Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Role of Women in the Assembly
Those that argue so much about women never speaking in an assembly and about women not taking authority over a man change the phrase "authority over the husband" to “authority over all men”. They have not done their homework and determined that the word for “man” is “aner” or “husband” and is not all men in general. The context is that of husbands and wives in the assemblies.
by Arnold Kennedy
Let us examine the context of two passages that involve the role of women in the assembly. This is a topical subject, and is an issue that comes to the forefront year after year. Firstly, let us read these two verses:
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
1 Timothy 2:9-11: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man [husband], but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
The immediate view to most people is that women must always be tight lipped in an assembly. Control-freak Pastors use this as a direct power base. They say, “See, women are not even to speak in the assembly, the Bible clearly says this”. Usually when I hear someone say the word “clearly” I am watchful because a person who speaks that way is usually speaking out of context. Such people have not done any digging for treasure. Do we remember the Parable of the treasure hid in a field? We do not find the treasures of YEHOVAH God sitting on the surface for us to trip over. We have to do some digging.
As Paul writes,
1 Corinthians 2:7: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory [the Messiah]”.
So let us do a bit of digging for treasure and see if we can hit the jackpot on this issue!
In both verses, the subject is “women” and both contain the word “learn”. The two phrases are, “if they will learn anything” and “let the women learn”. This does not apply to men! When we look closely we find this fact that some Scriptures apply to men, and some to women. Thus these two passages are about women speaking in order to learn something. In both verses the word “learn” is the same Greek word “man-than'-o” which is about understanding as well as learning. So obviously, women can both learn and understand.
The next question is, “Is it about all women of all ages, married or single?” In both verses the word for “women” is “goo-nay” (or “wife”). Young’s Concordance indicates that the word is translated 92 times as “wife” and 129 times as “woman”. When some people see something like this they jump upon their hobby horse and say that, because the word is translated more often a “woman”, then it must refer to all women! Oh yes, even Pastors can do this sort of thing and use this sort of wrong logic.
So are we talking about “wives” or are we talking about all “women?” Context will determine which is right, as we shall see.
OK, the word for “husband” and “man” in both verses is “aner” which means “husband”. There is another application in a difference sense where the Messiah is termed “aner” but we can let that be for now. The word is actually translated as “husband” in one of the two verses, but not in the other where it is translated as “man”. We will come to see that the context is in a husband-wife relationship context only. Those with a little knowledge of language know that the word for “man” here is NOT the generic term for “man” = “anthropos”. So the passages do not involve men in general; they involve husbands.
Now regarding this matter of context, we see mention of Adam and Eve's relationship mentioned in the second verse. OK someone might argue that it still means every woman because these two were the only couple in the garden. Let that be for the moment whilst we look further to see that this is not so.
In both verses Scripture refine the “women” concerned down to married women with husbands. We can see this in the second verse where it talks about the wife being saved in childbirth. A single woman does not properly have a husband to have children with so it cannot refer to single women. There is no evidence that these two passages refer to single women, even in a future potential manner. There is no evidence they apply to widows.
It is common enough for a protagonist to bring in another passage from a different context to back up their contention. This is what the dirty tricks brigade do who try to fool the simple minded. We will not go into that trick yet. Instead, we will stick with just these two passages, because another passage in a different context might influence our thinking adversely.
Now that we have looked at some things in common in these verses, we can consider some of the differences. We find the major difference in the word “silence” which involves one single word in English, but two different words with different meanings in the Greek in the two verses. This effectively makes a context change in the second passage about married women opening their mouths or not in public meetings.
In the 1 Corinthians 14 passage, the word translated as “silence” is Strong's 4601 “see-gah-o” to which he assigns the meaning as being, “to keep silence, hold one's peace, to be kept in silence, be concealed”. To get a feel for the use of words we need to compare Scripture with Scripture. Let us do that with the word see-gah-o.
Luke 9:36: "And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen."
Luke 20:26: "And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marveled at his answer, and held their peace."
Acts 12:17: "But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison."
Acts 15:12: "Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:"
1 Corinthians 14:28: "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
1 Corinthians 14:29: "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace."
Romans 16:25: "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began."
Now we have read seven verses in which the particular Greek word appears. None of these infers a concept of never speaking. If we want to be so irrational as some people are we could say that 1 Corinthians 14:28 contains the phrase “Let him keep silent in the church and let him speak” and then claim that this is contradictory!
What do we see in these verses? Well, the major translation is “held their peace”. The words “held” and “peace” are the same word “sigao”. When we go back to the original verse about women being silent in the churches or assemblies, the verb ‘keep silence” is present in tense, and “to speak” is also present in tense. Overall, the thrust of this verse is about being silent in certain conditions or situations. We will come back to this after looking at the second verse.
