. . . The twelfth verse (italicized above) contains a rare Greek verb, found only here in the entire Bible. This word, authentein, is ordinarily translated “to bear rule” or “to usurp authority”; yet a study of other Greek literary sources reveals that it did not ordinarily have this meaning until the third or fourth century, well after the time of the New Testament. Essentially the word means “to thrust oneself.” Its earliest meanings are noteworthy, since they might provide a quite different understanding of a difficult text.
Biblical feminists, as opposed to other feminists outside and within the church, accept the full authority of all Scripture for all the people of God. But they recognize, with all modern people, that we do not absorb Scripture in its pure form into our understanding. Like anything else we read, reading Scripture is an interpretive process.
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?
It is interesting to see how many times the word “all” occurs in the opening verses of the book of Acts. After identifying those who were included in the early followers of Jesus in the first chapter of Acts, we read in verse 14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Worship was no longer something only for the older men; now it is for all.
A historical case can be made that Christianity has, all things considered, been good for women. It has not been the mighty agent of gender oppression that it is sometimes made out to be. Still, contemporary Christians can hardly feel smug about the track record of our religious tradition. We live with the uncomfortable awareness that our faith has not been as affirming as it should have been, or as empowering for women as it certainly needs to be from now on.
Christian tradition is sometimes remarkable for the liberties it takes with the reputations of its saints, and in this regard no example springs so readily to mind as that of Mary Magdalene. Tradition has had its ﬁeld day with the reputation of this once deeply troubled woman.
Greater awareness of Mary Magdalene’s exceptional role in the events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and her leadership in the early church should not only help us do justice to her memory but also inspire us in our struggle for gender equality.
In the case of our understanding of “head,” an enormous emotional and spiritual significance is attached, as the Bible declares God to be the head of Christ and man to be the head of woman. To declare the Father as “boss, chief, or authority over” is to deny the status of the eternally begotten Son, equal to Father and Holy Spirit in goodness, power, and love.
Since the middle of the twentieth century there has been an ongoing, sometimes acrimonious debate over the meaning of “head” (Greek, kephalē) in Paul’s letters, especially 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23. This article is an attempt to review the most significant scholarly literature that has emerged in the debate and to summarize each without critique.