In the search for a more inclusive understanding of God, the feminine “Sophia” has for many persons become a bridge between traditional Christianity and feminist concerns. So we ask: Who is Sophia, and where did she come from? Is she the long-awaited answer to this search?
In studying the Old Testament, we uncover the unmistakable narratives of women who took leadership and teaching roles among God’s people. Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah stand out as impressive examples of these OT women leaders. Similarly in the earliest days of the Christian church, women were teaching and proclaiming Christian doctrine to men. Anna, Priscilla, and Mary were listed as outstanding among the apostles (Junia). Women even prophesied before the congregation of God’s people (the daughters of Phillip).
Impairment is any loss or abnormality of structure or function, be it psychological, physiological, or anatomical. A disability is any restriction or inability to perform an activity in the manner or range considered normal for a human being. The restriction or inability results from impairment. A handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal. As traditionally used, impairment refers to a problem with a structure or organ of the body; disability is a functional limitation with regard to a particular activity; and handicap refers to a disadvantage in filling a role in life relative to a peer group.
Paul is concerned with gender in 1 Timothy because the women at Ephesus were individuals whose leadership did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is objecting not to their gender, but to their leadership that domineered over men. We understand this because of the unique verb Paul selects for “authority” (1 Tim 2:12).
Rather than using the most common Greek terms for authority or oversight, like exuosia or proistemo, Paul uses the term authentein—a term that would have caught the attention of first century readers! Why? What does this word mean?
Where and how we start in our interpretation of Scripture determines where we will end up. When seeking to understand the relevance of the Bible’s teaching for our lives, interpretive starting points are particularly significant. The method by which we read and derive meaning from Scripture is the fundamental determinant of the nature of the meaning we will derive.
John C. Nugent argues that "Peter was not, in fact, affirming that women are weaker. Rather, he was asking men to lay aside their cultural advantage and to win over their unbelieving wives in the same Christlike manner that slaves, women, and the wider community were called to non-coercively welcome Gentiles into the chorus of believers who will 'glorify' God when he comes to judge.”
How do we know what a word means? A linguist could spend a career answering this question, but here’s the simple answer: Words do not have meaning outside of context. It is the context that makes meaning.