Truth is life on ordination (and other issues as well)!

When God’s people in history have tried to figure out truth, sometimes it’s very cut, dried and simple as with God’s prohibitions on child sacrifice in Jeremiah 7 and 19 and the 10 commandments (2 great sites on them and esp. on the Sabbath are https://www.prageruniversity.com/Ten-Commandments/  and http://www.cogwriter.com/tencom.htm). At other times figuring out truth requires as Peter said, “long discussions” (Acts 15:7) .  This may be by wise design :). Research is showing that spiritual habits (as well as biblical health habits) have significant effects in influencing the brain to make more neurons,  preventing cognitive decline and slowing memory loss and things like that ( http://www.alzprevention.org/lifestyle-choices-about-spirituality.php, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/09/brain-plasticity.aspx,  www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young).

So, if you’re involved in a discussion of truth, thank God. It’s benefiting you on this earth by make you smarter for more years :). Genuine godliness always has some benefit to us (1 Tim. 4:8) :), whether we are aware of it or not! Often it has many practical benefits beyond the mental benefits it gives us.

In figuring out truth of whether women should be ordained pastors or on any other topic, it’s important to look at all the evidence on a topic to figure out truth as Jesus demonstrated in Luke 24:25-27. As part of that, it’s crucial to look at many or if possible all the Bible verses that relate to an issue.  It’s also impossible to underestimate the importance of figuring out what the original author meant in his/her context and culture which often requires a significant study of linguistics and sometimes historical sources and other types of evidence as well.

An example of this is that some people assume that since Paul said a bishop must be the husband of one wife, that no woman can ever be a bishop. But if one does more than superficial reading of the Bible, serious problems come with this understanding, making Paul either a hypocrite or ignorant of how to write correctly. Why? It’s not just bishops that must be the husband of one wife, but also deacons (διάκονος).

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;… Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” 1 Timothy 3:2,12

But later, Paul speaks highly of a woman  named Phoebe who is a deacon (διάκονος)and obviously wasn’t a husband of one wife.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.” Romans 16:1

It should be quite obvious that if it’s OK for a woman to be a deacon after Paul said a deacon should be the husband of one wife, then it must be OK for a woman to be an ordained bishop after Paul said a bishop should be the husband of one wife as well.

Is Paul contradicting himself in these verses? No. As many scholars have agreed, Paul’s concern here is faithfulness to one’s spouse in a culture of widespread promiscuity, sacred prostitution, and polygymy, not forcing  a church position to be limited to the masculine gender, nor even to those who are married.  This is part of the repeated emphasis in the New Testament that Christians must avoid the destructive sin of sexual immorality. As we will see more below, that cultural issue is quite important to the correct understanding of quite a few verses on whether women can be pastors, whether they can be ordained, whether they can teach in church and a lot more.

When you read sentences in the masculine gender n the Bible, such as “the Sabbath was made for man.” Mark 2:27, it’s important to avoid rigid absolutism and recognize that in ancient cultures and even up to modern times, some male terms refer to all people, not just the male gender.

Interestingly,

“the word ‘man’ was originally gender neutral, meaning more or less the same as the modern day word “person”.  It wasn’t until about a thousand years ago that the word “man” started to refer to a male and it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it was almost exclusively used to refer to males.” www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/08/the-word-man-was-originally-gender-neutral/

James White wrote about this saying:

“We object to that narrow-souled theology which will not allow the old ladies to have dreams because the prophecy says, “Your old men shall dream dreams;” And that will not allow young women to have visions because the prophecy says, “Your young men shall see visions.” These stingy critics seem to forget that “man,” and “men,” in the Scriptures, generally mean both men and women, the book says that it is “appointed unto men once to die.” Don’t women die?” Spiritual Gifts v. 3 pg. 24

There’s another point as well that some laws/standards in the Bible are temporary while others are permanent that is explained well in this short video:The Surprising Truth about Women’s Ordination  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvAV8MhEwAo

Be careful not to minimize the importance of linguistics, culture and context. It can be absolutely crucial. Words can radically change meaning…sometimes in a short period of time. And this is a favorite tactic that Satan uses to deceive people who don’t study/read carefully or who don’t use proper methods of exegesis on many topics.

Most people know that the word gay has radically changed in meaning.  In the 13th century it meant “light-hearted” or “joyous”. 100 years later it meant “bright and showy”. Now it refers to homosexual/lesbian relationships which in reality have destroyed much joy.  Cute changed from meaning “keenly perceptive and shrewd” in the 1730s to “pretty, charming and dainty” in the 1830s. Just 100 years. A bully in the 16th century was a “darling” or “sweetheart”, but  now it’s someone who beats up or harasses those weaker than himself. The word nice in the 14th century meant “foolish” or “silly” and took on other negative qualities like extravagance, cowardice and sloth. Over time, it changed to refer to shyness and reserve and not to kindness. See more examples here:

www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/words-literally-changed-meaning-through-2173079

