Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Close this search box.

A critique of the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:12

Ray Van Neste 1 Timothy

When I first began my journey as a Christian towards egalitarianism, I expected to come across an insurmountable scriptural roadblock. I expected to find a Bible verse that clearly states God really only wants men to be the leaders in the church. I still haven’t found this verse. But for many, 1 Timothy 2:12 is it. It is the sticking point that stops them from seeing other verses that show that women did minister and lead in Bible times, and that women can minister in whatever capacity God has called and gifted and equipped them for.

Here is 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or ‘to domineer a man’ (authentein andros); rather, she is to be quiet.”

In this post, based on a talk I gave on the 3rd of November 2018,[1] I address 1 Timothy 2:12 by critiquing the notes found in the ESV Global Study Bible.[2] They are essentially identical to those in the ESV Study Bible. The author of these notes is Ray Van Neste. To be fair, I should point out that commentary in a Study Bible needs to be concise, and these notes do not represent Ray’s best work.[3] Yet, they are probably read by, and they inform, many people. Ray’s comments are given in bold and in quotation marks.

I do not permit . . .”

Ray begins by quoting the first four words of the English translation of 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit.” “I permit” is a translation of the Greek verb epitrepō. This word is consistently used in the Greek New Testament in the context of giving, or asking for, permission by making an exception or a temporary allowance limited in scope. It is also used in the context of withholding permission in a specific and limited situation. You can check this for yourself. I’ve typed out every NT verse that contains epitrepō here.

Paul’s use of epitrepō in 1 Timothy 2:12 is especially marked when compared with the language used elsewhere in First Timothy, including, for example, 1 Timothy 6:17: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty . . .” “Charge” is a strong word (verb: paraggellō  and noun: paraggelia), and Paul uses it seven times in 1 Timothy.[4]  But not in 1 Timothy 2:12. I believe Paul’s language is somewhat diplomatic in verses 11-15, though not without some force to it.

Ray’s first statement is a comment on “I do not permit.”

“Paul writes with the authority of an apostle. He does not simply offer an opinion.”

I’m not going to discuss whether Paul the apostle wrote 1 Timothy or not. Most, but not all, New Testament scholars say Paul didn’t write this letter. I’m keeping my options open on this but I will refer to the author as Paul because that’s what the author of 1 Timothy calls himself.

What I find interesting about Ray’s statement is that Paul’s authority as an apostle, whatever that authority entails, surely applies to every verse in every letter Paul wrote. Why doesn’t Ray mention Paul’s apostolic authority in his note on 1 Timothy 2:8 where Paul states he wants men to pray “lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling”?

Ray knows there’s a lot riding on 1 Timothy 2:12 and he doesn’t want this verse easily dismissed, so he cites Paul’s authority. I don’t want to dismiss this verse either, but I also don’t want to overemphasise or exaggerate the magnitude and scope of this one verse beyond what Paul intended.

“This statement is about how the church should operate when assembled together.”

Is it? I’m not convinced 1 Timothy 2:12 is about how a church should operate. It seems to me to be about a woman and a man, not a church. [More about the idea that a particular couple are spoken about in 1 Tim. 2:11-15, here.]

If we look at the whole of 1 Timothy chapter 2, we can see that a few verses are about how the church should operate when assembled, especially in respect to corporate prayer. But other verses in chapter 2 do not refer to the assembled church.

For instance, at the beginning of chapter 2 Paul writes,

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV

It is fair to say that the first part of this sentence refers to prayers when the church is assembled, but the second part about leading quiet lives (which I’ve put in italics) does not refer to church meetings. As a side note, there are echoes of peace, quiet, godliness and dignity throughout chapter 2.

Further down Paul says,

“Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 CSB

A church setting is probably in view in verse 9, but not necessarily in verse 10. The Greek term “good works” (kalōn ergōn) is often used as an idiom that refers to acts of benefaction. These good works were not usually done when the church was assembled for prayer and worship. They were what the relatively wealthy people did at other times during the course of the week.

Then in verses 11-12 Paul writes,

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain [or more literally, to be] quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12 ESV

As in the other examples of paired verses, the first part, verse 11, probably refers to a church setting, this is the place a woman most likely will learn,[5] but a church setting is not necessarily the case in the second part, verse 12. Furthermore, “childbirth/childbearing” mentioned in the last verse of 1 Timothy chapter 2 is not referring to a church setting. There is no clear evidence in the text that 1 Timothy 2:12 is indeed a statement about “how the church should operate when assembled together.”

Verse 11

Ray doesn’t comment on verse 11, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness,” but I will say a few things about it.

Paul has been speaking about men (plural) and women (plural) in 1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 8 to 10—and note that this advice about men and about women is not general advice, but is specific to certain issues that may have been unique to the Ephesian Christians; and also note that this advice is not about all men and about all women in Ephesus, but applies to men with “anger issues” and to the few rich women who could afford gold and pearls and were perhaps flaunting their wealth—but in verses 11-15, “woman” and “man” is singular. Note also that the verb in 1 Timothy 2:15, correctly translated as “she will be saved,” is singular.

Why the change from plural to singular?

When we closely examine texts, any texts, such changes in language are usually considered significant. But Ray, in his note on verse 12, uses plural language: “men” and “women.” He doesn’t use the kind of singular language that the author of 1 Timothy uses in verses 11 and 12. And he doesn’t mention the switch from plural to singular language.


I also want to make a comment about the word “quietly” or “quietness. [6]

Paul is not using a Greek word that refers to silence as the KJV, for example, translation puts it. If I was a Greek-speaking teacher in ancient Ephesus and I wanted my class to be completely silent for an exam, for example, I would use a different word. If I wanted them to settle down and behave better, I might use the word Paul uses here. And, in fact, Paul uses a related word earlier in the chapter, in 1 Timothy 2:2, where he wants the Ephesians to pray so that they might lead a quiet life.

Quietness is a keyword in our text. It occurs twice in verses 11-12, at the beginning and very end, to form what is called an inclusion, a rhetorical device. So we mustn’t separate verse 11 from verse 12, they belong together.

¹¹Gunē en hesuchia (in quietness) manthanetō en pasē hupotagē
¹²didaskein de gunaiki ouk epitrepō, oude authentein andros,
all’ einai en hesuchia
(in quietness)

Scholar Andrew Perriman, among others, suggests the real issue in these verses is not teaching or authority but about learning quietly.[7]

“In that context [i.e. the context of a church gathering], two things are prohibited: (1) Women are not permitted to publicly teach Scripture and/ or Christian doctrine to men in church (the context implies these topics), and (2) women are not permitted to exercise authority over men in church.”

