Men and Women in the Body of Messiah: Answering 50 Crucial Questions – Part 1











reproduced from the publication Men and Women in the Body of Messiah: Answering Crucial Questions

Anyone who receives a broad-based theological education today, will quickly find that there are a number of issues upon which scholars, congregational leaders, and laypersons not only disagree about—but will starkly divide over. One of the biggest, divisive issues in contemporary evangelical Protestant theology, involves women in ministry. There are Christian denominations which support females serving alongside of males as co-leaders of the assembly, ordained as pastors, and there are other Christian denominations which strongly oppose females serving in such a capacity. When it comes to marital relationships, there are those who support marriages where husband and wife are co-leaders of the family, and there are others who believe that a husband leads the family while the wife follows.

More books, articles, analyses, refutations, counter-refutations, blogs, and op-ed pieces, have been composed on men and women in the Body of Messiah, than one frequently knows what to do with! Over the years, I have gathered and collected many pieces of information on debates over women in ministry, husbands and wives in marriage, and the differing and complex feelings of people involved—which have certainly overwhelmed me at times. As someone who likes to be well-informed and logically sort through the different perspectives involving a debate like how males and females should relate to one another in the community of God—I have had to definitely pace myself and choose my words carefully. Like many on both sides of the discussion, I have been affected by emotionalism, and cannot say that I have never been offended by some of the positions I have seen represented or opinions expressed.

Evangelical Christian complementarianism is an ideology,[1] which on the whole, has been responsible for seeing many capable females being restricted from not only high leadership positions in the Body of Messiah, but also placed into a secondary role in the family. Evangelical Christian egalitarianism has helped to see many capable females raised up as leaders and teachers,[2] and has also greatly enhanced the effectiveness of many marriages where husbands and wives share leadership responsibilities and look out for each other as equal partners. Each position, for sure, thinks that their point of view is the one which is more Biblical. Certainly, there are many different interrelated topics and issues associated with males and females in the Body of Messiah, regarding sexual conduct, dating and courting, as well as divorce and remarriage. However, the considerable bulk of discussions involving men and women concern leadership and teaching within the ekklēsia, and how husbands and wives are to relate to one another within the family. Has a complementarian ideology truly aided the community of faith, or is an egalitarian ideology something especially worthy of consideration?

Why I Changed My Mind About Women

Within today’s broad Messianic movement, there are generally two groups of people we encounter, who at one point in their lives made a significant change or alteration in their thinking. For Jewish Believers, they had to make a conscious decision that Yeshua of Nazareth was the prophesied Messiah of Israel, and that no matter what the potential repercussion might be from their Jewish family and peers of trusting in Him, that they had no choice but to receive Him into their lives. For many non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement, from evangelical Protestant backgrounds, they had to decide that God was not finished with Israel, that they needed to reconnect with their spiritual heritage in the Tanach or Old Testament, and that they needed to reevaluate many customary interpretations of the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament which were both anti-Torah and anti-Jewish. It is safe to say that a majority of people in today’s Messianic community once believed things, that they have now changed their mind about—especially when being presented some alternative points of view and perspectives, which they have had to review from Scripture and take before the Lord in prayer and contemplation.

One of the big issues that has changed much of evangelical Protestantism over the past three to four decades (1970s-present) has been the steady acceptance of ordained female clergy, namely as those designated to pastor local churches, with a variety of denominations. While questions will always abound as to the quality and temperament of such female pastors—the same as they should for male pastors—it is witnessed from a panoply of perspectives, how various theologians and evangelical leaders of note, have transitioned from a complementarian perspective to an egalitarian perspective. Having been either reared in a spiritual tradition where males exclusively led and taught the people of God, and/or having once theologically defended a complementarian perspective which limited the role of females both in the assembly and in the home, there are prominent, broadly conservative theologians, who were steadily led to consider an egalitarian, inclusive perspective from the Holy Scriptures. Some of this came from diligent study and review of God’s Word, some of this came from seeing capable females dismissed when their talents should have been utilized, and some of this even came out of various marital experiences.[3]

Like everyone who has approached the issues of women in ministry or males and females in the home, I am affected by my experiences. Growing up in a professional, middle class, American family, I not only come from a long line of strong men and strong women—but most especially accomplished men and women. Going back to the late Nineteenth Century, all of my grandparents and great-grandparents attended college. My mother was raised being taught that she could do whatever she set her mind to, even though she was female. My parents, Kimball and Margaret McKee, had a marriage of not only continual communication, but shared responsibility, both as business owners and as co-leaders of the family, and they also served the Lord together in many of the activities and programs accessible via our local church in Northern Kentucky. At no time in my evangelical Protestant experience, was my mother ever held back or limited from doing something via our church, unless she did not want to do something.

Following my father’s death in 1992, my mother’s marriage to Mark Huey in 1994, and our new family’s involvement in the Messianic movement in 1995—that my mother would no longer have the opportunities that our previous evangelical Protestant experience afforded her, has been a reality to the present day in 2017-2018. On the whole, today’s Messianic movement does not have that many opportunities for women to serve beyond various helps ministries. And, today’s Messianic movement is complementarian in terms of marital relationships, as it widely upholds an ideology of husbands being the leader of their families, with their wives in submission to following such leaders. In my Messianic experience of 1995-2004, being involved with various congregations and exposed to different leaders and their ministries, I certainly saw a faith community almost entirely led by males.

When Outreach Israel Ministries started in 2003, issues involving men and women in the Body of Messiah were not very high on our list of things to address. On the contrary, most of the things we were eager to write and speak about involved our family’s transition from evangelical Protestantism into the Messianic movement, and our adoption of a Torah obedient lifestyle—especially in terms of observing things like the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, appointed times or moedim, and a kosher-style of diet. We were asked far more questions about the Apostle Paul’s teachings on the Law of Moses, than we were about his teachings on women in the assembly. Very early on in Messianic ministry, I honestly would not have foreseen ever really having to address issues involving men and women in the Body of Messiah.

As an aspiring teacher, things definitely shifted for me when I started attending Asbury Theological Seminary in January 2005. I did not attend seminary with the intention of permitting myself to be “indoctrinated” by the proverbial “establishment,” nor did I make it my purpose to force some of my distinct Messianic positions and viewpoints onto the faculty. I attended seminary to acquire skills to interpret and analyze the Holy Scriptures. While these skills certainly involved original language studies and becoming familiar with a wide array of exegetical tools, it also concerned becoming informed of discussions and debates which were not present in most Messianic Bible studies, Torah studies, or congregational messages.

From 2003-2005, I would be best described as holding to a minimalist complementarian model involving men and women in the Body of Messiah. I certainly believed that my mother and sisters could be used far more than they were, in the Messianic community. I certainly saw Mark and Margaret Huey function as effective equals in their marriage, although I would have conceded that the final say on a small handful of issues would probably be best left to the husband. In 2006, as I continued in my seminary studies—at what was an egalitarian institution, which openly supported ordination of females—I realized that in order to be fair, I would need to hear out their position, and that I should not just haphazardly disregard my instructors. I was open to hearing other options. In 2007, as a direct result of taking New Testament Introduction—and hearing a perspective of 1 Timothy 2 that I had never encountered before—I crossed the aisle from being a minimalist complementarian, to being egalitarian. In early 2008, I started acquiring a wide number of evangelical egalitarian books and resources, and from that time to the present, have been open and transparent about my views on men and women in the Body of Messiah.

I believe that males and females should serve as co-leaders and teachers of the assembly, and that husbands and wives should serve as co-leaders of the family in submission to each other.

I recognize that for many who are complementarian, their immediate objection to using females in a greater capacity within the ekklēsia, is often based on bad experiences that many male leaders have had with females. While we are all influenced by our different experiences, so it is also important that we examine the different theological and spiritual factors at work within the hearts and minds of those within the faith community. For the most part, my transition from being a minimalist complementarian to an egalitarian in 2007 was due to theology and exegesis. My hesitation in waiting a full decade to address this formally, now in 2017-2018, was in realizing that I would have to counter a huge number of overly-inflated emotional arguments—and I would need to do this as rationally as possible.

The most frequent claim that I have heard over the years, against females serving as pastors, teachers, or leaders within the assembly, is that it means that liberals will be appointed to leadership. The fact on the ground is that there are more liberal males serving as rabbis, pastors, or professors of religion than anyone else in Judaism or Protestantism. It is true that female rabbis or pastors are going to be far more welcomed in liberal than conservative sectors, but it is hardly appropriate to stoke the fires of fearmongering, by suggesting that having women in positions of leadership and teaching in the local assembly will open up the floodgates to an acceptance of homosexuality and that we might as well just tear the Bible to shreds.[4] The female Priscilla was used to help mentor the male Apollos (Acts 18:26), and while a First Century businesswoman, was doubtlessly someone who embodied many of the characteristics complementarians like to laud from the Proverbs 31 woman.

Having had to wade through a great deal of data and “talk” over the debates involving women in ministry, for the better part of the past decade, I have become innately familiar with how many egalitarians have over-reacted, and have failed to be even-handed, in their interactions with complementarians. While egalitarians may rightly believe that they have been discriminated against by complementarians (and this can include egalitarian men, as well as women), organizations such as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood are hardly a cabal of spiritual fascists. Many complementarian theologians and pastors believe in respecting and looking out for women. It is entirely unfair and unreasonable to stoke the fires of fearmongering, by automatically assuming that an acceptance of a complementarian ideology where males lead the assembly and husbands lead the home—with females in a secondary capacity—automatically means the widescale practice by husbands and fathers of wife beatings and daughter rapings.[5]

My own personal decision of identifying and adhering to an egalitarian reading of Scripture, is principally guided by my wanting to see all men and women in the Body of Messiah, be all they can be in the Lord. I believe quite strongly in “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18), and that every man and woman, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), has particular gifts, talents, and skills to contribute to the well being of all within the faith community. I want today’s Messianic movement, in particular, to be beyond one-hundred percent effective, as we approach the final stretch of history before Yeshua’s return.

Answering 50 Crucial Questions

It does not take much to see that issues involving males and females in the Body of Messiah, is a huge, contemporary debate and divides many people. How does one best approach and gauge the different elements and components of men and women, how they should relate to one another, and what they can do in the ekklēsia? With the hundreds (and likely thousands, too) of pieces of information available on complementarianism and egalitarianism, how does a broadly conservative egalitarian, such as myself, best express his ideology?

The majority of the people with whom I interact in ministry, would identify with some form of complementarian ideology. They do have legitimate questions and concerns about what an egalitarian ideology—which would see females included within the leadership and teaching structure of local congregations, and husbands and wives as co-leaders of the home—would do to the present Messianic movement. I have legitimate questions and concerns about what a complementarian ideology will to do to the future Messianic movement, if some serious changes are not implemented soon. What is the best way to address the different questions and concerns? This is probably why it has taken me ten years to more formally address this subject matter.

Because of how interconnected both Bible passages and different sociological issues are, to the subject of men and women in the Body of Messiah, this analysis is going to closely follow the discussion present in 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016) by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. These two theologians are some of the most well-known complementarian voices in evangelical Protestantism. In my experience, among Messianic people engaged with evangelical thought and scholarship, who adhere to some form of complementarianism, Piper and Grudem are theologians who are likely to be appealed to or referenced in some way. Their 50 Crucial Questions publication is relatively inexpensive, retailing at around $9.99, which I think will make this discussion easily accessible to the layperson as well.

As I have reviewed 50 Crucial Questions, I cannot deny that there are many things that I do agree with Piper and Grudem about in their analysis. While as an egalitarian, I believe that in the post-resurrection era there has been a leveling of the playing field between men and women in leadership positions—I hardly believe that men and women being one in Messiah means that they join together into some form of unisex. I agree with Piper and Grudem, who state how it is a problem when, “a female reporter demands access to a male locker room, when homosexual men adopt babies and use surrogate nursing bras, when female prison guards do body searches on male inmates, and when popular rock stars reverse every sexual distinction.”[6]

Males and females have anatomical differences in their reproductive anatomy, to be sure. But, do the differences between men and women relate to intellectual capacity? Are women more easily deceived than men? Are women less capable than men, especially in thinking and reasoning through issues? Complementarians and egalitarians will often divide over whether or not men and women have the same brain capacity, or whether men are intrinsically smarter than women.

In our discussion on 50 Crucial Questions, we will be tracing a thread from Genesis to Revelation on whether or not something significant was lost between men and women at the Fall in Eden, that something has been in the process of being restored to human beings via the process of salvation history, and most especially whether or not in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) it is witnessed that there are examples of women being used in new and key capacities.

I do not believe that complementarians are “unsaved,” because whether men and women work together on a level playing field or not, is not a salvation issue. Whether or not, as the Body of Messiah moves into the future, more and more people are willing to consider an egalitarian approach, is an effectiveness issue. Are we going to appreciate and implement the gifts and talents of skills of some people (men), or the gifts and talents and skills of all people (men and women)?


1. Why do you regard the issue of male and female roles as so important?

Both complementarians and egalitarians regard the issue of male and female roles as being important, and adherents of both ideologies tend widely consider those of the other persuasion to be quantitatively wrong—at least on key points. Some believe that the answer to there being tranquility and effectiveness in the Body of Messiah, is via the exclusion of females from positions of authority in both the assembly and in the home. Some believe that the answer to effectiveness, peace, and a sense of belonging for people in the Body of Messiah, is the equal inclusion of males and females in positions of authority in the assembly, and co-leadership of husbands and wives in the home. I make no apologies for being a firm supporter of the latter position.

Unfortunately, like many different theological issues, discussions that can transpire about men and women in the Body of Messiah, can quickly get out of control. Egalitarians can especially be found, because we are promoting some new interpretations and perspectives of Bible passages, at least at first, to be too dismissive of complementarians—without establishing enough common ground, and then, in an as civil a manner as possible, discuss differences of approach.

Piper and Grudem offer four reasons why they believe male and female roles are so important:

“Biblical truth and clarity in this matter are important because error and confusion over sexual identity lead to (1) marriage patterns that do not portray the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32); (2) parenting practices that do not train boys to be masculine or girls to be feminine; (3) homosexual tendencies and increasing attempts to justify homosexual alliances…and (4) patterns of unbiblical female leadership in the church.”[7]

Upon reading this, I immediately agree with reason #3, as my writings are affluent with statements issued against the current torrent witnessed from the homosexual agenda. Homosexuality is “against nature” (Romans 1:26), and is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22).[8]

Looking through some of Piper and Grudem’s other reasons, egalitarians would be in broad agreement that the relationship of husband and wife to one another in marriage (#1), are to in some way represent the relationship of Yeshua and the ekklēsia (Ephesians 5:31-32), the details of which they will discuss in further questions, which we will evaluate.

When Piper and Grudem talk about “parenting practices that do not train boys to be masculine or girls to be feminine” (#2), they raise a legitimate concern about how today, especially given the rise of trans-genderism, how there can be various young boys or girls—who very clearly have male or female anatomy—but who may think of themselves as being of the opposite gender. This can, to be sure, involve dimensions of psychology and human biochemistry that go well beyond the scope of our intended discussions. In terms of parenting and child-rearing, however, fathers and mothers do not need to permit their children to think that it is acceptable for a child of one gender, to think that they are actually of another gender, with that gender’s anatomy. Of course, debates can ensue as to whether or not male children can cook in the kitchen, or female children can play sports like softball. When growing up, my sister and I both played with Legos. Some of this, as we say in theology, is subject to interpretation.

The real debate, which garners the most attention, involves what complementarians like Piper and Grudem mean regarding “patterns of unbiblical female leadership in the church” (#3). All complementarians believe that senior positions in the assembly are to be reserved to those of the male gender. Some complementarians will be seen to permit various junior positions of leadership and teaching, to females, however. A number of complementarians, in terms of congregational leadership, while believing that males should occupy the offices of elder and deacon, also make the effort to see that the wives of elders and deacons play an active role in decision making. It is important that we recognize some of this diversity, as Piper and Grudem will be going into further detail about what they think, in later questions.

