I’ll bet your pastor never read this scripture from the pulpit: “A woman should learn in silence with submission. I do not allow any woman to teach or have authority over a man; instead she is to be silent.” (ITim. 2:11)
Can’t you just imagine the reaction from all the women in the pews? What about the women teachers in schools, Sunday schools and seminaries? What about the thousands of women pastors in churches throughout America? What about the women politicians, physicians and lawyers? What about the women university professors? Women are to be silent? Who wrote this?
Well, I don’t think Paul did. Even though it says he did. The two “pastoral epistles” to Timothy and Titus were written about a 100 years after Paul died. They were attributed to Paul as was the custom in those days, and somehow they ended up in our Bible. Now all the religiously castrated males can point to this text and say: “See, I told you so; women can’t compete.”
But women can compete, and this very competition is proof that not everything written in our Bible is true. Well, at least, not true for us.
The men who wrote it sure hoped it was true for them. They were writing this back in the 2nd century as the Christian church was just beginning to blossom. Women were starting to take over this burgeoning church, and why not? Reading Paul’s actual epistles of the 1st century, we see that his “churches” were in the homes of rich women like Priscilla and Aquila, Mary and Junia, Tryphaena and Tryphosa and Julia (Rom. 16:3-15, and 2 Cor. 16:19).
But as this tradition continued, and the women began to exercise roles of authority, many of the men felt left out and by the year 150 it was time to say so. They not only wrote “Pauline” epistles like Timothy and Titus, but it seems obvious (to me) that they went back into Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians and inserted this identical frightened dictate:
“Your women should be silent in the churches,
For they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive.
If they want to learn something they should ask their husbands at home.” (I Cor 14:34).
This doesn’t sound like Paul. He needed these women; he needed their homes and their financial help and he couldn’t manage without them. He would never have made these statements to the Corinthians or to Timothy. He never saw feminine authority and power as threatening. Women were his partners and he treated them like it. But as the years went on and Paul had died and this emerging community began to build their own meeting places, men began to flex their muscles and their egos and their power. And the women had to “learn their place.”
It was Adam and Eve — all over again.
You can read scripture literally as the fundamentalists are wont to do. And this will cause you the “fundamentalist problems” like: “How do we handle all the contradictions, scientific errors and cultural prejudices that proliferate on the pages of the Bible?” Fundamentalists of all three religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — have elaborate and complicated answers for each one of these problems, but their overriding and definitive explanation is always: “God or G-d or Allah wrote it.” It must be true.
I don’t read scripture that way. I believe men wrote all three “holy books.” And these men were just as frail and fragile and fallible as men are today. They did write some brilliant and truly “inspired” poems like:
“If I speak the languages of men and angels, but have not love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” etc. (I Cor. 13); and some exalted visions like: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God. And the Word was God,” etc. (John 1:1). But they also wrote some really stupid statements like the ones that made women subservient and submissive to men and forbade them to teach or hold any kind of authority.
I refuse to hold God accountable for these blatant blunders.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is www.billcummings.org.