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Priscilla Papers

In February of 2007, I attended CBE’s conference in Bangalore, India. The day after the conference, Mimi Haddad and I, together with a few other conference attendees, went out to explore the city. At the entrance to an indoor marketplace, an Indian woman—apparently a beggar—gestured to me in a manner I did not understand. She was seated on the ground, pointing upward with an open hand. Assuming she wanted money, I began fishing in my pockets for rupees. She perceived what I was doing, closed her hand, and pointed more vigorously. After a few awkward moments, I realized she was pointing at pigeons overhead. Then, when she knew I had seen the pigeons, she pointed at their droppings on the pavement. She wasn’t asking for my help; she was giving me a warning! Read more
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil 4:2–3 NRSV) Read more
There has been, and continues to be, a great deal of confusion, consternation, and perhaps grief, over the meaning of the Greek word kephalē (“head”) in the NT. Some claim that the word means “source”; others claim that it means “authority over”; still others have different ideas regarding the meaning of this Greek word. A great deal of ink has been spilled defending this or that position while attacking the others, yet the debate continues. There are many issues related to the understanding of words in general (semantics), and to kephalē in particular, that have either been ignored, downplayed, or misconstrued by various proponents of the meaning of kephalē in the NT. Essentially, traditionalists argue that kephalē means “authority over” whereas egalitarians argue that the meaning of this Greek word is “source.” Authors on both sides of this debate have committed errors in the form of arguments used, in the method of semantic analysis, as well as in the citation of their primary Greek sources. In this article, I will review some general principles of semantic analysis and some other related background issues which bear on the meaning of kephalē in the NT. I will also discuss how the Septuagint (the translation of the Hebrew OT into Greek in the third to second centuries BC) and some other Greek authors (notably Plato, Plutarch, and Philo) have been misappropriated in the discussion of kephalē. Because there are so many various passages in Greek literature which have been invoked as “proof” for this or that side in the debate, I cannot possibly review them all. Rather, I have selected only certain passages for discussion in order to illustrate the points I wish to make. Read more
A common theme in biblical narrative and prophetic literature is that God aligns with those whom Walter Brueggemann calls the “dispossessed, that is, those denied land, denied power, denied place or voice in history.” The dispossessed can also be defined as those who do not receive an inheritance, or who do not receive an inheritance unless someone else acts on their behalf. Thus, in an ironic twist, God ensures that it is the dispossessed who become the heirs, the meek who inherit the earth (cf. Matt 5:5). Read more
This issue of Priscilla Papers begins the journal’s thirtieth year! The first issue, winter of 1987, opened with an article by Kari Torjesen Malcolm. Additional authors included Alvera Mickelsen and Catherine Clark Kroeger, CBE’s founding president. Other early leaders of CBE included James Alsdurf, James Beck, Gilbert Bilezikian, Diane Chynoweth, Betty Elliott, W. Ward Gasque, Stan Gundry, Ruth Hall, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Richard Kroeger, Deborah Olsoe Lunde, Jo Anne Lyon, Faith Martin, Alice Mathews, Susan McCoubrie, Dorothy Meyer, Berkeley Mickelsen, Roger Nicole, Nancy Graf Peters, and Betty Shunk. Disturbed by the shallow biblical premise used to exclude the gifts of women, such leaders determined that a national organization was needed to promote biblical equality. Thus CBE was established on January 2, 1988, about a year after Priscilla Papers first went to press. Read more
Dowry, or bride-wealth payment, is a widespread practice in many African societies. In traditional African societies bride-wealth had some positive aspects but mostly negative consequences, for it stands at the foundation of patriarchy. In traditional African societies, bride-wealth was related to goods and services that a bridegroom and his kinsmen transferred to the family of the bride. Traditionally, this transfer involved the delivery of livestock by a suitor to the father or family of his prospective bride Read more
This article is a philosophical reflection on dowry and how it bears on burial disputes among the Luo people of East Africa. Part one offers preliminary remarks to convey my position on dowry. Part two describes the implications of dowry on the burial dispute of a Luo woman named Veronica, as a way of illustrating the far-reaching effects of the dowry system. I have utilized Bernard Lonergan’s Transcendental Method in my thought process about dowry. This method is derived from Lonergan’s cognitional theory—experiencing, understanding my experience, judging the understanding of my experience, willingness to act informed by the judgment of the understanding of my experience, and finally leading to intellectual, moral, and religious conversion. In our efforts to raise consciousness about dowry, we can transpose the method into an invitation to engage in the following five imperatives: be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be willing, and be loving in our discourse on dowry and its long term implications. Read more
Dismayed and confused by constant concerns about safety for girls and exclusion of women from church leadership, Faith Martin began a journey searching for theological developments regarding such demeaning views of women. Other studies of women in the church, such as Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld’s Daughters of the Church, reveal a consistent disparagement of women since the third century. Interpretations of NT household codes favoring male authority have often been cited to support such practices. These interpretations bear two kinds of illusions. One implies that church membership is predominantly male. The more serious concern is that presumptions of superiority and inferiority contradict the gospel message of love and grace, the good news of setting the oppressed free. Therefore, a proper theological hermeneutic of the NT household codes demands the inclusion of cultural dimensions. Read more
The perception in evangelical church culture persists that one of our primary goals as a church is to create good, healthy, safe, Christian families. Sure, we might have singles’ ministries in our churches, but even those are usually designed to help singles meet each other! It is no small secret that the ultimate goal of some singles’ ministries leaders is to work themselves out of a job. Consider this note that I received from a friend after discussing this topic with him: Read more
Throughout American history, gender theologies have been used to signify a religious organization’s level of tension to the surrounding culture. As a result, religious organizations have changed their gender theologies in response to cultural change. This process can be illustrated by a tale of two Baptists. Invigorated by the First Great Awakening of the 1740s, a robust American tradition of female piety was born. Revivalists broke with Puritan orthodoxy that equated Christianity to a hierarchical family. The revivalists, instead, envisioned a new covenant—one that emphasized individual rebirth within a community that was related, not by biological ties, but by grace. Within the bond of spiritual fellowship, the revivalists affirmed that men and women, rich and poor, lettered and ignorant, were as capable as ordained clergy of discerning spiritual truth, leading to communities of relative egalitarianism. Read more

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