Problem Passages: New Series

The modern debate of the role of women has revolved around a cluster of Paul’s passages.  These Bible  passages regarding gender roles have been chewed and digested differently. Since I don’t have anything new to offer to the smorgasbord of gender interpretation, I’ll offer a buffet of ideas instead.

What do different “camps” say about Paul’s words about women in the home and in the church? I hope to compile a reference to reveal the depth and width of scholarship applied to discovering the true heart of God in this matter.

What has been said about the meaning of head? Who should submit? What have we missed in the English translation of the Greek? How should we weigh cultural matters? Who should have authority? These are a sample of the queries put to these problem passages.

Problem Passages?

Genesis 3:16 , Romans 16:7 , 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 , 1 Corinthians 14:34-35Galatians 3:28 , Ephesians 5:21-33 (Colossians 3:18-19) , 1 Timothy 2:8-15 , 1 Timothy 3:1-13 , Titus 2:2-5 , 1 Peter 3:1-10

I call these references problem passages because they have been dissected and interpreted a myriad of ways. Because of their controversial nature, they are problematic. Some believe the plain meaning is easy to understand, and others are driven deeper since a plain reading does not sync with their understanding of the gospel and gender.


I’ll polarize the various levels of beliefs into two camps: Complementarians (comps) and Egalitarians (egals).

In summary, Comps believe men were created to lead. Women were created to help men. They believe this fundamental principle of the order of creation dictates the role of women as wives and as leaders in the church. Wives are to be in submission to their husbands, and husbands must lead. Women are restricted in church leadership, and men must fill the positions of greatest authority. Of course, there are varies degrees of rigidity applied, but I believe this is the basic thought in a nutshell.

In summary, Egals believe men and women are equal not only in dignity and worth, but in position. Women and men submit. Women and men lead. The rallying cry is unity. Again, this is a painful over-simplification.


My goal in writing this series is to provide a resource for those searching to understand what they believe about God’s will for the genders. I’ll summarize the two sides of the argument, detail important points, and  list relevant articles for further reading.

Hope you join me!

Problem Passages: Ephesians 5:23

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. Read more about the series here. Ephesians 5:23 says, For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Context This verse…

Problem Passages: Ephesians 5:22

This verse is the mother of complementarianism. It establishes their core belief that God wants marriage to follow a pattern based on gender. To the egalitarian, this verse exemplifies the previous verse: submitting each to the other. Simply because Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands does not negate that husbands are to…

Problem Passages: Galatians 3:26-28

Does this declaration rule out spiritual and physical hierarchies? Or can spiritual privileges and responsibilities weigh heavier on some because of race or gender, not because of talent, gifting or the merit of character?

Problem Passages: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 14:34-4034 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their…

Problem Passages: 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (Part 3: Verse 10)

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 11:10-12 says, 10It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is…

Problem Passages: 1 Corinthians 7:3-6

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 7:3-6 says, 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to…

Problem Passages: Romans 16:7

Egals say Junia proves women can be in the top tiers of church leadership, and Comps say it’s a mistake of the pen or bad translation. The three disagreements are whether Junia is a man or woman’s name; and if this Junia was an apostle herself, or only was “well known” by the apostles; and…

Problem Passages: Genesis 3:16 (Updated 2022)

Complementarians believe the fall distorted the God-ordained order of complementary roles: men lead and women follow. Egalitarians believe male leadership is a result of the fall. Explore the differing interpretations of Genesis 3:16.

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