1 Timothy 2:9-11: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls or costly array; But that (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
The key phrase we are considering is “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection”. Here the word “silence” is quite a different word to “silence” as found in the 1 Corinthians 14:34 passage. The word is Strong's 2271, (hay-soo-khee'-ah) to which Strong assigns the meaning as being “stillness, that is, desistance from bustle or language: - quietness”. It is the feminine form of Strong's 2272 meaning “still (undisturbed, undisturbing): - peaceable, quiet”. As we did with the other 1st Corinthians’ verse, we can look at how this word is translated in other places, that is, we can look at other places where we find the word in Greek.
2 Thessalonians 3:11: "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread."
This time we have only one or two verses we can look at comparative translations. Strong gives the following information for “silence” in this passage:
(2) description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.
Note that is a noun here, whereas in the 1 Corinthians 14 passage the word “silence” in “keep silence” is a verb. This fact again shows that the two words translated as “silence” are not the same.
This latter feminine noun originates from Strong's 2272. Now we can look at Strong's 2722 passages:
1 Timothy 2:2: "For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
1 Peter 3:3: "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
Although our translators were inconsistent in the way they translated words, we can easily see the difference between “silence” as in the first passage and “silence” as in the second passage. The first is about wives not speaking in certain circumstances, whereas the second is about the attitude of wives towards their husbands, in their speech. An important point here is that in both passages, the context is that of a woman and her husband. Any extension to women in general is changing the context and thus has no validity. To do this is totally misleading.
But some people keep wanting to argue that it must mean “all women” because most translations translate gune as “women” and not “wives”! But wives are always women! In the light of these different words for “silence” we can re-appraise the application of these two verses. We will read the first verse again,
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
"Asking their husbands at home" shows that the context is confined to the husband-wife relationship. Here, as has been pointed out, the context is that of husbands and wives in the assemblies. Historically, husbands and wives sat on opposite sides of the meeting place, and Paul prohibited wives from calling out to their husbands to ask questions, but to wait until they were at home to do it. This passage is prefixed with “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” and thus we see that it would be shameful for wives to so “speak” in the church situation because this would be confusing and disturbing to the speaker as well as to all others there. The verse is absolutely only in the context of a husband and his wife.
“As Also Saith the Law”
We have in the 1 Corinthians 14 verse the phrase, “as also saith the Law”. Some men say this means that all women are to be subject to all men, but they cannot produce any place in the Law of YEHOVAH God saying this. Even in the first mention in:
Genesis 3:16: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
This is confined to a wife being subject to her (own) husband. It shows the order YEHOVAH God has established. This order is exactly the same as what we find in the New Testament:
Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord”.
There is nothing said about wives being subject to other men’s’ husbands. Peter puts it this way:
1 Peter 3:6: "Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement."
“Amazement” in this verse has to do with “terror”. This is not to be the result of a wife being terrorized! Then Peter continues:
1 Peter 3:7: "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that Your prayers be not hindered."
Finally Peter instructs us in the next verse to have the same attitude towards every believer:
1 Peter 7:8: "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:"
Asking husbands questions is where wives are required to be silent in the assembly and this limitation only is what is determined by the context. Thus Paul details the objective of the exercise which is to maintain quietness and order in an assembly.
Now we can compare the second passage and see if it means that women should not speak in the assembly. Let us read the verses again:
1 Timothy 2:9-11: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
The essence of this passage can be seen in the word “silence”. We have seen that it carries the sense of “stillness, desistance from bustle or language, quietness, still, undisturbed, undisturbing, peaceable, and quiet”. It is about a wife’s attitude, behavior, manner of attire and her relationship with her (own) husband. This is about the manner of speaking and her deportment, rather than not speaking at all.
The latter part of this quotation has reference to Eve being deceived. This provides an indication as to why women are not to teach husbands, and the indication is that women are more easily deceived than men. We can all see how many cults were started by women. The woman said: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat”. Adam received the fruit from the hand of his wife; he knew he was transgressing, he was not deceived; however, she led the way, and in consequence of this she was subjected to the domination of her husband: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
In YEHOVAH’s order He has subjected the wife, expressly, to the government of her husband. This husband/wife context continues to the end of this 1 Timothy chapter where we read about the wife being saved in childbirth “if they continue in faith and charity”. This shows that the context is still about the husband and wife relationship where a wife is not to teach her husband. Thus it says nothing here about any other woman usurping authority over other woman’s' husband. Note here that we are talking about this one verse only. It says nothing about women never speaking! In this first assembly (Adam and Eve) with God present, Eve did some speaking!
In group email discussions I have pointed out some of these factors, and have found some refusal to accept the context of these two passages. One email read, “I know what the Bible says, and what I have written about my views stand...Here, you too have gone afield, and stretched the entire issue....wordsmithing again”. "Wordsmithing" to them must mean "changing what I have said"! This speaks volumes as to how some Identity leaders refuse to consider these verses in their context, saying that context and word examination is word-smithing. It is a typical position where a person can become bound by the words of their mouths and can never break these bonds.
There have been some emails about whether the word “women” includes foreign women. This shows how we can wander away from context into fruitless discussions. Foreign women would not be permitted in Israelite assemblies so we can rule that out. Whatever could foreign women have to do with the husbands and wives context?
Similarly I have been asked, “In which context would it be acceptable for a woman to have authority over a man?"
Now see how this is a loaded question to try to extend the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34 from that of husbands and wives. We will come to look at the answer to this question from a differing context.
Emails have told me how wrong I am and that it is “clearly written” that all females must never ever take authority over males. I asked some simple questions about this, such as:
Is there an age or other limit on the following?
Ephesians 6:1: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth."
Obedience by a male child to his mother is a command.
Proverbs 15:20: "A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother"
Which says nothing about a woman having authority over a MAN.
Proverbs 31:1: "the words of king lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him."
This is about a mother teaching a male child. Ironically, one of the things that King Lemuel’s mother taught him was: “give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” This has nothing to do with a mother usurping a husband’s authority.
Those that argue so much about women never speaking in an assembly and about women not taking authority over a man change the phrase "authority over the husband" to “authority over all men”. They have not done their homework and determined that the word for “man” is “aner” or “husband” and is not all men in general.
It is appropriate here to raise another issue about men and woman. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, ”But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal”, some might ask, “What about the women?” The word for “man” here is Strong's 1538 “hekastos” which is used in and all-encompassing way inclusive of women. At Pentecost the women were present, were they not? As soon as we mix up words, such as the different words for “man”, e.g. “anthropos”, “aner” and “hekastos” we are inventing new contexts and thus are effectively adding to the Word of YEHOVAH God. Sadly, there are Identity leaders who do that and who just do not want to know about their error.
When we come to 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence”, as has been shown the word for “man” here is “aner” = husband. But this is not acceptable to so many both in Identity and in some denominational churches. That is, they will not accept the “it is written”. There are differing words for “teach” but “didasko” here, according to Strong's 1321 is:
(1). to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them,
(2). to deliver didactic discourses
(3). to be a teacher
(4). to discharge the office of a teacher,
(5). to conduct one's self as a teacher
(6). to teach one
(7). to impart instruction
(8). to instill doctrine into one the thing taught or enjoined
(9). to explain or expound a thing.
These all refer to the relationship between a husband and a wife because this is the sole context.
This does not mean from a common-sense viewpoint that, as wives think differently from husbands; their input is needed in both structural and spiritual decisions in the home environment. Women have needs and the husband has to love his wife as he loves his own body, and therefore the husband must consider his wife always. But there is no place for role reversals within this context.
Let us see some things women did outside of the husband-wife relationship:
(1). The witness of a woman moved a city (John 4:30)
(2). Women carried the first message from the tomb (Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:9).
(3). Women hosted prayer meetings (Acts 12:12)
(4). Women were the first hearers of the gospel in Athens (Acts 16:13)
(5). Women received special mention and honour (Philippians 4:3)
(6). Older women to teach the younger (Titus 2:3)
(7). Women to have the right to choose a husband (I Corinthians 7:2)
(8). A married woman can sanctify her unsaved husband (I Corinthians 7:13)
(9). A woman (as well as men) can care for widows (I Timothy 5:16)
There are many differences between men and women, right from conception. Today these differences are commonly ignored by unbelievers and by supposed believers who are conforming to this world.
Under Mosaic Law, ritual cleansing after childbirth was different being a total of forty days for a male child, and eighty days for a female child (Leviticus 12:2-5). This too is all in the context of marriage. In the Levitical order, women could have no priestly roles. When the Temple worship was established, there was the Court of the Women established. At the time of the Messiah, we find Anna prophesying in the Temple. She was not keeping “silence” there in the not-speaking sense, was she? Likewise, today women can do the same. But a wife cannot become a bishop or an elder in an assembly because she cannot qualify as being the “husband of one wife”.
The matter of Deborah as a judge of Israel has been raised in emails. It is claimed that she usurped authority over men. This issue of course was raised by men who refuse the husband/wife context limitation of what we have examined so far. Of Deborah we read:
Judges 4:4: "And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Rama and Bethel in Mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment."
It is the God of Israel who appoints and anoints the prophets of Israel. Why did the Children of Israel come to her for judgment? It is because God-given authority is recognized by YEHOVAH’s people:
1 Samuel 3:20: "And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD."
The next chapter of Judges tells us that all the leaders of all the tribes of Israel supported Deborah who said she “arose as a mother in Israel”. What does “arose” mean? Strong's 09695 gives this as “Stood up 240, arise 211, raise 47, establish 27, stand 27, perform 25, confirm 9, again 5, set 5, stablish 3, surely 3, continue 3, sure 2, abide 1, accomplish 1." She then instructed Barak, ”Lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam”. Was this not taking authority over a man and instructing him? But this man was not her husband, and it was Deborah who was doing the speaking, not YEHOVAH God.
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