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Paul on Women, Sex and Dress

In Jesus's day, there were "prohibitions against teaching women Torah." ("Women in Judaism," Wikipedia accessed 6/4/2010).

Orthodox Jews still struggle with their oral law prohibition against teaching women the Torah. (Think of the movie Yentyl.) They try to find ways to limit the rule or have loopholes. See Rabbi Kahn's "Jewish Education for Women."

Because women couldn't be taught the Torah, women obviously also couldn't teach the Torah.  

The Pharisee party in Jesus's day was the only party that believed in oral Torah.  Thus, the Pharisee party is the only party that held these views in Jesus' day.  The Sadducee party believed the only Torah was the written Torah. They rejected the Pharisees' doctrine that there could ever be an oral Torah  delivered at Sinai that was not written down.  Hence, the only source possible of this doctrine about not teaching women the Torah in Jesus's day were the Pharisees.  By the oral Torah prohibition that women should not be taught Torah, this prevented women under the authority of Pharisees from teaching anyone else since they obviously knew nothing about Torah without being permitted to have a teacher. 

Jesus repeatedly challenged this gender restriction about teaching the word of God to women. He encouraged women to learn from Him the Way of the Kingdom despite oral Torah doctrine being to the contrary. Jesus clearly elevated women to equality with men as able to be taught God's principles, e.g., talking to the Samaritan woman by the well; his relations to Mary and Martha (Luke 8:38), etc. 

By Jesus teaching Mary and Martha, now they obviously could teach others what Jesus taught. Mary and Martha, if asked by a young boy "What did Jesus teach?" knew that they could now teach what Jesus taught. They didn't have to keep silent because of the old oral law of the Pharisees.  

Or do you think Jesus intended that the women, if asked the same question by the boy, had to say "Well,  I'm sorry I know what Jesus taught, and I would love to share it with you, but you are a boy and I'm a woman, so I have to say nothing to you about what Jesus teaches?"  Of course not. By Jesus teaching women about the word of God, Jesus implicitly was authorizing them and mandating them to teach men and women what Jesus taught about the word of God.

Paul emphasizes, however, oral law principles nowhere uttered in the Bible that restrain women's full and equal role as disciples in the church. Thus, these restraints solely rest on Paul's authority.

Now, before I mention Paul principles, I wish to declare that if God truly demanded women must not speak out at church, raise no questions there, and not teach or not ever have authority over men, or women must wear a head-covering / veil in church, or men should not do so, I would obey.

But all these notions appear from only one voice in the entire "Bible." And as discussed below, they are often at odds with inspired Scripture. Why so late in God's self-revelation would Paul uniquely be given a set of commands seemingly so at odds with equality and kindness that Jesus offered to women? Paul's words read like unique ordinances that nowhere else have any analog in the true Bible. So what is the impression left by Paul's words?

The Ugly Impression of Paul's Words

A defender of Paul, Henry Chadwick, in his book The Enigma of St. Paul. The Ethel M. Wood Lecture delivered before the University of London on 27 February 1968 (London: The Athlone press, 1969) at 8 puts it succinctly:

[An] accusation against the apostle has been that he is principally responsible for introducing into the stream of Christian history a deep-seated fear and hostility towards sex. And it should be conceded at once that there are passages that make it easy and natural to interpret him as a misogynist celibate, with an obsession about women’s hair so acute that he demands the wearing of hats [sic: veils] in church, and with the strongest views of female subordination. ‘It is good that a man should not touch a woman.’ ‘The women must keep silence in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.’ And so on.

As to marriage itself, contrast Jesus who speaks of celibacy as something for some but not all disciples. It is not a command or even an exhortation. Matt. 19:12.

But in 1 Cor. 10:27-28, Paul advises those not married to stay that way: "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.  Are you free from a wife?  Do not seek marriage." While Paul then says it is not a sin to marry, he clearly says in the literal Greek "do not seek a wife."

And Paul makes clear elsewhere that by deciding to marry, one takes their focus off God and becomes worldly, focused upon their spouse. Paul thereby undermines the message of Holy Scripture in Genesis that it was "not good for Adam to be alone." Paul writes:

32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Cor. 7:32-34 KJV.)

Note: A few manuscripts begin verse 34 "and his interests are divided." (See variants 1 Cor.)

And it is in this same context Paul teaches "it is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1 KJV.) And consistent with this, Paul says a daughter is better off unmarried than married: "So then both he that giveth his own virgin daughter in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better." (1 Cor. 7:38 KJV.)

But God says to the contrary that marriage is good for a man, implying marriage for both men and women is a more honorable estate than perpetual bachelorhood or maidenhood. God said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18.)

I also have to think God knew they would touch each other or He would not have made them physically attractive to each other.

Paul elsewhere makes it appear that by marrying, one betrays their first husband -- Christ: "I have espoused you to one husband," Paul tells the Corinthians metaphorically, "that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). Thus, while previously in 1 Corinthians, Paul said marriage was not a sin, the implication from this metaphor in 2 Corinthians is that by marrying we become adulterous, taking our eyes off Christ and putting them on another -- our spouse.

Paul repeats this in 1 Timothy 5:9-12,14 KJV if you read attentively Paul's implication about younger widows, clearly making remarriage a sin for younger widows under 60. (Younger women may marry to have children, and not purely for companionship, Paul adds.) Paul says a "wantonness against Christ" is reflected by a young widow's "desire to remarry" which brings the widows under 60 "damnation" as this desire to remarry means they have "thrown off their first faith" toward Christ:

Let not a widow be taken into the number [for charity] under threescore years old [i.e., 60 years old],..11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry (sic: "desire to marry" ASV); 12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

Obviously, Paul is repeating the same notion we read in 1 Cor. 7:32-34 and 2 Cor. 11:2 that somehow, by marriage to another human, we necessarily take our eyes off Christ, our spiritual husband, and hence these "younger widows" become "wanton against Christ" reflected by a "desire to marry" which here Paul equates to "damnation, because they have cast off their first faith."

But does God ever teach a 100% love and devotion for God necessarily means that human love is such a distraction that we should abandon it, as Paul claims? Since God does command love for our neighbor (who is everyone, Jesus teaches) and otherwise does not like 'long prayers,' as Jesus taught (contrary to Paul's requirement that we "pray incessantly"), then God has not only allowed us time and flexibility to form loving relationships with others, but also has commanded it. Therefore, we must conclude the love and devotion to God does not mean cutting off all other human love and devotion. As Jesus taught, such loving human relationships simply cannot be a love deeper and bigger than our Love and Devotion for God.

So in sum, Paul teaches that one "should not seek to marry," and that those who do marry necessarily for companionship (ordained in Genesis) are no longer concerned "about the Lord's affairs." Thus Paul has changed marriage to a nonbeneficial institution. Paul's message is clearly contrary to God's word to Moses. As Paul's sympathizers even admit: "He is counseling Christians of both sexes who are unmarried to remain so, and thus to be celibate." (Decker, "Patriarchy.") And while Paul in 1 Corinthians said it was not a sin to marry, by the time of 2 Corinthians, Paul implies by marrying we adulterously have abandoned Jesus.

(How many Paulinist churches preach all Paul taught, like "do not seek marriage" if you are unmarried? Or that by marrying you become worldy? Perhaps you are even an adulterer by marrying after finding Christ! NONE IN MY EXPERIENCE! Instead, they urge marriage, are pleased to marry off their daughters, and hope for children -- Praise God they do not listen to Paul at least on this one important issue!)

SELF-CONTRADICTION WARNING: Paul's letter to Timothy contains a contradiction of First and Second Corinthians, as Paulinists admit. Paul writes:  "I will therefore that the younger women marry," says 1 Tim. 5:14 (KJV), "bear children, guide the house." How do die-hard Paul fans handle this?

Scholars suspect, based on style as well as content, that Paul's words to Timothy and Titus are not Paul's words at all, but those of someone writing in his name, years after Paul's death...." (Decker, "Patriarchy.")

As to other points of tension between Paul and Jesus, we will expose them as we next discuss specific verses.

Head Coverings: Does God Command This?

One of the proofs that Paulinists are selective in what they obey from Paul is not just they ignore Paul's command "not to seek to marry," but also his command that women wear veils at church. They contort his words to try to claim he is talking about long hair, but this is contextually and historically false. And more important, Paul's words on head coverings from women appear contrary to Biblical commands / observations.

Let's start with Paul's command on veils. Paul stated that the head covering / veil by a woman was to be observed not for cultural reasons but because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11:10): “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”

Paul then says in 1 Corinthians 11:5: “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” Hence, Paul makes wearing a head covering / a veil a MORAL command.

By contrast, a man was not to wear one. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:4 says: “Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered dishonors his head.”

