There is so much confusion, about God's view of a woman's place, and the relationship of Christian women to other Christians in spiritual matters, that it is more properly a subject for an entire book or at least a large chapter, rather than just an article, but let me try to touch upon a few areas.
Alexander Campbell formulated his seven rules of biblical interpretation about a century and a half ago now. The first of these rules says that when trying to interpret the meaning and applicability of a book of the Bible, we should first consider the historical circumstances that existed at the time of the writing of the book, and also the reasons that caused the book to be written.
The translators of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible neither followed this rule, nor translated literally, but rather translated in a way that was for their own benefit and according to the king's orders. So when we use this distorted translation, it is difficult for us to follow Campbell's first rule, since the KJV so obscures the literal Truth of those books. Remember too, that those distortions live on in other versions too, since the English Standard Version was only a revision of the KJV, as was the American Standard Version, and the Revised Standard Version. Then, of course, the more recent New American Standard Bible is a revision of the earlier American Standard Version.
The KJV was developed during the early 1600s, a time of male domination, church domination, and monarchy domination. Church leaders were the translators of the KJV Bible; and the church establishment was losing control of the people because of earlier Bible translations, so they and the king were determined to have a version translated that would support and enforce their control over the people.
While a Bible translation should absolutely use the modern day language of the people, it absolutely should NOT inject modern cultural traditions and philosophies into the translation! But this exactly what the KJV translators and other Bible translators have done! Plus, if translators were to literally translate the New Testament today, and therefore remove the inappropriate male chauvinism, they will be accused of trying to placate modern day feminism.
Let's move from the 1600s back to the First Century A.D. and look at the historical circumstances that existed when the New Testament writings were written. The male chauvinism/feminism conflict was even greater then, than it is today! Their environment had moved from a rural, agrarian culture to a more metropolitan, merchant-oriented culture, not unlike our own. Many of the positive attributes of maleness (strength, assertiveness, etc.) were no longer as useful or valued, so they were expressed in negative ways such as being violent, brawling, drunkenness, etc. (not unlike today). Divorce and homosexually had already increased dramatically, as men didn't want to be tied to women, and women didn't strongly need men in this new environment.
The culture of Judaism became reactionary and turned to Pharisaism (Pharisee-ism), a religion of numerous and detailed rules, myths, and allegories; and the principles of the Pharisees resulted in immorality, pretentiousness, rationalization, and belief in male-superiority. Do you see Pharisaism in the world today and in the culture of the 1600s?
In response to the incessant and inane wars and cultural changes, much of paganism became feminist, believing in female-superiority, especially in the northeastern quadrant of the Mediterranean area (the regions that we now call Greece, Turkey, and Crete). Athens was the center of worship for Athena (goddess of wisdom). Corinth was the center of worship for Venus (goddess of love). Lesbos is an island in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece; and the term "lesbian" is derived from references to this island. Ephesus and the island of Crete were centers of worship for Diana (also called Artemis and Sophia). Followers of Pagan Gnosticism, the dominant religion of this region, worshiped Diana as "Goddess the Mother," the most supreme God. They believed that Goddess Diana created Eve (or Zoe), the Daughter and Word of God (i.e., Goddess Diana), that it was Eve who was the creator of all living things, and that Adam was formed from Eve's side!
With this background let's read what Paul wrote to Timothy, while Timothy was in Ephesus (the center of Diana worship). "A woman must be quietly learning with all subservience! Now I'm not permitting a woman to be teaching or to be representing herself as the source of man, but to be quiet [about this]. For it was Adam who was molded first, then after this Eve. Now it wasn't Adam who was enticed, yet when his wife was totally enticed, there occurred the stepping beyond the boundaries;"- 1 Tim. 2:11-14 (CB).
Paul isn't saying here that women must be quiet and never be teachers. That would contradict what he and others say in other places! Rather, he is refuting the tenets of Pagan Gnosticism (Diana worship). Isn't he saying, "you have women there in Ephesus who are teaching and saying that they, as representatives of Eve, are the source of man (Adam); when in fact, it was our Savior who created Adam, and then formed Eve from Adam's side"? Is not Paul further saying, "since these women are saying and teaching these false things, tell them that they must be quiet, since I'm not permitting them to teach these falsehoods"?
There is much more that we should discuss about the female-superiority belief, Pagan Gnosticism, and the male-superiority belief, Jewish Pharisaism, and how they relate to the two letters to Timothy in Ephesus and the letter to Titus in Crete (also a center of Diana worship), but space limitations will not permit. So let's move across the Aegean Sea to Corinth.
First, let's look at the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians. Verse five talks about every woman who is praying (leading a prayer) or prophesying. If women are to remain silent in spiritual matters, how in the world can they be leading prayers or prophesying.
Let's talk about this word "prophesying." According to the Companion Reference Guide to the Christian Bible, this word in the Greek is PROFETEUO ("be-before-affirming"). The Guide then explains that this word means "to speak or affirm before someone for someone else, esp. for God; the 'before' is before in place, not time, as when Aaron spoke for Moses. before the Pharoah, because Aaron was Moses' spokesman (Exo. 4:16); any prediction is incidental to the prophecy. So to prophesy means to reveal words from God before someone, or in other words, to teach God's teachings.
So women could lead a prayer, reveal words from God, and teach. Not only this, but the ability to prophesy was one of the spiritual favors (gifts) of the Spirit. These women who were speaking about spiritual matter before Christians (1 Cor. 14:4) not only had God's passive acceptance, but His active appointment.
Before we leave chapter eleven, let's look at two other items. First, take note of 1 Cor. 11:3 where the term "head of" is used. The Companion Reference Guide to the Christian Bible says this under the word head: "when something is symbolically the 'head' of something else, it means either the 'source of life for' or the 'top of'; but it never meant 'authority over.'" The head provides air, food, and water for the body. In like manner a husband is the source of life for his wife, as he works to provide for her and the children that she bears. But this verse absolutely does not say that men have authority over women.
Secondly, notice verse eleven: "However, in their union with the Master, woman isn't distinct from man, or man distinct from woman." - 1 Cor. 11:11 (CB). As it says in the footnote to this verse in the Christian Bible: Women aren't distinct (or inferior) to men as taught in Pharisaism (Pharisee-ism) and other male-superiority beliefs; nor are men distinct (or inferior) to women as taught in Pagan Gnosticism and other female-superiority beliefs.
Now let's go over and look at the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, but first I want to emphasize that it is still Paul who is dictating the writing, and he has already said in chapter eleven that women can pray, teach, and speak before Christians. Also note, that to start at 1 Cor. 14:34 is to take things out of context, since this whole topic began back at the beginning of chapter twelve.
Instead of talking about these two applicable verses in chapter fourteen, I am going to just quote them from the Christian Bible, the most literal translation we have today. The words in brackets are the Christian Bible translator's explanations that occur wherever there is something that was obvious to First Century Christians reading the original Greek, which might not be obvious to you as you read the English translation.
"Your women must be silent in the groups of Called Ones, for no permission is being given to them to speak [only people with spiritual favors of the speaking-types were to be speaking]: Rather, they must be subservient [to those who were authorized to speak, and not be interrupting them or challenging them with questions], just as the Law also says [Num. 12:1-15]! Now if they want to learn about something, they must be asking their own husbands [or fathers] at home; for it is shameful for a woman to be continually speaking in a group of Called Ones [if they don't have one of the speaking-types of spiritual favors]." - 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (CB).
Doesn't it seem to you, that we have some disruptive women here who are interrupting and challenging the speakers with endless questions? Only people who had a speaking gift were to be speaking; and some of those people were women, who the Spirit had given a gift of being able to prophesy or say appropriate prayers.
Paul also said in chapter thirteen that these miraculous gifts from the Spirit would disappear when maturity came. That maturity came 1900 some years ago; now none of us have these speaking gifts. Male Christians are no more talented or able than female Christians to proclaim the "Good Message," to teach, to pray, to read, or to sing. Who is there who will forbid a sister from informing us of her insight?
I want you to also know that it is a well-known fact among Koine Greek scholars that it is proper Greek to use masculine nouns for a nonspecific person (who may be a female) or a nonspecific group (which may include females)! So when God's Word and other Koine Greek literature use Greek words that mean things like man, men, fathers, patriarch, brother, or brethren; and the context shows that the meaning is nonspecific, the words literally mean person, people, parents, ancestor, sibling (brother or sister), and brothers and sisters.
However, don't expect the KJV Bible and the other "Church Bibles" to properly translate nonspecific masculine nouns. Either out of ignorance or design they do not literally translate these words; and thereby make God's Word look male chauvinistic.
Do deacon, minister, and servant all mean the same thing to you? No? Well, they don't mean the same thing to our dictionaries or in churches, either! But all three words are used by the KJV Bible to translate the Greek noun DIAKONOS which literally means a servant or dispenser of something. However, the KJV Bible uses the word servant when it is talking about a woman (Phoebe) in Romans 16:1. But for a man (Tychicus) in Ephesians 6:21, it uses the word minister. Plus, then for some other men in 1 Timothy 3:12, it uses the title deacon. My brothers and sisters, you've been lied to, cheated, and robbed of the whole Truth!
In the sixteenth chapter of Romans Paul singles out 29 of his co-workers in the spreading of the Good Message, to whom he specifically sends his greetings, and 10 of these co-workers are women. Are we not in danger of being found to be fighters against God, if we don't acknowledge the equality of our sisters?