Unfortunately, Ray doesn’t tell us why the context is a church gathering or why the context implies the topics of publicly teaching Scripture and Christian doctrine. He doesn’t tell us what he sees in the text as giving indications of either of these contexts.

Now, unlike quite a few egalitarians, I also suggest, like Ray, that there are two prohibitions in verse 12 and not one. Where I disagree with Ray, is what precisely those prohibitions entail.

Let’s look at the first one.

Paul says, I do not permit a woman to teach. That’s it. That’s the first prohibition. The Greek word for “man” (andros) which is at the very end of the phrase, is not grammatically connected to the Greek word for “to teach” (didaskein) which is the very first word in the phrase. Rather, the Greek word for “man” is grammatically connected to the Greek word authentein, which I’ll translate for now as “to domineer” but which the ESV translates as “to exercise authority.” (More about the grammar in endnote [8])

¹²didaskein (“to teach”) de gunaiki ouk epitrepō,
oude authentein 
(“to domineer”) andros (“a man”) . . .

So Paul’s meaning in 1 Timothy 2:12 may be: “(1) I am not allowing a woman to teach, (2) nor am I allowing a woman to domineer a man . . .”

Some people, however, believe “to teach” and “to domineer” are joined together to form one prohibition. So that Paul is saying, “I am not allowing a woman to teach in a domineering manner.” If so, then it can be argued that “to teach” is linked to the word “man” through the word authentein.

To simplify, there are two options that are grammatically plausible. Either “to teach” and “to domineer” are joined together to form one prohibition of one kind of activity, or there are two prohibitions and “to teach” is not connected to the word “man.” This has huge implications in how to understand our text.

It’s difficult to prove that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains two prohibitions and that the word “man” is grammatically linked to both, which is what Ray asserts.

“Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not mentioned here, and both are encouraged elsewhere (2 Tim. 1:5; Titus 2:4).”

I find this statement unhelpful. Ray thinks 1 Timothy 2:12 is about women not being allowed to “publicly teach Scripture and/ or Christian doctrine to men in church.” Titus 2:4, however, is not about this kind of teaching; it is about older women teaching young wives the basics of being a respectable wife and mother in first-century Crete. Furthermore, the teaching given in Titus 2:4-5 is indistinguishable from similar advice written by non-Christians in the ancient world. It’s not Christian doctrine.

2 Timothy 1:5, and especially 2 Timothy 3:14-17 which Ray does not cite, indicate that Lois and Eunice were Timothy’s teachers who had helped the young minister face the challenge of heterodox and deceptive teaching in Ephesus. However, it is a stretch to cite 2 Timothy 1:5 as a verse that supposedly encourages women to teach scripture to children. Lois and Eunice may have continued to teach and influence their grandson and son when he was in his late teens and older.

In fact, it is much easier to make a case from actual examples in Scripture that women can teach and instruct men than it is to make a case that women can teach and instruct other women or children, especially on matters of theology and God’s will. However, any capable, godly person can teach another person scripture or doctrine, publicly or otherwise (e.g., Col. 3:16).

Also, we need to be cautious about drawing a hard distinction between public or private teaching. First-century churches were often smallish groups that typically met in homes. In such settings, private and public merged. And many people contributed and participated in worship and teaching, at least in churches founded by Paul.

Ray’s ideas and concerns about public teaching and church settings are not applicable to many expressions of first-century church life.

 “This passage also does not address the role of women in leadership situations outside the church (e.g., business or government).”

Michael Bird has written about inconsistent attitudes to women leaders and teachers held by some complementarians. (Complementarians are Christians, such as Ray Van Neste, who believe certain leadership ministries are out of bounds for women.)

Michael observes,

 “. . .  some complementarians allow a woman to teach men indirectly through books, radio, and websites but will not permit them to teach men in person. A woman can write a commentary on Hebrews to be read by men but cannot preach or teach men on Hebrews. A woman can be president, a prime minister, a CEO, a general, or a police officer, but she cannot serve as a pastor.  A woman can teach men French or piano lessons but not the Bible or theology. A woman can teach Bible and doctrine to unbelieving men but not to Christian men. The problem I have here is that some complementarians appeal to Genesis and the order of creation [mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13] to show that it is inherently wrong for a woman to be in a position of authority over a man, and yet they only apply that restriction to church life or Sunday worship.  But that is like saying that it is okay for someone to commit adultery as long as they do not do it on Sunday or in the church auditorium. Or it is like saying that it is okay to commit adultery as long as you do it with an unbeliever. If it is such a clear violation of God’s ordering of creation for a woman to have authority over a man, then this should apply to all spheres of life whether it is business, government, politics, civil service, or church because God is sovereign over all institutions, and all of life is lived before God and under God.[9]

“The word between ‘to teach’ and ‘to exercise authority’ indicates two different activities, not a single activity of “authoritative teaching.”

The Greek word Ray is referring to, oude, is sometimes used in the New Testament to connect two aspects of one activity.[10] However, as already discussed, there are other factors in 1 Timothy 2:12 that make it plausible two activities are being spoken of and prohibited.

“The phrase ‘exercise authority’ occurs only here in the NT. Examples of this word used outside the NT clearly establish that the meaning is ‘exercise authority,’ not ‘usurp authority’ or ‘abuse authority.’”

I agree that the Greek verb authentein doesn’t mean to usurp authority or abuse authority, but the definition of “exercise authority” is equally inadequate. However, first I want to say that Ray’s claim that the meaning of authentein is “clearly established” is a huge overstatement. The fact is we only have a handful of papyri that contain the verb and date to roughly around Paul’s time, and many of these papyri are damaged and incomplete so we don’t have a good sense of the context. (Context gives meaning.) And one of the papyri is damaged where the actual word occurs, so we can’t even be sure of the exact word or exact form used. [More about these papyri here.]

Some lexicons of New Testament Greek give a meaning of “authority,” but other lexicons do not.[11] Liddell and Scott’s An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon is a lexicon with no theological axe to grind and it translates authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 as “to have full power” over someone. (See here.) Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains gives the meaning of the verb as “control.”[12] Neither of these definitions is of a healthy kind of authority.

Early church father John Chrysostom, who admittedly is writing later than Paul, used the verb in his sermon on Colossians 3 where he wrote that husbands should not act this way towards their wives.[13] Authentein is unacceptable behaviour for a husband, and I believe Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 2:12 it is unacceptable behaviour for a woman, probably a wife.

Cynthia Westfall, who has examined all the available ancient documents that use the word, writes,

“. . . the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.”[14]

Furthermore, if all Paul had wanted to say was “exercise authority” there are much more common Greek words he could have used that mean precisely that. [More on authentein here.]

“The role of pastor/ elder/ overseer is rooted in the task of teaching and exercising authority over the church. Thus, this verse excludes women from serving in this office (compare 1 Tim. 3: 2).”

