Does "husband of one wife" disqualify women from being a Pastor?

Does "husband of one wife" disqualify women from being a Pastor?

I was listening to the January 26, 2007 radio program online by Matt Slick of Matt answered a caller’s question regarding women leading in the church by appealing to Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2 where it says that a Pastor/Elder/Overseer must be “the husband of one wife”. Matt said it was “case closed” because women cannot be “the husband of one wife”.

I appreciate Matt a lot for his excellent web site that exposes many cults and aberrant movements in Christianity and although I consider him a brother in Christ, I must disagree with him on his quick and pat answer to his callers regarding women in ministry. What Matt didn’t tell his callers and what he should have been challenged on is that “husband of one wife” used in the strict way that he uses it to disqualify women would also disqualify single men as well as married men without children, since the Elder/Pastor/Overseer is to be a “husband” and also required to keep his children under control (1 Timothy 3:4).

Instead of just shutting out women, single men and married men without children, we must work to understand what this passage means. Is 1 Timothy 3 a check list of qualifications (i.e. must be married, must be a father) or is it a set of principles that set a basis for godly standards? Every church that I am aware of uses 1 Timothy 3 to set principles because none of them forbid single men or married men without children from being a Pastor.

But if women are to be included along with single men and married men without children, then why did Paul say “husband of one wife” and he never said “wife of one husband”? The reason why Paul only mentioned “husband of one wife” is because it is a reference to polygamy. Polyandry (a woman married to several men at the same time) was not allowed in that culture and so Paul would not have needed to say that women in leadership must be the “wife of one husband”.

In the Jewish faith as practiced through the Talmudic law, Jewish men were allowed to have multiple wives but the High Priest was forbidden from being a polygamist. The High Priest could be married and divorced but he could not marry more than one wife at a time. The High Priest then, was to be “the husband of one wife”. Paul brings the same regulation to the leadership of the Church. Although polygamists could become part of the congregation, they were not allowed into leadership. In the early church, the believers were unsure of how to deal with polygamists. Some tried to force them to divorce all of their wives except for the original wife in order to be baptized as a Christian, but that left the women destitute and without support. Paul gives the final word by allowing polygamists into the church who come into faith after their multiple marriages had already occurred. The only prohibition was that polygamists were disallowed from serving the congregation as an elder or deacon. In 1 Corinthians 7:24 and 27 Paul talks about the marital state in which one has become a Christian.

1 Corinthians 7:24, 27 “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released”

If a man is bound in marriage, he is not to dissolve that marriage just because he has become a Christian. So the early church then allowed polygamists into fellowship, but they also followed the lead of Christ in teaching that it was God’s will that only one husband and one wife were to be in the marriage union.

Mark 10:6, 8 “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE… AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.

So let’s review why the “husband of one wife” cannot be used to disqualify women from leadership. I think the answer will become evident from asking other relevant questions.

1. Do we stop a single male from being a pastor?

2. Do we force a pastor to resign if his wife dies and he is no longer married?

3. Do we stop a married man from being a pastor if he does not have children? After all the same passage says in 1 Timothy 3:4

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

We know of no church that disallows single men from being a Pastor. We also know of no church that disallows married men with no children from being a Pastor. Why is that? It is because we can understand from the passage that there is a principle being set forth. The principle is that if a person wants to be an Elder/Pastor/Overseer they must have their children under control (that is “if” they have children); they must not be a polygamist (that is “if” they are married and “if” they are a man).

The problems with interpreting 1 Timothy 3 as forbidding women from being an elder is:

1. There is nothing in the passage that says that a woman cannot be an elder in exactly the same way as there is nothing in the passage that says that a man cannot be an elder if he is single.

2. The Greek is written in such a way that allows both men and women to aspire to being a Pastor/Elder/Overseer.

1 Timothy 3:1 says: Trustworthy [is] the word: If anyone aspires to [the] position of overseer [Gr. episkope], he desires a good work. (Analytical-Literal Translation)

The Greek word used is NOT “aner” which would mean “If any male aspires…” Instead of the Greek word for males, the generic Greek word for”anyone” is used which is “tis”. “Tis” means men or women and has the exact same Greek grammatical structure as “anyone” in John 6:51 and every other passage concerning salvation.

John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever”

All of the salvation verses are just like 1 Timothy 3:1 and they are singular masculine in the Greek grammar but all of them use the generic Greek wording which includes men and women. If we dispute that the Greek can include men and women because the grammar is singular masculine, then we must also be consistent and disallow women to be saved since all of the salvation passages are written in the same way as 1 Timothy 3:1 with generic words having a singular masculine tense in the Greek.

3. 1 Timothy 3:12 also says that Deacons must be the husbands of one wife and this term clearly did not disqualify women because Phoebe was a Deacon of the church of Cenchrea.

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;

The word that the NASB translates as “servant” is “diakonos”which means Deacon. If Phoebe could be a Deacon of the church at Cenchrea and the term “husband of one wife” did not disqualify her, then why would we think that this same term would disqualify a woman from being an elder/pastor/overseer?

So the next time that someone tells you that 1 Timothy 3 forbids women from being a Pastor, you make sure to ask them if the same passage forbids single men and married men without children from being Pastors. If a person is going to be a literalist without considering the standard that is actually being set forth, then they must also follow through with the same standards for single men and married men without children. To fail to follow through with applying the principle across the board would be hypocritical.

69 thoughts on “Does "husband of one wife" disqualify women from being a Pastor?

  1. Gidday Cheryl,

    I have printed out this stuff for my hubby to read!
    He is a loving husband from a strict reformed background… (although now we both go to a church where there are ‘junior’ female pastors). I come from more of a baptist/methodist tradition in which women were not ‘too’ limited in ministry (at least in the last 20-30 years!) I am studying at bible college and feel strongly that the Lord might well have given me a teaching gift and a call to leadership beyond that of ‘women and children'(not that they are in any way unimportant!)

    We both love the Lord and are praying that he can lead us to unity on this difficult issue…

    Hubby always comes back to 1 tim 3 to say that a woman cannot be ‘an elder’.
    Secondly because Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, uses Gen 2-3 in 1 tim 2 and 1 Cor 11 to (according to hubby’s view)confirm a patriarchal view of men/women in ministry it must ‘therefore’ be a transcultural teaching. (Reformed folk are big into the whole ‘creation ordinance’ stuff!)

    personally i feel that the argument made by patriarchalists that 1 tim 2 ‘confirms’ patriarchy in the Garden and then that in turn confirms Paul as prescribing patriarhy as somewhat of a circular arguement…

    anyway, i’ll see how hubby goes with your well thought out response to elders ‘must’ be men!
    thanks for your insights. i look forwards to more of your posts and comments.

    growing in Him…


  2. Hey there zwagmeister,

    I am just leaving on a 3 week ministry trip and will be mostly away from computer except for brief checks on email. The Genesis 2 – 3 connection to 1 Timothy 2 is well researched and explained on the hour DVD teaching on the ! Timothy 2 section on “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” I highly recommend that you get a copy of the set to let your husband see the full reasoning. I think it will make sense to him. I have had many comments from complementarian Pastors who were very challenged and impressed by the solid biblical reasoning. Okay, I’m off now and will respond later as I get a chance.

  3. Hello there,

    I am back in the saddle although I am doing ministry work at the same time as I am packing up our second load of belongings. Busy times!

    I appreciate that your husband is trying hard to follow God’s word. What is needed though is to make sure that it is God’s word, not just human tradition that we follow. 1 Timothy 3 does not say that a woman cannot be an elder. That is an assumption that many have come to because of the phrase “husband of one wife”, but the bible does not say that an elder cannot be a woman or that an elder must be a man or even that an elder must be a “husband”. I have heard men say that a woman cannot be an elder because a woman cannot be a “husband”. However if we take this passage to mean that women are denied the opportunity to serve the church in leadership because they cannot be a “husband”, then we must also deny the opportunity for anyone who is not a “husband”. Yet churches do not deny leadership opportunities to single men. Why? It is because churches understand the principle that carries across the years and across the culture from the New Testament until now.

