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Women of the Bible

Deborah, the prophet, was a judge of Israel. That sentence needs to stand alone, because it seems we’re unable to take the Bible at its word on Deborah’s position as judge. Christians who struggle to believe that God would intentionally appoint a woman to lead often argue that Deborah was chosen because no man stepped up to fill the role of judge. But the text does not support this. Some suggest that God appointed Deborah to shame the men of Israel. The text does not support this claim either. Deborah, the prophet, was a judge of Israel. Let’s allow that to sink in. She held court under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramal and Bethel in Mount Ephraim. Israelites came from all over the country so she could rule on their cases. Deborah was also given the title... Read more
This is the first article in a series examining what Christians have been taught about women in Scripture. Growing up in the church, it seemed to me that every woman in the Old Testament was a prostitute, a victim of sexual violence, or sexually immoral in some way. I thought their lives must have been so sad. When I studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, I intentionally dug into the stories of these women. What I found really challenged my ideas about Bible women. And when I began studying rabbinic commentary on the texts and looking at the original context and culture, I was able to challenge those ideas even more.  Decades into this process, I believe it is time to boldly declare that these women of the Bible deserve far better than the labels of “whore,”... Read more
Hebrews 11 is widely known as a chapter that acclaims the men and women heroes of the faith—powerful, bold, and courageous. Led by that strong faith, these heroes "shut the mouths of lions," "conquered kingdoms," and "quenched the fury of the flames." I've been a Christian for a long time. I was saved at the age of five, called into ministry at fifteen, ordained at twenty-three, and a doctoral ministry candidate by thirty-nine. And in all of those years, I never questioned the people celebrated in Hebrews until a friend of mine brought up a poignant question: "Why isn't Deborah mentioned as a hero of faith instead of Barak?"  This question stumped me. As someone who loves research, I firmly resolved to settle this issue withi... Read more
Based on simple observation, I’ve concluded that the modern-day Christian church is more concerned with following the rules than with following Jesus. I've heard story after story from women who have a divine calling to preach, but are denied the pastoral office because of their gender. And then there are the natural-born female leaders who aren’t allowed to make decisions in their own homes. I see countless women manipulated into staying in abusive and oppressive relationships by fellow Christians. All of these things are happening in the name of God, and I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here? This emphasis on rules over the way of Jesus reminds me of the well-known story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. During his travels, Jesus stopped in the town... Read more
Queen Vashti is one biblical woman who always seems to get a bad rap. This is mostly based on a surface reading of Esther that highlights two things: 1. She was punished for disobedient, even rebellious, actions. 2.  She was replaced by the more favorable Queen Esther, the hero of the book, and the one responsible for averting the Israelite genocide. But this article isn’t about Esther. It’s about Queen Vashti. If we take a closer look at the circumstances of Queen Vashti’s disobedience, it is clear that she was completely justified in her actions, and is a role model for women today. In chapter one of Esther, King Ahasuerus (also known as King Xerxes in some translations) threw a six-month feast to display all of his wealth and power. At the end of six-m... Read more
Bronwen Speedie
Parenthood is a (presumably lifelong) state of wishing and hoping, and what-ifs and wondering. It starts with pregnancy. What if something goes wrong? Let's not tell anyone until we reach the "magic" three month mark. What sex will my baby be? Will I be a good parent? How much is labor going to hurt? After the birth of my son, I quickly discovered that this state only becomes more urgent. How do I stop this child from crying? What am I supposed to be doing now? Am I doing all the things I need to do to ensure his developmental needs are properly met? Why is he still crying? (If you've had a reflux baby, you will understand why crying warrants a second mention!) Who is he going to be when he grows up--not just his career, but his character? What does the fu... Read more
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob; forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." –Luke 1: 30-33 One thing I love about Advent is that you can't get through it without talking about Mary. Whether you believe that Mary was a saint, an innocent virgin girl, or even if you're skeptical about the whole virgin birth thing, you can't deny that without Mary, there would be no Christmas story. Because the story of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh, doesn't begin in a mang... Read more
In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demands a king. In response, God warns through Samuel the prophet that kings are takers. Six times in one paragraph (vv. 11-18), God says of the future Israelite kings, “he will take….” Whenever I teach about the story of David’s sin against Bathsheba, I encourage my students to stand up for her. That is, when they hear someone place the blame on Bathsheba, in whole or in part, I want them to chime in. I want them to point out that this was no ordinary case of adultery. It was not a tryst. Rather, David took. It was a sin of power, committed by David against—not with—Bathsheba. Well, it’s time for me to follow my own advice, for I recently heard someone claim, from the pulpit, that Bathsheba shares the blame. The sermon... Read more
Margaret Mowczko
Leaders in the Church at Ephesus                                          Apollos was an impressive speaker; he was eloquent, knowledgeable, fervent, and bold. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila were in a synagogue in Ephesus one Sabbath,[1] listening to him speak about Jesus when they noticed something lacking in his message. Apollos did not know about Christian baptism. Ephesus was a large city, and there was a sizeable Christian community there. Of all the Christians in Ephesus, however, it was Priscilla and Aquila who approached Apollos with the aim of explaining the “way of God” (i.e. theology) to him more accurately (Acts 18:26). That they approached him may... Read more
Do you know the Bible story of Huldah? Many people have attended Sunday school and church for their entire lives, yet they have never even heard of her. Even those who went to a Christian grade school or college might be thinking, “Umm, in the Bible? Are you sure? Wasn’t that Hagar the Horrible’s wife’s name?” (Nope, that’s Helga). Many of you have spent thirty, forty, or eighty years in the church and still, you’ve never heard of Huldah. I have asked Christians who have all of the above credentials (and more) and generally, they have never heard her name or story.  She almost never shows up in children’s Bible story books. She does not appear in the majority of Sunday school curriculum. Huldah’s story is absent. I have attended... Read more