Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

ordination, authority, Twelve Apostles, priests, women ministers

Should Women Teach in Church? is a new series of videos that look at Bible passages that are often used to limit the ministry of women in the church. The videos are short and designed for people who don’t have time to read, or prefer not to read.

Producer Michael Huffman has posted four videos so far on his YouTube channel, Sharp Readings, with more being planned. These videos are intelligently and reasonably argued, and are a helpful voice in gender discussions.

In the first, introductory video, Michael shows that women are already teaching in some way in most evangelical churches, even in churches that claim women must not teach men. (5 mins)

In the second video, Michael discusses the context and meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak . . .”) and he makes several excellent points. (7 mins)

In the third and fourth videos, Michael argues that the principle taught in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is not about gender roles but about the need for those who teach to learn first. (9 mins and 8 mins)

I have one qualm about video four. Michael claims that Eve received knowledge about the forbidden fruit second hand and that Adam failed to teach Eve properly about the forbidden fruit. Thus she was less prepared to deal with the deceiving serpent. Others, both hierarchical complementarians and egalitarians, make similar claims, but I’m not so sure Genesis chapters 2 and 3 support such ideas. The text does not give us a reason to suppose that Eve’s knowledge of God’s command was inferior to Adam’s.

All in all, I recommend these videos and think they are a valuable resource. Some of the artistic concepts are clever and fun too.

Michael is married to Isabel and they have two daughters. Michael grew up in the USA and, as a child, attended a small Plymouth Brethren church where women were not permitted to speak in services except to state prayer requests and sing solos. Michael began to ask questions about the Bible’s teaching on women in ministry while studying Biblical Studies at The Masters College (where John MacArthur is president). Despite the prevailing patriarchal ethos at this college, about a year after graduation, Michael began affirming women in ministry. Since that time his interest in the Christian basis for mutuality in the home, church and society has grown. His hope is to show fellow believers that a faithful interpretation of scripture leads towards mutuality of the sexes. Michael teaches religious education to high schoolers.


Related Articles

Paul’s Female Coworkers
1 Corinthians 14:34-35, in a Nutshell
Various articles on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.
What Eve’s statement to the serpent tells us

28 thoughts on “Video Series: Should Women Teach in Church?

  1. These are great tools! I’ve already shared with a couple who had specifically asked me about the 1Corinthian 14 passage. Thank you for pointing them out, Marg!

    1. Glad they were useful.

      While there are other interpretations around, I agree with Michael’s explanation and interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

      Here’s my two cents: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

    2. I do say thank you so much for understanding the scriptures.And interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:33-40, God bless you and John Mac Arthur,I’m Victor Mulemba, from Zambia, teaching the same thing, that woman should keep silent in the churches according to the scriptures.

      1. Hello Victor, it seems you have misunderstood the message in the videos.

        I would be very cautious, Victor. You do not want to work against God and silence the godly women who God is speaking to and who have good things to say, to teach, to prophecy, and to pray. You do not want to silence women like Anna, Priscilla, and Junia who are gifts to the community of God’s people.

        Paul silences three groups of people in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40; he was silencing disorderly and unedifying speech. Paul was not silencing edifying and gifted speech. I have written about these three groups here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

        I encourage you to watch the second video again. Also, I strongly disagree with John MacArthur’s understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

      2. Hi Victor,
        Thanks for watching my videos. Actually, my videos are trying to show that while Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:3-35 is directed toward the women of the Corinthian church specifically, its teaching is actually applicable to all Christians, both men and women. My interpretation assumes (with good reason) that Paul silences the women because he is trying to foster an orderly worship environment. John MacArthur, on the other hand, teaches that Paul silenced these women simply because they were women! He wrongly brings an ideology of women’s and men’s “roles” to the text and tries to fit that ideology into his interpretation of it. Unfortunately, because he is such a popular Bible teacher, his view has stifled the full use of the Spirit’s gifts given through women in many churches all over the world.

        I recently read Dr. Lucy Peppiatt’s book called Women and Worship at Corinth. It has made me rethink the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that I offer in my video. I highly recommend it!