Piper and Grudem are also seen to express an extreme displeasure at Genesis 2:23 being eroded: “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’” Complementarians who believe in a strict and rigid differentiation of the sexes, see men and women serving as co-leaders of the ekklēsia and husbands and wives working together as co-leaders of the family, as a negation of Genesis 2:23. They read this passage as speaking to the difference that exists between man and woman. Obviously, males and females have different reproductive anatomy, and are not exactly the same. However, egalitarians such as myself, look at Adam’s exclaim of Genesis 2:23 another way. Far from highlighting the difference of man and woman, Adam recognizes that Eve came from him, and as such the two of them share a great deal in common. While Eve had different “equipment” than Adam had, Adam still calls her “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” This is a statement that emphasizes the similarities, and the intended bond and partnership, that Adam was to have with his wife Eve.


2. What do you mean by “unbiblical female leadership in the church” (in question 1)?

Complementarians and egalitarians are in disagreement over the inclusion or disclusion of women in positions of leadership in the assembly, and/or in the home. The position of theologians Piper and Grudem, in their 50 Crucial Questions, is that “We are persuaded that the Bible teaches that only men should be pastors and elders…So we believe it is unbiblical, and therefore detrimental, for women to assume this role.”[9]

Certainly, both complementarians and egalitarians should agree that males who occupy positions of teaching and leadership within the Body of Messiah—yet who have no love, forbearance, patience, or self-control (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)—are detrimental to the well being of the ekklēsia. Only males who are mature in the Lord, and can be able teachers (cf. James 3:1), should occupy positions of authority. Egalitarians, such as myself, who believe in the principle that females should occupy positions of authority as well, would require such females to be mature in the Lord, able teachers, and operating via the fruit of the Spirit—the same as any male.

Complementarians frequently conclude that the mere presence of females, in high positions of leadership within the Body of Messiah, is something detrimental. Egalitarians would argue from what is witnessed in the record of the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, that the presence of females occupying significant spiritual roles, requires a thorough reevaluation of limiting females from serving in positions of leadership and teaching. These include figures like Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9), who were prophets. Priscilla was a teacher to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26), she was a facilitator of a home fellowship (1 Corinthians 16:19), and a co-worker of Paul (Romans 16:3). Phoebe was a deacon (Romans 16:1-2). Lydia was a facilitator of a home fellowship (Acts 16:13-15, 40). Euodia and Syntyche were co-workers of Paul (Philippians 4:2-3). Junia was an apostle (Romans 16:7).

If it is witnessed in the Apostolic Writings that things had shifted following the arrival and resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth, with the Holy Spirit poured out on “all flesh” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17), and that presumably gifted females were taking on leadership responsibilities in the First Century ekklēsia—then it is detrimental to the well being and effectiveness of Body of Messiah today in the Twenty-First Century to have a closed approach to the women in our midst. Females have gifts and talents and perspectives that males frequently do not have, and far from seeing such things dismissed because of gender, many within today’s faith community need to seriously reconsider how the skills of women can be employed for the enrichment and betterment of us all.


3. Where in the Bible do you get the idea that only men should be the pastors and elders of the church?

Piper and Grudem express a common complementarian view, “The most explicit texts relating directly to the leadership of men in the church are 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34-36…Moreover the biblical connection between family and church strongly suggests that the headship of the husband at home leads naturally to the primary leadership of spiritual men in the church.”[10] It is commonly concluded that various passages from 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians are restrictive to females serving in positions of leadership and teaching, and from Ephesians 5 that the husband is the “head” and thus “leader” of the family.

Any responsible reader of the Epistles of either 1 Timothy or 1 Corinthians should concede that before modern applications of these letters can be deduced for God’s people today—that it first behooves us to understand what was communicated for Timothy in Ephesus and to the complicated series of circumstances faced by the Corinthians. Unfortunately, too few when encountering passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 would even think that Paul was writing to First Century circumstances and conditions, and not directly to Twenty-First Century Westerners—much less recognize that both of these passages have translation issues from the Greek source text into English, which are explored in not only technical commentaries, but also various study Bibles accessible to the layperson. (There has been strong debate over the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 among conservative textual scholars for over three decades.) Significant discussions have also ensued regarding the proper approach to the term kephalē in Ephesians 5. While kephalē literally means “head” (as in the physical head of a person or animal), it is intensely disputed whether “head” is always akin to “leader,” or can instead mean “source” or “origin.” Piper and Grudem do address some, but not all, of these factors in their 50 Crucial Questions.

As a conservative egalitarian, I am not someone who is just going to dismiss 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as somehow being deutero-Pauline, having been written two to three generations after Paul’s death.[11] I accept 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as genuinely Pauline, but I consider it to be instruction addressed to a complicated false teaching that had circulated in the vicinity of Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:4-5; 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:18), involving some deceived females, which Timothy had to see resolved—with some translation issues definitely needing to be evaluated. Unlike complementarians, I consider 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to be situational to 60s C.E. Ephesus, and not universal for all times and places. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which conservatives and liberals alike agree is genuinely Pauline, and address some form of head ornamentation on both men and women, is certainly a passage that involves some Corinth, or at least First Century specific, factors to be weighed, likewise including some translation issues.

As a result of my seminary education and ongoing studies, I have been aware of discussions involving kephalē meaning something other than “leader” in Ephesians 5 for over a full decade (2007-present). I have been a supporter of kephalē meaning “source” in some places where it is more customarily viewed as being “leader.” Most evangelical Protestant laypersons are not aware of any of this. But more challenging to our ongoing evaluations, in my experience, too many Messianic people frequently cannot diversify their English vocabulary enough to think that a term like “head” does not automatically mean “leader.” So, it can indeed be rather difficult, and at times impossible, to dialogue with many complementarians, about passages such as Ephesians 5:21-33. Hopefully, our ongoing discussions will be able to improve communication. While they will be seen to disagree, Piper and Grudem do recognize the presence of those who think that kephalē means “source” in Ephesians 5.


4. What about marriage? What do you mean by “marriage patterns that do not portray the relationship between Christ and the church” (in question 1)?

In the view of complementarians Piper and Grudem, “We believe the Bible teaches that God intends the relationship between husband and wife to portray the relationship between Christ and his church. The husband is to model the loving, sacrificial leadership of Christ, and the wife is to model the glad submission offered freely by the church.”[12] Conservative egalitarians would agree that the marriage bond between husband and wife is intended to depict something special that exists between the Messiah and the ekklēsia. As is first noted, the husband is supposed to demonstrate the self-sacrificial model of Yeshua, as indicated by Paul in Ephesians 5:25-29:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the [assembly] and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the [assembly] in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the [assembly].”

As is secondly noted, there is a submission of wives to their husbands expected within the marriage instruction delivered by Paul: “But as the [assembly] is subject to Messiah, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:25). Egalitarians agree with complementarians that wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

Where complementarians and egalitarians tend to significantly diverge in their approach to the marriage instructions in Ephesians 5, is how to weigh the opening statement of Ephesians 5:21: “be subject to one another in the fear of Messiah.” Egalitarians frequently promote an ideology of mutual submission, which while involving the submission of a wife to her husband, also involves the submission of a husband to his wife. The actions of submission of a husband to his wife, specifically require a husband to treat his wife the same as he would treat his own body (Ephesians 5:28), which would by necessity require him to approach his wife as his equal partner in marriage. Far from treating his wife as an object of sexual procurement, a godly husband is to greatly cherish and love his wife (Ephesians 5:29). While much is made today by complementarians about wives submitting to their husbands—egalitarians stress that more instruction is actually witnessed in Ephesians 5:21-31 about husbands submitting to their wives, including the prescription of dying for their wives if necessary.


5. What do you mean by “submission” (in question 4)?

The position represented by evangelical Protestant complementarians Piper and Grudem, about a wife’s submission to her husband, is described as follows:

“Submission refers to a wife’s calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is not an absolute surrender of her will. Rather, we speak of her disposition to yield to her husband’s guidance and her inclination to follow his leadership. Her absolute authority is Christ, not her husband..”[13]

It needs to be rightly commended that the complementarian perspective represented here, does affirm how wifely submission does not mean husbandly dominance—but most importantly how wives are not to submit to their husbands, when their husbands are in error against the ways of God and the Scriptures (referencing 1 Peter 3:1).

Egalitarians are too quick at times to respond to the complementarian model of one-way submission of a wife to a husband, without recognizing what at least some complementarians are trying to achieve in emphasizing male leadership in the home. In many complementarian church environments today, husbands and fathers take little or no interest or care in the running of the home. These husbands and fathers go to work, they bring in a paycheck, they come home, and they play absolutely no role in nurturing a loving relationship with their wives, nor do they take any interest in raising or disciplining their children—much less take any role in the spiritual well being of members of their families. In such a framework—where husbands and fathers minimally participate in family life—wives and mothers have to necessarily take a huge degree of responsibility in seeing important decisions made for the family, involving not only the daily responsibilities of child rearing, but also care for the spiritual well being of children, seeing that they are involved in a local faith community. Complementarians are correct to chastise and admonish husbands and fathers who are entirely passive in their marriages, and who leave their wives to do almost one-hundred percent of the child rearing.

What egalitarians are right to come against, is how with complementarians often telling wives to submit to their husbands, is that what this means is that husbands, by virtue of them being male, get to make all of the decisions for the family—usually without discussing significant matters with their wives. There are too many instances in complementarian families where the husband makes all of the decisions for the family, and once the decision is made and implemented, then his wife is expected to go along with what her husband has chosen. For many complementarians, females are too emotional, insecure, and unstable—with males being logical, practical, and reasonable—and so it is not only irresponsible, but actually non-Biblical, for a husband to consider the advice, opinions, and counsel of his wife. All of us have seen married couples, where the husband clearly makes all, or at least most, of the decisions for the family—without considering the views of his wife, but perhaps considering the views of male friends—and this has resulted in considerable resentment and bitterness building up from the wife toward the husband. At the very least, it may require marriage counseling, but in far too many cases it actually does result in separation and divorce.

An egalitarian model would not be seen to dismiss the necessary leadership of a husband and father within the family; husbands definitely need to play an active role in the lives of their wives and children, looking out for their well being both material and spiritual. An egalitarian model would be seen to uplift the leadership a wife and mother within the family, and would stress that significant decisions for the family should not be made exclusively by the husband, but by the mutual consensus of the husband and wife together, after significant discussion of an issue or matter. In alignment with the Ephesians 5:21 directive of husbands and wives being in submission to each other, is the further word of Philippians 4:5: “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” There are too many examples throughout contemporary evangelical complementarianism, where husbands make decisions without considering the thoughts of their wives—and where marital discord and tensions result. An egalitarian framework of mutual submission and decision making by the joint consultation and consensus of husband and wife together, should be seen as something which is to harbor far more cooperation, love, trust, and respect.


6. What do you mean when you call the husband “head” (in question 5)?

All forms of complementarianism strongly stress an ideology known as “male headship.” In the view of Piper and Grudem, this means “In the home, biblical headship refers to the husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision.”[14] Conservative egalitarians would certainly agree that husbands have various family responsibilities as they involve leadership, protection, and provision—but would also stress that wives too have a part to play in family leadership, protection, and provision.

It is to be seen, though, that egalitarians almost universally eschew the concept of “male headship,” as it is commonly labeled, and have some different approaches to the statement “the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23).

Your average layreader of Ephesians 5:23, with some minimal access to original language tools, might be able to access a resource like the Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, and would see a definition like the following for the Greek term kephalē:

“Metaphorically of persons, i.e, the head, chief, one to whom others are subordinate, e.g., the husband in relation to his wife.”[15]

Upon seeing a definition like this, the issue is closed; the husband is the leader of the wife.

Anyone who has received a well-rounded theological education in the past few decades, has been informed that the term kephalē—which literally does mean “head,” in terms of the physical head of a human being or animal for sure—is a debated term. While many people automatically assume that the term “head” means “leader” or “authority,” there are good reasons for deep-thinking and considerate people to pause. A more technical lexicon like LS offers the definition “the head or source of a river,”[16] with the massive LSJM having, “source, origin.”[17]

While the term kephalē meaning “source” or “origin,” has doubtlessly been met with controversy—with some significant studies produced in favor,[18] rebuttals issued against,[19] and ongoing analyses[20]—what might viewing kephalē as “source” or “origin” mean for Ephesians 5:23? If you can believe it, in the 2007 edition of God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible (HCSB), a study Bible published by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), one actually finds the following annotation made for Ephesians 5:23:

“The word ‘head’ when used today has the sense of ‘ruler’ or ‘authority.’ However, in Greek when ‘head’ is used in a metaphorical sense as it is here, it also means ‘origin’ as in the ‘source (head) of a river.’ Woman has her origins in man (Gen. 2:18-23) just as the church has its origins in Christ.”[21]

The 1996 compilation Hard Sayings of the Bible, a resource intended for the investigative layperson, also expresses the position that kephalē should be approached as “source” for a proper understanding of the issues of Ephesians 5:23:

“Besides its literal, physical meaning (‘head of man or beast’), kephalē had numerous metaphorical meanings, including that of ‘source.’ It is this meaning that seems most suited to the texts…in which the relationship of husband and wife (or man and woman) is addressed.

“[There is an]…appeal made to Genesis 2, where the woman is created from the man…Paul…reminds them that, according to God’s design, the man is the source of the woman’s being; they were created for each other and belong together, as Ephesians 5:31, citing Genesis 2:24, underlines. Similarly (and here begins the analogy between husband/wife and Christ/church), Christ is the kephalē (‘source’) of the church’s life (Eph 5:23). His relation to the church is not expressed in ‘authority’ language, but in ‘source’ language.”[22]

When Ephesians 5:23 is approached from the perspective, “For the man is the source of the woman” (PME), with the origins of woman in man emphasized (Genesis 2:23), then it serves to highlight the appeal made by Paul, to those in Asia Minor, that husbands treat their wives the same as their own bodies: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the [assembly]” (Ephesians 5:28-29). If Adam was the originator of Eve, and indeed declared “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23), then this served as an indication of how valuable she was to him! Husbands have to look at their wives in the exact same way, and approach them with the utmost care, respect, and love. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples in religious history, both Jewish and Christian, where the exact opposite has taken place. As the commentary in Hard Sayings of the Bible further describes,

“Husbands were of course expected to have erotic regard for their wives. But within a culture in which women were often not more than doormats on which male supremacy could wipe its feet, and in a religious setting where Jewish males thanked God daily that he had not made them a Gentile, a slave or a woman—in such a context erotic regard for the wife more often than not became a means of self-gratification and control over the wife. That position of superiority is daringly challenged…”[23]

Within the First Century Mediterranean, in either a Jewish or Greco-Roman context, women were not often looked at with the highest esteem. Frequently, wives were viewed as being nothing more than the means by which a husband’s sexual needs could be fulfilled, and at best wives were those who cleaned house, cooked meals, and raised children. Wives were frequently ridiculed and abused. It would have been absolutely scandalous in many settings to tell husbands to look at their wives in the same way as they would look at their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28-29)! The inevitable result of this, is that husbands were to look at their wives as their equals. Add to this the likelihood that in many First Century marriages, husbands were fifteen to twenty years older than their wives—by virtue of their age having more life experience—and there is some significant subversion of worldly ideas present here.

Today in much of complementarianism, “the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23) means that the husband is to lead the family in a manner tempered by love and beneficence, per the model of the Messiah. There are complementarian families where the husband really does care for his wife and children. There are other complementarian families where the husband leads as an autocrat, and where he would not treat his wife the same as his own body.

