A treatise, by its very nature, is meant to be a thorough study into a given topic. This means that it must be studied with more than a little mental effort. It is fervently wished that the end in view, i.e., the convincement of the reader, could be effected in a much easier and more effortless manner. Unfortunately, this is never the case when we are dealing with doctrinal issues in which there is controversy. The nature of doctrinal disputes requires that all pertinent scriptures be examined and compared and that everything be consistent and logical. This cannot be done with a half-hearted effort by the writer nor can it be apprehended by the reader with only a cursory reading.

Because of the broad and often times tangential nature of this procedure, I will lay before the reader the general strategy that is followed in the presentation. The outline is as follows:

  1. An introduction to the question of women preachers.
  2. A logical view of the problem.
  3. An examination of the historical testimony of the Bible .
    1. The scriptural definition of preaching.
    2. Old Testament testimony will be sought.
    3. New Testament testimony will be sought.
  4. The history of women preachers since the Reformation.
  5. An examination of Paul's own declarations.
  6. A critical examination of opposing scriptures.
  7. Conclusion.

Keeping this outline in mind will help the reader to follow the arguments put forth by the writer. It is my sincere hope that this treatise will be instrumental in the hands of the Holy Spirit to remove the bias that many people have against women ministers.


But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:16-18



Since the Reformation began in the 16th century under Martin Luther, there has been a controversy among the various Protestant denominations concerning the role of women in the church. Following the position of the various Catholic churches most of the reformers held to the belief that God calls only men into His service in the spreading of the Gospel and in the affairs of the church. Thus, they believed that God does not call and gift women to be ministers and, as a consequence, they were withheld from exercising their gift whenever the Holy Spirit would appear to call them.

The purpose of this treatise is to demonstrate that this view is a very serious and diabolical error. It has robbed God of thousands of witnesses to a lost world of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. Many thousands of holy women of God have been withheld from being channels through whom the Holy Ghost could speak to lost sinners for the upbuilding of the kingdom of Christ. Doubtless, millions of men and women are burning in hell today because there was nobody to tell them of God's love, although there were thousands of holy women available for the service.


This is a very importantquestion. God is the master logician. He never contradicts Himself and He never proposes anything that is contrary to all of the rules of logic. His wonderful book, the Bible, is an absolute masterpiece of logic and simplicity. Thus, all of His doctrines must always pass the most stringent tests for logical purity. It is altogether preposterous to think that God would or could be illogical in anything. Hence, one must always expect and demand that all doctrines, if they are truly doctrines of God, be logical and consistent.


With a little unbiased thought it ought to be obvious that Satan and Satan alone has benefitted from this interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. One must always keep in mind that Satan is a Bible scholar of great eminence. He knows the Bible better than any man that has ever lived except Jesus Christ. One of his great weapons against the truth is to twist the logical interpretations of the scriptures and use them to cause us to believe error. After all, he even tried this with Jesus when he tempted Him in the wilderness. For this reason we must always be on our guard against twisted reasonings based on twisted scriptures. And this error can only be avoided by comparing scripture with scripture and adopting an interpretation that does not cause inconsistencies and contradictions. God is never inconsistent and He never contradicts Himself.

Just consider the historic fact that almost 2/3 of all persons that have professed themselves to be Christians were women. Women have always been more tender to the wooings of the Holy Spirit and, for this reason, there have always been many more women in the churches than men. By deceiving the leadership of the churches to believe that women are forbidden to have vocal ministry in the churches, Satan can eliminate 2/3 of the church from evangelization. And since men must earn the living for themselves and their families, the number of soldiers of the cross is drastically reduced. Surely it should be obvious that only Satan benefits from such a doctrine.

However, if it can be truly demonstrated from the scriptures that God has in deed and in fact prohibited women from vocal ministry, then that settles it forever. In that case all Christian churches must acquiesce to God's revealed will. So we will examine the scriptures very closely to see what they say. But from a purely logical viewpoint it is almost impossible to come up with a reason why God would exclude anybody from His service if he is walking in holiness. Jesus left His glory and became man and He suffered the reproach and horrible pain of crucifixion in order to save lost humanity. It is not reasonable to believe that He would prefer to let people go to hell rather than use women to proclaim the Gospel. But that is exactly what the opponents of women preachers are saying.