Some insist this covering is simply long hair because Paul uses as a proof that "nature" proves similarly that long hair is a glory for women but long hair is shameful for men. (1 Cor. 11:14-15.) However, Paul means that "nature" shows you a similar principle to what he is saying. Paul is not talking about only hair length when he speaks of having a covering while praying. The problem was not short-hair among women while praying. We know the true meaning is demonstrated by the words Paul uses -- a "covering" and the tradition found in the early church (under Paul's influence no doubt) of women wearing a veil while praying or reading Scriptures. Paul writes:

"For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn [i.e., head shaved] but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered." (1 Cor. 11:6.)

The reference is to a veil, not hair, as we shall demonstrate. Paul means that being shorn of hair is as shameful as having no head covering. Paul in essence says: if you go without the veil, you might as well go without any hair. Both are supposedly shameful. The fact hair length is a natural example of the same principle proves Paul is not saying "long hair" is the covering during prayer or 'prophesying,' but the natural principles about "hair length" is a reflection of the same principle of why women should wear veils while men should not.

How Do We Know Paul Speaks of A Veil?

How do we know it is a veil? Because Paul brought from Arabia and placed in the Christian church the practice of veiling woman in worship. The Christian leader, Tertullian of Carthage, in 200 AD describes the need for this practice of modesty of veiling women -- first generally and then during worship activities in church, identical in verbiage to that which Paul was talking about. Tertullian first makes clear he is talking of a veil over one's hair in this first quote:

But we admonish you, too, women of the second [degree of] modesty, who have fallen into wedlock, not to outgrow so far the discipline of the veil, not even in a moment of an hour, as, because you cannot refuse it, to take some other means to nullify it, by going neither covered nor bare. For some, with their mitres and woollen bands, do not veil their head, but bind it up ; protected, indeed, in front, but, where the head properly lies, bare. Others are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen coifs of small dimensions—I suppose for fear of pressing the head—and not reaching quite to the ears. If they are so weak in their hearing as not to be able to hear through a covering, I pity them. Let them know that the whole head constitutes the woman. Its limits and boundaries reach as far as the place where the robe begins. The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound ; in order that the necks too may be encircled.***

Tertullian in this next quote in the same passage then clearly says the head is properly "covered" (same as Paul's language) during reading of Psalms or using God's name when a woman wears a "veil":

But how severe a chastisement will they likewise deserve, who, amid [the recital of] the Psalms, and at any mention of [the name of] God, continue uncovered; [who,] even when about to spend time in prayer itself, with the utmost readiness place a fringe, or a tuft, or any thread whatever, on the crown of 'their heads, and suppose themselves to be covered? Of so small extent do they falsely imagine their head to be! Others, who think the palm of their hand plainly greater than any fringe or thread, misuse their head no less....  (Tertullian, The Veiling of the Virgins Ch. XVII, in Tertullian, Writings of Q.S. Tertullian (1870) Vol. 3 at 179-180.)

Thus, Paul was enjoining a woman wearing a veil while praying or worshipping in church -- for within just a bit over a century after his death this was the demonstrable practice in Tertullian's church in North Africa.

Where Did Paul Get This Practice?

Where did Paul get this notion in favor of women wearing a head covering / a veil? It is not in the Bible. Not once! It even appears to be condemned for women.

1. Bible References to a Veil -- Almost Exclusively Negative

To the contrary, the prophet Ezekiel quotes God as condemning the "prophets who prophesy out of their own mind...who make veils for persons of every stature in the hunt for souls." (Ezek. 13:17-18.) God promises the false prophets that one day "your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand." (Ezek. 13:21.) The false prophets had invented the idea that women should wear veils, and gave them out. God hated this practice and condemned this as a false practice of false prophets.

Where else is a veil discussed in the Bible? Is it a command of God?  In Isaiah 3:16-21, God refers to veils apparently as adornment which, along with "jinkling anklets"  etc. were displeasing to God. God says He will strike the "crown of the head," and remove all "scarves," pendents, "headbands," jinkling anklets and rings.

A second reference is negative as well. In Genesis, the use of a veil was shameful. A veil that also covered the face apparently indicated one was a prostitute. Timnah "covered herself in a veil" and when "Judah saw her he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face." (Gen. 38: 14, 15.)

The only mention of a veil that was not negative was when Sarah veiled herself in Genesis 20:16. It is just a fact mentioned, with no observation whether it was right or wrong.

Hence, this practice of veiling a woman does not come from any command in the Bible. If anything, the Bible appears to view it negatively especially if some prophet commands its use or if it is combined with excessive adornment or is worn over the face.

Thus, where did Paul find such practice of veiling at worship time done for modesty sake?

