Question:

If there is such a thing as a “smell” test, I think the “Amen” at least invokes a whiff. If you accept that a woman can randomly and audibly say “Amen” (meaning "I agree" or "I concur"), why could she not randomly and audibly say “No!” meaning "I don’t agree?"

Answer:

There is a difference between being one voice among many and expressing yourself individually. Using your same test, do we conclude that women should not sing at all if they are not allowed to randomly burst out in solo song during the worship service?

In the examples where we find women saying "amen," we see:

  • In Numbers 5:19-22, a woman is to respond with "Amen, amen" in agreement with the terms of a curse if she had been cheating on her husband.
  • When Moses read the curses of the Law in Deuteronomy 27, all the people, including the women, were to say "amen" to indicate their agreement and acceptance of the conditions.
  • When the ark was brought to Jerusalem, both men and women gathered to worship (I Chronicles 16:3). After David's praise of God, "all the people said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD" (I Chronicles 16:36).
  • A similar joint "amen" was given by all the people in Nehemiah 5:13 when Nehemiah laid out rules for the people to follow.
  • As the law was read once again, "And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground" (Nehemiah 8:6).

Thus, we see that under the Old Law, women did say "amen" during worship, but it was at times when everyone else was also saying "amen." Such situations were not assertions of authority. Even in the case where a woman was required to reply to the priest in Numbers 5:19-22, this was not an assertion of authority.

Paul said, "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says" (I Corinthians 14:34). Thus, we are directed to look at the Old Law as an example in this matter.

Agreeing with a speaker does not indicate the person agreeing is taking on authority. The speaker is still responsible for what he says. But when a person disagrees with a speaker, then the dissenter is claiming greater authority than the speaker. "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" (I Timothy 2:11).

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