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Women Of The New Testament

by Randolph Dunn

Women Servants (Dialonos)
Women Identified in the New Testament Church
Women by Inclusion in the New Testament Church
Women's Activity and Attitude
Instructions to Men and Women
Word Study
Lesson Questions

Role of Women in Ancient Rome and Greece
    Women's Dress and Head Covering
    Legal Rights of Women in Roman Times
    Roman Hairstyle
    Athenian Men's Concept of Women


Over the centuries Bible scholars have raised many questions and offer various opinions about Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14 regarding women being silent and not speaking in church assemblies and other activities they were required to perform or prohibited from performing. But before these concerns are examined one needs to realize that God is not partial, all are servants and priest performing different functions in their service to God. A common understanding of words used in scripture relating to women of the New Testament, the examination of actions of New Testament women and an analysis of scriptures addressing required or prohibited actions should provide a basis for understanding activity of women in the Body of Christ whether assembled or not. Personal interpretations are subject to changes as additional knowledge is acquired.

Women Servants - Diakonos

"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 neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28 RSV). God is not partial (Acts 10:34). All are priests of God (Revelation 5:10).

"He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry [diakonias; serving], for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Ephesians 4:10-16 ESV)

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues." (1 Cor 12:27-29 ESV)

God through Paul in 1 Timothy 3 set forth qualifications for certain functions.

Qualifications for specific functions
In 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 Paul discusses the special qualifications required of men performing the guardian, sentinela, overseeing watchman function in the kingdom. Some translators consider the watchman function an office or position rather than a function even though Paul called it a work (érgou -work, labor, deed).

Following the character or qualifications of these men Paul discusses character traits, qualifications of servants who apparently help in this important work of the overseeing watchmen. Functions by other members of the Body are just as important, necessary, essential and indispensable whether performed by man or woman
  1. Servants in general (diakónous - gender neutral) - vs. 8
  2. Women or wife (gunaíkas) servant - vs. 11
  3. Man servant (husband of one wife) (diákonoi) vs. 12

Over the centuries Bible scholars have raised many questions about the functions women in the Christ Body could or could not perform. They also offered various opinions about women being silent in church assemblies. Definitions of some words used in this study are provided in the endnotes beginning on page 21.

Women Identified By Name

In the New Testament several women are identified by name while inclusive words such as, all, each, everyone, include men and women. This lesson examines activities of diakonos, God's servants, for the purpose of determine if there are any functions Christian women are required to do or are prohibited from doing.

Acts 5:1-2; 7-9
"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds … about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, 'Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.' And she said, 'Yes, for so much.' But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord" (ESV)?

  • Sapphira and Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, an intentional sin.

Acts 9:36
"Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity."

  • Tabitha, Dorcas, helped the poor by doing good and charitable works. An activity done outside the assembly.

Acts 12:12
"He [Peter] went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying."

  • Mary used her house for saints to come together. In this case the gathering was for the purpose of praying for safety of all Christians but especially for Peter, as a short time earlier Herod beheaded James.

Acts 16:15
"And after she [Lydia] was baptized she urged us saying 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us."

  • Lydia used her possessions to take care of the needs of Paul and those accompanying him.

Acts 17:4 … 11-12 … 34
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
. . .

11 Now these Jews [men and women (rd)] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
. . .

34 "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."

  • Damaris believed. She was perhaps a prominent Athenian woman as she was in attendance at the Areopagus when Paul spoke.

Acts 18:1-2; 24-26
"After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla. … Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, probably from the Old Testament scriptures, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately."

  • 'They', Aquila and his wife Priscilla, taught Apollos not just Aquila.

Acts 21:8-9
"On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied."

  • Philip's daughters prophesied. From 1 Corinthians 14:21 we learn that prophesies are for the believers. There is no indication that they prophesied only to women or only when not assembled.

Romans 16:1
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant 1 (diakono) in the church in Cenchreae."

  • Some transliterate diákonon 2 as deaconess. But every person, male or female, in Christ is a servant (diakono) in the Body of Christ as well as priests to serve God. The Bible is silent about the type of service Phoebe rendered. All we know is she served. But, we know she did not meet the unique qualifications for the work of servants having a wife translated as deacons 1 Timothy 3:12.

Romans 16:3-7
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners."

  • We do not know what work Mary performed. However, we know she was not lazy as she worked hard.

1 Corinthians 16:19
"The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla-NKJV), together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord" (ESV).

  • Priscilla and Aquila's home was open for Christians to assemble.

Philippians 4:2-3
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement."

  • These women were apparently from Philippi. They helped Paul in teaching the Gospel. They did more than just being present to remove any appearance of impropriety. They taught the gospel as they labored with Paul and Clement.

2 Timothy 1:5
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well."

  • They passed their faith on to their family.

Philemon 1-2
"To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house."

  • A Christian woman known to Paul and Philemon.

Women By Inclusive Words - All, Each and Everyone

Acts 2:41
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." ¢ "Those who received His Word" include men and women.

Acts 11:29
"The disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea."

  • "Everyone" includes disciples and women, so women helped in determining.

Acts 15:22
"Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas."

  • The "whole church" includes women. Therefore, women participated in choosing.

Acts 15:30-31
"So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement."

  • The "congregation" included women who heard and rejoiced.

Acts 24:23
"Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs."

  • "Friends" included men and women who attended to Paul's needs.

Romans 2:9-11
"There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality."

  • "Every human" makes no distinction between men and women who do good or evil.

Galatians 3:26-29
"For in Christ Jesus you are all sons a of God, through faith. 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" (ESV). a (A son had a legal right of a father's inheritance. Therefore, women in Christ acquired the right of inheritance of God, The Father.)

  • "As many of you" who were baptized included women. Paul then mentions that those in Christ are one. No one in Christ is a second-class Christian for all are servants and priest to serve of God (1 Peter 2:16 and Revelation 1:6).

1 Peter 5:13
"She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings."

  • "She" could either be a Christian woman or an assembly of Christians - don't know.

2 John 1
"The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth."

  • "The elect lady" could either be a Christian woman or an assembly of Christians - don't know.

The Point - The terms all, each and every include women. Therefore, Women are to participate for the Body of Christ to function as a united body otherwise part of the body is considered a drag on the body or dead.

