The Verse That Says Women Are Pastors


Wikimedia “Quill and a Parchment” by Mushki Brichta, CC BY-SA 4.0, text added

There is a verse in the Bible that says women can be pastors.

Actually a couple of them.

Don’t believe me? That’s because you’ve been getting your info from people who REALLY don’t want you to know.

Unfortunately, that includes most of the people translating your Bibles. But the good news is, it’s super easy to look this stuff up for yourself now.

So don’t take my word for it. And don’t take theirs.

Read the passages for yourself.

Read the text notes.

Look at the key Greek words.

Presto-chango. From bad theology to truth in less than 60 seconds.

Okay, well maybe 15 minutes. But it’s totally worth it to—you know— break the chains that keep HALF of the church from proclaiming the Gospel, right?

I mean, you wouldn’t want to be responsible for STOPPING millions of Christians from preaching Christ in the name of “defending sound doctrine”… only to find out when you face Christ that your doctrine was wrong, would you?

That would be a bummer.

Imagine the moment. See the nail-scarred hands, the blazing eyes. Now hear the verdict, in slow motion, from His holy mouth.

“Why did you persecute me?”

Or worse,

“Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Wait. Hold that thought.

Be afraid.

Now— you’re ready to study.

Here are the verses, the text notes, the Greek word definitions.

They are all linked, so click away and READ.

*NOTE: Yes, even text notes contain theological opinions. Ignore those. Go to what the translation actually SAYS. It may take a minute, but I promise: the fog will clear when you gaze into the Word, push past the human rhetoric, and give God the final say.

Excited? Good, you should be. Here we go!

 

Elders Who Are Female= Female Elders

Um, yeah…any Questions?

 

Today, let’s start with the whopper: the verse that says women are pastors.

Titus 2:3:

“Eldresses likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teachers of what is good [beautiful teachers].”

Factoids:

  • The words pastor (aka shepherd,) elder, and bishop are used interchangeably in the New Testament (1 Peter 5:1-3.)
  • The word “eldress” (that’s female pastor to you, bub) has been mistranslated.
  • Chapter breaks and headings were added later, creating the illusion of a new section starting at Titus 2:1. This makes it appear the subject has shifted from “instructions for elders” to “general Christian living.” Nope— still talking about appointed elders and eldresses as introduced in Titus 1:5:

“The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5 NET)

Okay, back to the verse about women pastors, Titus 2:3.

Click through and you’ll see that the word “eldress(Gr. “presbutis”) has been traditionally translated “older women.” (That’s why you didn’t notice it before.)

What you don’t see is that presbutis is just a feminine form of the same Greek word translated “elder” in Titus 1:5 (presbuteros) and “old man” in Titus 2:2 (prebutes.)

Whaaa???

Yep. Check it out.

!Grammar police! (This will just take a second, promise it won’t hurt.) FYI, these words are interchangeable. Technically, prebutes/ presbutis are the non-comparative forms of <4245> (i.e.old man/ old woman.) and presbuteros is the comparative form (i.e. older man.) BUT they’re actually used interchangeably.

For example, many of the English versions of Titus 2:2 translate prebutes (technically the non-comparative “old man”) as old-er man.

(There are only two other times prebutes is used instead of presbuteros in Scripture— one meaning “old man” (Lk 1:18), the other meaning “old man” or “ambassador” (Phm. 1:9.) But there is at least one extra-biblical example of presbutis having been used specifically to mean a woman appointed to the office of elder in the church.1)

So presbuteros, prebutes, and presbutis can be used to mean older man/ woman, old man/ woman, or elder/ eldress (as in overseer.)

This is the piece they don’t want you to know. There is no special word that means “office of elder.” The word used is just “elderly man,” or the feminine form “elderly woman.”

The only way to determine whether it’s referring to elderly people or church overseers is…drum roll please…context.

 

Context: Not Rocket Science

 

So here’s the rule for good scholarship: you have to apply consistent principles for good translation.

You can’t just pick a meaning for a word willy-nilly, according to whatever best fits your doctrine.

When translating a word that has more than one possible meaning, you have to let the context dictate which one to use.

You’re not allowed to add, take away, or change words in the Bible to try to bend its meaning.

And if there are multiple possible translations of a verse, you have to present the possibilities to readers. You don’t decide which one you prefer then hide all the others from the public. That’s foul play, man.

(The Catholic Church tried that for a while. Of course, you know. Not their smoothest move.)

They’re supposed to teach this stuff in seminary, but hey. What are you going to do?

Good news though. You don’t have to go to seminary to know that this is a letter. Just a letter written by a human.

Inspired by God? Yes.2

But Titus isn’t a doctoral dissertation or a theological treatise, and it wasn’t written as a proof-text against women preachers.

It reads like a letter. It’s a person talking to a person.

And what is the stated purpose of this letter?

“The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5)

That’s the context.

This is a letter to Titus about appointing elders— qualifications for elders,  & responsibilities of both male & female elders, including:

  • Being good teachers of sound doctrine
  • Standing against deceitful, rebellious, greedy, legalistic teachers
  • Exhorting and rebuking with the full authority of Christ
  • Setting a good example for younger disciples
  • Teaching godly behavior in the home, in the church, and in the world.