The advantage of viewing kephalē as “source” in Ephesians 5:23, and its association with Ephesians 5:28-29 is self-obvious. A husband who approaches his wife the same as he would approach himself, is going to love his wife, cherish her, value her, and take her needs into definite consideration as it concerns the well-being of the family. A husband who approaches his wife the same as he would approach himself, is going to see that his wife is his most valued partner and ally, and will appreciate her counsel and advice—not to mention the fact that the effort will be expelled to insure that there is family cohesion and harmony. These are not always the virtues witnessed in complementarian marriages, but they are most frequently found in egalitarian marriages. Because of kephalē meaning “source” or “origin” in Ephesians 5:23, and not “leader” or “authority,” felicitous egalitarians are seen to consider the terminology “male headship” as something anachronistic, although many more egalitarians are likely to approach the label “male headship” in a highly pejorative manner.


7. Where in the Bible do you get the idea that husbands should be the leaders in their homes?

In the view of complementarians Piper and Grudem, “The most explicit texts relating directly to headship and submission in marriage are Genesis 1-3; Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12; Titus 2:5; and 1 Peter 3:1-7.”[24] Intelligent Bible readers of all varieties should be aware of how each of these passages have specific settings in mind. Genesis chs. 1-3 obviously involve the creation of Adam and Eve as the first two human beings, the Fall, and the effects of the curse that ensued. Both Colossians 3:18-19 and Ephesians 5:21-33 were written to Believers in Asia Minor, with the latter instruction including more details than the former. Are the instructions regarding elders and deacons, as seen in 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12 and Titus 2:5, universal instructions for all times and settings, or are they principally instructions given to Timothy in Ephesus and Titus on Crete, to regulate various circumstances that needed to be fixed? 1 Peter 3:1-7 does involve a wife’s submission to her husband, but does this speak of a family of Believers in Israel’s Messiah or a family where the wife is a Believer and the husband is a non-Believer?

Egalitarian interpreters would be keen to emphasize that there are details in each of these passages which need to be considered, before a proper application can be made for the modern-day ekklēsia. While egalitarians hardly oppose husbandly leadership in the family, they are definitely found to support wifely leadership in the family as well, something which is to carry over to the assembly.

Even various complementarian examiners, who are not too fond of seeing females in positions of leadership and teaching today, do have to stress the importance of understanding these passages for what they conveyed to their ancient audiences first, before deducing modern principles for the Body of Messiah. It might be inappropriate, for example, to quote from 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 2, in an ordination service for an elder or deacon—especially when a denomination or congregation has required such an elder or deacon to have some kind of (significant) degree in religious studies, when such was not required of the elders and deacons in those First Century passages.


8. When you say that a wife should not follow her husband into sin (question 5), what’s left of headship? Who is to say what act of his leadership is sinful enough to justify her refusal to follow?

In various complementarian circles that promote principal male leadership (which egalitarians often believe is inappropriately labeled “male headship”) you will see many questions arise as to what it means for a wife to be submissive to her husband’s authority. In a male leadership model where the wife finds herself in a one-way submission to her husband, she will obviously be expected to honor many of her husband’s requests, but will this mean that a wife is to follow her husband’s requests one-hundred percent of the time? While there are various extremists who may argue that a wife is expected to obey her husband, even when her husband asks her to perform an act contrary to the ways of God—and by so doing she will actually be obeying God—egalitarians do fairly recognize how this is not normative to complementarianism. In their resource 50 Crucial Questions Piper and Grudem come against things such as unilateral decision making, and stress how a husband as leader needs to take into consideration the feelings of his wife and children when plans and decisions are made for the family:

“We are not claiming to live without ambiguities, because sometimes people face difficult decisions in complicated situations. Neither are we saying that headship consists in a series of directives to the wife. Leadership is not synonymous with unilateral decision making. In fact, in a good marriage, leadership consists mainly in taking responsibility to establish a pattern of interaction that honors both husband and wife (and children) as a store of varied wisdom for family life. Headship bears the primary responsibility for the moral design and planning in the home, but the development of that design and plan will include the wife (who may be wiser and more intelligent).”[25]

The principal points to be taken from what they are saying, which they indicate in further remarks, is that even though Believers are expected to submit themselves to congregational leaders (Hebrews 13:17), it is also true that some will speak perverse things (Acts 20:30), and such leaders should be rebuked (1 Timothy 5:20). Believers are also expected to be submitted to civil authorities (Romans 13:1), but governments are clearly to be disobeyed when they mandate things contrary to the will of God (Acts 5:29). So in a complementarian framework, where the husband is the leader of the family, he can indeed be disregarded or disobeyed by a wife, when the husband asks his wife to do things contrary to the will of God.

The challenge that Piper and Grudem have summarized in their above comments, is that while they say that male leadership in the home should not be seen to be something unilateral, that wives especially should be consulted when decisions are made, and that wives may even be wiser and more intelligent—is that too many of us have seen scores of families where the husband leads, and the wife follows, and the wife is precisely not consulted. In many cases, the wife is afraid to raise a contrary opinion or position, precisely because she believes that she will be “out of order” and usurping her husband’s leadership role.

Egalitarians hardly deny the importance of husbands and fathers serving as leaders in the home, but because egalitarians stress the mutual submission of wife to husband and husband to wife (Ephesians 5:21), an egalitarian marriage will by its nature always seek mutual consultation and consent of a husband and wife (and likely discussion with children) before a major decision is made for the family. An egalitarian husband who considers his wife as his equal, and considers her his partner and life ally and co-leader of the family with him, will not have to be reminded to seek her advice when an issue faces the family—which will most especially affect her—so that they can come to a decision with which they are both satisfied. A complementarian husband who is the sole leader of the family, may have to be reminded of considering the place of his wife, before making a decision. In too many complementarian marriage relationships, though, the husband as so-called “head” makes decisions without considering the feelings or opinions of his wife, and marital tensions can and will ensue as a result.


9. Don’t you think that stressing headship and submission gives impetus to the epidemic of wife abuse?

It does not take much for a well-meaning person to realize that females are subject to a great deal of abuse, both physical and psychological, on Planet Earth today. Abuse of females is something that is a rampant sin within the Body of Messiah, which, in their own ways, both complementarians and egalitarians oppose. In answering the question, “Don’t you think that stressing headship and submission gives impetus to the epidemic of wife abuse?”, complementarians Piper and Grudem state,

“No. First, we stress Christlike, sacrificial headship that keeps the good of the wife in view and regards her as a joint heir of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7), and at the same time, we stress thoughtful submission that does not make the husband an absolute lord…Second, we believe that wife abuse (and husband abuse) have some deep roots in the failure of parents to impart to their sons and daughters the meaning of true masculinity and femininity.”[26]

Egalitarians would be seen to have a much different answer to the question, “Don’t you think that stressing headship and submission gives impetus to the epidemic of wife abuse?” Almost all egalitarians I have ever interacted with, would answer a firm “Yes!” to the question posed. Frequently in complementarian marriage relationships, where the husband holds the position as the “head” meaning leader, there is some (major) abuse of power. Many, in their religious experiences, have seen many marriages where the husband as “head” abuses his wife, but not physically. He instead as “head” abuses his wife psychologically, by treating her as his inferior. Too frequently, we have seen wives approach their husbands in fear, for the expressed reason that they know that if they ever challenge them and their presumed authority as “head,” they are likely to be criticized, berated, admonished, and spoken down to. We have also too frequently witnessed wives approach their husbands in a confrontational and adversative way, precisely because they know that their husbands consider females to be inferior.

Egalitarian men like myself think that the roots of spousal abuse rest broadly in the failure of men being raised and taught to approach women as their equals, human beings created in the image of God the same as them (Genesis 1:26), with an equal amount of worth and intelligence, and most certainly not as objects made for men for sexual procurement. Husbands, far from being some sort of “head” equaling the sole leader of the family, should instead approach themselves as being the kephalē meaning the “source” of their wives (Ephesians 5:23), with a husband looking at his wife the same as Adam looked at Eve (Genesis 2:23). Husbands should approach wives the same as they would approach themselves (Ephesians 5:28), demonstrating great honor and respect to their wives, and eagerly desiring their active participation in life cycle events. When women are treated as equals by men, then many of the roots of spousal abuse are cut. Women no longer have to look at men in real fear of being harmed, at least verbally and emotionally.


10. But don’t you believe in “mutual submission,” which Paul seems to teach in Ephesians 5:21 (“submitting to one another”)?

It is easily witnessed that egalitarians promote an ideology of mutual submission, partly based on the Apostle Paul’s assertion of Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). Other key passages include Philippians 2:4, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others,” and Romans 12:10, “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (NRSV). A mutual submission where brothers and sisters in the Lord look out for one another, and consider the place of one another, is believed by egalitarians to be the answer to stopping suspicion, rivalry, bitterness, resentment, mistrust, and disrespect of persons toward one another in the Body of Messiah. Mutual submission promotes respect, honor, deference, interdependence, interreliance, and a pooling of the gifts, talents, and skills of men and women in the Body of Messiah for the work of God’s Kingdom. Mutual submission, while required to be demonstrated toward brothers and sisters generally toward one another, is most especially required to be demonstrated specifically of a wife to her husband and a husband to his wife.

On the whole, complementarians tend to be pessimistic toward the concept of mutual submission, although it would be unfair to say that all complementarians are opposed to some level of mutual submission between a husband and wife. In their resource 50 Crucial Questions, Piper and Grudem raise the issue that the submission of husbands and wives to one another does not mean submission in the exact same way:

“Everything depends on what you mean by ‘mutual submission.’ Some of us put more stress on reciprocity here than others. But even if Paul means complete reciprocity (wives submit to husbands and husbands submit to wives), this does not mean that husbands and wives should submit to each other in the same way.”[27]

We will be exploring what mutual submission means in more concrete details throughout this analysis. Piper and Grudem are themselves actually witnessed as not believing in any form of mutual submission between a husband and wife,[28] but there are complementarians who one will encounter, who are favorable to some form of mutual submission present between husband and wife.

Husbands and wives regularly communicating with one another on the affairs of the home, expressing their close needs and concerns with one another, and praying with one another in unity for the deep seated issues of the other, would be obvious forms of mutual submission and uplifting that complementarians would endorse. Egaliatarians do believe, however, that mutual submission of wife to husband and husband to wife, involves co-leadership of both spouses in the home, and consensus of agreement on all major decisions within a family.

For many complementarian readers of Ephesians 5:21-23, the issue they have is not so much with a mutual submission model where the feelings of both men and women in the Body of Messiah are taken into consideration (Ephesians 5:21-22). The issue that complementarian readers have, is how this is worked out on a wider level in the relationship that the ekklēsia has to the Messiah (Ephesians 5:24). Within a mutual submission framework, not only would the ekklēsia be seen to submit to the Messiah, but the Messiah would be seen to submit to the ekklēsia. How is this possible? This causes many complementarians to conclude that an egalitarian mutual submission framework from Ephesians 5:21-23 is untenable.

The text of Ephesians 5:25-26, tells us exactly, though, the major act of submission performed by the Messiah to the ekklēsia:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the [assembly] and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”

In his book As Christ Submits to the Church, Alan G. Padgett appeals to the Philippians 2:6-11 hymn, as well as Ephesians 5:25-26, to support the view that the Messiah actually is seen to have submitted to the ekklēsia in His ultimate acts of humility and service, witnessed in His sacrificial death:

“[I]n the Christ hymn in Philippians 2…we read that, even though Jesus was ‘in the form of God,’ he did not hold onto his godly authority but humbled himself and took up ‘the form of a slave.’ He ‘became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (2:6-8). The key question here is, to whom did Jesus become a slave? To whom did Jesus submit? The text itself does not say, and any specific answer will be speculative. For our purposes, what is important is the parallelism of the two phrases in verse 7: ‘taking the form of a slave’ and ‘being born in human likeness.’ In becoming incarnate, the Son also freely takes up the role of a servant. This role is, however, only a temporary one, for now Jesus is the highly exalted Lord of all. And in the larger context of the chapter, Jesus’ example becomes the basis for the teaching about mutual submission among believers in Philippians 2:1-4.

“Is it true that there is a mutual submission between Christ and the church? Does Christ ever submit to the church? The answer of the New Testament is yes. Jesus submits to the church by freely becoming a servant in his earthly ministry, especially in his passion and death for us. This is a mutual submission, not a permanent and external subordination. This loving service by Christ for humans can be found by those with eyes to see in Ephesians 5 as well. After calling for husbands to love their wives, Paul writes that this should be done ‘as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (5:25). Jesus makes his bride holy and washes her ‘with the word,’ which makes her clean (5:26, a reference to being cleansed from sin). Here we find an echo of the Gospel narratives, in which Christ takes up the role of a servant in order to wash away or redeem us from the stain of sin. I have argued that this self-giving love, even unto death on a cross, is in fact that sort of mutual submission that Paul enjoins in Ephesians 5:21. The consistent teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus has indeed taken up the role of a servant out of love for us. A relationship of mutual submission exists between Christ and his bride, the church; therefore we should now love and serve one another out of reverence for this Lord who is also a servant.”[29]


11. If “head” means “source” in Ephesians 5:23 (“the husband is the head of the wife”), as some scholars say it does, wouldn’t that change your whole way of seeing this passage and eliminate the idea of the husband’s leadership in the home?

Many egalitarians believe that the lexical evidence strongly favors the Greek term kephalē in Ephesians 5:23 meaning “source,” i.e., “For the man is the source of the woman, as Messiah also is the source of the assembly, being Himself the Savior of the body” (PME). The view of kephalē being “source,” is to highlight how woman originated from man (Genesis 2:23), and the imperative of Ephesians 5:28: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” With a cursory understanding of the First Century Mediterranean, it is not difficult to acknowledge how many Greek and Roman husbands to be sure, and some Jewish husbands, did not too likely treat their wives in the same manner as they would have treated themselves. If ancient husbands would have better understood Adam’s word, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23), then marital relationships could not only have been strengthened—but husbands and wives together could very well have been used by the Lord for significant Kingdom purposes!

Complementarians like Piper and Grudem strongly oppose the idea that the term kephalē can mean “source” or “origin.”[30] However, in their resource 50 Crucial Questions, they do go along with the proposal that kephalē might mean “source” or “origin,” siding with the view that it is akin to a human head or brain, thus concluding that a husband is to be the “leader” or even “governor” of his wife:

“But even if ‘head’ were to mean ‘source’ in Ephesians 5:23, what is the husband the source of? What does the body get from the head? It gets nourishment…And we can understand that, because the mouth is in the head and because nourishment comes through the mouth to the body. But that’s not all the body gets from the head. It gets guidance, because the eyes are in the head. And it gets alertness and protection, because the ears are in the head. And it gets direction and governance, because the brain is in the head.”[31]

Piper and Grudem arguing that it is ultimately futile to approach kephalē as “source” or “origin”—because it will inevitably direct one to male leadership over women anyway—completely miss the point of what egalitarians commonly emphasize, with kephalē being “source” or “origin.” The term kephalē being “source” or “origin” in Ephesians 5:23, is actually tied to how one approaches Ephesians 5:29-31, with husbands not only loving their wives, but approaching their wives as they would approach themselves or their own bodies:

“[F]or no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the [assembly], because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH [Genesis 2:24].”

Most frequently, when Ephesians 5:23 has been read, “For the husband is the head of the wife,” this has been approached as meaning “For the husband is the leader of the wife.” When egalitarians step in and propose that “For the man is the source of the woman” (PME), complementarians commonly believe that the leadership of men within the Body of Messiah, and the leadership of husbands within the family, are both under assault. Indeed, as Question #11 has been worded, “wouldn’t that change your whole way of seeing this passage and eliminate the idea of the husband’s leadership in the home?”

