In the beginning God made male and female. Together they were to do God’s work on earth but unfortunately the fall happened and their work done together as equals was challenged by the man who took the sole rule for himself. Society became strongly patriarchal, and men were seen as the only ones who were capable of speaking for God and interpreting his word. But without the female complement working together with the male, some scriptures took on a decidedly male bias that is foreign to the context. For example, look at 1 Timothy 2:9 to see Paul’s instruction given to godly women.
1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
1 Timothy 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
We can note from 1 Timothy 1:2 that Paul is writing to Timothy. In chapter 2 Paul gives a standard for godly women to show their Christian maturity from the inside out. Women are to adorn themselves modestly and discreetly as is proper for women who make a claim to godliness. This is where some veer off into male bias.
The male bias reads a sexual temptress instead of godly women into this passage.
John MacArthur gives the interpretation that Paul is referring to women who are acting indecently.
Now back to chapter 2. In this passage we learn that not only were women having problems with purity, not only were they turning aside to Satan, breaking pledges they had made to Christ, being led around by their own diverse lusts, but here there were some of these women who were acting indecently. That is to say bringing these improprieties, impurities and immoralities into the worship of the church. And under the pretense of coming to worship God were flaunting themselves and desecrating that worship by the dress and demeanor that betrayed an evil intent rather than a heart of worship.
John MacArthur continues his interpretation making these women as ones who are coming to the worship service to sexually attract men.
The second subject that is in his mind is the subject of worship. And the worship was being polluted by women who saw it as a way to flaunt their wealthy, to demonstrate their beauty, to put on a sexually attractive demonstration to men that would draw their focus away from the living God to things not fitting in a worship environment.
…the tendency of a woman might be to be preoccupied with her outward adornment so that she would abuse the worship service.
…Now in that particular culture then the woman of the world, the woman who wanted to flaunt her wealth and flaunt her beauty and call attention to herself and attract everybody’s interest and sexually allure someone was the woman who was overdressed,k over-made up and over painted in every sense…To have the women in the church who are supposed to be the epitome of godliness appear like prostitutes or gaudy showy women trying to call attention to themselves, or to have the come with the intent of alluring other men and making them discontent with their own wife, or even worse, to allure them into a sexual relationship would be to blaspheme the intent of the church, certainly when it comes together to worship the living and holy God…And so they would come dressed in clothing that was not modest, clothing that demonstrated sensuality, passion, lust, desire, that was intended to allure and attract. And thus with those lustful purposes did they betray and desecrate the spirit of worship.
Is Paul’s concern in this passage all about sexuality? Is Paul talking about “abusing the worship service”? These things are foreign to the text. Rather than this passage being about flaunting sexuality and women acting like prostitutes coming to the church to allure the men, Paul’s words inspired by the Holy Spirit show a far different meaning. Paul’s focus is on the attitude of godly mature Christians.
Women who are professing godliness should not try to create an air of respectability for themselves by making a show of costly garments, accessories or hair arrangements, but should show their mature Christian faith by their good works.
The modesty that Paul is desiring is not an issue of sexuality. Paul is concerned that women make a statement about who they are as followers of Christ through their good works instead of making a statement about who they are through the cost of their outward adornment. Paul isn’t saying that costly pearls or gold and elaborate hair-dos are ways of seducing men. There is also nothing in the passage that has Paul referring to seductive clothing. This is a male bias bringing something into the text that is not there. Paul is concerned about women’s overstated, expensive adornment because he does not want women to try to earn respect by their dress. Respect is to be earned by one’s maturity in displaying godly works and a godly attitude. Overstated expensive clothes and expensive adornment can be a hindrance to showing forth the true adornment that comes from within. Peter repeats the same points about outward adornment as Paul does and we can note that his words have nothing to do with sexuality.
1 Peter 3:3 Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
1 Peter 3:4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
So how can we as a church work on reading the scriptures without a male bias? For one, we can ask for the understanding of scripture passages from godly Christian women. We can use and appreciate the gifts that God has given the entire body of Christ through our sisters in Christ. Any other suggestions?