Now whatever this verse was originally about—probably against some Canaanite practice—it was not about eating pizza and lamb meat in the same meal. It highlights the fact again that the books of the Bible just were not written to us originally. When passages seem to make the least sense to us, we are often looking at words that spoke directly to the time they were written but not so clearly to our time and context.
I am convinced that the teaching of 1 Timothy on women falls into this category of things locked up in the past, despite the fact that many segments of the church are comfortable with its instructions. For example, most Christians today would be hard pressed to think of why it would be preferable for a widow not to remarry or why she would need to get remarried because of an inability to refrain from her sexual desires. We assume these instructions made perfect sense in their first century context, but it is not at all clear they do now.
And most Protestant churches have not seen any virtue in a man needing to be married only once to be an effective leader, especially if his first wife died. True, the Orthodox Church still holds to this requirement, and many Protestants still have problems with a minister who is divorced. But it is not clear what intrinsic reason we could come up with today that would make much sense. Why would a widowed minister who remarries be less wise or less effective than one who remained single?
The position of many segments of the church today on women, both women ministers and women in the home, also strikes of the Jewish rule against eating pizza and meat in the same meal. I like to think of it this way. Let us say we are on a plane whose pilot is incapacitated, and we have a choice between having a woman take over who actually knows how to fly a plane or having a man take over who has no knowledge of flying whatsoever. Of course we would have the woman fly the plane, because she is the most competent to do so.
In our current context, insisting that a man be the senior pastor or the head of the home simply because of his genitals makes about as much sense. Let us speak plainly. This is plain irrationality. It makes a mockery of the idea that God is all-wise and omniscient. It makes a mockery of God and Christ before the world.
And what is worse, this headship for its own sake, this genital-based leadership—not a theory you will find in any book on leadership, mind you—is headed in the opposite direction of the kingdom. It is, in the words of Colossians, to submit to the “elemental spirits of the world” (Col. 2:20) rather than see the trajectory of the kingdom, where wives are not given to men in marriage (Mark 12:25) and there is not “male and female” any longer (Gal. 3:28). It is to approach blasphemy, as if Christ only died for some sins but not all, not the sins of Eve. Indeed, we can tell we are in the age of the Spirit precisely because our sons and daughters prophesy (Acts 2:17).
We have shown in these two volumes that no Scripture, rightly interpreted, prohibits women from any level of leadership and ministry in the church, indeed, that we find such women in the New Testament. Let us be clear on this score. Paul did not see husband-headship in conflict with the prophetic ministry of a woman, which 1 Corinthians 11 proves. And, therefore, the silence of women in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, if these verses are even original, cannot be about spiritual speech but only about disruptive speech.
Now we see that 1 Timothy 2:12 is also about the husband-wife relationship and thus does not have any bearing on a woman’s prophetic ministry. And in any case, surely Paul’s central writings and Acts have a better claim to stand at the center of our understanding, rather than some interpretation of a writing that is in so many ways the exception in the Pauline corpus rather than the rule. All we have left to debate is whether husband-headship is timeless or, like eating pizza with meat, is a feature of Paul’s ancient context. Since it is irrational to base leadership on genitals—physical organs not particularly known for their wisdom—I have little doubt personally where God is leading his church today.