It is an absolute mistake to think that an egalitarian ideology is something which is designed to eliminate male leadership in the Body of Messiah and in the family. An egalitarian ideology is instead something which intends to elevate females as co-leaders in the Body of Messiah and in the family. Rather than the entire burden of leadership and provision being placed upon men and husbands, both men and women in the ekklēsia, and husbands and wives, should be working together.

For a further discussion, here is an excerpt on Ephesians 5:23 from my 2009 commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic:

A wife is to submit to her husband the same as she would submit to the Lord, as an act of obedience to the Lord—but the principle of mutuality is that the husband too is required to submit (v. 21). In the husband’s submission to his wife, Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Messiah also is the head of the [assembly], He Himself being the Savior of the body.” As the two are submitted to each other, the husband is to recognize himself as the “head” of his wife. But what does the husband being the “head” of his wife mean, specifically? Does it mean that he gets to treat his wife in whatever way he wants? Does he truly get to be an autocrat?

In the Hellenistic world, the husband being the “head” of his wife did largely mean that he got to be an autocrat. In desiring that women be utilitarian tools of the state, Plato said “if we are going to use men and women for the same purposes, we must teach them the same things” (Republic 451e).[32] This reveals that in the Greek world, giving men and women equal opportunities was not something looked upon favorably. But it was Plato’s student Aristotle who specifically taught, “the relation of male to female is naturally that of the superior to the inferior, of the ruling to the ruled. This general principle must similarly hold good of all human beings generally” (Politics 1.1254b).[33] The question that has dogged many interpreters of v. 23, especially in the past twenty to thirty years, is whether or not the Christian Church (and by extension us as the Messianic movement) has adopted a view of the husband being “head” more consistent with Scripture, or more consistent with Hellenism.

There are two different views regarding “head” present in today’s evangelical Christian theology:

1. The traditional or complementarian view, which sees “head” as meaning the husband’s authority over the wife.

2. The egalitarian view (simply derived from the French égal, meaning “equal”), which sees “head” as relating to the man being the “source” or “origin” of the woman.


Most of us in our religious experience have been exposed to the complementarian view of “head” in Ephesians 5:23. This is a view which holds that males and females are essentially equal in terms of their spiritual standing before God (cf. Galatians 3:28), but that there are specific roles only designated for males. Since Paul is writing in terms of an ancient society where a top-down, male-dominated family structure was the norm, it would seem fairly obvious that the man, who was created first, should take the lead. The more powerful male family members were responsible for the well being of weaker family members, namely the women. Within this framework, the submission of the wife to her husband comes because she is ordered under her husband. Complementarians consider that support of their view of “head” as meaning “authority” or “first,” comes from 1:22 where Yeshua is seen as “head over all things.”

The available lexical definitions of kephalē do allow it “to denote superior rank” (BDAG).[34] From this point of view, when Paul says “the man is the head of a woman” (1 Corinthians 11:3), and in this epistle that Yeshua is the Head of the assembly (4:15; cf. Colossians 1:18), the husband is first in the family with the wife coming second. Some suggest that Tanach typology of Israel being the wife of God is at work in v. 23 (Isaiah 54:4; 62:4; Ezekiel 16:7; Hosea 2:16). As the husband is the head of the wife, the traditional perspective, as summarized by Harold W. Hoehner, would be “It means that she recognizes her husband is the head of the home and responds to him accordingly without usurping his authority to herself.”[35] So in this schema, it is the husband who would be the “head of the household.”

Too much can be made of complementarians who argue that wives must submit to their husbands as though the husband is a complete superior, and women have little value. The basis of a wife’s submission to her husband is obedience to the Lord and is motivated by love. Peter T. O’Brien, supporting a complementarian view, is right to remind us, “Subordination smacks of exploitation and oppression that are deeply resented. But authority is not synonymous with tyranny, and the submission to which the apostle refers does not imply inferiority.”[36] Indeed, the vast majority of complemenarians in today’s Christianity encourage extreme respect and honor to be shown to women. A. Skevington Wood concurs, “He is not implying that women are inferior to men or that all women should be subject to men. The subjection, moreover, is voluntary, not forced.”[37] The issue at hand in v. 23 is the relation of husbands and wives in marriage. O’Brien is quite specific to state,

“The apostle is not urging every woman to submit to every man, but wives to their husbands. The use of the middle voice of this verb (cf. Col. 3:18) emphasizes the voluntary character of the submission.”[38]

It is also too much to say that the traditional perspective argues that a total and blinded obedience of wives to husbands is somehow taught or demanded by Paul (and likewise as though Paul would also argue blind obedience to civil government in Romans 13). This is not true at all, and not only of interpreters from the past century. Nineteenth Century commentator Adam Clarke emphasized that a wife must submit to her husband in “every lawful thing; for it is not intimated that they should obey their husbands in any thing criminal, or in any thing detrimental to the interests of their souls.”[39] If a husband is engaged in illegal activities, or activities that clearly violate God’s will and Law, then a wife is surely expected to resist.

Traditionalists hold to men and women being spiritual equals in the Lord, but advocate that a man’s position as leader is necessary for familial cohesion. F. Foulkes comments, “in the family, for its order and its unity, there must be leadership, and the leadership is that of the husband and father.”[40] But he goes on to describe how a married woman with equal rights in society may “make herself a career as well as her husband,” and how “the New Testament…[says] she may do so, provided that it does not mean the sacrifice of the divine pattern for home life.”[41] Most complementarians today do not oppose women in the workplace, and would solely argue that the issue of male “headship” only concerns the husband as benevolent leader of his family. Christian complementarians rightly argue against any kind of harsh or dictatorial leadership on behalf of the husband toward his wife and family.[42]



A second, and widely growing position in today’s evangelicalism, is that of egalitarianism. Egalitarians view Galatians 3:28 as meaning that Yeshua the Messiah has brought total equality to the genders, and that roles previously allowed for men in the Tanach can now be opened up for women.[43] The lexical definition of kephalē as “source” like that “of a river” (LS),[44] meaning the headwaters of a river, is something that egalitarians strongly appeal to.[45] When Paul says, “Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 11:3), “head” as meaning “source” or “origin” is what is intended, as from the Godhead (ho Theos) came forth the Messiah, the Messiah is the Creator of the world including the man/Adam, and from the side of the man/Adam came Eve. Philip B. Payne asks how if kephalē/head here is to mean “authority,” “Why would Paul say that Christ is the authority of every male human being? Is there any sense in which Christ would be the authority over men but not over women? If so, that would undermine the very universal lordship of Christ.”[46]

In Ephesians 5:23, viewing kephalē/head as “source,” when Paul says that the husband is the “head” of his wife, it is to be a reminder of what Adam said of Eve: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). Egalitarians strongly argue that “head” meaning any kind of “authority” in v. 23 is something that interpreters have read into the text, not being supported by an ideal of male-female equality in the Lord with mutual submission as the directive (v. 21). It is something more influenced by how in much of modern English, the term “head” is associated with leadership, not something always seen in Biblical Greek.

(The idea that most egalitarians are somehow “feminists,” because they advocate that men and women be given equal treatment in the Body of Messiah, is quite dumbfounded. Not withstanding a modern feminist movement that advocates abortion rights and worship of a mother goddess, historically the feminist movement has had many things that both Jews and Christians have supported. This would include things like: opposition to physical abuse and rape, wife beating, sexual harassment and exploitation, bride burning in countries like India, harsh physical labor in rural Africa, abortions of female children because they are female, and infirm female children being allowed to die because they are female. These are things that all complementarians oppose.)[47]

Does Paul’s usage of “head” automatically equal “authority”? What does the Greek term kephalē really mean? There has actually been a considerable amount of ink spilled defending the view that kephalē should be viewed as “source” in some key Pauline texts describing gender roles,[48] and strong rebuttals issued holding to the position that kephalē means “source.”[49] While it is easy to think that the debate over what kephalē means has been limited to the scholastic arena,[50] it is steadily making its way into materials more common to be accessed by the normal layperson. The publication Hard Sayings of the Bible, for example, describes how “Besides its literal, physical meaning (‘head of man or beast’), kephalē had numerous metaphorical meanings, including that of ‘source.’ It is this meaning that seems most suited to the texts (1 Cor 11:3 and Eph 5:23) in which the relationship of husband and wife (or man and woman) is addressed.”[51]

In terms of the ongoing discussion over what kephalē really means throughout the Apostolic Scriptures, most especially in texts like Ephesians 5:23, Aida Besançon Spencer summarizes some important points to consider:

“For us ‘Who is head here?’ means ‘Who is the boss?’ Yet many excellent studies have been done in recent years to prove that ‘head’ (kephale) when used in Greek never stood for the decision maker. Such studies are reinforced by looking at the Bible. ‘Head’ or kephale can refer to a literal head (Matt. 8:20), to hair only (Acts 18:18), to the whole person (a synecdoche, a part representing the whole, as in Ex. 16:16), the top or foundation (Gen. 8:5; Matt 21:42), the source (Col. 2:19), life (Isa. 43:4; Acts 18:6), the first-born (Col. 1:18), and a blessing (Deut. 28:13, 44). What meaning does Paul have in mind in Ephesians 5:23? Whatever meaning Paul has in mind would in some way be analogous to Christ’s relationship to the church.”[52]

Spencer goes on to conclude that if it were Paul’s intention to use “head” as meaning decision-maker or authority figure, “he would have used arche or ‘ruler’ (as in Luke 12:11), or ‘judge’ or ‘mind’ (used in Philo as the dominant aspect of humans, e.g., Allegory II.5-8).”[53] One of the available definitions of archē is clearly, “an authority figure who initiates activity or process, ruler, authority” (BDAG).[54] Andrew T. Lincoln indicates something that we as Messianics should pay close attention to: “In its LXX usage, where it translated the Hebrew…rōš, [kephalē] also took on at times the further connotations of that Hebrew term and had the force of determinative source or origin.”[55] Payne also asserts, “The LXX translators…almost always chose not to use [kephalē] when [rosh] means ‘leader,’” further claiming “This is compelling evidence that the vast majority of LXX translators did not regard [kephalē] as appropriate to convey the metaphorical meaning ‘leader.’”[56] Egalitarians would argue that “source” language is what is used in 4:15-16 where Paul describes Yeshua as “head” of the body, also seen in Colossians 2:19 where Yeshua is the source of life for the ekklēsia, “the head, from whom the entire body [originates], being supplied and held together.” In Payne’s estimation for Ephesians 5:23, “The best solution is probably to translate [kephalē] as ‘source’ and add a note, ‘literally, “head.”’”[57]

If “source” language for “head” is what is being used in v. 23, then it only serves to reinforce the fact that husbands are to love their wives the same as their own bodies (v. 28). The analogy made would be that Eve originated from Adam, and so the husband needs to think of the wife as personally originating from himself.[58] In the view of Ben Witherington III, “It is of course quite true that Paul does not appear here in the guise of the modern feminist. He still speaks of the headship of the man in the family. But that headship has been transformed by the model of Christ.”[59] The husband is not supposed to be the only decision maker in the family, but instead be an equal partner along with his wife in the marriage experience. Any subordination of the wife within marriage is something that came as a direct result of the Fall (Genesis 3:16), and should now be a status reversed by the work of Yeshua (Galatians 3:28).

The issue of viewing “head” as “source” for egalitarians in v. 23 is that there is a mutual submission (vs. 21, 30) which is to be seen in the Body of Messiah, which is a distinct manifestation of Believers’ being filled by the Holy Spirit (v. 18) and being changed by God’s love. Husbands are to treat their wives the same as they would themselves, as opposed to husbands being absolute autocrats—something that was surely affluent in Greco-Roman society. Egalitarians remind us that while Paul’s words about submission are also given in a context where slaves are to submit to their masters (6:5-9), masters were required to submit to slaves if they were Believers (as Paul implies in Philemon). As is further stated, “we are [all] members of His body” (v. 30), which for the marriage relationship means “each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (v. 33).

The value of a good wife to a good husband is not an exclusive concept to Paul. Proverbs 31:10-11 declares, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” This section of the Tanach actually depicts a husband and wife partnership in business, with the two working together for the mutual benefit of their household (Proverbs 31:12-27). While there may be a great deal of discussion of the male as “head of the household,” egalitarians point out that such language is not seen in the Apostolic Scriptures—and they would be correct.[60] This phraseology is instead derived directly from Hellenistic philosophy; it was Aristotle who said “the head of the household rules over both wife and children” (Politics 1.1259a).[61] A more literal rendering of kai gar gunaikos archei kai teknōn[62] might instead be, “rules over wife and children,”[63] but the point taken is that the verb archō appears here, related to the noun archē—and not kephalē/head as used in Ephesians 5:23.

Plutarch later taught, “So is it with women also; if they subordinate themselves to their husbands, they are commended, but if they want to have control, they cut a sorrier figure than the subjects of their control. And control ought to be exercised by the man over the woman, [but] not as the owner has control over a piece of property” (Advice to Bride and Groom 142e).[64]

Considering these ancient sentiments, egalitarians often argue that the premise for male “headship” equaling “authority” is something that first affected First Century B.C.E.-C.E. Judaism, having adopted some Hellenistic cultural norms in treating women, going off the Biblical mark. These are Hellenistic views of women that likewise made their way into the emerging Christian Church of the Second Century. Craig S. Keener notes how “Some marriages may have been nearly equal, with husbands and wives working in the market together; but the ideal model propagated in ancient society was that wives should be submissive and obedient, often even slavishly so.”[65]

Viewing kephalē/head as “source” is changing a great deal of contemporary thought in today’s evangelical Christianity. It has helped men have a much higher view of women, and it has helped women see that they need not allow themselves to suffer any kind of “Biblically-based” harassment and/or abuse from men simply because they are female. How Ephesians 5:23 is interpreted in evangelical theology in the future will be a continuing debate, specifically as it regards the ordination of female clergy.[66] This is a debate that will affect today’s Messianic movement sooner than many currently think, as it is directly related to the already present discord and battling over Jewish and non-Jewish equality and inclusion.


12. Isn’t your stress on leadership in the church and headship in the home contrary to the emphasis of Christ in Luke 22:26, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves”?

Some egalitarians may be witnessed, at times, as wanting to completely remove all forms of hierarchical leadership structures from the community of faith. This could presumably mean that a teenager, with little education and life experience, would be a leader right alongside an elder of eighty or more years. Most egalitarians, quite contrary to this, do recognize that indeed there are formal positions of leadership within the Body of Messiah and the family. In contrast to complementarians, egalitarians believe that both males and females can serve as leaders in such venues, as opposed to exclusively, or even principally, males.

The inquiry posited by Question #12, is really out of place, in terms of the wider issues involving men and women in the ekklēsia and in the home. Yeshua’s words directed to His Disciples, as seen in Luke 22:25-27, are witnessed as contrasting a pagan style or manner of leadership, to the self-sacrificial servant leadership modeled by Him:

“And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called “Benefactors.” But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.’”

We can be in broad agreement with Piper and Grudem, who conclude,

“It would be contrary to Christ if we said that servanthood cancels out leadership. Jesus is not dismantling leadership; he is defining it. The very word he uses for ‘leader’ in Luke 22:26 is used in Hebrews 13:17 {Grk. verb hēgeomai}, which says, ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.’ Leaders are to be servants in sacrificially caring for the souls of the people. But this does not make them less than leaders, as we see in the words obey and submit. Jesus was no less a leader of the disciples when he was on his knees washing their feet than when he was giving them the Great Commission.”[67]

Throughout religious history, there have been those who have been surely able to implement the teaching of the Messiah that those who serve the greatest, lead. There are also those who have surely led others more like pagan despots. For the sake of our discussion about men and women in the Body of Messiah, it is fair that we stay on topic here, and not extrapolate Luke 22:25-27 to something beyond general principles regarding service.


