This book came to be written for a number of reasons.

In our Christadelphian community the part played by sisters has varied considerably. In almost all ecclesias sisters exercise the same authority as brothers when they vote for ecclesial offices. In some ecclesias sisters are forbidden to take part in any formal discussion; in others they give Bible Class addresses and have done so from the beginning of last century; in most they are not allowed to contribute vocally at Breaking of Bread meetings except in singing.

From time to time those who favour a wider participation by sisters are criticised on the grounds that this is contrary to Scripture. Over the years various articles on the subject have been produced, many arguing that sisters should remain silent in ecclesial meetings. Some of these have been sent to us with the request that we study them carefully. In addition we have examined the Bible in detail for ourselves, as well as commentaries, articles in religious journals, and books on the subject.

It is sometimes stated that the desire for participation by sisters arises from modern feminist arguments. Feminist writers in the world accuse the Bible and particularly the apostle Paul of being anti-women. By contrast, writing from a Biblical position, not a feminist one, we consider that a proper analysis of the Bible and of the apostle Paul’s writings presents a very positive approach to the involvement of women.

In this book we seek to examine the issues fairly, to be faithful to the Bible as the Word of God, and to explain what we consequently believe to be the correct Biblical application. The conclusion we reach is not based on feminist arguments but on direct Biblical exposition.

We are indebted to a large number of people who have commented on previous versions of this exposition. We have benefited from helpful suggestions from those who agree with us, and from the critical analysis of those who do not share our viewpoint. This updated version takes account of the comments we have received in 2007-2008; we have added considerably more material, and have tried to clarify our exposition where some points have been misunderstood. We continue to welcome constructive criticism of anything we write, and will be happy to correct anything which can be demonstrated to be in error. It is hoped that the analysis produced here will encourage others to discuss the subject in depth, to seek to study anew what the Scriptures have to say, and to be faithful to the Bible by putting into practice the conclusions reached.

Averil & Ian McHaffie


Abbreviations and Acknowledgements

RSV   = Revised Standard Version          NRSV             = New Revised Standard Version

GNB  = Good News Bible                       REB    = Revised English Bible

KJV   = King James Version                    NIV     = New International Version

NEB = New English Bible                      NKJV  = New King James Version


We have usually included the Bible texts on which our reasoning is based rather than simply quoting the reference. This is to help readers to check whether we have analysed the text correctly.

Ancient authors have also been quoted extensively because it is not always easy to obtain access to these writers, whether in the original text or in translation. This book makes information available which is relevant to the context of the New Testament but is generally unknown. References are given so that the wider contexts of these quotations can be examined.

From time to time we have given Greek or Hebrew words, transliterated into English. This is for the sake of comparison and because there are various possibilities of translation and interpretation.

We all depend on others for translation of the Bible from Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) into English. Translation is not straightforward; words have different meanings according to context, and translations are influenced by the background and understanding of the translators and commentators. It is important, therefore, never to rely on just one translation or on one commentator.

A few sources are given in the footnotes for those who wish to read in further detail. These discuss the text, the background, the meaning and the use of the original words. We are grateful to all the writers we have consulted and from whose works we have quoted and drawn ideas and suggestions.

Since we first wrote this material in the early 1990s, the internet has become widely available. This enables everyone to check the current state of debate about the meaning of words, and the interpretations of passages. Many ancient sources are now online, both in the original text and in translation. Many websites also enable the reader to observe the bias from which various people approach the issues.

This material is available online in Microsoft Word, and as a PDF document.

Quotations are generally from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1946, 1952, 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission.

Scriptures quoted from the Good News Bible published by The Bible Societies/HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., UK, © American Bible Society, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.

In addition, acknowledgements are gladly made to The On-Line Bible which has also been used in researching and preparing the text, and more recently to Oremus Bible Browser and Bible



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