If it is scriptural that women cannot receive a call to preach, then there must be something basically wrong with the female sex. There must be some sort of uncleanness in them that makes them second class citizens in the kingdom of God. But if one compares the sexes, what one finds is that women almost always excel in the graces. When we consider the characteristics of Jesus—His gentleness, His kindness, His compassion, His purity of life, what we find is that women almost always possess these qualities to a greater degree than men. How many male nurses are there in the hospitals? How many men teach kindergarten or the lower grades? How many men care for the sick or orphans? How many men are like Mother Teresa who gave her life to alleviate the sufferings of the poor or Amy Carmichael who spent her life in India saving young girls from the debauchery of the Hindu temples?

A survey of history demonstrates that women are by nature more tender and generous and loving than men. Few women have been guilty of rape or child molestation. Almost all serial killers have been men. The great sadists of history have almost always been men. It is men that have started the wars of conquest and slaughtered the millions. There never has been a female Hitler or Stalin. History does not show us a female Attila or Caesar. The number of women that abandon their children is very small compared to men. A little thought should demonstrate to almost everybody that women are not behind men in those qualities that are Christlike. To the contrary, women by nature possess these qualities far beyond most men.

So what is it that makes it seem that God would be unwilling to use women to spread the Gospel message to a lost world? Most people would probably say that God did not intend that women should have the leadership over men. And that is certainly true of the family structure. God has decreed that the wife is to be subject to her husband. But I am not at all sure that He decreed that women are to be subject to men in everything in life and can never have authority. I have never heard of an Englishman complaining about Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria having authority over the nation of England. God gave Deborah authority over Israel and used her to save the nation. And God is not two-faced and changeable.

But this question of authority is not much of a problem because history and nature demonstrate that men assume authority and handle authority more readily than women in general. Authority is more natural to the male than the female and, generally speaking, even women prefer to have men in charge rather than women. Although some women make great leaders, leadership is more of a male quality than female. And when women try to usurp authority, whether in the home or in government or in the church, it always causes great problems. But when authority is placed on a woman, she will generally act with courage and intelligence.

This is seen clearly in history in the affairs of the world. It seems that it is only in the realm of religion that men insist that women take the back seat. For who would say that Queen Elizabeth was inferior to the male kings? Who would accuse Queen Victoria of being incapable of leadership? I think that few people would think that Margaret Thatcher was an ineffective and weak Prime Minister. And history clearly shows that Catherine the Great of Russian was a very effective leader, being behind the male tsars not one whit. And what can one say against Joan of Arc who led thousands of men into battle?

Then again, what does preaching or teaching have to do with leadership? Preaching is nothing other than declaring what God has told the preacher to say. After all, a true preacher is just a prophet and prophecy is just preaching, as we will see a little later. And teaching is just opening up what the Book says. How does explaining the meaning of scripture have anything to do with authority? If a woman says that the Bible says thus and so, a man does not have to believe her or obey what she says. If a woman teaches English to immigrant men, is she somehow usurping authority over them? These things make no real sense to a thinking person.

It appears that there is no logical reason why women should be excluded by the Holy Spirit from giving service to the Lord as a minister. There is nothing about the feminine nature in itself that

would make it repugnant to the Lord or would make women incapable of service. Whatever qualities that may exist in a particular woman that would make her unsuitable for ministry would be found to be equally unsuitable in men. So it is not sensible to say that a retarded man may be permitted to preach but a brilliant woman may not simply on the basis of sex.


If one is able and willing to see that it is Satan that benefits from this refusal to admit women into the ranks of the ministry and if one can find no reasonable and logical reason for excluding them, it follows that the doctrine is suspect. I said "able and willing" because I have found that most men that consider women's ministry to be unscriptural are exceedingly biased against it. This bias generally is the result of having been raised in a church that rejects women's ministry. So it is like the bias of a person that was raised in a home where blacks and Jews are despised. It is not the result of logic but of upbringing. Nevertheless, this kind of bias is very difficult to uproot and many times the person would prefer to go to hell than to cast it out of his heart.

I would like to emphasize the importance of comparing scripture with scripture. Almost all false doctrine is the result of taking verses out of context or not making sure that the interpretation is consistent with all other verses concerned with the same subject and with the tenor of the Bible as a whole. An example would be found in Jesus' words where he says that we must hate father, mother, wife, husband, children, and even our own lives. Clearly, to take this statement literally would violate the rules of consistency because the Lord elsewhere in the Bible commands us to love father and mother and to be obedient to them in the Lord. In addition, He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, implying that we must and do love ourselves.

Another example of the results of not comparing scripture with scripture and making sure that one's interpretations are consistent and non-contradictory is the case of the ninth chapter of Romans. If all that one had was that chapter and the rest of the Bible was lost, one would have to conclude that Calvin's doctrine of predestination is scriptural and correct. But in order to believe that doctrine one must totally ignore almost the whole of the Bible which makes it plain that Jesus came to save sinners, that He died for the whole world, and that it is not God's will that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. Thus, to avoid this contradiction one must find another interpretation of that chapter. And fortunately there is an interpretation of that chapter that maintains consistency with the rest of the Bible.

Now concerning women in vocal ministry there are only two places in the Bible to my knowledge that the opponents point to that seems to show that women may not expect to be gifted with the call to preach because they are prohibited from speaking in the church. The first is found in I Corinthians 14:34, 35 and the second in I Timothy 2:11, 12. If there are any others, I know them not.

This paucity in itself should put us on our guard because one would expect that a doctrine that is so important would be found throughout the Bible. After all, this doctrine has effects that are far beyond the effects of most doctrines. It is so far reaching that it eliminates nearly 2/3 of all Christians from vocal service to the Lord.

When one considers that in the Bible there are 66 books, that in these books there are 1585 chapters, and that in these chapters there are about 32,000 verses, it is absolutely incredible and mind-boggling that there would be four verses and only four verses that would command something that so profoundly affects the churches ability to fulfill our Lord's Great Commission. Thus, one is forced to the conclusion that this prohibition is not logical and, consequently, it is very suspect.



Let us consider the following question. Does the Bible clearly, and in many places, indicate that God has provided for women to preach and are there examples in the Bible that show plainly that God has called and used women in this vocal ministry? If the answer is yes, then this would indicate that one must find an interpretation of the two negative scriptures referred to above that is not inconsistent with these facts, which in this case would mean that God approves of women preachers. In other words, for the Bible to be something that one may depend upon, it cannot contradict itself. This is one of the very basic rules of logic. It is also one of the most basic tenets in courts of law around the world that the testimony of a witness who contradicts himself cannot be received or believed. God and His Bible must pass the same rules of logic or else we cannot rest our never-dying souls on His word.


In order to properly examine the scriptures we must clarify the meaning of some words that are used in the Bible. The word "preacher" is only used ten times in the KJV, six in the Old and four in the New Testament. The Hebrew word is "qoheleth" and the Greek word is khrux (pronounced kay-rux). Both of these words mean a herald or a public proclaimer, thus, a preacher. The English word that is normally used in both Testaments in reference to one who declares the mind of God is "prophet."

The Bible says very little about preachers and a lot about prophets. And the reason is very evident. God is not interested in what man has to say or what he thinks. God is not interested in man's doctrines and interpretations. God wants all men everywhere to know what He has to say about things because He is the one that is going to judge the living and the dead. A preacher may preach out of his own head but a prophet must receive the word of the Lord and declare that.

The word for prophet in the Hebrew Old Testament is nabi'. This word occurs over 300 times and is always used to denote a person, male or female, that is called by God to be His spokesman or a person that falsely claims that call. And that is what the word actually means, i.e., a herald or spokesman. The rabbi scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 250 BC, when translating the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, chose the word profhthV (pronounced pro-fay'-tays) as that which best rendered the meaning of nabi into the Greek. Indeed, the word profhthV does mean a herald or public proclaimer. And our translators have chosen not to translate this word profhthV, but instead they transliterated it and formed a new word in the English that sounds much like the Greek word, i.e., prophet.

Let us look at Nehemiah 6:7 in which we see clearly what a prophet does. "And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem." And also in Jonah 3:1, 2 we can see what God appointed this prophet to do, "And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." So it is very clear and plain that preaching God's message is what prophets do and that a prophet is just a preacher in the true sense.

