WLBA 5: the context
There are certainly different ways to interpret the following verses with respect to the role of women. I read these verses Rom. 16:1,2 and 7 along with 1 Cor. 11:10, 1 Tim. 2:12 and Eph. 5:21-33, and understand them as follows.
First, in the greater context women are servants of the church, hold many of the same offices men hold, are coworkers and help men out from their own resources and position. This is consistent with the role of women in Acts and the other epistles where women are leaders in their society, they host housechurches, and they bring their households to faith, they are prophets and apostles. People are addressed as singles, married couples, two women, two men and in groups.
From Eph. 5 we learn that a husband and wife are in a sacrifice - submission relationship. This is consistent with the physiological constraints placed on women through childbearing. Women are closely tied to the children and sacrifice physically for them. They are typically at this time physically and financially dependent on someone else for support, usually the father of the children. During the childbearing years, the husband and wife are in a provider-dependent relationship, just as the church is with Christ. The dependent should respect the provider and the provider must recognise the dependent, the wife, as being one with himself as the mother of his children. This is the only interpretation that "head" suggests to me.
In 1 Cor. 11:10 it is likely that women were expected to wear a head covering as was usual at the time. A head covering is symbolic of many different things and does not have a consistent and universal significance. Hence the queen may wear a hat for whatever reason she wishes. If a woman wore a veil it established her status in society. It is linguistically possible that εχουσια meant a symbol of authority such as a crown. There is, however, no evidence that the expression "having authority" ever meant to "have a symbol of being under authority." Although context may suggest which of two or three possible interpretations one should choose, it does not justify choosing a linguistically impossible interpretation.
Finally, 1 Tim. 2:12 does not mention "authority" as we understand it. It clearly says that a woman may not set herself up as an 'independent authority'. It is probably best to avoid using the word "authority" altogether and go with something like "dominate" as Jerome did.
Nowhere in any of these verses is it written that men have God-given authority over women. Neither does it say that a husband has the right to make decisions for his wife. Nor does it say that a husband is doing his wife a favour by making decisions for her. And yet this was recently preached and posted on the internet.
There was also a recent post by a woman who declared that she had decided to wear a hat to church from now on. This was praised by a man who declared that in his church women don't teach or exercise authority over men. In his church it is taught that in marriage women get to submit and men lay down their lives. He went on, positing the basic male - female dyad as one of godly authority and feminine embrace of submission.
But is the basic male - female dyad one of authority and submission in the scriptures, rather than one sacrifice and submission, love and respect? And is this dyad applicable to men and women regardless of whether they are married or not? Should an unmarried woman symbolize her submission to male authority?
On the other hand, if the dyad is one of sacrifice and submission, understood uniquely within a marriage, this then serves as a metaphor for understanding Christ and the church. It is not, however, a universal model for how men and women interact.
The scriptures are certainly using marriage and male and female differences to teach us something about God. But what they don't do is teach that all men and women are in a universal and permanent authority-submission relationship. It should not be a govenrment - citizen situation where all the men set up rules for all the women. And should marriage be defined as a ruler - subject relationship in any case?
I was shocked recently to read in an interview of an single adult Christian female that she sought "spriritual covering and protection" from Christian males. I find each and every suggestion that women are in a different relationship to men in the church than men are to men, to be highly sexualized and offensive. It is dangerous for women to seek authority, approval, protection and "covering" from men outside of either family relationships or professional capacity. Women can find what they need from other women. A woman can find a female lawyer, counsellor, and mentor, she doesn't need to think of men as necessary to her spritiual self-esteem, the authority in her life.
When will those who preach this nonsense wake up and realize that the Bible strictly teaches men and women to treat each other as siblings? This means treating each other as equals, not setting up boundaries and restrictions and lists for one class of humans, and certainly not teaching that being in submission to male leadership is going to further a woman's redemption!
Teenage girls need to be protected from this kind of teaching. It is an unmitigated evil in the Christian community that young females are not taught and modeled that they should resist the need for male sanction.
The verses relating to women should not serve as proof texts for male advantage, but be read within the context of the chapters and books in which they occur and in accordance with the narrative passages in scripture. Let's read what these verses say rather than what some translator wants us to think that they say.Just in case you are wondering - what you see on this blog is the tip of an iceberg. Women write to me more than they comment. I read the blogs of other women, and they read what I am writing here. I listen to women and read books by women. A lot of what goes on in my posts on women is inspired by real women and written for real women.
At least I know that you know that I never suggest that men and women are the same.
Update: Dr. Mariottini blogs about pornography. I share his heartfelt concerns. I also experience any objectification of woman in the church as a form of pornography. The more men engage with women as equals the less they will treat them as objects. Putting women under male authority or male power is a form of evil.
If women feel they need to wear a head covering to ward off the lust of the angels that is fine with me, but to signal submission to male power in a blanket fashion encourages the wrong ideals.