Today Christians in the Western world are typically living in a post-Christian society. Christian beliefs are met with skepticism, and people see little reason to believe. Christians are confronted with daily challenges to their faith, and often struggle to understand the relevance of Christianity to modern life.
A common complaint made by egalitarians is that ‘the church’ is forcing women to leave, and discouraging women from joining, due to ‘traditionalist’ views of the role of women. Although there is certainly evidence that women have on occasion been dissuaded from joining a church (or ecclesia), due to its position on this issue, or even from accepting Christianity, there is far more evidence that churches in countries which have made the greatest effort to be inclusive of women, are losing men at a significant rate.
Remarkably, church attendance by women has consistently been higher throughout history, even during those times when women were most marginalized. Historically, women have typically been more involved in religion than men regardless of social or theological environment.
The marginalization of women therefore has historically had little to no impact on church attendance by women (and in some cases can be seen to have encouraged it), whereas modern churches face the challenge of seriously declining male attendance, despite the fact that men still occupy the majority of leadership positions in most mainstream Christian denominations.
The most prominent examples of this problem are in the US and UK, where numerous studies have confirmed a significant gender gap in the churches, which various organizations have attempted to address.
This particular subject has not received the same enthusiastic call for action as issues such as the role of women in the congregation, though it has been noted to various extents in the relevant scholarly literature for many years. Many Christians remain unaware of the issue, and no worldwide campaigns are undertaken to increase awareness of the problem (some efforts to address the issue are in fact even resisted), though literature addressing the subject specifically (both popular and scholarly), is gradually increasing.
It should be understood that there is evidence that this lack of involvement by men is not necessarily related directly to participation by women. A congregation which increases the involvement of its women in various roles (including leadership), will not necessarily lose its men. If we are to be serious and honest about addressing gender issues in our community, this is an issue which should not be ignored.
The problem is the more concerning given that no single cause for the decline has been discovered, indicating the issue is complex, and not susceptible to a simple solution. Significantly, this appears to be a uniquely Christian problem, not found in other religions:
‘Yet, as Murrow (2005a, 8 ) points out, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam all have at least as many male adherents as female ones. Podles (1999, ix) also notes that, within Christianity, the Orthodox Church has a general [sic] balance. The implication is clear: it is not that religion or spirituality per se are inimical to men. Rather, it must be specific forms and expressions of religion or spirituality that alienate men and deter their participation.’
One contributing factor appears to be derogatory attitudes towards male spirituality, with men commonly encountering the belief that their religious experiences are of little value, and that they are less spiritual than women:
‘It is somewhat disturbing to note that, according to my survey, 13.2% of Christians agree with the statement that “men are less spiritual than women” (including 19.3% of men, who are repeatedly told that their forms of spirituality are not the real thing).’ 
Another clearly identified contributing factor has been the gradual feminization of Christian worship services, aimed at reflecting what women (supposedly), feel most comfortable with:
‘Perhaps the main focus of those who criticise the Church for having become feminised is that its worship is too ‘touchy-feely’, overemotional or over-personal. This has been derogatorily called ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ (or, more provocatively, ‘girlfriend’) worship. As Murrow (2005a, 187) argues, “today’s praise music invites the worshipper to assume the feminine role” and praise music can resemble the Top 40 love songs.’ 
By way of example, Ducker provides the lyrics of three typical popular worship songs, with lyrics such as ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’, ‘But listen, my Lover/Is coming from heaven’s throne!’, and ‘I have felt Your touch,/More intimate than lovers’.  Noteworthy is the fact that even some popular Christian composers have started to consider that such lyrics are inappropriate.
This feminization of church culture has had a negative impact on men, contributing to their absence.  As men are under considerable secular pressure to conform to unbiblical male role models, Ducker observes that the modern church must take steps to address the needs of men in the congregation:
‘It is a commonplace that masculinity is in crisis. Men are experiencing considerable confusion over their identity, in terms of who they are and what their roles are. As the end of the millennium approached, Roy McCloughry reported “a loss of definition and a confusion about what is expected of men… It is amazing how quickly men seem to have lost their confidence” (1994, 4).
However, such complaints were already familiar, having their origin in the turbulent changes in gender relations in the 1960s, and the ensuing ‘sex war’. By the mid-1980s Leanne Payne was able to note that this “growing cultural malady” was already “epic in proportions” and equated to a full-blown “crisis in masculinity” (1985, 9). The Church’s response to this disruption to men’s identities, labelled “gender dysphoria” by Culbertson (2002, 221), has been both feeble and disappointing, yet this is a profoundly spiritual issue.’ 
The fact is that men are leaving their churches at a far greater rate than women.
