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Women of the Bible

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” (Rom. 16:1-2, NIV). A notable New Testament woman, whose leadership has been deemphasized, especially in modern translations, is Phoebe. Paul trusted Phoebe, deacon of the church of Cenchreae, to deliver his letter to the Romans. True to custom, she remained with the church after delivering the letter in order to explain its contents. Paul calls her a prostatis (leader) over many—including himself (Rom. 16:1-2), but curiously, some Bible translations make her out to be simply “a great help.” ... Read more
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
Synopsis of the situation: Mordecai, a Jew, is an important man, known to the leadership of the Medes and Persians. His cousin, Esther, whom he raised, is now queen of the Medes and Persians. Haman is a very high official who hates Mordecai and has set up a law so that Mordecai and his entire community will be exterminated. Whether by revelation or just giving him wisdom, God shows Mordecai that Esther must save her people. Mordecai tells Esther this. Esther knows she can be executed for approaching the king without an invitation, queen or not. She’s afraid, but she submits to Mordecai as being a messenger from God. So far, so hierarchical: God tells man, man tells woman, woman obeys. But… Whether by revelation or just giving her wisdom, God shows Esther what she and th... Read more
In our meeting last night, we read the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. As it was being read I was struck by something I had never noticed. Abigail is a type and shadow of Christ in this story. You can read the passage here. This story is one of my favorites as an example of women who were honored in the Old Testament. Often, the church peddles a romanticized and chivalrous ideal (which has no foundation in Scripture) to encourage women to be submissive, quiet, dependent, and careful not to make waves. Particularly within a marriage, many churches teach that women should submit to the decisions of their husbands, even if the husband is making very wrong decisions. Women are encouraged that if they will submit and pray, God will honor this and intervene on their behalf. God may, of... Read more
Analogies can be powerful tools that bring clarity to complex issues. Educators suggest that metaphors and analogies enable individuals to grasp quickly the essential elements of logic in what are otherwise complicated discussions. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus used metaphors and analogies when explaining spiritual realities. Because the biblical interpretation is often complex, it can be helpful to use analogies to grasp the meaning of passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Consider the following example. When climbing a steep rock, or when reading a confusing passage in Scripture, the temptation is to hug the rock too closely—to rely upon the “clearest reading” of the English text. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is a classic example. It is a very steep rock—it is a difficul... Read more
Over the past three weeks I have been challenging the idea that there is a “masculine feel” to Christianity based upon the nature of God, our language for God, and Scripture’s explanation of male-female relationships. Today we will tackle another factor contributing to the mistaken idea of a “masculine Christianity”—the perception that only males held positions of prominence and leadership in Scripture. Some Christians point to the twelve male disciples as evidence that church leadership is limited to men only. At face value this may sound compelling. However, the twelve were not only male, they were also Jewish. In reality, it is much more important to consider the ethnicity of the twelve. Apart from this, their gender is insignificant.... Read more
Of all the literature produced by the early Syrian church, the most prized was composed by Ephrem the Syrian, often called "The Harp of the Holy Spirit". One of his hymns memorialises the faith of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well and sent forth as a missionary (see John 4) O, to you woman in whom I see a wonder as great as in Mary! For she from within her womb in Bethlehem brought forth His body as a child, but you by your mouth made him manifest as an adult in Shechem, the town of His father's household. Blessed are you, woman, who brought forth by your mouth light for those in darkness. Mary, the thirsty land in Nazareth conceived our Lord by her ear. You, too, O woman thirsting for water, conceived the Son by your hearing. Blessed are your e... Read more
Easter brings to the egalitarian mind the fact that women were the first evangelists to proclaim the risen Lord. One of the gospel accounts attesting to this historical fact is Luke 24; verses 9-10 say, “…and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles” (NRSV). I believe the gospel record, and I consider this point important. But to be honest, I don’t make much of it in my teaching. Why? Because someone who doesn’t value this historical fact may respond, “Yes, but what those women did is far different from modern preaching. That they spoke in private to their friends doesn’t mean modern women c... Read more
Recently both egalitarians and complementarians have been having conversations centred around the ‘masculinity’ and/or the ‘femininity’ of God.  Remarks by respected theologian John Piper and the movie “Courageous” have helped fuel both sides of the discussion.  My purpose here is not to further comment on John Piper’s remarks (which I have read) or the movie (which I have not seen). Both have been well covered elsewhere. My purpose is rather to open up this whole issue of ‘courage’ and ask questions such as: What is courage in the Biblical sense?  Is there really a difference between ‘masculine courage’ and ‘female courage’ and what does feminine courage look like Biblically? As a femal... Read more
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father;  but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” John  20:17 (NASB) On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed." (Deu. 19:15)  So said the Mosaic Law, but in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth, Jewish tradition declared that women, along with slaves and minors, could not be called as legal witnesses. According to rabbinical consensus, the testimony of women was valueless. God, no respecter of human traditions, obviously had another opinion. As Joseph and Mary, in accordance with the Law, presented their forty day old Son, Jesus, at the temple, the Holy Spirit had... Read more