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Priscilla Papers

Everyone aspires to be Spirit-led, to be Spirit-filled, to be filled by the fruit of the Spirit. Everyone is ready to run on Spirit power! And I wish that for you—especially that you know the Spirit of God that has been shaped by Jesus and that you not change the gospel of power to anything less than what it should be. But this morning let me caution you about this combination of Spirit and power. For it is a combination incomplete without full knowledge; it can be potentially dangerous without full knowledge. It can be downright deadly! Read more
“Tamar lived desolate in the house of her brother Absalom” (2 Sam 13:20). These words have given me both heartache and comfort. Heartache because I don’t want Tamar’s story to end this way. Comfort because Tamar’s desolation validates my own desolation. “Desolation” describes the barren woman, a desert wilderness, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s desolation is described contrary to the creation account: formless and empty, dark, and isolated. To live desolate means to live lifeless, a common reality for those who suffer the impact of sexual abuse. Millions worldwide live in this reality: men and women, young and old, rich and poor. Even the daughter of King David. Read more
The painful and seemingly unending division among evangelicals over the relationship of the sexes is bedeviled by disputes about the interpretation of key biblical texts, most notably 1 Tim 2:9–15. However, how this Pauline text is understood depends more than anything else on how Gen 1–3 is understood. For complementarians what makes Paul’s prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority in church universally and transculturally binding is the premise that in creation, before the Fall, God gave the man authority over the woman. The importance for complementarians of the belief that woman was subordinated to man before the Fall cannot be overestimated. In stressing the vital nature of this argument for complementarians, Daniel Doriani notes that “nineteen of the twenty two authors” in the definitive collection of essays, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, argue for the subordination of women “on the basis of creation, or the order or creation. . . .” Read more
Biblical narratives of barren wives such as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and the mother of Samson paint a picture of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to fulfill promises to a burgeoning nation. In these narratives, the modern reader encounters polygyny and polycoity,1 wife rivalry, preferential treatment of certain wives and their children, and divorce, all of which are seemingly at odds with our biblical notions of marriage, divorce, and ethical treatment of others. Though scripture is mostly silent on the ramifications of barrenness, it is possible to look beyond the biblical witness to the broader ancient culture in order to understand its impact both on the women involved and society as a whole. Ancient legal, mythical, ritual, and medical records not only provide us with the broader cultural understanding of barrenness, but also, at times, mirror some of the personal and spiritual responses found in the biblical material. As a means of further understanding how this malady impacted ancient near eastern civilization, this article focuses on barrenness in legal records. Read more
Rooted in my kitchen chair, your eyes blue flashing fire, leaping from soul, flare where burn flames hottest. Read more
From beginning to end, the story of Ruth captures the attention of the reader. Though a story of the ebb and flow of ancient human existence—famine and death, gleaning and feasting—the story and the character of Ruth have transcended these ordinary occurrences. Ruth contains many elements that make for good story—tragedy, conflict, romance, and redemption to name a few. This gripping story causes “the emotions of the reader to fluctuate between hope and despair until the very end when what began with multiple tragedies comes to a triumphant and happy conclusion.” Perhaps the evocative nature of the story contributes to the vastly different uses of this book and the character of Ruth. Dante calls her the “gleaner-maid, meek ancestress” of David; Bunyan casts her as Christina’s youthful companion Mercy; and Milton uses Ruth as the paradigm for a virtuous young lady. Indeed, the book of Ruth continues to be one of the most beloved among the OT scriptures. In four short chapters, the author draws the reader into the ancient Israelite experience and tells a delightful story of faithfulness and redemption. When compared with OT literature containing harsh denunciations and warnings for the Israelites regarding their conduct, Ruth’s simple tale describing a time when Israelite society functioned as God intended is refreshing. Read more
When I was a child, the Stations of the Cross were a big part of my experiences of Holy Week at my home parish. I am a very visual person, so I remember well the stations that were on display. They were carved from a light-colored wood and rendered in a very realistic and striking style. Of these stations, one in particular always stood out to me, the sixth station: Veronica Wipes Jesus’s Face. Even as a child, I was deeply moved by Veronica’s compassion for the Lord. Her simple yet profound act of mercy in his greatest moment of need had an unforgettable quality to it. Little did I know that the Veronica legend was so convoluted from a literary point of view and that it extended so profoundly into art, theology, and spiritual devotion.1 Read more
To a young boy living in Paris during the German occupation, every day was a struggle for survival. Because of the scarcity of food, hunger had become a relentless torment. Almost daily, older people in our neighborhood were reported to have died of deprivation. The lack of fuel to heat homes and schools rendered lethal the exceptionally harsh winters of 1941 and 1942. Adults went about gaunt and listless. Children did not learn to play, to run, and to laugh. Tall strangers in green uniforms paraded around under the display of their twisted, satanic cross. Their heavy steel helmets, the daggers hanging from their wide black leather belts, their rough voices, and their hard faces struck terror into the depths of our beings. Pervasive fear, gnawing want, and hopelessness permeated every aspect of our existence.   Read more
Who has authority and who does not? This question drives many debates in the church today, and the conclusions drawn from it determine how people can function. But very rarely do we ask the question, what is authority? We propose a reframing of authority that defines how we function as a Christ-centered community. Being a Christ-centered community should be our primary concern, and, from this pursuit, our understanding of authority should arise. This article seeks to examine new-covenant believer (NCB) interpersonal authority, questioning the appropriateness of individuals exercising authority over fellow disciples of Jesus.1 We contend that we must primarily emphasize how to mature as members of Christ’s communal body and how to exhort others toward maturity, so that we, as a Christ-centered community, might fully express who Jesus is to the world. This maturity is dependent on a proper understanding of the authority of God, not on the authority of one person over another. By seeing authority in this way, we shift emphasis from office and position to maturity and gifting. And, since maturity in Christ is the goal of all believers, and all have gifts from the Spirit, these qualifications should dictate function. One practical way this understanding of authority can be applied is to the issue of women in leadership within the church. This article will attempt to reflect Scripture’s emphasis on community, then survey Scripture’s lack of emphasis on NCB interpersonal authority, and, finally, close with practical implications of what such a reorientation would mean for the body of Christ and, consequently, the issue of women in church leadership. Read more
The doctrine of the Trinity is the primary doctrine of the Christian faith. It expresses our distinctive Christian understanding of God. Sadly, many contemporary evangelicals are inadequately informed on this doctrine, and the evangelical community is deeply and painfully divided on this matter. In seeking to promote unity among evangelicals by establishing what is to be believed about our triune God, I outline in summary what I conclude is the historic orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and then provide a biblical and theological commentary on my summary in a second and longer article, which follows. Read more