This also happens in spiritual areas, but can be much more dangerous. The term faith up to the 18~1900s meant a view based on evidence and facts and proof and was equated with truth in dictionaries. But now some people ask why we need evidence if we have faith, exactly the opposite of how Bible apostles used the term.  This misunderstanding of linguistics has caused many atheists that I have personally talked with to reject Christianity and a belief in God, because faith has no evidence and they have been conned into believing there is “no evidence for God.”

http://truth-is-life.org/GoodFaithNeedsEvidence.html

Another example of this is that many sincere Christians now read the term death in the Bible and think it refers to a conscious state. Why? Because current culture and media are permeated with this view whether it’s movies like “Ghost” or songs like Escape Club’s “I’ll Be There” which says, ” I may have died, but I’ve gone nowhere” or many sincere pastors who naively teaching that people are praising God in heaven after they die (which goes against Psalms 6:5, 115:17).  This idea of the immortal soul started with Satan in the garden of Eden. Then he influenced the pagan Greeks to accept and promote it and from there it has spread through much of western society. Scholars recognize that:

“we are influenced always more or less by the Greek, Platonic idea, that the body dies, yet the soul is immortal. Such an idea is utterly contrary to the Israelite consciousness and is nowhere found in the Old Testament. ” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (1960, Vol. 2, p. 812, “Death”)

(see also: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8092-immortality-of-the-soul and www.jewishnotgreek.com)

How do we know if we may have a wrong understanding of a word or concept or even doctrine? One sign of this is when we run across contradictions. Some contradictions can be harmonized and point to a higher truth. Salvation is a free gift given by grace alone (Eph. 2:8,9) , and yet we are rewarded for works (I believe this is a separate reward from salvation) and even justified by works (Romans 2:13).  But some contradictions can’t be reconciled. They’re like oil and water and just don’t mix.  When this happens, it may not be the Bible or its writers that are at fault, but our culture and our modern understandings of words that have changed over time. This indicates that we may have some misunderstandings in our minds and that we need to do further research, a great chance to stretch our brains!

An example of this is Paul saying that:

” I do not let women teach men or have[usurp in some versions]usurp authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12

Does this really mean that women can’t ever teach men or have authority over men or that they must always be silent as some versions say? There are some serious problems with this view.

1) There are hundreds of scriptures telling believers to praise God in church and to sing loudly or shout to God (psalms 95, 98, 100). Are women to just be silent and never sing in church? What about this verse which in Hebrew is clearly a text referring to women proclaiming the gospel message that God has given to them.

“The Lord gives the word, and a host of women brings the good news.” Psalm 68:11

2) In verses like Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19 the Bible teaches us that a primary method of teaching is through songs, psalms and hymns(see:  www.unlockingthebible.org/why-singing-matters/) Clearly women are involved with this kind of teaching if they sing.

3) We read that Paul was close friends with Priscilla and Aquila and that they were co-workers with him (Romans 16:3).  Co-workers often have the same job or one that’s quite similar. For example, I’m a professor at a university teaching in linguisticsand my co-workers are also professors. This makes it seem quite likely that both Priscilla and Aquilla were apostles, evangelists, Bible teachers in the church or something of that nature similar to Paul.

4) Priscilla was clearly involved in teaching and spreading the gospel and taught in church. She and her husband for example took Apollos aside in church and taught him God’s gospel more fully and Apollos was willing to submit to her superior knowledge and authority on scriptural matters.

“When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” Acts 18:26

5) The words “usurp authority” come  the Greek word “authentein/αὐθεντεῖν”. The term is used only once in the Bible which means that we will have to look at the culture of those times to figure out it’s normal meaning. There’s a good deal of linguistic research by scholars that shows that this term “authentein/αὐθεντεῖν” did not mean “usurp authority” until 100s of years after Paul wrote. It was in fact a term referring to prostitution/enticing sexual favors, something that almost nearly all female Greek teachers, such as Aspasia, were involved with, or sacred prostitution which was common in Ephesus at that time and throughout much of ancient history.

Dr. Catherine Kroeger, a  New Testament scholar with a Ph.D. in classical studies has done this in an article, “Ancient Heresies and a strange Greek Verb” (godswordtowomen.org/kroeger_ancient_heresies.htm). She writes:

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“The twelfth verse (italicized above) contains a rare Greek verb, found only here in the entire Bible.  This word, authentein, is ordinarily translated “to bear rule” or “to usurp authority”; yet a study of other Greek literary sources reveals that it did not ordinarily have this meaning until the third or fourth century, well after the time of the New Testament.  Essentially the word means “to thrust oneself.  “Its earliest meanings are noteworthy, since they might provide a quite different understanding of a difficult text…Although the usages prior to and during the New Testament period are few and far between, they are briefs of murder cases and once to mean suicide, as did Dio Cassius.  Thucydides, Herodotus, and Aeschylus also use the word to denote one who slays with his own hand, and so does Euripides.  The Jewish Philo, whose writings are contemporary with the New Testament, meant “self-murderer” by his use of the term.

