We left off at the three interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which if taken literally at face value, would silence women altogether in public gatherings of the body. For those just tuning in, you can read three alternate interpretations here: Silent Women Part 1, Silent Women Part 2, Silent Women Part 3.
When we consider the larger context of the Bible and internal problems of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, we can conclude a woman's utter silence in church gatherings is not what the scriptures are mandating. Now, we move onto the amount of authority a woman can exercise within the body. We know she can speak, but can she teach? Can she preach? Can she pastor? Can she lead prayer, songs, and ministries?
The "big guns" for the complementarian position on this matter is 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which taken at face value would bar women from not only teaching, but holding any position of "authority" over men. Division exists within complementarian-camps about just how far to apply this verse. Does this verse bar women from not only teaching the scripture to men, but from holding ANY teaching position in which they would instruct men? Should christian women be forbidden from becoming college professors at co-ed universities? Or public speakers? Should they be judges, senators, governors, or hold other political offices?Should christian women hire male employees if they run their own businesses? Extreme complementarians would assert that christian men should NEVER put themselves under a woman's authority in any setting: church, home, business, school, and so forth and that christian women should never aspire to obtain any position in the church, home, and business, political, and educational realms that would make them the "boss," "expert," "teacher," "instructor," or "leader" over men.
On the other hand, more moderate-complementarians claim this verse only applies to church and home. So, a woman may teach a man math or history in a college class, but cannot teach on scripture in a co-ed adult bible class. She may "share" a testimony or encouraging word, but cannot teach, pontificate, or expound upon the Bible. A woman may have authority over her male students or employees, but never in the church. In the church, she may never hold any position other than backup singer, nursery worker, or in solely women and children ministries.
As much as I appreciate moderate-complementarians' attempts to make 1 Timothy 2:9-15 a little less restrictive, there are no such convenient qualifiers found in the text itself. So to arrive at the moderate-complementarian conclusion, other interpretative tools must be explored, such as cultural and historical factors, who Paul is writing these words to and why (context), the original language, and so forth. When they do this, they arrive at their moderate-understanding and when egalitarians do this, we arrive at our equality-understanding. We can debate which interpretation is the stronger, more logical, and more probable, but neither side adheres to a completely face-value-type interpretation. So, I make this friendly reminder to discourage the inevitable comments from the "just take the bible for what is plainly says" crowd.
The next couple of posts will examine this perplexing verse by consulting the original language and the enlightening historical and cultural factors at play which are congruent with the larger context of 1 Timothy.
Is this verse a command/corrective measure to a specific church body encountering a specific problem or a universal command to keep women in an eternally subordinate position in all aspects of life?