Are Witnesses and Repetition needed to Prove Women may not teach the Bible?
In the last blog post, Cheryl Schatz posed her second set of questions to Mike Seaver regarding their discussion/debate on women in ministry. Links to all the previous questions and responses is at the end of this post. This discussion will be Cheryl’s response to Mike’s answers on question #2 and Mike’s rejoinder.
Regarding Mike’s denial that there is a need for a law to have a second witness:
Cheryl Schatz responds:
I didn’t say that “scripture” needs a second witness. There is a lot in the scripture that isn’t repeated. What I did say is that a judicial matter (that is the establishing of a matter that will charge a person with sin) always comes with a second witness. All of God’s laws have been established by at least a second or third witness. Try as you might you cannot find a universal law that doesn’t have a judicial second witness. When God establishes such a requirement for our safety, we can be guaranteed that He will follow through and make every matter of sin clear so that no one will fall into sin by an unclear (bugle) warning.
1 Cor 14:7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?
1 Cor 14:8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?
1 Cor 14:9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.
The fact is that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not recognized as a universal prohibition by a good portion of the church. Why is that? There are a lot of reasons. First of all this unique prohibition was written in a personal letter instead of a letter to the church, (not a good idea if this was to be a universal prohibition) and it was written in the words of a man and not said as a command of the Lord Jesus (this signals that it is situation-based and not universal).
Not only is it not clear that the prohibition was written to all godly women for all of time, since it was written to one person concerning particular problems in that one church, but the prohibition is placed in a passage that has several obscure words and concepts that have puzzled the church for a couple of thousand years. Also, the sanction of 1 Timothy 2:12 was written in the words of a man and not said as a command of the Lord Jesus (this signals that it is situation-based and not a universal prohibition). Added to this is the context which is about false doctrine and false teachers and there is nothing in the passage that would hint that Paul is stopping godly Christian women from their teaching of the truth. Also, a universal command is unworkable with 1 Timothy 2:15 especially with the inspired grammar of singular and plural (“she” and “they” and the future tense used concerning the question of her salvation), along with the fact that the prohibition is never repeated or explained anywhere else. Lastly, the prohibition is never accounted for in any list of sins. This is a massive amount of red flags that signal that the prohibition is not universal for all godly women for all of church history. It is about a particular situation in the context of false teaching.
I also established that Jesus agreed that a second witness was necessary for a judicial matter. His own testimony that He is the Son of God would be a matter that would be used to charge people with sin thus it was a matter that needed a second witness. It seems inconsistent then that God would fail to give Christian women a second witness in a matter that would charge them universally with sin for teaching the truth about the Bible. Are women to be judged for refusing to be prejudiced towards their brothers in Christ by demanding that these precious men leave the room? That is unthinkable when compared to Paul’s words about body-wide edification. God loves us so much, that it is also inconceivable that He would list a sin in a personal letter and then refuse to be clear about when, how or why teaching the truth of God’s word becomes a sin merely by who is listening to her. Is a woman guilty if a man is listening and she cannot see him? If she demands that he leaves so that she can continue to teach, is she now sinning because she is “taking authority” over him? The amount of “what if’s” in this situation would require a complete Christian Talmud to sort out. Or….we could just understand that it is not a universal “law” that makes correct biblical teaching to be a sin for godly Christian women.
Jesus said that if His testimony was alone, it was still the truth, yet it was not considered lawful without a second witness. Jesus submitted to the law of the second witness, and He provided a second, third and fourth witness to lawfully establish who He is. Those who refused to believe would die in their sins.
The book of Genesis confirms that repetition is used to establish a matter.
Genesis 41:32 “Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.
The Hebrew term for “determined” means to be firmly established, confirmed, fixed, ordained. God’s law has all been firmly established and ordained with at least a second witness so that it can be used as a judgment against our sins.
God is infallible and inerrant and yet He provided a second witness to every single law that He gave. There is not one universal law that is without a second witness so we can see that God has been faithful to us to provide ample evidence regarding sin. But without a second witness, why do so many feel free to accuse godly women of being in sin depending on who is in their audience while they faithfully teach God’s word? The “law” that God forbids women to teach the bible to men fails the test that this is indeed one of God’s universal laws. It is because God loves us and wants us to flee sin that He has made it very clear in scripture what sin is. Has God changed His mind in the area of women so that He refuses to provide a second witness that teaching the Bible is sometimes a sin for them? Did God say “I forbid women to teach the bible to men”? Or is it possible that we are reading into 1 Timothy 2:12 a “law” where there is no God-ordained universal law?
The issue is not whether Scripture is true or not. I agree that it is without error (in the original writings), but I also agree with Jesus that even as His testimony is true without a second witness, yet His testimony was also invalid as a judicial witness without a second witness. God gave us ample witnesses against sin. But there is no second witness that forbids godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men.
