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Priscilla Papers

Thomas Jefferson. Napoléon Bonaparte. Ludwig van Beethoven. Jane Austin. Darwin and Dickens. Wordsworth and Whitman. Lincoln and Lee. Crazy Horse and Custer. Karl and Groucho. By now you have discerned the topic—the nineteenth century. The War of 1812. The American Civil War. The Crimean War. The Industrial Revolution. The Victorian Era. The Gilded Age. First-Wave Feminism. The list could go on indefinitely. Sacagawea. Marie Curie. Clara Barton. Adoniram and Ann Judson. Indeed, someone should write a nineteenth-century companion to Billy Joel’s rapid-fire summary of the twentieth century, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Read more
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, Alvera Mickelsen was welcomed into the loving arms of Jesus. Our beloved leader, mentor, mother, and friend died at the age of ninety-seven. A founder of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), she was CBE’s first board chair in 1987, worked with grassroots CBE chapters, and served for years as a CBE board member. She authored accessible books that remain bestsellers not only in CBE’s community, but around the world. Read more
Since the beginning of the feminist movement over a century ago, historians have debated the role religion played in the lives of the great British women’s rights leaders. Olive Anderson dismissed any agency religious experience gave to these women, contending that it “contributed nothing to the spread of feminist ideas.” Gail Malmgreen described their spirituality as a “central paradox” that historians struggle to keep in context while discussing their subjects’ lives and work. She went on to point out that religion is a neglected part of feminist history, yet historically there is a direct connection between faith and political activism within the feminist movement. In response to these works and others, Helen Mathers made a simple yet profound point: many of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century feminist leaders were devout Christians who drew upon faith as their main source of inspiration and strength, so a study of their beliefs is crucial to understanding their lives. Josephine Butler was one of these leaders. Read more
Alexander Campbell is arguably the most influential leader in the history of the American Restoration Movement, which emerged from the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century and sought to reunite Christians by rejecting human creeds, breaking ties with denominations, and rediscovering the essential core Christian beliefs and practices in the Bible alone. Some four million people in a handful of Christian groups today find roots in this movement, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, the a capella Churches of Christ, and the International Churches of Christ. The earliest major document in this movement was the “Declaration and Address,” written by Alexander’s father, Thomas Campbell. In that work the senior Campbell denounced denominationalism as a great evil which divides the body of Christ. In 1832, the group led by the Campbells merged with a similar movement in Kentucky that began under the leadership of an American-born Presbyterian named Barton W. Stone. Thus the terms Restoration Movement and Stone-Campbell Movement have come to be used interchangeably. Read more
When the first American missionaries prepared to leave the shores of New England in 1812, Jonathan Allen, a respected minister of the gospel, delivered an exhortation to the women of the company. Speaking to them directly, he reminded the women that they were “now engaged in the best of causes,” specifically, the delivery of women in foreign lands from oppression. Allen proclaimed the call for American women to “enlighten” the minds of their foreign sisters and to “raise their character.” The American women were to “bring them from their cloisters” so that these subjugated foreign women might “enjoy the privileges of the children of God.” Ultimately, the work of American women in missions would teach women in the non-Western world that “they are not an inferior race of creatures; but stand upon a par with men.”   Read more
Sometimes reading the Bible is a walk in the park. Just as often, however, the Bible presents us with difficult terrain. To expand this metaphor, understanding some texts is like a 5K run. Others are like a 10K. Still others are more like a marathon. Everyone, from the ancient courier Pheidippides to the modern marathon record holder (currently Dennis Kimetto of Kenya), would agree that a marathon is a formidable test of strength and endurance, both physical and mental. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people complete marathons each year, and like Bible interpreters, some finish with flying colors and others limp across the finish line. Going beyond the image of a marathon of interpretation, a few biblical texts, including some that teach about women, are like an ultramarathon—a course that is arduous even for the most competent biblical scholar. Read more
While it is now generally agreed that 1 Tim 2:8–15 is directed against the heresy that had taken hold within the Ephesian church, the key question is whether the passage is directed against the content of the heresy or is concerned to establish a process that will eventually see the victims corrected and the heresy expunged. If concerned with the content of the heresy, the instructions may be directed at restoring a hierarchical framework. If the passage is concerned with process, however, Paul’s demands are shaped by the particular nature of the heresy and its form of transmission in Ephesus. Read more
For better or worse, 2016 is another year for a United States presidential election. Beyond featuring the ever-increasing polarization in American politics, the election year also highlights how politicians will do just about anything to present themselves as the best candidate. One of the more common rhetorical appeals during election season is the appeal to the founding fathers. For example, Marco Rubio, formerly a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, when asked what limits he would place around the second amendment, said the following: “As few as possible. The Second Amendment, as I’ve said before, is not a suggestion. It is the constitutional right of every American to protect themselves and their families. . . . It is right after the defense of the freedom of speech for a reason, for clearly the founders of our nation understood and the framers of the Constitution understood that you cannot have life and you cannot have liberty and cannot pursue happiness if you are not safe.” Read more
First Timothy 2:12 has played a defining role in the Christian debate about the role of women in ministry, especially in American evangelicalism. The text appears to forbid some kind of behavior involving women teaching men. For that reason, exegetical studies about this verse have been numerous and exhaustive. Read more
Before we get too far into this sermon, I need to say one thing: my brother had it coming. So none of this is my fault. Well, not entirely my fault. It might be his fault. Or my parents’ fault, even, for the whole thing started because they had the audacity to sell their house. The one we had was fine. I had my own space there, away from my brothers—a nice reading spot, a shelf full of books, and plenty of room for my favorite pastime: minding my own business. Read more

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