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Female Elders and Overseers

Female pastors and elders has become a hot button issue in more recent generations.  If God has no issue with female pastors, neither should we BUT if God makes it clear about his ordained unique roles in His church, we ought to obey.  To know the TRUTH on this matter is extremely important.  It is the difference between standing on truth and obedience or denying God's truth and being disobedient.  That's huge.  To properly understand this, we must ALWAYS go to God's Word first.  We will pick apart 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 3:1-7, 8-13, Titus 1:5-9, and then address common arguments.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 (NASB)
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
That sounds harsh on its face value.  But lets break down this verse by verse, word by word, and apply cultural and historical contexts to help us extract the truth God reveals in this passage. 


 2:11  γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ
ὑποταγῇ, Strong's Number G5292, translated "hypotagē" to "submissiveness", means "(1) the act of subjecting; (2) obedience, subjection"

Paul uses the same word translated "quietly" in 1 Timothy 2:2, and it is translated peaceable there. The idea is without contention instead of total silence.  In other places in the New Testament, even in the writings of Paul, women are specifically mentioned as praying and speaking in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5).  So we know that he does NOT mean that all women are to be silent and not speak.  To "quietly receive instruction" has the idea of women receiving the teaching of the men God has chosen to lead in the church, with submissiveness instead of contention.  Not to publicly and openly argue or debate those who were ordained by God to teach, or by other means interrupt the teaching of God's Holy Word.  It is more like a showing a level of respect and acknowledge order of authority for the office because of who appoints people to that office.

It DOES NOT mean that men are more spiritual than women or that women are inferior to men.  That is a misrepresentation, false understanding, and usually, but some, a flat out lie to manipulate Christians.  People that idolize their sex typically perceive these verses to be against women and belittle women and so on by default and assume the offense.

"Submissiveness" is the principle and "quietly receiving instruction" is the application of that principle.

Historically, women interrupted the church service by shouting questions and comments to their husbands during the service completely interrupting the teacher and the message being taught.  Paul wrote this letter to Timothy around mid 60 A.D.  That means, the church had been meeting already for about 30 years, since Jesus.  Imagine a church service, that you attended for years, where the pastor was constantly interrupted by yelling families.  Paul's letter to Timothy is essentially a simple manual for church order.


2:12  γυναικὶ δὲ διδάσκειν οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ
διδάσκω, Strongs Number G1321 translated "didaskō" to "to teach", verb, means "to teach, to be a teacher, to, discharge the office of a teacher, conduct one's self as a teacher, to instill doctrine into one, to explain or expound a thing"

αὐθεντέω, Strongs Number G831 translated "authenteō" to "exercise authority", verb, means: "one who acts on his own authority, autocratic, an absolute master, to govern, exercise dominion over one"

Paul’s meaning is clear. Women are not to have the role of teaching authority regarding matters of doctrine and Scriptural interpretation, in the church.  To be under authority is the principle; not teaching is the application.  This is where all the worldly minds explode. 

BUT not all speaking or teaching by a woman is necessarily a violation of God’s order of authority in the church.  Whatever speaking or teaching is done by a woman must be done in submission to the men God has appointed to lead that church.  Their doctrines, scriptural interpretations, and applications must be in harmony with, and under, that which the Elders of that church teach.  This is more about being of one mind, in harmony, in sync, unified in doctrine.  And when there are two sides who disagree, God has given the authority to the men of that church to be the final say.

It also does not mean that every woman in the church is under the authority of every man in the church. Instead it means that those who lead the church – pastors and ruling elders – must be men, and the women (and others) must respect their authority. 

This has NOTHING to do with inferiority or less valuable.  There is ORDER in the very nature of God himself.  God The Father and God the Son.  God the Son does the will of God The Father, not vice versa.  And yet, they are co-equally God.  God created Adam first, then Eve.  God gave commandments to Adam, not Eve.  Adam taught Eve God's commandment.

"I do not allow"

Now that is a very tough pill to swallow but it makes it easier when we correctly understand.  Paul is an Apostle of our Lord God and Savior, Christ Jesus.  He is filled by the Holy Spirit and, God, The Holy Spirit, is literally speaking through him at the very moment he wrote that statement.  So, what does this absolute imperative definitive explicit statement refer to?  The authority of the Teacher, that interprets doctrine, scriptural interpretations, and applications to women.  The words used by Paul show that this role within the church of  "governing and exorcising dominion over one with authority to instill doctrine into one, to explain or expound a thing" is not in any shape or form, within the church, given to women. 

