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Priscilla Papers

The research resulting in this article focuses on evangelical churches in New Zealand, examining both the practice and content of their pre-marriage counselling sessions. Two competing visions of marriage relations—egalitarianism and complementarianism—representing different interpretations of the Bible are embedded within Christian pre-marriage counselling discourse. Here, sociological research and theology intersect. This article examines how differing interpretations of Scripture shape marriage advice given to engaged couples. The study’s interview participants, whose pseudonyms are John, Stephen, William, Sharon, and married couple Ron and Shivani, are leaders who facilitate pre-marriage counselling within their evangelical churches. Read more
I begin this discourse with a disclaimer, since the title suggests far more than one can deliver in a limited amount of space. It suggests far more knowledge about this topic than I actually have—indeed, it is safe to say that there is much more that we don’t know about these things than we actually do. What I hope to do is to offer a few probings into the cultural background of this passage—which has become such a crux for people on both sides of the issue of whether there is a divinely ordained hierarchy in the life of the church and home, based on gender alone. Read more
Where and how we start in our interpretation of Scripture determines where we will end up. When seeking to understand the relevance of the Bible’s teaching for our lives, interpretive starting points are particularly significant. The method by which we read and derive meaning from Scripture is the fundamental determinant of the nature of the meaning we will derive. Read more
There has been, and continues to be, a great deal of confusion, consternation, and perhaps grief, over the meaning of the Greek word kephalē (“head”) in the NT. Some claim that the word means “source”; others claim that it means “authority over”; still others have different ideas regarding the meaning of this Greek word. A great deal of ink has been spilled defending this or that position while attacking the others, yet the debate continues. There are many issues related to the understanding of words in general (semantics), and to kephalē in particular, that have either been ignored, downplayed, or misconstrued by various proponents of the meaning of kephalē in the NT. Essentially, traditionalists argue that kephalē means “authority over” whereas egalitarians argue that the meaning of this Greek word is “source.” Authors on both sides of this debate have committed errors in the form of arguments used, in the method of semantic analysis, as well as in the citation of their primary Greek sources. In this article, I will review some general principles of semantic analysis and some other related background issues which bear on the meaning of kephalē in the NT. I will also discuss how the Septuagint (the translation of the Hebrew OT into Greek in the third to second centuries BC) and some other Greek authors (notably Plato, Plutarch, and Philo) have been misappropriated in the discussion of kephalē. Because there are so many various passages in Greek literature which have been invoked as “proof” for this or that side in the debate, I cannot possibly review them all. Rather, I have selected only certain passages for discussion in order to illustrate the points I wish to make. Read more
Dismayed and confused by constant concerns about safety for girls and exclusion of women from church leadership, Faith Martin began a journey searching for theological developments regarding such demeaning views of women. Other studies of women in the church, such as Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld’s Daughters of the Church, reveal a consistent disparagement of women since the third century. Interpretations of NT household codes favoring male authority have often been cited to support such practices. These interpretations bear two kinds of illusions. One implies that church membership is predominantly male. The more serious concern is that presumptions of superiority and inferiority contradict the gospel message of love and grace, the good news of setting the oppressed free. Therefore, a proper theological hermeneutic of the NT household codes demands the inclusion of cultural dimensions. Read more
Since the middle of the twentieth century there has been an ongoing, sometimes acrimonious debate over the meaning of “head” (Greek, kephalē) in Paul’s letters, especially 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23. The literature is extensive. The debate continues, but few have taken the time to read all the significant discussions or have access to the actual articles, much less the resources to critique such. This article is an attempt to review the most significant scholarly literature that has emerged in the debate and to summarize each without critique. The focus is narrow and should not be taken as a meta-study of the whole debate on male and female relations in the church, home, and world. Read more
I begin this discourse with a disclaimer, since the title suggests far more than one can deliver in a limited amount of space. It suggests far more knowledge about this topic than I actually have—indeed, it is safe to say that there is much more that we don’t know about these things than we actually do. What I hope to do is to offer a few probings into the cultural background of this passage—which has become such a crux for people on both sides of the issue of whether there is a divinely ordained hierarchy in the life of the church and home, based on gender alone. Read more
The phone rings just as I sit down to dinner. The voice asks, “Is this the head of the house?” Should my answer be brave or honest? I reply, “It depends on what you mean by head.” Read more
Considered the most influential woman affiliated with the Welsh Revivals (1904–05) and earlier the Keswick Conventions (1875–1910), Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861–1927) distinguished herself as a writer, speaker, and advocate of women’s public ministry. A cru­cicentrist of the highest order, Penn-Lewis’s egalitarian theol­ogy grew out of her understanding of Christ’s completed work on Calvary. For Penn-Lewis, the cross provides not only forgive­ness for sin (redemption), but also victory over sin and preju­dice (sanctification). Crucicentrists like Penn-Lewis celebrated the social consequences of Calvary that included unity and rec­onciliation, not only between men and women, but also among individuals once hostile to one another. Thus, Penn-Lewis’s sote­riology (what she understood about the work of Christ) shaped her egalitarian ecclesiology (what she understood about the work of the church). She promoted this view through her writings and leadership initially within the early Keswick Conventions and ul­timately within evangelical circles around the world. Read more
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood created quite a sensation by paying for a two page advertisement in the January 13, 1989 issue of Christianity Today. The group was begun in response to groups such as Christian for Biblical Equality because, Wayne House explains, “There is a tendency to think biblical feminism is the only biblical view.”1 What a great affirmation to biblical feminists who hold the Bible as authoritative and reliable that some should now see our position as “the only biblical view”! However, this Council believes (among other things) that “Scripture affirms male leadership in the home” between “the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives.” In contrast, many fine studies have been done to disprove the notion that Ephesians 5:22-23 affirms male leadership in the home.2 I would like to reinforce those studies by an in depth look at the literary context of the passage, and also by highlighting the figurative language Paul uses.  Read more

