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Studies on Specific Passages

The second letter of John is addressed “to the elect lady and to her children.” But who is the “elect lady” of 2 John? Is she a mother with kids, or something more? A look at the apostle John’s use of the word “children” in 1 John can help us understand who the woman’s children are. Then, we can try to solve the mystery of who the woman is. We commonly recognize that the “children” of 1 John refer to Christian converts. The “fathers,” “young men,” and “dear children” in the second chapter may refer to literal ages, or to spiritual development. Regardless of their age, the apostle John considered himself a spiritual father to these “children.” The apostle Paul also used this language... Read more
My church recently learned the song, “Sound of Adoration,” written by Bryan Torwalt and performed by the band, Jesus Culture. It begins like this, “When we were lost ones, You were the Shepherd that carried us home. When we were prodigals, You ran to meet us with open arms.” The opening sentence refers to Jesus’s parable of the lost sheep, and the following line comes from his parable of the prodigal son. Most people understand the shepherd of the lost sheep to symbolize God. One of the most influential books on Jesus’s parables (by Joachim Jeremias) supports this claim, calling the shepherd “an image of God’s activity of love.” Bible readers, ancient and modern, have made this connection—after all, “The Lord is my shepher... Read more
I don’t really like reading the creation story. This is partly because I skip ahead to what is often described as the “sin story.” I don’t like being told that “the man shall rule over” me (Gen 3:16). To Christians who do not ascribe to gender equality, this verse is prescriptive. It's used to explain and justify the hierarchy of patriarchy. It's used to support male headship, and deny women full inclusion in the church as people of God. If this is your reaction to the first few chapters of Genesis too, I empathize! But it’s time we flipped the script. Egalitarians shouldn’t shy away from this passage. Correctly interpreted, Genesis 3 is a foundational text in a theology of equality.  What is it that you have done?... Read more
Bitches Bunnies Chicks Heifers Vixens Shrews Women Are you offended by anything in the above list? If so, why? Is it the mention of a certain derogatory term for women that also means “female dog”? Is it the implication that women are less than human and belong in the category of animals?  Without a doubt, this list is provocative. Many of you are probably wondering how it is connected to the subject of this article: male-headship theology. Allow me to explain. Before an individual or society can effectively discriminate against, exploit, disempower, abuse, and sometimes even kill another individual or people group, the oppressor must first establish superiority over the target. Oppression is generally justified by the “confirmed” inferiority of... Read more
Sometimes Paul gets a bad rap. The slave narratives are replete with sentiments from former slaves who loved Jesus but hated Paul, because slaveholders regularly quoted Ephesians 6:5, "Slaves, obey your masters." What the slaveholders didn't bother to quote was the rest of the passage, which goes on to say, "masters, do the same things to them" (6:9). That is, if slaves have to obey their masters, masters must also obey their slaves! Did anyone in the first century take Paul literally on that point? Probably not. But that doesn't change that what he actually said expressed one of the most radically antislavery sentiments of his day. He wasn't talking about violently overthrowing the institution; even the failed slave revolts of his era had never attempted... Read more
In my previous article, I opened by clarifying that I sincerely believe gender-inclusive Bible translation always matters. Nevertheless, it matters more in some places than in others. I described four examples where gender-inclusive Bible translation makes a real difference. Below I list three more, for a total of seven. 5. 1 Timothy 4:7a This example is of a different sort than the other six. It’s more specifically about being gender-sensitive, not merely gender-inclusive, in translation. 1 Timothy 4:7a says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (ESV). The ESV is here to be commended for abandoning the phrase “old wives’ tales”—an antiquated expression which both the NRSV and the 2011 NIV retain! The Greek word is graōdēs. Th... Read more
As I begin, it’s essential that I emphasize that I believe gender-inclusive Bible translation matters much more frequently than seven times. In fact, I have often made the point that the King James Version and the pre-2011 New International Versions each include more than 1,000 occurrences of the words “man” and “men” which are not found in the Greek New Testament. When I demonstrate that vast numerical discrepancy, I am driving home the point that people who claim that the New Testament has a masculine feel, and claim that gender-inclusive translation tactics do damage to that masculine feel, are expressing a truth about certain English translations, not a truth about the Greek New Testament. That is to say, gender-inclusive translations such as the NRSV, NL... Read more
This is the last article in a three-part series on two passages that converge within the scriptural discussion around the role of women: the creation account (Genesis 1-2) and some of the words given to Timothy as he led the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 2). See Part 1 and Part 2. For sake of those just coming to the series, my argument is that, while complementarians contend that their understanding of men and women’s roles is established from “the original creation order,” the beginning chapters of Genesis do not support their view. Rather, they have taken their own particular perspective on male headship, read 1 Timothy 2 in light of that view, and stamped it as God’s original intention by reading that interpretation back into the creation account. Howeve... Read more
This is Part 2 in a series on 1 Timothy 2 and Genesis 1 and 2. Catch up on Part 1.  In my last article, "From Timothy to Creation: Part 1," I presented not just a faulty theological argument within the complementarian view, but also a faulty starting point for their theology. While they contend that their understanding of men and women’s roles is established within “the original creation order,” it appears that a particular perspective on 1 Timothy 2 is being imported back into the creation story. Hence, I’m taking time to examine the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. I previously established that Genesis 1 shows the mutual togetherness (or equality) of man and woman. Both were true eikons, or icons/images, of the one true God. Both were s... Read more
For years, the Proverbs 31 woman has been held over the heads of women in the church, a caricature of singular perfection—making them feel inadequate and less than holy. “Look at all the things this woman does!” books and Bible teachers remind women. “Why can’t you do those things, too?” they ask. Many Christian women have been hurt and diminished by stereotype-driven, culture-biased presentations of the Proverbs 31 figure. Is it any wonder, then, that many women have come to dislike this chapter so much? I believe, however, that it is possible to go beyond the stereotypes and impossible standards of "biblical" womanhood to redeem the truth of this passage—without adding an additional burden onto women’s shoulders. "An excel... Read more