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Men and women struggle to understand each other and to thrive together as God intended. God’s design of an Edenic relationship where the male and the female together nurture and steward the earth rarely seems to happen. Women often suffer worldwide from assumptions that they have less status and purposefulness than their brothers. Men often suffer from being alone at the top and alone in the struggles of life’s battlefields. Children can suffer the consequences of the ongoing acrimony between parents. Gender wars are destructive. Read more
An unfortunate history of misinterpretation and abuse has surrounded 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It has been taken out of context and used to suppress women’s involvement in the ministry of the church. The egalitarian interpretation, however, finally perceives this verse, not as a tool of oppression, but as one with a helpful cross-cultural message. At the outset of my paper I will disclose the three most prominent complementarian objections to an egalitarian interpretation: (1) the hierarchy Paul describes in v. 3 lays out a subordinating chain of command, (2) the word “authority” in verse 10 takes a passive meaning and thereby refers to the husband’s authority over the wife, and (3) that while women do not have to wear head coverings today they still need to pray and prophesy in a manner that is submissive to male leadership in the church. Read more
If we all approach the text of Scripture, each having his or her own framework of understanding (even when we share a view of the Bible that it is inerrant and true in all it affirms and teaches), is there any hope that we can ever reach a “correct” or “objectively valid” interpretation,1 especially on passages that are so sensitive as those that deal with the place and privilege of women in the body of Christ today? Surely, no one particular set of presuppositions is to be favored in and of itself over any other set of presuppositions as the proper preparation for understanding a text. And no one starts with a tabula rasa, a blank mind. So does this mean we are hopelessly deadlocked with no possibility for a resolution? Read more
Regular readers of Priscilla Papers will be familiar with those standard biblical texts one points to when discussing feminine imagery for God. We read, for example, of God extending a mother’s care in Isaiah 66:13, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (nrsv). Similarly, Jesus longs to offer such comfort and protection in Matthew 23:37 (also in Luke 13:24), “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (nrsv). In addition to motherly comfort, other common texts speak of God nursing and giving birth (e.g., Num. 11:12; Deut. 32:18; Isa. 42:14). Read more
In the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of “making himself equal to God.” Today, a woman who assumes a position of ordained leadership in the Church may be accused of “making herself equal to men.” Although most Christians agree that men and women are spiritually equal before God, some nevertheless insist that women are subordinate to men in function in the home and in the Church. In order to codify the functional subordination of women biblically, some scholars who support hierarchy in male/female relationships use what they claim to be the subordination of the Son to the Father in the Trinity as a divinely inspired model of male-female relationships. Read more
The complementarian conviction, that women are under male authority and therefore must be excluded from (some) positions of leadership, rests in no small measure on their interpretation of God’s eternal, created order as established in Genesis 1-2. However, when the complementarian exegesis of creation is given close scrutiny, substantial—indeed fatal—problems are revealed at the very foundation of their framework. Read more
We all like to believe ourselves to be discerning. However, Luke 7:36-50 challenges us: Do we really get the main point? And if so, how shall we respond? In the account of the anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman, Jesus radically reverses all assumptions about himself, the woman and Simon, highlights true repentance and forgiveness, and causes us to reflect on the boldness of the Lord’s ministry to women. In examining this account, we need to ask: How does it relate to Luke’s major themes and its immediate context? Is this text reliable? What is the historical-cultural meaning of the woman’s act? How do the grammar and literary aspects highlight the Lord’s major point? What is the significance of key words? How does this text apply to our own lives? Through seeing this passage as representative of Luke’s theme of discerning the truth (which causes paradigm shifts) and the theme of God’s gracious forgiveness, we see this woman’s seemingly lavish response as appropriately representing a repentant heart. Because the historical-cultural information has such importance for the clarity of this article, it has been moved to the forefront of the following presentation, to be followed by grammar and word studies. Read more
In the latter part of the twentieth century the doctrine of the Trinity captured the attention of theologians more than any other doctrine. At no time in history since the theologically stormy days of the fourth century has there been so much discussion on this topic, and the discussion does not seem to be ending! Books on the Trinity by Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox theologians continue to be published as I write. No longer is it thought that the Trinity is an obtuse, secondary, and impractical dogma. Today theologians are generally agreed that this doctrine is foundational to the Christian faith because it articulates what is most distinctive in the biblical revelation of God—he is triune. Read more
As Katharine Bushnell pointed out nearly a century ago, there are some hundred passages in the Bible that bespeak God’s direction, affirmation, and blessing upon the ministry and leadership of women. There is also profound sympathy for those conditions that leave women most vulnerable: widowhood, childlessness, pregnancy, famine, and atrocities in times of war. It is the very breadth of these supportive passages that started many of us on the journey to understand the limited number of scriptural selections that appear restrictive of women and their ministry. Read more
God has given me a vision for the kind of things he wants to do in the lives of his people, specifically in the lives of women—powerful and priceless things that people have not yet understood fully. I share not just out of gratitude but also out of weakness. I share not as somebody who has all the answers. Read more

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