Summary: Women have been a Silenced Majority in the Church;What does the bible really teach us?
Paul's teaching on women in 1 timothy and 1 corinthians
By Daniel Korol(based on teaching's by Judy Smith and Dr. David Hamilton)
I. BACKGROUND. Judaism, Greek and Roman Culture.
A. Women in the Old Testament
The Old Testament gives us glimpses into the role of women which is a much higher view than the rabbinic view of the first century. She was created from man to stand with him in taking dominion. She participated in worship, in prayers, offering sacrifices, attending the feasts, and hearing the reading of the law. In the religious realm there were no women priests. This is probably to stand as a contrast against the Pagan cultures who had women as god's and priestesses and their worship involved sex rites. In the home the wife was subordinate to the husband, but in the social realms she exercised great freedoms and entered in business, not as an inferior but on par with the men in the community. Proverbs 31 gives the picture of a model wife who is bright, energetic and able to use her mind and hands.
The Old Testament view of women stands in contrast to the Rabbinic picture portrayed in the first century. Women came to be thought of as inferior to males. James Hurley explains this degeneration:
"Our discussion of the role of women in Judaism has presented a situation in which the subordinate role of women within patriarchal and Israelite society has hardened to a considerable degree and in which women have been relegated to a position of inferiority. The rabbis continued many old traditions and produced new ones which they thought would guard their people from sin. Increasingly this meant a separation of the sexes. Perhaps it was this distance which led to suspicion and ignorance, and the ignorance to contempt. As has frequently been noticed, the rabbis spoke most often of women in a depreciating manner. A woman's praise was found in her service in the home; criticism of her cantered around her sexuality and her ignorance."
James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, p.73,74
B. 1st Century Judaism
In first century Judaism, women could not participate in worship in the synagogue. They were seated in a separate section with a separate entrance and their seating was separated from the men's sometimes by iron grating. They were shut up in their own section of the synagogue where they couldn't be seen. For in the synagogue the men came to learn and the women came to hear. The Scripture was read by men and when the men read the scripture they covered their heads whereas the woman had her head uncovered and was silent. Women were forbidden to teach in any school even of the very young children. A woman was not to be trained in the law for "women are of a light mind." To instruct a woman in the law was to cast pearls before swine. A woman's work was to send her children to the synagogue, to attend to domestic affairs, to leave her husband free to study in the schools and to keep house until he returns. The Rabbis had warnings against talking too much to women and a Rabbi could never greet a woman on the street; not even if she were a family member. In the Jewish morning prayer,a man thanked God that he wasn't a Gentile, slave or a woman. Note Paul uses these three groups in his statement in Gal. 3:25.
In Israel, women were pure, the home happy and the family hallowed. The most desired qualities in a woman were: meekness, modesty, and shamefacedness. Modesty was upheld because woman was formed out of man's rib which is always covered.
In spite of these somewhat demeaning statements about women, a Jewish woman was more free to mingle and be involved in religious interests than the surrounding cultures. They were not cloistered in their homes but moved about freely. This can be seen from all the women mentioned in the Gospels and Acts. They were not locked up at home.
Jewish Veiling Practices: from James Hurley's Book Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective. For a more detailed account read his book.
1. The Old Testament does not regulate the veiling of women though it does regulate the hairstyle; a woman would not go about with her hair hanging loose. Though they may have drawn a shawl over their head, they certainly did not have their faces veiled as in Islamic culture.
2. In the Mishnah writing the same word is used for loosing the hair and uncovering the head; thus it is difficult to know which is being referred to.
3. From the Talmud it seems that women did practice having their heads (not faces) covered. This was the practice that came in somewhere between 3 - 6th century B.C. But this does not say that it was the practice in first century Judaism.