Ministry (28): “Give no offense”

A no to the ordination of women? There is only one Bible verse that could corroborate this. But this passage contradicts other biblical passages and their respective justifications. Are these ultimately only cultural prescriptions?

“And I do not permit a woman to teach,” but “to be in silence.” This is what it says in 1 Timothy 2: 12. And the word “teach” here is the same word Jesus used when He gave His disciples the Great Commission. So the author definitely wants to prohibit women from preaching the gospel.

However, 1 Corinthians 11: 5 expressly permits women to pray and prophesy in divine service—as long as their head is covered. And prophesying had a similar function to that of the sermon, namely to proclaim the will of God.

More contradictions

The situation is equally contradictory with regard to theological justification. The letter to Timothy seeks refuge in blaming it on the women. Because: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Consequently, it would have been Eve who brought sin into the world.

However, this strongly contradicts Romans 5: 12–21. There Paul expressly names Adam as the author of sin: death reigned “even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam”. Therefore, “just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”.

Not a commandment of God

To support his premise, Timothy specifies the order: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” But the fact that this order necessarily implies evaluation contradicts theologically significant examples: Jacob and Esau, David and his brothers, as well as Adam and Jesus Christ as the new Adam.

It is true that there is indeed a hierarchical difference between man and woman in the early accounts: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3: 16). But this differentiation only came into being after the fall into sin. This prediction is neither a commandment of God nor does it correspond to the Creator’s will, which intends the equality of women and men.

By virtue of his own authority

What is striking about the reasoning in 1 Timothy is that the author does not justify his commandment for women to keep silent in church with divine commandments or statements of Jesus. The bottom line is that he bases his premises on his own authority: “And I do not permit.”

This is all the more remarkable because there is a dispute over who really wrote this epistle. The majority of biblical scholars assume that it was not written by Apostle Paul, but by one of his disciples.

The influence of the social environment

Finally, it is striking how frequently the order of worship in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians is justified with the cultural and social conditions of their time. There is talk of disgrace and dishonour when it comes to hairstyles, and talk of decency and propriety when it comes to apparel. The point is the appropriate demeanour and of being aware of each other’s traditions.

“Let all things be done decently and in order,” it says in 1 Corinthians 14: 40. Because “if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (1 Corinthians 14: 23). So, the general rule is: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10: 32).

What is clear from the overall assessment is that the gospels and the epistles do not provide a clear picture when it comes to the ordination of women in the New Testament. What conclusions does the New Apostolic Church draw from this? This is what we will explore in the upcoming instalments of this series.

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Andreas Rother
Bible, ordinations, Doctrinal statements