About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
- The Culture Of Paul's Day
historians view the Apostle Paul to be a significant influence in
shaping western civilization. He,
due to the gospel of Jesus, was ahead of his time concerning many social
and cultural issues that the western world has cherished over the years.
One such issue concerns women's rights, something most
ultra-feminists overlook in their unfair criticism of him.
understand how Paul was ahead of his time concerning women we must
consider the Greco-Roman culture in which he lived.
women in this cultural and geographic setting had more freedom than
women in other parts of the empire.
Although some women were in business, most were uneducated.
Women were viewed by men as being in a lower social class.
In many respects they were looked upon as baby machines in a male
dominated world. They were
so designated because homosexuality, and in some cases polygamy, were the
cultural norm for men. Even
if men were orientated towards homosexuality, they still had wives, not
for companionship, but to carry on their family lineage; thus my term
you compare Paul's teaching with the culture of his day, you'll soon
realize that he was indeed ahead of his time concerning women's issues.
Let's see what he had to say about women.
I'll work my way through his letters in the chronology in which
they are found in the New Testament.
All quotes are taken from the New International Version of the
Bible, 1984 edition.
- Romans 16
letter to the Romans is a systematic theological study in God's will for
humanity. He ends his study
with the acknowledgment of people he viewed as important among those in
the community of Christ. Of
the 26 people mentioned in Romans 16, 9 are women.
This fact alone tells me that Paul's esteem for women goes beyond
the cultural norm of his day.
first person Paul acknowledged in his closing remarks is Phoebe.
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, as a servant of the
church in Cenchrea. I ask
you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give
her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to
many people including me (Romans 16:1 - 2)."
I think I can safely say that Paul had great respect for this
woman of God.
to the words "I commend to you our sister Phoebe" in Romans
16:1 the general consensus among Bible commentators is that Paul chose
Phoebe to deliver this document to the believers in
Romans 16:3 Paul greets Priscilla and
- 1 Corinthians 7:1 - 7
1 Corinthians 7:1 to 7 Paul addressed the sanctity of marriage.
In verses 2 and 3 he taught that sexual intimacy between a
husband and wife shouldn't be denied by either spouse.
This instruction was meant to discourage adulterous
relationships, something the men of Paul's day accepted as normal pagan
practice. If both parties
were sexually satisfied within the context of marriage there would be no
need to look elsewhere.
should be noted that central to the lives of men in
remarks in 1 Corinthians 7:1 to 7 were meant to uphold the Biblical
ideal of marriage, but they also upheld the sanctity of women.
A wife would find security in knowing she was respected by a
- 1 Corinthians 11:3
head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and
the head of Christ is God." I
realize this verse is no longer culturally acceptable, but it's in the
Bible so Christians have to deal with it.
about it this way. Each part
of your physical body responds to the signal it receives from your head.
In other words, your body parts follow the lead of your head.
In like manner, Christ follows the lead of God, man follows the
lead of Christ, and woman follows the lead of man.
In Biblical terms it's called headship.
balanced headship in verses 11 and 12.
"In the Lord, however, 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."
Man and woman were never created to live independently from each
other or from God. Even
though woman was made from man, a man could not be born into the world
without a woman. Man,
therefore, can't disregard woman, as was often the case in Paul's day.
Neither can woman disregard man, as is often the case in our day.
This unified equality tells
me that headship must exist in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance of
each other and God in order for it to work, something the pagans in
Paul's day rejected.
headship begins with Jesus and His Father.
Although they existed in a unified equality, Jesus chose to
follow His Father's lead. The
same spirit of unified equality, a relationship based on mutual love and
admiration, should exist between man and woman, especially husband and
wife. Only then can woman
freely choose to follow the lead of man.
If there is no reciprocal love and acceptance between man and
woman headship will not work. If
the man, the husband, is dictatorial, headship will not work.
If the woman, the wife, is overly independent, headship will not
work. If man and woman,
husband and wife, don't follow the lead of Jesus, headship will not
work. Paul was clearly ahead
of his time on this issue.
- 1 Corinthians 14:34
is often unfairly criticized when he said that women must remain silent
in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34).
If you take this statement out of its textual and cultural
context you will misunderstand it, as many do.
historians tell us that due to the lack of education among many women in
the first century Roman world women tended to interrupt the flow of
meetings by asking questions. We
know Paul believed that all things must be done decently and in order as
he said in verse 40. I think
it's safe to say that Paul didn't want any interruption of the flow of
an orderly Holy Spirit led gathering, not by a woman or a man.
God is not the author of disorder as he said in verse 33.
context of Paul's statement concerning women being silent in the church
goes back to 1 Corinthians 12:13 where he said that we all have been
immersed into the Body of Christ. All
means all. Both men and
women are vital components in the community of Christ, a concept first
century pagan men would have rejected.
1 Corinthians 14:26 Paul said that everyone should come to the gathering
with a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, and an
includes women. In verse 31
he said that all can prophesy. All
includes women. Women were
permitted to participate in meetings.
They just weren't permitted to disrupt the Holy Spirit led flow
of a meeting, but neither were men.
- Ephesians 5:22
5:22 has been abused by husbands and misunderstood by wives.
"Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord."
the New Testament our English word "submit" is translated from
the Greek word "hypotasso".