13. In questions 2 and 6, you said that the calling of the man is to bear “primary responsibility” for leadership in the church and home. What do you mean by “primary”?

It is hardly any secret that complementarians believe in primary male leadership in both the Body of Messiah and in the family. However, as many of us have witnessed in our various encounters, for some complementarians primary male leadership means an effective co-leadership of both males and females in just about every level of the Body of Messiah and the family—except at the very, very top, where a male spiritual leader or a husband might have the final say on a small host of issues—a “complementarian lite” model, as it were. At the same time, many of us have also witnessed complementarian models where male leaders in the Body of Messiah and husbands make virtually all the decisions, they do not listen to the concerns or advice of females at all, and things can be borderline dictatorial. Piper and Grudem, thankfully, are not reflective of those who seek for all aspects of the Body of Messiah or the family to be exclusively run by men. As complementarians, they do concede that there are places of leadership and responsibility for women:

“[T]here are levels and kinds of leadership for which women may and often should take responsibility. There are kinds of teaching, administration, organization, ministry, influence, and initiative that wives should undertake at home and women should undertake at church. Male {leadership} at home and male eldership at church mean that men bear the responsibility for the overall patterns of life…”[68]

Egalitarians have very little issue with recognizing that there are ministry specializations in the Body of Messiah, for which either men or women are more easily qualified. Counseling young teenage girls, for example, is not something that older male pastors should be doing, unless they have an older female also present. Counseling young teenage girls is something more suitable for older women. Within the family, egalitarians recognize that it is up to a husband and wife to decide together which responsibilities are best divided up. And, this is where there might be some differences witnessed from more traditional or customary expectations. When it comes to family finances, for example, some wives are more astute and capable of managing the accounts, than husbands are. Given the complexities of the economy, there are wives who make more money than their husbands.

The major difference between complementarians and egalitarians, is that the latter emphasize the importance of co-leadership of men and women in the Body of Messiah, and husbands and wives in the family. Whether complementarian or egalitarian, all of us have witnessed various scenes or incidents in religious settings, or from our interactions with various friends or extended family members, where primary male leadership has resulted in the distinct concerns and needs of females being completely disregarded. Egalitarians want the concerns and needs of all in the Body of Messiah, and in the family, to be taken into consideration—because they believe that it will result in a more unified, cohesive, and effective collective unity.

In support of their view that men are to bear primary responsibility for leadership, Piper and Grudem note that “after the fall, God called Adam to account first (Gen. 3:9), not because the woman bore no responsibility for sin but because the man bore primary responsibility for life in the garden—including sin.”[69] Many complementarians think that the sin of Eve, in eating the forbidden fruit, was ultimately Adam’s responsibility because of his gender.

To be sure, God calling out to Adam in Genesis 3:9, “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”, is something that can be interpreted in multiple ways. That Adam was confronted by God for the schism that had taken place for the sin that had been committed (Genesis 3:7), is clear enough. But was Adam called to account first, because he was male? Or, was the individual Adam called to account first, because he was created first, had interacted with God first, had interacted with God’s Creation in the Garden of Eden first, and had more experience and understanding than the woman Eve of the whole enterprise? It is not required for us to interpret Genesis 3:9 along the lines of Adam being called to account first because of his gender. All should be able to fairly recognize that Adam failed to properly instruct Eve, because he had more direct experience with God and God’s Creation, which he did not adequately convey to her. If Adam, the first human, had better communicated with Eve, the second human, then is it possible that things could have turned out somewhat differently?


14. If the husband is to treat his wife as Christ does the church, does that mean he should govern all the details of her life and that she should clear all her actions with him?

All of us in our experiences, are likely to have encountered various complementarian marriage relationships where a fair majority of the decisions for the home are made by the mutual consensus of the husband and wife, and we are likely to have encountered various complementarian marriage relationships where the husband is an autocrat, who micro-manages everything that his wife does. Thankfully for the purposes of our review, Piper and Grudem are witnessed as opposing a marital relationship where the husband is overly-critical, governing every single detail of his wife’s life. They are also quite keen to note that the relationship between the Messiah and the assembly, and what it means to husband and wife relations, is an analogy, not to be pressed too hard. They state,

“We may not press the analogy between Christ and the husband that far. Unlike Christ, all husbands sin. They are finite and fallible in their wisdom.”[70]

The direction witnessed in Ephesians 5:25-29, presents the service of Yeshua toward the assembly, as being a model that husbands are to demonstrate to their wives. Obviously, there are differences between the service of the Divine Yeshua, and of mortal husbands. Yeshua’s sacrifice is intended to bring the ekklēsia both cleanliness and glory. The husband’s treatment of his wife is to be one where he approaches her the same as he would his own body, loving his wife the same way he would love himself:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the [assembly] and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the [assembly] in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the [assembly].”

In the estimation of Piper and Grudem, “Practically, that rules out belittling supervision and fastidious oversight…Any kind of leadership that…tends to foster in a wife personal immaturity or spiritual weakness or insecurity through excessive control, picky supervision, or oppressive domination has missed the point of the analogy in Ephesians 5.”[71] Egalitarians would agree that a husband as a leader within the home, is not to bring out qualities of immaturity, weakness, insecurity, and indecisiveness in his wife. Instead, a husband is to be there to help foster maturity, strength, security, and decisiveness in his wife, as he loves and encourages her to be everything she can be in the Lord. And, per the rubric of mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), a wife as leader within the home should bring out the exact same qualities within her husband.

One of the reasons why many people cross the aisle from complementarianism to egalitarianism, is that they do not frequently witness husbands as the so-called “head of the household” serve their wives with humility—much less treat them as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28)! Instead, what is too frequently witnessed in complementarian venues, is an emphasis of the submission of the wife to the husband, with the husband as the sole leader of the family, often left to do as he pleases. Seeing much of the abuse which can and does take place in complementarian marriages, those who wish to see love of husband to wife and wife to husband, and honor and respect, to prevail, find egalitarian models of mutual service to be very appealing.


15. Don’t you think that these texts are examples of temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo, while the main thrust of Scripture is toward the leveling of gender-based role differences?

The questioner depicted here by Piper and Grudem, in stating, “Don’t you think that these texts are examples of temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo,” appears to be going along with some of the customary complementarian approaches to Ephesians 5. Of course, any examiner of the Holy Scriptures, needs to recognize how the major thrust of salvation history is focused around how “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Concessions to various social and political structures, be those present in the Ancient Near East or in the Greco-Roman world of the First Century, are seen to be made, in view of the wider issue of seeing individual people repent of their sins and be restored to a proper relationship to their Creator. Social changes in society gradually take place resultant of individuals being changed by the power of the God of Israel. The abolition of slavery is an excellent example of this.

We can be in agreement with Piper and Grudem over the kind of limited concessions that have to be made to society, as seen throughout different periods of Scripture, when the overriding issue is the salvation of individuals:

“We recognize that Scripture sometimes regulates undesirable relationships without condoning them as permanent ideals. For example, Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ (Matt. 19:8). Another example is the regulation of how Christian slaves were to relate to their masters, even though Paul longed for every slave to be received by his master ‘no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother’ (Philem. 16).”[72]

The questioner claims that “the main thrust of Scripture is toward the leveling of gender-based role differences.” There are, to be sure, various viewpoints regarding what male and female equality (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 2:11) actually mean. Evangelical egalitarians would widely stress that within the post-resurrection era, gender should not be a barrier to seeing women serve in positions of spiritual leadership along with men, and that husbands and wives together should be co-leaders of the home. Egalitarians do recognize that men and women do have obvious anatomical differences, and that both men and women do have their various specializations. Someone such as myself would be supportive of equal pay for equal work in the marketplace, regardless of gender. But, I definitely believe in separate restroom facilities for males and females. More liberal egalitarians are witnessed as wanting to see all gender differences erased, and can be found supportive of the LGBTQ agenda. It is not at all inevitable, though, that support of female leaders in the Body of Messiah—with precedents witnessed in the Apostolic Writings (discussed further)—leads to acceptance of homosexual marriage and trans-genderism.

Piper and Grudem raise a number of points per what the questioner labels as a “leveling of gender-based role differences.” They first mention how “Male and female personhood, with some corresponding role differences, is rooted in God’s act of creation (Genesis 1 and 2) before the sinful distortions of the status quo were established (Genesis 3).”[73] They actually point out how egalitarians (although they call them “evangelical feminists”) would widely agree, and are fair to mention how many evangelical Christian egalitarians, are indeed rightly opposed to the LGBTQ agenda and homosexual marriage.

The second point raised by Piper and Grudem is, “The redemptive thrust of the Bible does not aim at abolishing headship [meaning, male leadership] and submission but at restoring them to their original purposes in the created order.”[74] Egalitarians do agree that as a part of the redemptive plan of salvation history, whatever was lost as a result of the Fall, should be restored via the work of the Messiah. However, there can be significant differences between how complementarians and egalitarians approach a statement such as, “your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16b, NJPS). Some see “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” as speaking to male leadership of females. Others, however, see Genesis 3:16b as representing a breach in the intended partnership of husband and wife, and the initiation of a battle between the sexes. A worthwhile trajectory of salvation history is to see husbands and wives not locked in perpetual conflict with one another.

The third point of Piper and Grudem here is, “The Bible contains no indictments of loving [male leadership] and gives no encouragement to forsake it. Therefore, it is wrong to portray the Bible as overwhelmingly egalitarian with a few contextually relativized patriarchal texts.”[75] This is an area where there would be significant differences between complementarians and egalitarians, the latter of whom would posit questions of contextualization, where a particular set of instruction would seem to favor some kind of male privilege over females. Much of this involves instruction in the Pentateuch, where on a first reading by Twentieth and Twenty-First Century moderns, such instruction could be seen to favor males (i.e., Numbers 30:1-8). However, what did such instruction mean in an utterly male-dominated Ancient Near East, where females had few rights and liberties, and were often treated as property? What new opportunities did the instruction of the Pentateuch actually open up for females in the community of Ancient Israel, which were not frequently available to Israel’s neighbors? Egalitarians would emphasize the need for Bible readers to inquire further, and to read passages in light of their ancient setting.


16. Aren’t the arguments made to defend the exclusion of women from the pastorate today parallel to the arguments Christians made to defend slavery in the nineteenth century?

It is worthwhile to explore whether or not complementarian arguments which oppose females in positions of spiritual leadership in the Body of Messiah, are somehow similar to arguments made in previous centuries by theologians trying to uphold the institution of slavery. Piper and Grudem are rightly seen to oppose the institution of slavery, astutely arguing that while a figure like the Apostle Paul did not advocate for its violent overthrow, there is a legitimate trajectory detected in his works which established a basis for its eventual abrogation. In their estimation,

“The existence of slavery is not rooted in any creation ordinance, but the existence of marriage is. Paul’s regulations for how slaves and masters should relate to each other do not assume the goodness of the institution of slavery. Rather, seeds for slavery’s dissolution were sown in Philemon 16…, Ephesians 6:9…, Colossians 4:1…, and 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Where these seeds of equality came to full flower, the very institution of slavery would cease. In fact, when 1 Timothy 1:10 is understood correctly, it absolutely prohibits involuntary servitude, for it lists ‘enslavers’ among a list of people who are ‘ungodly and sinners’ (v. 9).”[76]

We should all be able to fairly recognize how Piper and Grudem are correct to emphasize that the relationship of husbands and wives in marriage, is something that is based within God’s intention for the Creation. The institution of slavery—of one human being “owning” another human being—is not something based within God’s intention for the Creation. Piper and Grudem further explain,

“But Paul’s regulations for how husbands and wives relate to each other in marriage do assume the goodness of the institution of marriage—and not only its goodness but also its foundation in the will of the Creator from the beginning of time (Eph. 5:31-32). Moreover, Paul locates the foundation of marriage in the will of God at creation in a way that shows that his regulations for marriage also flow from this created order. He quotes Genesis 2:24, ‘they shall become one flesh,’ and explains, ‘I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.’…Paul’s regulations concerning marriage are just as rooted in the created order as is the institution itself. This is not true of slavery.”[77]

Egalitarians may have differences of opinion with complementarians as it concerns the application of Ephesians 5:21-33 and marriage, but both are in agreement that the institution of marriage is based in God’s Creation purposes. Slavery is not.

In their response, though, Piper and Grudem do make some editorial remarks to those who would equate defense of slavery with defense of a complementarian ideology. They actually think that theologians’ defense of slavery in the past, and the defense of an egalitarian ideology today, are both due to social pressures in the world:

“[I]f those who ask this question are concerned to avoid the mistakes of Christians who defended slavery, we must remember the real possibility that it is not complementarians but evangelical feminists who today resemble nineteenth-century defenders of slavery in the most significant way: using arguments from the Bible to justify conformity to some very strong pressures in contemporary society.”[78]

Arguments regarding contemporary society can be posited for those advocating a retention of, or an abolition of, the institution of slavery from the Nineteenth Century. Many supported retaining the institution of slavery because it was considered a vital part of various economic structures, and from that sought Biblical validation. Many supported abolition of slavery because they considered it an immoral institution, and likewise sought Biblical validation. While there were many different factors involved in the American Civil War, the abolition of slavery definitely was present as a component. The real point to be taken is that dramatic forces of history can be used to see substantial and well-needed social changes take place.

While many complementarians would be bound to disagree, one of the biggest positive changes that took place as a result of the Second World War, is that women were forced to go to the workplace and factories to help fight, and by circumstance it was indeed discovered that women are just as industrious, capable, and intelligent as men. For centuries, economic and social structures were in place—in the West—which prohibited women from being granted the same level of education as men, meaning that women did not have the same employment opportunities. But when faced with the terror of Nazi Germany, women in the Allied countries did make their contribution to the war effort, and in the decades since have been rightly granted the opportunity to advance.


17. Since the New Testament teaching on the submission of wives in marriage is found in the part of Scripture known as the “household codes” (Haustafeln), which were taken over in part from first-century culture, shouldn’t we recognize that what Scripture is teaching us is not to offend against current culture but to fit in with it up to a point and thus be willing to change our practice of how men and women relate, rather than hold fast to a temporary first-century pattern?

All interpreters, both complementarian and egalitarian, should be in agreement that the common passages labeled as the “household codes” (Colossians 3:18-4:1; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7), do take up some of the frequently witnessed social structures of the First Century Mediterranean—and seek to see them changed by the good news of Israel’s Messiah. Both are in agreement, that rather than the husband being an autocrat, who can dictate his will to his wife, children, and any slaves—that the husband is to be tempered by the self-sacrificial example of Yeshua the Messiah. For the institution of slavery, this was a first major step toward seeing its eventual abrogation. Certainly, the need for fathers from Greco-Roman backgrounds, to parent their children with a degree of temperance, was substantial in seeing an ethos of honor for father and mother established (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) for many of the new Believers.

Complementarians and egalitarians can disagree profoundly on Ephesians 5:21-33 and the concept frequently known as “male headship,” often tied to debates over the term kephalē, and whether or not “mutual submission” is a significant controlling factor (discussed previously). The instruction of 1 Peter 3:1-6 and the submission of wives to their husbands is also debated, given the insertion of the statement, “so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word” (1 Peter 3:1). Many would regard this as an indication that this is a First Century submission of a wife to a husband, who needs to be convinced of his error—most likely a husband who was not a Believer. Rather than be domineering or critical to her husband, the wife needed to convince her husband of his faults in a demure and respectful way (1 Peter 3:4).


18. But what about the liberating way Jesus treated women? Doesn’t he explode our hierarchical traditions and open the way for women to be given access to all ministry roles?

