This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Woman's Sphere in the Church (1875)

This is not limited to the duties of the family or household, since she is often by nature and grace pre-eminently adapted for a wider service. Hence women were employed as prophets, that is, in the sense of public religious teachers, including the higher ministerial duties, as appears from the rank next after apostles . I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. Compare Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; Rom. 16:1-2. So in the Old Testament. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Num. 11:29.          

Compare also Ps. 68:11, where the true rendering is, of the women preachers there was a great host; which accords with the wish of Moses, Num. 11:29, and of Paul, I Cor. 14:5.

Some have understood Paul as prohibiting women teaching. I Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2: 11-12. But he evidently refers to such only as prayed and prophesied unveiled, as appears 1 Cor. 11:5-13. Paul in this had respect simply to the usage of society, as was his custom in matters of indifference. I Cor. 9:19-23. To say that his prohibition applies alike to all times and conditions of society, is to say that the prudential regulations of a degraded heathen people, eighteen hundred years ago, are universally binding, and that Christianity in this respect has wrought no change in the world it came to reform. Paul surely had a different estimate of woman service. Rom. 16:1-7, 12-15. His first public discourse in Europe was at a meeting of women, and his first convert and host was a woman. Acts 16:9-15. 

There is indisputable scriptural and historical proof that subordinate official position was accorded to women in the apostolic Church:-            

1. The correct translation of Rom. 16:1-2, shows that Phebe was a deacon of the Church and a patron of many-the original of patron being radically the same as is rendered, he that ruleth, in chap. 12:8. (182. What is said of his estimate of women? Was official position accorded to her? What is said of Phebe? What exposition of Rom. 16:1-2?) of Deacons not only minister to the sick and needy, but from Phil. 1:1, and I Tim. 3:2, 8, we infer that they preached and discharged other spiritual functions subordinate to the elders or bishops, who correspond to the pastors of modern times.           

2. The rules of conduct laid down for women in I Tim. 3:11, and Titus 2:3, have been referred to the deaconesses by a series of eminent commentators from Chrysostom to Alford.           

3. Dr. Schaff and other scholars interpret the words, "let not a widow be taken into the number," I Tim.5:9. Let not a widow be elected and ordained under threescore years old.           

4. From Titus 2:3-4, we learn that women were employed as teachers in the direct personal application of Christian truth.           

5. Pliny, a few years later, speaks of the order of deaconesses as exercising, in relation to their own sex, functions analogous to those of the deacons.           

The history of the early Christian Church confirms this statement, and adds, also, that women baptized. Signal honors are recorded of woman's devotion to Christ and his cause. Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 10:38-42. She was first to preach the actual advent of the promised Messiah, both to the Jews and to the Samaritans. Luke 2:36-38; John 4:28, etc.; and first to preach the risen Savior to his doubting apostles. Matt. 28:7-9, 17.

"Not she, with traitorous kiss, her Savior stung; — Luke 22:47-48.
Not she denied him with unholy tongue; — Matt. 26:69-75.
She, while apostles shrank, could danger brave: —Matt. 26:56
Last at the cross, and earliest at his grave." — Matt. 27:55-56 28:1.

— From: Amos Binney & Daniel Steele, Binney's Theological Compend Improved (1875).

ADDENDUM: And, for those who would like to see a list of women who were leaders in the Wesleyan movements prior to 1900, see this: Kevin Jackson: Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements.

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