So another fancy trick is utilizing the chapter break (not in the original letter) and headings (also made up and added later) to make it seem like the author is changing subjects at the beginning of the second chapter. Check it out.


Oh man, see how that works? When it was talking about men in chapter 1, they translated it “elder.” THEN when it gets to the section that establishes qualifications for women elders, they conveniently switched to translating these same words as “older man” and “older women”— instead of “elder” and “eldress.”

But if you’re reading the original, there is no switch. It’s just the same “old” word. (Ha ha. Semi-Greek pun. You can laugh if you want.)

Sneaky. Very sneaky.

So if you were studying this in your own Bible, you might make a diagram that looks something like this:

Ah, the power of suggestion.

(Oh yeah, and outright lying. Yep. Outright lying too.)

NOW, let’s take out the chapter break and translate the word for “elder” consistently. You know, instead of pretending it suddenly— in MID-THOUGHT— starts to mean something totally different.

 

Okay stop. Slow down. Just read the above passage one more time, starting from 1:5.

Now your diagram might look more like this:

 

 

Presto-chango. Women pastors.

You’re welcome.

____________________

Synod of Laodicea 4th Century, Canon 11.

Note: Some scholars disagree— okay, a lot of scholars— on whether this letter (and a few others in the NT canon) were really written by Paul. For the purpose of this analysis we assume Titus to be legitimate. 


Other Arguments That Don’t Fly

 *

“Titus 2 says that older women are only allowed to teach women.”

Wrong. The text doesn’t say that. You have to add human words to the text to MAKE it say that.

You are not permitted to go beyond what is written. Scripture forbids it.

“Do not add to His words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6 NIV)

“‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” (1 Cor. 4:6b NIV)

Here’s the truth. People who don’t want you to know that women can be pastors try to s-m-e-a-r the sentence in Titus 2:3-4 together to smudge out a very important word: kalodidaskalos <2567>.

This is a unique word used only once that is comprised of two Greek words, kalos <2570> and didaskalos <1320>. It means “teachers of what is good” or even the (very cool) possibility, “beautiful teachers.”

So it says that eldresses (female pastors) are to live with godly character— in the same way (hosautos <5615>) as male elders, so including all of the applicable attributes listed for the guys.

Otherwise it wouldn’t say “in the same way.” It would say “in a totally different way.” Or maybe even “in a slightly different way.”

But no. It says what it means: Likewise. In the same way.

As what? As male elders.

Then it reiterates they are “not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to be teachers of good…” Again, both requirements listed for elders. (Titus 1:7-9.)

THEN it says in vs 4 (continuing the same sentence):

“…in this way they will train (disciple) the young women to be sane and sober of mind [to come to their senses]  and to love their husbands and their children.”

Setting a godly example for young women includes being kalodidaskalos: teachers (instructors, doctors, masters, teachers, one who teaches the things of God and the duties of man) of good things.

The eldress provides an example to younger women of how to give godly leadership in the church and god-like love in their families.

And it immediately says the same thing to male elders concerning younger men: that they must be examples of integrity and godliness to disciple the younger men.

“Likewise [hosautos <5615>] exhort the young men to be sober–minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” (Titus 2:6-8 NKJV)

Does that mean male elders can’t ever teach younger women? Of course not.

Neither does it mean eldresses are prohibited from teaching men.

Obviously, young women can get teaching from men or women. However, some things unique to gender can best be taught by the example of an elder of the same sex. Pretty common sense.

 

The Switch to “Older Men” Is Necessitated By The Pairing With “Younger Men”

Nice try. No cigar.

Want to argue that point? Argue with the apostle Peter. He paired the word “elder (overseer)” with the phrase “younger men” in 1 Peter 5:5.

Read ‘em and weep boys.

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily…5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:1-2b,5 NASB, emphasis added)

The NET even has a text note explaining the pairing.

8 sn In this context younger and elder are terms that combine two meanings: relative age and an official structure of leadership in the church. As in v. 1, elder here denotes those who exercise spiritual leadership, who for the most part are older in years. Likewise younger means the rest of the community, who for the most part are younger in age, who are urged to accept the authority of their leaders.

If it’s good enough for 1 Peter 5, it’s good enough for Titus 2.

Next.

 

This Verse Must Be Translated In The Light Of 1 Timothy 2:12

Wrong again. This verse must be translated first within its own context, which demands a consistent rendering of the word “elder.”

1 Timothy 2:12 must be translated in the light of the fact that Paul told Titus to appoint female elders.

As 1 Timothy 2:12 has a minimum of six wildly varying possible translations (and numerous interpretations to boot) it begs for clarity.

Titus 1-2 provides that clarity. Only translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 that do not limit women in church leadership should be considered. A few examples:

~I do not permit a woman to teach she is the origin of man.

~I do not permit a woman to teach, dominating a man in a violent fashion, cutting off his authority.

~I do not permit a wife to teach her own husband so as to overthrow and usurp his (household) authority.

If you’re not familiar with where these possible translations come from, it’s time to stop arguing.

First, lay down your arms and go “study to show yourself approved.”

Then you may ask respectful questions in the comments if you still disagree.

But you know. I’ll probably have an answer, so.

Say it nicely and you won’t look dumb 🙂

 

 

 

Advertisements

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: