Table of Contents

Summary of Chapter Content



Timeliness of This Topic

Importance of This Topic

Practical Matters

The first three chapters are a dialogue with those in the author’s religious fellowship, the Churches of Christ, but the remainder engages the wider Christian community, since many fellowships are experiencing the same difficulties as they deal with the matter of women in the church.

CHAPTER ONE: God’s Woman

C. R. Nichol

God’s Woman

God’s Woman’s Reception

Other Voices of Dissent

A Way Forward

Excursus 1: C. R. Nichol

Chapter One. This chapter challenges the common misconception among many in the church that the move to broaden the participation of women in congregational assemblies is rather recent. The chapter does a thorough review of C. R. Nichol’s groundbreaking 1938 book, God’s Woman, and presents a biography of the man himself. Finally, the chapter discusses the views of a number of other earlier Restoration leaders who challenged some of the traditional limitations on women. The chapter includes an excursus on “C. R. Nichol.”

CHAPTER TWO: The Current Impasse

Lack of Consensus

Why So Much Disagreement?

Some Reasons for Disagreements

Flawed Methodology


Excursus 2: Diversity in the Interpretation of the

Three Key Pauline Passages

Chapter Two. This chapter begins by examining the great diversity of opinions on women in the church among those who oppose widening the participation of woman in our assemblies. The positions of those on both sides of the question have actually hardened since the beginning of the women’s movement in the late twentieth century. The chapter then tries to answer the question of why we have been unable to agree on our understanding of the key biblical passages and attributes it primarily to poor exegetical methods. The chapter includes an excursus on “Diversity in the Interpretation of the Three Key Pauline Passages.”

CHAPTER THREE: What Disciplined Bible Study Looks Like

The Opposite of Flawed Methods

Suggestions from Authors of Books on

Women in the Church

Say, Meant, Mean

Chapter Three. This chapter tries to flesh out what good exegetical methodology looks like. It presents insights from a few in our brotherhood who are widely recognized for their expertise in biblical interpretation and have written books on the topic of women in the church. Finally the author presents an exegetical framework of his own that he uses throughout the book. This chapter concludes the introductory matters so that the exegesis of the relevant texts can begin.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Creation Narrative Examination of the Text


Excursus 3: Alternative Interpretations of the Meaning of the Hebrew Word Masal

Excursus 4: F. LaGard Smith’s Treatment of the Creation Narrative in Genesis 1-3

Chapter Four. Unlike many extended studies of this topic, this book begins not with Paul, but with the foundation of it all—the creation narrative in Genesis 1-3.  This is done in two parts.  Chapter four, the first part, is an exegetical study of the creation narrative. This means that these chapters are examined in their own context, without interjecting interpretations found in the New Testament or other early Jewish or Christian writings. The chapter includes two excurses, one on “Alternative Interpretations of the Meaning of the Hebrew Word Masal” and another on “F. LaGard Smith’s Treatment of the Creation Narrative in Genesis 1-3.”

CHAPTER FIVE: New Testament Use of the Genesis Creation Narrative

Types of References

Excursus 5: Jewish Interpretive Methods during theNew Testament Period

Jesus and Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in

Passages Relevant to This Study

Excursus 6: The Meaning of Genesis 3:16 for the Matter of Women in the Church


Chapter Five. This chapter presents the second part of the examination of the creation narrative, namely what we learn from the New Testament that could not be derived from an exegesis Genesis 1-3 alone. It begins with a discussion of the multiple ways New Testament writers use the Old Testament and then examines the relevant New Testament texts within that framework. The chapter includes two excurses, one on “Jewish Interpretive Methods during the New Testament Period” and another on “The Meaning of Genesis 3:16 for the Matter of Women in the Church.”

CHAPTER SIX: Women in the World Of Jesus

Women in First-Century Palestine


Chapter Six. In this and the next chapter the book deals with the state of women in Palestine at the time of Jesus. Chapter six, drawing primarily on the Mishnah, paints a picture of how Pharisaic or Rabbinic Judaism regarded women, developing such topics as social status, submission, property, teaching children, study of the Law, social contact outside the family, marriage, divorce, and women’s testimony. This serves as a backdrop for Jesus’ radically different approach to women in the next chapter.

CHAPTER SEVEN: Jesus and Women

Women in Jesus’ Teachings

Jesus’ Teachings about Women

Jesus’ Association with Women



Chapter Seven. This chapter develops Jesus’ approach to women from three angles:  (1) women in Jesus’ teachings, (2) Jesus’ teachings about women, and (3) Jesus’ association with women. In the latter two he could not have been more different from his rabbinic contemporaries, and he set the stage for the high view of women found in the early decades of the church as it followed his example.

CHAPTER EIGHT: Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 5:21-33

Paul and Jesus

Galatians 3:28

Ephesians 5:21-33

Excursus 7: Hupotassō (“to submit”) in the

New Testament

Excursus 8: Kephalē (“head”) in Paul’s Writings

Ephesians 5:21-33 (Continued)

Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 5:21-33 Taken Together

Chapter Eight. This chapter is the first of four dealing with Paul’s contribution to the subject. It examines Gal. 3:28 and Eph. 5:21-33, two important Pauline texts that do not deal directly with women in the assembly. The discussion finds Gal. 3:28 commonly misused in proof text fashion, but when it is coupled with Paul’s development of the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5, a beautiful synergy of the two passages emerges. The chapter includes two excurses, one on “Hupotassō (‘to submit’) in the New Testament” and another on “Kephalē (‘head’) in Paul’s Writings.”

CHAPTER NINE: I Corinthians 11:2-16


The Key Questions


Chapter Nine. This chapter shows how when women (probably wives) and men prayed and prophesied in the regular Corinthian assemblies the only difference between the two was their head covering or lack of it. Their head covering is what gave these women the right to pray and prophesy in the assembly, activities that otherwise might be regarded in Corinth as shameful. The practice of women covering their heads in the assembly was not uniform in Pauline churches, nor is it usually regarded as applicable today.

CHAPTER TEN: I Corinthians 14:34-35

The Text


Excursus 9: I Cor. 11:5 and 14:34


Chapter Ten. This chapter deals with I Cor. 14:34-35 and finds particularly harmful the common proof-text reading of “let the women be silent in the churches.” The discussion develops how in context Paul is writing about the specific disruptive actions of a certain group of wives who are acting shamefully in the assembly. The passage has no prohibitions for other women in the congregation or for any other forms of participation in the assembly of these disruptive women. Therefore, there is no reason to modify the picture of the Corinthian assemblies we find in I Cor. 11:5, where women prayed and prophesied in the assembly.  The chapter includes an excursus on “I Cor. 11:5 and 14:34,” dealing with the supposed conflict between these two passages.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: I Timothy 2:8-15


Excursus 10: The Meaning of Authenteō and Its Use in I Tim. 2:12


Chapter Eleven. This chapter treats I Tim. 2:8-15 and concludes that all of Paul’s instructions deal with activities during the regular assemblies in Ephesus. It argues that 2:8-10 is used wrongly to prohibit women from praying out loud in the assembly. Paul’s restrictions on women teaching (2:12) have to do with certain married women only whose offense was not that they were teaching, but either what or how they were teaching, probably the latter. Verse 12 is misused when it is employed to prevent women from any leading of men either in the assembly or without. The argument that Paul’s allusions to the Genesis creation narrative indicate that his instructions about women teaching were for all women in every church for all time is fraught with difficulties and should be rejected.  The chapter includes an excursus on “The Meaning of Authenteō and Its Use in I Tim. 2:12.”

CHAPTER TWELVE: The End of the Matter

Proposed Situation for Women in the Church and Home in the First Century

Two Largely Neglected Topics

Excursus 11: Satire on the First Christian

Assembly in Philippi

A Word to Fellow Elders

Concluding Remarks

Chapter Twelve.  This chapter begins with a synthesis of the study by proposing the likely situation for first century women in the church and home that can explain some of Paul’s more restrictive teachings about women. It then highlights two areas that have not received enough attention in the literature, namely (1) the extent to which so much of what Paul writes about women is about wives, not women in general and (2) the significance of the fact that most assemblies in the first century were in a house church setting.  An excursus called “Satire on the First Christian Assembly in Philippi” accompanies the second point. A Word to Fellow Elders and Concluding Remarks about the misuse of I Cor. 14:34 and I Tim. 2:12 to limit women wrongly round out the chapter.



General Index

Scripture Index