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Women of the Bible

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
Complementarians often shift their footings when it comes to Junia (Rom. 16:7). They want to find some argument on which they can stand to diminish the significance of the woman. First, they argued she wasn't a woman (Junia) but a man (Junias). The evidence disproved them so thoroughly even they gave in (or most of them gave in) and so they shifted to another footing... Second, they argued she wasn't an apostle. Don't forget this: The only reason males in the history of the church, and the motive seems to be to diminish women leaders in the church, changed the woman Junia to Junias--a male name--was because whoever it was was an apostle. So the complementarians decided to show she wasn't an apostle: she's a woman alright, but only esteemed among the (mal... Read more
Many of us are familiar with the story of the Israelites' conquest of Jericho, how they marched around the high walls blowing rams' horns until the walls toppled over. I have always read the story of the conquest of Jericho without question, until recently. It was not the tumbling of Jericho in particular that concerned me, but rather the naming of a particular woman in Joshua 2:1. The spies of Israel are sent out by Joshua, and they come to a woman's house in the city of Jericho. Scripture repeatedly refers to the woman, Rahab, as the harlot (some versions render her "the prostitute"). With a tug of suspicion, I went on a search regarding the term "harlot" as interpreted by translators in reference to Rahab. My research was a helpful exercise. The Hebrew... Read more
Her name was Damaris. Ever wondered about her? She appears to be somewhat of an afterthought, (one of Luke's "oh, by the way" comments), as one of the "few" who believed upon hearing Paul's speech in the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34). Some biblical commentators speculate that to have been mentioned as a woman, she must have been of high social status. This might accord with the fact that Christian tradition also identifies her as the wife of Dionysius the Areopagite, the one other person who is named among the "few" who believed, and who later went on to become the bishop of Athens' fledgling church. The Eastern Orthodox church actually sets aside a day to honor Saint Damaris, but, for Reformed Protestants like myself, Damaris takes her place in a long... Read more