Are women allowed in the ministry? Are women pastors allowed to preach? What does the Scripture say about women in the church? These are controversial questions within Christianity.
A few verses in the Bible forbid women from being active in the ministry. An example of this is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
If we take this literally, it means that women are not permitted to sing in church or respond when the preacher solicits remarks or questions from the congregation.
So what did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 14:34? Did he give instructions to the church not to have women pastors? Conservative Bible academics, theologians, and church leaders agree that the text should not be taken literally. We need to figure out why. If you have questions, this article will explain how to read and apply the Bible to find the answers you want.
A deeper look at the verse’s setting
The book of 1 Corinthians was written by Paul and addressed to the church of Corinth. You may read about Paul instructing them on how to conduct their services, which were fairly unorganized. Here are a few points we can observe from the book:
1. Paul does not only instruct women to “silence” themselves. In verses 28 to 30, he uses the exact phrase to teach those who talk in tongues or claim to be prophets to remain silent.
“If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.”
In each of those verses, Paul requests a short silence pause rather than a complete and permanent prohibition.
2. He used the broad term “laleō,” which does not always imply a formal duty in the pulpit; it can equally be translated as “talk.”
Women, Paul advises, should be silent rather than talk. This could imply that the Corinthian ladies were speaking disrespectfully. Paul indicated in chapter 11 that women could pray and prophesy. As a result, Paul may be prohibiting less formal speech, such as chatter or audience comments.
3. Paul urged women to ask questions at home to their spouses, not during service. While it’s OK to inquire about such things at home, doing so during a worship service is disruptive.
From the observations above, you can look at the Scripture in another light. Paul wasn’t only talking about the women but also the entire congregation of Corinth. He did not specifically say that there should be no women pastors. He was addressing their disturbing way of conduct during worship services.
The Women in the Bible
God has used women too! It has been seen in the Bible, He has appointed women pastors and has given them authority to lead over men. There are many women whom God has used to advance His Kingdom. Here are a few examples:
Deborah acted as a civil judge, a spokeswoman for God, and a worship leader for his people.
“Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment” Judges 4:4-5
2. Mary Magdalene
Following her healing, Mary joined Jesus in his mission, supplying his needs and encouraging the disciples, finally bearing witness to his crucifixion and burial. She is also one of the first witnesses to Christ’s empty tomb and one of the essential eyewitnesses to his resurrection, which would later resource the gospel writers to provide historical credibility to the church.
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” Matthew 28:1
She was asked by Xerxes to be his queen, and she ruled Israel as a Jewish queen of a gentile nation. Esther saved Israel from the consequences of its own spiritual folly and established a safe place for Jews to worship in the land. She paved the way for the ministry of Jesus to thrive freely and openly in public society.
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
Priscilla was a significant player in the book of Acts. With her husband, Aquila, she oversaw the church’s efforts to uphold doctrinal integrity, show compassion to the destitute, and guide emerging charismatic leaders like Apollos in understanding their place in God’s redemptive plan.
“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Acts 18:26
5. Mary of Nazareth
Young as she is, God has given her a major position in the Bible. Mary boldly accepted her destiny, becoming the mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 has been used traditionally to prohibit the church from having women pastors. This viewpoint, however, contradicts other passages in the Bible that show God occasionally elevating women to positions of authority over men and empowering them to speak with authority. God calls both men and women for His purposes. Visit Bible Portal to discover more about women in the ministry.