Posts tagged " male-female roles "

Should women be preaching?

December 25th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

My question is very frequently asked in Christian circles and the answer is split. I must know what your response would be. 

The question is very simple. Are women allowed to pastor and preach? Yes or No? Please explain in detail and reference from verses. I appreciate all of your work. I look forward to your response!


Dear Anthony,

We hope you enjoyed anticipating  our response because we are pretty sure you are not going to enjoy our answer. 

If you have followed our teachings for a while, you will know that while we treasure Scripture, we find simplistically seeking substantiating verses to be rather meaningless. Partially this is because one can easily find many seemingly incompatible verses that appear to contradict one another. That is why we peruse and base our answers upon the  ancient Jewish wisdom on the Bible that has been handed down for thousands of years rather than doing no more than simply reading the words themselves. So, as to your last demand, we can probably find verses making the case both for and against women pastoring and preaching, but they wouldn’t be so helpful.  

We also cannot answer with a clear-cut yes or no. How simple life would be if we could tackle life’s challenges in that way! We can answer only very few  questions with no more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and none of life’s most challenging and most important questions fall into that category. 

Our transmission of wisdom through the ages, from the Garden of Eden until the present, reveals  that a vital part of God’s plan includes a clear distinction between men and women and a partnership between the two called marriage. As such, we don’t dismiss concerns about women pastoring and preaching as automatically misogynistic, out-of-touch with reality or ridiculous.  We aren’t surprised that attempts at social engineering and forcing people to treat men and women as identical have failed so conspicuously. Notably for the question you raise, when women take over roles in churches or synagogues, men frequently become less involved. We don’t see this exodus of men as proof that they have not been socialized and trained properly to respect women but rather as a consequence of a deeply embedded and immutable part of human nature.  

At the same time, God created people to be dynamic rather than fossilized. As societies evolve, certain things do change. For example, there was a time when it was sufficient for boys to receive only the education that allowed them to follow in the same life work as their fathers. The Industrial Revolution among other advances necessitated thinking outside those boundaries. Similarly, lessons about girls’ education from the 1400s do not provide helpful  examples for us to follow.  

We should note that the only question we’re examining concerns  women pastoring and preaching to men. The idea of women teaching other women is relayed by ancient Jewish wisdom as far back as the matriarch Sarah, continues expressly through Miriam the prophetess and has always been a vital part of the community.  

When it comes to women teaching men, it is imperative to ask whether or not this is in line with God’s wishes. However, the answers will vary according to time and place. Just as taking the life of another human being is both forbidden and demanded depending on the circumstances, what public function women serve does depend on circumstances. We can only choose to do our best to understand God’s wishes and to choose a faith community that, as we understand it, aligns with those wishes. You must do the same. There is nothing that you or I can say or any verses we can find that will unequivocally prove that we are either right or wrong. Often, that becomes clear over time, but we need to live our lives today. 

We personally know of female faith leaders in both Judaism and Christianity who have done and continue to do amazing public work in the community, teaching both men and women.  This evidence does not necessarily make it right for everyone, every community or every situation. Sometimes things are right in exceptional circumstances that would not be correct in all circumstances. We  advise you to establish for yourself a relationship with a faith leader whose spiritual judgment you feel comfortable following.  

Sorry to disappoint you, 

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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