These two statements are problematic in a couple of ways. For starters, the second statement does not necessarily follow on logically from the first. “Thus” is unwarranted

The other problem is that in the first century, ministry roles, ministry positions and ministry terminology were not clearly defined or fixed. And different churches had different ways of organising and leading ministries.[15] Also, there is no mention of church leadership in 1 Timothy chapter 2. Paul has not got to that yet. The only references to church life in this chapter have been two references to corporate prayer and one mention about the appearance of a few wealthy women.

But let’s say for a minute that 1 Timothy 2:12 does mean that women cannot hold the church offices of pastor, overseer or elder, does that also mean women cannot be Bible translators or write notes for Study Bibles?

The people responsible for the ESV translation and for their range of Study Bibles seem to take this verse further. The translators of the ESV are all, and only, male. And of the 95 scholars who contributed to the ESV Study Bible not one of them was a woman. Not one! They were all men. This is unlike all other major modern English translations which have women in their teams.

The fact is that many Christians apply this verse broadly and in ways that are not supported by scripture. And I can’t see that Ray’s specific claim that women cannot hold certain church offices is supported by scripture either.

quiet. Paul means ‘quiet’ with respect to the teaching responsibility in the assembled church. Paul elsewhere indicates that women do speak in other ways in the church assembly (see 1 Cor. 11:5).”

As already discussed, verses 11 and 12 both contain the exact same Greek word that means “quietness”, hesuchia. To suggest that the quietness has to do with “teaching responsibility” doesn’t fit well with the sense of hesuchia. People can teach, and people can lead, and still be quiet in the sense of the word used in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. It is about a disposition. And how does a woman needing to learn quietly, as per verse 11, fit with Ray’s interpretation?

I do not agree with Ray’s claims about of the context of the verse. I believe Ray’s interpretation is based on too many suppositions. I believe that, just as 1 Timothy 2:8-10 addresses local issues, the same is true for 1 Timothy 2:11-15. I believe a woman was teaching faulty ideas which Paul corrects in v 13-14 and that she was behaving in a domineering or controlling manner towards a man, most likely her husband, which is corrected in verse 15. [An explanation of my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is here.]

Paul’s general teaching on ministry includes women (e.g., Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:4-13). Moreover, Paul mentions several women by name in his letters and gives them the same ministry descriptions or titles as his male colleagues (Rom. 16:1; 16:7; Phil. 4:2-3; etc). And yet this one verse, 1 Timothy 2:12, that may well be about a woman and a man, a particular couple in Ephesus, has been used to silence countless women and dissuade and hinder them from ministering, and not just as pastors, overseers and elders.

I’ll finish by quoting two verses that come from Paul’s letters. It’s a pity these verses have not been given the same emphasis as 1 Timothy 2:12. This is how Paul did church.

What then, brothers and sisters? Whenever you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, another tongue, or an interpretation. Everything is to be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 CSB (italics added)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you (plural) richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 ESV (italics added)

You can support my work for as little as $3 USD a month at Patreon.
Become a Patron!


[1] This article is based on a talk I gave in Sydney on the 3rd of November entitled Unravelling Patriarchal Interpretations of Paul: 1 Timothy 2:12.

[2] The ESV Global Study Bible was free on Kindle in October 2018.

[3] I don’t mean any disrespect by referring to Ray by his first name.

[4] 1 Timothy 1:3, 5; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17, 18.

[5] Cynthia Westfall, however, argues that “a woman’s education typically took place in the home” and she states, “The domestic sphere and teacher-student relationship is understood in 2:11, and so in 2:12, the prohibition to teach is in the same household context.” Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 306 & 307.

[6] Hesuchia, a noun meaning “quietness/stillness,” used in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 12, is also used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:12: “to do their work quietly” (ESV), “to settle down and earn the food they eat” (NIV).
Hesuchios, the related adjective, is used in 1 Timothy 2:2, the same chapter as 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (ESV).
Hesuchiazo, the related verb, is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (ESV); “to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” (NASB).

[7] Andrew C. Perriman, “What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do: The Meaning of Aὐθεντέω in 1 Timothy 2:12,” Tyndale Bulletin 44.1 (1993): 129-142

[8] There is quite a distance separating the Greek words for “to teach” and “man,” but what is more significant is that the Greek noun andros is in the genitive case. This fits grammatically with authentein as authentein needs a genitive or accusative noun as its direct object. But “to teach” (didaskein) needs a noun in the accusative case as its direct object which we don’t have in 1 Timothy 2:12. There is no object noun directly connected to “to teach” in this verse.

[9] Michael F. Bird (2012-12-25) Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry (Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry) (Kindle Locations 516-526)

[10] Here are few examples from Matthew’s Gospel: “They do not toil nor spin” (Matt. 6:28); “he will not quarrel or cry out” (Matt. 12:19); “They do not hear or understand” (Matt. 13:13). And Paul uses the word in Galatians 4:14: “you did not scorn or despise me.”

[11] For example, BDAG give the general meaning, “to assume a stance of independent authority.” They believe the sense in 1 Timothy 2:12 is, “tell a man what to do.” Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, (BDAG) revised and edited by F.W Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 150.

[12] “§ 37:21 αὐθεντέω to control in a domineering manner — ‘to control, to domineer.’ …”
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Volume 1: Introductions and Domains (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988), 474, s.v. αὐθεντέω (Internet Archive) (An abbreviated online source is here).

[13] Scr. Eccl. vol 62, page 366, line 29. Source: TLG. This verb is translated as “act the despot” in the English translation of Chrysostom’s homily in Vol XIII of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 304.

[14] Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 292.

[15] For example, many of the first overseers were people who hosted and managed house churches, and may not always have been responsible for teaching, but Ignatius, writing around 110 AD, uses the same word for a different kind of ministry, the oversight of a network of house churches in a city. Recognised church offices, for the most part, probably began in the late first century, and they were mostly different in nature to the church offices we have today.

Explore more

6 Reasons 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems
1 Timothy 2:13: Another reason 1 Timothy 2:12 is not clear
1 Timothy, the created order, and Bible men who were guided by godly women
The Means of Ministry: Gifts, Grace, Faith . . . Gender?
The First-Century Church and the Ministry of Women 
ESV Bible’s Men-Only Club
“Busy at Home”: How does Titus 2:4-5 apply today?
The Role of Church Overseers ( 1 Timothy 3:4) 

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

37 thoughts on “A critique of the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:12

  1. Excellent work here, Marg. Sad, however, that you feel the need to go to such great lengths to argue all the issues involved. Wow!!! I know several of the people directly involved in the publication of this translation. So discouraging.

