Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach–Part 3

Yesterday, we left off with a quandary. The Apostle Paul was admonishing women having authority over men, yet commending a female deacon. How can we reconcile this contradiction? Here is where hermeneutics–the study of proper interpretation–comes in.

“How one determines the true meaning if scripture is particularly crucial in dealing with difficult passages and controversial issues.”[1] Without the proper handling of God’s word, not only can we find these contradictions in the writings of Paul, but in numerous other places throughout the Bible’s sixty-six books. Hermeneutics finds the distinctions between universal principles, such as we should not give an appearance of sin; and a specific application of that principle, such as we should not eat meat sacrificed to idols.

So when dissecting the passages in question, we need to see what is the universal principle that God wants to convey; and what is the specific application used for the people to whom the author is writing. For example, the physical appearance of both men and women in the Corinthian church is addressed in 1 Cor. 11. Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld talk about the cultural conditions that apparently made Paul restrict these particular head dresses.

At certain religious events that honored the goddesses Aphrodite (Greek) and Venus (Roman), it was customary for men and women to practice ‘sex reversal.’ In other words, women would shave their heads and men would wear veils or have long flowing hair (possibly wigs). This trend apparently became fashionable and worked its way into the church. [2] You can see why Paul would call this a disgrace.

Not only was Paul restricting behaviors for both men and women, but notice how Paul, on the reverse, acknowledges both men and women as prophets in the same chapter. Author, professor and Pastor Judy Brown points out that in the following chapter of Corinthians, prophets stood second only to apostles (1 Cor. 12:27-28). This means that women prophets were ‘ranked’ evenly with male prophets, and ‘ranked higher’ than men who were in almost every other position of the church.[3]

Keeping this in mind, then why are women allowed to prophecy and hold such a high position yet in chapter 14, verses 34 and 35 are called to keep silent? A closer look determines that this verse pertains to being quiet under certain circumstances. We will look more at this in tomorrow’s blog.


[1] Judy Brown, Women  Ministers According to Scripture (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing), 12

[2] Ruth A. Tucker and Walter Liefeld, Daughters of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan  ), 77.

[3] Judy Brown, Women Ministers According to Scripture (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing), 248.

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8 thoughts on “Women in Ministry: A Hermeneutical and Historical Approach–Part 3

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