Welcome to CBE’s Library

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Julia Kavanaugh, an Irish Roman Catholic, was a Victorian novelist and biographer. Her book "Women of Christianity" offers the earliest survey of women’s lives in the Christian tradition. This text refutes the frequent charge of trendiness of egalitarianism, as it was written 150 years ago. It confronts male-dominated history (“great events, dazzling actions”) as pagan and transcends the “wearisome similarity” often depicted in saints’ lives. Finally, her book invites connections with contemporary feminist texts.

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Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy that women are to dress modestly, learn silently, and find salvation in childbearing shape Christian identities and activities, but are routinely misread and misapplied. To make sense and good use of the instructions, a reader must consider the design and provenance of Paul’s letter.

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Some biblical passages are difficult enough that even seasoned interpreters do not insist that their interpretation is correct. 1 Timothy 2:15, with its comment about women being saved through childbearing, is among these notoriously difficult passages. Nevertheless, this lecture surveys a few good theories about the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:15. More importantly, however, this verse serves as a humbling reminder of the vast cultural and chronological gap between the first and twenty-first centuries. Finally, it will be argued that the prior verse (1 Timothy 2:14) is just as difficult, and interpreters therefore should not demand that 2:14 be the guiding light to chapter two.

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1 Timothy 2:8-15 is the primary verse that has been used to exclude women from teaching and leadership in the church. However, a careful examination of the passage in its context shows that it is most likely addressing false teaching and myths about marriage and childbirth that were spreading from house to house. As in 1 Corinthians 11:34, Paul wants women to be taught at home, as he corrects behavior and content, and answers a central concern of all women historically: How do we deal with maternal mortality?

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Lecture from 2016 international conference "Truth Be Told" in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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