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Q & A On The Role of Women in Ministry Teaching And Exercising Authority

Who would think that erotic art in a Pompeii brothel could shed light on New Testament backgrounds? But it can. Some commentators have said that the reference to “heads shaved” in 1 Cor. 11:5 refers to what prostitutes did. But the above fresco, frozen in time when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, suggests otherwise. More likely adulterers, not prostitutes, were marked by shaved heads.

“I am having a hard time understanding how “exousia” is translated as authority or usurping authority if it isn’t found anywhere else in any other context. Why is it believed to be authority?”

Exousia appears 29X in the NT; it means “authority.” A big question about exousia comes up in 1 Cor 11. Does the wife/woman in the passage actively have or possess exousia (that’s how the word is used in every other case) or does exousia mean someone else has the authority over her? (The phrase “sign of” as in “sign of authority” is not actually in the text.) Elsewhere, the infinitive authentein appears one time. This word is sometimes translated “to have authority” but it is also rendered “to usurping authority” (KJV). We have no other NT use of this latter word, but we do find some uses in other early documents. I think the best translation of it is “to have independent/autonomous authority.”

“The TNIV uses a generic plural pronoun in the place of a masculine singular pronoun, making it more consistent with contemporary English practice” (p. 6). Can you give me an example?

Matthew 11:15. NIV – He who has ears, let him hear. TNIV – Whoever has ears, let them hear.

My English teacher taught me that I had to match singular with singular and plural with plural, but this is not longer the way most people write and certainly not the way they talk. The TNIV committee does not care about my English teacher; their rendering of this verse is reflecting common usage.

What does authority mean? To say she has authority over him because she is teaching is a bit extreme.

I agree. Imparting content, even the authoritative Word of God, is not the same thing as having authority. Rather, it something all believers are to do. Titus 2: “Presbutis teach what is good”; 1 Cor 14:26: “Each one has a teaching in the church”; Col 3:15–17: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

“In Eph 5, it sounds like Paul is equating ‘submit’ to ‘head.’”

He is! But he is using the head as a metaphor for that which is connected to the body in an interdependent unit. He is not commanding the husband to be the head. The only command for the husband—indeed, the counterpart to submission—is love of the sacrificial kind. Paul is using “head” as a body part in a metaphor. He borrows the verb from a previous line and writes “…wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, he himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything.”

The man/husband is never exhorted to be the head, act like the head, become the head, or develop his headship; he is the head. It’s something he is, not something he becomes. A dad can’t become more daddish. A mom can’t become more mommish. A human cannot become more humanish. A head cannot become more headish. In scripture we see “head of” and “head over.”

We must also notice prepositions. There’s a difference between being the “head over” and the “head of.” In Ephesians 1:22 we see that Jesus is “head over” (preposition separate) the church, and the meaning is preeminence. But in Ephesians 4:15 and 5:23, we find “head of,” and the emphasis is on being part of a whole and interconnectedness.

“Head” in English is often the person with most authority in an organization. “Head” in Latin and Hebrew had the same connotation, but Koine Greek did not. Paul does unpack how he means readers to understand “head” in the metaphor, though—its synonym is “savior.” For us the word “head” does not have the semantic domain of “savior”; for them it did. Think of all the meanings we have for “turkey.” In another language we might find a word for turkey that means bird, but we would be hard-pressed to find a word that referred to the bird, a country, a bowling situation, and also had the meaning of “crazy fool,” as does our word “turkey.” We have to be careful to separate out the options for “head” and not assign all English options to the Greek word. Paul is not commanding husbands to lead; he is commanding them to love to the point of laying down their lives. Sometimes that might mean also giving up the bigger bowl of ice cream or even a job they love. The wife submits; the husband loves sacrificially. Both give up their rights for the good of the other.

What exactly is prophesying? What is a modern-day definition of prophesying?

I suggest doing a word study on “prophecy” in the NT and seeing the many ways the authors use it. Note how Paul ranks the spiritual gifts in terms of their value to the church. In 1 Cor. 12:28 he writes, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Second was prophets. Now, we know from 1 Cor. 11 that women prayed and prophesied in the church. And we see here in 1 Cor. 12 that prophesying is more exalted than teaching. I am among those who believe the gift of predicting the future is not normative in the church today; but I do believe a form of the gift of prophesy is still present. We see it in those who proclaim the word. And that includes women, as it has in every era.

How does God interact with Christ? Father/Son Relations

Both the Father and the Son full authority. The Father has authority to cast into hell, over the times and epochs, and gives His authority to the Son. The Son has all authority in heaven and on earth, and is stated as the “head of all authority.” The Father is never said to have authority over the Son, as the Son is never said to have authority over the Father.

li>All things have been handed over to the Son by the Father (Mt. 11:27, Lu 10:22)

  • The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand (Jn. 3:35–36; 5:20)
  • Son does nothing of His own, but the Son follows what the Father does/taught Him (Jn 5:19; 8:28)
  • Father has given all judgment to the Son so Son will be honored by all (Jn. 5:22)
  • Father gave to Son to have life in Himself (Jn. 5:26-27)
  • Only Father knows the “day or hour,” not even Son (Mk. 13:32). (Probably only in the incarnation.)
  • Father has set His seal on the Son (Jn. 6:27)
  • Father sanctified Son and sent Him into the world (Jn. 10:36)
  • Father sent the Son (Jn 17:21, 25) to be Savior of world (1 Jn 4:14)
  • Father gave glory to Son and loved Him before foundation of the world (Jn 17:25)
  • Son is begotten of the Father (Heb 1:5 from Ps 110)
  • Son received glory and honor from Father (1 Pe 1:17)


Pictures of mutuality:

  • No one knows the Father and Son as they do each other (Mt. 11:27, Lu. 10:22)
  • Both Father and Son give life to whom they wish (Jn 5:21)
  • To dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father (Jn. 5:23)
  • Son answers prayers asked in His name so Father will be glorified (Jn 14:13)
  • Son asks Father to glorify Son so Son may glorify Father (Jn. 17:1)
  • Father and Son shared glory before the world began (Jn. 17:5)
  • Son and Father are one (Jn. 17:11-12, 22)
  • Son is in Father; Father is in Son (Jn 17:21)

There does seem to be a sense in which the Father uniquely gives to the Son. Yet there are also many images of mutual love, honor and unity between the Father and Son. The Son does carry tremendous authority ( Col 2:10, Mt. 28:18), yet He gives His authority back to the Father in the end: The Son “hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Co 15:24–28 NASB).

What about ordination and liberals?

Ordination of women to ministry has been around for centuries. There was an order of widows, probably as far back as Timothy. (See 1 Tim. 5 and qualifications that match those of elders.) In terms of the West, America’s first ordained woman was Antoinette Brown Blackwell, 1853, Congregationalist.

By the end of the 1800s, several denominations were ordaining women. And they were not the liberal ones; they were the ones that preached the Word. This happened “long before mainline Methodism and most other mainline churches.” –Chris Armstrong, “Holy America , Phoebe!” May 13, 04, Christianity Today

Whatever one makes of this information, we must not say that liberalism is responsible for women’s ordination.

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