I will begin this message by stating that many if not most of the world’s belief systems are probably corrupt in some degree. Before we render a conclusion of this message we must pose a succinct question to ourselves: Did the inaccurate copying and translating of early biblical manuscripts by scribes (many who were part time and not even saved because you had to know how to read which most early Christians did not and were hired) have an impact on much of our theology, belief systems and paradigms today? I sincerely believe that the answer is yes and that it holds tremendous prophetic impact as the days will unfold. While I’m certain that many if not most Christians believe the Bible to be inerrant – the ultimate truth is that we must be led by the Spirit of God and not so much by our personal, denominational dogmas, and even national or sub-cultural influences. The scriptures embraced by the soul without the Spirit will cut a path of fleshly destruction and judgmentalism as experienced throughout documented “Christian” history and prevalent today among Islamist and other religious offshoots.
Due to theological controversies in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, many changes were made to the original biblical traditions and earliest codex manuscripts. These “scribal interpretations” have had a profound affect upon the Christian church and especially in regard to the roll of women. Many biblical scholars have come to recognize that heated disputes and dogmatic beliefs in regard to the role of women in the church occurred precisely because women did in fact have a role in the church which was oftentimes significant and of high profile. Not only were the roles of women in the early church high profile – it was accepted publicly and within the authority of recognized church government. In my opinion. this would have naturally caused tremendous conflicts in many if not most societies as the Gospel spread into various cultures and geographies. Ultimately, these cultural and societal aspects would naturally spill out into the various scribal translations.
This certainly seems to be the case from the ministry example that Jesus himself reflected and promoted. While it is true that Jesus’ closest disciples (12) were men – This should not come as a surprise considering the geography of Palestine and the embedded culture at that time in history. This is compounded when we consider that Jesus’ revolutionary examples were coming from a Jewish teacher or rabbi. With that said, the earliest gospel manuscripts clearly present that Jesus was accompanied by women in his ministry travels and that some of these women also played a significant role financially and in kingdom service (ministry). Of tremendous importance and revelation is the fact that women accompanied Jesus during his final entrance into Jerusalem where they remained faithful to him “until the end.” On the contrary, all of the male disciples had fled through their various fears, insecurities and self-preservation weaknesses. Likewise, it was also women who were privileged to discover the empty tomb and the first to testify of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Is this by mistake or happenstance?
We are left to wonder what it was about Jesus and his message that appealed to women in such a way as to garner their faithfulness regardless of the fear of death and personal association? Jesus proclaimed the kingdom message (which is being restored today) in that injustice would be addressed and that all people – rich and poor, slave and free, young and old and especially men and women would be equal and on the same foundational or spiritual footing. If we really ponder this, it would certainly prove to be an attractive and powerful message of hope to those who lived in that age and culture who were underprivileged such as the poor, the sick, the outcasts of society and especially women.
The kingdom message of Christ, even after his death and resurrection, has never lost its impact and understanding to women. It is striking that even the pagans of the 1st and 2nd centuries recognized this – including the outspoken pagan critic Celsus who denigrated or rejected the Christian faith on the grounds that it was made up largely of naive children, slaves and especially women who had no social standing in society at large. Sadly, the famous Christian and early church leader Origen did not deny the charge of Celsus’ rebuttal. Origen, in his reply to Celsus tried (as a good Christian apologist should) to turn the statement against Celsus and show how God could take what was “weak” and infill it with strength. This is true, but nonetheless – Origen, the great church leader of his day saw women as spiritually inferior between the lines as well.
If we back up to the time of the gospels and our earliest Christian writer – Paul; we clearly see that the scriptures (i.e. earliest manuscripts) provide abundant evidence that women held prominent roles in the Christian community and government at large. We need not look past the ending of Paul’s letter to the Romans to understand that his greetings to many and various women were a testament of their critical value to the church and its growth. Paul clearly defines Phoebe as a Deacon and minister to the church in Cenchreae and whom he would trust with his letters to Rome. Prisca (Priscilla) who along with her husband Aquila, were responsible for the great missionary outreach to the Gentiles as well as supporting a church in their home. It is by no mistake that Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned 6 times together in the scriptures – it is also by no mistake that each is mentioned first 3 times and the other way around. (Sadly, many “later” scribal manuscripts place Priscilla in back of Aquilla all six times!) Mary worked directly alongside Paul in building the church at Rome and mentions Trypheana, Tryphosa, and Persis as his co-workers in the gospel message.
Junia whom Paul mentions in Romans is intriguing as she was evidently of very high standing among the church in the 1st century. Paul called Junia “foremost among the apostles” in Romans 16:17. Did the Bible state “Apostle?” Yes. Obviously, the apostolic brotherhood reflected a few sisters as well! It is also obvious upon study of Christian manuscripts that women appear to have played a very import role in the churches of Paul’s day. This was an anomaly and the high profile of women was unusual in the Greco-Roman societies of the early church. Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom order was likewise embraced by Paul as read below:
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free; there is not male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:27-28)
(Note: For many years many thought Junia(s) was a man–or if they admitted she was a woman, they discounted her as just someone highly regarded by the apostles. Recent scholarship proves she was both a female and an apostle due to conclusive grammar and companion verses which clearly define both masculine and feminine attributes.)
The bold cultural equality in Christ certainly manifested itself in the actual worship services of the churches founded or spiritually supported by Paul. Rather than being silent hearers of the word, women appear to have been actively involved in the church meetings. The scriptures paint a picture of women praying, prophesying and participating in spirit-led power as much as the men did. (Reference 1 Cor. 11)
It is critically important to note that Paul also expected women to participate in the life of the church as “women” and not as “men.” This is vital both naturally and spiritually and brings balance and stability. Being uniquely masculine and feminine defines our purpose, the fundamentals of procreation, and life itself. Women and men are very different in many different ways and have qualities that are wonderfully unique. My wife Carole states that she enjoys womanhood in raising our kids at home and preparing most of meals etc. She doesn’t look at this as degrading but as a privilege of being a woman and having the opportunity to express the fullness of Christ who dwells within her. Simply put, I cannot have a baby and this certainly clarifies our obvious differences!
However, for over 2000 years, much of denominational religion has interpreted or understands this as an ambivalent attitude toward the proactive role of women “as” the church. For example, they were not to remove their veils and so appear as men without an “authority” on their head. This ambivalence on Paul’s part would have an interesting effect on the role of women after his day in the church for hundreds of years up to the present time. In some churches it was the equality in Christ that was promoted. But in most others, it was the need for women to be subservient to men in all spiritual and natural aspects of life. As stated earlier, in some churches starting in the late 1st and into the 2nd century – women played an important and vital role in leadership. But as time went on – their role would be purposely and severely diminished and their voices eventually silenced.
If you take the time to study ancient church documents or manuscripts after Paul’s death, it does not take long to read of disputes that arose in regard to the role of women in the church. These fleshly, soulish and cultural disputes would quickly gain momentum to suppress the spiritual role of women in the church meetings altogether. This becomes evident in a letter that was written in Paul’s name. Many reputable biblical scholars as well as my own research would conclude that 1 Timothy was not written by Paul, but one of his later (2nd generation) followers. I know this is probably paining many to the point of relegating me as a heretic. But I must ask: Does anybody really know who wrote this book? Or, is it because you were always told this? I only ask that you study to show yourself approved by the Spirit and not a slave to the catholic cannon. There is a often-read passage that has corrupted the kingdom message from advancing over generations through misunderstanding and ignorance. The text states that women must not be allowed to teach in the church meeting or even “men” because they were created inferior as indicated by God himself in the law. In essence, women are to only stay home and maintain the virtues appropriate to women such as bearing children for their husbands, cooking, cleaning, and preserving their modesty.
“Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no women to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, providing they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” (1 Tim. 2:11-15)
This seems quite the contradiction from Paul’s earlier statement in Gal. 3:27-28: “ For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
These two passages are diametrically opposed anyway you shake and bake it. Did Paul really pen these words in 1Timothy? I don’t believe so. But I do believe that a late 2nd century scribe did to reflect the entrenched cultural norm of the day when many manuscripts were being transcribed. My comment is not heresy….It is to combat the genuine heresy that has infected the church like a cancer to stunt her health and growth and to address the certain heresy and compromise that will reflect a great falling away. For even the elect will be effected if walking in continued ignorance. We are truly destroyed by our lack of knowledge. Is it natural or carnal knowledge that we are destroyed? Certainly not – It is the lack of knowledge that resides in the Spirit of Christ.