Women's Activity and Attitude

1 Corinthians 10:31?11:6
"So, whether you [male or female (rd)] eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions [paradóseis - substance of the teaching (Thayer's)] even as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man [andrós- either man or husband] is Christ; and the head of the woman (a wife ESV) [gunaikós - either woman or wife] is the man (her husband-ESV, RSV; man-NIV, NKJV, NLT; the man-KJV, NASB); and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, 3 having his head covered, dishonoreth his head (Christ). But every woman praying or prophesying [neither prohibited (rd)] with her head unveiled dishonoreth her head; for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not veiled 4 (uncovered - ESV; NASB; NLT) [see dress and hairstyle in appendices] let her also be shorn: but if [ei - is a conditional particle - (Thayer's)] it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, 5 let her be veiled (cover her head -ESV)" (ASV).

  • Paul is reminding the Corinthians that respect and honor is of utmost importance probably more than custom when praying or prophesying. The custom of the time was for men to remove their head covering in the presence of a superior and for women not to be seen in public without a head covering. So, was the head covering an act of righteousness or a custom of respect and honor? A husband could divorce his wife for such disrespect, not having her head covered. Paul's condemnation appears to be the dishonoring of God by a man who does not remove his head covering and by a woman dishonoring the man responsible for her wellbeing (husband, father or eldest brother] by removing her head covering, veil. Both violate tradition and custom of respect in their society and possibly imply acceptance of pagan practices. [refer to legal rights during Roman times in appencices] This does not prohibit either men or women from praying or prophesying. But one's freedom and liberty in Christ must never result in or lead to disrespect of others.

The Point - Man or woman are to never dishonor others especially those responsible for your wellbeing whether physical or spiritual.

1 Corinthians 11:10-16
"A wife ought to have a symbol of authority 6 (power- KJV) on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches ([ssemblies (rd)]of God" (ESV).

  • During the times before and after Christ when Rome ruled the world, most women were considered under the authority or power of men. For married women the veil covering their hair, 1) signified her marital status, 2) her submission to the husband's status as head, 3) an indication of modesty and purity and 4) protected her from men's solicitations. Women without a veil were considered rebellious often prostitutes with hair cut short, shorn or shaven heads. Customs in one culture are not binding as law in other cultures. Today in some areas of the world; e.g., India, women wear symbols of their marital status. After a Hindu marriage is consummated, the wife is never supposed to leave her arms bare. She must always wear bangles [bracelet (generally metal)] to signify that she is married.
  • Those in Christ 'not independent of' suggest not superior or inferior but equal in value to God and needed in His kingdom. Equal in Christ does not alter God's directive that the man has the responsibility for the family unit and that the woman by creation was his helper and companion, not his servant. Any action she does that is against the teachings of Christ and the apostles or against local customs such that the community consider her actions out of place, she dishonors her husband and does not promote the cause of Christ.

The Point
Daily activities must display respect and honor which promotes unity in all relationships whether in the family, community, work place, government or church, whether assembled or not.r woman, has equal spiritual status before God.

1 Corinthians 14:26-36
"What then, brothers [brethren (rd)] {adelphos - male and female - (Vine's)} When you come together, each one has a hymn 7 (psalm - KJV, ASV, YLT, NKJV) a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, 8 or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up, edification . If any [man or woman, (rd)] speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone [man or woman (rd)] interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them [man or woman (rd)] keep silent in church {the assembled body of Christ} and speak to himself {not gender specific} and to God. Let two or three prophets [not gender specific (rd)] speak, and let the others [not gender specific (rd)] weigh 9 what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches [congregations or assemblies] of the saints, the women (your women [wife (rd)] 10 - KJV, NKJV, YLT) should keep silent in the churches {ekkleesíais - assemblies}. For they are not permitted to speak, 11 but should be in submission [to her husband, male responsible for her wellbeing (rd)], as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands (ándras - any male person, a man - Biblesoft) at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" (ESV).

  • The Christians in Corinth were assembled together as Christ's Body where they sang, taught (didacheén), 12 & 13 gave revelations and spoke in other languages through interpreters. The purpose of assembling together was to encourage Christians to remain faithful and do good works. Speakers, men or women, who were not able to be understood because an interpreter was not present, were to keep quiet. Chaos and confusion caused by of all at the same time praying, speaking or singing causing visitors to think "your are out of your mind" and preventing God's message from being heard. Allowing everyone speak or sing in succession, one following another, is respectful to God and one's fellow man.
  • While still on the subject of maintaining orderliness, Paul instructs the Corinthian women to keep silent and not interrupt their (idíous - one's own) husband but wait and ask him when you get home. Paul's instructions would not apply to Christian women whose husbands were pagans or dead or those who had abandoned them. The key is to respect their husband who was teaching and to respect others - men and women and visitors. There does not appear to be any such New Testament law regarding this. So, "the law" probably refers to synagogue rules or traditions.

The Point - When assembled together all Christians are to participate in an orderly manner while respecting others, not all at the same time creating confusion and chaos. Women are not to question or challenge comments of the man responsible for their wellbeing, whether their husbands, father or brother.

Colossians 3:12, 16
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

  • The 'chosen ones' include women and men. Both are to teach and admonish in wisdom, knowledge. The instruction is silent as to whether this is to be done in private or assembly. The text states the teaching and admonishing is done in song in the heart unto God. But teaching and admonishing one another requires one to speak from their heart.

Opinions Of A Few Commentaries:

Albert Barnes
" 'They were not to teach the people, nor were they to interrupt those who were speaking' Rosenmuller. It is probable that, on pretence of being inspired, the women had assumed the office of public teachers [didactic teachings - lecturing / sermonizing (rd)]." 14

Adam Clarke
"There was 'a Jewish ordinance [note the statement "as the law also says"]; women were not permitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbis taught that 'a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff [a tool used in spinning (rd)].' And the sayings of Rabbi Eliezer, as delivered, Bammidbar Rabba, sec. 9, fol. 204, are both worthy of remark and of execration; they are these: 'Let the words of the law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered to women.'" 15

Roy C Deaver
"The meeting in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 was for the purpose of exercising and receiving the benefits of spiritual gifts. Prophets were exercising their gift of prophecy. 'The prophets' wives were instructed to 'keep silent in the churches.' They were not permitted to speak [break their silence].They were to be in subjection. If they would learn anything [with regard to the message coming through the husband/prophet] they were not to interrupt the prophecy, but were to wait and ask their husbands at home. It was 'shameful' for the woman [wife (rd)] to speak in that meeting." 16

Guy N. Woods
"Who were the women required to keep silent in the passage under study (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35)? They were the wives of the prophets considered in the foregoing paragraph [his comments on previous verses]. Forbidden to interrupt, or to make inquiry, during the process of revelation, the apostle laid down the very sensible rule that they should wait a more opportune occasion to propound the question; i.e., until they were able to ask their husbands at home. These women were married, they had husbands; their husbands were capable of answering their inquiries at home." 17

"In world in the early days of the [Roman (rd)] Republic women were not even allowed to make suggestions, but by the beginning of the Empire many men were seeking and even following the advice of their wives. It was all right to do so, provided the advice was given in private.Role of Women in Ancient Rome and Greece The Athenians men considered women not much better than property" [Power rest with the strongest (rd)]. Athenian Men's Concept of Women

Instructions to Men and Women

1 Corinthians

  • always seek the other person's well-being - 10:24
  • whatever you do, glorify God - 10:31
  • men and women, do not dishonor your head - 11:4
  • do not treat the financial poor Christian as inferior - 11:21
  • don't consider your spiritual gift more important -12:
  • love is most important - it last forever. - 12:31-13:13
  • encourage, respect, honor one another and especially those having responsibility for your well-being, avoid confusion - 14:

Philippians 2:1-5
"So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind a. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Don't think too highly of yourself. [ a but not the same opinion in all things (rd).]

Ephesians 4 and 5
Paul explains to the Ephesian Christian men and women, how they were to live righteously in a perverse world. They were to avoid:

  1. porneía - all sexual relationships other than between husband and wife - fornication; physical action.
  2. akatharsía - all impurities of the mind. Akatharsía, a term broader than porneía, includes physical and mental acts; e.g., vulgar words, sexual humor, trash talk and filthy minds.
  3. pleonexía - all-inclusive term covetousness, never satisfied, always wanting more; e.g., power, fame, sexual pleasure, money, or the material things of life. For example "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5 - ESV).

Ephesians 5:15-22
Paul addresses the actions and activities of Ephesian Christian men and women in or outside the assembly. "Look carefully then how you walk [ones daily life (rd)], not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery [extreme indulgence in sensually], but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms7 and 18 hymns 7and spiritual 22 songs, 19 singing 20 and making melody 21 to the Lord with all your heart, 22 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

  • Paul encourages righteous living, being filled with the Spirit. The actions of their daily life are obviously different from others as they are filled with happiness as shown by the actions of addressing one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in a heart unstained by ones daily life. In Christ everyone is to put others first and let Christ rule their hearts and lives. They were not to insist everyone accept their opinion/interpretation.

1 Timothy 2:1, 3-4, 8-12
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made … This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth … I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands [unstained by sin (rd)] without anger or quarreling; likewise, also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness-with good works. Let a woman learn 24 quietly 25 with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach 26 or to exercise authority 27 over a man (to rule a husband - YLT; have dominion over a man - ASV); rather, she is to remain quiet (ESV).

  • Paul shows the objective is for Christian women, also men, to proclaim the gospel of Christ. This requires prayer and righteous living by those teaching so that what is taught is heard as well as observed. Christians are not to be angry, quarrelsome, but to seek what is best for others. They are to be different from the world in which they live. Their lives are to be open books to be read.
  • Women's appearance in public reflects her values. Does she reflect godliness or godlessness? In the Greek/Roman culture a woman's hair was a very erotic area of her body. Being adorned with 'braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire' called attention to her wealth and sensuality and 'not proper for women who profess godliness.'
  • "If you desire to be one of the faithful and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add adornments to your beauty, in order to please other men. Do not wear fine embroidery, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. It may be that you do not do these wicked things for the purpose of sinning yourself - but only for the sake of adornment and beauty. Nevertheless, you still will not escape future punishment for having compelled another to look so close at you as to lust after you. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 390, E), 7,375- A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W. Bercot, Editor, Henderson Publishers
  • Her teaching is not to be a lecture as one having authority but meek, gentle and preferring one another showing her respect.
  • She is not to attempt to dominate her husband because of her leading role in yielding to Satan in the Garden. 28

Hebrews 5:11-12
"About this [probably Jesus' obedience as a son (rd)] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you, [men only or men and women (rd)] ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God."

  • God placed the responsibility of teaching the Gospel to the lost to all Christians, men and women, rather than to a few evangelists, preachers or shepherds. Christians to whom the Hebrew writer is addressing were slack in their teaching responsibilities. They were immature in their knowledge and with little desire to teach.
  • The context of these passages focuses on the message one sends by the way they conduct their lives - calm, godly and simple lives, preferring others over self, not demanding of others, not calling attention to their knowledge, wealth or position but in all actions respecting others whether poor or wealthy, Jew or pagan, man or woman. Thus Christian men and women will be known by their righteous lives and by their appearance and demeanor in public by not calling attention to the sexual and sensual but the spiritual. Their teachings will reflect their humility and respectfulness.
  • On the surface there appears to be an inconsistency as 1 Timothy prohibits teaching by women and Hebrews requiring all to be teachers. Teaching when translated from didáskaloi or didasico refers to the lecture method of teaching by one in authority. Guy N. Woods stated "The word 'teach' in this passage (1 Timothy 2:12) is from the Greek didasico, defined by Thayer's to mean 'Deliver didactic discourses'. The teaching here prohibited is such that involves the improper exercise of 'authority over the man.' She may however instruct, and not violate the provisions of this passage: Priscilla, assisted by her husband, Aquila, took Apollos, a young gospel preacher, aside and expounded (ekitheemi, set forth, declare, expound) unto him the way of God more perfectly' (Acts 18:26), yet did not deliver 'a didactic discourse.'" 29
  • A discourse involves an interaction between speaker and listeners; whereas, a preaching as practiced today does not, it is a lecture - sermon. Paul had a discussion, discourse with the Christians in Troas nota sermon.


Relationships Among Christians

1 Peter 2:4-5; 9
"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house [gradually into God'snature], to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. -- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

  • In Christ there is no distinction between men and women, both are priest, to serve God by offering spiritual sacrifices of living righteously before God and man and proclaiming the Gospel. The spiritual sacrifices are related to the work of proclaiming Christ to the lost. Are 'Christians' faithful if they do not participate in proclaiming the excellencies of Christ who calls one out of darkness into Light?

1 Peter 3:8
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."

  • All Christians whether male or female are servants to do the will of God which is to be faithful, do good works and to teach the gospel. Unity of mind among those in Christ is not the same as complete agreement, uniformity of opinion. There is still room for differences in understanding, opinion and interpretation on a doctrine; e.g., Paul's admonition on the eating of meat. To be united in Christ there must be agreement of what constitutes the gospel "the power of God unto salvation'' and how one is added into Christ's Body of which your are a part.

Philippians 4:2-3
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored 30 side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."

  • These women helped Paul in teaching the gospel. Like many of us today, men and women alike, Euodia and Syntyche needed to be reminded that Christ's gospel is greater than individual opinionand that unity is required for one to be effective in reaching those outside Christ while encouraging Christians to be faithful to their calling.

Relationships between husband and wife

Ephesians 5:22-29
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."

  • Husbands and wives are to nourish and cherish each other as they are united as one. Their honor and respect must always show one's love of Christ even if one spouse is not a believer for they may be won to Christ by their spouse's actions. A wife is to yield to the head of the family even when she disagrees so long as it did not violate her relationship with God.
  • Those joined together in marriage are to be a united body functioning together as one for the good of the family. The husband is not to be an all-powerful family dictator but a loving person responsible for the physical and spiritual family wellbeing.

Colossians 3:18-19
"Wives, submit 28 to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh [bitter - KJV] with them" (ESV).

1 Peter 3:1-5
"Likewise, wives, be subject to 28 your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives- when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious" (ESV).

  • Peter and Paul are addressing the actions and attitude of Christians as they live daily among the saved and the perishing.
  • Husbands and wives are joined together in marriage, a covenant relationship, living and working together united as one being. Each is to love the other better than self. When this is present all significant situations or problems will be discussed in a calm loving environment doing what is considered best for the eternal well-being of the family. Whenever there are strong differences in opinion or desire, the wife is to yield to the husband's conclusion and decision since God assigned the responsibility for the family to the man. 31
  • Paul stated that the submitting by Christian wives to their husbands' decision is the way Christians submit to Christ; e.g., "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." Christians are fully assured of Christ's love, knowing that He always chooses what is best. So also the Christian husband's decision must be whatever is best for the family. However, a wife cannot submit to any decision of Christian or non-Christian husband that would violate her relationship with Christ.
  • All discussions leading up to the decision must not be contentious, an exercise to prove who is right, a relationship of ruler and servant or the wife challenging the responsibility or authority of the husband by some defiant action. Respect for each other must be of the highest order. Wrangling over settled matters by either husbands or wives in attempts to 'get my way' is very damaging to the marriage relationship and to training of children.

Other Relationships

1 Timothy 5:16
"If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church [the Christian family (rd)] not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows."

  • One important activity of Christian men and women is to take care of those who are unable to care for themselves especially their immediate and extended families.

James 1:27
"Religion (external worship - Thayer's Greek Lexicon) that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit (take care of - YLT) orphans and widows in their affliction."

  • As with the earthly family taking care of their family needs, so also must the spiritual family take care of their spiritual family.

2 Timothy 1:5
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well."

  • Faith of family, in this case a mother and grandmother, who love you so deeply it encourages and strengthens your faith.


The Kingdom of God is a living Body of sanctified people, both men and women, who have been raised by God from their burial into Christ's death, the atoning sacrifice, and put into Christ Body. Therefore, they are spiritual equals as priests and servants of God. They are to serve performing functions needed by the Body and refrain from performing prohibited functions whether assembled or not.

  • Lydia following her obedience to God's call through the Gospel humbled herself taking on the role of a servant.
  • Euodia and Syntyche labored side-by-side with Paul and Clement in teaching the Gospel.
  • Women in the assembly participated in decision making.
  • Women's outward appearance is to display their inward holiness not by dressing like the sensual women of the world.
  • Wives are to show honor and respect to their husbands whether their husbands were Christian or pagan.
  • Christian women and men were expected to perform functions not reserved for men.
  • During Paul's time the Roman society had eloquent professional speakers, orators.
  •      The assembled church had neither preacher or pulpit but evangelists who proclaimed the Gospel to the lost in various cities
         The congregational participation included Christian women humbly prophesying and teaching not as the pagan orators.
  • Christians are to respect local customs that do not conflict with honoring Christ.
  • Humbling self by holding others in high regard glorifies Christ

Word Study

All, Each, Everyone (also other inclusive terms)
Thayer Greek Lexicon: Strong's NT#:1538 hekastos- each, every Strong's NT#:3956 pas, pasa, pan - all, every, masculine and feminine every one, any one. ánthropos - people, human being, mankind (translated man in KJV and NKJV; e.g., 1 Timothy 2:1 - "exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men (people ESV)." James 1:19-20 - "let every man (person ESV) be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (NKJV). Since ánthropos generally means mankind but not always, scripture references are not included in this study.

Both men and women depending on text

Any individual whether man or woman.

Vine's Expository Dictionary Strong's NT#:2776 kephale, kefalh, besides its natural significance, is used
  1. figuratively
    • (1) in Rom 12:20, of heaping coals of fire on a "head"
      (2) in Acts 18:6, "Your blood be upon your own heads"
  2. metaphorically,
    • (1) of the authority or direction of God in relation to Christ
      (2) of Christ in relation to believing men,
      (3) of the husband in relation to the wife, 1 Cor 11:3;
      (4) of Christ in relation to the Church, Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:19;
      (5) of Christ in relation to principalities and powers, Col 2:10.
  3. Metonymy - a sign of authority
      (1) in 1 Cor 11: 10, taken in connection with the context, the word "authority" probably stands, the angels being witnesses of the preeminent relationship as established by God in the creation of man as just mentioned,
      (2) in Matt 21:42; with the spiritual significance regarding the position of Christ in relation to the Church; cf. Ephesians 3:10; it is used of Christ as the foundation of the spiritual building set forth by the Temple, with its "corner stone,"
      (3) in Rev 13:1,3; symbolically of the imperial rulers of the Roman, as seen in the apocalyptic visions,


  • A physical part of the human body
  • One responsible having authority for others-family or government
  • Absolute authority of God

Mankind is to honor those having authority - God, rulers, fathers or husbands


Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT#:435 aneer, andros - with a reference to sex, and so to distinguish a man from a woman - either as a male or husband:

  1. Head of household whether husband, father or older brother
  2. Wife's non-believing pagan husband
  3. Wife's non-believing Jewish husband

Any authority figure. Therefore, married women would have considered it to be their husband while unmarried would have thought it to refer to the leading man of the family.

Law, the

Thayer Greek Lexicon: Strong's NT#:3551 nomos, nomou anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, law, command

  1. The law of Moses
  2. Some Roman or Greek law or tradition [customs of country]
  3. Some tradition of the leaders of Jews

More than likely the Gentiles thought it referred to their law and traditions while the Jews considered it to be theirs.


Thayer Greek Lexicon: Strong's NT: #149 aischros, aischra, aischron - base, dishonorable:

Actions that results in one being held in lesser esteem or respect such as immoral, unethical or a disrespectful activity.

Observation: People, who by their actions, do not respect those in a position of authority were being held in low regard - shame.
Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT:#2980 laleoo, laloo - to use the tongue to utter or emit a sound in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts {Strong's - to talk, i.e. utter words}


  1. Address those gathered - lecture or sermon
  2. Revelation
  3. Prophet's message
  4. Song
  5. Prayer

Presenting sermons {lessons} as in todays "church" gatherings are not mentioned in the New Testament, therefore women delivering a lesson or sermon of that type is not what is meant. Other passages would lead one to conclude that women participated in singing, giving a prophetic message or a revelation. Then the context in which laleoo is used must determine if ''not speaking'' means total silence.


Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT#:4601 sigaoo - to keep silence, hold one's peace

  1. Complete silence [absence of sound]
  2. Not addressing those assembled
  3. Not to ask a question
  4. Not question {challenge any interpretation of one in authority}.
  5. Interrupting the speaker, possibility their husbands

It is doubtful that absence of any sound from a Christian woman in an assembly is intended. For everyone who had a song, teaching, revelation or tongue (if an interpreter was available) were allowed to encourage the congregation in order to build up their faith.

Teach [including discuss]

Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT#:1256 dialegomai - 1. to think different things with oneself, mingle thought with thought to ponder, revolve in mind; 2. to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss
Strong's NT#:1321 didasko - a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses, b) to be a teacher c) to discharge the office of a teacher, conduct one's self as a teacher

International Standard Bible Strong's NT#:1321 Didasko - a) to deliver a didactic discourse, a more formal monologue where there may not be direct personal and verbal participation b) to hold a discourse with others in order to instruct them, the interlocutory method, the interplay of the ideas and words between pupils and teachers. Ability and fitness for the work are required
Didactic teaching uses the lecture method of instructing by one having superior knowledge and in position of authority. Synonym - pedagogic - from paidagogikós a child's tutor.


  1. Group classes or discussions
  2. Orator or lecturer by one having superior knowledge and in position of authority may include discuss.
  3. Individual or one-on-one studies


  1. All three possibilities are and should be performed by women depending on the situation and audience.
  2. Paul conducted a discussion (dialegomai) in Troas

Women, Your Woman or Wife

Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT#:1135 gunee, gunaikos - a woman of any age, whether a virgin, married, or widow

Wife or woman

Could be either wife or woman depending on context.

Congregation /Assembly (Ekklesia)

Thayer Greek Lexicon:
Strong's NT#:1577 ekkleesia, ekklesias - a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly for the purpose of deliberating {often mistranslated as church}:


  1. Sanctuary [building]
  2. An assembly of the Body of Christ [His called-out people]
  3. A gathering of Christians for some purpose
  4. Worship Service
  5. Bible School
  6. Group Bible Study


An assembly of the congregation or gathering of Christians appears to be for the purpose of performing some function needed or desired for the Body of Christ. Today most Christian assemblies meet for a "worship service." However, in New Testament times they gathered together to edify one another and for other specific purpose. It is true they had songs, prayers and a remembrance of their savior's atoning sacrifice resulting in the forgiveness of their sins. often referred to as "The Lord's Supper." Their collections were made to help those in need, widows, orphans, those in prison because of the word, missionaries and leaders, elders, who gave their lives to evangelizing, shepherding and encouraging Christians within the community. There is no biblical record of paid speakers "preachers" who lectured "preached" to an assembly of those in Christ. Some writings 36 of "church fathers" indicate someone probably one of the shepherds (watchmen) presided over a dialogue or discussion for the purpose of encouraging, edifying and teachings on how to live and remain faithful to Christ. There is considerable biblical evidence that some perhaps many gatherings were for specific purposes, e.g.:

  1. Those called by the traveling evangelist to give a report of what God had accomplished (Acts 11:26).
  2. Discussion and resolution of some congregational problems (1 Corinthians 5:1-8 and 1 Timothy 5:20).


1. The Greek word diakonos (Strong's NT#:1249) and its variants are found 29 times in the New Testament translated 7 times as servant, 18 as minister [minister is both Latin and English for servant], and 4 times transliterated as deacon for men servants with special character and qualifications. The four times it was transliterated deacons may have been due to its connection to elder, watchmen or pastors to signify some special function. The New Testament is silent regarding "deacons" function but with their spiritual character traits (qualifications) so closely related to those of shepherds then their function was/is spiritual in nature and may be in helping shepherds perform their function. It is doubtful that their duties were pertaining to the physical facilities as is the common thinking of today, since they had no facilities. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia gives a meaning as helper.

2. One who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a sergeant, attendant, minister (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

3. Profeeteuoo Strong's NT#:4395; b.) foretelling future events pertaining to the kingdom of God: c.) to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

4. Katakalupto - to cover wholly - Strong's (cover up - Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

5. Refer to Women's Dress and Head Coverings of 1st century in the appendicies for additional information

6. Women who had their hair shorn as the punishment of whoredom, or adultery (Adam Clarke's Commentary).

7. Refer to Legal Rights of Women During Roman Times in the appendicies for more information

8. The veil (Greek palla) was the symbol of a married woman, such as today's weddong ring and in their culture a mark of husbands authority.

9. Psalmón Strong's NT#:1568; Vine's Expository Dictionary - primarily denoted "a striking or twitching with the fingers (on musical strings)"; then, "a sacred song, sung to musical accompaniment, a psalm. Strong's Numbers and Concordance - a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a "psalm"); collectively, the book of the Psalms. Thayer's Greek Lexicon - a striking, twanging.

10. Gloossa, gloóssee, Strong's NT#:1100 - 1. the tongue, a member of the body, the organ of speech: Mark 7:33,35. 2. a tongue, i. e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations (Thayer's Greek Lexicon); i.e., "Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God Acts" (2:11 KJV).

11. Diakrinétoosan Strong's NT#:1252 - Thayer's Greek Lexicon - make a distinction, discriminate, distinguish.

12. Some have interpreted this to refer to Genesis 3:16 "To the woman he said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you'". They then draw the conclusion that women are prohibited completely from any appearance of rejecting their submissive role to man. They must remain silent in all public instructive situations especially the church assemblies. Others believe it refers to Corinthian custom or some tradition of the Jews.

13. laleoo NT#:2980 - Thayer's Greek Lexicon - to use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts;

14. Didaskalos - Strong's NT#:1321, - appears 97 times - 83 relating to the teachings of Jesus, Holy Spirit or the Apostles, 5 times to the Pharisees, 1 time each to John the Baptizer, women [1 Timothy 2], Jezebel and Balaam and 3 other times.
Didáskein Strong's NT#: 1320, occurs 59 times - 46 as master in the Gospels, once as doctor in Luke, 1 time in the epistles as teacher and once as master in James.

15 Barnes' Notes

16. Adam Clarke's Commentary

17. Contending for the Faith, October /1995, p. 10; from Roy C Deaver, The Role of Women (Wellington, Texas: Copyright, No Date), pp.13-15.

18. Contending for the Faith October/1995, p. 2; Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers OPEN FORUM Freed Hardeman College (Henderson, TN: 1976), pp. 106-109

19. More on role of women in ancient Greece and Rome refer to appendix.

20. More on Athenian men's regard of women refer to appendix

21. Kai - Strong's NT#:2532 - serves as a copulative. It connects single words or terms, joins to partitive words the general notion and connects clauses and sentences. Here it connects psalms and hymns together.

22. Pneumatikaís - Strong's NT#:4152 - non-carnal (Strong's Numbers and Concordance) relating to the human spirit, or rational soul, as the part of man which is akin to God (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

23. Oodaís - Strong's NT#:5603 - a chant or "ode" more specifically, a Hebrew cantillation [the ritual chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible in synagogue services].

24. Ádontes - Strong's NT#:103 - the lyrical emotion of a devout and grateful soul.

25. Psállontes - Strong's NT#:5567 - to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument so that they gently vibrate; to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

26. Kardía - Strong's NT#:2588 - a) seat and center of all physical and spiritual life; b) the soul or mind, the seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors; c) the understanding, the seat of intelligence; of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions (Thayer's Greek Lexicon).

27. Manthanoo - Strong's NT#:3129 - to increase ones knowledge, possibly habitually

28. Heesuchía - Strong's NT#:2271 - quietness, not excessive eagerness or aggressiveness

29. Didasko - Strong's NT#:1321 International Standard Bible - to teach:
a.) to deliver a didactic discourse more formal monologues where there may not be direct personal and verbal participation
b.) to hold a discourse with others in order to instruct them, the interlocutory method, the interplay of the ideas and words between pupils and teachers. Ability and fitness for the work are required

30 Authenteín - Strong's NT#:831- Vine's Expository Dictionary -to exercise authority on one's own account, to domineer over

31 Roman women's hairstyle is discussed in the appendix

32 Adam was not deceived, but the woman, having been deceived, into transgression came (1 Timothy 2:14 YLT).

33. Contending for the Faith, p. 2; Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed Hardeman College (Henderson, TN, 1976), pp. 106-109.)

34. Sunathleoo, sunathloo; - Strong's NT#:4866 - to strive at the same time with another. (Thayer's Greek Lexicon) Both in the Grecian and Asiatic countries women were kept much secluded, and it was not likely that even the apostles had much opportunity of conversing with them; it was therefore necessary that they should have some experienced Christian women with them, who could have access to families, and preach Jesus to the female part of them. (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Biblesoft, Inc.)

35. Genesis 3:16 "Unto the woman he said … Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you [have dominion].

36. In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage was the first Christian writer to mention the practice of financially supporting clergy. He urged that just as the Levites were supported by the tithe, so should the Christian clergy. {pg. 176 footnote 16 Cyprian, Epistle 65-1, Murray, Beyond Tithing, 104} By the end of the tenth century, the tithe had developed into a legal requirement to fund the state church - demanded by the clergy and enforced by the secular authorities! {pg. 177 footnote 28 Murray, Beyond Tithing, 111,140} As far as clergy salaries go, ministers were unsalaried for the first three centuries. But when Constantine appeared, he instituted the practice of paying a fixed salary to the clergy from church funds and municipal and imperial treasuries. Thus was born the clergy salary. {pg. 178 footnote 30 C. B. Hassell, History of the Church of God, from Creation to AD 1885, [Middletown, NY, Gilbert Beede's Sons Publishers, 1886] 374-392, 472; Smith, From Christ to Constantine, 123. The Montanists of the second century were the first to pay their leaders, but this practice did not become widespread until Constantine came along (Smith, From Christ to Constantine, 193)} Pagan Christianity? Exploring The Roots Of Our Church Practices, 1998, Tyndale House Publishing Inc.

Role of Women

Role of Women in Ancient Rome and Greece

Generalizations on the status of women in the ancient world are always difficult, and never more so than in the case of Rome where theory and practice were often so far apart. Many Athenian men seem to have regarded their wives as at best essential inconveniences, but Roman men placed a very high value on marriage, home and the family and this made quite a difference to society's treatment of women. At no time in Rome's history were women allowed to hold public office or work in the government. In the early days of the Republic women were not even allowed to make suggestions, but by the beginning of the Empire many men were seeking and even following the advice of their wives. It was all right to do so, provided the advice was given in private and the husband did not make a big deal of it.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece was a patriarchal society. We know a lot about famous men like Hercules and Alexander the Great but not many know the role of women in ancient Greece. Sports, literature, politics and philosophy were male domains. Men and women lived with defined boundaries that were controlled by men. Women in ancient Greece were married off at a young age to men who were older than them. The married woman moved to her husband's home but that home was controlled by husband's mother. As a wife, women in ancient Greece had no status other than being the property of her husband. A woman was hardly given any education and she was considered inferior to men. A woman's primary use was that of giving birth and it ended there.

Women's Dress and Head Covering

It was a custom, both among the Greeks and Romans, and among the Jews an express law, that no woman should be seen abroad without a veil. This was, and is, a common custom through all the east, and none but public prostitutes go without veils. And if a woman should appear in public without a veil, she would dishonour her head-her husband. And she must appear like to those women who had their hair shorn off as the punishment of whoredom, or adultery (Adam Clarke).