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Consider the Women: A Provocative Guide to Three Matriarchs of the Bible

Making my way into this book, I increasingly felt I could not write a review without knowing at least a bit about its author. Debbie Blue is co-founding minister of House of Mercy, a Christian congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her earlier books affirm the Incarnation (Sensual Orthodoxy, 2004), decry bibliolatry (From Stone to Living Word: Letting the Bible Live Again, 2008), and explore the symbolism of birds in the Bible (Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible, 2013). Her bio at houseofmercy.org says she “approaches scripture . . .

Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible

“We must revisit what the Scriptures say about some Bible women we have sexualized, vilified and/or marginalized. Because, above all, we must tell the truth about what the text says” (16). So writes editor Sandra Glahn in the preface to this volume. Glahn teaches media arts and worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. She holds a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is author or co-author of more than twenty books, including several volumes in The Coffee Cup Bible Study Series.

Book Review: What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women

The Rev. Dr. Kevin Giles is a longstanding supporter of women in leadership. Over the course of more than forty years, he has written at least nine books on the topics of women, ministry, and the Trinity. Many of his books on women have been published in Australia (e.g., Women and Their Ministry [Dove Communications 1977], Created Woman [Acorn Press 1985], and Better Together [Acorn Press 2010]). Now he has written What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women with a North American publisher (Cascade Books).

Book Review: Phoebe: A Story

In this work of historical fiction, Paula Gooder presents an imaginative telling of the life and ministry of Phoebe. While Gooder does not offer an introduction to the book, she does provide helpful comments in the endnotes. She states that her purpose in writing this story is not simply to provide an entertaining novel, but also to inform readers of the reality behind the NT text (225). Gooder sparks the imagination of her audience by disclosing scholarly information concerning the Greco-Roman world through the medium of narrative.

Book Review: Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire

Few evangelical Christians have not heard of pastor Mark Driscoll, and few are therefore unaware of his scandalous history at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. After building up one of the fastest growing church networks in America (see www.acts29.com) from the late 1990s to 2014, Driscoll was let go by the very fellowship of churches he helped build, on various charges of unethical behavior.

Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

The terms “feminism” and “feminist” are thrown around quite a bit these days. But the referent is rarely obvious. For some, feminists are men and women who want generic equality between the sexes. For others, feminists are extreme political, female leftists who angrily propose laws to penalize a whole range of social inequalities—whether in public or private spheres. For still others, feminism is an academic ideology that is currently trendy, especially at universities, which may overlap with pro-LGBTQ and/or Neo-Marxist projects. The list could go on.

Patterns of Ministry among the First Christians

In this second edition of Patterns of Ministry among the First Christians, Kevin Giles states that his primary goal is to provide a detailed study of the historical development and characteristics of Christian leadership that is accessible to a wide range of readers (viii). Accordingly, Giles avoids technical language that might hinder non-specialists. Additions to the 1991 edition include multiple digressions which will be of interest to readers of Priscilla Papers, as well as a closing chapter devoted to ordination.

Book Review: The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity

The terms “page turner” and “doctrine of the Trinity” would not often be found in the same sentence, but they are appropriate in the case of Kevin Giles’s most recent book on the issue. I found this five-chapter account of a recent theological dispute absolutely riveting, even though I already knew how it would end! It is an extraordinary story, told by a major player in the drama.

Book Review: My Daughter a Preacher!?!

Leslie Flynn has made many valuable contributions to the church during his long and distinguished career. He served as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, NY for forty years. He has written thirty-eight books including this 1996 title. I have never seen a long book by Pastor Flynn. His books are brief, not because he writes on unimportant topics but because he has the gift of concise statement and brevity.

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