So then we see that a prophet, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, is a person that is called by God to declare His mind to the people. In the Old Testament he often did this by saying, "Thus saith the LORD," and then declaring almost verbatim what God had given him to say. At other times he would merely paraphrase what God had given him, that is, he would say it in his own words. But in both cases this was true prophecy.

These declarations may foretell the future, but generally that is not the case. Most of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and others, had nothing to do with foretelling the future except to warn the people that if they did not repent of their sins they would have the judgments of God fall upon them. Thus we need not expect that a prophet in the New Testament would be a foreteller of the future except in the same way. Prophets receive messages from God and deliver those messages to the people. A true, God-called preacher today receives messages from God and delivers them to the the church and to sinners. A person that hammers out a sermon on the anvil of his own learning and his own knowledge of the Bible is not a true New Testament preacher or prophet.


Now let us examine the Bible to see what the answer to the above question is. Let us remember that the question is, "Does the Bible clearly, and in many places, indicate that God has provided for women to preach and are there examples in the Bible clearly showing that God has called and used women in this vocal ministry of preaching?" We will begin by examining the Old Testament to see if God called women to perform the task of a prophetess. This is easily done by using a good concordance like Strong's or Young's.

The word for prophetess is the female form of nabi' which is nebiah. This word occurs six times in the Old Testament. The first is found in Ex 15:20 where we are told that Miriam, the sister of Moses, was a prophetess. This means that she spoke to the people for the Lord. We do not know what she said because it is not recorded in the Bible. But it is clear that she did preach.

The next place is Judges 4:4 where we are told that Deborah was a prophetess. Not only was she a prophetess, but she was a judge or ruler. And let us add that she was a married woman. So it appears that God not only called this married woman to be a preacher, but He also appointed her to be a judge and ruler over His people. In other words, God gave her authority over all of the men and women of Israel.

But this was not all. Because Barak lacked the courage to carry out her commands, God made her a general over all of the male soldiers of Israel and gave her one of the greatest victories that Israel ever had. So, unless God is fickle and changeable, a thing that is unthinkable, this must be a very telling blow against the opponents of women ministers.

Then we come to II Kings 22:14 and II Chronicles 34:22. These both tell us of Huldah the prophetess that dwelt in the college at the temple in Jerusalem and no doubt was a teacher there. She was married to Shallum, the keeper of the wardrobe. She was held in such high esteem that when Josiah wanted to know the word of the Lord concerning the Book of the Law that had just been found he bypassed Jeremiah who was dwelling in Jerusalem at that time and consulted Huldah.

The word of the LORD came to her and she told Josiah what God said. Clearly, God chose a woman to speak through. He could have refused to give them an answer and they would have gone to Jeremiah to find the mind of God. But it seems that God did not find it odious to speak through this godly and pious woman.

In Nehemiah 6:14 we find that Nehemiah tells us of a prophetess Noadiah that was a false prophetess, one that was hired to tell him that God wanted him to do that which would have been cowardly. This is very interesting because it proves that prophetesses were very common in Israel, so common that there were false prophetesses as well as true ones. Finally, from Isaiah 8:3 we see that Isaiah married a prophetess. We do not know her name but it is plain that she was a prophetess.


Going into the New Testament we are told in Luke 1:41-55 that when Mary, being pregnant with the Lord, entered the house of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and they both prophesied. It is obvious that the Lord was not at all embarrassed to speak those wonderful prophecies through those two women. And these prophecies are among the most beautiful in the Bible.

In Luke 2:36-38 we are told that when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated that there was an ancient woman that lived in the temple whose name was Anna. Here is a clear statement about her, "And there was one Anna, a prophetess... And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" Clearly, she was a prophetess and just as clearly she spoke to all, both men and women, concerning the Lord.

Now we come to the Church Age which had its commencement on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 believers gathered together in the upper room. In Acts 1:13 we are told explicitly that all of the remaining apostles were met together, and "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." So we see that there were women present in the upper room. This is important to remember.

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on everybody that was present in the upper room. They all came forth from the room and began to praise God and testify and preach in various languages to the crowd that gathered. Then Peter stood up and said, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel."

He meant this preaching and praising God and declaring the wonderful works of God. Then Peter quotes Joel, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."