VERSE 13-14

Again, another easily misconstrued set of verses by an ignorant and or hateful world.  This is not the blame game.  Paul's purpose is not to place blame on Eve.  This is THE ORDER of which God ordained things.  God decides to bless us by giving us HIS reason for the order of church authority.  It's pretty simple:  (1) God created man first.  God gave His command to Adam, who then gave it to Eve.  Eve received God's command from Adam.  (2) Eve was deceived.  Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he disobeyed, he was not deceived.   This reveals important distinctions between men and women in the first place.  Eve’s ability to be more readily deceived made her more dangerous in a place of spiritual authority. “Eve’s reasoning faculty was at once overcome by the allegation of jealousy felt by God, an allegation plausible to a nature swayed by emotion rather than by reflection”(White).  Generally speaking, it may be observed that women seem to be more spiritually sensitive than men – but this can be true for good or evil. 

It is also important to note that Paul did not call Eve, "Eve."  He purposefully called her "the woman."  This is not a disrespect or a degrading attempt to belittle women, but rather it brings the reader back to the notion that there is a difference in the sexes and thus, the reason for the difference in ordained roles.

God's reasoning is not dependent on cultural and historical changes in societies.  The justification comes from the beginning of humanity.  So even if culture changes and women were to completely rule the world, this God ordained order still remains.  It would just mean there would be a lot more disobedient churches.

 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB)
"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
ἐπίσκοπος, translated "episkopos" to "overseer", masculine noun, means: "(a) a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent (b) the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church"
 τις, Strongs Number G5100 translated "tis" to "any man", pronoun, means: "a certain one, a male"
3:1  πιστὸς λόγος Εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ
We see right off the bat that Paul is talking specifically about men.  That if "any man" wants this job in the church, it is a good thing.  This is a formal official role within the church as an "overseer" of the spiritual well being of that church.  Paul purposefully chose a pronoun that only applies to a certain sex.  


3:2  δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα νηφάλεον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν
ἀνήρ, Strongs Number G435 translated "anēr" to "the husband", masculine noun, means: "of a male, a husband, of a betrothed or future husband"  
γυνή, Strongs Number G1135 translated "gynē" to "wife", feminine noun, means: "a wife, or a betrothed woman"
This qualification is as explicit as they come.  Not only does this single out polygamist but that who wants to be an overseer, must be the husband, if married.  And that married husband must be married to a women.  In the historical context of when this was written, transgender and gender fluidity was not a thing.  That would not have been on the mind of Paul when he wrote this; nor would it needed to be.  According to Paul, a male, is a born male and a female is a born female.  So this is an actually extremely basic requirement spoken by The Holy Spirit, through Paul.

This also then logically singles out is women.  Women can not meet this requirement.  "An overseer then must be... the wife of one husband ..." was not stated here.  Nor were gender neutral pronouns used, and the sentence structure wouldn't allow for it.  It would read "the spouse of one spouse."  To remove the masculine noun "husband" and feminine noun "wife" would be dishonest, and not true to the actual text.

VERSE 4-5:

3:4-5  τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου καλῶς προϊστάμενον τέκνα ἔχοντα ἐν ὑποταγῇ μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος
εἰ δέ τις τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου προστῆναι οὐκ οἶδεν πῶς ἐκκλησίας θεοῦ ἐπιμελήσεται
Here we see the theme all throughout scripture of how the men are ultimately responsible for his family.  Which, again, a requirement that women can't meet, logically, because she is not the one held accountable before God to manage the family and discipline the children.  Again, a role ordained by God in the family and a theme here as a requirement for "overseer" of that church.

If we take a step back, you will notice the masculine pronoun used throughout all the requirements of this spiritual authoritative role.  Just as God The Father is the ultimate authority over all reality, the earthly fathers (males) are ordained to the earthly authority in the church.  Again, this follows the order of creation and how the world worked before sin entered it.  God gave commands to Adam, then Adam taught Eve those commands.

Titus 1:5-9
 "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."
 Here we see the use of "elders" and "overseer" interchangeably.  Thus, an Overseer is a church Elder.  Same office, different name.


There is Paul using that "any man" (1 Tim 3:1, see above) and "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2, see above) again.

So, again, this reinforces the office requirements.  To be a true, legitimate, and obedient Elder and Overseer, you must be male; if married, to one female.  It is that simple.  There is no getting around these verses due to how explicit the language is.


This verse is actually scary for the men of a church lead by a woman who is the Elder and Overseer.  As to "exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it" is a command given to those men.  When they are subordinate to a woman Elder, they are, in fact, failing to be obedient to God and refute those who contradict the verses studied above.


Before we go through each of the common arguments for female overseers and elders, there are some elements that needs to be addressed.  

1.  First, the Church is not the same as The Nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.  So to apply OT religious structures on the NT Church is not very accurate; eating pork, getting circumcised, and worshiping on Saturday, for example.  This is the error for a lot of the arguments for female church authority that use OT justifications.

2.  Second, just because God uses someone to do something, doesn't mean that is how it should have been in the first place.  God used Egypt and Babylon to enslave Israel, are we then to assume that because God used Egypt and Babylon that in some way they are a good and an example for us to follow?  No.  There are hundreds of actual and real prophets in the OT that were evil.  Yes, God uses women, he is the creator of them and the universe.  But "use" doesn't mean anything more than that, used.   To say "Because God used women, women should be leaders" now apply that logic to all the evil people used by God.  It doesn't work.

So keep those two in mind as we analyze each common argument. 

Debroah, The Judge

Refer back to statements 1 and 2 above.  Yes, God raised up a Judge over Israel that was female.  But that was actually a judgement on the men of Israel.  It was their duty to lead and they failed.  In that culture this would have been extremely insulting and humiliating; and that was God's point.  This is an extremely poor justification for any sort of female leadership in The Church today.  Again, this was over The Nation of Israel, a completely different entity than the church.

Old Testament Prophetess 

Were there female prophetess in the Old Testament?  Yes.  But, that still doesn't prove, support, or justify anything related to the Church office of Elder or Overseer.  Being any sort of Prophet or Prophetess does not, by default, justify anyone to be a Elder or Overseer in the Church automatically.  In fact, there were even real prophetesses that were evil and wicked (1 Kings 18:1-19; Revelation 2:18-23; Ezra 8:33; Nehemiah 6:5-14).  These two things are unrelated and thus, don't support this issue.

New Testament Prophetess

Now this is a better argument.  We see in the New Testament Anna, the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), and the four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:1-9) were prophetess.  But, you still run into the same problem.  Being a prophetess does not automatically quality anyone for the Office of Elder or Overseer.  It is nothing more than a spiritual gift and anyone can be given that gift, the gift of prophecy.   When we look at Anna and the daughters of Phillip, in no where does the Bible state that they held any kind of Elder, or Overseer role.  They were just using their gifts to benefit the church, as they should, as everyone should.

The Prophecy of Future Prophetess

Joel 2:28-32 prophecy of the Spirit is used a lot in argument for female authority in the church.  Joel states that sons and daughters will prophesy and male and female servants too.  As mentioned above, he was right, Phillips daughters were prophesying and The Holy Spirit now will give that gift to whom ever He so chooses, regardless of sex.   But all these statements pointing out that there are and will be female prophets, prophetess, is unrelated to the Office of Overseer and Elder.  One does not have anything to do with the other.  They are separate.  One is a gift of the Spirit, now, the other is an actual position and office within the authority of the Church.

Priscilla, the wife of Aquila

 In Acts 18:2,18 we read about a female named Priscilla.  Here we notice that she was mentioned before her husband in v.18.  What does that mean?  It could mean all kinds of stuff but what is NOT said is that she was in any way an Elder or Deacon; that would be a false assumption not supported by anything in scripture.  But also, let us not forget that in v.2 her husband was also named first.  Regardless, they were trusted friends of Paul who travels with him from Corinth to Ephesus (Romans 16:3-4).  Does traveling and serving with a Elder or Deacon make you an Elder or Deacon?  No.  Again, nothing showing that they held any office.

Then we see in Acts 18:26, they talk with Apollos.  This dude was on fire for God but he didn't know how to explain things about God.  So, they pulled him aside and helped him understand things of God better.  Now, here, some would say, well that is a responsibility of Church leadership.  But, that is actually the duty of every single Christian.  This act was nothing more than helping another brother in Christ better evangelize.  They are specifically called "brethren", "ἀδελφός" which means: "a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection, Christians, as those who are exalted to the same heavenly place"  They were extremely effective believers, but, again, no were are they called Elders, Deacon, Bishop, Overseer, or any of the official titles Paul uses.

Paul notes that Priscilla and Aquila were his "helpers" in Christ in Romans 16:3-4.  Does that mean they held the offices of Elder?  The greek word "helper","συνεργός" means: "a companion in work, fellow worker."  That is far from an endorsement of any sort of official authority or leadership role in the Church. 

We must conclude that Priscilla as a very bold, smart, and fearless woman for Christ, but was not a
Elder, Deacon, Bishop, or Overseer; a title, office, or adjective Paul never gave her.


Paul gives a shout out to a female named Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2.  He calls her "our sister" which he means a sister in Christ.  Now, this is where things get interesting.   He gives her a title of "servant of the church."  The greek word used is "διάκονος" translated is "diakonos" which means: "one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister" and in the Church context means: "a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their us."  He goes on to say this:  "that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well." (Romans 16:2).  Which describes the duties of a Deacon of the Church.  That is an official endorsement.

In 1 Timothy 3:8-13 Paul lays out the qualifications for a Deacon.  Notice, Paul includes women in verse 11.  Therefore, we can conclude that women CAN hold the office of Deacon in The Church.  

When considering what Paul states in both Romans 16 and 1 Timothy 3, we CAN conclude that Phoebe was, in fact, a official Deacon.  But, given the description of the duties of THAT specific office, the Office of Deacon, we see that they DO NOT authoritatively teach doctrine or interpret scripture like an Overseer or Elder.  Therefore, Phoebe is not a good argument for a woman's role as Elder or Overseer, in that she was not one.

The Pagan Customs of Ephesus

Some people have argued that Paul was only applying those qualifications to that certain Church in that area because of the pagan female-led customs of Ephesus.  And to protect the church from bringing in those worldly cultural customs, he limited the female role in that region.   Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis where women were authorities in that branch of paganism.  But, this is an assumption not supported by scripture.  Paul could have very well mentioned this as to his justification, but he didn't.   Paul wasn't talking about any sort of paganism.  This theory to discredit the broad application of Overseer qualifications is unbiblical.

Education of Women

Another theory as to why Paul limited the role of women in Church is the argument that women were typically less educated.  But, much like the Pagan Customs argument, Paul never mentions anything about education as any kind of requirement.  Though men had a better opportunity to be more educated than women in that culture, he still never required any sort of educational level for any men, even uneducated men.  This theory is not supported by scripture either.


Some people get confused when comparing 1 Cor. 14:33-38 and 1 Cor. 11:3-16. Implying, as if Paul is contradicting himself (which is actually doubting God's Word without understanding how those two can be reconciled).  Or some even argue that this command was limited in its time and historical context and now is simply outdated.  Think about the implications of both theories;  God's Word is false and or God's Word is outdated.  But there is a way to harmonize them.  There is a time for singing, there is a time for prayer, and there is a time for teaching and instruction on God's Word.  Women who were prophesying, were doing so in its proper time.  And when it came time for teaching holy doctrine and scriptural interpretation, only the teacher should speak.  Boom.  After all, the underlying two element in both those verses are church order and respect of the office of Overseer.

Times Change

This is by far the worst argument that can be made with regard to applying (or not) God's Word.  Yes, cultures and societies continually evolve and change in their social norms and social constructs but, God doesn't.  What was once a sin, will always be a sin.  What God once called good, will always be good.  God's truths are completely independent from the continually evolving and changing social norms and social constructs.  God is not surprised by the future.  He already knows how things will change and how many times every culture in all history will change until the end of the world.  God's truth revealed in scripture is not subjective or relative; or He can not truly be God.  And, as studied above, God's truths are revealed.  But do we obey them and remain faithful to God's revealed word or construct complicated arguments to justify our sinful hearts to do what we think is right in our eyes, in our time of age?  "Paul didn't know that women would be hired by Christian Universities to teach doctrinal classes"  Think about that statement for a second.  This assumes God is ignorant, after all, the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul.  All that statement really does in condemn those Christian Universities for being disobedient to God.  Paul isn't in the wrong, ever. 


After in-depth word studies we can determine that God has commanded that men are responsible for the Office of Elder and Overseer.  And that a self proclaimed female Elder and Overseer is actually either a judgement on that church and its men, and or disobedience to God.  This ordained restriction does not mean less value or inferiority of women; it does mean an ordained order of how God's creation and Church ought to function in obedience to him.  But this holy limitation is only over the Office of Elder and Overseer or that who teaches and interprets doctrine.  Woman can and should, in fact, be Deacons as so long as they meet the qualifications specified by The Holy Spirit, through Paul.  There is no scriptural support, precedent, or authority for female Elders or Overseers.  At the end of it all, it basically reveals the sort of obedience and respect Christians have for what God has ordained and ordered.


Women Pastors And God's Design

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