    Today we would take the principle to mean that if one is married, they must be faithful to and maried to only one spouse. No polygamists allowed. The passage does not mean that one must be married or that one must have children or that one must be male. To deny a woman in this passage would also mean that one MUST deny an unmarried man and MUST deny a man without a family. We cannot deny one without following the pattern to its logical conclusion.

    If the Holy Spirit had wanted us to know for sure that women were not qualified to be elders or deacons in the body of Christ, then he would have done two things. First of all, he would have told us that women were not to be elders or deacons. That is plain and simple and easily understand as a prohibition. Second of all, he would have inspired the word for males only “aner” instead of the generic word for people in 1 Timothy 3:1. Paul wrote and the Holy Spirit inspired the term that includes women. Men or women may aspire to be an overseer (elder) according to 1 Timothy 3:1.

    The other argument that Genesis 2-3 is referenced in 1 Timothy 2 is another place where some have taken a leap beyond what is actually being said. I agree that Paul takes us back to Genesis to prove his point. But what is his point? His point is show that the first creation of Adam was important because the first one created was not deceived. Paul also tells us that the second one created was deceived. Paul takes us back to Genesis to make an important point about deception. Paul says nothing about the leadership of the man and he does not tie leadership into Genesis. Paul ties in the deceived state of the second one created to the reason of the prohibition of a teacher(s) that Timothy was reminded of in chapter one and again in chapter two. Those who are deceived must not teach or influence others with their deception. Timothy is to put a stop to false teaching not true teaching.

    In my DVD on 1 Timothy 2, I follow the Holy Spirit’s lead back to Genesis to find out why the first one created was not deceived. What did Adam see that caused him to know that the serpent was lying about God? Adam’s unique experience with God is highlighted when Paul states emphatically that the first one created was not deceived.

  4. Thanks for your succinct response Cheryl.

    1 Tim 3 is ridiculously ‘obvious’ to me. Just as you say… that if you take the ‘one-woman man’ bit ‘literally’, you have to take the others bits likewise – which ‘no one’ really does.

    Esp when a few verses below it says deacons must be a husband of one wife, then it goes on to describe female deaconesses… (cf Rom 16:1 with Phoebe as an example) so obviously proving that the one-woman elder is not restricting women, but polygamy.

    1 Tim 3 seems to be such a ‘no brainer’…yet it’s a major stumbling block for so many regarding females being ‘elders’ or pastors’ leaders etc…
    The bias we can all unconconciously bring to Scripture is frightening and something that we all need to constantly ask Holy Spirit to set us free from so we can receive true revelation of God’s Word.

    There are no ‘female elders’ specifically cited in the NT. This is something that is often thrown in my face too. (Any comments?)

    Yet the more i study both Paul and Christ’s teachings, the more i believe that they were extremely counter cultural – offering woman amazing freedoms and liberation within Christ that were revolutionary in 1st century greco-roman/jewish culture. As we read the NT texts from our 21st century western point of view it’s easy to miss just how radical Jesus and Paul actually were on the behalf of women. Mary welcomed to sit at the foot of Jesus learning like only male students were ‘allowed’ to sit at a Rabbi’s feet…the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the daughter of Abraham who stood straight after Jesus healed her…the woman with bleeding who dared to touch the Holy Jesus…

    Some say “hey, there’s no female examples of elders named… so therefore female elders were not allowed… and use 1 Tim 3:2 as the ‘law’ from God that supports this… Yet this is firstly an argument from silence and secondly, we need to consider the ‘direction’ in which Christianity was moving towards the liberation of women – even though it was slam bank in the middle of 1st century patriarchy.

    If you haven’t read it before, William Webb’s book “Slaves Women and Homosexuals Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis” (IVP, 2001) provides some great food for thought on this. Webb proposes that in the case of slaves and women the NT presents a ‘forward moving’ hermeneutic. Although the 1st century church is still operating within a patriarchal society, there is a clear momentum towards equality for women. He contasts this with the clear stationary stance on homosexuality. That is, the NT does not offer any movement towards an acceptance of homosexuality, but continues to condemn it as does the OT.

    Apart from presenting the very logical arguments yo make above for 1 tim 3 regarding ‘one-woman’ man not restricting women from being elders… do you have any other advice for me in terms of encouraging those ‘stuck’ on this verse? I guess praying for wisdom and revelation is a good thing too!

    I continue on my journey seeking truth and God’s will for me as a woman who feels called to teach and lead. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss these important issues on your blog.

    In Christ


  5. Cheryl,

    I really appreciate your post and your website. I have felt challenged to do a thorough study of these issues, as I am not satisfied with the “traditional” view with which I grew up.

    My only question regards the practice of polygamy in the 1st century. Do you have historical resources that show polygamy was practiced throughout the Roman Empire or in Ephesus specifically? What are the documents that show the allowance of polygamy in the Jewish community? I can’t remember where I read it, but I have read that this passage does not deal with polygamy because that was not something with which Paul was dealing. I agree with your conclusions and am not defending an alternative reading of this passage. I just wanted to know more of the background information on the polygamy angle because I have read/heard other claims previously.

    Thank you,

    David Cecil

  6. David,

    The historical source for polygamy that I have is the Talmud. The Talmud is the oral law of the Jews. In the Talmud, polygamy is sanctioned although somewhat regulated depending on the rabbi. One rabbi said that a man may take as many women as he wants for wives as long as he could support them all. Another rabbi limited the number of wives for one man to four. However there was a strict prohibition regarding the High Priest. The High Priest was not allowed to have more than one wife at a time. He was allowed to be divorced and remarried but he was not allowed to be a polygamist. I would give you the references that I have but unfortunately all of my research books are at my new house and I am in my old house getting it fixed up for selling and I don’t have any of my books with me.

    Since the Jews allowed polygamy and since many Jews were in the Christian congregation, it would inevitably come up as a question regarding what to do with polygamists. Paul had already given the ruling that one should remain in the way that one was called when he became saved. Someone who was married shouldn’t look to become single in order to serve Christ. Although a polygamist who had become saved was not told to divorce his wives, he was forbidden from becoming a Pastor, Elder or Overseer.

    Paul’s statement that the Overseer is to be the husband of one wife follows the moral law that the Jews had for their highest spiritual leader. Polygamy is most certainly being talked about in reference to “the husband of one wife”. If it was anything else, like adultery, then that would have been taken care of by Paul stating that the Overseer must be “blameless”. An adulterer is not “blameless”. A polygamist could be blameless if he came to Christ after he was already a polygamist, but Paul ruled that such a one would not be a good spiritual example. He could be a Christian, but not a leader.

    I have a section on 1 Timothy 3 on my DVD “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” I recommend that you get a copy of this DVD series because I believe it will help you greatly in your research.

  7. I have read that the term “one-woman man” (in Greek) has been found on tombstones in Ephesus referring to BOTH the husband and wife, in which case it should be translated as “faithful spouse” as the term was understood symmetrically.

    See Nyland’s The Source NT, for example.

  8. I wouldn’t think that “faithful spouse” would quite measure up since I am sure that a man who has four wives would consider himself a “faithful spouse”. As long as he is married to all four, and wasn’t having sex outside his marriages, he would have been thought to be “faithful”. The high priest wasn’t allowed to be faithful to four wives. He had to be the husband of one wife. Of course faithfulness in everything including your marriage is key, but not allowing faithful polygamists to serve as an example to the congregation would seem the thought here. “Faithful” and “polygamy” just don’t mix.

  9. I agree that non-polygamy is a part of the specification for an elder. In my understanding, Jesus clarified (correctly interpreted Torah) that marriage was designed for one man and one woman.

    The idea of being a faithful spouse means more than just not committing adultery, it means not being flirtatious, etc. Like what the country song means by “one-woman man”.

    I do not think I am disagreeing with anything you wrote, just clarifying my understanding.

  10. Hi Don,

    Yes, I do agree with you as well. A faithful leader needs to be faithful in his marriage by not being a womanizer (if they are a man) or not being flirtatious (if they are a woman). I tend to think that this would be included in Paul’s saying that they must be “above reproach” but it certainly could be inferred by “husband of one wife” too.

  11. The point is that the term “one-woman man” was a “buzz phrase” that meant someone who was faithful to their one spouse (assuming they had one). This is why it can apply to both men and women when found on a tombstone in Ephesus.

    Pagan women were expected to be faithful, but pagan men were not.

    The reverse phrase “one-man woman” is also in 1 Tim in discussing widows. We know women could not be polygamous in any Roman controlled area.

  12. Cheryl,
    Thank you for the insight, clarity and revelation you bring. Re: your response (#7 above) to David’s questions “Do you have historical resources that show polygamy was practiced throughout the Roman Empire or in Ephesus specifically?” and ” What are the documents that show the allowance of polygamy in the Jewish community?”; you’d stated your research books w/ the references weren’t available to you at that time. I also wondered David’s questions, so I wanted to find out if your situation or their availability has changed enough to find the references in question. Again, thank you and God bless you.

  13. Dennis,
    I have access to the books now, it is just a matter of finding them and finding the references. It will take some time because of what is on my plate right now, but I think that this would be very helpful to post here. The historical references are a very important consideration. I can’t tell you exactly when I will get the references up but if you have chosen to be notified about the addition of comments, then you will get an email. It probably would be good to do a specific blog article on the evidence as well. Right now I am in heavy research project which will be part of a DVD teaching on the Trinity so I will squeeze in what I can.


  14. Cheryl Quote

    “A polygamist could be blameless if he came to Christ after he was already a polygamist, but Paul ruled that such a one would not be a good spiritual example. He could be a Christian, but not a leader”

    Now the man could not be a leader. But what about the women (The Wifes)? No right, because there not the only wife? So the Husband and His Wifes could not be in leadership right? I guess my question is about the wifes (The Women). The women/wifes too were included in this as well, right? If she is not the “only” wife then she couldn’t be a leader.

  15. Michael,
    There is no restriction on women regarding if they are not the only wife of their husband. Hanna was blessed by God in giving birth to Samuel and she was the barren wife of a man who had another wife. In those days a woman had no choice. If a man desired to take another wife he did not consult with her or get her permission. He did as he pleased. She could not divorce him because he took another wife. Therefore a wife who had a husband who had multiple wives was not guilty of having being immoral. Paul did not have a restriction on her in this regard. I would think it doubtful that such a woman would be in a place of seeking servanthood in the church by overseeing the flock, yet it certainly could still be possible. The rule would be that if scripture does not forbid someone from serving the body of Christ, then they should be allowed. Paul did not forbid Gentiles from being overseers even though the early church originally only had Jewish leadership. Since Gentiles were not forbidden to serve the congregation, then they should be allowed. The same would go for women who were married to polygamists. It is only the men who were the ones who themselves took on the additional wives who were held responsible and kept from being the spiritual examples to the congregation.

    That is my two cents anyway 🙂

  16. Dennis #13,

    Polygamy was allowed in the Jewish tradition and we know that there were Jews in Corinth because their law was appealed to in 1 Cor. 14:34-35. The oral law of the Jews allowed for polygamy. Jeb 65a says A man may marry as many wives as he pleases. Another on of the rabbis limited the number to four (Jeb 44a) The one agreement that all the Rabbis had was that there was to be no polygamy for the High Priest (Joma 13a). Everyman’s Talmud by Abraham Cohen says “While there can be no doubt that among the masses polygamy was practiced, there is no record of any Rabbi having resorted to it.”

  17. I just read in David Instone-Brewer’s book, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, on page 187, that “In New Testament times, those phrases (man of one woman or woman of one man-I Tim. 3:2, and I Tim. 5:9) meant someone who was faithful.”  He footnotes with a reference stating that the Greek ‘monandros’ or its Latin equivalent ‘univera’ is common on funeral inscriptions in praise of someone who was faithful to her husband.  References Craig Keener, …And Marries Another (Peabody, Mass.; Hendrickson, 1991, pp. 92-93.)

  18. I would add that my research suggests that the term eldress actually fits the aged women in I Tim.5:2 so consequently Paul could actually being speaking about women ministers. And the term for eldresses is actully used a number of times in the pastorals. It was this along with Matthew Poole’s commnt about exceptions to I Tim 2 that gave me the idea of how Sandy Creek Baptist Church coul have hqd eldresses in the 1700s in a period when they would not dream of disobeying the scripture. The fact that the Separate Baptists were actually Puritan Congregationalists who had become Baptists in ecclesiology and the ordinance of baptism ad who probably were among the high level puritants who took notes on sermons and discussed every point in detail. IT IS VERY LIKELY, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, THAT SOME ONE IN THE GROUP KNEW GREEK.

  19. I was wondering if anyone has any comments on 1 Timothy 3:11 and its relationship to this topic. When Paul says “Women, likewise….” it would seem that he has had men in mind in his previous comments in verses 1-10 and now turns to the women.
    He says “The overseer must be…..” vs 1-7
    “Deacons likewise…..” vs 8-10
    “Women likewise…..” vs 11
    I have found this site very helpful in thinking through these issues but I haven’t found any comments yet on this verse.
    Thank you

  20. Hi Craig and welcome to my blog!

    1 Timothy 3:11 fits in really well with 1 Timothy 3:1 where Paul states that “anyone” can desire the work of an overseer. The issue of “husband of one wife” is specifically set up to refer to men’s qualifications in both the overseer (elder) and deacon since only men were allowed to be polygamists but in case anyone would think this would qualify only men to do he work of an elder or deacon Paul specifically mentions women in verse 11. Some will attach women only to deacons by saying that these women are the deacon’s wives but this seems highly unlikely. First of all there is no possessive form for women that would make these the wives of the deacons. Secondly if one makes “women” attached only to deacons, it would not be understandable why only the deacon’s wives would have to have qualifications and elder’s wives would not.

    I believe that the most consistent understand of “women” in 1 Tim. 3:11 is that Paul is specifically giving the same qualifications to women who desire to be elders or deacons. He wouldn’t even need to mention women in the text for the entire set of qualifications to refer to women except for the phrase “husband of one wife”. Thus the term “likewise” will connect the qualifications of women to both deacons and elders.

    Some will say that since Phoebe was a woman deacon, then the “likewise” can connect women to deacons but they refuse to allow women also to be qualified to elders saying that they see the women only attached to deacons. But Paul has already qualified in 1 Timothy 3:1 that “anyone” can desire to the work of an overseer. If “anyone” can desire this work, and Paul does not say “any male may desire the work”, then we should be able to understand that “women likewise” connects the qualifications of overseer/elder and deacon with women.

    The biggest problem for complementarians has been trying to explain how women can be deacons yet they cannot be elders when the term “husband of one wife” is used for both. I have yet to hear any clear answer to this problem for the complementarian camp.

    My answer would be that the issue of polygamy which apparently was a problem in the early church caused Paul to specifically set up a qualification that would not allow those who are polygamists to act in any kind of service to the church that would set them up as leaders to follow their example. While they could be part of the body of Christians and they were not required to divorce all their wives but one to be baptized, they were not allowed to be set up as examples to the flock. Women didn’t have that problem as there was no legal precedent that allowed women to have more than one husband, but their inclusion in the list “women likewise” showed that Paul’s setting up qualifications was not meant to exclude women, but only to exclude polygamists.

    Is this helpful?

  21. Thanks very much Cheryl for your prompt reply. It was indeed very helpful. Do you have any comments on Titus 1:5-9. Paul seems to have men in view when discussing eldership. No mention of women is made here. Our church teaches that elders/pastors should be men and I am finding your material helpful in rethinking these issues. I have ordered your DVD’s.

  22. Hey Craig,
    Glad you purchased my DVDs. Now I know which Craig you are! I think you will find the DVDs very helpful especially because they deal with this subject in a very visual manner.

    Now as far as Titus 1:5-9 this is very similar to 1 Timothy 3 where Paul makes sure that women are included by saying “likewise women”. However in the Titus passage the translators have put chapter divisions that were not there in the original so you have to keep reading through to the next chapter to see women included.

    Titus 2:3 (NASB)
    3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,

    In Titus 1:5 Paul says that Titus was left behind to appoint “presbyteros” (elders) and in chapter 2 Paul gives the qualifications for men Titus 2:2 and then for women Titus 2:3. It is worthy of note that Paul only identifies the requirement of being a teacher to the women, but we can understand that the entire list works for all as Paul connects the different peoples (men, women, young men) with the terms “likewise” in verses 3 & 6 so we can understand that the qualifications are all about moral character and maturity. Once again we see that Paul not only includes women, but in the qualification he never says that women are “forbidden” to be presbyteros.

    Also another note is that when men and women are included in the same group the grammar rule is that the masculine term is used. This means that the Greek term presbyteros is the masculine grammar but the masculine plural is not meant to exclude women. In fact it clearly includes women by Paul putting the qualifications together with the men and saying “likewise”.

    I hope this helps.

  23. Dear Cheryl: I enjoyed and appreciated you comments on the generic usage in I Tim.3:1. Whe I gave my address in 1985 on the subject, “Th Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses,” I did not have that knowledge, though I could have, sine I have about the equivalent of a minor in Greek. It is jut that was into the history of the interpretation of I Tim 2, regarding exceptions as suggested by the Puritan Commentator, Matthew Poole. Another Puritan said much the same thing, but I do not recall his name. God bless.

  24. Hi Dr. Willingham,
    Thanks for your comments on this subject. I am glad that you dropped in. Also to let you know I have been delayed in completing my book, but I have not forgotten about you. I will provide you with a copy for your comments for either the foreword or the back endorsements. I have thought about you a lot lately as my focus is going onto finish my written work. Your support for my defense of women in ministry is greatly appreciated!

  25. Just thought I would see if anyone had any thoughts about another question I have. It’s regarding the view that “husband of one wife” is primarily a reference to polygamy so I thought this old thread may be a reasonable spot to put it.
    In your post Cheryl, you said
    “Paul gives the final word by allowing polygamists into the church who come into faith after their multiple marriages had already occurred. The only prohibition was that polygamists were disallowed from serving the congregation as an elder or deacon.”
    Wouldn’t this then put the christian with multiple wives in a somewhat similar predicament to women in a comp world today? What if he matured as a christian and God gave him leadership gifts? Would he be allowed to teach women and children but not serve as an elder or a deacon? Where should he draw the line about when he is “leading” and therefore setting a bad example to others? What other things do you know of besides polygamy that would be correct for him to continue in as a christian, but it meant there were certain roles in the church he could not serve in? Would Paul really have meant this man to feel equal in value before God but denied certain roles of service? Something seems inconsistent somewhere. Any thoughts?

  26. @Craig

    The Greek phrase “a one woman man” (usually translated into English as “the husband of one wife”) was a very common idiom and as Don mentioned was often found on gravesite inscriptions.

    The idiom refers to marital faithfulness. BDAG (p292) mentions that it is used in numerous sepulchral inscriptions to “celebrate the the virtue of a surviving spouse by noting that he or she was married only once, thereby suggesting the virtue of extraordinary fidelity.” (cf Anna in Luke 2:36, and the widows in 1 Timothy 5:13-15.)

    I have written a bit about this here:

    I found the following paper very useful. It takes an indepth look at the meaning and application of “a one woman man”.

  27. Thanks Marg for your response and the helpful links.
    I agree that the godly characteristic of marital faithfulness seems to fit better than the fact of whether a person had multiple wives prior to conversion. The other qualities listed are mostly aspects of godliness that we can work on, mature in, repent of if we fail, pray for God’s help in etc.
    In contrast, if “husband of one wife” just referred to not having multiple wives prior to conversion, it would stand out as a characteristic that nothing could be done about. You couldn’t divorce or kill all of your wives except your favorite! You would be a Christian but one with a permanent stigma. The apostle Paul could be a past murderer of Christians and still be greatly used by God as a leader in the church. But not so for the polygamist. This doesn’t make sense to me. So “marital faithfulness” sounds a more likely meaning to me.

  28. “You couldn’t divorce or kill all of your wives except your favorite! You would be a Christian but one with a permanent stigma. The apostle Paul could be a past murderer of Christians and still be greatly used by God as a leader in the church. But not so for the polygamist.”

    Hmmm…I think you would want to be careful about how you preceed with that. You are providing a very good case for killing off all your wives except for the favourite as the stigma of murder is less than having them hang around! 🙂

  29. Hi Dave! Yes I do hope I haven’t given any polygamists reading this the wrong idea 🙂

    I was wondering about another thing. In v11, when Paul says “Likewise (or in the same way) women…. why he put this where he does – in the middle of a passage about deacons. If he meant it to apply to both elders and deacons, why didn’t he put it in a more obvious spot?

  30. @Craig #27,

    Wouldn’t this then put the christian with multiple wives in a somewhat similar predicament to women in a comp world today? What if he matured as a christian and God gave him leadership gifts?

    No it isn’t the same as a “leadership” is not a “gift” per se but a place of Christian maturity that has such a high standard that the congregation is to follow the example of their leaders. A leader is to be an example to the flock in such a way that they are to be without blame and worthy of setting a godly example. While “husband of one wife” is a clear note about marital faithfulness, it also prohibits a “faithful husband of two or three wives” from being set up as an example to the congregation as one to follow in their marital choices.

    So while a polygamist who had become a Christian after he had already married multiple women was not forced to divorce his additional wives, the Christian standard was that any Christian who took multiple wives after conversion was an adulterer. Thus a leader who was to be an example to the congregation could not be a polygamist. Could a pre-Christian polygamist who was now following the Lord use his God-given gifts in the assembly? Certainly. But could he be listed as a leader who was worthy of being followed and emulated? No. The Christian standard that Paul set up disallowed that as the Christian standard went further than what was allowed in the Old Testament. The Christian standard was one of purity for one man and one woman in marriage and in faithfulness. So while I agree that the term referred to marital faithfulness and thus did not disallow women to serve as an example to the congregation, it does disallow those who were polygamists before their conversion. And a person who became a polygamist after their conversion was considered guilty of adultery.

    In later years polygamy was not as common and in the early years of the church converts who were Greek or Romans did not come from a culture that practiced polygamy although there was some polygamy in other cultures including among the Jews. There is some disagreement in church history on how to handle polygamists who became Christians, but no disagreement on whether these ones could be an example to the flock. They could not.

    In Philip Schaff’s “The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Vol. XIV pg 80, he records:

    Ancient Epitome of Canon III.
    The time of polygamists is well known.A zeal for penance may shorten it.

    As the Greek commentators have remarked, this canon speaks of those who have been married more than twice. It is not known what were the ancient ordinances of penitence which the synod here refers to. In later times digamists were condemned to one year’s penance, and trigamists from two to five years. St. Basil places the trigamists for three years among the “hearers,” and then for some time among the consistentes.

    Another volume that quotes from early church leaders is a 1924 volume A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) (pgs 36–37) written by W Lock in 1924. It reads concerning the qualification of elders: (I am removing the actual Greek quotes as my blog doesn’t support Greek fonts)

    (ii) It certainly implies—not a polygamist. Such a rule would still be necessary, as polygamy might still be found among Jews; cf. Justin Martyr, Tryph. c. 134, …Joseph. Ant. xvii. 1, 2, …cf. Schürer, i. 1, p. 455 note. Schechter, Documents of jewish Sectaries, i. 17.
    (iii) It also certainly implies “a faithful husband,” married to one woman and loyal to her, having no mistress or concubine; cf. Tertull. Apol. 46, “Christianus uxori soli sae masculus nascitur.” Canones Apost. xvii. …cf. ib. lxi. A similar provision is found in heathen marriage contracts; cf. Tebt. Pap. 104,… (92 B.C.), and similarly Pap. Eleph. 1 (310 B.C.).
    (iv) It also implies, and was probably meant to imply, not divorcing one wife and marrying another. This would be a Christian rule, based both on Our Lord’s teaching and on St. Paul’s …

    One recent example of a Christian author who while giving some credence to a possible exception allowed to the rule of a monogamous marriage as the only accepted form of marriage in the church, still claims that as a rule those who were polygamists were not even accepted into the church.
    From Charles Hodge Vol. 3: Systematic theology (pgs 387–388)

    Converted Polygamists.

    The question has been mooted, Whether a polygamist, when converted to Christianity, should be required to repudiate all his wives but one, as a condition of his admission into the Christian Church? The answer to this question has been sought from three sources: First, the Scriptural doctrine of marriage; secondly, the example of the Apostles when dealing with such cases; and thirdly, from a consideration of the effects which would follow from making monogamy an indispensable condition of admission to the Church.
    As to the first point, it is admitted by all Christians, that it is the law of God, the law of Christ, and consequently the law of the Christian Church that polygamy is sinful, being a violation of the original and permanently obligatory law of marriage. As every man who enters the Church professes to be a Christian, and as every Christian is bound to obey the law of Christ, it seems plain that no man should be received into the communion of the Church who does not conform to the law of Christ concerning marriage. The only question is, Whether Christ has made a special exception in favour of those who in the times of their ignorance, contracted the obligations of marriage with more than one woman? It is of course possible that such an exception might have been made. It would be analogous to the temporary suspension of the original law of marriage in favour of the hardhearted Jews. Has then such an exception been made? This is the second point to be considered. It concerns a matter of fact. Those who assume that such an exception has been made, are bound to produce the clearest evidence of the fact. This is necessary not only to satisfy the consciences of the parties concerned, but also to justify a departure from a plainly revealed law of God. It would be a very serious matter to set up in a heathen country, a church not conformed in this matter to the usual law of Christendom. Missionaries are sent forth to teach not only Christian doctrines but Christian morals. And the churches which they found, profess to be witnesses for Christ as to what He would have men to believe, and as to what He would have them to do. They ought not to be allowed to bear false testimony. It is certain that there is no clear and definite expression of the will of Christ, recorded in the New Testament, that the case contemplated should be an exception to the Scriptural law of marriage. There is no instance recorded in the New Testament, of the admission of a polygamist to the Christian Church. It has, indeed, been inferred from 1 Timothy iii. 2, where the Apostle says, a bishop must be “the husband of one wife,” that a private member of the Church might have more wives than one. But this is in itself a very precarious inference; and being inconsistent with Christ’s express prohibition, it is altogether inadmissible.

    Scripture shows that those in leadership are those who are to set an example to be observed and followed.

    Philippians 3:17 (NAS)
    17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

    1 Thessalonians 1:6–7 (NAS)
    6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
    7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

    1 Timothy 4:12 (NAS)
    12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

    1 Peter 5:3 (NAS)
    3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

    And finally, Paul as a true leader sets himself up as one to be imitated just as he imitated Christ.

    1 Corinthians 11:1 (NAS) Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

    Is a polygamist one who is to be imitated? I think that Scripture and church history shows that they were not and to my knowledge no polygamist was ever recorded as being set up as an example to the flock as a leader to be followed. Can they be an exemption to the rule about marriage and yet be a Christian if they are legally married to more than one wife before coming to Christ? It does appear that their predicament would allow them to be such an exception to be accepted in the congregation but they would never be set up as a leader.

    Does this make sense?

  31. Hi Cheryl,
    Bedtime for me now, but I have just quickly skimmed your comment. I will read it more thoroughly later.
    Just a couple of thoughts. Paul was a murderer prior to becoming a Christian. He was an example to others of the wonderful grace of God. Couldn’t a polygamist be an example to others of God’s grace?
    What sort of example is it to unbelieving polygamists- “the gospel is for everyone… er well… I think it is also for polygamists. I think all your sins can be forgiven. Hang on I will just check. Oh, it seems you can be a Christian but just a bit inferior to the rest of us. You are kind of accepted by God and the church but not as fully as the rest of us – just a few limitations. It will be a bit awkward trying to work out what you can and can’t do but we can make up a list of rules to help you with it…….

  32. Craig,
    There is a huge difference between a former murderer and a current polygamist. Paul was forgiven for his sin of murder and he stopped committing this sin. But one who is married to multiple women and living in that state would not be such an example. One is a “former” murderer, the other is a “current” polygamist. Let’s say that the man who was a polygamist came to Christ and became convicted that polygamy was wrong and he divorced all his wives except for the wife of his youth (original wife) and gave them support so they could live, I think he could qualify as being “the husband of one wife”. However it appears that he could not be forced to divorce his wives when he became a Christian, and some of the early church “rules” that I quoted show that he was to have a time of sorrow for his sin depending on the amount of wives he had. But no one was going to force him to divorce. Yet in that state he would still not be an example to the congregation in this particular area. There is no example of leadership that is “faithful to many wives”. It certainly is a sticky situation and I believe that the Bible set up the best possible solution with the higher Christian morals. No polygamist is to be set up as an example for the flock to follow just as no person who continues to divorce his/her spouse just to marry a new “love” would be a a godly example to the congregation.

    So if your concern was about a “former” polygamist rather than a “current” polygamist, then we can agree that the past sins of the pre-Christian life will not hold us back from being a godly example.

  33. Craig,
    As far as your comment about a polygamist being “inferior”, I wouldn’t put it that way. The gospel comes to all, but not all have shown the ability to live a life without reproach before the world. If for example the polygamist were a church leader who was set up as an example for all Christians to follow and those on the outside who live in a culture that abhors polygamy saw him lifted up as a Christian leader without blame, what would they think of Christ? Would not Christ be seen as approving of and promoting polygamy? The lives of leaders are to be exemplary. A current polygamist would not be such an example.

  34. OOOH! I get it now! Thanks Cheryl!!

    Thanks for your questions and ideas Craig.

    Were polygamists allowed to be set up as examples (as leaders) to the flock? No. Check!

  35. This is an issue I have not thought much about before – I don’t have a lot of polygamist friends 🙂
    Correct me if I am wrong. I think the key point that you are differing from me on is that you very clearly see that a polygamist who becomes a christian is continuing in sin unless he gives up his polygamy. Therefore he must divorce all but one of his wives to not be in sin. Then he is able to grow in godliness and could be a leader in the church. I can see how all this would make sense and fit in with the 1 Tim 3 passage and remove the inconsistencies I had wondered about. There is no way that a person blatantly continuing in known sin like this should be considered for leadership in the church.
    I still wonder though whether the bible is all that clear on these issues. I can see that God’s intention from the beginning has always been one man and one woman in marriage. But on the other hand he seems to overlook the many examples of polygamy in the O.T. and if it was indeed a common practice in N.T times there is very little explicit condemnation of it and no details I can recall of how to deal with the problem in the way you suggest.
    I have heard it suggested that it should be treated like the situation of a new christian not divorcing an unbelieving wife. He should stay in the situation he is in. I have heard of missionaries taking this approach when evangelizing areas where polygamy was common. One would want to be fairly sure before telling people that God says that polygamy is sin and the only way to be godly is through divorce.
    What is it that convinces you that the bible is clear on the subject?

  36. ” But on the other hand he seems to overlook the many examples of polygamy in the O.T. and if it was indeed a common practice in N.T times there is very little explicit condemnation of it and no details I can recall of how to deal with the problem in the way you suggest.

    Craig, God allowed a lot of things because of sin. What was happening to widows in the OC? Or women who had been raped? Even married woman were nothing if they could not supply a male son. That is sin. It was the sin of patriarchy.

    Because of the sin of Patriarchy women had to have protection of a male for basic food and shelter. Polygamy plays into all of this.

    God does not “overlook” polygamy. He allowed it because of sin.
    Have you ever wondered why God implemented the Law in the first place?

    I think we make the mistake of reading the OT and thinking God approved of things He did not. He was working through sinful people for His purposes. Do you think God approved of Abraham having sex with his wife’s servant in order to have a son? Yet Abraham was praised for believing God. How can this be?

    Do you think God approved of Solomon’s 600 wives? Or David’s sex with Bathsheba? Or his planned murder of her husband to get him out of the way? David lost their son over it.

    Where do you find slavery condemned in the NT? Yet, we cannot imagine owning another human today even though, just 150 years ago, many professing Christians owned other humans and claimed it was Biblical? What changed?

    Before the fall, God commanded One Flesh Union. He did not change His mind on that.

  37. John Robinson, pastor of the Pilgrims who did not get to come with them to the New World, summed up the issue well with a comment to this effect: “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.” With a book of such transparent and overwhelming depth (what does one expect to find in a book inspired by OMNISCIENCE?) we should not be surprised that God has some bone-jarring changes (also some feathery, downy soft) in the works for us in many realms of life. Just consider that His angels are to gather the elect from one extremities of the Heavens to the other. Does that mean the starry heavens, that man spreads or has spread to the stars? The Republican form of government wth checks and balances might well have their source in the Scripture. And why not the end of slavery? And if a new form of government designed to cope wih man’s depravity while maximizing human freedom within responsible ways, and if the ending of slavery out of consideration and love for our fellow man, then why not the end of male dominance (now masquerading perhaps under complementarianism) in a family like egalitarianism? O yes, I once said to a fellow in intelligence work, “I figured out we tried to go to the stars in the early fifties. What happened.” Without batting an eye, he said, “Something went wrong.” Three to five years later I put the same question to one who still had contacts in the intelligence community. His answer was that it was in the early 40s and when they launched the ship they did not kno there was a gravity warp between the earth and the moon. So they did not know where the ship went. Interesting bit of entertainment or reality like a bolt out of the blue?

  38. Thanks Lydia and Dr. Willingham for your input.

    Craig, God has said that there was a time that He overlooked sin, but when He sent His Son, the Light shone into this world and revealed things that we did not know or understand. For example Jesus showed that it wasn’t just adultery that was sin but the very thought in the mind even if the act was not committed. Polygamy was tolerated because of the sinful culture that would allow women and children to suffer and die without support. It was for the good of the woman in her need that it was allowed, not for the good of the man. But with the birth of the church, and the gifts of mercy and helps, widows and orphans were taken care of and women no longer needed the lesser evil of polygamy for their support. It is the preaching of the gospel that brings light to the worth of each person as well as the authority of the wife over her husband’s body. When a man adds another woman as his wife he is using an authority that doesn’t belong to him and in essence he is sinning against the wife of his youth. As the gospel light comes to illuminate the evil, it banishes that evil into the shadows and the church is taught to treat one another with love as they would want to be treated. So while polygamy is tolerated with one who has come to Christianity in this state, the state that he is in does not meet the level of Christianity that Christ taught. Polygamy rips out the heart of a woman by joining her husband’s body with someone other than her. It violates her authority and violates the golden rule that Jesus taught thus violating the law of love.

    The problem for a polygamist who has become a Christian is very similar to the problem of a Christian wife married to an unbelieving man who is a Jew. In 1 Cor. 11 Paul outlines that problem and gives the woman the authority to chose which way she will go. For if she unveils so that she does not shame Christ, she opens herself up to the accusation of shaming her husband by exposing what was considered her “private parts”. But if she continues to veil she makes it look like she is still under the shame of sin which shames Christ. It is a huge dilemma especially because God hates divorce. Paul’s solution was that she was allowed to veil if she wanted in order to protect her husband from shame. I expect that it was Paul’s understanding that in these cases the woman was not accepting the spiritual meaning of the veil.

    The polygamist who has become a Christian has a similar dilemma. God hates divorce so if he divorces his wives except for one he is going against God’s heart about divorce. But if he keeps his wives he continues to hurt his wife and to disrespect her authority. There would be no answer to this problem that would not come with some pain. If he wants to be a true godly leader in the congregation he would have to be in a position where he was faithful to his one wife and respectful of her authority. No godly leader can be a shepherd to the flock representing God’s love to His people by giving an ungodly example of divided love and trampling on his wife’s authority over his body. If the polygamist really desires to be an overseer, he does desire a good thing, but there is a price to pay for being such an example as a godly servant. There is a higher standard set for leaders and he must be willing to meet that standard if he wants to continue to go down that road.

    Correct me if I am wrong. I think the key point that you are differing from me on is that you very clearly see that a polygamist who becomes a christian is continuing in sin unless he gives up his polygamy.

    A polygamist who becomes a Christian would be continuing in sin against his wife unless he gives up his polygamy. I do not see that continued polygamy is a sin that would keep him out of heaven. I do see it as a lifestyle that is not acceptable for leadership which is designed to say “follow me in my example”.

    I have heard it suggested that it should be treated like the situation of a new christian not divorcing an unbelieving wife. He should stay in the situation he is in.

    Perhaps that might be a similar type of situation as we are not to be joined together with unbelievers, yet divorce is also wrong. The answer appears to be to remain in the place where you were when you became a Christian (regarding marriage) and try to work it out. If by following Christ, your spouse leaves, then you are free and without obligation to stay in the marriage.

    One would want to be fairly sure before telling people that God says that polygamy is sin and the only way to be godly is through divorce.

    Polygamy is not listed in the “sins” that are abominations against God and which when practiced will keep one out of heaven. Thus it is not a necessary answer to divorce the additional spouses.

    What is it that convinces you that the bible is clear on the subject?

    The Bible teaches that we are to live at peace with each other and to live in love treating each other as we would want to be treated. The Bible also makes it clear in 1 Cor. 7:4 that the husband has no authority at all to sexually give his body to another woman and the authority over his sexuality belongs to his wife alone. Therefore if he tramples on her authority, he is sinning against her. If he has no authority to give his sexuality to another then I think it is quite clear that polygamy is morally wrong by depriving a spouse of exclusivity.

    The key point here to meditate on is what is the purpose of a leader? A leader leads by example. It is a privilege to be a leader but it is also a huge responsibility because how one lives out one’s Christianity is set up as an example. Those who do not or cannot live up to this high responsibility should not be leaders. It doesn’t mean that leaders don’t have struggles. But it does mean that leaders must be submissive to God in setting their hearts to a very high standard. Leadership is not a right but a responsibility to the flock and an accountability to God.

  39. I should also thank Marg, Craig and Dave for your input. These kind of discussions and hearing other points of view can be very helpful and it is often an iron sharpening iron experience because other people’s point of view help us to see past our own blind spots. I am sure that I too have blind spots. I just can’t “see” them. 😉

  40. Cheryl @ 40 you said,
    “In 1 Cor. 11 Paul outlines that problem and gives the woman the authority to chose which way she will go. For if she unveils so that she does not shame Christ, she opens herself up to the accusation of shaming her husband by exposing what was considered her “private parts”.

    If unveiling was considered to be exposing her private parts, then it certainly would have been quite distracting and not very helpful for the other men of the church! But then again, it may have attracted more visitors 🙂

  41. Thanks everyone for the time and effort you put in to answering my questions. I greatly appreciate it and find it very helpful.

    I had another question @31 which may have got lost so I’ll repeat it for anyone who may have any thoughts.
    In 1 Tim 3:11, when Paul says “Likewise (or in the same way) women…. ” why do you think he put this where he does – in the middle of a passage about deacons. If he meant it to apply to both elders and deacons, why didn’t he put it in a more obvious spot?

  42. Craig,
    You said:

    If unveiling was considered to be exposing her private parts, then it certainly would have been quite distracting and not very helpful for the other men of the church!

    It is an odd sort of thing, but I don’t think that it would be distracting to men. It was only the husband who was really bothered by her unveiling as well as those in his family because of the shame based system that would pressure him to divorce the one who dishonored him. Yet men saw girl’s hair all the time. A woman did not veil until she was married so an unmarried woman went without a veil and it doesn’t appear that men were thinking they were seeing private parts. But as soon as a man was married, he got very possessive and she was to withdraw from public viewing of her head. I find the whole thing rather odd myself but it is historic.

  43. Craig,
    Your last question was missed. Sorry. It is a good one!

    In 1 Tim 3:11, when Paul says “Likewise (or in the same way) women…. ” why do you think he put this where he does – in the middle of a passage about deacons. If he meant it to apply to both elders and deacons, why didn’t he put it in a more obvious spot?

    I think that Paul put it in the area about deacons because he already listed in 1 Timothy 3:1 that anyone could desire to be an overseer. Since the very first verse is gender neutral, then it seems that there would be no need to mention women at that point. When it comes to the issue of the qualifications of deacons no sentence stands out that “anyone” may desire to be a deacon so it was a good place to make sure that it is understood that women too can be qualified deacons.

    That is the way I understand it and it makes good sense to me.

  44. Cheryl,
    Thanks for your reply, but I’m still struggling a bit to follow Paul’s mind working like that.
    I can see my conversation going something like this.
    Craig: Paul told Timothy “anyone” in 3:1. This is the same word used in the gospels in the salvation verses, so it is quite reasonable to assume he has both men and women in mind.
    Friend: But he seems to clearly have just men in mind because he says that he must be “the husband of one wife”.
    Craig: Let me give you an illustration. If I go to a home bible study group and the husband of the house gets everyone together and says “The toilet is just down the corridor on the right. Anyone may use it, but please leave everything tidy. Take careful aim and leave the seat down when you have finished. Are the women then to assume that they cannot use the toilet because he “obviously had men in mind”?
    Also, if the phrase “husband of one wife” meant that only men could be elders, then it must also mean that only men can be deacons, and you don’t believe that do you.
    Friend: I can understand your point. That makes sense. So therefore Paul is clearly referring to men and women in verses 1-7
    Craig: Also, Timothy would have understood this because he knew Paul and how favorable he was toward women in ministry. So he would never have assumed Paul was excluding women.
    Friend: Paul would therefore naturally have had both men and women in mind in v 8-10 and Timothy would understand this. There would be no reason for him to think otherwise, knowing Paul like he does and following on from v1-7 which is about men and women.
    Craig: yes, that sounds reasonable.
    Friend: But doesn’t the word “likewise” mean that he is now talking about women when he wasn’t before? Does the word “likewise” ever mean “As you know, I was talking about women in v1-8, and I just want to be sure that you know that”? Wouldn’t he have said “women especially are to be…” or “women particularly need to be…”?
    Craig: Good question Friend. I need to get back to Cheryl and the others on the blog about that one.

  45. Craig,
    As usual very a good question! And may I commend your “friend” too?

    To answer the question we just need to see what Paul has already said in the epistle. Paul is not excluding people from his instructions when he starts dealing with another “group”. For example just because Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8 that he wants “men” to pray without wrath and dissension doesn’t mean that he is exempting women. What Paul does in 1 Timothy is join the groups together with the term “likewise” while setting apart kinds of people that have particular issues yet still not exempting them from being a part of the “whole”.

    Why does Paul say “Deacons likewise” in verse 8 when deacons are also a part of 1 Timothy 3:1? It should be obvious that a deacon can desire to be an overseer as “anyone” may desire that work. Yet deacons are treated in a special way within the passage.

    1 Timothy 3:8 (NAS)
    8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,

    If we treat the term “likewise” as if it excludes deacons as possible people who desire to be overseers, then we would come to a false conclusion. Paul isn’t excluding deacons in 3:1 nor is he excluding women in the previous verses either just because he says “likewise”. What he is doing is specifically addressing the concerns of women (a specific group) within the whole.

    So women can desire to be overseers, and Paul lists an additional qualification that specifically deals with an issue that plagues women when he says “likewise” and that added qualification is the issue of gossip. In Titus 2:3 Paul again links women (and specifically older women) with the bad habit of gossip.

    So I would ask your “friend” if deacons are exempt from the ability to desire to be overseers because Paul lists them in the passage as “likewise”? If the term “likewise” cannot mean that they are excluded in the previous verses just because they have service as a deacon and the term “likewise” is used concerning that “group”, then logically it cannot mark out women as not included in 1 Timothy 3:1 either.

    So if you ask me why did Paul use the term “likewise” with women? I think it was because he was going to add a special qualification that is more apt to be needed to be said when advising women. It is not uncommon for Paul to use this term but it is not meant by him to exclude people from the “whole”.

  46. I tried to write a caption but I just keep getting waves of nausea when I think about it…I have had to unblock a few dunnies (Aussie term for toilet) in my time.

  47. Thanks again Cheryl for an excellent answer. I think I am getting reasonably comfortable now with an egal understanding of 1 Tim 2 and 3, and feel better prepared for future discussions with comps on these issues.
    I am glad you liked the toilet illustration Dave. I often feel like I am starting to understand something if I can find or make up a good illustration for it. I have tried briefly to work out one for the use of “likewise” in the chapter but I am not quite there yet and it is bed time. Good night all.

  48. I love a good toilet illustration.

    Any chance of a graphic Cheryl?!?

    Have a good laugh, on me! LOL!

  49. I was once a member of a church that supported a missionary in New Guinea (sp?). His approach was to accept polygamists into the church with their wives due to the fact that a woman had no livelyhood or means thereto in that particular tribal group, but not for pastor. Standards for pastors really means in the husband of one wife, a one woman kind of man. To put it another way, fidelity was the virtue to be exemplified. As to adultery and murder, clearly, David was forgiven of both and wrote his pophetic type writings before and afte the fact. If God has forgiven someone, ho are we to dare contradict Him and His acceptance. All that we can expect is an example of faithfulness to one’s wife or husband which is really what is inculcated.

  50. Friend: I can see now how you are reading 1 Tim 3 and how that could be true.
    Craig: Yes, it seems like women elders and deacons could really be something God desires.
    Friend: Well yes, but a comp interpretation of 1 Tim 3 can also work pretty well. “Anyone” can mean “men and women” as you say, but from what I understand, it can also just mean “men”.
    Verses 1-10 could be just referring to men. There is nothing in them to say that women have to be included.
    Vs11 about women could be just referring to women deacons because that is what the verses before and after it are about.
    Therefore, 1 Tim 3 by itself isn’t really conclusive by itself. We will have to look at the rest of the bible to see what it says.
    Craig: You may be correct, but I think the normal way of understanding “anyone” includes both men and women. The context would have to clearly indicate otherwise, and it doesn’t. I’ll check on the blog and see if there are any other arguments just from 1 Tim 3 that really favor an egal interpretation.
    Thanks again everyone.

  51. Just to clarify a bit what I am asking here. Some passages seem to me to be very clearly in favor of an egal interpretation eg 1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Cor 7:1-5, Mk 10:42-45 – the comp interpretation just doesn’t work at all. Gen1-3 also – comps have to read so much into it that isn’t there.
    Others however just depend on what “glasses” you have on as to what you see. The best you can reasonably expect in a discussion is that a comp may see that their view isn’t as clear as they thought, and there is a very valid alternative that they may actually come to see as the correct interpretation after they have studied the rest of the bible on the subject.
    So do you think 1 Tim 3 is a passage that clearly shows comps to be wrong, or one that just shows that egals could have a valid interpretation that is worth investigating.
    I hope the question is clear. Thanks.

  52. Hi Dr James Willingham @55,
    Many years ago I visited 10 different mission stations in New Guinea doing some short term missionary work. I do remember at least one of the places having to deal with this polygamy issue. I know that they were accepted into the church. I don’t know if the option of divorce was considered but it wasn’t mentioned in our very brief discussion on it.
    I wonder if they were able to teach children or lead in anything? If they were a bad example as an overseer, wouldn’t they also be a bad example in any christian leadership?

  53. Well, I wrote a response, but the computer ate it. The missionary and church and polygamy issue was 43-44 years ago. Most of the details escape me now. We did discuss the issue with the missionary who came home on a brief furlough. By the way we have a son named Craig (named by my grandmother who raised me; it was her maiden name). He is a minister, too.

  54. Craig@57,
    My opinion is that it (1Tim3) is not a “slam dunk” for comps. Also if reading it without comp glasses on you might point out to your friend that the person aspiring to be an elder/bishop/deacon is told to manage their household and children, BUT NOT their wife/spouse. Unless one wishes to believe that Paul would have lumped the wife in with “household” and given the “children” a particular mention AFTER giving first mention to marital fidelity. I find that hard to swallow – as would most other adults.

  55. Craig,
    I have answers for you but I am so tired that I can hardly think. Today has been back breaking digging and leveling dirt and pick mountain sized rocks. We are also under a deadline as the entire basement is being poured on Monday and we are not ready yet for that so I have to spend my days giving as much help as I can. I will get back to your question as soon as I can carve out some time. Thanks for your patience!

  56. Kay @ 60,
    It is interesting that you mentioned people who “wish to believe that Paul would have lumped the wife in with “household”.

    This seems to be the view of the staff at our church. For example, one of the paid full time staff, our youth minister, who has a theological degree, had this to say 2 weeks ago on the youth group’s blog in response to a question on Eph 5.
    “Submitting must mean obeying at some point if it means respecting…….” “….with this comes responsibility for the husband to lead his wife and his family. That doesn’t mean that he makes all the decisions for the family yet the example below indicates that he is to make decisions and the wife and family are to follow them.
    “…the responsibility for the family making godly choices lies with him. Also, when the family makes dodgy choices, the responsibility is his too.
    In practice, it means that when the family discusses things and makes decisions together, it is the husband’s job to make sure that Jesus comes into the picture. If it doesn’t, then the Bible says that he has done the wrong thing and he is responsible for the family’s poor choice.
    This is where respect comes in. The wife is to recognise that it is her husband’s job to raise the family in Jesus -and then to let him do it!
    Example: The husband gets a new job offer, but it involves moving. The wife doesn’t want to move the family. The husband and the wife (and family) would discuss it together. In the end, if the best thing for the family’s Christian growth is to take the job, then the family should submit to the husband exercising his responsibility. At the same time, the husband must only take the job if he is sure that it is the best thing for the family’s Christian growth.
    Notice how sometimes the best thing for the family might not be what everyone wants to do? If the husband wimps out because of the pressure and doesn’t choose the best thing for the family, he is not taking his responsibility seriously.
    So what does this mean? Wives, Sons and Daughters of Christian Husbands/ Dads: help them to fulfill their responsibility by listening to them and understand why they might stop you from doing something you want or make you do something you don’t want to. Talk to them about it when you disagree and ask them to show you why it is the most godly option. Pray with them and for them when they make decisions–they are responsible before God for you. And if you don’t agree with them–respect the role Jesus has given them by submitting to their authority and obeying them. ”
    “……. the responsibility remains for the husband to raise his family in Jesus.”

    My son leads one of the small groups in the youth group and he showed me what was written on the blog. We had a good discussion about it and he could see the glaring lack of scriptural support for all that was said.

  57. Cheryl @61,
    No worries. I appreciate all the time you put into the blog, and I realize that you have other important priorities that need your time and effort. Don’t run yourself ragged. My prayers are with you.

  58. #56 Craig,
    Boy it has been a long time since I have been going through an trying to pick up comments that I need to answer on my blog. I don’t have a lot of time these days but I am mostly in doors and that is giving me the opportunity to take breaks during the day.

    You said:

    Craig: You may be correct, but I think the normal way of understanding “anyone” includes both men and women. The context would have to clearly indicate otherwise, and it doesn’t. I’ll check on the blog and see if there are any other arguments just from 1 Tim 3 that really favor an egal interpretation.
    Thanks again everyone.

    The normal interpretation would be that “anyone” refers to men or women unless there is a strong indication otherwise. And in this case it would have to be a strong indication because you can’t say that women are forbidden from desiring to be an overseer and then use a general term allowing anyone to desire that work. If there is going to be a prohibition the prohibition must be clear because disregarding God’s prohibition is a sin. Since God is very interested in exposing sin and making us fully aware what is to be avoided as a sin, then we would expect that if 1 Timothy 3:1 was the start of a universal prohibition for women, then specific language would occur that would not only disqualify women but also forbid them. The fact that there is no prohibition against women desiring to be overseers is a huge hole in comp arguments.

    The next hole in the comp argument is that “women” are to be qualified too and in their qualification which is an addition, there is also a confirmation that Deacons are to be the “husband of one wife”. If Deacons have the qualification and there was listed a woman Deacon (specifically using the male grammar) then whatever “husband of one wife” should be seen to mean, it cannot mean that Paul is excluding women for if one work is qualified with the exact same qualification as another work and women are qualified to do the work of Deacon, then no one can disqualify them from desiring to do the work of an overseer.

    I believe that 1 Timothy 3 greatly enhances the egalitarian argument because deacons and overseers are similarly qualified and no Scripture forbids women from doing the work of a Deacon and thus being the “husband of one wife” or faithfulness to one spouse in marriage.

  59. #57 Craig, you asked:

    So do you think 1 Tim 3 is a passage that clearly shows comps to be wrong, or one that just shows that egals could have a valid interpretation that is worth investigating.
    I hope the question is clear. Thanks.

    I think that 1 Timothy 3 shows clearly that complementarians have a rubber ruler as many of them have no problem with women deacons. For those who don’t accept women deacons either, they cannot explain how a prohibition for a godly work fits in the context. Paul qualified people before he every gave Timothy guidelines for looking for mature Christian leaders. Paul gave hope that all of us can desire to use our spiritual gifts to protect and nurture the congregation and that desire is not denied on the basis of gender but on the basis of immaturity and ungodly living. It would be an incentive to become mature and to live a godly life.

  60. #60 Kay,
    You said:

    Also if reading it without comp glasses on you might point out to your friend that the person aspiring to be an elder/bishop/deacon is told to manage their household and children, BUT NOT their wife/spouse.

    Excellent point, Kay. A godly leader is never told to rule over or manage their lives. In fact a male leader who did that would not be a mature or godly leader as his challenge is to sacrifice for his wife’s needs and best interest not take over as her manager.

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