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Biblical and Theological Studies

Many times the leadership of certain women in the Bible are deemphasized because they are in conflict with a pervading thought concerning what women can and cannot do. One notable woman who has needed some explanation from those who say women cannot lead is Judge Deborah. Her life story can be found in Judges 4 and 5. After Joshua had brought God’s people into the Promised Land they rebelled and continually turned to other gods. As a result, God let their enemies gain the upper hand and enslave them. However, God did not abandon his people. When they cried out to him for help, he would raise up judges (Judg. 2:16). These judges were special individuals appointed by God to bring the people back to him, defeat their enemies and lead. One of these was Deborah—a woman. As a j... Read more
This March, Christians for Biblical Equality will be celebrating Women’s History Month by sharing the histories of women who have had a tremendous impact on the church through their leadership. Far from being mere assistants to men, women from many different cultures, eras, and circumstances have been used mightily by God as leaders, teachers, preachers, and martyrs at key moments in history. It is crucial that we tell and hear their stories. History helps to put our world into perspective. It forms our collective memory, which educates and inspires us over the centuries, long after we have forgotten the particulars of a sermon or speech. We recall the life stories of key individuals who we embrace as models of courage and initiative, and these individuals shape how we view the wo... Read more
Ah yes, some will say, but look how large and consistent those sex differences are—in aggression, nurturance, verbal skills, spatial abilities, and so on. Surely this strongly suggests (even if it can’t absolutely prove) that women and men have innately different talents—“beneficial differences” in the language of both CMBW and (some) CBE adherents. Everybody knows that men are from Mars and women are from Venus—at least on average. Really? Just how large and consistent are such differences? Just how much do (or don’t) those bell curves overlap for women and men? Because there is so much bad science journalism floating around about these matters (written by people of every political and religious stripe), more comments on social science methodology... Read more
As a whole, the church seems to have an inadequate theology on preaching. Preaching, we’re implicitly told, is standing behind a pulpit and delivering a three point, thirty minute sermon. All three features (location, methodology, and time) seem to be rather important in defining when a person actually preaches. Thus, when a woman stands somewhere other than the pulpit and “speaks” on a given topic for ten minutes, it is often permissible because “she just spoke from her heart.” Of course, the truth is that none of these factors matter. It is the position of authority that is actually at stake. Some think, “Women can’t stand behind a pulpit and preach because they can’t be given authority.” The problem is two-fold. First, the Word of... Read more
Egalitarians are often accused of sliding down the slippery slope of "soft androgyny"—the view that claims virtually no differences exist (or should exist) between males and females other than the most obvious anatomical and physiological ones. But, what do we mean by male and female complementarity? From a theological standpoint, like all other human activities, gender relations reflect a mix of good creation and tragic fallenness. It is challenging to sort out what’s creational and good from what’s fallen. Moreover, if gender complementarity somehow mirrors the relationship of members of the Trinity as they work together in creation and redemption (a point on which both sides in the debate seem to agree), then it is probably not going to be any easier to fully... Read more
Page numbers in parentheses below refer to Payne's book, Man and Woman, One in Christ. “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness... Read more
Page numbers in parentheses below refer to Payne's book, Man and Woman, One in Christ. “But I want you to realize that the head/source (kephale) of every man (aner) is Christ, and the head/source (kephale) of woman (gune) is the man, and the head/source (kephale) of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Egalitarians are often asked how they understand biblical passages like 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Three crucial words within this passage must be carefully examined to address such a question: head (kephale), man (aner), and woman (gune). Some Bible versions mistakenly translate “man” and “woman” in 1 Corinthians 11:3 as “husband” and “wife,” but there is no “his” before “woman” or an article that mig... Read more
How strange it is that Christmas carols can make me want to buy an iPhone 5 and a MacBook Air, and in the same moment want to save the world! How does one reconcile the reality that while my kids wish for an endless stream of expensive gadgets, toys and designer clothes, elsewhere over a billion humans on this planet spend most of their waking hours simply wishing for a few drops of clean water?  And that everywhere on our planet, whether in Cambodia or India or right here on our own doorsteps, 12-27 million people are caught in a web of slavery today and, according to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, three out of every four are female and over half are children? ( Top-of-mind for many this holiday season is the shocki... Read more
I have recently read in two blogs (neither is CBE’s Scroll) that Jesus sometimes treated women rudely. Each cites John 2:4, where Jesus addresses Mary as “woman” at a wedding feast. Unfortunately, both bloggers have fallen prey to an elementary interpretive fallacy: The implications of a word or phrase in one culture are not necessarily the same in another. Thus in this case, the fact that calling one’s mother “woman” would be offensive in many cultures today is no help in discerning whether it was offensive in first-century Galilee. So what evidence is there that “woman” in John 2:4 is indeed not an offensive address? 1. Mary gives no indication that she is offended. 2. The disciples, other bystanders, and the narrator give no indic... Read more
When Paul compares Adam to Christ by analogy in Romans 5, is he teaching about a husband’s authority over his wife, implied by “Adam’s federal headship,” as some Christians believe? Or is it about something else? With the analogy here, like any analogy, one must ask, “What is the point the author is making?” To read more into the analogy than Paul makes explicit is to risk substituting a private opinion for the direct teaching of God’s Word. So what is the analogy really about? Cranfield’s commentary on Romans (1:281) highlights the point of the analogy: “Adam is only mentioned in order to bring out more clearly the nature of the work of Christ. The purpose of the comparison is to make clear the universal range of what Christ has done.... Read more