I am a woman. My entire life I knew that God had called me to pastor. I never believed that was a good thing. It always felt like something I had to keep under control. I thought this because I misunderstood 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to exclude women from the role of pastor. I no longer believe this. It is good for me, a woman, to desire to pastor the church.
In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the Ephesian church that it is the job of the overseer to pastor the church. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul instructs the Ephesian church that desiring to become an overseer is a good thing! He gives a list of character traits for those who aim to fill this role should meet. Contrary to my previous interpretation, Paul does not limit this role to men.
In this post, I will detail 3 reasons why Paul’s instructions about pastors (overseers) in 1 Timothy 3 also includes women. I will compare the Greek found in these verses with Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24. I hope you will conclude with me, that it is good when women want to pastor!
τις means anyone.
“Trustworthy is the saying: If anyone aspires to be an overseer, s/he desires a good thing.” 1 Timothy 3:1
The desire to oversee the church is a good thing and open for anyone who stretches themselves to obtain it. Some English translations say that “A man who aspires to be an overseer desires a good thing.” But this is not a correct translation. Paul does not use the word for man. He uses the word τις, which means anyone.
Jesus also used the word τις in Matthew 16:24 in a similar construction.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, s/he must deny himself, and take up his/her cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
No one limits Jesus’ words to men only. Anyone can follow Christ, if they deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. Likewise, Paul does not limit the role of overseer to men alone.
ἐπίσκοπος includes women.
Episkopos (overseer) is a masculine noun in the Greek, but this does not mean it excludes women. If it had used a feminine ending, it would have excluded men, but the Greek masculine ending does not indicate exclusivity. Masculine gender is the catchall to include both sexes. Episkopos (overseer) may include both men and women overseers.
Again, looking at Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 as an example, Jesus uses Greek masculine words and endings for “deny himself” and “take up his cross,” yet no one limits following Christ to men only. It is understood that the Greek masculine is inclusive. Episkopos (overseer) includes women overseers.
μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα cannot be literal.
A word for word translation of μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα is “one woman man,” meaning the husband of one wife. Throughout church history, people have bickered over the exact meaning of this phrase. To prove that this phrase refers in a broad sense to monogamist marital fidelity, not to a literal married man, I suggest an exersize of logic.
- If the qualification of “the husband of one wife” indicates a male-only appointment for overseer, then it also indicates a married-male-only appointment. No single men should be overseers, as well as no women.
- If we take a literal reading of “the husband of one wife,” then we must be consistent with the qualification in 1 Timothy 3:4, “having children in submission.” Children is plural. A literal reading of this phase limits an overseer to married-male-only-with-more-than-one-child.
- If we take these two qualifications literally, Paul himself is disqualified. So is Jesus.
A logical understanding of this passage recognizes that the principle taught is marital fidelity and good parenting, if they have spouses or children. These things indicate a person of good character, either male or female. “Husband of one wife” cannot be literal.
In the same way, we understand Jesus’ qualification in Matthew 16:24 of taking up our cross. I know of no one who makes a practice of carrying a literal cross as proof of their discipleship. We must be willing to recognize that there are times when we should not read instructions as literal, but as denotive of a broader application to remain logically consistent.
Because Paul welcomes anyone (τις) to aspire to pastor, and he uses the inclusive Greek masculine, and his logic requires a broad application of his qualifications, I am assured that Paul welcomes women to view the role of pastor as a good thing.
Because Paul welcomes anyone (τις) to aspire to pastor, and he uses the inclusive Greek masculine, and his logic requires a broad application of his qualifications, I am assured that Paul welcomes women to view the role of pastor as a good thing.Tweet
No one limits Jesus’ words to men only. Anyone can follow Christ, if they deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. Likewise, Paul does not limit the role of overseer to men alone.Tweet