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A couple of years ago I was invited to participate as a speaker at a Christian college’s body-awareness week. The weeklong program had been designed to address the rampant eating disorders and entrenched negative views of the body found particularly among the female students. The counseling office was overwhelmed by the need for a healthy and redeeming view of the body it saw desperately lacking among its students. Women, in unprecedented numbers, were starving themselves, engaging in bulimia, and confessing deep shame about their bodies. Some of the male students responded with the attitude that these women needed to get over their “personal sin” by repenting and straightening up. Other young men claimed that they also suffered from the “lookism” in our culture, which measures people’s worth by their appearance.  How does this happen at a Christian college and among young people who have attended church all their lives? How does this happen at places that promote themselves as nurturing a Christian worldview and a certain degree of protection from the culture? Read more
Mary Magdalene appears in all four gospels as a witness of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Luke 8:2 explains that this particular Mary was called Magdalene, and all four evangelists consistently identify her by the name “Mary Magdalene” (Matt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 19:25; 20:1, 18). The only exceptions are John 20:11, 16, which contain a simple term “Mary,” but the context makes clear that this Mary is no one else but Mary Magdalene. It should also be noted that, similar to the designation given to some men, such as Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 16:6) and Joseph of Arimathaea (Mark 15:43, John 19:38), the second part of her name, Magdalene, points to her place of origin, the city of Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee north of Tiberias. This designation uniquely distinguishes this Mary from all other Marys mentioned in the New Testament. An identification of a woman by her place of origin was quite rare in Judaism at the time. More common was a relational designation with regard to another family member, such as a parent (Mark 6:22; Luke 2:36) or a husband (Matt 1:6; Luke 8:3; John 19:25). The absence of such a relational term for this Mary suggests that she was neither a young girl under a direct guardianship of her father nor a married woman accountable to her husband. Most interpreters therefore assume that she was a widow. Read more
I could not have realized in 1972 that my ecclesiastical and professional commitment to women in ministry, already established, would lead to one of the most important and consuming professional and personal aspects of my life as a New Testament professor, churchman, and advocate for a position I came to see as part of my commitment to the gospel. Read more
If the on-going discussion about the role of women in leadership too often seems to ring hollow and trite, it may be because there is more to the issue and its implications for the Church than mere slogans and simplifications. The proof is in the pages of the Bible where a look at women in leadership roles in the Old Testament – even before Christ lauded Mary of Bethany for her countercultural approach to God – reveals a remarkable variety of styles and approaches. What is revealed in the lives of judge and warrior Deborah or intercessor and infl uencer Esther? What can be learned about negotiation from Abigail or about the power of submission from Sarah? All add up to vivid role models of anointed women for whom leadership was simply never an issue. Read more
As believers in Christ, we all deeply desire to see the message of the gospel proclaimed and accepted around the world.  If we have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives to make us better and more useful persons, we want to let the whole world share that experience.  Read more
The phenomenon of cultural relativity, with the adaptations it imposes, is repeatedly illustrated within the bible itself. We see the Israelite nomads moving from the wilderness into the settled agricultural life of Canaan; we see a peasant economy giving place under the monarchy to an urbanised mercantile economy, with the attendant abuses against which the great prophets of Israel inveighed; we see the post-exilic adjustment to life in a unit of a great, well-organised empire—first Persian, then Hellenistic, then Roman. Even within the limited confines of the New Testament we see the gospel transplanted from its Jewish and Palestinian matrix into the Gentile environment of the Mediterranean world. In this last respect we could pay special attention to the way in which John, while preserving the authentic gospel of Christ, brings out its abiding and universal validity in a new idiom for an audience very different from that to which it was first proclaimed. Read more
Throughout history, many women have been denied teaching and leadership positions based primarily on the teachings of the Apostle Paul. Some have rejected Christianity because they thought Paul viewed women as second-class citizens. That idea is based primarily on two passages -- I Timothy 2:11,12 and I Corinthians 14:34. Most people who believe in restricted roles for women do not realize that Paul named several women among his “co-workers in the gospel” along with such people as Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Apollos. Paul praised women like Priscilla and Lydia who were leaders in the early church. Paul's evangelistic ministry was one of partnership with women. Yet Paul said in I Cor. 14 that women were to keep silent in the church, and in I Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.” Was Paul a hypocrite -- not practicing what he preached, was he confused, or are there other explanations?   Read more
Like many women, I was surprised when I first heard Junia’s story. I was speaking to a book club about women in the Bible when an audience member raised her hand and suggested that “Junia” was a little-known apostle who ought to be included. Junia? I had never heard of her before. But the woman in the audience insisted that Paul praised Junia in the book of Romans and that years later translators changed it to a man’s name because they didn’t believe a woman could be an apostle. I was stunned. I had spent a lifetime of Sundays in church, paying attention most of the time, yet I had never heard a word about someone named Junia Read more