  • "They must not do as some do. For some women imitate the acting of comedy. They practice the mincing motions of dancers, and they conduct themselves in society as if on the stage. That is, they go around with voluptuous movements and gliding steps, pretentious voices, and casting languishing glances round." (Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195, E), 2.287, Modesty: A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot)
  • By no means are women to be allowed to be uncovered and exhibit any part of their bodies, lest they both fall - the men by being incited to look and the women by attracting to themselves the eyes of men. (Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195 E), 2.246 Clothing; A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot)
  • Neither is it seemly for the clothes to be above the knee. (Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195 E), 2.266, Clothing: Ibid)
  • But self-control and modesty do not consist only in purity of the flesh, but also in seemliness and in modesty of dress and adornment. (Cyprian (c. 250, w) 5.431, Modesty: A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot)
  • Those who glory in their looks - not in their heart - dress to please others. (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot)
  • It has been commanded that the head should be veiled and the face covered. For it is a wicked thing for beauty to be a snare to men. Nor is it appropriate for a woman to desire to make herself conspicuous by using a purple veil. (Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195 E), 2.266, Veil: Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195 E), 2.266, Clothing: Ibid)

" Likewise, the Corinthians themselves understood him in this manner. In fact, at this very day, the Corinthians do veil their virgins. What the apostles taught their disciples approve. (Tertullian (c. 207, W) 4.33, Veil: Clement of Alexandria, (c. 195 E), 2.266, Clothing - Ibid)

Head covering Customs of the Ancient World

There are a number of ancient texts and artifacts which clearly indicate that head covering customs varied from time to time and from place to place. Some of these customs pertained specifically to religious cults, ceremonies, offices, and exercises. Some of them pertained to women, and others to men. … Women are the many depictions of women to be found on ancient pottery. These depictions usually show women with their hair done up in a knot and wearing a band of cloth wrapped around the head to keep the hair in place, but these bands do not cover the head on top and , and sometimes there is no hair-band. We should beware of putting too much weight upon this evidence, however, because it may be that in these illustrations the women are depicted without head coverings because they are at home, and perhaps it was merely a convention of Greek art to portray women in this way. It is hard to tell from the depictions alone whether or not the women are in a public setting. -

The virgin priestesses of Vesta - called Vestal virgins - wore a special head covering called a suffibulum. This was a square piece of cloth that covered only the head (and perhaps the shoulders). On Roman coins of the first century the civic virtue of pietas, "piety," is personified as a woman with such a head covering, and another head covering like it may be seen on ancient representations of Christian women carved into the walls of the Roman catacombs. -- As above, many of the Jews of the first century were Hellenized, having adopted many of the customs of the Greeks. But for the most part, Jews were interested in maintaining their own ethnic identity wherever they lived. They held to Jewish customs which set them apart from their Gentile neighbors. … As for Jewish women, there is clear evidence that in the first century they covered their heads not only for prayer but whenever they were outside of their own home. It is said that some Jewish women kept themselves covered at all times. In public, they not only covered their heads, but the lower part of their faces as well. For the women this was a matter of morals, and a religious duty, not merely a matter of style or convenience. --

From the discussion of customs given above, it may be seen that interpreting 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in the light of customs of the day is no simple matter. Aside from our uncertainties about Jewish, Greek and Roman customs, in Corinth we have these three cultures coming together in one place, at a time when the Greek and Roman traditions were losing their force. In fact this cultural ferment and dissolution is one of the things that set the stage for Paul's successful mission in Greece. The old gods and the old ways were dying, and the Greek world was wide open to change. … A further difficulty with all the "cultural accommodation" explanations for Paul's head covering rule is that Paul himself offers no explanations for it along those lines. He gives other reasons. It should be noted that Paul gives no indication in any of his Epistles that he would recommend mere conformity to Greek customs as an acceptable principle of conduct for Christians. (The case is otherwise with Jewish customs, which he sometimes urges Gentiles to respect, as in 10:23-11:1). It would seem best to take his explanations at face value rather than theorize about ulterior reasons related to Greek cultural practices. In verse 16 Paul says that the woman's head covering is a practice which pertains to the churches of God, and it may be that the use of the head covering in the churches did not correspond exactly to either the Jewish or Greek customs of the day. (21) It probably is true that this rule in the churches was originally a Christian modification of the Jewish custom, in which the custom was somewhat liberalized. That is, Christian women were expected to wear head coverings at religious gatherings (probably also whenever in public) without the face-veiling, even in those places (like Corinth) where the pagan society did not currently require a woman to wear any head covering. In any case, "cultural expectations" in Corinth were probably much more complex and fluid than some scholars think they were, and I do not think that the ambiguous information and speculations about Greek customs provide us with any sure basis for a general interpretation of this passage. (Adapted from Headcovering Customs of the Ancient World by Michael D. Marlowe, An Illustrated Survey, by Michael Marlowe,

Legal Rights of Women in Roman Times

"We do know a little, however. Unlike society in ancient Egypt, Rome did not regard women as equal to men before the law. They received only a basic education, if any at all, and were subject to the authority of a man. Traditionally, this was their father before marriage. At that point, authority switched to their husband, who also had the legal rights over their children.

"However, by the first century AD women had much more freedom to manage their own business and financial affairs. Unless she had married "in manu" (in her husband's control, which conferred the bride and all her property onto the groom and his family) a woman could own, inherit and dispose of property.

"Traditionally, these women, who had married 'sine manu' (meaning she was without her husband's control but still under the control of her pater familias), had been obliged to keep a guardian, or ´tutela,´ until they died. By the time of Augustus, however, women with three children (and freedwomen with four) became legally independent, a status known as 'sui iuris.'"

"Either married or unmarried, a woman was required to remain perpetually under the guardianship of a male relative. In Rome, a woman could be passed from her father's guardianship to become the legal daughter of her husband, or she could remain under her father's power even after she was married. Roman law gave the head of the household the "power of life and death over his children, who could do nothing without his consent," xi [xi - James Donaldson, Woman; her position and influence in ancient Greece and Rome, and among the early Christians (London: Longmans, 1907) 87.] and the same applied to a woman's husband after her marriage. Essentially, women were trapped within the households of their father or husband for their entire lives, as subordinates whose welfare depended on the good will of the men who owned them.

"With its typically progressive approach to the status of women, the early Church redefined the marriage relationship. In the book of Acts, Luke's biblical history of the early Church, he highlights a woman named Pricilla. xii She and her husband Aquila were missionaries who accompanied Paul on one of his journeys. Together, they are credited with instructing Apollos, a major evangelist of the first century, and "[explaining] to him the way of God more accurately." xiii Luke clearly indicates Priscilla's agency and her interdependent relationship with her husband. She is certainly not Aquila's property, but rather his partner in ministry and marriage. Marriage was also not considered mandatory for women in the Christian community, and the unmarried women and widows of the early Church were given important roles in ministry. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, expresses his esteem for unmarried women, who are not "anxious about worldly things" but "about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit." xiv