In Euripides the word begins to take on a sexual tinge.  Menelaos is accounted a murderer because of his wife’s malfeasance, and Andromache, the adored wife of the fallen Hector, is taken as a concubine by the authentes, who can command her domestic and sexual services.  In fury the legitimate wife castigates Andromache with sexually abusive terms as “having the effrontery to sleep with the son of the father who destroyed your husband, in order to bear the child of an authentes.” In the extended passage she mingles the concepts of incest and domestic murder, so that love and death color the meaning.  The word also occurs in a homosexual sense in a speech by Theseus, king of Athens, where love of young boys was considered a virtue rather than a vice. Although one finds hints in certain modern lexicons, the erotic sense of authentes is often ignored…The charred fragments of a scroll excavated from the ruins of Herculaneum demonstrate the use of authentein in a parallel position to “those wounded by the terrible shafts of Eros.” The lines were penned by the rhetorician and obscene epigrammatist, Philodemus, who was nicknamed “Lascivus.”…

“I forbid a woman to teach or engage in fertility practices with a man” would imply that the woman should not involve a man in the heretical kind of Christianity which taught licentious behavior as one of its doctrines.  Such a female heretic did indeed “teach to fornicate” in the Thyatiran church mentioned in Revelation 2:20 (cf. 2:14f.; Num. 25:3; 31:15f.).

Too often we underestimate the seriousness of this problem for the New Testament church…. Licentious doctrines continued to vex the church for several centuries, to the dismay of the church fathers.  Clement of Alexandria wrote a detailed refutation of the various groups who endorsed fornication as accepted Christian behavior.  He complained of those who had turned love-feasts into sex orgies, of those who taught women to “give to every man that asketh of thee,” and of those who found in physical intercourse a “mystical communion.” He branded one such lewd group authentai (the plural of authentes).

…In Ephesus, where a great multitude of sacred courtesans were attached to the shrine of Diana, women had much to unlearn.  Previously they had been taught that fornication brought the worshiper into direct communion with the deity.  It is worth noting that certain Gnostics and Nestorians employed authentia to indicate a force binding together the fleshly and the divine.  But converts must learn that the one Mediator between God and man was Christ Jesus, and that they must practice their newfound faith in quiet decorum rather than in the wild and clamorous orgies demanded by Ephesian religion…To women who had been trained in childhood in the gross immorality of the Phrygian cult, the admonition was certainly appropriate.

…Virtually without exception, female teachers among the Greeks were courtesans, such as Aspasia, who numbered Socrates and Pericles among her students.  Active in every major school of philosophy, these hetairai made it evident in the course of their lectures that they were available afterwards for a second occupation.  But the Bible teaches that to seduce men in such a manner was indeed to lead them to slaughter and the halls of death (cf. Prov. 2:18; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18).  The verb authentein is thus peculiarly apt to describe both the erotic and the murderous.

godswordtowomen.org/kroeger_ancient_heresies.htm

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See also the book ” Who Said Women Can’t Teach”  by Charles Trombley

https://books.google.co.kr/books?id=Ej8ozdJVyc8C&pg=PT53&lpg=PT53&dq=what%20does%20paul%20mean%20usurp%20their%20authority&source=bl&ots=qgyviAH2AI&sig=vabYMsyO_lQP9DA4qkkEl5B6DME&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UpGOVYPXE6HwmAWB04C4Cg&ved=0CCwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=what%20does%20paul%20mean%20usurp%20their%20authority&f=false

CONCLUSION

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So from careful study of the Bible and history, it seems that quite a bit of solid evidence shows that Paul was writing with a very different intention from what some sincere people who lack knowledge of linguistics and ancient cultures have unfortunately assumed.  Paul was dealing with very serious idolatry in the form of sacred prostitution  in popular pagan religions of the time. He was focused on transforming new Christian believers into women of dignity instead of slaves of lust. He was training them to become faithful servant of God, acting as people who were bought and paid for with the blood of Christ, not sex toys to be easily exploited by pimps and johns.

As above, Paul also clearly had no problems with deacons and bishops being women even though he gave a general statement that they should be the husband of one wife which was emphasizing that they should be faithful if they were married, not that they had to be men or even married.

I hope that this encourages you to think positively about supporting women’s ordination in our church and also that it stimulates you to study truth in many areas much more carefully so you can stretch your brain, but also contribute to much practical progress for lives around the world!

Here are a few links that you can do that on:

1) Women’s ordination (2 articles at the first link and many presentations on both sides at the 2nd link):

http://blog.truth-is-life.org/yes-on-womens-ordination/

https://simonesamuels.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/womens-ordination-in-adventism-a-resource-list/

2)  A very important truth issue that I believe is far more important is economic justice. Economic injustice is killing ~9 million children every year. And it can be stopped and should be by people who love God. Start here to learn about this topic:

http://www.truth-is-life.org/jubileeeconomics.html

3) The truths of creation science matter a great deal. There is a great deal of evidence and answers for most questions that skeptics ask at many sites. These are some good ones:

www.creation.com, www.nwcreation.net, www.amazingdiscoveries.org, http://www.grisda.org/site/1/standish/ppts/index.htm

God bless,

Bryan Bissell

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