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Priscilla Papers

Genesis 29:25 is one of the Bible’s more startling verses: “When morning came, there was Leah!” (NIV). Have you ever wondered how Jacob could not know—for the better part of a day and all of a night—that he had married Leah instead of Rachel? Surely several factors were at work, and just as surely one factor was Leah’s veil. This unusual event prompts my thinking: Much like the literal veiling of Leah caused her to be obscured and overlooked, the figurative veiling of many other biblical women sometimes hides them from our view. Read more
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway, known for his concise language, once won a wager that he could tell a story in just six words. He then wrote on a napkin: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Whenever I share this story, invariably the audience fills in the gaps by positing a backstory which includes the baby’s death. One thing is clear—the story did not start at the beginning; it was told out of chronological order. Read more
The epistle to Philemon begins, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker” (NRSV). Paul and Timothy then also address “Apphia the sister” (Apphia tē adelphē). Throughout the multitude of commentaries on Philemon, one struggles to find a helpful description of this mysterious woman. The standard volumes concerning the evangelical gender debate rarely mention Apphia, and both hierarchical and egalitarian perspectives have done little to explore her identity. Specifically, the lack of detailed research regarding Apphia’s status may be due to the fact that, unlike other women in the NT, she is not given a now-controversial title (cf. “deacon” in Rom 16:1–2 or “apostle” in Rom 16:7). Also potentially at play is the tendency of readers to miss something they are not looking for: because Apphia is not contested ground in the evangelical gender debate, it makes sense that a work exploring her identity has been missing. In contrast, most of the detailed work on Paul’s relationship with Apphia is not by evangelical scholars. Read more
Luke 1:46–55 is both a beautiful hymn sung to glorify God and an interpretive puzzle. This text, widely known as the Magnificat, is one of several songs Luke uses at a crucial moment in the birth narratives in order for characters to explain the amazing ways in which God is moving. Luke includes it in his narrative to foreshadow the ministry of reversal Jesus will bring, first to Israel and eventually to all people. It is a praise hymn made up of a combination of OT allusions—more specifically, allusions to the Greek translation of the OT commonly referred as the Septuagint and abbreviated LXX. What follows is a study of the LXX allusions that combine to make up this praise hymn—allusions which have the cumulative effect of presenting Mary as a key character in the continuation of God’s OT promises and plan. Read more
Without question, women are more prominent in Luke’s writings than in any of the other three Gospel writers. The interpretation of their presence, however, is contested. In recent years, significant attention has been given to the role the women play in the narratives of Luke and Acts. The silence of their voices after the first few chapters of Luke makes one commentator label it, “an extremely dangerous text, perhaps the most dangerous in the Bible.” Can we read Luke as promoting the participation of women in the newly inaugurated Christian community? Or are women present but, after the Gospel prologue, relegated increasingly to silent supportive roles through the rest of Luke’s Gospel and Acts? While Mary sings solo, must Priscilla and others be drowned out by a male choir? Read more
The theme of this issue of Priscilla Papers is Theology. The cover photo is Martin Luther, one of the world’s best-known theologians. He is the topic of one of our articles; moreover, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Read more
I have long deliberated the possible efficacy of another Wild at Heart critique.1 Although many excellent critiques arose in the years after the book’s initial release in 2001, it still sells unusually well, progressively working its way into churches, homes, and minds. The English language version has sold over 4.5 million copies, annual sales exceed 100,000, and it currently holds the #1 Best Seller spot in Christian Men’s Issues on Amazon. To date, the book has been translated into thirty languages. Beyond this, the ideologies of Wild at Heart find expression in subsequent books written by John and Stasi Eldredge, most notably Captivating, as well as numerous contemporary Christian works on sex and gender that display direct influence from the Eldredges’ teachings or promote similar ideas. Hardly a year passes without some popular Christian book on gender or parenting acknowledging the Eldredges and their teachings or listing Wild at Heart as recommended reading. Stephen Mansfield, for example, calls the book “masterful,” listing it first in “The Ten Essential Books for Manly Men,” because it provides men with “the tools for understanding and living out the essential passions of manhood.” For Eldredge himself, such steady reception confirms its timeless truth. It is somehow paradoxically “truer” than before, because “it rings eternal, and universal. God was in it then; he is in it still.” Read more
St. Luke tells us that the women who followed Jesus to the cross “were beating their breasts and wailing for him” (Luke 23:27 NRSV). Some feminist and womanist theologians still wail at the sight of the cross—they reject traditional theories of atonement that regard the torture and death of an innocent man as a good intended by God. Many feminists and womanists find God’s saving activity hidden beneath this senseless and tragic brutality. Our goal in the present article is to analyze what feminist and womanist theologians have to say about the cross of Jesus, and from this, to examine our understanding of God’s saving activity in light of their helpful critique. Read more
Etienne Gilson spoke of medieval theology as an attempt to build great “cathedrals of the mind,” mental constructions meant to bring glory to God and to inspire worship as soaring stone cathedrals across Europe have since the same time period. Like any architectural achievement, these mental cathedrals brought together the many pieces of Christian doctrine into coherent and often beautiful structures of thought, building idea upon idea until great theological and philosophical systems emerged from scriptural foundations. This architectural analogy implies something important—it is rarely possible to shift the ground floor of a building without the entirety of the construct tumbling down. Only with great caution and preparation, whereby new supports are carefully constructed before the old are removed, can such a change go smoothly. Unfortunately, evangelical theology finds itself today in a situation where a great shift in a foundational doctrine of Christian theology has occurred—in the doctrine of the Trinity. This shift threatens several important Christian teachings and compromises the basic orientation of Christian ethics. As complementarian theologians increasingly speak of the eternal functional subordination of the Son (hereafter EFS), they move a central pillar of the cathedral of Christian doctrine, unaware that such a change could bring down the entire edifice of Christian theology. Read more
At the intersection of socioeconomics, ethnicity, and gender lurks one of the most insidious forms of violence against girls and women: sex trafficking. What theological insights should inform Christian ministry to victims and survivors of sex trafficking? Female theologians who are well-acquainted with histories of multiple forms of oppression should inform Christian practice. Therefore, mujerista (Spanish for “womanist”) and womanist scholars ought to be at the top of the list. Unfortunately, many evangelicals and other Christians whose praxis has primarily been informed by white, Western, male theological perspectives, are hesitant to consider theologies by and for women of color. This is a mistake. Whether or not a person fully embraces all the theological points of womanist and mujerista theologies, these contextualized liberation theologies contain powerful and poignant biblical truths that are particularly relevant to today’s victims and survivors of sex trafficking. This paper will first highlight relevant definitions and themes in mujerista and womanist theologies, then examine the implications for ministry among today’s sex trafficking victims and survivors Read more

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Book Review: Christian Standard Bible

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The CSB was published in March 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Book Review: Does God Make the Man? Media, Religion, and the Crisis of Masculinity

Does God Make the Man? is a fascinating look at how evangelical and ecumenical men process the messages they hear about masculinity from religion and media. The authors organized focus groups and recorded hundreds of hours of conversations to see if religion is vital to developing masculine identity. They conclude that, although evangelical men may claim to learn gender roles from the Bible, the actual sources of this knowledge are media and culture.

Book Review: Women's Socioeconomic Status and Religious Leadership in Asia Minor in the First Two Centuries C.E.

This book is a PhD dissertation, published in Fortress Press’s selective “Emerging Scholars” series. Indeed, it reads like a dissertation, and only specialists will resist the urge to skim through the survey of scholarship and explanation of method in the introduction and first chapter. (That is not to say these sections are of no value.)

Book Review: Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vison for Men and Women in Christ

In the often-heated evangelical debate concerning the ordination of women, one struggles to find a coherent and exhaustive work that covers more than the relevant Pauline texts. For example, the respected works by Philip Payne and Craig Keener provide concentrated exegesis on the significant Pauline texts.1 Cynthia Long Westfall’s recent book offers a larger interpretive framework for the evangelical gender debate, a framework that is lucid, compelling, and profoundly refreshing, and one which does not miss the theological forest for the exegetical trees.

Book Review: What's Right With Feminism

Many people are aware that women's wider opportunities to use their leadership gifts in both society and the church are due primarily to the efforts of women's movement—a feminist movement that began in this country in the mid-eighteen hundreds and was closely allied with the abolitionist movement. Yet as Christian women confront the complex (and often negative) baggage carried by the word "feminist" today, these women can often feel ill-equipped to sort out the many social and theological issues regarding women's roles in the nineteen nineties.

Book Review: Call Me Blessed: The Emerging Christian Woman

Faith Martin begins her book by stating: ''In the eyes of the church, a woman's humanity is overshadowed by her being perceived as a sex. Woman is the spiritual equal of man, but the church teaches that a woman's sex prevents a practical working out of that equality...All of this contrasts with the Holy Scriptures. When reading the Bible I am not conscious of my sex but conscious of my humanity. And so felt the women who flocked to Jesus. No man before or since has treated women as so completely human."

Book Review: Gender and Grace: Love, Work & Parenting In a Changing World

Gender and Grace is simultaneously one of the most challenging and most reassuring examinations of male-female relationships written from a Christian perspective. A professor of interdisciplinary studies at Calvin College, Van Leeuwen brilliantly integrates insights from faith and science, maintaining that the Bible provides the basic framework on which all our more detailed solutions to human problems must be founded.

Book Review: Veiled and Silenced: The Cultural Shape of Sexist Theology

This highly readable book introduces much interesting evidence to demonstrate that subordination of women perpetuates an institutionalized cultural myth rather than a scriptural truth.

Book Review: A Voice of Her Own by Nancy M. Tischler

Why, over the years, haven't women produced more in the arts—specifically in literature? At the turn of the century, Virginia Woolf began the answer to that important question by saying a woman could and would write given a "room of her own." This is the leisure, privacy, and financial support needed to encourage creativity that has traditionally been withheld from women either intentionally or because of the demands of other roles.

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