At the end of the heretical Gospel of Thomas appears this bizarre statement:
Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
If we ever encounter someone who teaches that a woman must become a man to enter God's Kingdom, the source of his doctrine should be apparent!
Ironically, despite this incendiary verse, the modern feminist movement actually leans heavily on various Gnostic texts to substantiate their ideas. While they do not care much for this line in the Gospel of Thomas, they typically pass it off by saying that, as an allegory of the inner transformation every woman must go through in order to find herself, it should not be taken too literally.
However, feminists who try to find their roots in ancient "Christianity" draw heavily upon the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Eve, and the Pistis Sophia (variously translated Faith Wisdom, Wisdom in Faith, Faith in Wisdom or Faith of Sophia—the Gnostic "divine counterpart of Christ"). From these texts springs the idea of the "divine feminine" (or "feminine divine"), and many liberal Christian churches rely on them as historical "proof" of female apostles, supporting the argument that women can and should hold any church position. This is in direct contradiction to the apostle's words in I Timothy 2:12.
Philip Jenkins, in Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way, notes: "Gnostic believers practiced 'equal access, equal participation and equal claims to knowledge,' to the extent of allocating clerical functions by lot at their ceremonies" (emphasis ours). This can be seen not only in the ordination of women, but also in the attitude of some Christians who argue that, since "we all have the Holy Spirit," we do not need any authoritative teacher or leader.
Satan convinces those with Gnostic leanings to disparage the God-ordained roles and hierarchy within the church of God (see Ephesians 4:11-16). While this egalitarian idea might appear on the surface to contain utopian goodness, the result is confusion, as doctrine becomes subjected to the lowest common denominator. Not surprisingly, such individuals typically believe that they know better—or more—than the rest of the church and particularly the ministry. God's pattern is to establish doctrine and leadership through those He chooses (see, for instance, I Corinthians 12:18 and I Timothy 2:7).
David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part One: False Knowledge
Paul comments on the woman's curse in this passage, a section of Scripture that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years. What is immediately striking about Paul's reasoning and conclusion on Genesis 3:16 regarding the church is that he upholds it! Modern theological thought would reason that the effects of "the Fall" are nullified under Christ's blood, but Paul says, "Not so!" They may be diminished, but not eradicated.
Paul cites the fact that God created Adam before Eve as his proof that God intended the man to lead. He backs this up by showing that while Eve proved subject to deception—thus, she was the "weaker" of the two—Adam, whose sin was sheer disobedience, did not. Thus, Eve's sin establishes that woman should not take the lead from man; that route, by the biblical example of our first parents, generally leads to problems. The apostle concludes that a woman, formed by God as a helper to Adam and more inclined to being deceived, should not teach or lead men in the church.
On the other hand, as Ephesians 5:25-29, 33 plainly shows, Christian men must no longer "rule over" their wives. Loving authority is not domineering or despotic, but humble, caring, gentle, kind, and patient. In the same vein, Christian women should submit to and respect their husbands (verses 22-24, 33). Submission is not manipulative or grudging, but done in faith, respect, and humility.
How, though, is a woman "saved in childbearing"? The word Paul uses for "saved" (sozo) can be used for both physical deliverance from danger and spiritual salvation. How does faith, love, holiness, and self-control prevent or nullify the physical dangers of pregnancy? Conversely, is not salvation by grace? Which salvation does the apostle mean here?
Neither. A third explanation fits the context better. Paul's main concern in this section is proper order within the church. Men, he writes, should pray and teach. Women should adorn themselves modestly and do good works, but they should not be teaching publicly or leading men. Verse 15 explains what their primary concern should be: "childbearing." Thus, it means that much of God's judgment of women will be based on how well they perform their God-given role in bearing children.
To us, this sounds quite misogynistic, but to the Greek speaker "childbearing" (teknogonia) covers a great deal more ground than just "popping out babies." The Strong's Concordance definition shows that the extended meaning is "maternity (the performance of maternal duties)." W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, agrees, writing that it "impl[ies] the duties of motherhood" (p. 190). The Twentieth Century New Testament translates this clause, "But women will find their salvation in motherhood."
Paul's exhortation aims to bring marriage and family back to what God intended of men and women before Adam and Eve's sin. Just as God will judge men according to how well they fulfill their roles as husbands (leaders) and teachers, so He will judge women by their performance as wives and mothers. Since salvation, particularly the period of sanctification, is a process that covers our entire converted lifetimes, how well we fulfill our God-given responsibilities within our families will make a difference in God's judgment. Paul says we must perform these duties in faith, love, holiness, and self-control—just as we must do everything else in our Christian lives.
To summarize, then, the apostle simply states that God will judge and reward a woman according to her growth as a Christian within her appointed sphere of influence: her family. God Himself has drawn the lines between the sexes, and we should do our best to fulfill our roles with excellence, not rebellion or complaint. In this way, we will make progress in reversing the effects of the curses in the Garden of Eden.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)
Should the Church Ordain Women as Ministers (I Timothy 2:12)?
There are two ways of approaching this issue, cultural and scriptural. Unfortunately, they result in opposite conclusions. The cultural argument begins with studies into women's place in society as well as the church. It concludes that New Testament teaching prohibiting female ordination is based on first-century cultural bias that considered women inferior to men, and thus, were more easily led astray. This approach is gaining adherents worldwide, especially among progressive and liberal theologians and laymembers.
Conversely, conservative Christians say that Scripture is to be the final authority on all theological matters. This is the position of Church of the Great God.
I Timothy 2:12-14 is the passage of Scripture that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years: "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."
Paul's reasoning and conclusion on this subject is based on Genesis 3:16, God's "curse" on Eve. Modern theological thought would reason that the effects of "the Fall" are nullified under Christ's blood, but Paul says, "Not so!" They may be diminished, but not eradicated.
He cites the fact that God created Adam before Eve as his proof that God intended the man to lead. He backs this up by showing that while Eve proved subject to deception—thus, she was the "weaker" of the two—Adam, whose sin was sheer disobedience, did not. Thus, Eve's sin establishes that woman should not take the lead from man; that route, by the biblical example of our first parents, generally leads to problems. The apostle concludes that a woman, formed by God as a helper to Adam and more inclined to being deceived, should not teach or lead men in the church.
Thus, God considers this matter to be one of "difference" between the genders rather than one being "better or worse" than the other. Paul's teaching is that men and women have different "roles" within society as well as in the church. God created each sex with various strengths and weaknesses, and in His wisdom He has determined which roles fit each gender (for instance, see Titus 2:1-8). In the church, as the apostle Paul explains here, ordination of women deviates from the roles God has judged to be appropriate from the beginning. There is no difference, however, in terms of salvation; God gives men and women equal opportunity to enter His Kingdom.
The New Testament does, however, give a precedent for the ordination of deaconesses (I Timothy 3:8-11; Romans 16:1). Apparently, Aquila and Priscilla, who served under Paul's administration, were deacon and deaconess. In the church at that time was a powerful and effective teacher named Apollos, whose knowledge, however, was imperfect. "When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26). Here we find a man and his wife together instructing a man in God's way.
In addition, Scripture includes examples of instruction collected from outstanding women, such as Hannah's prayer, Deborah's song, and the teachings of Lemuel's mother. It also records examples of prophetesses within the church (Acts 21:8-9; see Luke 2:36).
A Woman's World
God and Gender
Men and Women, Hats and Hair
The First Prophecy (Part Two)
Parenting (Part 3): Mothers
The Role of Women