining pertinent scriptures. They were answering his questions and sharing information. In most cases, even today, the wife will join with her husband in this. Was Priscilla in a public setting? No.

This couple is mentioned again in Romans 16:3-5. Some jump on verse 5 to say that Priscilla must have been a preacher. On what grounds? The church was meeting in their home. That doesn't mean she was in the pulpit. I have been in homes where the church was meeting. The people who lived there had graciously opened their home for a meeting place and they were the host and hostess. Someone else outside that house often did the speaking.

Lydia was a businesswoman. She met with others -- women -- at a specific place on the river bank for prayers on the sabbath (Acts 16:12-15). Paul and others with him joined the women and taught them. She graciously opened her home to them.

Phebe's story is brief, mentioned in Romans 16:1-2. It is suggested that she was the minister of the church in Cenchrea. But it doesn't say that. She was a servant, in acts of kindness and charity. She was able to help many, be succorer to many, as her bounty appeared to be extensive. She delivered a letter to Rome and Paul asked that they receive her and assist her in whatever. Just because a person delivers a letter or receives assistance, it does not mean that they have "authority" or a title.

If you have questions regarding duties upon seeing the words elder, minister, servant, deacon, then look them up. It is difficult to get a handle on any titles or offices or ranks. The words most often translated deacon or minister come from the same Greek words. They are Strong's # 1247 - diakonea, #1248 - diakonia, and #1249 - diakonos. The definitions of all three are basically the same. It means "to be an attendant, i.e., wait upon (menially or as a host, friend, or {figuratively} teacher) -- minister unto, serve.

The other word we read in the King James, elder, comes from Strong's words #4242 - presbeia, #4243 - presbeuo, #4244 - presbuterion and #4245 - presbuteros. The basic meaning is "to be a senior; older; or an Israeli Sandedrinist or Christian 'presbyter'; by implication an embassy -- ambassage, message."

So far, we have seen no examples of women in the pulpits preaching. Or teaching the congregations. But let's look at a few more scriptures, keeping the principles from the Torah in mind.

There have been many sermons preached, especially in a former organization, on Ephesians 5:21-33. It was pounded home that the wives are to be subject to their husbands. But it also tells how the husbands are to treat their wives. If all these directions were followed as Yahweh intended, many marriages would be much less stressful and much happier. A marriage is to be a sharing; two people working as one.

The headcovering issue comes up in I Corinthians 11:2-16. This subject has already been covered by another paper. But here I'll just state that one needs to look into the make-up of the Corinthian church of that time. They were a Gentile group and were continuing in many of the customs of their former life. As for the headcovering itself, where is the command for the women to wear one in the Torah? That is our basis, isn't it?

Regarding I Corinthians 11:5, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown says, "This instance of women speaking in public is extraordinary, and justified only by the miraculous gifts which such women possessed as their credentials. This passage does not necessarily sanction women speaking in public, even though possessing miraculous gifts; but simply records what took place at Corinth, reserving the censure till 14:34-35. Even those 'prophesying women were to exercise their gift rather in other times and places than the public congregation."

As for verse 5 "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head". It doesn't say she is praying aloud before the whole congregation. Being given a prophecy from Yahweh for a specific instance still does not mean that she preaches from the pulpit on a regular basis. She may only receive one prophecy in her life from Yahweh.

People will use I Corinthians 14: 26-31 to say that it is okay for women to preach and teach because in the KJV it says in verse 26 "every one of you". They look at each tiny word and try to decipher them to fit their pet ideas. But what does that do with verses 34 and 35 of that same chapter? It is rather hard to get around these words -- they pretty much speak for themselves. It makes reference back to the law. Isn't that our basic starting point? And what did we find in the Torah?

I Timothy 2:9-15 goes a little further. It tells how the women are to adorn themselves - with good works (verse 10). They are not to teach in the church setting or from the pulpit. What does it stress for the woman? Safety in childbearing if she continues in faith, charity, holiness and sobriety. The woman has a role to play in life and in the church, but what we find in scripture is not necessarily popular in our liberated society of today.

Jamieson Fausset and Brown makes the following comments regarding I Timothy 2:15, in reference to the word "in", that would be better translated as "through". "Through expresses not the means of her salvation, but the circumstances amidst which it has place. 'In spite of the child-bearing which she passes through (as her portion of the curse, Gen. 3:16), she shall be saved.' Moreover, it is implied that the very curse will be a condition favourable to her salvation, by her faithfully performing her part in doing and suffering what God has assigned to her -- child-bearing and home duties, her sphere, as distinguished from public teaching, not her's, but man's. In this home sphere, not ordinarily in public service for the kingdom of God, she will be saved on the same terms as all others -- by living faith."

The women may not be the teachers of the congregation, but they are not to be uneducated. They must learn about Yahweh and His plan and learn His scriptures. Just because they are the weaker sex does not excuse them from learning the things that are necessary to salvation. Philippians 2:12 says that we are to each work out our own salvation. We can't depend on a husband or anyone else. It is only between the individual and Yahweh -- no other human.

Now finally. A scripture that refers to women teaching -- Titus 2:3-5. In fact, it tells them to do so. But it outlines how the women are to behave, who they are to teach and what they are to teach them. Verse 3 -- "The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;" Verse 4 -- "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children," Verse 5 -- "To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good obedient to their own husbands, that the word of Elohim be not blasphemed."

If it is so important that there be women in the pulpit and teaching the congregations, why is that not made in clear statements? Why did Yahshua not make one or two of the apostles women? Women were traveling with them, so that would not have been a problem. He had a great opportunity to make that a clear statement. And He did not do so.

Yes, He gave the commission to go and teach and make disciples. But to whom did He say it? In Matthew 28:16 and Mark 16:14 it specifies that He was with the eleven (Judas was dead). It was stated to the men.





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