    However, also encouraged by the church my wife now attends because of a recent church women’s retreat where the women studied together with the help of a woman NT professor, Paul’s report about working with Junia, the woman apostle. Good to see that you have a blog on this contentious issue, also made contentious by the ESV translators and commentator.

    1. Hi John, it is sad.

      1 Timothy 2:12 comes up all the time in conversations I have. This week on my Facebook page, I’ve made a quick daily note about how this verse has been a part of my day. This verse takes up a significant part of my life.

      Thanks for bringing up the issue of Junia and the ESV. Several top complementarian scholars acknowledge that the ESV translation of Romans 16:7 with the word “to” does not convey the most natural or obvious way of understanding the Greek.
      For example, Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 923 fn 39.
      Thomas Schreiner, a staunch complementarian, translates the pertinent phrase as “distinguished among the apostles.” Schreiner, Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 1998), 797. (Italics added)

  2. Thanks, Marg, for your in depth commentary on this subject. It is needful that called and gifted women are encouraged to persevere. We need the fully equipped body of Christ ministering in their God-given capacity. Are we mindful of what anti-Christ teaching has done with gender? We are one body, one Spirit and should be of one purpose: glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ.

    1. “We need the fully equipped body of Christ ministering in their God-given capacity.”
      I couldn’t agree more, Loretta.

  3. Excellent lunch hour read. Thank you for your scholarly insight into this. Much appreciated.

  4. Going over this in more detail later! I love word/context comparisons. Also using common sense, which a lot of Christians seem to think is not lofty enough for the Bible. I often like to ask “how are the men to be different?” So, women are to learn in ‘silence, ” is it ok for the men to learn without settling down? Is it ok for a woman to usurp the authority of another woman? How about men usurping authority? This is part of the reason that I believe that Paul is writing about a very specific issue.

    1. And what is it exactly about women that disqualifies them from teaching every man about Jesus? Coming first means nothing in the kingdom unless you’re Jesus. Common sense, and kindness, is missing from the interpretation and implementation of several of Paul’s statements that have been misunderstood.

      Another common hermeneutical error–my personal bugbear–is using Paul to understand Genesis 1-3. Genesis helps us to understand some of what the apostle is saying, but since Paul uses Genesis to make certain points that were relevant to the situations he was writing, as well as illustrating certain doctrines (e.g., Romans 5), it doesn’t always work to read Paul back into Genesis 1-3.

  5. Great post. I already covered what I believe 1 Timothy 2:12 was referring to in a previous post you made on this matter. Plus I made a post in my first blog about this verse and whether women can be ordained ministers. Anyway, God Bless.

  6. Hi Marg. This is a very, very random question that has nothing to do with Biblical equalitarianism. I just figured I’d ask you though since you’re one of the few Biblical scholars I have actual contact with!

    Anyways I was wondering if it’s considered a commandment for modern Christians to keep the sabbath, or if it’s more of an optional thing. I know that nothing I do can save me/keep me saved so this isn’t some sort of salvation issue. I know I’m saved forever simply because I believe in Christ! However, I just want to know if Christians should keep the sabbath NOT because it will help save them, by just because it’s a commandment and Christians should strive to follow what Jesus says.

    Were there Christians in the Bible who didn’t keep the sabbath?

    Is the sabbath relevant to today? I know that some laws and commandments aren’t relevant today, like the ones about mixing fabrics and eating shrimp. But is the sabbath one of those laws that doesn’t apply to us today?

    To be completely honest, my gut says that it is something that we should do. But this is something I’m really wrestling with because keeping the sabbath would be incredibly inconvenient lol!! To take an entire day off in a culture that’s all about “hustling” and “the grind don’t stop” is INCREDIBLY hard. In America, and especially living in a big city, it’s VERY hard to slow down and rest. Not to mention, most people go out and hang out on fridays and Saturday’s. That’s really the only time I get to hang out with my friends which is the most honest reason why I don’t want to keep a sabbath lol.

    What do you think? Do you personally keep the sabbath?

    Sorry for asking so many questions!

    1. Hi Megan,

      I struggled with the commandment about keeping the Sabbath for many years. No church community I have ever belonged to has kept the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday) holy, and yet it is one of the Ten Commandments.

      I don’t keep the Sabbath, personally. But I try to make Sunday a bit special and relaxing, if possible.

      One thing that has eased my conscience considerably is Exodus 31:16-17 where it says, “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever . . .” Strictly speaking, I am not an Israelite, though we are grafted in to Israel (Rom. 11:17; cf. Gal. 6:15-16). But more importantly perhaps, I am not under the Covenants given in the Hebrew Bible. We are New Covenant people.

      1. Yeah I really struggle with this one.

        Just because Jesus fufilled the law doesn’t mean he abolished it. So just because honoring your mom and dad doesn’t save you, it should still be done as an obedient Christian.

        But then I see verses like Colossians 2: 16-17, and I wonder this means that people shouldn’t judge HOW a person takes their sabbath or IF they even take it at all.

        I don’t think it’s a huge deal but I just wonder how much more rested I would feel if I took a day off lol! I’ll probably do it but who knows.

        1. There are numerous Old Testament laws we don’t keep any more. Even Jewish people don’t follow most of the regulations in the Hebrew Bible.

          Instructions to honour and obey parents are included in the New Testament but, off the top of my head, there are no instructions to keep the Sabbath (or to tithe). Some people see that as significant.

  7. Thanks, David. I appreciate that.

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful piece.

  9. To David Rogers: we egalitarians look to Jesus’s life and ministry FIRST. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. You mention that not one woman is in the inner circle of Jesus, but you’re assuming that Jesus only had 12 men in his inner circle. According to Luke 8:1-3, many women not only traveled with Jesus and the 12, they also funded Jesus’ ministry. Jesus taught Mary and Martha…and Jesus hung out in Bethany with his friends.

    Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna were also in Jesus’s inner circle. In fact, Mary Magdalene instructs the male disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. And Jesus later rebukes them for not believing her.

    Complementarians are forced to excuse Jesus’s teaching and ministry in order to fit their complementarian agenda. In fact, I have never EVER heard or read a comp quote Jesus or the gospels when defending their beliefs. They excuse the Samaritan woman in John 4 as someone who was “conveying information”, except that Samaria believed in Jesus because of her testimony. We say that she was preaching…you diminish what she did. There are many other examples between Jesus and Paul where they exhort women leaders, yet you excuse or ignore them, or say that it was an anomaly. Anna, Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, Chloe, Philip’s four daughters, etc. OT – Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, etc.

