Every year for the last 6 years, I’ve taught at Bethel School of Worship (WorshipU) in Redding, CA.
When I started teaching in 2009, I’d never really spoken before and thought it might be fun since the classes were small and running about 30-40 people. Years and thousands upon thousands of students later, the worship school (headed up by Brian and Jenn Johnson) has grown into a massive Worship University that equips and teaches students and worship teams from all parts of the globe.
And I just happened to like speaking so much, it turned into a full-time job.
We always come in early so we can hit up a Sunday service, and this morning as Amanda Cook and Brian Johnson led worship (and I’d like to note that I bawled the entire time it was so incredible), followed by one of my favorite’s with Kris Vallotton teaching, the presence of God was so thick, I felt like my soul was wading through rushing water just walking through the room.
As Kris got up to speak, I knew we were there for a reason. He recently released a book on women in ministry with historical lessons on the context of certain scriptures concerning women, and as the words rolled out of his mouth, I couldn’t type fast enough.
Unable to do his message justice, I thought I’d type out some of his key points to wet your appetite and hopefully get you to listen to the sermon and buy the book Fashioned to Reign. I believe that the enemy has had it in for women since the garden, as evidenced in Genesis, and I’m so proud of men who will stand up for women and for truth—even if it goes against status quo.
I’m not here to fight for anything, or argue anyone into the ground. I'm not a feminist and I'm not going to fight for ground in a male-driven religious world. I’m just here to relay a few historical facts I learned yesterday morning at Bethel church as Kris Vallotton spoke. It’s up to you what you do with what you read, but if you’re anything like me as a woman, your head and heart might explode in the best ways possible.
Notes from a sermon from Kris Vallotton:
In between the Old Testament book of Malachi and first New Testament book of Matthew, there were 400 years of silence, and in those 400 years before Jesus walked the earth, a religion called Judaism developed. If you were anything like me, you might have thought that Judaism was simply another name for the Old Testament religion of the Jews from the Mosaic law, but that isn’t the case. It was a religious sect that developed in those 400 years of silence. I’d never thought about the fact that there weren’t any Pharisees or Sadducees recorded in the Old Testament, but in those 400 years between the Old and New Testament, the scribes developed a religion that came out of the law of Moses, eventually becoming a completely separate religion.
In the Old Testament Mosaic law, there were 252 laws. But by the time Jesus walked the earth when Judaism was prevalent, the scribes had raised that number to 613 laws. And out of those 613 laws, 100 of them were written against women. Pharisees hated women, in fact, they were the most oppressed people group in Judaism.
When Jesus walked the earth, and when Paul, Peter, and John wrote the epistles, there were three audiences that they were speaking and writing to: Jews, Romans, and Greeks.
In this time period in Jewish history, women were the property of men, as if you would buy a house. They were allowed little to no education, were forced to veil their faces, and not allowed to speak to men in public, just like modern day Afghanistan. If another man came to your house for dinner, the women had to eat in another room. Polygamy was legal for men, but not for women, and if a husband got tired of a wife, they simply got rid of them. Women couldn’t vote and had no political influence. When worshiping, they were relegated to the outer courts of the synagogue, weren’t allowed to read the Torah, and weren’t allowed to recite morning prayers or pray with meals.
In the Roman culture, women were a bit less restricted. The Romans allowed women to work outside the homes if their husbands allowed, and in certain cities, women could actually own property.
But if you were Greek, women were adored. They actually believed that women were more powerful than men since women were able to hold power over men sexually, and in Greek mythology, they were a polytheistic race. The Greeks loved women so much, they made gods out of them.
So with Jewish, Roman, and Greek culture being so vastly different, don’t you think Paul, Peter and John might have written something different to to the Jews than to the Romans about women? And then something different concerning the Greek women? The apostles wrote specifically to certain cultures in context with the women of that time, which means….
Before you go covering your head and staying silent in meetings, it might be important for us to understand what was going on in history to comprehend why certain verses were written in scripture.
Otherwise, they might be taken out of context—and have been time and time again.
For instance, the book of Corinthians was written to a Greek city with a Greek goddess who had temple prostitutes in Corinth. When you think of a prostitute, you might think of someone shunned by society, but not in the Greek city of Corinth. Temple prostitutes in Greek mythology were viewed as being more powerful than men. In fact, they were priestesses. Being able to have sex with one of these temple prostitutes wasn’t just a sex act—it was the equivalent of an anointing. These women weren’t demeaned—they were elevated in society as the most important women in the entire city.
So in I Corinthians 7:1 when these Greeks get saved, Paul is writing to answer their questions about this new faith they've found called Christianity that goes against everything they've ever known in their polytheistic, prostitute driven, goddess Greek culture. And Paul replies to one of their questions about sex within the context of what they understand. He answers:
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Many times when you find out what you’ve been doing isn’t right, you react and swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. Because the Greeks had elevated women in their culture, they were asking “should we not touch women at all now?” Paul then addresses and talks about God's plan for man and woman—mutual submission within marriage.
You have to remember, Paul is a former Pharisee who under Judaism law viewed women as property, and yet he's now writing to the Greeks telling them that marriage is a mutually submitted relationship! Big difference! Women aren't property—and women aren't gods, either. Men and women in marriage submit their bodies to one another.
Under the Old Testament curse of the law in Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
The Hebrew text in this curse states that the ‘husband' will rule over the woman—not ‘man.' In fact, the Hebrew word for ‘man' and ‘husband' are totally different, as are the Hebrew word for ‘wife' and ‘woman.' So the husband will rule over wives under the Old Testament curse.
And even under that curse, women were queens, judges, and prophets in the Old Testament.
THEN JESUS CAME.
Jesus came and broke that very curse. Jesus came so that husbands no longer ruled over their wives. Jesus came and valued women who in Judaism were considered property—and was even friends with them. Jesus came and was friends with women, allowing them to learn and study. Jesus came and liberated women. Jesus came and freed women.
In a culture where women were oppressed more than any other people group, Jesus came to change that. And because I've always wondered about certain verses–-like being silent in meetings, covering my head, etc—learning the historical context of these scriptures absolutely set my heart free, and I can't wait to learn more.
It's late, and I'm teaching 9 classes this week for Worship U which means I'm going to quit, even though I have pages of notes that I'd love to share. But good thing for you, the book is available and the sermon will be up very soon.
So friends, devour away. (: