“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).
At the evangelical colloquium on women and the Bible, I introduced the section on biblical hermeneutics (the art of interpreting Scripture) by saying that the most crucial issues for evangelicals in the modern world of biblical studies were not in the arena of the so-called "Battle for the Bible" (inerrancy and authority). Important as these considerations may be, the hermeneutical issues are still more critical.
Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is a Haustafel (a table of household duties) and is the central passage for Pauline teaching on Christian marriage. The passage, along with its reduced parallel in Colossians, is well known by persons of all persuasions on the issue of the relationship between wives and husbands.
People sometimes write us to ask where they can find evidence that actual women held official positions of church officership. Professor Greg Horsley of Macquarie University, Australia, has kindly supplied us with the following partial list of references to women in church leadership.
The two divergent approaches to the question of the role of women which are common among contemporary Evangelical Christians we might call the Traditional View (the majority opinion) and the Egalitarian View (the minority opinion).
Junia, the female companion of Andronicus, has the unique distinction (for one of her sex) of being referred to by St. Paul as an apostle (Romans 16:7). Although she was one of Paul’s relatives, coming to faith ahead of her more famous kinsman, we know but little about her ministry.
We have a tradition of spiritual revolutionaries – women of intense reconstructionistic convictions who were devout in their inner lives. The pages of history bear records of female champions of the faith who were called to transform their society – who knew how to balance social activity with inner solitude.
The God presented by the biblical authors and worshipped in the Church today cannot be regarded as having gender, any more than God can be regarded as having race or color. In recognizing this truth, we will be more free to use inclusive metaphors for God.
The one hundred and ninety-seventh letter of Gregory of Nazianzus, addressed to Gregory of Nyssa, contains a message of consolation over the death of Theosebeia, who has apparently been his colleague in the Gospel ministry. “Theosebeia, actually the priestess and colleague of a priest and equally honored and equally worthy of the Great Sacraments.”
I believe that we need to come to the Bible with just such a faith when we deal with the hard issues – not only those of doctrine but also those of Christian behavior. If we can develop a hermeneutic of faith which will apply to a better understanding of gender roles in the economy of God, perhaps the same methodology can serve us in circumstances which the church of Jesus Christ cannot now fully envision.