    Second point – you keep saying that women were never leaders in the church until 1960. How ignorant!!! It’s very sad that secular feminists know early church history better than many Christians, and praise the early church for their forward thinking.https://juniaproject.com/more-than-footnotes-part-2-women-medieval-christianity/, and read part 1, 3, and 4. Have you heard of Proba, Hildegard, Phoebe Palmer, Margaret Fell, Susanna Wesley? All of these women came well before 1960. You’re also forced to excuse what God is doing in the church worldwide…the Church in Cambodia is being lead by women saved from the sex trade industry. You’re forced to believe that Corrie ten Boom didn’t preach.

    Third point – you think the church has everything right?? How many pastors quoted Ezra 11 as proof that bi-racial marriages are wrong, and that we should remain segregated? But, they ignored or excused the fact that Moses is tri-racial. How many pastors quoted Leviticus 25 and Genesis 16 as proof that slavery is God’s ideal for the American colonies, and then justified the South’s prosperity as proof that God agreed with their behavior?

    1. Hi Jamie, you make some good points.

      I will be removing David’s comments shortly because they are way too long and are not actual responses to the article.

  10. Hi Marg. In a tangent, wondering what Bible translation you recommend for avoiding complementarian bias?

  11. Hello Marg. Interesting perspective. Just curious, do you think that Mary Magdalene was an apostle of equal God-given authority with Peter and Paul?

    1. Hi Steve,

      I can’t answer that question. There is no verse I know of in the New Testament that measures or quantifies a person’s level of authority, with the exception of Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18, Eph. 1:20-22; etc).

      Did Peter have an authority equal to that of Paul? Did he have an authority equal to that of Thomas or Andrew, etc? And does it matter? The important thing is that people be free to function in whatever ministry God authorises them for.

      Galatians 6:4 CEB: “Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others.”

      1 Corinthians 3:5-8 CEB: “After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor.”

      1. I had in mind the authority Paul spoke about in II Cor 10:8 & 13:10 which the Lord gave him. It seems to be a level of authority that came specially to Paul, and was validated by the signs of a true apostle (12:12).
        It does not follow for me that every eyewitness of the resurrection had this same authority, much less every believer in Christ. If Mary Magdalene had Paul’s level of authority to say, “This is the Lord’s command…”, then I would have to agree that I Tim 2:12 might not be fairly applied to every believing woman. But if the scriptures are not explicit about Mary Magdalene’s authority as an eyewitness, and not explicit about Junia’s level of authority, then wouldn’t we be on surer footing to say that the explicit texts like I Tim 2:12 and I Cor 14:34-37 are relevant for believing women today?

        1. Hi Steve,

          Yes, Paul had the authority to be an apostle. There is plenty of evidence for this in his letters, including 1 Corinthians. And though the New Testament doesn’t mention it plainly, Mary Magdalene may have also been authorised by Jesus to be an apostle.

          I agree that not “every eyewitness of the resurrection had this same authority [the authorisation to be an apostle], much less every believer in Christ.”

          We all have different ministries and there are different kinds of apostles. But the New Testament doesn’t teach, as far as I can make out, that different kinds of apostles or different kinds of ministries have different levels of authority. As an analogy, does the eye have a different level of authority than a hand (cf. 1 Cor. 12)? Or, to put it in more practical terms, does a prophet have more authority than an evangelist or an apostle (cf. Eph. 4:11)? Or, does someone who has a ministry of mercy have less authority than someone who has a ministry of being an elder? And what about Paul’s coworkers and labourers who I mention in my next article?

          Our authority, that is our authorisation, comes from God. I have 100% authority to function in the ministry God has called, gifted and authorised me for. Also, 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor. 14:34ff have nothing to do with the authority of well-behaved women who are legitimately called and authorised by God for certain ministries. (I have articles about these verses elsewhere on this site.)

          Authority in the church, as opposed to some forms of worldy authority, has to do with the authorisation to function in a ministry. It is not about a hierarchy of power. This is not what Jesus or Paul wanted for the church. Yet, much of the church has had a dreadful history of being structured hierarchically with some people having a great level of power while others have none at all.

          In the community of God’s people, some people are legitimately authorised to be leaders of various kinds, but they do not have more authority, or more power, than those who are authorised and empowered for ministries that rarely involve leadership. We are all brothers and sisters.

          I suspect we have a different idea of what Jesus wanted in regards to authority in the community of the people of God (i.e. the church).
          Here’s some of what Jesus taught about leadership and community:
          Here’s my take on authority in the church:
          Here’s my article about different kinds of apostles:

          1. Hi Marg.

            I appreciate this dialogue. We can all agree that mutual submission in the Body of Christ is always a very good thing. We can also all agree that it has never been God’s will for believing parents to submit to their believing children. And it has never been God’s will for parents to wield their parental authority in unholy ways. That authority is for building up and protection in a holy stewardship, according to God’s choice. Not surprisingly, rebellious teenagers despise that parental ‘hierarchy of power.’ You see where I am going with this.

            You posed the question: “Does someone who has a ministry of mercy have less authority than someone who has a ministry of being an elder?” I would have to answer ‘yes’ in the sense that elders have more authority to lead the church. They have that authority because they are appointed (Acts 14:23), and not self-appointed. They are appointed because there are strict qualifications (Titus 1:5-9; I Tim 3:2-7) and formidable adversaries (Titus 1:10-16; I Tim 4:1-3). The appointment of the elders (board of elders) authorizes them to lead the church as shepherds under the Chief Shepherd (I Pet 5:1-4).

            Those not appointed as elders are not authorized to lead the church, even if they believe sincerely that God has called them and gifted them and authorized them to lead. Those who appoint elders and those appointed as elders clearly have a level of authority to lead the church that the rest do not. That authority too is for building up and protection in a holy stewardship.

            The shepherd metaphor helps us see why the church needs leaders with authority—because of the presence of wolves among the sheep. These wolves identify as sheep (Matt 7:15) and even as shepherds, but they bring false teaching that leads the lambs (‘babes’) astray. Wolves despise any authority that challenges their brand of “truth” and their standing in the church. Wolves love mutual submission when it preserves their “calling” as trusted leaders. Appointed elders have the responsibility and the authority to “silence” these wolves in the church (Titus 1:11-12). This is God’s will for how wolves will be silenced in the church. With that same authority, elders are charged to lead the church according to God’s will as prescribed by the Scriptures, including the tough verses like I Cor 14:34-37 which is the “Lord’s commandment.”

            I noticed that you believe that verse 5 of I Cor 11 proves that women were already prophesying in the church gatherings, thus negating 14:34-35 as pertaining to all believing women. But, the context of verse 5 seems to indicate otherwise. Prior to verse 5 the context is eating meat sacrificed to idols (I Cor 8:1-10:33) and sexuality (5:1-7:40), which were more likely relevant to what was happening outside the church gatherings. Not until verse 18 of I Cor 11 does Paul explicitly transition to matters happening inside the church gatherings.

            I sympathize with those seeking to obey the Lord in all things in our imperfect churches. My wife and I experience that struggle ourselves. How can we not ‘live in the tension’ when God’s perfect will sometimes has the older Esau serving the younger Jacob for no other reason than “that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand” (Rom 9:11 NASB)?

          2. Hi Steve,

            I completely agree that we need shepherds. And I agree with this statement of yours except for the word “level”.
            “Those not appointed as elders are not authorized to lead the church, even if they believe sincerely that God has called them and gifted them and authorized them to lead. Those who appoint elders and those appointed as elders clearly have a level of authority to lead the church that the rest do not. That authority too is for building up and protection in a holy stewardship.”

            Leaders have an authority to lead. People with a ministry of mercy have an authority to exercise a ministry of mercy. A person with a ministry of mercy, or any of many other ministries, may have zero authority to lead a congregation on an ongoing basis. But that doesn’t mean that one person, or one group of people, have more authority than another. They have a different authorisation. Still, all ministry is for building up fellow believers.

            What kind of authority do children have, other than what has been delegated to them by their parents or teachers, etc? Are you suggesting that leaders are like adults and non-leaders are like children? And what do rebellious teenagers have to do with Christian ministry/service?I don’t get this analogy at all. Did you read my article on Authority in the Church? Did you read any of the articles I linked?

            Your comments lead me to think that you do not understand my point of view at all. Are you guessing what I might think rather than finding out what I actually think? Just to be clear, nowhere do I advocate for, or even suggest, rebellion or insubordination towards anyone, including church leaders. Rather, I advocate for submission and cooperation. (My very next article, on 1 Corinthians 16:16, encourages submitting to ministers.)

            We have very different views on the status of every person who is “in Christ,” leaders and non-leaders included, and very different views of what legitimate or ideal authority in the church actually is, and very different views of how first-century churches operated.

            1 Corinthians 11:5 does not negate 14:34-35 as such. The two passages are about different kinds of speaking. Also, none of the three calls for silence in 1 Corinthians 14 apply to every person in the Corinthian church; they only apply to those who were disrupting the meeting with certain kinds of speech. Here is a very short article the three groups of Corinthian Christians that Paul tells to zip it: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

            1 Corinthians 11:2-4 (the verses that precede 11:5) is not about eating meat sacrificed to idols, and neither is 1 Corinthians 11:6-16 (the verses that follow 11:5). So I don’t get your point about this.

            In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Paul’s concern is the appearance of the heads and hair of men and of women who were praying and prophesying in assemblies at Corinth. Men and women ministered vocally in other assemblies also (e.g., the church in Colossae: Col 3:16). There’s nothing unusual about this. There is nothing to “prove.”

            I actually love the tension. It keeps me motivated to increase my understanding of God’s Word and it keeps me relying on Him. I’ve always found that the Christian life is an exciting one.

            Also, I’m not appreciating this “dialogue” as much as you are. I get that you see authority in the Christian community as needing to have different levels or degrees of authority, effectively creating a hierarchy of power. But I don’t, and I see no reason to labour this point. I think the only things we completely agree on is that (1) we need shepherds and (2) not every believer is called or authorised to be a church leader.

  12. Just tossing this one out there. I don’t think anyone submits more than loving parents to a child. We think of wifely submission as mutual and to help each other be their best. What else do parents do than that? We wind up coordinating our schedules around our children’s needs, we eat what is good for them. Yes, parents have “authority” over them, but submission is at the heart of parenthood. Our kids submit to us when we need to direct or correct them. Submitting to a child doesn’t mean that he or she gets his or her way all the time. It just means that we willingly put what is best for them ahead of our own pleasures at times. We always figured that our son would only be a child for a short period of time, but that we would be adults together much longer. We raised him to be the kind of person we would want as our neighbor, or doctor or pastor or grocery store manager. Parents that force their kids to do what the parents want without regard for their kids needs usually wind up with unhappy children.

  13. I’ll chime in a little on this – this past year has been my first time attending an elder-led church, and consequently my first complementarían church. While the elders seek the Lord, I also question their understanding of “authority.”

    I brought up the question to an elder “what is the responsibilities of the congregation?” “The congregation submits to us. That’s your responsibility.” They control everything, including what songs are sung in the nursery, in the name of protecting “pure doctrine.”

    However, when I read the Bible, I see a balance of power, that we’re all members of a family who should strive for unity. Paul calls out the congregation to go before each other when someone has wronged another. That it was the congregation rebuked for the man sleeping with his father’s wife.

    So, when I hear elder-led churches claiming to protect pure doctrine, while I want to believe it’s a pure motive, I question if it’s actually a cover for holding onto power and authority. True religion is taking care of the sick and widows. And we’ll be known by our love. When submission is about power and not love, that’s when we have an unbalance. We’re all priests before God. Mutually submit to one another. (Ephs 5:21)

    1. Jamie, I appreciate these thoughts.

      I’m not sure if Steve realises that most instructions and teachings in the NT letters were written to church members whether they were leaders or not. And many NT instructions and teachings were written to members as a community, rather than to individuals. We have an idea who some of the church leaders (episkopoi and diakonoi) were in Colossae, Corinth, Ephesus, Laodicea, Philippi, and Rome, but these leaders are mentioned in passing with only a line or two, or three, about them. All members were to pay attention to a letter’s instructions, not just the leaders.

      And all members had a part to play in church life and contribute what they could (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16). For example, it wasn’t just the chosen lady who was to deny the entrance of false teachers into the Christian community, it was her whole church: plural language is used in the Greek of 2 John 1:10-11). And it wasn’t just the whole church in Corinth that was told to discipline and exclude the immoral brother. Leaders are not mentioned here at all.

      All members have God-given gifts and responsibilities that they are to use. And the church as a whole has an authority. By regarding leaders as “adults” and non-leaders as “children” we rob the church of its effectiveness and of its authority.

      1. Hi Marg. My apologies for the delay in replying. I am very familiar with your writings regarding egalitarianism. They are very well thought through, but not very well defended by the whole of Scripture. I did appreciate the ‘Kephale’ blog (Aug 14, 2017), except for the last statement and the blog’s inexplicable omission of Eph 1:22 and Eph 5:28 as the two best New Testament examples of ‘head’ as ‘authority over.’ Also, I take exception to the placing of John Stott in the egalitarian camp of scholars and theologians. Stott himself would take exception to it if he were still alive! His book that you quoted confronts egalitarianism graciously at many points, in a conciliatory tone, as he seeks to mediate between the two factions at war in his own denomination.

