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Biblical and Theological Studies

Language matters—what we say, where we say it, and to whom. If, for example, a Victorian era Brit planned to “knock someone up,” he meant to get a person out of bed. Listeners in his day would have understood the popular phrase from a Sherlock Holmes novel. If a 21st century North American plans to “knock someone up,” however, he expresses less-than-honorable intentions toward a woman. Depending on the context and intent, it would be appropriate to say, “Thank you.” Or, it would make sense to take out a restraining order and install an extra bolt on the front door. Context matters. I heard it all the time in seminary. It’s no small thing to translate biblical passages from Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek into English. This re... Read more
Humanity is ferociously hungry for God, for a binding tie to something divine and important and meaningful. God-study is the product of our sacred hunger, of a relentless longing and curiosity and thirst for knowing. Across time, culture, and place, we have studied God, attempting to make sense of a messy, beautiful, complicated story. We call it theology.  But what happens when the hall of theology is an echo chamber? What happens when half the sky meets God but the church doesn’t want to hear their story? What happens when the theological insights of women are pressed to the margins of Christianity? In prioritizing the theological lens of men and trivializing the insights of women, the church has starved itself of women’s spiritual wisdom. We've left fields unreape... Read more
In a recent Arise article, Amy Buckley recounted an exchange between herself and a group of men who accused Christian feminists of using a hermeneutic of pain to interpret the Bible. It was their way of suggesting that feminists do not understand Scripture because they identify strongly with people who suffer. Amy and her friend, Patti, countered that those who suffer injustice have a unique and profound grasp of the cross. Is this true? Do the oppressed detect something in the cross that eludes the powerful? Could the cross both justify humanity and highlight humanity’s injustice? Is it possible that to correctly apprehend the cross, we must embrace both its literal message of personal redemption and its symbolic commentary on earthly power? Indeed, the cross is all about giving... Read more
Earlier this year, in April, I wrote two blog articles that described seven New Testament texts where gender-accurate Bible translation is of heightened concern. This new article follows up by giving closer attention to the English Standard Version’s translation of two New Testament texts, one which was included in my earlier list of seven (2 Timothy 3:17) and one which was not (Hebrews 13:6). Paul’s famous counsel in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads, in the ESV, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The word “man” here renders the Greek word anthrōpos, which means “person” unless the cont... Read more
In the discussion (or debate) around the roles of women in the church and home, many complementarians run to the notable 1 Timothy 2 to establish their perspective. From this passage, especially by noting verses 13-14, a strong argument is put forth that man’s headship is established in “the original creation order.”[1] Hence, there’s a movement from Timothy to creation. But perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Complementarians believe they are moving from creation to Timothy, but it seems that their theology is being settled through their particular reading of Timothy and then that theological bent is being read back into the creation story. This is where they construct their understanding of the “original creation order.” So what... Read more
Last week, we set the stage for today's discussion by exploring some of the ways in which bias and mistakes in translations have upheld, implicitly and explicitly, beliefs in the subordination of women. Today, we'll pick up where we left off with an example of bias in translation and an answer to our final two questions from last week: Why is this a problem for women? Why should biased translations and mistranslations matter to Christians? In Romans 16:1-7, the apostle Paul refers to Phoebe as a deacon and Junia as an apostle[1] Some English versions translate the word deacon as deacon or minister when it refers to men, but diminish it to deaconess or servant when it refers to women. And some English versi... Read more
After years of participating in women's Bible studies, I finally realized that I was not seeing the church's teachings on women bringing renewal to women, marriages, and families. Instead, I saw those teachings causing serious harm. So I asked the Lord to teach me what the Bible truly says about women. I read everything I could get my hands on and my eyes were opened to the fact that my English Bible is a translation from the original languages. It had never occurred to me before that mistakes in translation were possible, but I soon realized that translation is not an exact science. Let's look at one example of a mistranslation from Christian history that ultimately resulted in the Christian Reformation. In the 4th century, the Bible was translated in... Read more
Egalitarian theologians have been able to find many weaknesses within complementarian theology. It is important to understand how complementarians think, what biblical arguments they stand on, and why they continue to hold to their founding principles. Complementarians are generally extreme respecters of the Bible. They take most of what it says literally and truly believe they hold the most accurate understanding and interpretation. In my experience, they tend to be very logical thinkers and struggle with thinking outside the box. One can see why certain personalities would be drawn to this movement and likewise, why certain personalities would be repulsed by this movement. If an egalitarian appears to not respect the Bible consistently, the complementarian will normally disengage f... Read more
For nearly forty years of teaching biblical and theological studies at Biola University, I have been a person of the Book. Consequently, it was careful and open-minded study of Scripture during my first ten years of teaching that led me to become a passionate advocate for biblical, gender equality. This brief survey of the six most often debated “gender texts” summarizes my reasons for such an important change of mind. Genesis 1-3; 5:1–2 Several things are clear in this foundational creation narrative. Humanity, as male and female, is formed equally in God's image, and as male and female, they are told to subdue and rule the rest of creation together. Though Adam appears first, Eve is shortly thereafter named the mother of all humanity. Although she is formed fro... Read more
This is the fifth and final in a series of posts on the concept of headship in the Christian church and community. The articles offer a clear outline and critique of the headship practice and system and further explore the consequences of headship on men, women, relationships, the church, and the broader world. Catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the Headship Madness series before reading Part 5. In the first three segments of this series, I outlined some of the functions of “headship” in American evangelicalism—especially as it functions in “complementarianism.” In the fourth essay, I outlined how the entire “theology of headship” is based upon a faulty methodology. Two verses, with a metaphor and a load... Read more