 For the UK, Ducker notes ‘Using the limited data that we do have, we find that there is considerable convergence of estimates for the male proportion of those in Church, which typically fall within the range of 35% to 40% for the period 2005-2007. This proportion is lower than at any recent point of church history and is part of a trend going back at least as far as 1980, when approximately 44% of those in Church were males.6 There are signs that this trend is now stabilising’, ibid., pp.11-12 (2007)
 ‘It is found consistently that women are more religious than men both behaviorally and attitudinally (e.g., Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, 1975; Scobie, 1975; Yinger, 1970), Gee, ‘Gender Differences in Church Attendance in Canada: the Role of Labor Force Participation’, Review of Religious Research (32.3.267), 1991
 ‘It would be interesting to see whether the gender of clergy is correlated to male/female attendance rates, and whether it is significant that two denominations that have had women ministers since the early 1970s (URC and Methodism) also have two of the lowest rates of male participation (35% and 36% respectively). Re-examining his most recent dataset, Christian Research’s Dr Peter Brierley 18 One topical example of this is the revision of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ to ‘Onward Christian Pilgrims’ (see, for example, Hymns Old and New – new Anglican edition), has found that “where there is a female minister the percentage of men in their congregations is only 38%” compared to the “overall proportion of churchgoers [which is] 43%” (personal correspondence, 9 May 2007).’, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, pp.24-25 (2007)
 ‘The UKCH Religious Trends series has included occasional data on church attendance by gender (as well as analysis by age, denomination and churchmanship). No.5 in this series (2005/2006) provides evidence for two main trends: that women outnumber men in the UK’s churches, and that the proportion of men in church congregations is falling‘, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.10 (2007); also http://www.whychurch.org.uk/gendergap.php
 ‘there has been surprisingly little written on this topic in relation to the UK’, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.2 (2007)
 As for example an article almost 50 years ago, ‘women, both in and out of the labor force, attend church more frequently than men’, Lazerwitz, ‘Some factors associated with variations in church attendance’, Social Forces, p. 310 (1961)
 ‘there is continued reluctance to organise men-only activities’, Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.22 (2007)
 Kunjufu, ‘Adam! Where Are You? Why Most Black Men Don’t Go to Church’ (1994), Podles, ‘The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity’ (1999), Murrow, ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ (2005)
 Lummis, ‘A Research Note: Real Men and Church Participation’, Review of Religious Research (45.4.404-414), 2004
 Note however the 2003 UK study by Heather Wraight, ‘Men and the Church’, which found ‘the most common response to the question what they “least liked about being a man in church” was “being outnumbered by women” and “being in a minority”’, in Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.9 (2007)
 In a study of Episcopalian congregations in the US, Lummis notes ‘Survey results indicate that the presence of women in ordained or in lay church leadership does not significantly diminish men’s feelings of being appreciated by their congregations’, ‘A Research Note: Real Men and Church Participation’, Review of Religious Research (45.4.404-414), 2004
 Ducker, ‘Disbanded Brothers – Has a ‘Feminised’ Church Alienated Men in the UK?’, p.17 (2007)
 Ibid., p.17
 Ibid., p.20
 Ibid., pp.20-21
 ‘Significantly, Matt Redman, composer of several worship songs in this vein, recently admitted that he was “re-visiting a couple of things [that he had] written before” because they were too effeminate: “If a blokey bloke comes into church, is he going to connect with what’s going on? Some of the romantic imagery used in worship, the more I think about and study scripture, I’m not so sure about it… In the Bible you don’t have people coming up to Jesus saying, ‘You’re beautiful…’, even in Revelation before his throne… [One song ended with] ‘I’m so in love with you’… Maybe I should have written, ‘I’m so in awe of you.’ It’s a learning process.” (Interviewed by John Buckeridge in Christianity, March 2007, pp.12-13)’ , ibid., p.21
 ‘Instead of affirming men in their created, masculine identities, the Church has tended towards a general notion of spirituality that is unmistakably feminine. Thus, the desirable virtues of churchgoers are that they are ‘nice’, ‘friendly’, ‘polite’ and ‘well-behaved’. They should be contemplative, quietly prayerful, intuitive and able to express their ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus articulately and emotionally. Whilst these characteristics may well reflect a certain type of spirituality, it is not one that men will necessarily identify with and as such is further evidence of the feminisation of Church culture.’, ibid., p.26
 Ibid., p.26
The Greek word arsenokoitai (plural form of arsenokoitēs), is typically translated as referring to practicing homosexuals by standard English translations in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. This is challenged by those seeking legitimization of homosexual behaviour within Christianity.
Scobie and Campbell argue against the restriction of the word to pederasty. Hays, Scobie, and Malick point out that the meaning is identified by its derivation from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where the component words refer to homosexual conduct.  
Standard Greek Lexicons
 1 Corinthians 6:9: ‘behaves like a homosexual’ (CEV), ‘men who practice homosexuality’ (ESV), ‘men who have sexual relations with other men’ (NCV), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (NET), ‘homosexual offenders’ (NIV84), ‘commit homosexual acts’ (NIrV), ‘practice homosexuality’ (NLT), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (TNIV).
 1 Timothy 1:10: ‘live as homosexuals’ (CEV), ‘men who practice homosexuality’ (ESV), ‘who have sexual relations with people of the same sex’ (NCV), ‘practicing homosexuals’ (NET), ‘practice homosexuality’ (NLT), ‘practicing homosexuality’ (TNIV).
 Bailey, ‘Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition’ (1975).
 ‘He takes the term in 1 Cor 6:9 as denoting males who actively engage in homosexual acts, in contrast to μαλακοί (malakoi, “effeminate”), those who engage passively in such acts.’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.193), 1992.
 ‘However, he insists that Paul knew nothing of “inversion as an inherited trait, or an inherent condition due to psychological or glandular causes, and consequently regards all homosexual practice as evidence of perversion” (38). Hence Bailey limits the term’s reference in Paul’s works to acts alone and laments modern translations of the term as “homosexuals.” Bailey wants to distinguish between “the homosexual condition (which is morally neutral) and homosexual practices” [italics in source].’, ibid., p. 193.
 Boswell, ‘Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality’ (1980).