2. Secular Source For Paul's Positive View of a Veil

Paul likely got this practice of a head covering at worship time from Arabia. In Arabia, women also made the covering cover the face, allowing only the eyes to see through. (Tertullian mentions this in the passage quoted above. Id., at 179.)

We thus realize it is no coincidence that Paul says after his conversion he went to Arabia (Gal. 1:17) where he stayed for 14-17 years before embarking on any missionary activity. Arabian Jews had a distinct practice on Sabbath from all other Jews. Within Judaism in the 2d century, Judaism did not allow a woman on Sabbath to veil herself unless she lived in Arabia, where it would be permitted. This was in the Mishnah. The command from 2d century Judaism's Mishnah text reads that for Sabbath:

A woman may go out in hair ribbons...and with a headband, sewn head bangles, a hairnet or false locks...Arabian women may go out veiled. Median woman [i.e., women from Mede] may go out with cloaks looped up over their shoulders. (The Mishnah (trans. Jacob Neusner)(N.Y.: Yale University Press, 1988) at 186, from Shabbat 6.5 & 6.6.)

At all other times except Sabbath, a Jewish woman outside Arabia was allowed to go out veiled. In fact, Jewish woman were recognized in public by such practice on non-Sabbath days. Tertullian mentioned, "Among the Jews, so usual is it for their women to have the head veiled, that they may thereby be recognized." (Tertullian, De Corona ch. 4, Anti-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3 at 95.)

Hence, only Jewish women in Arabia wore a veil on Sabbath, but it was otherwise prohibited on Sabbath for Jewish women elsewhere as apparently too attractive of an adornment.

Thus, it appears, unless Paul is a proven prophet speaking always under inspiration, that Paul lays down commands of wearing a veil in the religious assemblies of Christians nowhere found in the Law or Scripture. It was only practiced among the Jewish woman of Arabia on Sabbath, but everywhere else was prohibited on Sabbath as too attractive. Despite Sabbath-veiling only being the practice of Arabian Jewish women while prohibited on Sabbath (then a traditional day of worship) for all other Jewish women, Paul elevates veiling at worship time to a moral command for every woman, including women in the assembly at Corinth / Greece.

Paul relied therefore on heathen practices to influence the Christian church which in the Bible were condemned as too attractive and the teaching of false prophets who "imagined" such commands. (Ezekiel 13:14-21.)

And Paul's commands are in accord with the gender prohibitions that suppressed women's full participation in religious life that Jesus clearly was breaking down. Paul made this explicit, saying the veil was necessary to demonstrate at church the superiority of a male over a female, while a male being uncovered proves he is the image and "glory of God." (The latter quoted statement opens a whole other can of worms.) See 1 Cor.11:7-10.

Hence, it appears that the spirit of Paul's command on head coverings / veils (a) lacks corroboration from inspired Scripture; (b) is at odds with inspired Scripture;  and (c) is at odds with Jesus' deliberate breaking of the gender restraints on women.

Must Women Not Speak or Inquire At Church? What Is The Garden Ideal?

God created the woman Eve to be a friend / companion of Adam, and to allow humans to be fruitful and multiply. In Gen. 1:28, we read: "God blessed them saying: 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it". God then saw that "it is not good that the man be alone, I will make him a help mate ..." Gen. 2:18. Nowhere in the Original Bible does God ever say any  woman should be silent in the congregation or all women are subject to any man they encounter, or that a wice should only ask spiritual questions from her own husband.

The only verse that potentially is relevant is about a husband and wife having a penalty on the wife in Genesis 3:16. It says the husband shall rule over the wife. As we will demonstrate, this means equality and non-domination was the Garden condition, and is the ideal to be sought by the husband and wife because of Love.

After the fall, God says the punishment of Eve was pain in childbirth, and then says "yet" i.e., "still" "your desire will be for your husband [i.e., you will still be attracted to acts of procreation despite the pain of childbirth] and he shall rule over you." (Gen. 3:16.)

What does the latter mean? This explains a change from God's original plan -- where husband and wife were in the Garden entirely equal. She heard directly from God His commandments. She could talk freely to her husband, and her only ruler was God. But that new condition in Gen 3:16 where the husband (not men in general over women in general) rule over her is not a command. It is a penalty. Her husband is not commanded to rule over her. He can choose not to exercise the penalty over her, and thus the husband more wisely should let God alone rule over his wife.

Thus just as God's plan was not to allow any divorces from the beginning, and Jesus said God allowed it after the Fall due to man's evil stubbornness, it was also not God's original plan to have a husband to rule over his wife. God was always her ideal ruler. God allowed her husband to rule over her only as a penalty on Eve. In the Garden, husband and wife were equals.

Thus, just as Jesus said we should strive not to take advantage of the Law allowing divorce because the Garden ideal is that there should be no divorce, then for the same reason a husband should strive not to take advantage of the penalty that a husband would rule over a wife. It too is contrary to the ideal in the Garden period where God alone rules over the woman just as He rules over the man. By refraining from such domination, the husband does not sin, as Genesis 3:16 is not a command upon a husband to rule over his wife. It is merely a penalty on the wife that the husband may do so.  

While there is no prohibition on a husband from ruling over his wife, it is certainly not the ideal in marriage. This means, if one is true to Jesus' principles that the Garden state is the ideal, that a husband should not exercise any right to rule over his wife any more than a husband should divorce his wife even though permissible.  Jesus told us to strive against undermining the original Garden ideal in even exercising what is permissible under the Law when Jesus spoke about divorce. 

Does the Bible show us that equality of husband and wife in a partnership such as existed in the Garden remains the ideal, and thus should be sought for after the Fall? And thus a husband should ideally not rule over or dominate his wife? Yes, there is such a passage.

The Proverbs 31 wife is dynamic and a co-leader in her home whom her husband "trusts" -- she "considers a field" and buys it, using her earnings evidently as she sees fit "to plant a vineyard," with no hint she must run by her husband how to run the house. For indeed, as verse 10 says, he "trusts" her. Here is a snippet reminder of this strong woman extolled in the Bible who is an equal partner to her husband, having domain over the house and buying land for crops and then buying seed to buy the crops while her husband is doing the hard labor:

 Proverbs 31:10-28 NASB:

10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her [a]hands [b]in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And [c]portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From [d]her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds [e]herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her [f]hands grasp the spindle.
20 She [g]extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And [h]supplies belts to the [i]tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the [j]future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the [k]teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:

By contrast, we read in Titus 2:4-5 an emphasis on the penalty condition of the wife toward the husband

so that they may [a]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,to be sensible, pure,workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbandsso that the word of God will not be dishonored.

And compare: "the wives [are subject] to their own husbands in everything." (Eph. 5:24 YLT.)

This encourages a wife to be a servant of her husband which is not commanded in Genesis 3:16. It is merely a condition a woman is under toward her husband, if he so chooses, as a penalty. However, if you see the Garden ideal is the point to emphasize, Paul should rather be instructing the husband "strive not dominate or rule over your wife, but show her love and support as an equal partner whose only true ruler is God Yahweh." Paul should be upholding that ideal that both are equals raising a family who shoulder a partnership of responsibilities. This is what God in Genesis implied -- she was a help mate - someone matched to his needs to help him, not serve him. God made it clear that the Garden-ideal of equality was not a forced service of the wife to the husband. A husband should not exploit the penalty that the wife is under due to the Fall.

 

Paul's Mandate of Women's Silence at Church

 

In the spiritual activity of congregating, Paul insists on a subjection of all women -- not just wives to their husbands -- to men. Hence, Genesis 3:16 cannot even arguably support this broader principle stated by Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 we read:

[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the Law.

[35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

In 1Ti 2:11-12, we similarly read: "Let a woman learn in silence, in all subjection. But I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, rather, to be in silence."

 

Does anyone find these commands puzzling for reasons other than the odd - "funky" - subject matter? First, the written Law given Moses has no such command, contrary to what Paul says in 14:35. The only potential Torah provision on topic was solely a penalty upon the wife toward the "husband" due to the Fall (Gen. 3:16), not a duty of all women toward all other men. Even as between husband and wife, the Garden ideal remained in play -- that the husband and wife should be equals. The man had no command to rule over the wife. He was free to strive for the Garden ideal of equality.

But if this is the "law" to be obeyed by all women toward all men, isn't this the same Paul who says the entire Law is abrogated? Could Paul not keep things straight in his head?

Paulinists explain these incongruities by claiming Paul is not referring to the Torah-Law given Moses, but to the "law" in the sense of ordinances of the apostles for women to be silent in church. (Nesch.)

However, Paul calls it by the Greek word for the Law of Moses -- NOMOS. When Paul meant "ordinances," he used that alternative expression often. Hence, the Paulinist explanation does not explain away the problem. Rather, Paul clearly says the Torah (nomos in Greek) teaches a woman must keep quiet in church. Because no such command exists in the written Law given Moses, then we must ask what did Paul mean by NOMOS in 1 Cor. 14?

