Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

Men-should-lead-women-should-follow proponents sometimes claim they take scripture at face value, while those who disagree ignore the Bible/ add to it/ re-interpret it. But is this true? Or do hierarchical complementarians (believers in “men should lead, women should follow”) ignore the plain meaning of scripture in favour of what they want to believe?

(Several comments below deals with the is/ ought distinction. To explain that in plain language, when I say “water run downwards” it is a claim of what is the case. We cannot go from “water run downwards” to “water ought to run downwards, so drinking straws are immoral, and dogs lapping up water is immoral.” “There were slaves in first-century Roman culture” does not mean: “There ought to be slaves today.”)


Hierarchical complementarians usually:

> Read God’s statement to Eve – “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” as ” thy desire should be to thy husband, and he ought to rule over thee.

> Read ought into the two verses which call man the head of the woman, although the verses use “is”, not “ought”.

Seemingly fail to read the plain meaning of Gal 3:2: “in Whom there is no Jew nor yet Greek, there is no slave nor yet free, there is no male and female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”

Seemingly fail to read the plain meaning of 1 Cor 14:31 “For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted,” and believe women are not part of the all.
> Read leadership into the two verses which call man the head of the woman, although not everyone agrees it is in the plain meaning of the text, and fail to see the things that plainly speak against that interpretation. *

> Quote Eph 5:22 without reference to 5:21 (everyone submitting to one another), even though 5:22 does not have its own verb in the original manuscripts of scripture and borrow from 5:21.

> Seemingly fail to read the plain meaning of “all submit” (If all believers should submit to one another, then submission do not place the Christian husband in a hierarchy over his Christian wife.)

> Ignore that 1 Timothy 2:12 say “I (Paul) do not allow…” and act as if it says “God does not allow.” (The meaning of exactly what is not allowed, and who – one woman, all of that congregation, or all women in the world, is not plain either and caused many scholars much debate. Hierarchical complementarians tend to “solve” this by simply ignoring all scholarship they dislike and just quoting their favourite translation – the plain meaning of other translations do not matter.)

> Do not take ” No servant can serve two masters”(Luk 16:13) at face value, but ask women to serve two masters, God and the husband.

> Seemingly fail to read the plain meaning of “Priscilla taught Apollos” (Acts 18:26)

They sometimes, although I cannot say if it is standard:

> Quote “the woman ought to have authority over her head “(1 Cor 11:10) with extra words inserted that is not part of either the original Bible languages or the King James. They read it as “the woman ought to have a sign of her husband’s authority over her head.”

> Read hierarchy (men over women) into the role of helper (Gen. 2:20), while the face value meaning of helper – God is also called a helper – does not require it.

> Read ought-ness into places where men are called rulers of the home (“oikosdespotes”, home=”oikos” in Greek, “despotes”=ruler)

> Read maleness into places where unnamed people are called rulers of the home. (That may be correct, seeing the culture the Bible was written in, but it is not the plain meaning of the text.)

> Read ought-ness out of the statement that remarried widows should rule the home (1Ti 5:14), (“oikosdespoteo”, home=”oikos” in Greek, “despoteo”=rule)

> Read “Eve was deceived, Adam was not” as “all women are easily deceived.

> Claim even though the Bible makes men the head of women by their “plain” Bible reading, this only applies in the church and home and not the rest of society. No verses, by the plain meaning, show women could step into leadership roles as long as it isn’t in the church and home.

> Seemingly fail to read the plain meaning of “For there is one God, one mediator also between God and mankind, Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 2:5) (They believe men are mediators between God and their wives/ children, that men will stand before God and give account for their families).

Of course, the men-should-lead brigade could give long answers of why they read some of these things into scripture, or why they under-play others. But giving long answers why you don’t take scripture at face value, is still not taking scripture at face value.

Will I blame them for not taking scripture at face value? Yes. Not because scripture should always be taken at face value (it should not – sometimes the truth is harder to find), but because “for with what judgment you are judging, shall you be judged, and with what measure you are measuring, shall it be measured to you.“(Mat 7:2) For that reason, I hold that even God will judge them for not taking scripture on face value.


Other egalitarians (non-hierarchical complementarians, really!) are welcome to add examples of scriptures that the men-should-lead brigade simply does not see the plain meaning of.


* See here, in the discussion of Eph 5:23 and 1 Cor 11:3, why I think those texts give plainly visible clues that man being the head of the wife does not make him the leader and her the follower.

Comments on: "The plain meaning of the text?" (5)

  1. […] adam posted about this interesting story. Here is a small section of the postRead leadership into the two verses which call man the head of the woman, although not everyone agree it is in the plain meaning of the text, and fail to see the things that plainly speak against that interpretation. *. > Quote Eph 5:22 … […]


  2. KR Wordgazer said:

    Romans 16 mentions women in leadership, including Nympha and Junia. Heiarchalists will bend over backwards to explain one reason or another why the plain sense that “Junia” (clearly a woman’s name in the text) was not a woman, or that “of note among the apostles” does not actually mean its plain sense that she is an outstanding apostle, but rather that the apostles noticed her. The church at Nympha’s house is read to be a group that just happened to meet in her house, but she was apparently only there to serve refreshments– even though Paul greets her by name and fails to greet the unnamed and unknown man who had to have actually been in charge– because only men could lead house churches. Right? Right?


  3. I think the idea of “plain meaning” is a canard. Some Scripture is easy to understand and some not. In all cases we need to try our best to understand the original meaning to the intended reader(s), but since we are not them, this can be a challenge sometimes.


  4. Also, in Romans 16 we have a woman named first and introduced before everyone else. Yet, gender hierarchalists would have us believe that she was merely a servant, not anyone of great importance. Yet, cultural history has it that the most responsible and honorable would be mentioned first. She is named as a minister of the church of Cenchrea and a proistatis of many. Clearly, a plain reading of this text is that Phoebe was a leader of the church of Cenchrea, and a very gifted leader who led and taught many in the ways of the Lord.


  5. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    And despite “it is not good to show partiality in judgment” (Prov. 24:23) , they judge lack of submission in wifes differently from the same thing in men, and female preachers differently from male ones. Some supporters of “biblical” patriarchy even believe that in a disagreement between a father and adult child, partiality should be given to the father’s case.


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