 ‘In an extended discussion of the term (341–53), he cites “linguistic evidence and common sense” to support his conclusion that the word means “male sexual agents, i.e. active male prostitutes.” His argument is that the arseno- part of the word is adjectival, not the object of the koitai which refers to base sexual activity. Hence the term, according to Boswell, designates a male sexual person or male prostitute.’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.193-194), 1992.
 He nevertheless recognized his interpretation was marginal; ‘He acknowledges, however, that most interpret the composite term as active, meaning “those who sleep with, make their bed with, men.”’, ibid., p. 194.
 Scroggs, ‘The New Testament and Homosexuality’ (1983).
 ‘Hence arsenokoitai does not refer to homosexuality in general, to female homosexuality, or to the generic model of pederasty. It certainly cannot refer to the modern gay model, he affirms (109). This is Scrogg’s interpretation of the term in 1 Tim 1:10 also. The combination of πόρνοι (pornoi, “fornicators”), arsenokoitai, and ἀνδραποδισταῖ (andrapodistai, “slave-dealers”) refers to “male prostitutes, males who lie [with them], and slave dealers [who procure them]” (120). It again refers to that specific form of pederasty “which consisted of the enslaving of boys as youths for sexual purposes, and the use of these boys by adult males” (121).’, De Young, ‘The Source and NT Meaning of Αρσενοκοιται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry’, Masters Seminary Journal (3.2.196-197), 1992.
 ‘Consequently Paul “must have had, could only have had pederasty in mind” (122, italics in source). We cannot know what Paul would have said about the “contemporary model of adult/adult mutuality in same sex relationships” (122).’, ibid., p. 197.
 Martin, ‘Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences’, in Brawley (ed.), ‘Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture’ (1996).
 ‘It is highly precarious to try to ascertain the meaning of a word by taking it apart, getting the meanings of its component parts, and then assuming, with no supporting evidence, that the meaning of the longer word is a simple combination of its component parts.’, Martin, ‘Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences’, in Brawley (ed.), ‘Biblical ethics & homosexuality: listening to scripture’, p. 119 (1996).
 ‘Thus, all definitions of arsenokoitês that derive its meaning from its components are naive and indefensible.’, ibid., p. 119.
 ‘It seems to have referred to some kind of economic exploitation by means of sex,’, ibid., p. 120.
 He also argued that no one knows what it means; ‘I am not claiming to know what arsenokoitês meant, I am claiming that no one knows what it meant.’, ibid., p. 123.
 ‘There is no evidence that the term was restricted to pederasty; beyond doubt, the NT here repeats the Leviticus condemnation of all same-sex relations (cf. J.G. Taylor 1995: 6-7; Hays 1996: 382-83).’, Scobie, ‘The Ways of Our God: An approach to biblical theology’, p. 838 (2003).
 ‘In response, however, it must be pointed out, first, that arsenokoites is a broad term that cannot be confined to specific instances of homosexual activity such as male prostitution or pederasty. This is in keeping with the term’s Old Testament background where lying with a “male” (a very general term) is proscribed, relating to “every kind of male-male intercourse.”13 In fact, the Old Testament “bans every type of homosexual intercourse.” not just male prostitution or intercourse with youths.’, Campbell, ‘Marriage and Family in the Biblical World’, p. 243 (2003).
 ‘Although the word arsenokoitēs appears nowhere in Greek literature prior to Paul’s use of it, it is evidently a rendering into Greek of the standard rabbinic term for “one who lies with a male [as with a woman]” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). (Despite recent challenges to this interpretation, the meaning is confirmed by the evidence of the Sybilline Oracles 2.73). Paul here repeats the standard Jewish condemnation of homosexual conduct.’, Hays, ‘First Corinthians’, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching, p. 97 (1997).
 ‘It clearly echoes the Greek of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 in the LXX (arsen = “male,” and koite = “bed”), so that arsenokoites literally means “one who goes to bed with a male” (cf. Malick 1993b: 482-87).’, Scobie, ‘The Ways of Our God: An approach to biblical theology’, p. 838 (2003).
 ‘It is significant that of all the terms available in the Greek language, Paul chose a compound from the Septuagint that in the broadest sense described men lying with men as they would lie with women.’, Malick, ‘The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9’, Bibliotheca Sacra (150.600.484), 1996.
 ‘He points out that in all other similar compounds ending in -koites the first half specifies the object of the sleeping, or its scene or sphere. That is, the first part always functions in an adverbial sense.21 This is because koites has a verbal force, in most not all instances, arseno denotes the object.22 Hence, the compound word refers to those who sleep with males, and denotes “‘male homosexual activity’ without qualification.”’, Haas, ‘Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice’ (1), 1999; other –koitēs/os cognates include doulokoitēs (sexual relations with slaves, doulos), mētrokoitēs (sexual relations with one’s mother, mētēr), and polukoitos (sexual relations with many people, polus).
 ‘True the meaning of a compound word does not necessarily add up to the sum of its parts (Martin 119). But in this case I believe the evidence suggests that it does.’, Via, ‘Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views’, p. 13 (2003); Via acknowledges this despite supporting homosexual unions.
 ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ arsenokoitēs male homosexual* Referring to a male who engages in sexual activity with men or boys: 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Pol. Phil. 5:3; W. L. PETERSEN, “Can ἀρσενοκοῖται be translated by ‘Homosexuals’?” Vigiliae Christianae 40 (1986) 187-91. — D. F. WRIGHT, Translating ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ,” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987) 396-98.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament’, p. 158 (1990).
 ‘ἀρρενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ, sodomite, AP9.686, (Maced. iv/vi A.D., v. BCHsuppl. 8 no. 87); (ἀρσ-) 1Ep.Cor.6.9.’, Liddell, Scott, Jones, & McKenzie, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon’, p. 246 (rev. and augm. throughout, 19996).
 ‘ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου, ὁ an adult male who practices sexual intercourse with another adult male or a boy homosexual, sodomite, pederast.’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller, ‘Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, p. 76 (2000).
 ‘ἄρσην G781 (arsēn), male; θῆλυς G2559 (thēlys), female; ἀρσενοκοίτης G780 (arsenokoitēs), male homosexual, pederast, sodomite.’, Brown, ‘New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology’, volume 2, p. 562 (1986).
 ‘88.280 ἀρσενοκοίτης, ου m: a male partner in homosexual intercourse—‘homosexual.’’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 771 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition 1996).
 ‘733. ἀρσενοκοίτης arsenokoítēs; gen. arsenokoítou, masc. noun, from ársēn (730), a male, and koítē (2845), a bed. A man who lies in bed with another male, a homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10 [cf. Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:27]).’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’ (electronic ed. 2000).
 ‘a male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9 (on the impropriety of RSV’s ‘homosexuals’ [altered to ‘sodomites’ NRSV] s. WPetersen, VigChr 40, ’86, 187–91; cp. DWright, ibid. 41, ’87, 396–98; REB’s rendering of μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται w. the single term ‘sexual pervert’ is lexically unacceptable), of one who assumes the dominant role in same-sex activity, opp. μαλακός (difft. DMartin, in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality, ed. RBrawley, ’96, 117–36); 1 Ti 1:10; Pol 5:3. Cp. Ro 1:27. Romans forbade pederasty w. free boys in the Lex Scantinia, pre-Cicero (JBremmer, Arethusa 13, ’80, 288 and notes); Paul’s strictures against same-sex activity cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of alleged temple prostitution (on its rarity, but w. some evidence concerning women used for sacred prostitution at Corinth s. LWoodbury, TAPA 108, ’78, 290f, esp. note 18 [lit.]), or limited to contract w. boys for homoerotic service (s. Wright, VigChr 38, ’84, 125–53).’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer (eds.), ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature’, p. 135 (3rd ed. 2000).
Hugenberger (a moderate egalitarian/soft complementarian), notes the view of Spencer (a strong egalitarian), that Paul’s prohibition on women speaking in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is time limited, a temporary prohibition until the women of the ecclesia have abandoned their heretical teaching:
‘In addition Spencer notes that rather than using the imperative mood or even an aorist or future indicative to express that prohibition, Paul quite significantly utilizes a present indicative, perhaps best rendered “But I am not presently allowing.”29 This temporary prohibition, then, is based solely on the regrettable similarity between the Ephesian women and Eve in that the women of Ephesus had been deceived and as such if allowed to teach would be in danger of promoting false doctrine.’
Hugenberger then explains why this suggestion is improbable:
‘As attractive as this interpretation appears, serious objections have been raised against it in recent years.
First of all, some caution may need to be exercised against an overly simplistic picture of the Jewish or Greek cultural background at times assumed for our passage.32 For example, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15) appear to have known the Scriptures better than might be inferred from the Jewish practice adduced by Spencer, although Spencer acknowledges the possibility that women could learn privately.
Most seriously, S. T. Foh has argued that the women of 1 Tim 2:9–15 do not appear to be one and the same as the false teachers elsewhere.
She notes that these women are treated in a radically different manner from the false teachers since they are urged to “continue in faith, love, holiness, and sobriety,” while the women mentioned in 2 Tim 3:6–7, for example, “can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
Moreover, as Foh points out, there is no Scriptural warrant for the underlying assumption that Eve taught Adam to eat the forbidden fruit.’
‘Finally, this view fails to explain why Paul stresses the temporal priority of Adam rather than merely mentioning Eve’s deception.’
Egalitarian Barron similarly exposes the weakness of this argument:
‘First, defenders of the traditional view have argued that Paul’s blanket statement, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” sounds universal.
If what he really meant was “I do not permit a woman to teach error,” and that he would have no objection to women teaching once they got their doctrine straight, why did he not say that? Kroeger received criticism even from a fellow egalitarian for failing to deal with this point.16 [original footnote reproduced in footnote  below]’
Indeed, Barron rightly notes that the argument is incompatible with the common egalitarian claim that women were teaching in the ecclesias because they were sufficiently educated and doctrinally sound:
‘And egalitarians are in no position to interpret Paul’s dictum as a temporary prohibition, needed until women could surmount cultural obstacles to education—not when, out of the other side of their mouths, these egalitarians are championing women (one of whom, Priscilla, labored in Ephesus) who did fulfill a teaching or leadership role in the NT.17
Not all women of Paul’s day were intellectually impoverished or hopelessly contaminated by pagan practices, yet Paul seems to prohibit all women from teaching in Ephesus.
The egalitarians seem forced into the implausible claim that no woman in the Ephesian church was sufficiently orthodox and educated to teach.’
Egalitarian Gordon Fee likewise dismisses the idea that the prohibition is temporary:
‘Despite protests to the contrary, the “rule” itself is expressed absolutely. That is, it is given without any form of qualification. Given the unqualified nature of the further prohibition that “the women”29 are not permitted to speak, it is very difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in public.’
So also egalitarians Soderlund and Wright:
‘I Timothy 2:11-12 thus remains as the one apparently clear case of Paul’s imposing a ban on women’s ministry.’
 Hugenberger, ‘Women In Church Office: Hermeneutics Or Exegesis? A Survey Of Approaches To 1 Tim 2:8-15’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (35.3.349), (September 1992).
 Ibid., p. 349.
 Ibid., p. 350.
 ‘16. Liefeld, “Response to Kroeger” 245’
 Barron (egalitarian), ‘Putting Women In Their Place: 1 Timothy 2 And Evangelical Views Of Women In Church Leadership ‘,Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (33.4.455), (December 1990).
 Ibid., pp. 455-456.
 Fee, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians’, p. 706 (1987).
 Soderlund & Wright, ‘Romans and the People of God’, p. 239 (1999).
As with Jewish society, 1st century Greco-Roman society contained a wide range of attitudes towards women, from the misogynist to the egalitarian.
From this socio-historical background, we know that private associations were free to decide on their own codes of conduct even if these breached social norms,  and that 1st century Christian women (whether Jews or Gentiles), would have had reasonable expectations of participating in the congregational worship as a result of their previous religious experiences.
Egalitarian scholars have noted this particular feature of Paul’s commandments, in the seven passages in which he gives commandments concerning the relationship of men and women in the ecclesia and the family using a formulated style.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16:
* Commandment: Women’s heads should be covered when praying and prophesying
* Reason: The woman is the glory of the man, woman came from man, woman was created for man, and because of the angels
* Mitigation: In the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman; just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, but all things come from God
1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
* Commandment: Women should be silent in the ecclesias, they are not permitted to speak
* Reason: Let them be in submission, as the Law says; it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church
* Mitigation: If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home
* Commandment: Wives, submit to your husbands
* Reason: The husband is the head of the wife
* Mitigation: Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them
* Commandment: Wives, submit to your husbands
* Reason: It is fitting in the Lord
* Mitigation: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the ecclesia
1 Timothy 2:8-15:
* Commandment: Women must learn in all submissiveness; I do not permit a woman to teach or to hold authority over a man, she must remain quiet
* Reason: Adam was formed first, and then Eve, and Adam was not deceived but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression
* Mitigation: She will be delivered through ‘childbearing’, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control
* Commandment: Wives are to be subject to their own husbands
* Reason: So that the message of God is not discredited
* Mitigation: [not explicit]
All these passages contain instructions concerning the role and relationship of women in the ecclesia and in the family which Paul knew would be seen by women themselves as placing limits on their participation in the ecclesia and placing them under the authority of their husbands, and which he sought to soften in some way as a result.
Four of these passages appeal explicitly to other passages of Scripture for support, and none are explained as a response to an existing local situation, nor justified as just a cultural accommodation.
 ‘But studies of Roman society have found a variety of indicators about the status of women, and what was true about women in the eastern part of the empire was not necessarily true about women in the western empire. On the one hand, there was the household headed by the husband/father/master, a hierarchical order-obedience structure that included those who were economically dependent. On the other hand, there were emancipatory ideas about women that allowed them greater freedom and economic independence (some were even the heads of households).’, Tanzer (egalitarian), ‘Eph 5:22-33 Wives (and Husbands) Exhorted’, in Meyers, Craven, & Kraemer, ‘Women in scripture: a dictionary of named and unnamed women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament‘, p. 481 (2001).
 ‘Whereas in the larger outside world, both Roman control and residual customs mitigated against mixing men and women, slave and free, foreign and religious practice; in the voluntary associations there was a lively atmosphere in which these mixes could be tried out and experienced without threat of larger social catastrophe or consequences.’, Nerney, & Taussig, ‘Re-imaging life together in America: a new gospel of community‘, p. 12 (2002).
 ‘a “mitigation,” “softening of the blow,” or “saving phrase” to make the statement, assertion, or command less offensive to women.’, Walker, (egalitarian) ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia, p. 106 (28.1983).
 ‘In 11:11–12, however, he backtracks lest the Corinthians become confused and think that he implies that women are inferior to men. He is not attempting to establish a gender hierarchy that places women in a subordinate role. Since he argues from hierarchy to make his case about head coverings, he needs to caution against any misapplication of what he says. Women and men are interdependent in the Lord.’, Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp. 508-509 (2003).
 ‘In other contexts, among some gentiles, Paul’s moral conservatism and reaffirmation of traditional roles for women would have appeared too confining (this appears to have been the case in Corinth).’, Witherington (egalitarian), ‘Women’, Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, volume 6, p. 959 (1996).
 ‘a. General Statement, Assertion, or Command (vv 8–12) I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent. b. Reason or Justification (vv 13–14) For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. c. Mitigation, Softening of the Blow, or Saving Phrase (v 15) Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.’’, Walker, (egalitarian) ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia, p. 197 (28.1983).
 ‘In some passages, the pattern becomes more complex, and, at times, it is not clear whether element “c” is present at all. Thus, the pattern of 1 Pet 3:1–6 is ‘a’ (v 1a), ‘b’ (vv 1b–2), ‘a’ (vv 3–4a), ‘b’ (vv 4b–6a), with v 6b either a continuation of ‘b’ or perhaps a very subtle form of ‘c.’ The pattern of 1 Cor 14:34–35 is ‘a’ (v 34a), ‘b’ (v 34b), ‘a’ (v 34c), ‘b’ (v 34d), ‘a’ or possibly a subtle form of ‘c’ (v 35a),16 ‘b’ (v 35b). In Titus 2:4–5, the pattern is a simple ‘a’ (vv 4–5a), ‘b’ (v 5b), with ‘c’ absent altogether. Three of the passages introduce a somewhat modified form of element ‘c’ with a command to husbands that they love their wives. Thus, Col 3:18–19 follows the simple pattern, ‘a’ (v 18a), ‘b’ (v 18b), ‘c’ (v 19), while Eph 5:22–33 has the more complex pattern, ‘a’ (v 22), ‘b’ (v 23), ‘a’ (v 24), ‘c’ (vv 25–33a), ‘a’ (v 33b); and 1 Pet 3:1–7 has the pattern, ‘a’ (v 1a), ‘b’ (vv 1b–2), ‘a’ (vv 3–4a), ‘b’ (vv 4b–6 or perhaps 4b–6a with 6b a very very subtle form of ‘c’), ‘c’ (v 7). The analysis of 1 Cor 11:3–16 is again complicated by the question of the unity of the passage.17 If it is a single unit, then the pattern is apparently ‘a’ (vv 3–6), ‘b’ (vv 7–10), ‘c’ (vv 11–12), ‘b’ (vv 13–16), although the distinctions are not as clear here as they are elsewhere. If, however, the passage is divided into three pericopes, as has been suggested, then the following patterns emerge: “Pericope A” follows the pattern, ‘a’ (v 3), ‘b’ (vv 8–9), ‘c’ (vv 11–12); “Pericope B” the pattern, ‘a’ (vv 4–6), ‘b’ (vv 7,10,13,16), with no ‘c’; and “Pericope C” consists almost entirely of element ‘b,’ with ‘a’ only implied and ‘c’ absent altogether.18’, ibid., p. 107.
 The precise meaning of the Greek word here is a matter of interpretation; the majority of commentators understand it as a figure of speech for the role of the woman as wife and mother, sometimes as ‘motherhood’, such as EDNT, ‘According to 1 Tim 2:15 in its interpretation of Gen 3:16, bearing children / motherhood is the special task of women, including according to v. 15b a life in faith (possibly a reference to the rearing of children in faith; cf. b. Ber. 17a): σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testamen’, volume 3, p. 340 (1990-c1993), and ANLEX, ‘bearing children, childbearing, motherhood (1T 2.15)’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller ‘Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, volume 4, p. 376 (2000); ‘The final interpretation may be termed “the majority view.” 44 This view would hold that Christian women are not saved through teaching and asserting authority, but by attention to their traditional role. “Childbearing” serves as a figure of speech to illustrate Paul’s argument that women need not behave as men but rather fulfill their divinely appointed role to find salvation.’, Moss (complementarian), ‘1, 2 Timothy & Titus’, The College Press NIV Commentary (1994).
 1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, 1 Peter 3:5-6.
 The commandment in Titus 2:5 for wives to submit to their husbands is justified here by ‘So that the message of God is not discredited’, but the same commandment is also accompanied by two additional reasons elsewhere; Ephesians 5:23, ‘The husband is the head of the wife’, Colossians 3:18, ‘It is fitting in the Lord’.
One error into which commentators may fall is to apply irrelevant background material to the text, ignoring or overlooking the criteria of ‘relevant proximity’, criteria which are used to identify whether or not a source is sufficiently close to the text being examined (chronologically, geographically, socio-culturally, and in terms of literary genre), to be relevant to its interpretation.
One very common form of this error is to use anachronistic sources, sources which do not belong to the time frame of the text being studied, and which are separated from the text by so many years as to be irrelevant to it.
In his book ‘Women in the Earliest Churches’ (1998), egalitarian commentator Ben Witherington III commits the error of using sources describing Greek women in 400 BC as if they were relevant to women in 1st century Judea, who lived more than 400 years later in a completely different time and place:
‘The first chapter is disappointing. The author rightly observes that “no study of women in the New Testament can be undertaken without looking at the larger historical context in which the events of NT history transpired” (p. 5). His chapter on “Women in first- century Mediterranean cultures”, however, deals with women in fifth century B.C. Athens and Sparta as if the chronological interval of four or five centuries does not count.’
Later Witherington commits the same error several times. He takes a quote from Herodotus about Macdonian women and quotes it as if it was relevant to Macedon 200 years later, then claims that this is relevant to the background of 1st century women in Philippi another 300 years later again:
‘The chapter abounds in major and minor errors. To give some examples: in the discussion of the prominence of women of the Macedonian dynasties during the Hellenistic period he quotes a passage from the work of Herodotus, who had died two centuries before, as evidence (p. 12 and note 65). Further, this favourable position of women within Macedonian royal families is taken to be representative for Macedonian women in general and is used as an argument to explain the existence of female cooperators in the propagation of the Gospel at Philippi in the days of the apostles (p. 112).’
Similarly, in attempting to describe 1st century women in Judea Witherington omits a large collection of relevant 1st century sources, relying on rabbinic literature written after the 1st century instead:
‘He relies almost exclusively on rabbinic literature, especially Mishnaic material which is most easily datable. He makes minimal use of non-literary texts (such as gravestones, government documents, or graffiti), art, or archeological remains, thereby excluding many recent discoveries which broaden the “traditional” view of women in the first century.’
Witherington’s selectivity with regard to sources is compounded by his appeal to out of date publications.
A typical error is using generalized background material to draw specific conclusions about individual passages:
‘Arnold rightly documents the pervasiveness of magic in Asia Minor during the period when Colossians was written. What is lacking, however, is any firm evidence that magic was actually the problem in the letter to the Colossians.
There is no reference in Colossians itself to magic, spells, invocations, conjurations, sorcery, etc.’
In this case a generalized background of magical practice was misread back into a text which made no specific reference to it. Specific passages should instead be used to identify specific background material relevant to the passage itself, to avoid reading irrelevant background material into the passage.
In another example of the same error, the worship of Artemis is assumed as the relevant background of 1 Timothy, despite the fact that the entire letter makes absolutely no reference to it whatsoever.
On the basis of a couple of references to very general sins, an entire argument is built that 1 Timothy is warning of the dangerous influence on the ecclesia of an ‘Artemis cult’.
This kind of selective treatment of the historical evidence is extremely bad historical analysis, and results in completely inaccurate interpretations of the text. Drawing specific conclusions on the meaning of the text from such vague generalizations as ‘sexual impurity’ and ‘greed’ is invalid.
Witherington’s reliance on post-1st century rabbinic data results in him treating 1st century Judaism as if all Jewish groups held the same views on women, when in fact a wide variety of views were held. 
Neglecting both the criteria of genre and chronology, Witherington treats various theological expositions, opinions, and diatribes of the post-1st century rabbis, as accurate historical descriptions:
‘Witherington also makes no distinction between reality and what may be the opinions, theological interpretations, and polemics of the rabbis. Instead of meeting its goal, what this chapter provides is a summary of the rabbinic ideal for women and their role in society.’
Adding to these mistakes, Witherington makes historical errors with regard to dates, uncritically reads one source as literal,and mistakes a literary character with a real woman, another example of lack of attention to genre. Witherington also misuses his sources by projecting his own values onto them.
 de Blois & Hemelrijk, Review of Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington III’, Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, p. 279 (45.2.1992).
 Ibid, p. 279-280.
 De George, ‘Reviewed of Women in the Ministry of Jesus: A Study of Jesus’ Attitudes to Women and Their Roles as Reflected in His Earthly Life by Ben Witherington III’, Journal of Biblical Literature, p. 275 (105.4. 1986).
 ‘Moreover, he cites publications that are outdated, and bases his opinions on a small number of texts which he uses without any regard to their context.’, de Blois & Hemelrijk, Review of Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington III’, Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, p. 279 (45.2.1992).
 Schreiner (complementarian), ‘Interpreting the Pauline Epistles’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, p. 9 (3.1999).
 ‘Many religious movements vied for the attention of the populace in the first century. We need primary evidence from the letter itself to establish a particular religious influence in the letter under consideration.’, ibid., p. 9.
 ‘Sharon Hodgin Gritz falls prey to the same error in her analysis of 1 Timothy when she posits the influence of the mother goddess Artemis cult.15 Certainly such a cult functioned in Ephesus, but Hodgin Gritz fails to show that the cult lies behind the situation in 1 Timothy.’, ibid., p. 9.
 ‘To see a connection with the Artemis cult on the basis of sexual impurity (1 Tim 5:11-14) and greed (1 Tim 6:3-5) is unpersuasive, for these sins, as we all know, may emerge in almost any religious movement.16′, ibid., p. 9.
 ‘Hodgin Gritz does not explain adequately how myths and genealogies (1 Tim 1:3-4), devotion to the Mosaic law (1 Tim 1:8-11), asceticism (1 Tim 4:1-3), and knowledge (1 Tim 6:20-21) relate to the Artemis cult. The features of the Artemis cult appear to be superimposed upon the contents of 1 Timothy.’, ibid., p. 9.
 ‘While rightly holding that there is no monolithic rabbinic Judaism at this time, he nevertheless treats first-century Judaism as a fairly uniform system. He concludes that, concerning women, “a negative assessment was predominant among the rabbis” (p. 10). No attempt is made to separate out the position of women held by different Jewish sects.’, De George, ‘Reviewed of Women in the Ministry of Jesus: A Study of Jesus’ Attitudes to Women and Their Roles as Reflected in His Earthly Life by Ben Witherington III’, Journal of Biblical Literature, p.275 (105.4.1986).
 Ibid., p. 725.
 ‘He takes Diodorus’ remarks about female dominance in Egypt literally (p. 14), whereas it more probably is part of a widespread Greek topos of Egypt as a world in reverse2).’, de Blois & Hemelrijk, Review of Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington III’, Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, pp. 279-280 (45.2.1992); a ‘topos’ in this context is a literary theme which reccurs in texts over time, a standardized ‘theme’ or narrative structure, such as the ‘three sons’ who reccur in the fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and many other fairy tales (the oldest two sons are typically vain, proud, or ignorant and fail as a result, while the youngest is kind, well-mannered, and fortunate and thus succeeds).
 ‘Some minor errors: Thucydides did not live in about 400 B.C. (p. 6), he died probably around that date, Diotima (p. 7 and note 18) was no historical woman, but a literary fiction (Plato, Symp. 201 D). Sempronia was not the wife of Catilina (written as Catalina) (p. 18) and the Bacchanalia were not introduced, but suppressed in 186 B.C. (p. 20)*).’, ibid., p. 280.
 ‘On p. 14 he regards the Egyptian goddess Isis as “the patron saint of Egyptian’s women’s movement”, an anachronistic and misleading point of view. She was a mother goddess1).’, ibid., p. 279.
Egalitarians sometimes claim that the Greek words γυνή and άνήρ in 1 Corinthians 11 refer to wives (γυνή), and husbands (άνήρ).
The scholarly consensus is against the reading ‘husband and wife’ in 1 Corinthians 11:
‘A few commentators defend husband, but the overwhelming majority of writers convincingly argue that the issue concerns gender relations as a whole, not simply those within the more restricted family circle.’
The majority of lexicons, commentaries, and translations understand the relation referred to as man/woman, rather than husband/wife:
‘a. γυνή (LN 9.34, 10.54) (BAGD 1. p. 168): ‘woman’ [AB, BAGD, Herm, HNTC, ICC, LN (9.34), Lns, NIGTC, NTC; all versions except NRSV, TEV], ‘his wife’ [NRSV, TEV], ‘wife’ [LN (10.54)].
b. ἀνήρ (LN 9.24, 10.53) (BAGD 1. p. 66): ‘man’ [AB, BAGD, Herm, HNTC, LN (9.24), Lns, NIGTC, NTC; CEV, ISV, KJV, NET, NIV, NJB, REB, TNT], ‘husband’ [ICC, LN (10.53); NAB, NLT, NRSV, TEV].
QUESTION—What is meant by γυνή ‘woman/wife’ and άνήρ ‘man/husband’?
1. The relationship between woman and man in general is in focus here [AB, Herm, Lns, MNTC, NIC, NIC2, TG, TNTC, Vn]: the head of woman is man. Marriage is not in focus, but the makeup of a community and the nature of man and woman as such [Herm]. The relation of man and woman in the Christian assembly is being referred to here, not marriage [Vn]. Unmarried women should cover their heads also [TNTC].
2. The relationship between wife and husband is in focus [Gdt, ICC, NTC, TH; NAB, NLT, NRSV, TEV]: the head of a wife is her husband.’
‘In order to keep the implications of Paul’s argument clear, it is crucial to translate the pairing man/woman (ἀνήρ/γυνή, anēr/gynē) consistently in this particular rhetorical section.
Accordingly, not only is it poor translation technique, but it also confuses the historical issues at Corinth to vacillate between man-woman and husband-wife in this section, or to interpret this section through the situation addressed in Eph 5:21ff where marriage is clearly meant.’
‘This use of head does not likely refer metaphorically to the woman’s husband as Kistemaker25 and Gill26 believe since in this section anēr refers to man and not to a husband.’
Thus ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are in the majority of standard translations; CEV, HCSB, ISV, NASB95, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, TLB, and TNIV. The ESV, GNT/TEV, Message, and NAB have ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in verse 3, but translate ‘man’ and ‘woman’ throughout the rest of the passage (the ESV and Message also have ‘wife’ in verses 5 and 6).
How Do We Tell?
‘1. Genitive case constructions, “of”.
Greek words decline. gyne – woman, gynaikos, woman-of
This is the most simple, since a genitive case, by definition, indicates possession.
* Spanish : “Sara, la mujer de Abraham”
* “Woman of [genitive] one man” (in the widow’s welfare list qualifications)
* “Man of [genitive] one woman” (μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες, in the elders’ and deacons’ qualifications)
- 2. Marking with possessive pronouns, “her” “his” “thy” “your” “their”.
Matt 1:20 Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy woman. ~ Matt 1:20 Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy woman:
* Greek : Mariam ten gunaika sou – Μαριὰμ τὴν γυναῖκά σου –
* Spanish : María tu mujer – Mary thy woman
* this example has been chosen to show that the same works with what we would call ‘fiancée’ or ‘wife to be’
* Greek 5:24 αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν
- 3. Marking with the reflexive possive, ‘eautos, of self, of him/herself.
This can be attached to either “women” or to “men” (only one idios, own is enough for both). Eph 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the women [=wives] be to their own men [=husbands] in every thing.
4. Contextual marking.
Contextual marking is the most difficult. And the default position should be that if there is no clear and demonstrable contextual marking then “woman” “man” as gender categories is meant.
For example in 1Tim 3:11 “Even so must the women be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” there is no marker so the default position here should be that “women” means “women” (Spanish las mujeres) not “wives” (Spanish sus mujeres)
* However in this particular example most English versions still translate “wives” because of a series of contextual markers:
(i.) 1Ti 3:8 the deacons be grave… 11 the women be grave = duplication of the adjective “grave”.
(ii.) 1Ti 3:11 the women in the same way [wsautws ὡσαύτως] = use of “in the same way” indicating a comparative connection to deacons.
(iii) 3:12a Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, = a genitive construction.
(iv.) 3:12b ruling children [no “their own”] children and their own [idios] houses well = a possessive adjective applied to house (oikos i.e. family)
(v.) common sense = beyond these rules a certain amount of common sense also comes into play. For example even if “children” did not have “own house” following, it would still be clear that a deacon does not rule all children.
But then also ‘common sense’ can be wrong – in another context it might be talking about the Sunday School Superintendent where it’s clear he does not only rule his own, idios, children.
So, basically, if the ESV committee (or another responsible mainstream Bible) puts “wife” or “woman”, “man” or “husband”, it’s not by any means a random decision, it also probably isn’t a matter of opinion.
In the vast majority of cases it’s clear cut according to the 5 syntax rules above, and all versions agree. There may be one or two places in the NT where it is debatable.’