Years of reflection on my own two unsuccessful marriages and the study of Christians who seem to be in good marriages have caused me to repeatedly restudy the Bible teaching concerning the man-woman relationship. Also, not having a wife to influence my writing enables me to treat this subject with impunity (except, of course, from God and irate sisters in Christ). Additionally, meticulous Greek word-studies and analyses of Bible statements have led to the following understandings which I respectfully ask you to consider. Please note: all quotations from God's First Century Revelation are literal, word-for-word translations; also, any "group of Christians gathered in his name" (Mt. 18:20) is considered to be a "group of Called Ones" (sometimes translated "church").
Gal. 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." We tend to pull out the expression, "there is neither male nor female," and conclude from it that men and women have the same rights and responsibilities in ALL relationship. But the "before and after" verses show that what Paul wrote about here is limited to each Christian's relationship to GOD. If this verse applies to men and women in ALL relationships, then it must also apply to "bond or free" and thus end master-slave relationships. But this would contradict Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22, and 1 Cor. 7:20-22, which show that slaves were NOT freed from the master-slave relationship when they became Christians. Similarly, "neither Jew nor Greek" does not mean that Jews and Gentiles suddenly became the same race, but that Jews and Gentiles achieve the same relationship to God when they "... put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27).
Thus, passages which deal with a relationship between men and women DO apply to Christians. The Greek word for woman/wife occurs 213 times in the New Testament. The context determines whether "woman" or "wife" is meant. But in five passages it either is not clear which one is meant; or, the nature of the man-woman relationship itself is unclear. Let us consider these five passages.
1 Cor. 11:3-16: In verse 3, "... the Anointed One is head of every man, and the man [is] head of [not "head over"] woman, but woman of man; for indeed man was not created because of the woman, but woman because of the man." These verses declare and give a reason for the general ranking of Deity and humanity: God – Christ – man - woman. The "man-as-head-of-wife" relationship (to be considered further on). Paul evidently discussed this subject because of the bad effect of First-Century societal customs upon Christians (v.16).
1 Tim. 2:9-15: A general man-woman ranking again seems to be indicated because in verses 13-14 we read: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived came into wrong-doing."
Before proceeding further, let us consider "NOT this, BUT that" statements. These are not used much in current American, but are common in God's First-Century Revelation. They can show "exclusion," as in Mt. 7:21: "NOT everyone ... will enter the kingship of God, BUT the one doing..." (that is, ONLY the one doing what God wants, can enter such a kingship-relation-ship - all others are "excluded"). Or, a "NOT this, BUT that" statement can show "contrast," as in Rom. 14:17: "For the kingship of God is NOT eating and drinking, BUT rightness, peace..."; (that is, this kingship-relationship is NOT about material things, BUT, in "contrast," concerns "right" personal qualities).
Back to 1 Tim. 2:9-15. In verse 9, "Likewise also the women to adorn themselves in decent clothing, with sensibleness and modesty; NOT with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive garments, BUT what is appropriate for women professing awe of God, through good works." We recognize this contrast to be an exaggeration to show that a woman should use her appearance to help let her light shine rather than let it detract from her godliness. But verse 12 reads, "... I do NOT permit a woman to teach nor to domineer a man, BUT to be in calmness". This is a "NOT this, BUT that" exclusion because "to domineer a man" contradicts the "man-as-head-of-woman" principle of verse 13-14 and 1 Cor. 11:3,8-9. But Paul also excluded women from teaching men. This exclusion may well have been because of societal customs which no longer exist (as in 1 Cor. 11:16), wherein a woman could be seen as ranking herself as "head of man" by teaching in a domineering way and thus "turn him off." So, by being peaceable and allowing him to lead, a woman might be able to teach. In 1 Pet. 3:1, husbands could be influenced similarly: "... wives, yield to your own husbands, so that even if any do not obey the message, they may be gained without a word through the conduct of their wives…".
