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In 1664, a young Puritan minister named John Cotton Jr. was found guilty of “lascivious unclean practices with three women.”1 Mr. Cotton was a Harvard graduate, a descendant of well-respected parents, and a husband and father. As a punishment for his sinful deeds, English officials in Massachusetts forced Cotton to give up his pastorate of a local church. The question was, what could he do to support Joanna, his wife, and their children? Puritan leaders found the answer in an unlikely place: Martha’s Vineyard. For many years, members of the Mayhew family had labored as missionaries on the island, trying to teach local Indians about Christianity. The Mayhews needed help, and John Cotton Jr. was sufficiently qualified, in the eyes of the English at least, to preach to Indians. So, in 1666, John Cotton Jr. began a long missionary career on both Martha’s Vineyard and in the town of Plymouth. In many respects, his legacy lasted beyond his death, for his two sons, Josiah and Roland Cotton, preached to Indians in Massachusetts long after their father was gone.2 Other scholarly works have examined male members of the Cotton family and how they interacted with Native Americans.3 In this article, however, I wish to explore the experiences of Joanna Cotton, a wife and mother of missionaries in colonial America. In particular, I will explore the extent to which Joanna fell in line with expectations regarding gender roles in colonial New England. These roles typically involved a degree of female subordination to males. Read more
A woman must quietly receive instruction with all submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was first deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim 2:11–14 NASB)  Among theological conservatives, the 1 Timothy 2 passage is pivotal in determining the role of women in the church. For today’s “traditionalists,” this passage mandates the subordination of women to men in the church because the headship/submission principle is grounded in the created order, an order that Christianity redeems, but does not alter. Today’s traditionalists/male hierarchists also claim to be upholding the historic interpretation of this passage. New research on early Protestant beliefs concerning natural law and the spiritual and civil kingdoms, however, brings their claim into serious question.  Read more
Within evangelical circles, much discussion is centered on the role of God as Father. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is depicted frequently with this paternal metaphor.1 Yet, one should not overlook that God is also depicted with maternal metaphors. Within the Old Testament (OT), these metaphors of God as mother or God as one giving birth are often juxtaposed with traditionally male metaphors such as God as father and God as husband.2 Within the New Testament (NT), childbearing and mothering metaphors serve an important role in redescribing the spiritual rebirth (Gal 4:29; John 3:3–8), describing the experience of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the disciples (Matt 24:8; Mark 13:8; John 16:21); describing Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3, 23; 1 John 2:20; James 1:18), and Paul describing his relationship to the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 2:7). Read more
In the first installment of this series, we noted and illustrated the importance of the presence or absence of the article (the) in Greek grammar. Presence of the article usually indicates identity and absence of the article generally stresses quality or character. We showed how this grammatical difference (not usually present in English) affects our interpretation of verses 1 through 7 in I Timothy 2. Read more
In his book, Evangelicals at an Impasse: Biblical Authority in Practice (John Knox Press, 1979), Robert K. Johnston, dean of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, puts his finger on an embarrassing situation.  While Evangelicals are all committed to a high view of Scripture, to the absolute authority of Scripture, they disagree on almost everything else. Read more
This passage in I Timothy has caused much confusion about what women can or cannot do in church services or in teaching. In the oft-heated discussions, a verse or two, or even a single phrase is sometimes selected and the rest of the passage ignored. Read more
At the evangelical colloquium on women and the Bible October 9-11, 1984 in Oakbrook, Illinois (see the papers in Women, Authority, and the Bible, ed. A. Mickelsen, Inter Varsity Press, 1986), I introduced the section on biblical hermeneutics (the art of interpreting Scripture) by saying that the most crucial issues for evangelicals in the modern world of biblical studies were not in the arena of the so-called "Battle for the Bible" (inerrancy and authority). Important as these considerations may be, the hermeneutical issues are still more critical. Read more
There are many great blacks who have influenced our spiritual heritage. We find them both in and out of the Bible. We should like to tell you the story of the priest’s family who took in Moses in his hour of desperation. We know that there are some problems, some different names given in the texts, but our purpose is to nourish our souls rather than to look for difficulties. Let us rather see the story with the eyes of faith. First Corinthians 10:1-11 tells us that the adventures of the children of Israel in the wilderness happened as spiritual examples for us. Certainly the family about which we are talking had much for all of us to emulate. Read more
How many times have you gone to a women’s Bible study on Proverbs 31? It seems that discussions on this passage usually turn to how to be a good wife, mother, and house cleaner. Yet isn’t a woman so much more than just that? Doesn’t God have other work for us to do, as well? Isn’t there room for women to be leaders in God’s economy? The Proverbs 31 woman is more complex than most of us imagine. She is intelligent, creative, and a complete, well-rounded woman that follows God’s leading. So, why do we rarely talk about those qualities in our Bible studies?  Read more
One of the most hotly contested passages in the New Testament these days is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The cultural reason for this is clear: The ordination of women in the Church is a major issue of debate among traditional and evangelical denominations. Biblically-minded Christians are rightly concerned about the meaning of this passage for ministry today. And, in response to that concern, a large number of scholars have written articles, commentaries and now even entire books on these few verses.   Read more

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