        I see by your comments to me that the analogies are not connecting well with you. You asked the question, “Are you suggesting that leaders are like adults and non-leaders are like children?” No. Non-leaders are all along the spectrum from ‘babes’ to ‘mature’ as described in Hebrews 5:12-14, as you know. Where immaturity exists in the church, elder authority is needed, much like the parenting of maturing teens. Non-leaders can include mature believers who do not happen to qualify as elders because they may not, for example, have a “good reputation with those outside the church” (I Tim 3:7). These non-leading mature believers are expected to follow the leaders (Heb 13:17), and because they are mature, they usually will follow. But, in those instances where they disagree on biblical grounds with what has been deemed by the elders, they would begin an appropriate appeal process like in Acts 15. Appointed leaders are mature believers who have “their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). With those senses trained through practice (NASB) and constant use (NIV), they are able to deem matters in the church on behalf of those under their shepherding care, especially the immature. To quote you: “Elders have the advantage of experience and maturity. It is this maturity which makes some elders suitable to lead congregations.” (Blog Jan 20, 2017)

        The writer of Hebrews uses the word “leading” three times in chapter 13 (verses 7, 17, 24), and each time the word could be also translated “deeming”. I think it is helpful to note how the Greek root of that word is used in other parts of the New Testament. In Matt 2:6 it shows up as “ruler” (CEB, NIV, NASB), “prince” (KJV) and “governor” (TLB). In Luke 22:26 it is translated “ruler” (NIV), “leader” (CEB, NASB) and “chief” (KJV). In Acts 7:10 it is translated as “governor” (NASB, KJV) and “ruler” (CEB, NIV). Interestingly, the verb form of the word shows up in Phil 2:3; 3:8 and II Peter 1:13; 3:9. To lead is to deem. Elders deem what is false teaching and what is immoral behavior based on the Scriptures–even the difficult verses that need a lot of chewing time to fully digest.

        Deeming is authoritative. But who enforces what is deemed? Who are the holy police and ‘bouncers’ in the church? This may be where you struggle. Do elders have the power to enforce their authority, and what does that look like? Peter deemed the behavior of Ananias and Sapphira as immoral, but God enforced it Himself (Acts 5:1-11). Paul deemed the behavior of Alexander as harmful, but left the enforcement to God (II Tim 4:14). Paul deemed the behavior of the man in Corinth as immoral, and told the church it would be enforced by God when they were “assembled” (I Cor 5:1-5). The elders in Acts 15 deemed the essentials of what believers should abstain from, but we are not told how it was enforced in any of the churches. Jesus deemed the unrepentant sinner to be treated as an unbeliever by each church member (Matt 18:17). In a situation like this, what if over half the congregation did not agree that the offense was a sin, but the whole eldership did? Assuming most of this congregation were not mature believers (like most healthy churches!), how does an egalitarian model work for this decision making process? How does maturity factor in?

        You then asked, “And what do rebellious teenagers have to do with Christian ministry/service?” Any maturing believer who persistently resists being led by those in the church who are responsible to lead, exhibits immaturity. When the immature become mature, the authority becomes less necessary to exercise. It would not make sense for one to say that an immature believer has authority to do their ministry, even if the elders disagree about that ‘authorization.’ It would only make sense if one believes that “the anointing of the Holy Spirit” (I John 2:20) gives all believers equal ability “to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). I believe it is a misinterpretation of John to conclude that. Elders have authority to deem regarding matters in their church according to God’s will because “savage wolves” prey on immature sheep, “not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:28-31). It is a sign of immaturity to spit out the true “solid food” by discrediting it or re-interpreting it to suit one’s preference and level of discernment, like I Cor 14:34-37 and I Tim 2:12.

        Then you said, “Just to be clear, nowhere do I advocate for, or even suggest, rebellion or insubordination towards anyone, including church leaders.” When anyone strongly advocates against an established biblical position that has been long held by countless elders throughout church history, that person is either a rebel or a reformer. By imposing supposed egalitarian overtones on the Pauline letters, one unwittingly judges the Apostle Paul as incapable of clearly writing and defending the supposed egalitarian views of Jesus. And, unwittingly, that one judges God as being incapable of injecting into His own Scriptures multiple clear examples of women leading in the church. There is not one clear example! All that said, the derision of biblical complementarianism today probably speaks more about the dearth of godly male leadership than it does about the suppression of godly women. And for that reason, I really do sympathize with those choosing to live in that tension.

        1. Steve,

          The word “egalitarian” does not occur anywhere in the article you’re talking about. Some of the scholars do not use that label for themselves and I do not label them except by saying that they are prominent evangelical biblical scholars. I am aware of some of Stott’s reservations, yet I have quoted him correctly.

          I do mention Ephesians 1:22-23 and Ephesians 5:23 (3 times) in my article on “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3. The focus of the article is clearly stated: it’s on 1 Corinthians 11:3 not on verses in Ephesians. I have other articles that discuss “head” in Ephesians 1:22-23 and 5:23, and one looks overall at “head” in Paul’s letters.

          Your analogies don’t reflect what Jesus and Paul say about relations in the church. For example, Jesus plainly says we are not to call anyone “father” (Matt. 23:8-10) and yet you have used the analogy of parents and children. (More here.)

          The New Testament seldom tells us the names of local church leaders (i.e. leaders of house churches). We hear more about the apostles and their envoys who usually didn’t stay for extended periods in one place. Nevertheless, the New Testament does briefly mention a few local church leaders, and women’s names are among them. Just because the references are brief and don’t use the terminology we are accustomed to, doesn’t mean the references are unclear. Women were leaders in New Testament churches.

          You seem to be suggesting that I’m against authority and leadership. This is simply not correct. I suspect you may be reading my words with preconceived ideas, rather than hearing what I’m actually saying. I am pro-authority and pro-submission when done ideally the way Jesus and Paul intended. But even when it falls short of the ideal, I do not advocate for rebellion.

          Church history and traditions do not make something right. The church has got a lot of things wrong in the past. A lot! The church’s prevailing policy and practice of slavery springs to mind. Some forms of church government employed in church history and today are not what Jesus and Paul wanted. But, as for the church today, I acknowledge the right of denominations to choose what system works best for them if people are free to leave if they find the system too oppressive or unworkable for whatever reason. This freedom was not available to most people throughout the middle ages; they were compelled to belong to the state-approved religion, or emigrate. (See, The Peace of Augsburg in 1555). In some churches today, manipulative methods are used to prevent people from leaving. All this to say, recognised and established church traditions are not the arbiters of correct or best practices.

          I’m not exactly sure what you think is “the established biblical position”, especially as the New Testament shows that there are different ways of running church meetings and doing ministry. There is not one established biblical position or pattern for ministry.

          Steve, you were the one who brought up struggles and tension. I do not have struggles or tensions with biblical egalitarianism. Here are two complementarian women, Jennie Allen and Mary Kassian speaking about a tension, a stress, a hurt, that I do not have to bear. The short video is produced by The Gospel Coalition.

          I have answered your questions honestly. I don’t have the time to dialogue with someone who is just interested in pushing his point and not listening. I am also not interested in continuing a conversation with someone who thinks that just because someone has a different interpretation they are being rebellious and even judging God. I don’t accuse you of being rebellious even if you do compare leaders with parents and have different interpretations of scripture.

          I’ve given you a fair hearing but I will no longer be “approving” your comments. I wish you peace.

  14. Hello Marg,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight to a biblical subject that needs to be addressed and understood world over, your insight and understanding you share has been very enlightening for me.

    I am a firm believer that the Lord has used women throughout the ages, most men seem to forget that it was the women disciples who stayed with our Lord when He was being crucified, also He first appeared to a woman and it was the same woman I believed that was the first to evangelize the risen Christ.

    I have also just finished an excellent article title: Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church: An Open Letter by Frank Viola


    You are both singing from the same hymnbook on this subject for sure, sincere thanks again.

    By His grace


    1. Thanks, Andrew. I’ve read Frank’s article before.

      Yes, I think we are singing from the same hymnbook. 🙂

  15. Marg,
    My wife and I are writing a book about Gender Justice and the Gospel. I planted and pastored a church (svccgilroy.com) for over 30 years here in the US. During my pastorate I held to what I would call a soft-complementarian view. Women got to do a lot, but not enough. In retirement my wife and I have been looking back with regret that we were not promoting mutuality and an egalitarian theology. We’re trying to rectify this. I’m smart enough to recognize that your writing and research skills are exceptional. Really! I have a MA in Global Leadership from Western Seminary and have pastored for over 45 years and you are blowing me away. I would relish the opportunity to actually talk with you. We have our own website entitled, youdefineus.org. We’d love to connect with what you are doing. I hope you get this post and can respond to my email. Thanks so much Marg and keep up the good work.

  16. This article was helpful for me. Whenever I interpret a woman as a bad teacher, I interpret that the reason is she’s a woman. When a man is similarly bad, he is simply bad. The problem comes that the women who I have seen preach in my life justifying themselves by saying ‘girl power!’ (literally) which fails the humble, “heart” qualifications for a teacher described in, for example, 1 Peter 5.

    But women are in a position often where they feel they must reflexively justify their preaching while men do not have to. A bit of a catch-22.

    If a woman could justify preaching like you do in this article, that would be good. It seems sometimes they arrive at the fact that women can be equal in this by following worldly trends, without having scriptural justification for it. Then, when discussing other issues, using this same method arrives at unbiblical conclusions. Again, an additional burden women have that men don’t, but to be fair I think many men are bad at exegeting scripture as well.

    On the other hand, a conservative reading of more ‘legalistic’ instructions is also at play. For example, at the end of my life, will I regret being too generous with my earthly possessions, taking too seriously the plain reading of certain commands in Scripture while not understanding that the Greek /may/ have had a different meaning that did not require such literal generosity? “Oops, I gave too much to poor people!” Similarly, if I only listened to and submitted to the authority of good male preachers, will I regret “Oops, I could have listened to more women as well”? I know men can preach, and in some ways this is “safe”.

    1. Hi Taylor, I love your honesty. And I love your last paragraph.

      If I err, I hope I err in being too gracious generous and not in being too mean nd stingy with whatever resources I have, including the ability to accept and encourage fellow believers in ministry.

    2. Your honesty is refreshing. I have been to many churches in my life, had women pastors as well as men. I look back on it and see that ALL of them had similar issues, especially with ego, but the one who stands out the most to me as having overcome the issue is a woman. She felt that her job included equipping us to do ministry as the Holy Spirit led us to, supporting us, but never controlling us, whereas a lot of the men were trying to run our ministries and take credit for them.

      I joked for a long time that after having that one woman pastor, I was not so sure that it was OK for men to be pastors! Sadly, since then, I have encountered a woman whose ministry was more about herself than her congregants. It was a sad day.

      All of us, male and female, can do really wonderful things in Jesus’ name, as well as really awful things. It doesn’t have a thing to do with gender. It has to do with the heart of the person. When someone comes in with preconceived notions about what male and female can and can’t do, it clouds that person’s ability to properly discern what is going on.

      I will often say that it is the gift that a person brings, not the packaging it is wrapped in. We pay much too much attention to that packaging when we evaluate the gift based on gender. Yes, I have a whole bunch of good sayings, but I know that they are not Biblical! They are good summaries and they help people leave with little sound bites to think about.

      One more thing. Many men who don’t want to listen to women who teach believe that men and women are basically very different in what parts of the image of God they reflect. If women so think so differently than men, why would anyone NOT want to hear what a woman has to say? If women represent the “softer” side of God, why should that not be given the same respect as the harsher side? After all, the Fruits are the Spirit are largely softer and more feminine. Shouldn’t men want to know about that when they largely seem to be the most proud of the less compassionate aspects of manhood? Women are open to learning from both sides, which gives us a tremendous advantage!

      From your picture, you look young, which means that you should have time and opportunity to grow. I hope that when you do appear in front of God, you won’t look at this in terms of listening only to men, but will see it by more important standards. Did who you listen to bring you closer to God? How many people came to Jesus through your life? How much freedom did you grant to others to use their gifts? What was the result? How did you treat those whose teaching was in error?

      At any rate, I wish God’s best for you!!

  17. I know it was an old one but I just watched that video with Mary Kassian. I have so many thoughts about what she and the interviewer said! The comment about how rarely complementarian marriages work well was so telling, but neither of them seemed to realize the implications of what they are saying. Sheila Grégoire over at Love Honor Vaccuum blog has said that happy complementarian marriages are actually functionally egalitarian (not sure if that’s her original observation).
    But from a vantage point in 2021 what jumped out at me was the implications of her statement that women’s submission to male authority-even to unhealthy and hurtful male authority-within the church somehow represents Jesus. This is so sad and wrongheaded. I suspect that thinking like this is a large part of the reason why people like James Macdonald, Bill Hybels, and Mark Driscoll got away with abusive and un-Christlike behavior for so long (I’m in the US, I’m sure there are examples from other places too). No one thought they could challenge the “authority” of these deeply flawed men, and the result was great hurt to many people and the public disgrace of the gospel.
    Thank you, Marg, for helping me and many others see that unilateral submission is not Christlike, and that we women do not need to live inside artificial “fences” to follow Jesus!

    1. There’s so much wrong with that video. I don’t understand why TGC keep it up. It paints a picture of complementarianism where women are second-guessing their “place.” Even the title of the video “Boundaries are for Your Freedom” sounds like double-speak.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?