It is very evident that Joel said that there would be a time when God would pour out of His Spirit on both men and women and that not only would the men prophecy but so also would the women. And Peter assured the crowd that this was what was happening right before their eyes. So it is obvious that the women that were in the upper room were prophesying as well as the men. Thus, on that great and memorable day, the day that the Church was born, God did not find it repulsive to speak through those pious women that had followed His dear Son in His ministry.

From this it is certain that women did preach on the Day of Pentecost. But did women continue to preach during the apostolic days? In order to determine this we will continue through the Book of Acts. It is certainly true that the Church was dominated by male preachers, as it has always been. That is not the question at issue. But it is also apparent that women did preach in the early church because we are told in Acts 21:8, 9 that many years later when Paul was in route to Jerusalem and when he came to Caesarea that, "The next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy."

Isn't the Bible wonderful? There is no doubt about it that it always explains itself fully. Nearly thirty years after the Day of Pentecost we find that there were four women preachers in the church at Caesarea. There is no chance of error here. And about 250 years later the early church fathers tell us that one of these daughters worked in Ephesus with the apostle John. Apparently one remained in Caesarea and, as I recall, the other two lived in Alexandria. According to Eusebius they all remained virgins until death, having chosen to dedicate themselves to the ministry.

In his epistles the apostle Paul mentions several women that labored with him in the Gospel. "And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life." Philippians 4:3. The Greek word used for the women referred to here is sunaqlew (pronounced soon-ath-lay'-oh) which means "to fight or work together with." It is composed of two words, sun which means "with, in company with, along with, together with" and aqlew from which comes our word "athlete" and refers to the strenuous efforts of an athlete in wrestling or racing. Paul classifies them as fellow laborers. Thus, they were preachers of the Gospel, fighting by his side against the kingdom of darkness.

In his epistle to the Romans in the sixteenth chapter he salutes three women who he said labored much with him in the Lord. "Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord." These three women were tireless workers in the Gospel. That they were preachers like Paul is evident because Paul uses the Greek word kopiaw (pronounced co-pee-ah'-oh, from which comes our English word "copious"), which means "work, work hard, labor, become tired, grow weary," which is the same word that he uses elsewhere in speaking of his own and other preachers' labors in the Gospel.

Finally, Paul speaks of Phebe who is visiting them at Rome and perhaps even carried the letter to them. She is from the church at Cenchrea and apparently has come to preach to them. Paul says, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also." Romans 16:1, 2. Now let us examine this carefully to get a fuller understanding of it.

The translators call her a servant of the church, but the Greek is diakonoV (pronounced di-ah'-ko-nos) which is the word used throughout the New Testament to mean a minister, deacon, or deaconess. It is the word that Paul uses for Timothy, Tychicus, Titus, and his other ministers. So there is absolutely no reason to suppose that he means anything different here (other than a predisposition to unwarranted bias against women preachers). Then the translators say that "she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also." But this English word succor implies the kind of help that one gives to aid in sickness or distress. However, Young's Literal Translation gives a totally different meaning where he says, "for she also became a leader of many, and of myself."

Several of the early church fathers mention Phebe and her untiring labors for the spread of the Gospel. Among them is Chrysostom the bishop of Constantinople. This man understood Greek better than present day scholars because it was his mother tongue. And he says that Paul calls her a preacher. Chrysostom says that she spent many years traveling all around the known part of the world ministering and helping to support Gospel efforts, apparently being a wealthy woman, and was famous in the church.

So it is clear from what is said above that the answer to the our question is yes. We have seen many examples where God not only made provision in both the Old Testament and the New Testament to use women in the ministry as prophets or preachers, but He also did use them in a very eminent manner to His glory and to the salvation of souls. Consistency demands that all scriptures be interpreted in such a way that this fact be recognized.



Let us now consider another important question, "Has God used women in the ministry since the Reformation?" As our first example we will look in the 17th century when the Lord broke forth upon the people of England in that great movement of God called Quakerism. This movement spread throughout England and into America. There are clear records of many eminent women upon whom God poured out of His Spirit and endued them with the power from on high, women that were instrumental in the salvation of many through their powerful preaching. It is recommended that the interested person read Sewell's "The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the People of God called Quakers." Many accounts are given of women preaching with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

Again in the 18th century God manifested His power through many women preachers among the Methodists. An example is a woman preacher named Mary Taft who for many years was a preacher among them and saw thousands of people saved from sin and brought to the Lord. Wherever she preached, men and women would be deeply smitten for their sins and would often weep and groan while she yet spoke. It is estimated that from among her converts there were about 200 men that became Methodist ministers.

