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Could it be that the complementarian notion of “biblical womanhood” (especially the claim that women’s distinct personhood makes no room for women as teachers and leaders of men) is a recent, Western perspective?

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Cicero said: “Who knows only their own generation remains always a child.” [1] We gain extraordinary vitality from the stories of Christian women and men who came before us. In fact, our advocacy for women in ministry leans heavily on their stories. Few are better suited to bring this history to life than Dr. Paul Chilcote, author of more than twenty books and publications on the subject. For thirty-five years, he has amplified the history of women’s leadership in the church with his work.

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Throughout history, movements have arisen to challenge the status quo of society and the institutional church. In the history of the United States and into the present, many have spoken out against the way women are perceived and treated. These voices have fought to open to women spaces and leadership positions in the church and society that have traditionally been exclusively for men. These movements, known collectively as feminism, have requested—sometimes demanded—a transformation in the ways evangelicals conceive of women’s roles.

For evangelicals, the Bible is the ultimate, infallible and inerrant authority, which serves as the arbiter of acceptable views, and theological liberalism exists as a looming menace to biblical authority. Unfortunately, evangelicals are often confused over who is challenging their biblical and cultural perceptions. They generally do not understand the critiques of liberal feminists or of their own evangelical sisters and brothers, nor do they recognize that they are dealing with separate movements in important and foundational ways. For many, feminism is a recent phenomenon, a threatening force, liberal in origin, which in the end rejects the authority of Scripture in order to conform to modern culture. Evangelicals commonly known as biblical egalitarians are quickly tied to liberal forms of feminism because it is commonly supposed that “liberalism and the approval of women’s ordination go hand in hand,” and inevitably lead the church down the slippery slope into the abandonment of scriptural authority.2

This paper seeks to begin to correct the equation of biblical egalitarianism with liberal feminism by considering them on a foundational level—looking at where each locates its authority and how each understands the Bible’s authority.

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Maria Woodworth Etter, known both as the Trance Evangelist and the Mother of the Pentecostal movement, lived and preached in an era when women were required to be silent in church and submit to their husbands.

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This issue of Priscilla Papers includes an article by Abigail Dolan titled, “Imagining a Feminine God.” Abby’s article was among the winners of CBE International’s 2017 student paper competition. The other winners, also published here, are Haley Gabrielle and Nikki Holland. In this issue you will also read articles on 1 Peter 3 by John Nugent and on wealthy women of the NT era by Margaret Mowczko.

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"In many modern churches, only masculine language for God is deemed acceptable. This restriction is historically and, more importantly, biblically unfounded ... By having an essentially masculine view of God, we blind ourselves to other ways we may connect to God and understand God. This not only distorts our image of God, but a purely masculine view also negatively affects the way we interact with one another—most prominently, how the church interacts with women."

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In this article, Margaret Mowczko looks at the social dynamic of class, a dynamic that typically trumped gender. She also looks at what the NT says about particular women who were wealthy. Her hope is that this discussion will present a broader, more authentic view, beyond limited stereotypes, of the place and participation of certain women in the first-century church.
 
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The epistle to Philemon begins, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker” (NRSV). Paul and Timothy then also address “Apphia the sister” (Apphia tē adelphē). Throughout the multitude of commentaries on Philemon, one struggles to find a helpful description of this mysterious woman. The standard volumes concerning the evangelical gender debate rarely mention Apphia, and both hierarchical and egalitarian perspectives have done little to explore her identity. Specifically, the lack of detailed research regarding Apphia’s status may be due to the fact that, unlike other women in the NT, she is not given a now-controversial title (cf. “deacon” in Rom 16:1–2 or “apostle” in Rom 16:7). Also potentially at play is the tendency of readers to miss something they are not looking for: because Apphia is not contested ground in the evangelical gender debate, it makes sense that a work exploring her identity has been missing. In contrast, most of the detailed work on Paul’s relationship with Apphia is not by evangelical scholars.

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When I was a child, the Stations of the Cross were a big part of my experiences of Holy Week at my home parish. I am a very visual person, so I remember well the stations that were on display. They were carved from a light-colored wood and rendered in a very realistic and striking style.

Of these stations, one in particular always stood out to me, the sixth station: Veronica Wipes Jesus’s Face. Even as a child, I was deeply moved by Veronica’s compassion for the Lord. Her simple yet profound act of mercy in his greatest moment of need had an unforgettable quality to it. Little did I know that the Veronica legend was so convoluted from a literary point of view and that it extended so profoundly into art, theology, and spiritual devotion.1

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Why should we highlight women in Bible times and throughout Christian history? Wouldn’t it be more timely to focus on women in the church today, by discussing their present aspirations? Aren’t twentieth-century movements what will influence not only the contemporary church, but also its future course?

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