Both complementarians and egalitarians should fairly agree that within the First Century Mediterranean, females were not afforded many opportunities, and they were frequently looked down upon and abused by males. While this is especially true of the Greeks and Romans, it was also to a degree true by many in Judaism. Both complementarians and egalitarians can agree that Yeshua the Messiah did not treat women as though they were second class, but instead that they were valued human beings who were to make a sizeable contribution to the work of God’s Kingdom. Piper and Grudem offer a useful summary to the interaction of the Messiah with the women of His day:

“We believe the ministry of Jesus has revolutionary implications for the way sinful men and women treat each other. His care for women was frequently evident: ‘And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond?’ (Luke 13:16). Everything Jesus taught and did was an attack on the pride that makes men and women belittle each other. Everything he taught and did was a summons to the humility and love that purge self-exaltation out of leadership and the servility out of submission. He put man’s lustful look in the category of adultery and threatened it with hell (Matt. 5:28-29). He condemned the whimsical disposing of women in divorce (Matt. 19:8-9). He called us to account for every careless word we utter (Matt. 12:36). He commanded that we treat each other the way we would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12). He said to the callous chief priests, ‘Prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you’ (Matt. 21:31). He was accompanied by women, he taught women, and women bore witness to his resurrection life. Against every social custom that demeans or abuses men and women, the words of Jesus can be applied: ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’ (Matt. 15:3).”[79]

As Christian complementarians, Piper and Grudem have notably mentioned some major things about how Yeshua interacted with First Century women. Of particular importance is their appeal to the Lord’s word from His Sermon on the Mount:

“[B]ut I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29).

In much of the Messianic community today, perhaps in contrast, when issues regarding men and women and lust occur—a fair majority of the discussions and debates that we tend to witness involve different perspectives concerning “modesty.” When I have been privy to discussions taking place among male congregational leaders involving men looking inappropriately at women in the assembly, the significant majority of the male congregational leaders’ attention is on how the women in the congregation must be dressing immodestly. Almost no attention is given to the tenor of Yeshua’s forthright statements in Matthew 5:28-29: men are the major culprits of fomenting lust for women. The way you stop lust, is for men to be taught to look at women not as objects, but rather as human beings, as people made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) who are their equals (Galatians 3:28). Sadly, in my experience, when issues of presumed immodesty among females in Messianic congregational settings arise, the responsibility of males to look at women as human beings and as their equals, never seems to be brought up. I am gratified to see how Piper and Grudem directly address how lust is frequently a male issue, and that they would be opposed to shifting the total blame to women.

Differences of perspective do exist between complementarians and egalitarians, as it involves the Messiah’s sure treatment of First Century women as valued human beings. Piper and Grudem ask, “But where does Jesus say or do anything that criticizes the order of creation in which men bear a primary responsibility to lead, protect, and sustain?”[80] The fact is, for both complementarians and egalitarians, is that Yeshua the Messiah is widely mute in the Gospels on issues of men and women in marriage, other than Him being opposed to a misuse of divorce (Matthew 19:8-9), and the Lord surely wanting a husband and wife to love each other. Egaltiarians will interpret various actions of the Messiah, where He is seen to value the place of women in His ministry, rather than eschew women, and trajectorize that His succeeding followers were right to see that females played an important role in the service of the First Century ekklēsia.


19. Doesn’t the significant role women had in ministry with Paul show that his teachings do not mean that women should be excluded from ministry?

Unlike Yeshua the Messiah, who has very little to say about leadership roles of people within the assembly—beyond general remarks such as, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26, NRSV)—the teachings of the Apostle Paul do bear statements about leadership roles of men and women within the assembly. Complementarians read various statements regarding men and women within the assembly as being universal to all places and settings. Conservative egalitarians, who accept the attributed Pauline materials to be genuine to the Apostle Paul, often approach restrictive instructions in Paul’s letters regarding women in the assembly, to be limited to either the First Century—or more frequently—the specific audience(s) Paul was addressing.

It should be immediately recognized that evangelical Christian complementarians like Piper and Grudem, do not think that females should be restricted from places of ministry within the Body of Messiah. They properly recognize that there are many places where females can and should serve. They do not believe, however, that females should be permitted positions of eldership within the ekklēsia:

“[T]he issue is not whether women should be excluded from ministry. They shouldn’t be. There are hundreds of ministries open to men and women….The issue is whether any of the women serving with Paul in ministry fulfilled roles that would be inconsistent with a limitation of the eldership to men.”[81]

In their resource 50 Crucial Questions, Piper and Grudem acknowledge from Philippians 4:2-3 that the females Euodia and Syntyche were fellow laborers alongside of the Apostle Paul. However, they further indicate that 1 Timothy 2:15 limits the leadership of females within the assembly:

“Paul said that Euodia and Syntyche ‘labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers’ (Phil. 4:2-3). There is wonderful honor given to Euodia and Syntyche here for their ministry with Paul. But there are no compelling grounds for affirming that the nature of the ministry was contrary to the limitations that Paul set forth in 1 Timothy 2:12.”[82]

Piper and Grudem further note the accolade Paul issues to Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2, one who is labeled to be a diakonos or “deacon” (NRSV), although they doubt that she was any kind of leader:

“Paul praises Phoebe as a ‘servant’ or ‘deacon’ of the church at Cenchreae since, as he puts it, she ‘has been a patron of many and of myself as well’ (Rom. 16:1-2).”[83]

Much of the issue for complementarians denying females high leadership roles in the Body of Messiah, such as that of a deacon or an elder, is that Paul’s statement of 1 Timothy 2:12 is read as a universal remark for all places and all settings. As it appears in an evangelical translation such as the 1995 New American Standard Update, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” For many people, the case is closed: the Apostle Paul limits high leadership positions to males, and not to females.

In the closing sessions of my New Testament Introduction class at Asbury Theological Seminary (Spring 2007), I remember how Professor Garwood P. Anderson, pointed out to our class that 1 Timothy 2:12 was not an easy passage to deal with. He mentioned immediately how the KJV rendering was different than what is seen in most standard English translations: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” He mentioned to his students that if “usurp” were the proper rendering of the underlying Greek, then it could change not only the orientation of the passage, but also the setting of Paul’s writing. Was it possible, that there were unqualified females among those Timothy was overseeing who had a penchant for usurping the authority of the qualified males in leadership among the Believers in Ephesus? At the very least—especially when compared to the egalitarian thrust of Galatians 3:28—could there be localized issues in view for 1 Timothy 2, and that a universal application of this passage for all times and settings be something worthy of reevaluation?

For myself, I reevaluated many of the presuppositions that I held regarding the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus, in a podcasted Bible study that I conducted in 2010-2011. There are legitimate reasons for us to consider 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I do not permit a woman to teach or usurp authority of a man, but to be in silence” (PME), as not being universal instruction, but rather localized instructions for the situation Timothy had to see resolved in Ephesus. As adapted from my 2012 commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic,

This one verse {1 Timothy 2:12} has received a huge amount of attention in Biblical scholarship, much of it presently unknown to people (including many teachers) within our broad Messianic faith community. V. 12 has been frequently interpreted as a universal prohibition on women occupying positions of leadership and teaching within the assembly, something which is to apply to all cultures and situations. While there are various Protestant denominations that hold quite strongly to this view of v. 12, a majority of today’s Messianic movement will often press v. 12 as hard as it can beyond what Christian complementarianism often does. V. 12 is often used by today’s Messianics to not only ban females from positions of teaching the congregation as a whole, but also to frown on females from even teaching other females. The challenge to the common, male-centric interpretation of v. 12, as Craig S. Keener validly reports, is that this is “the only explicit prohibition in the entire Bible against women teaching.”[84] Surely, as this is a short statement appearing within an ancient letter written by the Apostle Paul to his colleague Timothy in Ephesus, it behooves responsible Bible readers to think more critically before applying it to a modern setting. We are, after all, reading Timothy’s mail.

In liberal theological quarters, the occurrence of v. 12, coupled with examples of women in positions of leadership and teaching elsewhere in the New Testament, causes them to doubt whether the Pastoral letters are authentic to Paul. It is concluded that this prohibition is the reflection of a later generation of Pauline successors, who went beyond the Apostle’s original intention of men and women in the assembly. These Pauline “students,” as it were, wanted to uphold the social norms present within the Second Century Roman Empire to avoid persecution, most especially in regard to the figure of the paterfamilias.[85] So from this viewpoint, v. 12 need not be regarded as that authoritative, since the Pastoral Epistles are thought to not originate with Paul himself.

This commentary {The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic} acknowledges genuine Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, but unlike the view which considers v. 12 to be a universal prohibition on females in positions of leadership and teaching, we advocate that it is bound to the situation-specific circumstances in Ephesus—and by extension any similar circumstances that might arise in the modern era. It is entirely proper to ask why the Apostle Paul would somehow prohibit all women for all time occupying positions of leadership, when elsewhere there were those like Priscilla (Romans 16:3-5) or Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3) who were not prohibited. A complementarian like Donald Guthrie validly describes how “Paul cannot be accused of being a woman-hater, as is sometimes alleged, on the strength of this evidence, since he acknowledges some women among his own fellow workers.”[86] It is precisely because women have been teaching and serving along with Paul, and other men, in the First Century Messianic community—that should cause us to be really careful in thinking that the short statement of v. 12 is universal. If v. 12 is a universal prohibition on women teaching men, unaffected by the circumstances in Ephesus, then there are some serious contradictions elsewhere within the Pauline Epistles.[87]

Complementarian interpreters, in particular, have steadily become more honest in recognizing how Paul’s prohibition in v. 12 is connected to the wider issues Timothy was facing in Ephesus. A complementarian like William D. Mounce notes, “the charge here suggests that women, at least in some way, are promulgating the heresy even if they are not leaders of the opposition.”[88] Egalitarians take it a step further, and see 1 Timothy 2:12 as prohibiting the untrained and uneducated women in Ephesus from teaching the trained and educated men, as such females teaching would likely have helped promote or germinate the false teaching—not being a blanket prohibition for all time on women teaching men. Also not to be forgotten is how in the Pastoral Epistles themselves, Paul issues the instruction for Timothy to greet Priscilla (2 Timothy 4:19), who was recognized as a female teacher in Ephesus (Acts 18:26). Yet the Ephesian women in general are told to be taught (v. 11), precisely because they had tried to be teachers.

So how are we to carefully read and apply v. 12? More needs to be added. A straightforward English reading of v. 12, such as what appears in a version like the NASU, says, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” A version like the KJV actually clues us in to specific circumstances in Ephesus being the issue, as it reads with the slightly different, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man.” Other important renderings of v. 12 include: “nor must woman domineer over man” (NEB), “I do not permit women to…dictate to the men” (REB), or even “I do not permit a woman to…assume authority over a man” (TNIV). What are we supposed to do with these mainline English versions, which render v. 12 noticeably different? Is it possible that rather than prohibiting all women for all time as being leaders and teachers, that some of the women in Ephesus—who Timothy was going to have to correct—really had tried to usurp or assume positions that they did not deserve?

The options of how to interpret ouk epitrepō oude authentein andros are that (1) this is speaking of women having authority over men in general (and anēr or “male” is employed in v. 12)—or (2) it is speaking of usurped authority on the part of domineering women who assumed themselves as teachers, who instead need to be properly instructed.[89] One actually does not have to look that far to see how widespread this second view of v. 12 has been advocated among evangelical Christians. A popular resource like the NIV Study Bible lists it as v. 12’s first possible interpretation: “Some believe that Paul here prohibited teaching only by women not properly instructed…Some women tended to exercise authority over, i.e., to domineer, the men.”[90]

Earlier in this chapter {1 Timothy 2:2} Paul has referred to “kings and all who are in authority,” en huperochē. In contrast a rather rare Greek verb is employed in v. 12, authenteō, and a rather large amount of ink has been spilled in trying to define it.[91] Donald Guthrie, a complementarian, actually alludes to how the more general definition of “exercise authority,” is not what is intended: “The word rendered as to have authority…means ‘to have the mastery of’ or more colloquially ‘lord it over’.”[92] Mounce, also a complemenatarian, indicates, “Most agree that its basic meaning is either the neutral ‘to exercise authority’ or the negative ‘to domineer’ in the sense of exerting authority in a coercive manner.”[93]

A scholastic lexicon like BDAG does define authenteō as “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to,”[94] followed by a more classical lexicon like LS, having “to have full power over.”[95] AMG actually defines authenteō as being related to the noun “authéntēs…murderer, absolute master, which is from autos…himself, and éntea (n.f.) arms, armor. A self-appointed killer with one’s own hand, one acting by his own authority or power.”[96] At our disposal are lexical definitions which would support how authority in general terms is not the issue Paul is addressing in v. 12. The rather negative verb authenteō only appears in one place in the Greek Apostolic Scriptures (and not in the Greek Septuagint either), whereas the noun exousia and verb exousiazō are used throughout the Pauline letters to describe “authority” in general.[97] In v. 1, “all who are in authority,” is described using the term huperochē. In the estimation of Philip B. Payne,

“If Paul wanted to convey the meaning of ‘to have authority’ without any negative nuances, it would have been natural for him to use a term such as he did in verse 2 of [1 Timothy 2] [en huperochē einai] or [exousian echein] [Romans 9:21] or [exousiazein] [1 Corinthians 6:12; 7:4] or one of the many other expressions Paul uses for having, using, or sharing authority.”[98]

Elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles, exousias hupotassesthai is used to represent “authorities” in Titus 3:1, in regard to the Believers being subjected to them.

But if the verb authenteō only appears once in the Bible, why have a huge number of pastors and teachers said it means just “authority”? Philip H. Towner points out that “the bulk of occurrences” of authenteō occur outside of Scripture, and “are in Christian sources later than 1 Timothy, which raises questions of methodology…”[99] Those who consider 1 Timothy to be Deutero-Pauline do not conduct a great deal of examination into the meaning of authenteō, because they think that Pauline successors prohibited women from teaching and leadership. Keener addresses how, “If 1 Timothy was written by a second-century writer in Paul’s name, the term probably just means ‘exercise authority’…If the letter reflects the language of Paul or his amanuensis, it could well mean ‘domineer,’ since it is different from and probably stronger than the term he usually uses.”[100] Egalitarians are astute at referencing possible uses of authenteō in classical literature that are associated with murder,[101] but more importantly are the negative, self-associated actions that it involves. In the estimation of Payne,

“[M]any of the usages of the [authent-] root refer to self-initiated activities and, consequently, usually up through Paul’s day carry a negative nuance….Since achievement tends to lead to power, it is not surprising that the [authent-] root gradually began to be used for power and authority, sometimes with repressive overtones such as: dominate, domineer, absolute master, autocrat, or absolute sway.”[102]

With a verb like authenteō appearing only once in the Bible and all of this discussion around it, it is probably true that various pastors and leaders (and maybe even some professionally trained Messianic teachers)[103] have in various degrees purposefully kept its real meaning of “to dominate” or “coerce” or “usurp” to themselves, in an effort to keep men or males exclusively in positions of spiritual leadership. By no means is this all pastors and leaders, some of whom simply desire to keep women protected, who may not be able to handle the pressure that comes with spiritual authority. Yet it is very true that many godly women gifted, with strong minds, have had to bear the brunt of being put aside, when their talents could have been used instead to benefit the Body of Messiah. These are not women who at all want to coerce or usurp the authority of male spiritual leaders, but who have done their due diligence to be properly trained and educated—and are women who want to come alongside and work together with men as equals in the work of God’s Kingdom….

If the verb authenteō truly does mean to usurp, domineer, or coerce—then v. 12 includes no universal prohibition on women having authority or teaching men in the assembly, either in the First Century or Twenty-First Century. There is, however, a specific prohibition on the Ephesian women usurping the position of recognized male leaders in their congregation, so that they as females can take their place and teach instead. How does this specifically factor into one’s evaluation of the Pastoral Epistles? As A. Duane Litfin, a complementarian, states, “They should not attempt to turn the tables by clamoring for the office of congregational teacher or by grasping for authority over men.”[104]

The cause, of Paul having to issue a prohibition on women teaching and usurping authority over the recognized male leaders in Ephesus, was the false teaching! Many women were caught up in different myths and errors, and then thought that they could challenge the male leaders in Ephesus (cf. 1 Timothy 5:13), who had a longstanding place of authority. Gordon D. Fee describes how “In context it probably reflects again on the role the women were playing in advancing the errors—or speculations—of the false teachers and therefore is to be understood very closely with the prohibition against teaching.”[105] Towner also thinks, “they may well have been encouraged to step into the role of teacher by some element of the heresy,”[106] which would have only been compounded by the social trends in the Roman Empire for women—wealthy women, in particular—to take a more public role. One of the strongest complementarian examiners of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Douglas Moo, even indicates that it is right for us to “surmise that women at Ephesus were expressing their ‘liberation’ from their husbands, or from other men in the church, by criticizing and speaking out against male leaders.”[107] The prohibition Paul issued in v. 12 was definitely situation-specific to Ephesus.

Nowhere should it ever be argued that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a prohibition on women ever teaching anywhere, because most of today’s complementarians are quite friendly to women being involved in lower degrees of ministry. They are eager to point out how women can undoubtedly teach other women (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Titus 2:3-4), and they do not want to minimize women in being educated in the Scriptures. Guthrie, as a complementarian, has to note that while he thinks “The teaching of Christian doctrine seems to be confined by Paul to the male sex,” he has no choice but to recognize how “it must not be overlooked that Paul acknowledged that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures from infancy and this would most naturally have been from his mother since his father was a Greek (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).”[108] Also never to be forgotten is how even though all complementarians are opposed to women in positions of teaching adult men, they are generally quite respectful of how women have most frequently played a role in youth education. Ralph Earle only thinks that Paul “is talking about public assemblies of the church…Women have always carried the major responsibility for teaching small children, in both home and church school. And what could we have done without them!”[109]

Christian complementarians today are not often treated as some kind of evil spectre by Christian egalitarians, because they do widely recognize the validity of limited teaching roles for women. George W. Knight III’s actual conclusion is, “Paul’s prohibition of women teaching would prevent them from serving as elders or ministers, but it is unwarranted to limit it to such a restriction from office-bearing…Here he prohibits women from publicly teaching men…”[110] Positions of leadership considered off limits for females, then, would only be in the context of the ekklēsia. Moo adds to this, “we do not think Paul’s prohibition should restrict women from voting, with other men and women, in a congregational meeting…Nor do we think that Paul would intend to prohibit women from most church administrative activities.” As he specifies, “it is appropriate to note here that Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is specifically the role of men and women in activities within the Christian community.”[111] So with this in mind, a complementarian perspective should not cause one to frown on women in positions of corporate or civil leadership. A female CEO or mayor or even governor is not the issue in v. 12 (for them).

Even while arguing for the more standard rendering “I do not permit a woman to teach a man or exercise authority over him” (CJB), David H. Stern describes, “in a well-led congregation…women may be given much authority and responsibility, including the discipling of women and the teaching of men.”[112] He makes note of examples like Lydia (Acts 16:14, 40), Priscilla (Acts 18:26), and Phoebe (Romans 16:1). Unfortunately in my family’s experience since 1995, we have yet to really attend a Messianic congregation where women have really been allowed into even ancillary roles—and so Stern’s remarks here may be a bit “progressive” in Messianic terms. (A large minority of today’s Messianic movement, contrary to what has just been quoted above from Christian complementarians, does think that only men can be leaders in business and civil governance.)

Within evangelicalism there continues to be debate between complementarians and egalitarians, with the former certainly being aware of how authenteō has strong support to mean usurp, coerce, or domineer. Egalitarians for sure have to reckon with Mounce’s objection, “It seems doubtful that Paul would prohibit only women (and not men) from teaching in a coercive way, especially since the text only names male opponents.”[113] He and others feel they have good reason for viewing v. 12 as mostly a universal prohibition. Yet, a variety of egalitarian interpreters have argued quite persuasively that the present active indicative verb epitrepō in v. 12 should be understood as “I am not permitting…,”[114] which as Ben Witherington III explains should be Paul saying “I am not [now] permitting” as opposed to “I will never permit.”[115] Echoing this conclusion, I. Howard Marshall & Philip H. Towner assert, “What we have is apparently a fresh injunction rather than one that carries the weight of a church tradition,”[116] a ruling issued by Paul to his colleague Timothy to enforce for a localized circumstance.[117] And who helped first promote the false teaching? Probably various men who were already in a position of leadership. Their sentiments caused some women to think that they could take over their place.

Having concluded that in Ephesus, various untrained and uneducated women were attempting to teach men with an overbearing, domineering, and usurping attitude—what are some contemporary applications of v. 12 that can aid Believers in the Body of Messiah today? Timothy had to resolve a crisis where some women were trying to inappropriately assert the role of a teacher, for which they were most unqualified. Payne makes the excellent point of how in v. 12, “Either ‘to assume authority’ or ‘to dominate’ makes a better contrast with ‘quietness’ in 1 Tim 2:12 than ‘to exercise authority’ or ‘to have authority.’”[118] The problem was not to issue a blanket prohibition on women in leadership for all time, but to see women educated and readied for spiritual challenges. In Ephesus, I would submit that when many women would be adequately taught, they may have decided that they were perhaps best suited for only teaching other women (cf. Titus 2:3-4).

We have to all remember that the only people, who should be teaching the Body of Messiah, are those who specifically have the gift of teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28-30). We do know that women played an important role within the leadership of the First Century Messianic community, a major result of the gender equality fully restored by the work of Yeshua. But with such equality, and some First Century social trends, undoubtedly came risks. Towner describes, “New trends in society surely opened up new options for movement and service for women, especially wealthy women, in the church, even though the new sexual mores also associated with the new trend presented various dangers.”[119] Much closer to our own time, following the end of World War II many women in Europe and America found great opportunities to have careers in a once male-dominated workplace. But two decades later came the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, which caused considerable problems. The cause of the issue was not women entering into the workplace, because the “sexual revolution” affected men every bit as much as women. The problem involved a lack of appropriate sexual education (with much blame to be placed at the feet of conservative Christianity), coupled with a fierce rebellion against an outdated Victorian expectation of conduct where sexual issues were frequently not discussed.

Concurrent with this, to argue that in principle women can be leaders and teachers within the assembly, is by no means to say that all women can be leaders and teachers. All men are certainly not qualified to be leaders and teachers. An egalitarian interpretation of v. 12 does not seek to nullify the position or value of qualified male leaders within the Body of Messiah, but rather to do justice to the examples of female leaders throughout the Scriptures, and appropriately recognize the circumstances and false teaching Timothy had to see stopped in Ephesus. If any women today try to usurp, degrade, or demean qualified male spiritual leaders—or if any men today try to usurp, degrade, or demean qualified male spiritual leaders—then a fair solution for resolving such a problem needs to be sought. In Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wanted the ignorant and gossipy women to be instructed. By going through with this, they may have seen how difficult it truly was to be a leader and teacher within the ekklēsia.


20. But Priscilla taught Apollos, didn’t she (Acts 18:26)? And she is even mentioned before her husband, Aquila. Doesn’t that show that the practice of the early church did not exclude women from the teaching office of the church?

It is witnessed in Acts 18:26, of the Alexandrian Jew Apollos, “and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” The verb ektithēmi notably can mean, “to convey information by careful elaboration, explain, expound” (BDAG).[120] Complementarians have certainly had to reckon with the fact that the Jewess Priscilla is mentioned as playing some role in assisting the spiritual development of Apollos. Piper and Grudem state the following in 50 Crucial Questions:

“We are eager to affirm Priscilla as a fellow worker with Paul in Christ (Rom. 16:3)! She and her husband were very influential in the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:19), as well as in Ephesus. We can think of many women in our churches today like Priscilla. Nothing in our understanding of Scripture says that when a husband and wife visit an unbeliever (or a confused believer—or anything else), the wife must be silent. It is easy for us to imagine the dynamics of such a discussion in which Priscilla contributes to the explanation of baptism in Jesus’s name and the work of the Holy Spirit.”[121]

To their credit as Christian complementarians, Piper and Grudem both affirm that Priscilla played a role in helping Apollos. Not all Bible readers would, in fact, affirm that Priscilla played any role in helping Apollos—but instead might simply claim that her husband Aquila did all of the talking, while she was working in the kitchen and serving them refreshments. As complementarians, though, Piper and Grudem regard any teaching of Priscilla to Apollos to be a private, and not public, venue, per their view of 1 Timothy 2:12 (discussed previously). And also, in their estimation, they think that egalitarian Christian interpreters might put too much stock in Priscilla playing a role in the spiritual direction of Apollos:

“We do not claim to know the spirit and balance of how Priscilla and Aquila and Apollos related to each other. We only claim that a feminist reconstruction of the relationship has no more warrant than ours. The right of Priscilla to hold an authoritative teaching office cannot be built on an event about which we know so little. It is only a guess to suggest that the order of their names signifies Priscilla’s leadership.”[122]

It is entirely fair to deduce from Acts 18:26 that Priscilla took a role in teaching Apollos, something which would have been irregular, for certain, in the patriarchal and male-dominant culture of both the Jewish and Greco-Roman Mediterranean. Of course, many Christian complementarians would be quick to argue that Priscilla playing a role in the spiritual formation of the individual Apollos, does not all of a sudden mean that Acts 18:26 is endorsing ordained female clergy. However, our questioner has been keen to state how “she is even mentioned before her husband, Aquila,” and if one looks at the KJV rendering of Acts 18:26, taken from the Textus Receptus, we see that the name order is actually reversed:

“And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26, KJV).

All modern versions today, translated from critical editions of the Greek New Testament, include the order “Priscilla and Aquila” (Priskilla kai Akulas). Textual critics of the Greek Apostolic Scriptures astutely indicate that the order was reversed to “Aquila and Priscilla” to diminish the role that Priscilla played in helping Apollos:

Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: “Apparently the Western reviser (D itgig syr copsa arm al) desired to reduce the prominence of Priscilla, for he either mentions Aquila first (as here) or inserts the name of Aquila without including Priscilla (as in verses 3, 18, and 21). The unusual order, the wife before the husband, must be accepted as original, for there was always a tendency among scribes to change the unusual to the usual. In the case of Priscilla and Aquila, however, it was customary in the early church to refer to her before her husband (cf. Ro 16.3; 2 Tm 4.19).”[123]

Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: “The D-reviser (and the majority of witnesses, Maj-so KJV) reversed the order of ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ so as not to give prominence to Priscilla. One would then expect that his revision would have been thoroughgoing, but he did not change the order of ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ in 18:18. In any event, Priscilla was generally given prominence in the NT record by being mentioned first (see Rom 15:3; 2 Tim 4:19).”[124]

The oldest manuscript witnesses of Acts 18:26 read with “Priscilla and Aquila” and not “Aquila and Priscilla.” Why later copyists changed this order, was clearly to downplay or dismiss any role that Priscilla had in teaching and mentoring Apollos. If Acts 18:26 represents a trajectory of females playing a more significant and prominent leadership role in the Body of Messiah, in the post-resurrection era—then reversing the order to “Aquila and Priscilla” would clearly be a manipulative tactic to see that trajectory halted. Many of today’s Christian complementarians do not tend to voluntarily discuss the variant readings of Acts 18:26, with the older textual witnesses favoring an egalitarian trajectory of males and females serving together in the spiritual development of brothers and sisters in the faith.


21. Are you saying that it is all right for women to teach men under some circumstances?

Complementarians such as Piper and Grudem assert in 50 Crucial Questions, guided by their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15, that “we do not understand it to mean an absolute prohibition of all teaching by women.”[125] Following this, they then discuss some of the positive ways that females have been used to teach, as witnessed in Scripture:

“Elsewhere, Paul instructs older women to ‘teach what is good, and so train the young women’ (Titus 2:3-4), and he commends the teaching that Eunice and Lois gave to their respective son and grandson Timothy (2 Tim. 2:5; 3:14). Proverbs praises the ideal wife because ‘she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue’ (Prov. 31:26). Paul endorses women prophesying in church (1 Cor. 11:5) and says that men ‘learn’ by such prophesying (1 Cor. 14:31) and that the members (presumably men and women) should be ‘teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Col. 3:16). Then, of course, there is Priscilla and Aquila’s side correcting Apollos (Acts 18:26).”[126]

Egalitarians should appreciate how Piper and Grudem do laud the role of females, for some degree of teaching others.

As complementarians, though, for Piper and Grudem, anything involving females teaching or exercising leadership, is affected by their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12. They are held by a view of 1 Timothy 2:12 which is universal to all times and settings, not situation-specific to Ephesus, and which has what should be considered a questionable approach to the verb authenteō. So, complementarians feel that primary responsibility for teaching and leadership rests with males.

Egalitarians such as myself, in contrast, properly recognize the situation-specific thrust of 1 Timothy 2:12 and a correct approach to the verb authenteō: “But I do not permit a woman to teach or usurp authority of a man, but to be in silence” (PME). Rather than see unqualified females usurp the position of qualified males in the assembly at Ephesus, they were to instead directed to learn (1 Timothy 2:11). Egalitarians do not believe that there are gender limitations on those in the Body of Messiah who can lead or teach. However, egalitarians do believe that responsibility for teaching and leadership rests with those persons, of either gender, who have the legitimate spiritual calling and gifts to do so. An endorsement, in principle, of females serving as ordained leaders in the Body of Messiah, hardly means that all females should be leaders or teachers. We believe that within the First Century C.E., significant steps were taken to see females integrated within the leadership and teaching structures of the ekklēsia, but that various Apostolic successors saw that a male-dominant leadership assert itself in the decades following the Apostles’ death.


22. Can’t a pastor authorize a women to teach Scripture to the congregation and then continue to exercise oversight while she teaches?

Complementarians like Piper and Grudem base much of their prohibitive presuppositions of females in positions of leadership and teaching in the Body of Messiah on their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15, which they interpret as being universal. But what do they think about females ever teaching a congregation of people, particularly with the oversight or administration of designated male leaders? It is witnessed in 50 Crucial Questions that Piper and Grudem do think it is permissive for females to exercise some limited teaching capacity, with the endorsement of male leadership, provided that it does not communicate to an audience that a female has taken a formal leadership role within an assembly, and that she not teach forcefully on an issue:

“It is right for all the teaching ministries of the church to meet with the approval of the guardians and overseers (i.e., elders) of the church. However, it would be wrong for the leadership of the church to use its authority to sanction the de facto functioning of a woman as a teaching elder in the church, only without name. In other words, to biblically affirm a woman teaching, two kinds of criteria should be met. One is to have the endorsement of the spiritual overseers of the church (i.e., elders). The other is to avoid contexts and kinds of teaching that put a woman in the position of functioning as the de facto spiritual shepherd of a group of men or to avoid the kind of teaching that by its very nature calls for strong, forceful pressing of men’s consciences on the basis of divine authority.”[127]

Egalitarians, who would read 1 Timothy 2:15 as not being universal instruction, would not see any prohibition on qualified females, with the right training, spiritual temperament, and demeanor, being recognized co-leaders and co-teachers in the assembly along with males.

Piper and Grudem’s comments about females having limited ability to teach an assembly, with the approval of male leaders, do represent a number of guidelines that any guest speaker to an assembly should keep in mind. A guest speaker has likely accepted an invitation to teach to a congregation, with the approval and oversight of the elders and/or leadership board, and should not take advantage of the opportunity to give a presentation to an assembly, lest the guest never be invited back again. Unfortunately, we know of too many times when a guest speaker does not respect the leadership of a local faith community, making overstatements in a teaching message, and crosses inappropriate lines.

Egalitarians who would see Piper and Grudem’s statements as an opportunity for women to teach, at least in a limited capacity—with steady progress toward greater gender equality able to be made—need to remember that when females overstep what they have been permitted to do in this sort of setting, they can deter the progress that needs to be made in seeing more women integrated into the leadership and teaching structure of the Body of Messiah. Egalitarians are well aware of the control and male-dominance of complementarians. But, should a woman be asked or permitted to speak by a man who is complementarian, she should do so within the bounds set by him. If a female is asked to speak on a particular topic to the wider congregation, she should stay on topic, and not go beyond or usurp what the leadership has asked. (The same is true of any male asked to speak to the wider congregation.) This should invite further opportunities for females to speak, rather than seeing a moratorium issued for the future.


23. How can you be in favor of women prophesying in church but not in favor of women being pastors and elders? Isn’t prophecy at the very heart of those roles?

There are obviously different positions broadly held among examiners regarding the position of prophets or prophesying in the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament. I am in general agreement with Piper and Grudem on this, who summarize what they mean when speaking of prophecy in the First Century ekklēsia:

“Prophecy in the worship of the early church was not the kind of authoritative, infallible revelation we associate with the written prophecies of the Old Testament. It was a report in human words based on a spontaneous, personal revelation from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14:30) for the purpose of edification, encouragement, consolation, conviction, and guidance (1 Cor. 14:3, 24-25; Acts 21:4; 16:6-10).”[128]

Today in various worship settings—while I am more frequently uncomfortable with it than not, mainly because I have encountered too many people speak in the first person “I” as either “God” or “Father”—I have witnessed prophetic words issued to an assembly, with the genuine intention of spurring people to action.

In their reading of the Apostolic Scriptures, Piper and Grudem are not seen to oppose, in principle, females issuing prophetic declarations to a public assembly. They do not consider females issuing prophetic words to a public assembly to be the same as teaching, however. In their view,

“The role of pastor/elder is primarily governance and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17). In the list of qualifications for elders, the prophetic gift is not mentioned, but the ability to teach is (1 Tim. 3:2). In Ephesians 4:11, prophets are distinguished from pastor-teachers. And even though men learn from prophecies that women give, Paul distinguishes the gift of prophecy from the gift of teaching (Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:28). Women are nowhere forbidden to prophesy. Paul simply relegates the demeanor in which they prophesy so as not to compromise the principle of the spiritual leadership of men.”[129]

Evangelical egalitarians will have often disagreements with complementarians, and their application of instruction such as 1 Timothy 5:17 and 1 Timothy 3:2—viewing the material in the commonly-labeled Pastoral Epistles (1&2 Timothy, Titus) as not being universal for all places, but instead principally intended for Timothy to deliver to the Ephesian Believers and Titus to deliver to the Cretan Believers.[130] For an egalitarian such as myself, I do not consider the instruction for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3, and its seeming limitation for only males to be elders, to be universal. I consider it to mainly apply to the situation that Timothy had to see resolved in Ephesus, particularly as it involved the role of Ephesian females being at fault for disseminating the false teaching (cf. 2 Timothy 3:6-7).[131] When we see the mention of a female apostle, Junia, in Romans 16:7, then we definitely see that the First Century ekklēsia was set on a trajectory of males and females serving in all high offices of congregational leadership.

It is witnessed that there are differences of approach between complementarians and egalitarians, to how they interpret what are often called the five-fold gifts of ministry. Ephesians 4:11 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” Are these specific, designated, rigid positions of ministry? Or are these more ad-hoc categories, with more spiritual gifts that the Apostle Paul could have listed? For Paul himself as an apostle, few would doubt that he also had evangelistic skills, pastoral skills, and teaching skills. Everyone who functions in ministry, even while specializing in one of these gifts, should have some ability to function in all of them. The idea that females could prophesy, but not be able to evangelize or pastor or teach (at least on some level), is an artificial construct imposed on the text by complementarians. There is no limitation placed on kol-basar or “all flesh” in the oracle of Joel 2:28-29:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28-29, ESV).

The frequently-labeled five-fold gifts of ministry (Ephesians 4:11) answer to the Holy Spirit being poured out on “all flesh.” Males and females equally can be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.


24. Are you saying, then, that you accept the freedom of women to prophesy publicly as described in Acts 2:17; 21:9; and 1 Corinthians 11:5?

As complementarians, Piper and Grudem appreciably answer “Yes”[132] to this.

Continue Reading with Part 2


[1] According to Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1238, complementarian is “The view that men and women are equal in value before God but that some governing and teaching roles in the church are reserved for men.”

[2] According to Ibid., 1240, egalitarian is “The view that all functions and roles in the church are open to men and women alike.”

[3] For a review of some of this, consult Alan F. Johnson, ed., How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

[4] It is true that there are those who have moved from complementarianism to egalitarianism, who then have later embraced acceptance of homosexual marriage. A significant example of this would be Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

[5] It is true, however, that various persons who have held to a complementarian theology have been responsible for physical abuse of females. Consult Ruth A. Tucker, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016).

[6] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 18.

[7] Piper and Grudem, 19.

[8] Consult especially the FAQ entries on the Messianic Apologetics website, “1 Corinthians 6:9-10” and “Romans 1:26-27.”

[9] Piper and Grudem, 21.

[10] Ibid.

[11] If necessary, consult the entries for the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus in the author’s workbook A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic.

[12] Piper and Grudem, pp 21-22.

[13] Ibid., 22.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Spiros Zodhiates, ed., Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993), 860.

[16] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 430.

[17] BibleWorks 9.0: LSJM Lexicon (Unabridged). MS Windows 7 Release. Norfolk: BibleWorks, LLC, 2011. DVD-ROM.

[18] Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), pp 117-139 specifically his fifteen reasons on why kephalē does not exclusively mean “authority.”

[19] Wayne Grudem, “The Meaning of Kephalē (‘Head’): A Response to Recent Studies,” in John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), pp 425-468.

[20] C.C. Kroeger, “Head,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), pp 375-377; Alan F. Johnson, “A Meta-Study of the Debate over the Meaning of ‘Head’ (Kephalē) in Paul’s Writings,” Priscilla Papers Issue 20:4, Autumn 2006; Lynn H. Cohick, “Headship,” in Joel B. Green, ed., ed. et. al. Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), pp 349-350; Richard S. Cervin, “On the Significance of [Kephalē] (Head): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word,” Missing Voices: A special edition journal of Christians for Biblical Equality 2014.

[21] God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible 2007, HCSB (Nashville: Serendipity House Publishers, 2007), 1149.

[22] Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Branch, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 641.

[23] Ibid., 642.

[24] Piper and Grudem, 22.

[25] Ibid., 23.

[26] Ibid., 24.

[27] Ibid, pp 24-25.

[28] Ibid., pp 87-89.

[29] Alan G. Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), pp 64-65.

[30] Piper and Grudem, pp 25-26.

[31] Ibid., 27.

[32] Plato, The Republic, trans. Desmond Lee (London: Penguin Books, 2007), 161.

[33] Aristotle, Politics, trans. Ernest Barker (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 16.

[34] BDAG, 542.

[35] Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), pp 640-641.

[36] Peter T. O’Brien, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 412.

[37] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein., ed. et. al., Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 11:75.

[38] O’Brien, 411.

[39] Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. E-Sword 8.0.8. MS Windows 9x. Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2008.

[40] Francis Foulkes, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (London: Tyndale Press, 1963), 155.

[41] Ibid., pp 156-157.

[42] One of the best complementarian perspectives that I have seen is expressed by Craig Blomberg in James R. Beck, ed., Two Views on Women in Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), pp 123-184.

[43] Keep in mind that the Tanach Scriptures are themselves rather revolutionary when it comes to the role of women, especially when the Torah’s law codes are compared to those of the Ancient Near East.

Consult the author’s article “Answering the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” for more details.

[44] LS, 430.

[45] There is actually some lexical debate over what kephalē should be defined as. BDAG, 542 states that kephalē is “not source.” William David Spencer addresses this, remarking, “Readers should note, it is one thing to emphasize a definition of ‘head’ within the category of authority, but quite another to specify that the word cannot as well mean ‘source’ in the New Testament” (“Editor’s Reflections” Priscilla Papers Issue 24:2, Spring 2010).

[46] Payne, 130.

[47] For a more detailed description, consult Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), pp 5-10.

[48] “1 Corinthians 11:2-3: Head/Source Relationships,” in Payne, pp 117-139; specifically his fifteen reasons on why kephalē does not exclusively mean “authority.”

[49] Wayne Grudem, “The Meaning of Kephalē (‘Head’): A Response to Recent Studies,” in John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), pp 425-468.

[50] Cf. C.C. Kroeger, “Head,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 375-377; J.K. McVay, “Head, Christ as,” in Ibid., pp 377-378.

[51] Walter C. Kaiser, Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 641.

A more recent example I found of this is seen in God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible 2007, a study Bible published by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). While this publication employed the HCSB, with translation principles that protest the usage of inclusive language in English Bible versions, its comments on Ephesians 5:23 concur closer with an egalitarian view:

“The word ‘head’ when used today has the sense of ‘ruler’ or ‘authority.’ However, in Greek when ‘head’ is used in a metaphorical sense as it is here, it also means ‘origin’ as in the ‘source (head) of a river.’ Woman has her origins in man (Gen. 2:18-23) just as the church has its origins in Christ” (Nashville: Serendipity House Publishers, 2007, p 1149).

[52] Aida Besançon Spencer, “From Poet to Judge: What Does Ephesians 5 Teach About Male-Female Roles?” Priscilla Papers Issue 4:3, Summer 1990.

[53] Ibid.

[54] BDAG, 138.

[55] Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, Vol. 42 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), pp 368-369.

[56] Payne, pp 120, 121.

[57] Ibid., 137.

[58] Lest anyone think that the creation of Adam first somehow denotes a Divine preference for males, we cannot forget how the Genesis creation account directly countered the competing Mesopotamian mythology. In Atrahasis, human beings were given birth by a mother goddess to be the slaves of the gods.

Cf. Stephanie Dalley, trans., Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp 14-15ff.

In the Biblical creation account, contrary to this, humanity is made to commune with God in a garden planted by Him (Genesis 3:8). Females must join with males in order to conceive a child, similar to how the womb-goddess must give birth. But from the Biblical point of view, God portrayed as male cannot give birth, as man and woman are made by the Lord ex nihilo or out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3).

[59] Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 323.

[60] In Torah passages such as Numbers 25:15 where rosh ‘ummot beit-av, “the tribal head of an ancestral house” (NJPS) appears, the LXX notably renders it as archontos ethnous…oikou patrias estin, with the term kephalē used in Ephesians 5:23 noticeably absent. Such a “head of the house(hold)” is also not the leader of an individual family, but rather a large nomadic clan within a tribe of Ancient Israel.

[61] Aristotle, Politics, 33.

[62] The Greek source text for these works has been accessed via the Perseus Collection <>.

[63] Aristotle: Politics, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Adelaide, South Australia: University of Adelaide Library, 2007). Accessible online at <>.

[64] Plutarch: Advice to Bride and Groom. Accessible online at <*.html>.

[65] Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, 166.

[66] Keener reminds us that women taking a role in Christian ministry, at least, is not something that has only now emerged with the modern feminist movement:

“Women’s ministry…became increasingly accepted in many times of revival, including the Wesleyan revival that changed the course of spiritual life in Britain and the Second Great Awakening in the United States. Pentecostal and Holiness groups were ordaining women long before modern secular feminism and unbiblical arguments for women’s ordination made it a divisive issue in some circles” (Two Views of Women in Ministry, 244).

[67] Ibid., pp 27-28.

[68] Ibid., 28.

[69] Ibid., 28.

[70] Ibid., 28.

[71] Ibid., 29.

[72] Ibid., 29.

[73] Ibid., 30.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid., pp 30-31.

[77] Ibid., 31.

[78] Ibid., 32.

[79] Ibid., pp 34-35.

[80] Ibid., 35.

[81] Ibid., pp 35-36.

[82] Ibid., 36.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 101.

[85] Cf. James D.G. Dunn, “The First and Second Letters to Timothy and the Letter to Titus,” in Leander E. Keck, ed., et. al., New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 2000), 11:801.

[86] Donald Guthrie, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Pastoral Epistles (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 86.

[87] Taking 1 Timothy 2:12 to be a universal prohibition on women teaching is often associated with varied interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (universal circumstances, situation-specific to the worship services in Corinth).

Various conservative, evangelical Christian interpreters have made a strong case in favor of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 actually being an interpolation of a later copyist. Of significant interest would be the direct appeal made to “the Law” in silencing women, especially as there is no specific prohibition in the Torah or Pentateuch that bars women from speaking in the assembly.

Cf. Gordon D. Fee, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp 699-708; “1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Did Paul Forbid Women to Speak in Church?”, in Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), pp 217-267.

[88] William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Vol. 46 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 120.

[89] Consult Payne, pp 337-359, for a thorough grammatical explanation as to why this is a single concept, and not women teaching and also domineering men.

[90] Kenneth L. Barker, ed., et. al., NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1875.

[91] George W. Knight III, New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), pp 141-142; I. Howard Marshall, with Philip H. Towner. International Critical Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (London: T&T Clark, 2004), pp 456-460; Mounce, pp 126-130; Ben Witherington III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), pp 227-228; Payne, pp 361-397.

[92] Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles, 87.

[93] Mounce, 126.

[94] Frederick William Danker, ed., et. al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 150.

[95] LS, 132.

[96] Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, 288.

[97] Cf. LS, 276; BDAG, pp 352-354.

[98] Payne, 375.

[99] Philip H. Towner, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 220.

[100] Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, 109.

[101] Cf. Payne, pp 361-363, esp. 364.

[102] Ibid., pp 363, 364.

[103] To be fair, the {then} newly released Tree of Life Messianic Family Bible—The New Covenant (Summer 2011), does actually render 1 Timothy 2:12 with, “But I do not allow a woman to train or dictate to a man.” This undoubtedly is a significant improvement to be welcomed! But, how many Messianic congregational leaders will still be completely aloof of linguistic debates regarding the verb authenteō?

[104] A. Duane Litfin, “1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Titus,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 735.

[105] Gordon D. Fee, New International Bible Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 73.

[106] Towner, 219.

[107] Douglas Moo, “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?,” in John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), 183.

[108] Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles, pp 86, 87.

[109] Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy; 2 Timothy,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. et. al., Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 11:362.

[110] George W. Knight III, New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 141.

[111] Moo, in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 187.

[112] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1995), 640.

[113] Mounce, 128.

Cf. 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 4:14.

[114] Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus; cf. Marshall & Towner, 454; Witherington, Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 212.

[115] Witherington, Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 226.

[116] Marshall & Towner, 455.

[117] “Every occurrence of [epitrepō] in the Greek OT refers to a specific situation, never to a universally applicable permission. Similarly, the vast majority of NT occurrences of [epitrepō] clearly refers to a specific time or for a short or limited time duration only” (Payne, 320; cf. further discussion in Ibid., pp 320-323).

Cf. Matthew 8:21; Mark 5:13; Luke 8:32; 9:59, 61; John 19:38; Acts 21:39, 40; 27:3; 28:16; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3.

[118] Ibid., 379.

[119] Towner, 219.

[120] BDAG, 310.

[121] Piper and Grudem, 37.

[122] Ibid., 38.

[123] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London and New York: United Bible Societies, 1975), pp 466-467.

[124] Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008), 409.

[125] Piper and Grudem, 38.

[126] Ibid., pp 38-39.

[127] Ibid., pp 40-41.

[128] Ibid., pp 40-41.

[129] Ibid., 40.

[130] If necessary, do consult the entries for the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus in the author’s workbook A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic.

[131] Obviously, there are principles that can be deduced from the qualifications of elders and deacons listed in 1 Timothy 3, but they can and should be adapted where necessary for modern settings.

[132] Piper and Grudem, 41.