Roman Hairstyle

Much like today, hair for the Romans was as much an expression of personal identity as clothes. Hairstyles were determined by a number of factors, namely gender, age, social status, wealth and profession. How one dressed one's hair was an indication of who you were and what your role in society was. Hair was a very erotic area of the female body for the Romans, and attractiveness of a woman was tied to the presentation of her hair. As a result, it was seen as appropriate for a woman to spend time on her hair in order to create a flattering appearance. Lengthy grooming sessions for women were tolerated, despite writers such as Tertullian and Pliny commenting on their abhorrence for time and energy women dedicate to their hair.[1] However, the numerous depictions of women hairdressing and mirror-gazing in tomb reliefs and portraiture is a testament to how much hairdressing was seen as part of the female domain.[2]

In more than just attractiveness though, hairstyling was the leisure pursuit of the cultured, elegant female. Hair was seen as much as an indication of wealth and social status as it was of taste and fashion. But unlike modern-day hairstyles, comfort and naturalism for the Romans took a back-seat to hairstyles that displayed the wearer's wealth to a maximum. In other words, having a complex and unnatural hairstyle would be preferred to a simple one, because it would illustrate the wealth of the wearer in being able to afford to take the time to do their hair.[3] A 'natural' style was associated with barbarians, who the Romans believed had neither the money nor the culture to create these styles. Incidentally, the association with barbarians was why Roman men kept their hair cut short.[3] It was the job of slave hairdressers, Ornatrices, to create their master's hairstyle new each day, and so too of pulling out any grey hairs.[4]

Apart from society, hair was used symbolically to mark rites of passage; for instance loosened hair was common at a funeral, and the seni crines was the hairstyle worn by brides and Vestal Virgins; divided and plaited into six braids, and in the case of the bride, it was parted with a spear.[5]


Perhaps due to its erotic association, hair was often linked with Roman ideas of female modesty and honour. We know that veils were important in this case, as they protected (or encouraged according to Seneca the Elder) against solicitations by men.[6] The Palla was the mark of a married, respectable woman. It was a piece of cloth wrapped around the body with one end over the shoulder. There is significant evidence for the palla being draped over the back of the head as a veil.[7]

The palla supposedly signified the dignity and sexual modesty of a married woman, but due to its encumbering nature as a veil, there has been much debate whether it was only worn in public by the aristocracy, or if at all by working women of lower classes.[8] Vittae were woolen fillets that bound a married woman's hair. They were another indication of a wife's modesty and purity and were seen as part of the clothing and presentation of a matron.[9] Vittae could be inset with precious stones, or in the case of the Flaminicae, they would be purple in colour.


Palla is a traditional ancient Roman mantle worn by women, fastened by brooches. It was similar to the pallium that a man would wear. The shape was rectangular instead of semi-circular as with the traditional toga. The Palla was similar to a shawl that a woman of today would wear.

The palla is a single piece of material draped over the shoulders and around the body or over the head as well. The palla is worn over a stola, which is a floor-length dress with straps (or sometimes, long sleeves) that is worn over a tunic.

High-class Roman women did not have the same distinctions of clothing that immediately marked out the status of their male counterparts; in fact the only certain distinction of dress allowed to women was the stola, [worn over the palla] which indicated a woman's marital status, not her social class or wealth.

Athenian Men's Concept of Women

Since few women in the Ancient World knew how to read or write, most of our information about their life comes to us filtered through the eyes of men.

  1. Aristotle said that man is by nature superior to the female and so the man should rule and the woman should be ruled. ([1] Aristotle, Politics)
  2. Demosthenes wrote "We keep hetaerae [a high-class prostitute] for the sake of pleasure, female slaves for our daily care and wives to give us legitimate children and to be the guardians of our households." ([2] Demosthenes, Apollodorus Against Neaera, III, 122)
  3. "A man who teaches a woman to write should know that he is providing poison to an asp." [3] Fourth Century CE school children made numerous copies of this statement which they attributed to the Athenian …

Creation stories tell us a great deal about a society's view of itself and the world around.

  1. In the Judao-Christian version Adam (man) was the first human and God fashioned Eve (woman) to be a companion. After the Serpent successfully urged her to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she tempted her husband to do the same, and when God caught them both are driven out of the Garden of Eden and into a world of sorrow and hard work. Note that men and women sprang from the same source-material, and while her creation was an afterthought on God's part it was done as a favor to man, and that while woman was the tempted, man was a willing participant in the crime that led to their expulsion from Eden.
  2. The Greek story is quite different. The first woman, Pandora, was created as a form of punishment because men had learned from Prometheus the secret of making fire. How or from what man was created was never mentioned, but Pandora was fashioned out of the earth by Hephaestus on orders from Zeus, the various gods and goddesses supplying the attributes of women. Anything visible was beautiful and designed to make her irresistible to men, but all of the hidden characteristics, the ones that made up her true personality, were deliberately intended to bring sorrow, harm and trouble to man. [10 Hesiod, Works and Days, 42-105] It was not a pretty picture. --

The Hippocratic writers believed that men and women were different in that the latter had flesh that is more porous and softer and that it drew moisture faster and in greater quantities from the belly than did men. [12 Hippocrates, Diseases of Women, I.1] Menstruation was nature's way of getting rid of this excess. [13 Hippocrates, Regimen, I.34] Aristotle saw the woman as simply an inferior sort of man.

It seems clear, then, that Athenians saw women as beguiling creatures capable of causing considerable harm to themselves and others, and weaker in mind and body than men. Many believed that young girls were somewhat wild and difficult to control and that virgins were subject to hallucinations that could encourage them to be self-destructive. The solution was an early marriage, for only after a woman had delivered her first baby could she be a fully-operational female.


1. Who are priest in the New Testament church?

Men of the tribe of Levi

All Jewish men

Jew and Gentile men

All Christians

2. Overseers, elders are positions of authority rather than a work or function


3. The Greek word translated as deacon or servant is gender neutral- either men or women


4. Some women in the New Testament worked hard as servants who worked side by side with Paul in teaching the gospel


5. Do the words like each, all everyone include women?


6. Men and women are to always give honor and respect to the spiritual guardians responsible for their wellbeing


7. "When you come together" … does "you can all prophesy one by one" include women?


8. Wives of Christian men must give respect to their teaching husbands by waiting until they get home to request an understanding of something said


9. Who is to let the words of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach, admonish and sing?



Both men and women

10. Women will not escape punishment when by their appearance, their dress and adornments, entice men to lust


11. Unity of mind requires agreement and uniformity of opinion


12. When there is a strong disagreement between husband and wife over opinions that do not negate a command, a Christian wife

Can withhold conjugal rights to achieve acceptance of her opinion

Can ignore her husband's decision

Must accept his decision

13. Christian men and women are to take care of extended family members who are unable to care for themselves