        May God richly bless your ministry in Zambia! May God grant freedom in the Spirit for both men and women to serve the church through preaching, teaching, prophesying, and in every way for the building up of Christ’s body.

  2. Thank you so much for bringing these videos to our attention. Thank you for your column which has been immensely helpful. After nearly 50 years of teaching and practicing the complementation position, a 2-year study/journey led me to the same position you and these videos present. I have recently signed with a publisher and hope to release a book on gender roles by the end of this year.

    1. Hi William,

      I’d like to know more about your book.

      Update: William’s books is here:
      https://www.amazon.com/Should-Women-Pastors-Leaders-Church/dp/1973630575

  3. I haven’t seen the videos yet but I’m sure they’re are quite useful.

    I also want to take this time to say that started a new blog and want to welcome you to view it and leave comments. I’ve only made a couple of posts but hope to make more in the future. Feel free to check it out. Thank you. God Bless.

    1. I’ll take a look. 🙂

  4. Thanks for posting these, Marg! I’m certainly willing to reconsider my conclusion that Paul is assuming Adam was responsible to teach Eve. The Rabbis do a lot with the differences between God’s instructions and Eve’s “interpretation” of them as seen in her conversation with the serpent. But one thing that cannot be concluded from Genesis 1-2 is that God created male and female in a hierarchical relationship. The clear language of equality and mutuality throughout requires some other explanation of Eve’s deception. I’m hoping the videos will help others see this and begin seeking such alternate explanations–one of which is the one I offer in video four.

    1. You’re very welcome, Michael.

      I’ve been reading Chrysostom and Epiphanius lately (both late 300s), and even they agree there is no gender hierarchy in Genesis 2. Epiphanius, who gets a lot of things wrong, gets this right: “A wife like himself was formed for him out of himself—out of the same body, by the same infusion of breath.”
      Panarion Book 1, Section 1, 1.2

      Here’s what Chrysostom said:
      “Wherefore you see, she was not subjected as soon as she was made; nor, when He brought her to the man, did either she hear any such thing from God, nor did the man say any such word to her: he said indeed that she was ‘bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh’: but of rule or subjection he no where made mention unto her. But when she made an ill use of her privilege and she who had been made a helper was found to be an ensnarer and ruined all, then she is justly told for the future, ‘your turning shall be to your husband.'”
      Homily 26 on First Corinthians

      For most of the history of the church, the subjugation of women was based on a flawed interpretation of Genesis 3:16. Now it’s mostly based on a flawed, and utterly contrived, interpretation of Genesis 2.

      I’d love to find out if there’s any information in intertestamental writings about Adam as supposed teacher of the forbidden fruit rule and/or information about Eve’s statement to the serpent.

    2. I don’t mean to hijack this thread, but want to thank you, Michael, and let you know I’m looking forward to your upcoming videos. (If there’s a better place to comment, please let me know.)

      1. Thanks Alina. Im glad they are helpful. You can comment here or on YouTube under the videos.

    3. Love the videos, Michael! Have you considered the context of the worship of Artemis? It’s possible Paul was speaking against the prevailing beliefs. In that context, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 could be saying:
      -Christian women should not dominate like pagan religious women do
      -Woman was not created first, man was
      -Women who used to follow Artemis and turned away to follow Christ would not succumb to the fate they were threatened with – death in childbirth

      1. Hi Becky,

        I’ve written about the Ephesian Artemis (here and here), but I strongly suspect early Christian attitudes to sexuality are behind 1 Tim 2:15 and 1 Tim 4:3. More on this here.

        1. Thanks, I’ll read those posts!

      2. Hi Becky,
        Yes, in fact I recently went to Ephesus and saw two statues of Artemis that were found there! Check Marg’s article on this.

        My goal with the videos is to provide an alternate interpretation to these texts that anyone who has a Bible can follow. This is why I didn’t try to get into a lot of background information, as interesting and important as that is. I’m hoping the videos will help some people begin asking whether or not a hierarchical reading is really as clear as they have been told. In my conversations with women so far, I find repeatedly that many have simply never heard an alternate reading of the texts. Of course, great scholarship is out there. But for many people that scholarship seems out of reach, or maybe it’s intimidating because they’ve been told it was written by “liberal” scholars. I’m hoping people who watch my videos will at least see that affirming women in ministry makes sense “biblically,” and maybe they will help some people start asking questions that will lead to a change of mind!

  5. Has anyone read “Why Not Women?” By Loren Cunningham (founder of YWAM)

    It makes some excellent and thoroughly researched points on this and many of your topics. Highly recommend!!

    Thank you for posting
    I need the encouragement as I live in complementarian grand central here in the Bible Belt USA. My husband is awesome but I feel so much pressure to conform here, I stopped speaking up.

    1. Yes, I have a copy. It’s excellent.

      I’m sorry that your culture makes it hard for you. 🙁

  6. Hi Marg,

    Thank you for posting these videos! I loved them, they made me cry! (Thanks for Michael for making them).

    Please explain why you disagree with the interpretation of Eve being a student of Adam? I had never heard it before today (Christian for 33 years, go-figure!) It made sense to me. But I’m loving your site, (not even sure how I arrived here) and have spent hours reading and sharing… I’m open to learning. Thanks.

    1. Hannah (and Marg),
      I’d also like to hear Marg’s interpretation of this passage. Please keep in mind that I’m offering a very brief reading of these texts in my videos. I’m still learning too! These are some very contested texts and even the best egalitarian scholars disagree about the specifics of what they meant to Paul when he wrote them. The main point I am trying to make in my videos is that the reading of these texts that results in the permanent exclusion of women from speaking roles in the church is not the best one available by a long shot. Perhaps my interpretation is not the best either …but, it IS better than the one the complementarians have to offer. On this, all evangelical egalitarians will agree with me, even if they don’t agree with my specific reading of 1 Timothy 2. My primary goal is to show that the complementarian reading should be set aside in favor of other readings that make sense of the text in its context.

      1. I’ve written several articles on Genesis 1-3. You can access them via the “categories” section on the sidebar. One category is called Gender in Genesis 1-3.

        Here is a direct link: https://margmowczko.com/category/gender-in-genesis-chapters-1-3/

  7. Marg (or Michael),

    Is there a transcript of this series available?

  8. Hi Colleen,
    I do not have the script available anywhere online at the moment. I’d be happy to send you a PDF of it if you’d like.

    1. That would be wonderful. Thank you Michael!

  9. Thank you for sharing these videos and the thought-provoking discussion. I appreciate how people are grappling with the topic of how women and men are instructed to live in response to the Bible. I, too, have carefully pondered this issue, and the Lord has helped me to refine my view. In response, I have a few thoughts and questions.

    Although God created male and female in His own image, and we are equally valuable in Christ, are there not several passages in the Bible that make distinctions between men and women and/or husband and wife?

    For example, in Ephesians 5:22-33, it starts off instructing us all to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Eph 5:21). But then, women are specifically instructed to: “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:22-24). God’s Word explains that wives submitting to their husbands reflects the beautiful relationship we have with Christ as the Head (or authority) of our lives. Christ’s role is a leadership role over us, for our good.

    Even Genesis 3:16-20 describes different consequences for sin in regards to Adam (representing men) and Eve (representing women). The ground is cursed, because of Adam’s listening to his wife (Gen 3:17), and man is then subjected to painful toil in order to eat. Eve’s consequence for sin is severe pains in childbearing AND that her desire (Hebrew: teshuqah) will be for her husband (to control her husband)—akin to sin desiring to control Cain (Gen 4:7). But Eve was told that “he will rule over her” (Gen 3:16).

    So, if we look at the context of the entire Bible, there are many passages that address male leadership not only in the family, but also in the church. An “elder” (a leader) is described as a “husband or male human being” (anér), needing to be a “one woman kind of man”. The masculine noun is used—it is not gender neutral.

    If people are trying to make the argument that there are no specific commands pertaining to “male and female” or the different genders, then why doesn’t Scripture ALWAYS use “gender neutral” terms in the original language like “anthrōpos” (i.e. “one of the human race“ or “a human being”) in the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 passages?

    For example, in Matthew 4:4, it says, “Man (anthrōpos) shall not live on bread alone”—a human being needs not only physical food, but more importantly, spiritual food.

    But “guné”, which means “a woman/wife/lady”, is specifically used in 1 Cor 14:34: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” Likewise, 1 Timothy 2:12-15 uses the word “guné”, in saying that “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

    This example from real life comes to mind…let’s say one of your hobbies is flying small airplanes. You actually got trained to fly and obtained your license. You become very skilled at flying. But one day, you decide to go on a trip to Hawaii and fly on a commercial airplane. You think to yourself, “I know that I could fly this Boeing 777X like the best of them!” However, only one or two pilots are authorized to fly that plane. You may think to yourself, “Well, that’s so unfair! I can fly just as well as them! Why don’t they let ME fly the plane? That’s not fair!” Life is not always fair. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with ability, but authority! There are realities in life~ not everyone is given the authority to do everything that they may want to do. But you know what? You do get to fly small aircrafts! You can fly every day of the week to your heart’s content in your own plane, under certain perimeters. But when it comes to that once a year vacation flight, you can gladly be the passenger!

    Likewise, women may very well have teaching and preaching giftedness that can be used in the Body of Christ. Titus 2:3,4 addresses how older women can teach younger women. Informally, Priscilla and Aquila, a Christian couple in the Bible, came alongside Apollos in Acts 18:26, “and explained to him the way of God more adequately”. There are women in the New Testament who were known for always doing good (Dorcas in Acts 9:36), praying continually (Anna in Luke 2:36-38), and working hard for the Lord (Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis in Rom 16:12).

    Due to the order of creation, Adam created first, then Eve, God gives this as one of the reasons why women shouldn’t teach or exercise authority over a man. Secondly, God’s Word tells us that as a consequence for Eve’s deception and sin, women are not allowed to teach or lead men.

    Here’s another example…if a child disobey his/her parents, those parents may tell the child what he/she did wrong and decide on a punishment for that child. Does the child have the right to tell their parents what they should or shouldn’t make as their punishment? No! Their parents have the authority and right to choose how to discipline their son or daughter (not including abuse, of course). It goes along with God’s command for children to obey their parents. According to God’s Word, it’s good to train up your children in the way they should go so that when they’re old they may not depart from it. Every good parent disciplines their children. They may choose to spank their child or give them a timeout. In the same way, I believe that God has the right to choose the consequences for sin, not us.

    Another question that comes to mind after watching the featured videos is: “Should we then take away the differences between roles between parents and children? Masters and slaves? Older and younger people?” How does one pick and choose? Our world is driving itself further and further into chaos and confusion. We are being convinced that gender doesn’t matter anymore~ people are literally not wanting to be male or female. God’s definition of marriage has been challenged and pronounced irrelevant. The elderly are not being respected.
    Ever stop to think that the differences between roles are blessings? Has it occurred to anyone that dying to oneself is Christlike? The last shall be first, and the first shall be last? Perhaps we may not fully understand the mind of God, but can we just trust Him that He is sovereign and will honor doing things His way? We may not think that it’s very practical or efficient. But the battle is the Lord’s.

    Yes, as women, we may be informally teaching in many ways without knowing it. Someone may listen to me sing a song and learn doctrine through it. God obviously does not consider women “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” as the kind of prohibitory teaching referred to in 1 Timothy 2. Scripture does not contradict itself. Those are simply signs of being filled with the Holy Spirit in everyday life.

    Sure, a man may read this post and learn something from it. However, I am not formally teaching or exercising authority over them in the context of an official leadership role in the church, recognized as such. I am not teaching, preaching, speaking or leading men behind a pulpit or official leadership capacity. This is not a formal gathering of the Body of Christ. God knows my heart, and these are not direct efforts to be in the role of an elder or pastor over men.

    Women may suffer the consequences of Eve’s sin, but we can still enjoy serving the Lord in many ways that does not usurp the visible authority of a man. The difference is the context—you may choose to read this post or not. But when you physically gather with other believers—men and women—that’s another story. You cannot easily escape the formal worship service or other formal teaching situations.

    In closing, I believe that we would do well to receive these instructions for men and women humbly. 2 Peter 3:16-18 says of Paul’s writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

    We’re all learning together. No one has arrived. But we can prayerfully share our thoughts, ideas, and convictions with one another as brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Grace and agape to you all!