This Greek word means to "rank under" as a soldier
ranked under his superior. In
its general usage hypotasso was a harsh, cold hearted, dictatorial word.
some cases the general usage of Greek words in Roman culture differs
from that seen in the New Testament.
In Biblical terms hypotasso is a yielding to another based on
love, respect, and a harmonious relationship.
The Bible softens the word from its common cultural usage.
It's not a harsh dictatorial submission as men in Paul's
day would have understood it to be.
This is why Paul tells a husband to love his wife as Jesus loved
us (verse 25). When a
husband lays down his life for his wife, his wife can freely follow his
lead. How culturally
unacceptable this idea was in Paul's day.
that is often overlooked in the discussion of this passage is that in
verse 21 Paul admonished all believers to submit to one another. I
think all believers include husband and wife.
Mutual submission between a husband and a wife balances the fact
that the wife is to submit to her husband.
The underlying premise in Paul's teaching on submission is the
fact that both husband and wife hear each other out on all issues.
we saw in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23 speaks to the husband being
head of the wife. Again,
headship only works when the husband lays down his life for his wife.
Headship only works when the wife yields to the lead of her
husband. Headship only works
in an atmosphere of mutual submission, both to each other and to God,
something sadly lacking in the first century Roman world.
Timothy 2:11 - 14
was a young man whose mother Eunice and grandmother Lois guided him to
faith in Jesus (2 Timothy 1:5). The
mere mention of these ladies by Paul tells me that he had no problem
esteeming godly women in a public format.
Timothy 2:11 to 14 is probably the most controversial of Paul's
statements concerning women. It's
been hailed by some men and despised by some women.
"A woman should learn in quietness and in full submission.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man;
she must be silent. For Adam
was formed first, then Eve." Let's
examine each phrase of this passage to see what Paul might be saying.
woman must learn in quietness."
The verb "must learn" is a Greek present active
imperative verb. That means
this was a command, not a suggestion.
As I've already stated, in the male dominated world of Paul's day
the majority of women were less educated than men.
Historians tell us that Christian women tended to interrupt
meetings by asking questions to clarify what was being said.
In order to not interrupt the flow of a meeting Paul instructed
women to learn in a more quiet way.
For example, she could be educated at home by her husband,
something pagan men back then were not interested in doing.
women recoil at the words "in full submission" in this verse.
I've already commented on the Greek word "hypotasso"
that's translated into our English New Testament as "submit",
or in this case "submission."
This Greek word in its common street level usage was a cold
hearted, harsh, dictatorial word. It
meant "to rank under," as a soldier ranked under his superior
officer. Although the New
Testament still understands "hypotasso" as ranking under, it
softens its meaning from its general usage.
In Biblical terms "hypotasso," or "submit,"
is a submission based on mutual love and respect for one another.
Paul was encouraging a woman to submit to her husband and to the
elders of the church based on a mutual love and respect, both for each
other and for Jesus.
do not permit a woman to teach."
I've previously stated that Priscilla was a well known lady
teacher in the book of Acts. I've
also stated that Paul admired her as seen in Romans 16:3.
How do we reconcile Paul's respect for this lady teacher when he
told Timothy that women shouldn't teach?
next phrase helps answer the above question.
It reads, "Or to have authority over a man."
The Greek word "authenteo" is translated as
"authority" in this phrase.
This word means "to exercise authority on one's own
account." What you miss
in the NIV Bible is that Paul was not saying that a woman can't have any
authority. He was saying
that a woman must not usurp, as the King James Bible better translates
it, the authority from a man. A
woman must not take it upon herself to exercise authority and teach, and
by so doing ignore the authority of the man.
was a teacher, but she didn't usurp her husband's authority.
Every time she is mentioned in the book of Acts it's always in
conjunction with her husband. Their
names always appear together. She
taught alongside her husband as a co-worker in the service of the Lord.
Paul had no problem with a woman teaching as long as she didn't
step beyond her authority in the local church.
addressed ecclesiastical authority in 1 Timothy 3:1 to 7.
He listed certain qualifications for elders or overseers, one
being that he must be the husband of one wife.
In other words, he must be a man, and an older man at that since
the Greek word "presbyteros" that's translated as elder means
verse 13 Paul backed up his teaching on submission by saying Adam was
formed first, then Eve. I
realize this is no longer culturally acceptable in today's post modern
evolution indoctrinated world, but for Christians, the Genesis account
remains the historic fact. God
created Adam first. He then
created Eve to live alongside Adam, and not below, as I believe the
Hebrew text implies in Genesis 2:20.
a serious study of 1 Timothy 2:11 to 14 you will misunderstand Paul.
His understanding of women's issues was not as cold hearted as
many think it was.
was clearly ahead of his day on women's issues. His
respect for women was culturally unacceptable by pagan men in his era.
He believed women should be educated.
He permitted women to teach as long as they didn't usurp the
authority of a man. He
taught that women were significant participants in the Body of Christ
that includes Junia that appears to be an apostle (Romans 16:7).
Apart from Paul's teaching on submission, I suggest that even the
ultra-feminist should bring herself to recognize Paul's influence in
western world culture on this issue.
The historians are right. Paul
had more impact on western civilization than most of us have given him