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Priscilla Papers

Many decades ago, while I was still a young and brash student, I happened to read about a book being assembled analyzing a variety of interpretive approaches to literature. With all the gall of a neophyte, I contacted the editors, pointed out they were missing a chapter on “Christian interpretation,” suggested I could supply that need, and they agreed (with great reluctance) to let me submit an idea for it. I took the Christological approach (an emphasis on identifying Christ-types), ladled in some exegetical method, peppered it with what I thought would be centrist Christian doctrinally dogmatic elements, and sailed it out onto their waters. It subsequently sank. Obviously unimpressed, they sent me back a form letter thanking me so much for my efforts and essentially telling me to get lost. Read more
Barak may be the most misunderstood hero in the entire Bible. For years, this thoughtful warrior who insured a victory by forgoing personal glory to partner up with God’s anointed spokeswoman Deborah has been dismissed out of hand by simplistic, popular readings of his complex egalitarian story. Read more
In his classic study The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, the great archaeologist William M. Ramsay noted that “women-prophets were a feature of the Christianity of Anatolia”—the ancient name for what is generally Turkey today, but which, in New Testament times, included so many of the churches we read about, including the seven churches of Revelation. In fact, so prominent were women with this gift that the name “Prophetilla” was found on an inscription from this region and may actually be a unique Christian term created to designate a female prophet. Since “there is nothing to mark this inscription as later than 200,” one wonders what happened to this flourishing and noted “feature” of early Christianity. Ramsay’s next observation explains that prophesying women were “in the Catholic church before the latter part of the second century, and in the Montanist Church even after that time.”1 Read more
If you were blessed enough to attend one of the many memorial services honoring the life and legacy of Catherine Clark Kroeger (1925–2011), you undoubtedly caught a glimpse of a Christian leader whose prodigious ministries touched the lives of thousands. Family members, foster children, friends, colleagues, and members of the community remembered how Cathie’s faith directed her copious talents and energy. Cathie gave of herself on behalf of others, not only through the ministries she inaugurated, including Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) and Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH), but also through her church, denomination, neighborhoods, and academic societies. At the service I attended in St. Paul, