Women In Church Leadership — What About Anna?

We must not assume that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a blanket rule or a stone wall against women teaching men or having any Spiritual leadership roles there are many examples which declare differently. These examples are not the exceptions to the rule, but examples for the godly.

If we read  Luke Chapter 2 carefully, we find a woman by the name of Anna who is a prophetess. She continued to speak/declare (the word laleo) to those who were searching for the Messiah. Laleo means to declare one's mind and disclose thoughts.

God considered Anna the perfect person to teach about His Son in the Temple. Yes, I know. The actual word for Teacher isn't there. However, consider what that word didasko actually means: a to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them; intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment; making moral observations. It also means to d. explain or expound a thing.

So when Anna continued to speak of Jesus to those who were searching for the Messiah…she was witnessing, edifying, and for the purpose of instruction. How would this be profitable if men could not learn from it? She was speaking the truth that God had imparted to her; therefore she was not being silent in the Temple. It was basic teaching in the Temple which was supposedly a male-dominated domain.

Women had their place in the Temple, even sacrificing their own offerings to the Lord which is another discussion altogether. Anna lived for 84 years before Jesus was born within the confines of the Temple. She was of the tribe of Asher, not a Levite who were provided for by the sacrifices and offerings, yet she was granted a living within the holy walls, and devoted her entire life to worship, fasting, praying, and spreading the gospel about the Messiah being born. On a side note, one must wonder at the deaf ears her words fell upon. How could these priests not know of whom the two witnesses spoke—she and the old prophet Simon?

What does the prophecy from these two witnesses tell us? God uses willing, devoted vessels for His good purposes. It matters not whether the vessel is man or woman. Both a man and a woman prophesied about Jesus and over Jesus. We need go no further than this one example because it presents a supposed contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:12 if we consider 1 Timothy 2:12 as a blanket rule concerning women teachers. Anna was willingly devoted to the Lord God. She was submissive to Him and spoke because of the Holy Spirit within her, otherwise, she would not have been a true prophetess.

Another example is 1 Corinthians 14:31 which says “you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” He doesn't say “only you men can prophesy”. Paul instructs them in verse 34 that the women are to keep silent, however the  whole chapter is about order in worship…and verse 33 is the famous verse that God is not the author of chaos. The context around this verse is about prophecy! But in verse 19 Paul says he'd rather speak five words with his own understanding than 10,000 words in a foreign tongue. This church was having a “free-for-all” chaotic worship service which was not reverential nor godly in nature. He admonishes women to be silent in church and then the next verse 35 says “If she wants to learnsomething, let her ask her husband.” That indicates questions are being asked, not women preaching or teaching, but desiring to learn. As we all found out in first grade, we must learn in order to progress to our aspirations. Without learning, there would be no teaching.

The 1 Timothy 2 passage has a phrase which hasn't been addressed here. Paul commands, “Let a woman learn in silence.” And back over in 1 Corinthians 14:31 he talks about all learning. That includes men, too. Men don't just fall out of the womb knowing everything there is to know (although some men sure act that way). Mommas have to teach their sons such as King Lemuel’s mother did in Proverbs 31.

The fact that Paul allowed Pricilla to teach… The fact that he admonished older women to “teach good things”… The fact of Anna teaching in the Temple about Jesus the Messiah… clearly indicates that women should learn as much as they can and when called by God or given the motivational Spiritual gift to teach should willingly do God's bidding to teach. We do not all have the same gifts in the same measure. You can see my study on the Motivational Spiritual Gifts for more on that.

Biblically, there is substance to women teachers and even teaching in Sunday School. Because of this, and because the Bible does not contradict itself, then there must be a reconciliation. The Holy Spirit absolutely does give the gift of teaching to women (Miriam, Noadiah, Huldah, Anna, Lydia, Pricilla, and more) and gives the Spiritual gift of ministry to women (Joanna, Susanna, Martha, Tabitha/Dorcas), the gifts of serving as deacon (Phoebe),  and the motivational Spiritual gift of organization/administration to women (Deborah).

The very first set of seven Servers were all men. The Apostles said they could not take time to serve tables (which means to do exactly as it says but also to count money). So they were lending all their time to study and teaching/preaching, Acts 6:2ff. Why men and no women? This was Jerusalem, not Corinth or Ephesus or Rome. The women here knew much of Scripture because they were taught in synagogue and at home. I must point back to Proverbs 31. Our Spiritual place is supporting our husbands and our children. That is how God designed us. That, in no way, means that God won’t use women in Spiritual leadership roles. He gives ample evidence of it in Scripture. He gives ample evidence of it today. This is a seeming paradox until we recognize the diversity of snowflakes. No two are exactly the same and neither are any two humans, regardless of gender. God relates to each of us in the exact manner needed to reach us and if that mean using a toad frog, He will do it. (No, I am not comparing women to toads… well, maybe I am comparing, but I mean no disrespect, and you really can’t cuddle with a frog.)

The very first verse that puts women in their “place” is when she is created after Adam and from Adam's rib. Verse 16 of chapter 3 in Genesis says, “You shall be eager for your husband and he shall rule over you.” Why is it so many people forget this verse? Plainly and simply the husband is the ruler over the wife – God said it, not me. That was in Adam's day. As the years rolled by … centuries later, God directed Paul to add three words to that verse. “…in the Lord.” Because we women are first Christians and then wives, we belong first to Jesus as our betrothed husband and then to our physical husbands so our obedience should first be to the Lord and then to our husbands. Does anyone have a problem with this logic?

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  1. velmoreberry said:

    There is a difference between a teacher, a preacher, and a prophet. Anna was a prophet, she was not holding the position of a teacher in the church. Priscilla, with her husband, instructed Paul in private. Again, that is different than being in the position of a teacher in the church. The most that can be said against the plain reading of 1 timothy 2 is that the word for man in verse 12 should maybe be understood as “husband”. Even if this is the case, it still stands that Paul did not permit women to teach or exercise authority over husbands in the church, this would still end in an obvious limitation as a woman could not teach or have authority over a church without teaching to her own or other husbands. Thank you for the article.

    November 6, 2010
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  2. said:

    Yes, there is a difference! Aquilla and Pricilla actually instructed Apollos, not Paul. They were students of Paul and he lived with them making tents with them. The plain lesson we should take away is that women should never take by force what has been given to their husbands (usurp) to do. When men shirk their duty as in the case of Barak (Judges 4)then God will use what/who He will use to get the job done.

    November 8, 2010
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