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Book Review: Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, by N.T. Wright

N. T. (Tom) Wright is an esteemed scholar and prolific author whose work is no stranger to readers of Priscilla Papers. His article, “The Biblical Basis for Women’s Service in the Church,”1 was one of the first I read on the topic and served as a launching point for my subsequent research and writing. Consequently, I am pleased to provide a review of his recent book, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues.

Book Review: Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Young Clergywomen of Color, by Mihee Kim-Kort

The recently published book, Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Young Clergywomen of Color, poignantly opens up a whole new world for those of us who still see through the eyes of the dominant culture. The title’s Clergywomen of Color gives a small taste of the experiences these women have faced and continue to face.

Book Review: Philip F. Esler's Sex, Wives and Warriors: Reading Biblical Narrative with Its Ancient Audience

Esler is emeritus professor of biblical interpretation at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London, and was principal of St. Mary’s when this book was published. His several books have tended to apply social-scientific approaches to NT studies. The present volume does the same for a handful of OT narrative texts.

Book Review: What Women Want: Pentecostal Women Ministers Speak for Themselves

The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) is one of the major Pentecostal bodies in the United States. This book contains the results of a study conducted in that denomination regarding women and ministry. Some books that deal with this subject focus on biblical texts to either support or limit women’s place in ministry. This book, however, asks women ministers what they want. Not surprisingly, what they want is equality in ministry. The Church of God has 3,088 licensed women ministers in the United States; 726 of them participated in this survey (29).

Book Review: Latina Evangélicas

In Latina Evangélicas, three Latina theologians provide new insight into the often marginalized voices of Protestant Latinas. This book speaks primarily to scholars, but has valuable content for a wider audience of students and pastors as well.

Book Review: Caroline Simon's Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity

Is it possible to see clearly in the midst of sexual confusion today? Caroline Simon believes it is, provided we take the trouble to submit ourselves for regular vision tests along the way. A valuable addition to any undergraduate course on human sexuality or sexual ethics, Bringing Sex into Focus offers tools and skills for evaluating the conflicting messages about sexuality proffered by contemporary culture, media, academia, and even conflicting Christian traditions.

Book Review: Leslie Ann McKinney's Accepted in the Beloved

Pastor Leslie Ann McKinney passionately believes that God loves and accepts his daughters and has created Accepted in the Beloved: A Devotional Bible Study for Women on Finding Healing and Wholeness in God's Love to help women know and experience this love for themselves. The book is suitable for individual and group studies, but it is also a helpful resource for spiritual directors and other mentors who work with women who have been wounded in their relationships or in their faith communities.

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