Friday, March 09, 2012


I've been asked on occasion about my theological journey that brought me to my present understanding of the gender controversy we face in the Church today. It's not a simply thing to respond to that question. There was no revelatory or epiphany moment to it for me. It was, in fact, a bit of a journey, especially theologically.

It probably started with some honest questions about my own behavior and where I had been in my thinking of things relationally. [This is a story within itself and has more to do with a growing marriage relationship and the discovery of my own controlling personality than anything else. I may address this in a blog post later.]  Let's just say that I had to come to grips with some issues personally that raised questions about gender. 

It was then that I found myself reading others who had the same questions I did about the biblical and personal ethics of a male dominated society, home, or church, as had been practiced by my family of origin and, thus, by me. Also things didn't seem to jive with what I had begun to discover about Jesus when I looked closely at His life and ministry as revealed in scripture with regards to gender. 

That personal struggle and discovery led to several theological questions that needed answers. I couldn't just write my struggles off to culture or any specific movement. The bible was then and is now my guide so I wanted to be sure I was honest about those scriptures that I said I was interpreting. This led to researching the text anew. I will briefly mention just a few of those questions I had about scripture and the answers I found.

It began with a question about the differences between the Old and New Covenants. I saw how the Old Covenant established between God and Israel had to do generally with gender, age, and race. I knew the ultimate purpose was for Israel to bless the Nations through her seed the Lord Jesus which she did. But I saw that it seemed to be only if, as someone said, you were an “old Jewish guy,” you had it made in the Old Covenant, especially in the realm of authority. However, the New Covenant was said to reveal better things than that. I wanted to find out if it, indeed, did.

So I began to look at the New Covenant and it's promises [new Law] for the latter days referred to in the book of Acts, which had been ratified by the Blood of Christ. Did that New Covenant not produce a different kind of relationship? Was it not something other than gender, age or race and was it not for something other than an “authority” thing? Was it not a servant thing instead? The answer to that began to be obvious to me.

For example, I saw that scripture said both “sons and daughters” would be able to prophecy, “young men and old men” would dream dreams, and of course the hated Gentiles would be included in that New Covenant. This made it appear that the New Covenant had a new kind of relationship among Covenant people involved in it. This connected well with Paul's statement "There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Gal 3:28] He was not speaking of the physical obviously, but he was speaking to Kingdom stuff.

Could it be that things like male gender, age or racial prominence were out of character when the meaning of the New Covenant was entirely and correctly understood? I had to find out.

I began to honestly face the question about the textual meaning concerning women like Pheobe and others in the New Testament. King James said she was a "servant." But that's the same Greek word that, when used of a man in the KJV, is translated “deacon.” 

Now granted, it couldn't be "deaconness" since there is no feminine for the word. But I began wondering, in light of my knowledge of the New Covenant, if this was perhaps more a King James era thing than a grammer thing. Maybe the word was meant to be "deacon" for her too.

Another woman was said to be a “helper” [different word] which is translated, when used of men in the same KJV, as ”Overseer." This is spoken of the woman Junia who ministered with Paul. Did she give oversight to his ministry or is it again a King James thing? 

If there IS a New Covenant change presented in the text of scripture, then perhaps when carefully studied, it could really mean she was an "Overseer" also? I was beginning to REALLY wonder about things I'd believed. 

I had my question about 1 Timothy 2:12  obviously. I found that Paul used a word for “authority” there that was used no where else in scripture. Not even in the Septuagint. This was actually the only time the verb "authenteo" was used in the New Testament and it. 

I knew it traditionally had been translated, “nor to usurp authority over the man,” meaning she had her place and it's never over a man. That view assumes that the very act of a woman teaching a man is inherently a wrongful deed that violates male headship. But I vividly remembered that our Lord taught us that in his kingdom “authority” – who’s in charge – is to be a non-issue (Matt.20:24-28; 23:11; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24)

Add to that the fact that there is no command (imperative) from Paul in this 1 Timothy text either. The wording in the King James Version, “I suffer not a woman,” can certainly sound like a command, but it isn’t. Instead, it is in the simple present tense, “I am not now permitting a woman…" I saw that this COULD imply a shift in Paul’s strategy because of the problems that existed in Ephesus. 

I also found that word "authenteo" to be a street word and that it even had sexual overtones. So I began to think it could be that Paul, under inspiration, is saying this to the pastor [Timothy] of a church filled with women saved out of the mystery religions. They formerly used sexuality to control men and were carrying that attitude over into their present day life. Old patterns don’t die easily even after you become a believer and one women seems to be doing exactly that to her husband in the church in Ephesus.

I would think Paul did have a need to address that. He seemed in the language to be saying, ”I do not in this instance allow [suffer[ this woman [wife] to take charge over her man [husband] in an unseemly [my toned down word] manner."  [Woman and man are singular and when used together usually mean a husband and wife.] 

Good advice for all women of all ages in church life, it would seem to me, but certainly a good word for pastor Timothy and the church in Ephesus with their major problem. That interpretation began to look like a sure thing in my New Covenant understanding. [Due diligence had to be given to the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34 as well to properly land on this view.]

Then there is that ever present question about Genesis chapter one. I do believe the pattern was established in Genesis 1 where “He said to “them” have dominion and to “them” to multiply and to “them” to care for the garden. It looks to me to be at least a partnership going on from the very beginning. Of course, the fall messed it up and both THEN tried to “be in charge.” She tried by “desiring her husband” [the meaning is not a Godly thing but one of taking charge] and he tried to “rule over her." [No Godliness here either as it means as a despot.] 

What God said in His address to them seemed to me to be a description of the result rather than a prescription for the behavior He expected. So both are pretty well messed up by now in this authority thing. 

But hang on, God straightened all that up in Ephesians 5:21 [New Covenant remember] where all were told to submit to one another and to serve one another in the power of the Spirit as they are walking in Him. 

The wife by CHOOSING to serve her husband. Hupo-tasso was used in the middle voice which says it was from inside her and not because of an outside requirement. Hupo-akuio would have said that. And the husband CHOOSING to love her as his own body was his way of serving her. 

A man choosing to love is not less submissive than a woman choosing to serve.  It's just the New Covenant way of correcting the "Whose the boss" failure and making it a non-issue. We all know the Lord Jesus is the boss. So all Christians are servants to Him and to one another. 

It had been this authority thing that kept throwing me in the past remember, but now I had begun to understand it in servanthood terms because of Ephesians 5 and it's context. It was, as I heard one fellow say about the Genesis1/Ephensians 5 passages, an entirely new graceful way of living. And the old “who’s the boss” thing of Genesis 2&3 was a curseful way of living. It was becoming obvious to me that Christians are to live in the grace of it all. [Of course.]  Not in the curse of it all. [Of course not.] My questions were being answered.

One final thought about this "woman being created second" question. I never had seen how man being created first and woman coming from man would set up an authority thing. No doubt he was and she did, but, if whose created first is a principle for authority then the animals and birds should rule man. Of course the women in Ephesus [coming out of the mystery religions of Ephesus] had believed the woman was created first by their gods and was far superior to any male. So when Paul addressed who was created first I settled on him correcting heresy of the mystery religions again.

Also remember that since that original creation moment, every MAN has come from a woman. Not a lot of bragging room there.  So my view that Paul was setting them straight on creation and the craziness of this “woman is superior” stuff seemed to fit again.

Now if we could just get believers to get as straight on men not being superior either just because they were created first things wouldn't that be refreshing! Different? Yes! Superior? No. In New Covenant stuff the Spirit is the gifter, decider, authority, power, and sender of all gifts and ministry. So all of it did really begin to make spiritual and biblical sense to me.

I KNOW what I have said has been said much better by many others who are far better than I am at explaining things. But maybe it will help to see my journey theologically to where I am today. I HAD to have some biblical answers to not come down on the old familiar, cultural, even religious side of male authority being ordained of God as boss. I got them. Now the New Covenant really DID make a world of sense to me.

Loving people who differ in opinions about it all is no problem for me. [I hope it's no problem to you.] So, without my being dogmatic and, while I continue to study the text of scripture, I’ll trust us as Christians to study, dialogue, decide, and follow the Lord as we see and hear Him, walking in love and life with others who may disagree with us on issues like these. Unity though not necessarily uniformity may be the biblical position even on some things theological. 

Paul B


Aussie John said...


Such a good expression of my own walk, as my loyalty to the theology I had embraced,clashed with loyalty to the Scriptures, very much in the way you've described.

For me, you make a major statement when you said,"Now the New Covenant really DID make a world of sense to me."

The peace of heart and mind which accompanies that discovery finally completed the journey to truly resting in Christ!

Wanda (Deb) Martin said...


Thank you so much for this wonderful post. If more Christian men believed about their "role" as you do, many of the problems we discuss on our blog would be eliminated.


Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

As always, you are a blessing to this blog with every comment.


I count it an honor that you grace us with your reading AND commenting here. Thanks.

Steve Miller said...

Thanks Paul. Appreciate the dialogue on the authority issue; would really appreciate this in context of the role question. It's easy to simplify it to the servant focus (fully recognizing this is easier to say than do) but providing application is the next step. As the Spirit leads perhaps you can address this next. Blessings

Steve Miller

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for the comment.

As to the thing of roles...I will try to address this at a later time.

Right now I would say a couple of things about roles without any in depth analysis. These are, obviously, my views only.

One is that the word itself may be a bit unfortunate. Sometimes it is thought of as a part played and I'm not sure that's the best way to view relationships.

A better word may be responsibilities. These can be things assigned, mutually agreed upon, or even things pressed upon us because of circumstances.

But second, the optimal word in describing responsibilities would then be "changing" and that's essential to recognize when growing a marriage, family or even a church organization.

Finally, very few things are divinely assigned. Physical birthing is one thing divinely assigned to women obviously, but few things are of this nature.

"Providing for one's own" is stated for men in scripture but men can be incapacitated in some fashion or die and a woman can do that. But men can never give birth.

You see why "responsibilities" might be a better word.

Interesting topic...I will try to put some thoughts and words to my thoughts later. Thanks for asking.

Victorious said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Your post blessed me!

Kristen said...

Rev. Burleson, I enjoyed this very much! I think you're so right that the New Covenant just isn't like the Old in terms of what 2 Cor. 5:16 calls "recognizing no one any longer according to the flesh."

I do differ with you on a couple of points. First is about the Fall, and that part translated "your desire shall be for him." I don't think this has to do with wanting to be in charge so much as wanting to possess. As you may know, the word used there literally means "to turn towards." In the other two uses of the word (once to Cain in Genesis: "Sin is crouching at the door and it's desire is for you; and once in the Song of Solomon: "My desire is for you") I think the idea is similar. It's a fine shading of meaning between sin wanting to control and sin wanting to possess-- but I think the passage is saying sin desires Cain's person; ie. to possess him. I think translating the word this way more accurately reflects that there is a difference between the woman's inclination after the Fall, and the man's. He desires to rule her; she "turns towards" him instead towards God, wanting to possess him. It doesn't say the woman will "desire to control" the man-- it simply says she will desire him-- that is, his person.

In the Song, the desire to possess is part of the nature of romantic love-- which can be good when kept under control of the reason, but that text is also full of warnings like "love is as strong as death; jealousy is as severe as the grave" (8:6)

In any case, I have seen this idea that the woman wants to control the man used as a reason for a woman's every motive being suspected as a manipulative attempt to control. And being a woman myself, I really don't think that's what's going on with most women, even in their fallen nature.

Kristen said...

Anyway, if you'll bear with me, my other point was this:

"Providing for one's own" is stated for men in scripture but men can be incapacitated in some fashion or die and a woman can do that."

If I'm not mistaken, I think you're quoting from 1 Tim 5:8, "If anyone [any "man" in some translations, but this word is actually gender neutral]does not provide for his own. . . he has denied the faith. . . ." But the context there is actually about taking care of widows. Verse 4 says that if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should provide for her (v. 4). There is no indication in the text that only men are being referred to; indeed, verse 16 speaks of women who have widows dependent on them, that the woman should provide for them.

As far as I can see, only men can father children, and only women can bear children; but I see nothing in the Scriptures that makes providing for dependents a man's domain.

Paul Burleson said...


Thank you for your spot on comments.

I do believe you are correct on the "provide for" verse. In fact, had I bothered to look at the immediate context, as I have promised I would never fail to do, but did, it follows instructions given to men, women, and widows, returning to speaking to all about their household. In my quick writing I failed my own standard. Thanks.

On the point about "desire" you could be right, but I hold a little different view because of the same word being used in chapter 4 about Cain. The word in the Song is a little different.

My understanding is the word originally meant "stretching toward" and because of Cain being told he would have to master it to be safe, I see there to be a strong evil intent rather than simply turning toward or even possession.

There is a struggle going on it seems to me. But it could be nothing more than a female kind of possession which, I guess, I might simply be seeing as control from a male perspective. LOL


Kirstin has written what I believe to be as great an article on her view of the "authority" question as I've ever read. She has given me permission to post it here and I will be doing so soon. Thanks Kirstin.

Aussie John said...


I'm certainly on board with you regarding Kristin's article.

Having grown up under an authoritarian cruel father,in a home where my mother had to literally fight for any right to independent personal opinion,or action,where the children were seen and not heard, and becoming part of a church system, which wasn't much different,to quote your words,"I HAD to have some biblical answers to not come down on the old familiar, cultural, even religious side of male authority being ordained of God as boss. I got them."

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I've read what you've written and know what you believe about the Church. You will LOVE her thoughts as do I.

Kristen said...

I'm sincerely honored, both of you.

Rex Ray said...

“…And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 NLT)

Maybe Proverbs applies this version of “control” to SOME women.

“It is better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” (21:15)

“A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. Stopping her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greased hands.” (27:15-16)

On the subject of women being cared for, why did Jesus ‘appoint’ a non-family person to care for his mother?

I mean, his brother, James, from the world’s view was probably the best choice. He was the next oldest, but more important, he was the most ‘important’ man in all of Israel.

From Wheaton College, Ignatius wrote of James:

“I desire to see the venerable James, who is surnamed Just, whom they relate to be like Christ Jesus in appearance, in life, in method of conduct, as if he were a twin-brother of the same womb.”

But who did Mary tell Ignatius to listen to?

“The lowly handmaid of Jesus to Ignatius, her beloved fellow-disciple. The things which thou has heard and learned from John concerning Jesus are true. Believe them, cling to them...stand fast in the faith...Amen”

BTW, lightning had my computer on the blink a long time.

Paul Burleson said...


Welcome back.

Shirley Taylor said...

I think that you are all wrong about Genesis 3:16. For one, you are ignoring your rule of not looking at the immediate context. The immediate context is about pain in childbirth, which is the result of having sex. Read it this way: Women, giving birth will be painful, but you will still desire your husband, and want to have sex with him.

Some things we make too complicated.

Paul Burleson said...


On this one we'll just have to agree to disagree respectfully.

The phrase in the Hebrew has the idea of an unhealthiness, if not drivenness, involved with her desire. I think her drivenness is for more than having sex. But I could be wrong here.

Also, it IS the context that drives my interpretation seeing the following phrase in reference to the husband controlling her has the same unhealthiness/drivenness about it.

But with our fallible interpretative skills we may have to just ask the Lord one day to clarify it won't we. ;)

Shirley Taylor said...

Paul, her driveness is to procreate. The Bible was written for ordinary people, not theologians. The only reason I am speaking about it is because women use this scripture to convince themselves that the Bible says their husbands are to rule over them. Those women need to see this in a different way.

But I don't seek to argue. I am so glad that you have reached the place where you see women as equals. I praise God for that and hope that your message will not stop here, but will be spread far and wide. My heartfelt thanks to you for speaking up.

Paul Burleson said...


The reason I would challenge anyone seeing any of this statement said to fallen man and woman as an OUGHT for EITHER is because I believe it to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.

By this I mean God isn't saying this is the way things SHOULD be for the man OR woman. He is describing how things ARE as a result of sin entering the picture.

The birthing of children is natural but the pain is not, the man and woman in relationship is natural, the struggle is not. God is describing how things have resulted and someone called it the "curseful" way of relating for both.

In Ephesians 5 :17-25 you have [when correctly interpreted] the "graceful" way of relating.

Thanks for joining in on the conversation.

Larry with Mission Encounters International said...

Wow! I had to move to a different culture for God to work in my heart as to see His wonder in creating gender. Sheila and I serve as missionaries on a remote island where women are often the head of the house. Not exactly Biblical either. It did cause me to question my own thoughts that the husband is the head of the house and wife is subject to him. My journey after being married for 40 years leaves me in a place of loving my wife not wanting to do anything else but to love and to share life together which causes us both at different times to submit to one another. I found myself in the submitting moments not angry but more in love than ever before, because now life was not a contest to see who was going to win or lose. By sharing submission we both win. Loving it. Thanks Bro. Paul great word!