Welcome to CBE’s Library

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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What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)

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Hebrews 11 is widely known as a chapter that acclaims the men and women heroes of the faithpowerful, bold, and courageous. Led by that strong faith, these heroes "shut the mouths of lions," "conquered kingdoms," and "quenched the fury of the flames."

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Judges does not offer a command to promote women, but it only takes one example like Deborah to show that women are just as capable in leadership as men.

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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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For egalitarians, the book of Judges clearly demonstrates God’s approval of women leaders. Yet many who view women’s leadership as unbiblical dismiss the pattern of God-affirmed female authority in Judges.

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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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I have always admired Deborah. She is a woman, but she embodies both “traditionally” male and female characteristics. She just doesn’t fit into stereotypical boxes of masculinity and femininity. Further, Deborah’s relationship with Barak is a beautiful picture of biblical equality that I deeply appreciate—as well as both leaders’ relationships with their communities.

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