In the 19th century we find that God endued many women in the Salvation Army with that most glorious power from on high. The most eminent among them being the illustrious Catherine Booth, the co-founder of the Salvation Army. This most pious and godly woman was perhaps the greatest woman preacher that the world has ever seen. She literally preached to thousands of people of all ranks. It would be impossible to know how many people converted to the Lord through the manifestation of the Spirit in her preaching.

Let that person beware who would facetiously pass off these wondrous displays of God's power as though they are meaningless. One must remember that salvation is a work of the Holy Ghost and not of a man or a woman. If people were saved through the preaching of these women, it is simply because God used them for that purpose. And if God elected to use them in this powerful manner to the saving of thousands of souls, let him that would despise it beware lest he be guilty of despising the Holy Ghost, whose work it was.

I could go on with a list of hundreds of women that God has chosen to gift and use in the ministry to His glory, but I do not wish this to become a book. So I will stop at this point and turn the discussion to what Paul himself had to say about women preachers.



I do not wish to be overly repetitive but I feel constrained to remind the reader once again of the necessity of always comparing scripture to scripture in order to avoid mistakes in interpretation. Proper interpretation demands that contradictions must be eliminated. After all, if Paul is made to contradict himself, then how can he be believed? Would the reader believe a witness on the witness stand in a court if he is found to contradict himself in his testimony? Of course, none of us would believe such a witness. It is for this reason that we cannot accept Paul's claim to be an apostle nor his claims to the apostolic authority of his writings as being by inspiration of the Holy Ghost unless he is free from all internal contradictions.

Let us begin by first seeing what Paul has to say about women's behaviour in church services. This we find in I Corinthians 11:2-5, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven."

Let us closely examine what Paul says here. To properly interpret what Paul says in one place we must have a clear understanding of what he has said elsewhere. Because this translation was made almost 400 years ago we often find expressions that either we do not understand or that have changed in their meanings. In general this is not a problem. But in resolving disputes it often does make a difference. Thus, at times we must see what the Greek text says because Paul wrote his letters in Greek. In this case where Paul uses the word "ordinances" this is from the Greek word paradosiV (pronounced para-do'-sis) which means "teachings that are to be handed down from generation to generation." So Paul commends them for their willingness to be subject to his teachings.

Next, Paul clarifies something that he had taught them when he was present with them—how men and women are supposed to dress when they pray or preach in the services and why it is this way. In verse three he makes sure that they understand what is commonly called the chain of command, i.e., the line of authority. God the Father is Christ's head, Christ is the man's head, and the man is the woman's head.

Because of this chain of command they were to apparel themselves in such a way that they would not violate the rules of decorum at Corinth. Now please understand that he was not making this the rule for all places because the rules of decorum may differ from place to place. For instance, in Judea among the Jews the men always preached with their heads covered. As a matter of fact, the Jews still follow that custom. But in Corinth it was considered unseemly for men to do so. Equally, it was considered unseemly for women to speak publicly with their heads uncovered. So verse four tells men that when they stand up to pray or preach they must not have a covering on their heads. Then in verse five Paul instructs the women that when they stand up to pray or to preach they must have their heads covered.

It is probable that Paul writes these instructions because of questions that he received from the brethren that came from Corinth to report to him certain problems that had arisen in the church. It does not appear that he wrote these things purposely as a definitive statement that women may preach, but only to clarify that they must be covered when they do. It is obvious that he did not find it strange that women were preaching because he makes no remarks that would show that they are out of order to do so. So, clearly and with no doubt whatsoever, Paul approves of women preaching and praying in meetings. I want to emphasize this most important point. It is clear and there can be no doubt whatsoever that Paul here gives his stamp of approval to women preaching and praying in public meetings.

Even though the purpose of what he says is not to certify that women may preach and pray in church, it is evident, from what he says, that they may indeed do so. If women were not allowed to preach and pray under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it would not make sense for him to tell them that when they do these things they must cover their heads. He would merely have said that women cannot stand up to pray or preach because it is forbidden for them to speak in church. But that is not what Paul said. He very plainly instructs them that when they stand up in church to pray or to preach they must wear a head covering. Thus, there is no doubt that Paul approves of women praying and preaching in the meetings of the church provided that they act with proper decorum.

