Although we may idealize the early church, most of us would not have enjoyed a visit to a worship service at Corinth. The impression which one was most likely to receive was that of chaos and delirious insanity.
The Bible sets forth an ideal and calls the ideal woman an eshet-chayil, which is the Hebrew for a “virtuous woman” (KJV) or a “wife of noble character” (NIV). This Hebrew expression occurs only three times in the Old Testament, but a study of these three passages is likely to reveal what the Bible supports as an ideal of Christian womanhood.
There are many models of ministry. Women are as diverse as men in the patterns of ministry they follow. But let's look at the response of this one woman to Jesus to learn more about the place of women in ministry.
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?
The story in Genesis 17 and 18 of the Lord’s telling first Abraham and then Sarah that they would have a son in their old age is one of the places in Scripture where a “sin of omission” is often committed.
Here in this little letter is all the Bible tells us about the chosen lady: John had the highest regard for her as a colleague in ministry. She was well-known among the churches to which 1 John was written. She was a gracious and loving person.
We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).
Ruth Hoppin has spent decades researching Adolf Harnack's hypothesis that Priscilla wrote the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews. A first book, Priscilla, Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, was published in the late 1960s. Since that time additional relevant material has been published, some of it related to the Dead Sea Scrolls. This book is an update which takes such material into account.
Domestic violence is the number one health threat faced by women in the United States today. It accounts for more deaths than automobile accidents, muggings and rapes combined. During America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the number of women murdered by their intimate partners was equal to the number of U.S. military personnel killed in battle. In 1981 researchers Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz estimated that at least one third of all wives in the United States are beaten during the course of their marriage. By 1987 researchers upped the figure to a “conservative estimate” of half of all marriages experiencing episodes of violence at some time. At least ninety-five percent of domestic violence is male against female and it is rare for violence in a marriage to be an isolated episode. Violence is usually a pattern in the relationship.
As women we should be encouraged. We may be soft on the outside, but we’re strong and mighty in spirit. We are God’s secret weapons and the enemy knows it. He takes us seriously, even when others don’t. The enemy’s strategy has been to keep us quiet and in hiding. But God is doing an end run. He is going to release so many of us at once that the enemy is not going to know what hit him!