Editor's Reflections | Summer 2016 (30.3)

by Jeff Miller | July 31, 2016

Sometimes reading the Bible is a walk in the park. Just as often, however, the Bible presents us with difficult terrain. To expand this metaphor, understanding some texts is like a 5K run. Others are like a 10K. Still others are more like a marathon. Everyone, from the ancient courier Pheidippides to the modern marathon record holder (currently Dennis Kimetto of Kenya), would agree that a marathon is a formidable test of strength and endurance, both physical and mental. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people complete marathons each year, and like Bible interpreters, some finish with flying colors and others limp across the finish line. Going beyond the image of a marathon of interpretation, a few biblical texts, including some that teach about women, are like an ultramarathon—a course that is arduous even for the most competent biblical scholar.

The cover of this issue of Priscilla Papers features Jennifer Pharr Davis in the midst of her 2011 hike of the Appalachian Trail. Both our graphic designer Theresa Garbe and I are privileged to know her as a friend. Jennifer (who, incidentally, is a reader of Priscilla Papers) hiked all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, following mountain ridgelines through fourteen states from Maine to Georgia. She did so in a record-setting time of forty-six days, eleven hours, twenty minutes—an astonishing average of forty-seven miles (seventy-six kilometers) per day! To all but a small subset of the world’s most elite trail runners, this is truly an incomprehensible accomplishment.

This issue’s theme, “Difficult Texts,” affirms that many biblical texts are difficult to interpret, that some are like a marathon, and that a few are like an ultramarathon or even a forty-six day gauntlet that fends off most interpreters and leaves those few who complete the course heaving for breath in light of their efforts.

In the following pages, especially capable interpreters help us navigate certain difficult portions of Paul’s letters. Tim Foster provides a careful reading of 1 Timothy 2:8–15. Heather Gorman then considers 1 Corinthians 11 alongside one important aspect of its context. Jamin Hübner provides an in-depth consideration of perspicuity (the doctrine of the clarity of scripture) in relation to complementarian interpretations of 1 Timothy 2. A sermon by Brandon Waite takes a fresh approach to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:34–36. The issue closes with an important and timely review of Michelle Lee-Barnewall’s Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate (reviewed by CBE Board of Reference member Aída Besançon Spencer).

We at CBE wish you the very best as you encounter the Bible’s difficult texts, in this volume and beyond. To adapt an Old Irish blessing, “May the text rise up to meet you. . . .”