It cannot be doubted that Paul acknowledges here the woman's right to preach because the word that is translated "prophesy" is profhteuw which means "to proclaim God's message, preach; prophesy, predict; speak God's message intelligibly." This is the very same word used in the preceding verse about men. Thus, Paul is acknowledging that women may pray and preach exactly the same as men. He makes no difference between them, except that the man is to do so with head uncovered and the woman is to have her head covered.

Please mark this down in your notebook. Here in the 11th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians Paul clearly says that a woman may preach in church meetings. There is not one word written by Paul here that would indicate that he is lying and that three chapters later he is going to spring it on those unsuspecting Corinthian women that they must not speak anything whatsoever in church, that he had made a mistake in chapter 11. Paul never made mistakes when he wrote the scriptures because it was not really Paul that was doing the writing, but it was the Spirit of God. Anything else that Paul says must be interpreted in such a way that he does not contradict these clear declarations that a woman may pray and preach in the services.



Let us now look at I Corinthians 14:33-35, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 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. 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." I included verse 33 in order that the reader can see that Paul is speaking about confusion and unruliness in the meetings. That verse alone shows that he was not speaking about preaching or praying, but about unruly behavior on the part of some of the women.

It is absolutely clear that in chapter 11 Paul acknowledges that women may pray and preach. So these verses cannot mean that women may not pray and preach or Paul would be guilty of the grossest of contradictions. He must mean something else.

In order to see what Paul is talking about, let us ask ourselves three questions. 1) Who are the women, 2) what kind of silence is commanded, and 3) what kind of speaking is not allowed? To answer these questions, let us examine some of the Greek words that Paul used. The New Testament was not written in English but in Greek. Often the translators failed to bring out the true contextual meaning of a word because they did not understand it or because in those days it was not important. For this reason an exegesis often requires an in depth analysis of a word.


To answer the first question we must look at the word that is translated "women." The Greek word is gunh (pronounced goo'-nay) which may be either "woman or wife." But looking at verse 35 it becomes clear that Paul is talking about wives because he says that they are to ask their husbands when they get home. Thus, we may say that Paul's admonition is not directed toward all women but to wives in particular.

From verse 33 it appears that many of the wives were causing a disturbance in the meetings by continually asking their husbands what the preacher was talking about. They sincerely wanted to learn and, consequently, they would cause a disturbance by asking their husbands for an explanation. Thus, Paul is laying down rules of conduct that will eliminate the problem by telling them to wait until they get home to ask their husbands.


To answer the second question we must determine what kind of silence is commanded here. There are silences and there are silences. When a judge pounds his gavel on his bench and calls for silence in the court room, he does not mean that the lawyers and the witnesses may not speak. He means that the people in the gallery observing the proceedings may not make a disturbance by talking to each other.

If this is the kind of silence that Paul is calling for, then this would in no way prohibit women from preaching any more than it would stop witnesses from testifying. But if it means total silence, as the English word indicates, then it would mean that women may not sing, say amen, or speak in the Sunday School. It would eliminate any and all vocal participation in the church services, a rather strange restriction, to say the least. As a matter of fact, this would unchristianize all women because we Christians are commanded to praise the Lord at all times.

The word that is translated "silence" is sigaw (pronounced see-gah'-oh) and means "to be silent, to stop talking." It is interesting that this same word is used in verse 28 in which a tongues speaker is told that he is not to speak in tongues if there is no interpreter. This command was obviously given to avoid the disturbance of somebody speaking in a language that nobody can understand because it merely makes a disturbance. Thus it would appear that Paul is merely forbidding the wives to prattle while the service is going on.

There are four other places in the New Testament where this word occurs and in all cases it is translated "to hold one's peace." Let us look at each one so that we may get a better feeling for this word. The first occurs in Luke 20:26 where the Jews tried to trip up Jesus with some hard questions. After He answered them most astutely, it is said, "And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace." (I have italicized it so that you can see where the word occurs). A careful and thoughtful reading of this will show that sigaw here merely means that they stopped asking Him questions. It does not even imply that they stopped talking to each other.