    1. Hi Jen,

      Your comment is long, much longer than typical responses, so I’ll just respond to one of your points.

      The created order has no significance in the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the creation of man and woman is an underlying theme. Paul alludes to the created order in verse 3 and then again in verses 11-12 where he says, “Nevertheless [or, except that], in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” 1 Corinthians 11:11-12

      “In the Lord,” men and women are mutually interdependent and we all, ultimately, have our source in God. More about 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here:
      https://margmowczko.com/category/1-corinthians-11-2-16/

      Paul mentions the created order again when he gives correct summary statements of Genesis 2 and 3 in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. It is an assumption to say that these verses 13-14 gives reasons. It is possible that Paul is giving corrections. Paul may be providing the correct version of the faulty teaching of a woman in the Ephesian church. Paul instructs that this woman should learn and is not allowed to teach and that she is not allowed to domineer a man, probably her husband. I explain this here:
      https://margmowczko.com/interpretation-of-1-timothy-212/

      The idea that being first somehow affords certain people extra responsibilities or privileges or powers that are forever denied to other equally capable people goes against the broader gospel ethos: Jesus taught that in his kingdom the humble are exalted (lifted up), the lowly are the greatest, and the last are first.

      And in Genesis 2, where we do read that that the first (hu)man was created before the first woman, we are given a beautiful picture of equality, mutuality and unity, not leadership or a gender hierarchy. The first woman was made from a chunk taken out of the side of the first (hu)man. The first man and woman were made of the same stuff. They both, quite literally, had a part in the first (hu)man. More on this here:
      https://margmowczko.com/gender-hierarchy-creation-narrative-genesis-2/

      Let me add that no one, man or woman, should usurp anyone’s legitimate, God-given authorisation to serve others.

      Just quickly, I’ve written about the Greek phrase that is translated literally as “a one-woman man” here:
      https://margmowczko.com/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/ (Check the footnotes too.)
      And I have an article on the role of overseers in New Testament churches here:
      https://margmowczko.com/manage-household-1-timothy-34/

      Jen, if you leave any further comments, please keep them short. Usual etiquette is that comments on someone else’s blog be under 200 words, though up to 400 words is permissible if it is directly responding to the article. Your comment is over 1580 words! If you do desire to get your message out, start your own blog. Some blog platforms are free.

    2. Hi Jen,
      I realize this reply is about a year late (sorry about that). I can’t respond to everything you wrote directly, but I’d like to say two things about children and slaves, and why I think they are different from women.

      First, children are different from women in the church and home because they are in need of rearing. I was taught as a young person that women also needed a male figure to protect and lead them because they are more vulnerable to deception than men are. I have since come to reject that view of women. However, I still maintain (as a father of three) that children are more impressionable and vulnerable than adults. For that reason they should obey their parents, and their parents should give them commands and should assume a leadership role in their lives. But in the case of my wife, she is an adult. Her parents have already raised her. Of course, she is in need of guidance, but in the same way that I as another adult am in need of it.

      Second, with regard to slaves and masters, this is a matter of roles within a society. A slave could, theoretically, work his way up to become the master of other slaves. He could be adopted by his master and then become a master of a household himself. Thus, being a slave is not so much a matter of “who I am,” but of what role I play within a particular context. If Paul were writing to Christians today, he would probably say something like, “Employees, submit to your employers.” An employee can shift roles to become and employer, and visa versa.

      Being a woman, however, is not really a “role.” Rather, it is a permanent, biological state. What a woman does can change radically from culture to culture. Many people no longer consider women inferior to men. For that reason, the roles women can play in many societies have increased in number. Of course, Paul knew that women would always be women. But I don’t think he wanted the roles available to them in society to never fluctuate. He didn’t want to “freeze,” so to speak, women’s status.

      In Paul and Peter’s context, men were the legal authorities of their wives just like parents were of children and masters were of slaves. But, I see clues in the text (I haven’t made a video on Ephesians 5 yet, sadly) that point to a change.

      I have a lot more to say, but I’ll stop there. Again, sorry I didn’t reply earlier.

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