What Paul meant truly was that the Pharisee's oral LAW (also known as the oral TORAH) was valid. The Pharisees taught that on the Mountain with God, Moses was given an Oral Torah that was not written down. The Pharisees claimed it was as much a part of TORAH as the written Torah. (The Sadduccees and Samaritans rejected this.) Thus, this oral TORAH in Greek was also referred to as NOMOS by Pharisees (like Paul) who saw no distinction between it and the written TORAH.

It was the oral law which restrained women to not speak up in religious assemblies. Women were then, and still today in Orthodox synagogues, forced to sit separately from the men (and obviously had to keep quiet). Thus is not a subjection of only a wife to whatever rule an individual husband may have about his wife speaking in church.

What justified this separation of women from men in the Pharisaic-led congregation? This practice logically followed from the oral torah that said women were not to be taught Torah/the Law. (This was the principle Jesus challenged by teaching women like Martha and Mary.) Hence, women in the Pharasaic branch of Judaism of that day could not engage in any thought-discussion in religious assemblies about the Law. That was reserved to the men whom the Pharisee-party Rabbis addressed as the men sat in the men-forward section of such Pharisaic synagogues.

Again, unless Paul is a prophet, he is relying obviously on extra-Biblical principles. Paul was enforcing gender prohibitions of the Pharisee party that Jesus was trying to break down. Jesus obviously intended that women could participate equally with men in religious discussions. This is why He openly dialogued with them on such topics. Jesus must have intended that women could fully participate in assemblies of worship,  as well as to teach what he taught to others.

As an aside, note that in 1 Cor. 14:34, Paul prohibits women to speak at all in church. But in 1 Cor. 11:5, Paul says a woman should not pray or prophesy with her head uncovered, not identifying whether this is at church or not. To reconcile the passages, one would say Paul permitted a woman to pray out loud or prophesy --  modes of speech -- everywhere except at church. Hence, Paul deliberately bridled prophesy from a woman even though given by God because she was at church! Paul's notion is not a very godly interpretation of how we should behave, is it? This is the kind of incongruity one finds in the thought of Paul on the role of women.

Women Cannot Teach or Have Authority over Men?

Paul in 1 Tim. 2:12 says: "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man."

Calvin said this meant: "Women are by nature to obey men. Men are by nature born to govern and control women." (Trombley, 1985 at 71.)

Even dogmatically pro-Paul people admit they do not believe this is a command they must follow:

I don't see where Jesus told women to do this so no - I do not abide by this. Paul is speaking regarding the customs of the day. Men were steeped in their religious practices and pride while women are of a much more receptive heart. It is for the sake of the man's religion and pride that Paul says such things. Not because it is a requirement of our Lord. (Emily 8/16/2010, at this blog.)

Other Paul-followers try to weasle around its meaning, claiming women can teach the faith, but only men are permitted to "regularly" teach the foundations of the faith. (Dan Doriani, Women and Ministry: What The Bible Teaches (Good News Publishers, 2003) at 177.)

But Paul says "I do not allow a woman to teach" -- end of sentence. It does not say "sometimes" a woman can teach. It does not imply that women are prohibited only from "regularly" teaching men. So Paul-followers do everything to skirt the obligation their self-proclaimed apostle declares by means that are clearly outcome-determinative.

I have to admit that as a man, it is very appealing to hear these 'commands.' How all men would love if Paul indeed were inspired!

But unfortunately for Paul's inspiration and my male ego, Paul's command that women cannot have authority over men or teach men is at odds with the book of Judges in the Bible. God made Deborah (a woman) a Judge over Israel as well as prophetess. She also taught ALL the people as a Prophetess. God also blessed her in battles. (Judges chs. 4-5.) See "Deborah," Wikipedia. 

Miriam, sister to Moses and Aaron, was also a "prophet." We read in Exodus 15:20: "Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister...." Are God's prophetic words ever truly only for men to hear? And not women?

So God through true prophetic writings gives us an approving depiction of a woman's role totally at odds with Paul's prohibition.

Who is right? God or Paul? Whom do you follow?

Even Paul seemed not to know. Paul, apparently inconsistent with himself, said Junia was an "apostle." (Rom. 16:7.) Did she never teach a man? It does not seem likely since apostles were supposed to teach 'all peoples' what Jesus taught.

Regardless, if Paul is unauthorized in his command, and in conflict with God's word, what implications does this have?

We go back to Jesus. That simple.

Female Pastors?

The issue of Paul's prohibition on women teaching includes a prohibition from women serving as pastors but is much broader. Paul also prohibits a woman having any authority over a man, like Deborah, the Judge, had over Israel. (I guess someone better tell God that He got it wrong with Deborah based upon Paul's supposedly greater message. Chuckle.) This means Paul gave two reasons why a woman cannot be a pastor.

But does Paul's anti-Biblical doctrine once exposed as false mean we can have women pastors? Nope! It means we follow Jesus. And Jesus said there is not to be such authority of ANY of us, male or female, over any other Christian! If Jesus is the SOLE TEACHER (Matt. 23:6-11) and SOLE PASTOR (John 10:16), then none of us can take such titles. We may teach and preach, but only what Jesus teaches and preaches, keeping Him as the foremost teacher and preacher / pastor.

For detailed discussion of this topic, please see this webpage "Jesus on Church Structure."

Are These Words Against A Woman's Equal Role from Paul Proven Wrong In Practice?

What harm has Paul's doctrine done to Christian women's consciences if Paul's words were not from God and yet we insisted Paul is 100% inspired?

Listen next to the sincere pain of this female who had taught the Bible for years but found herself told she must stop teaching in obedience to Paul. I don't sense any desire on her part to become a pastor and thus lord it over the rest of us, usurping Jesus's rights. This is just a sincere heart, broken by the words of Paul thrown at her forcing her to shut up in church and stop teaching God's Word! She writes:

In fact, I believe I first have to answer to God for his gifts and calling on my life. I don't want to get to heaven and hear him say, "Half-done, thou half-faithful servant." Prayerfully, I exercise my gifts to the blessing of believers when I'm invited to do so and seek to utilize my strengths without being a stumbling block to others. Women should seek to use their gifts in ways that are acceptable to their community of believers. Ask God for guidance, and read as much as you can. I don't believe women should bury their gifts or let anyone else bury them. There's a lost   world (of men and women) waiting to hear what God's gifted women have to say to them. The eternal destiny of these souls may depend on it. (Does the Bible Really Say I Can’t Teach Men? by Jill Briscoe 2007.)

Baptist History On The Role of Women Has Swung Back And Forth - A Lesson from History

The Baptists started with giving women full and equal roles in church ministry. Then they slid back into Paulinistic exclusion for a time. Then in the Great Awakening the equal participation of women resumed. Later Paulinistic exclusion from ministry reimposed itself. This gives us a hint on what blessings can come from following Jesus's rule on equality for women in the church (as long as no one serves as pastor and leader but Jesus). In an article from January 3, 2007 by Lydia Huffman Hoyle, of the Baptist Women in Ministry, we read the historical account of those transitions back and forth:

The history of Baptist women in ministry is not a simple story of progress in one direction. It is a story of starts and stops. Among the earliest accounts of Baptists, we find stories of women who founded and served congregations. Some even preached. ****

Although some, but not all, early English Baptists (known as General Baptists) allowed women to preach, the women apparently did not serve as elders or pastors of churches. They testified and preached as deaconesses or simply church members. A second group of Baptists, the Particular Baptists, formed some thirty years after the General Baptists. From the beginning, the Particulars, who were theological Calvinists, supported a male-only ministry. In time, women’s leadership roles decreased across the English churches. The Baptists, in this respect, became more like the Anglican Church from which they had withdrawn.**** 

A widespread eighteenth-century revival, known as the First Great Awakening, brought changes however. A new group of Baptists called the Separates developed who were very open to the spiritual enthusiasm and emotionalism of the revivals. These Baptists expanded rapidly in the South. Among the Separates, women played prominent roles. Their voices were
heard preaching once again. The Separates also included women as deaconesses and eldresses.

This tends to confirm that Paulinist exclusion of women from ministry is at odds with Jesus's teaching on equality, as it suppresses a true spiritual role of women that God intends in church gatherings.

But to repeat, this is not to endorse women pastors, as Jesus likewise insists there is "one pastor" and "one teacher" -- Himself. For more on Jesus's principles on church structure, see this webpage. We need to retire the word pastor for men as much as for women. The title exclusively belkngs to Christ who said He was our "sole pastor." (John 10:16.)

 

Conclusion

If Paul were a true prophet, then this means the Bible would sanction these "funky" commands as some call them. We would have no right to reject commands that are distasteful or strange.

However, their distastefulness and unique 'funkiness' are the first hint that they do not come from the God of the Bible. These strange commands of Paul also seem totally out of sync with Jesus. In various points, Paul even contradicts Jesus.

