. . . 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.
Many contemporary evangelical Bible scholars and theologians, not to mention ordinary lay men and women, are convinced that attempts to use the Bible so as to exclude women from positions of leadership for which their Creator has made them and to which their Lord as called them – whether in society, home or church – is flawed.
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.”
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).
Scripture, rightly understood of course, must always be the final court of appeal for Christians. But perhaps there are outside influences involved that have been overlooked by persons exploring the role of women. Some of these influences are explored here as having been significant factors in limiting women’s roles.