Eph. 5:21-24: "... yielding to each other in awe of Christ; the wives to their own husbands, as to the Lord; for a husband is head of the wife as Christ is Head of [Note: not "head over"] the group of Called Ones." Christians "yielding to each other" shows that all Christians are of the same rank in their relationship to each other, as in Gal. 3:28 (no clergy-laity ranks). But the husband-wife relationship described here is a specific application of 1Cor. 11:3: "... man [is] head of woman." Wives are to yield to their own husbands just as all Christians are to yield to Christ. But husbands in leading their wives must "... actively care about their wives as their own bodies" (v. 28).
1 Cor. 14:34-35: "Let the wives in the groups of Called Ones be silent, for they are NOT permitted to speak BUT let them yield as the law also says." "But if THEY wish to learn anything, let THEM question THEIR own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a wife to speak in a group of Called Ones." THEY, THEM and THEIR (v. 35) refers to WIVES with respect to their own husbands. The antecedent of THEY, THEM and THEIR in verse 34 is gune (Greek for Woman/wife) which thus MUST be translated "wives" (NOT "women," as usually translated). It is necessary also to translate gune as "wives" in verse 35, lest it contradict verse 34. These verses (for whatever reason) apply only to married women; however, unmarried women are not prohibited from speaking. Thus, this cannot be a general ban on ALL women speaking during a meeting of Christians. One explanation may be that according to First-Century social custom it was shameful for a wife to speak to or teach a group because it showed that her husband was not her head (contrary to Eph. 5:23), or that she dominated her husband (contrary to 1 Tim. 2:12); an unmarried woman not causing such shame by speaking. Also, verse 34 may contain a "NOT this, BUT that" exclusion in which speaking or prophesying by a wife would (due to First-Century custom?) publicly demonstrate a domineering relationship to her husband. But, whatever the specific reason, it apparently no longer exists in the 20th Century.
1 Tim. 3:8 and 11 appear to be parallel: Verse 8, "Servants similarly dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine." Verse 11: "Women similarly dignified, not slanderers, moderate, faithful in all things." The idea seems to be that women servants among a group of Called Ones (such as Phoebe in Rom. 16:1-2) are to have qualifies similar to those of male servants.
Summary and Conclusions:
1. Men and women are equal to each other in their relationship to God.
2. Christians are to yield to each other regardless of gender.
3. Man is head of woman in a general sense; and a married man is head of his wife in a specific sense.
4. As head of his wife, a husband should as actively care about her as about his own body, and should be willing to give his life for her.
5. A wife is to yield to her husband, never domineer him. In all other human relationships a wife should avoid giving any appearance of controlling or domineering her husband.
6. Among a group of Christians which includes men, an adult woman, married or not, may perform any "role" in which she does not control or domineer the group; that is, any activity in which she is not head of man. With this limitation, she may teach, address the group, lead singing, etc.
7. What about a woman's other relationship (especially, with non-Christians); such as, business, political, social, one-on-one teaching, etc.? It is the opinion of this writer that a woman can usually avoid God-Christ-Man-Woman rank conflicts wherever there are clear-cut leadership rules. For instance, any (male or female) business or political "boss" leads best by carrying out predetermined "operating procedures" rather than imposing his own will; (e.g., "This isn't my decision, it’s company operating procedures"). Just as an "older man" among a group of Christians conveys God's Bible procedures rather than his own, a woman in a position of leadership can similarly avoid woman-as-head-of-man situations by carrying out "company procedures" rather than her own. If she owns the business or is in a decision-making position, she can predetermine "company procedures" in which she then leads her employees. This method of leadership may not always be possible, so she may need additional ways to avoid situations which violate her conscience.
Social relationships and entertainment are mainly voluntary activities. Both women and men do well to avoid any of these which teach or involve domineering by women.
When a woman is teaching a man "one-on-one" (whether he is a Christian or not), she can avoid woman-as-head of man situations by limiting herself to Bible statements and explanations by asking non-threatening questions, by not dominating discussion, etc.
8. Every woman can let her light shine most effectively by showing herself to no man; that is, by being feminine, not feminist!