It was the second –century Rabbi Judah Ben Ilai who once expressed his gratitude to God that he is not a woman. The Rabbi could count many reasons why he was grateful he was born as a male and not a female.
It was very common amongst the Jewish Theologians to talk about the flawed nature of women. They believed women had limited capacities that became a stumbling block for them to respond to their call to ministry, to pursue theological training and take up leadership positions.
This may have been a very true statement then, as the formal education of the Jewish girls stopped at the age of twelve. At this age, the Jewish girls are ready for marriage. It is at this point in their lives that their education stopped and the boys get very serious about their education. Jewish girls were also expected to excel in the home environment as opposed to the public environment.
It is against this background that Jewish men concluded that women do not have skills to perform in various leadership roles. Even at this day and age, there are men who still think women do not qualify to take up leadership positions. It does not matter how many degrees they have collected. For the fact that she is a woman, she is flawed and cannot be allowed to lead.
I want to believe that, to a certain extent, Rabbi Judah felt for women. He was most likely aware of how unfairly women were treated. He probably identified potential in some of them even though they stopped their education at an early age. Sometimes potential does not depend on education. Certain people are gifted. You can actually ask yourself, how good and powerful would they be if they could get the education.
The big question is, Why not women?
- Can she teach an adult Sunday school class?
- Can she serve as a leader in the church?
- Can she chair a church board?
- Can she serve Holy Communion?
Churches that are still prohibiting women from resuming leadership positions are informed by one or two scriptures in the New Testament. The one scripture seem to prohibit women from public speaking and the other one from teaching men.
I have noted with interest that in the book of Ephesians 4: 11 -12, Paul list the main ministries which Jesus Christ has given to the church. Paul Writes:
It was he who gave some to be Apostles, some Pastors, Some teachers, some prophets and some evangelists. In Greek, we find no hint in these verses or in the verses that speak about spiritual gifts (including those of leadership and teaching), that it applies more to men than women. Every New Testament verse that speaks about spiritual gifts, manifestations or ministries is completely free of gender bias.
Peter quoted from Prophet Joel in Acts 2:17-18 saying God will pour out his spirit upon ALL flesh (female and male ministers), Your SONS and DAUGHTERS shall prophesy. Once again there is absolutely no gender bias in the way that God operates. He pours the spirit upon ALL flesh. The students of English will agree with me that ALL is inclusive of everything or everybody.
We meet many women leaders in the Bible. Both the new and old testament has recorded these women leaders. Paul recognized those who worked with him as his co-workers/co-laborers in Christ.
Dr. Myles Munroe argues that, “We are ALL capable of leadership by design”! He continues to say, we cannot lead effectively and correctly unless we are led by the spirit! Just like the automobile that was created to operate on gasoline, if it is not fitted with the necessary source of energy supply, it is unable to perform its purpose says Munroe. So, if we are led by the spirit we can be able to lead!
Genesis 1:26 – 28 – Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that moves along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, MALE and FEMALE he created them. God blessed THEM and said to THEM, RULE OVER EVERY LIVING CREATURE!
What is the essence of this verse? According to God, he gave all of us the capacity to lead. He did not give to men only. Notice the latter part of the verse (God blessed them and said to them rule over every living creature).
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