Next we go to Acts 12:17 where it is said, "But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison." The brethren were so excited and amazed to see Peter out of jail that they were all talking at the same time and he held up his hand to get them to stop talking. As long as they were making that disturbance, he would not be able to explain what happened.

The third place is in Acts 15:13 where it is said, "Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." Once again it is clear from the context that it merely refers to the cessation of speech so that everybody could hear what was said.

And the fourth and last occurrence of this word is found in I Corinthians 14:30, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace." Once again, it is obvious from the context that it means that the first speaker stops talking so that there will not be a disturbance and to avoid confusion. If two people were preaching at the same time, it would cause great confusion and nobody would learn anything from the Lord. Thus, one was supposed to stop talking so that the other could be clearly heard.

Finally, a look at verse 35 makes it clear that Paul is not talking about preaching or praying. After all, when one preaches or prays it is not for the purpose of learning. No preacher preaches so that he may learn. To the contrary, he preaches so that he may impart knowledge to others. Thus, Paul is referring to the habit that these uneducated Corinthian wives had of disturbing the meetings while somebody was preaching by continually asking their husbands what was meant or what was being said. It is for this reason that he tells them to wait till they get home to ask their husbands.


The Greek word translated speaking in this place is a catch-all word that is used in many ways. The word is lalew (pronounced la-lay'-oh) and appears to come from the Greek word laloV that means "talkative." The Greek dictionary says that lalew has the basic or root meaning of "prattling or chit-chatting" although it is not always used that way. It gives the primary meaning as "to talk." In other words, a better translation in most cases would be talk rather than speak, since the English word speak often implies a rather formal communication, whereas the word lalew seems to indicate a more informal kind of speech.

I wish to remind the reader that the word lalew here cannot mean praying or prophesying since Paul already gave approval to women to pray and prophesy in chapter 11. So from what has been said thus far, we may say that Paul is telling the Corinthians wives, most of whom were uneducated, that they must stop disturbing the meetings by talking while others were preaching or praying. In other words, they were to "hold their peace" and wait until they get home to ask their husbands what the preacher means. This cannot logically be construed to mean that women may not pray or preach when moved to do so under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.


The other verse frequently used by the opponents of women ministers is found in I Timothy 2:11-15. "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing..." Once again this must be talking about a married woman because it says that she shall be saved in childbearing. It is clear from the context that Paul is referring to the behavior of a married woman in her home and relative to her husband, having nothing whatsoever to do with her role in the church.

An examination of the original Greek is also rather revealing of Paul's intent. The word translated "silence" in both verses here is hsucia (pronounced hay-su-key'-a) which means the kind of silence associated with a quiet spirit. It does not mean the ceasing from all speech but rather to be of a quiet spirit.

This is verified by the words of Peter in I Peter 3:4 in his instructions concerning the behavior of wives, "But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." This word "quiet" is hsucioV (pronounced hay-su-key'-os and meaning quiet or peaceful) from which is derived the word hsucia which we have discussed above. Paul is merely giving the same instructions to wives.

From what is said here it must be obvious and clear to anybody but the most obtuse and biased person that this scripture has not one thing to do with a woman being forbidden to preach under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the verses in I Corinthians 14 Paul is talking about unruly and talkative wives gabbling and prattling in the services and causing a disturbance. We know that this must be so because he has already put his OK on the practice of women preaching and praying publicly in chapter 11, so he certainly would no contradict himself so blatantly. And those verses in his letter to Timothy have nothing to do with behavior in church services but rather in the relation of a wife to her husband. It instructs them that they must not be bossy and try to run the show in the home.


Let me end this treatise by saying that I am a man and, therefore, I have nothing to gain and no axe to grind. It would not matter to me personally if God did indeed forbid women to preach. But I want the truth. And I want Jesus Christ to get glory. If God calls a woman to preach and she is despised by the male brethren, then they are not despising her, but they are despising God and they will answer for it at the Judgment. And if God has gifted women to preach in the Bible days and there is no clear revelation forbidding them to do so, then I must assume that God still will gift women to preach. Like Moses I can honestly say that I would that God would call all of the brethren, both men and women, and even the children, to preach the everlasting Gospel so that the glory of Jesus Christ would spread over the whole earth to the salvation of every soul in the world. Clearly, the great apostle to the Gentiles has made it plain that under the Gospel,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28