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If you’ve spent any time in church (or in the New Testament text) you’ve heard of the famous couple, Priscilla and Aquila.

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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?

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1 Peter 3 is a tricky passage. It’s often been twisted to pressure abused women to stay with their husbands as a sign of submission. But this passage is not meant to subject women to fear or violence; it is supposed to encourage primary loyalty to Christ, not to husbands.

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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.

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Introduction

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.

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There are several passages in the New Testament that list the spiritual gifts believers receive for the purpose of building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). Much has been written about these lists and their implications, particularly for how we ought to recognize and understand spiritual gifts in the church.

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Early in his writings, Paul authored Galatians, a book primarily dedicated to explaining to Jewish Christians that their uncircumcised Gentile brothers were not second class members of the church. Paul directly refutes this concept of hierarchy in Christian community in Galatians 3:28.

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Oral tradition is important for an egalitarian understanding of the Bible—its origins, development, nature, and relevance—because women were among the key players in this stage of the Bible’s development.

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Apollos was an impressive speaker; he was eloquent, knowledgeable, fervent, and bold. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila were in a synagogue in Ephesus one Sabbath,[1] listening to him speak about Jesus when they noticed something lacking in his message. Apollos did not know about Christian baptism.

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When I have heard discussion about love and respect it is often applied as gender specific: a woman needs love, a man needs respect. But it isn’t that cut and dry. Men need to be loved as well, and women need to be respected, too. 

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