The explanation is sad: Paul believes in the oral Torah of the Pharisees, and even calls it the Torah. Paul says women must follow this oral TORAH/Law about head coverings / veils while praying or prophesying. He commands this even though the true Bible appears to condemn wearing veils during sacred times as inappropriate. (In fact, Paul obviously picked up the practice of Arabian women while he lived in Arabia who wore veils on Sabbath when everywhere else in Judaism it was then thought shameful / inappropriate to do so on Sabbath.)

These examples show Paul had beliefs identical to the flaws of the Pharisees identified by Jesus. Paul here has clearly a decisive affirmation of a principle from the oral Torah while elsewhere Paul degrades the written Torah  - the Ten Commandments -- "commands written in stone" - saying they have faded away, they were a mere shadow, etc. (1 Cor. 10.)

In other words, Paul made the oral traditions of the Pharisees more important than the written commands given Moses -- a flaw Jesus condemned in the Pharisees in Matthew 15:6. This led Paul to contradict Jesus on specific points.

What more proof do we want that Paul's doctrines are not of Christ? That they undermine the doctrines of Christ? And that they oppose the doctrines of Christ?

END


Study Notes

Edward on April 18, 2005 recognized by common sense that the words quoted above from Paul just do not jibe with Jesus. He wrote:

WWJD (Jesus) vs WWPD (Paul)

Remember when kids wore WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets? I really liked that. But you know that really was for kids. You knew that didn’t apply to you? Or did you figure that out?

I’ll keep this very short and use the illustration of what several denominations insistence on women being barred from being pastors/preachers. Can you imagine Jesus saying that women need to ask their husbands later rather than joining into important conversations? I can’t. Jesus didn’t send women nor children away. But Paul comes along and addresses situations that came up in the various early churches, and ends up saying that women ought to sit down, shut up and ask their man later (my own paraphrasing). I don’t think he intended to set up rules that governed women’s participation in the Gospel, do you?

As crazy as it sounds, many adults live their lives as though they depended on WWPD (What Would Paul Do?)


In 2015, a colleague shared a scholarly paper to his professors he wrote on the issue of women in the church. He canvassed the efforts of those trying to open the church for a greater role of women who are then rebuffed by clear quotes from Paul. So Mr. A then provides the solution: 

This paper declares that both sides have gone about the question in a misguided manner.  The real question should be whether Paul’s claims to apostleship and revelation are legitimate, as the only authoritative and objective way of determining legitimacy is to test whether one’s teachings align with those contained in the Pentateuch (or Torah), which nearly all in the Judeo-Christian creedal communities have recognized are the most attested, most consistent, and most essential, portion of all of Scripture.

Then after quoting that Jesus said we are all brothers and sisters, he concludes that we cannot proceed to adjudicate the authority of women to teach unless first we validate our own right to adjudicate, after removing those who had no authority to teach us (like Paul) in the first place:

One can only proceed on the question of legitimate leadership after one has established the proper understanding of who is authoritative according to the teachings and mandates of YHWH.  As far as authority to teach doctrines is concerned, only the Father or, by extension, his chosen earthly “representative” and mouthpiece, Jesus, have such authority.  The present hierarchical structure has no biblical warrant, if we are judging on a biblically warranted and tested canon, which would exclude the writings of all unsuccessfully tested self-styled apostles.  Thus the issue of the legitimacy of female teaching leadership is a non-issue because leadership itself, as it is currently structured and practiced is not legitimate on a moral, i.e., scriptural, level provided that we insist on a coherent and internally consistent canon.

So his wise point is that the very question whether women have authority to teach in church assumes there is a church that can prevent a sister from teaching in the first place. It becomes a non-issue until the 'church' claiming this authority proves its moral authority to teach, especially after it has mistakenly been using non-inspired materials like Paul's for a long time without carrying out the role Jesus tasked it -- i.e., to test for false prophets. 

Next, he gives us the criteria to make a decision:

The only way that the church can recover the true gospel is to throw away the superfluous secondary one, which claims for instance that women are “saved through childbearing” and other such specious teachings[i], which YHWH never taught.  Only a church having an internally coherent doctrine based firmly on one master and one teacher will last the trials and tribulations of the future.

****

It is high time for followers to follow the true Master and reject those who have usurped his authority.



 In 1 Cor. 11:10, Paul actually oddly says that the woman in church should have the "authority" on her head. The word is exousin. Scholars believe there was an item of dress called The Authority, and this must be on a woman's head in church. Some claim there are references in the Original Testament to this. See this link from the Calvin Commentary on First Corinthians.