It will not do to deny that a second witness is needed since God Himself has ordained and provided the second witness in every instance of a judicial matter that would lead to the charge of sin. I have also documented that both Jesus and Paul submitted themselves to the necessity of the second witness in an area where a judicial matter is being established. All it would take to refute my entire argument is to provide one example of a universal law that is not repeated. If you can provide a universal law that is not repeated, then you have disproven my case. If you cannot provide a universal law that is without a second witness, then you will need to explain why God has failed to establish, confirm and ordain one unique law that leaves half of the body of Christ as potentially operating in sin for doing what is never a sin issue for men? Why has God made an exception to the rule without telling us the reason He has done this to women while leaving no such unestablished law for men to be concerned about? Would this not be showing that God is a respecter of persons as He has failed to establish His law only regarding women? God doesn’t have to do anything for mankind in the first place, but since He chose to do something for all of us by communicating His law and setting up a standard to establish the law, it appears inconsistent and unsafe to have one law for all Christian women that fall outside of that established standard.
Mike you said:
As far as other theological debates go…if Scripture needs a second witness than all those who hold a Millennial view of Premillennialism or Post Millennialism are out of luck because only Revelation 20 speaks of a Millennium. Only Amillennialist bring this up…usually.
My claim is that judicial matters need a second witness. Scripture doesn’t need a second witness to the Millennium since it is not part of a judicial witness that is used to charge someone of sin.
Also, I think the idea that more than one source is not consulted when thinking about whether or not women can be overseers/elders/pastors is a faulty one. Paul, the apostle speaks about it in 1 Timothy 3:2 and in Titus 1:6. He mentions that women should not teach or exercise authority in 1 Timothy 2:12.
There is no statement in these passages that women cannot be an overseer/elder/pastor. Also there is no charge of sin or a punishment for a woman who desires to be an overseer/elder/pastor (it is even encouraged in 1 Timothy 3:1). Nowhere in the scripture is there a charge of sin listed for a woman who is teaching correct biblical doctrine, but who fails to dismiss the men before she teaches. It is a stark omission that there is no list of sin that documents a sin that relates to women teaching the truth of the Bible.
Mike you said:
The order of worship in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (specifically ch. 14) seems to speak about men being the ones leading the corporate meeting.
Where is this “suggestion” that only men are leading? In 1 Corinthians 12, the term “brethren” is not for men only. It is a term for Christians. There is nothing there that says “men only”. In 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter is all about love. Is this all about men too? I have never seen that suggested. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says “the whole church” and “all”. This chapter also isn’t about only men speaking, but about the permission that is given to all to prophesy. Even church discipline is done not by the elders alone but by the church. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:6 –
2 Corinthians 2:6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,
The edifying of the church is to be done by all, not just the men. Which verses in 1 Corinthians 12-14 say “men only”? I do not see any such verses.
Acts 20 has Paul speaking to the Ephesians elders and it seems like they were all men and this is Luke writing (Acts 20:30 uses “men” as who will rise up from among them). Peter and Paul speak of male headship when it comes to marriages (1 Peter 3:1, Eph. 5:22).
There may have been only men as elders at any particular time in a church. It is a far stretch to take a historical account and make it a doctrine that only men can teach the Bible to the church. Also, I don’t want to go outside of this topic by talking about “headship” in marriage, but from what you have already said, it appears that you agree that a woman can teach the Bible to her husband. If a woman can teach the bible to her husband when he is her “head”, then there is no reason why she cannot teach the bible to another man. There is no other “head” of the church but Jesus Himself, and He has given gifts to His women “sons” for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Mike, if women’s gifts were not for the “common good” then scripture should have told us this fact rather than what was inspired where Paul commands all to desire the gifts for the common good.
Mike you said:
So, while the Bible never says, “godly women who teach right doctrine are not allowed to teach men” it certainly seems to imply that there is a biblical headship and leadership that men are responsible to provide.
As I said, there is no “headship” in the church except for Jesus. The Bible never says males are held responsible to provide leadership. This is reading into the text something that is not there.
Mike you said:
It is great for women to use their gifts and teach. It is just that the Bible says that women should not do this with men present.
On top of the problems that I have already documented, this kind of interpretation implies that women’s gifts are for some reason inferior to men’s gifts or it devalues men since men are not allowed to receive the work of God’s Spirit through women.
This interpretation devalues men if women’s gifts are valuable because men then are forbidden to receive the edification that women are allowed to receive. Women then are given by God the benefit of the gifts of both men and women. They receive encouragement and edification by unique gifts that are given to both males and females. But men have only ½ the gifts for their own benefit. Does God want to punish men because He forbids them from benefiting from some of God’s gifts while freely allowing women to receive all of the gifts?
However, if women’s gifts are NOT valuable to men, then women’s spiritual gifts are inferior and unnecessary gifts for them. A male could say “Women’s gifts may be valuable to women, but I as a male certainly don’t need to receive women’s gifts.” But we have told that we cannot say this.
1 Corinthians 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
A male cannot say that he (personally) does not need women’s gifts. Our gifts are given for the common good, not just for women.
Cheryl, thanks for engaging the conversation again and for your response.
You said Scripture does not need a second witness, but then you said, “[1 Timothy 2:12] was written in a personal letter instead of a letter to the church, (not a good idea if this was to be a universal prohibition), it was written in the words of a man and not said as a command of the Lord Jesus (this signals that it is situation-based and not universal)…”
How is this not saying that Scripture needs a second witness? Timothy was an elder of the Ephesian church and the letter was circulated as Scripture and is thus in our bibles. If all of 1 and 2 Timothy are just for that day and age and not for today, is Christ really our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) are the positions of overseer and deacon necessary (1 Timothy 3:1-12)? Is all Scripture breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16)? Are Paul’s words in a letter to young Timothy Scripture or not? Are Jesus words that are in red (in some bibles) more inspired than other texts? I think all of the Bible is inspired equally, so to say that Paul’s letter is not as useful as Jesus words is unsettling.
So, the “law” idea that you build up is set on the principle that one passage (especially from a personal letter) cannot be enough to allow for a teaching to be true. If Paul wrote to Timothy, “Women should not be elders at any church because that is a position of authority that a man is to take.” You would say that this is cultural, not abiding by a law of consistency in other passages, and thus discarded. But, what if Paul said what he meant and the teaching to Timothy are for the entire church, just as those who put the canon together desired. If something is written one time in Scripture, it must be dealt with as Scripture and not tossed out because there is not an identical passage or teaching found in Jesus’ words.
You said, “All it would take to refute my entire argument is to provide one example of a universal law that is not repeated. If you can provide a universal law that is not repeated then you have disproven my case.” Though I have articulated that I don’t think your argument works, I will explain another universal law that does not have a second witness. The Lord’s Supper. Is it sinful to eat the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner? I say, “Yes” because 1 Corinthians 11:27 says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” It goes on to say that people drink judgment on themselves by improperly taking the Lord’s Supper. Thus a sin, thus a “law” (as you define it), yet there is no second witness. This is the only passage in scripture stating this case. You would have to say “no” it is not sinful to eat the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. You would have to say that there would need to be a second witness for this to be sinful, but their isn’t. Thus a universal law, that is only stated once in Scripture…and I believe it is stated the amount of times it is needed to heed it’s teaching…once.
When talking about 1 Cor. 12-14, I’m not saying that the passage is for men only, both men and women are to use their gifts for the common good in an orderly way, I am saying that the authority in the passage is enacted by the leadership. How else does the order happen? Someone has to be taking the authority to have order. The church had order and Paul assumes that there is authority in the church. I assume that we would both agree that the elders or pastors would be overseeing the corporate meeting. If there are men and women pastors, then I would assume they would both be carrying out the authority of overseeing the corporate meeting, but what if the women pastors were publically correcting prophesies? This seems to be going against 1 Cor. 14:34-35. Like we have and will discuss with other questions, I don’t think this passage speaks of a rule to have women not speak at all, but that they are not to have authority to publicly judge the a wrong prophesy and thus correct it.
This passage can’t be seen as a quotation from another Corinthian letter as you say just because you disagree with the wording as it is stated without quotation marks.
DA Carson said, “It is very doubtful that verses 34-35 constitute a quotation, perhaps from the Corinthians’ letter. During the last decade and a half, one notable trend in Corinthian studies has been to postulate that Paul is quoting the Corinthians in more and more places—usually in places where the commentator does not like what Paul is saying! That Paul does quote from the Corinthians’ letter no one disputes. But the instances that are almost universally recognized as quotations (e.g. 6:12; 7:1b; 8:1b) enjoy certain common characteristics: (i) they are short (e.g. “Everything is permissible for me,” 6:12); (ii) they are usually followed by sustained qualification (e.g., in 6:12 Paul goes on to add “but not everything is beneficial…but I will not be mastered by anything”—and then, following one more brief quotation from their letter, he devotes several verses to the principle he is expounding); (iii) Paul’s response is unambiguous, even sharp. The first two criteria utterly fail if we assume verses 34-35 are a quotation from the letter sent by the Corinthians.”
Lastly, Cheryl, you said, “The problem with this [women not teaching men] is that it makes women’s gifts inferior or it devalues men.” I don’t think Elizabeth Elliot, Carolyn Mahaney, or Dorothy Patterson feel inferior. None of them seek to teach men, yet all of them are very good teachers. I actually think they are esteemed more and are treated better for taking a strong view on biblical womanhood.
If God says the way he creates things are good, why does one using the gifts the way God desires have to be inferior or superior. All gifts are from God anyway. We haven’t earned gifts, but they are from God for his glory and the edification of the church. Women are equal in worth and value, not inferior.
Because of time off to enjoy the summer weather with family, question #3 from Cheryl and Mike’s answer to this set of questions will not be posted until August 17th and it will show up on both Cheryl’s and Mike’s blog at that time. In the meantime we would like to thank everyone for the amount of interest shown in this discussion and the respectful comments and questions that have been posed. Because of Mike’s heavy ministry schedule he may not be able to respond to questions but he would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments.
Links to all segments of the debate: