The oppression of women spans centuries and borders. In virtually every country and culture in the world, women have less-than-equal status to men and they are often relegated to subservient and submissive roles. Women suffer from domestic violence, job barriers, lack of control over their bodies, and fewer options for healthcare. They often do not have a voice in matters as broad as politics or as narrow as what happens within their own families.
This article originated as a paper that I presented at the Pacific Coast Region/Society of Biblical Literature meeting, New Testament Epistles and Apocalypse Section, at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California, in March 2002. I wish to focus here on the distinctive theology of Hebrews and how it relates to gender equality.
My field of research is Adolf von Harnack’s hypothesis that Priscilla is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.1 I argue for the theory. There are two main objections to the Priscilla theory that I want to state and refute in order to assure its plausibility.
This contextual reading notes that Jesus’s death on the cross, represented by Eve’s offspring crushing the head of the serpent, frees humankind from sin’s consequences and reorders concepts of male dominion for all time.
When culture values women and men equally, these very attitudes stem the abuse of women. What is more, when dollars are invested in women’s health, education, and businesses, we not only raise women’s standard of living, but that of their families and communities.
Was Priscilla one of the most successful teachers, evangelists, and writers in the early church? A survey of Priscilla’s ministry in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus reveals a woman whose abilities and life’s circumstances beg the question: Was it Priscilla who wrote Hebrews?
According to Genesis, the only cloud hanging over Eden was man without woman. "It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper as a partner" (Gen. 2:18, NRSV). What is the good or strong help that women offer?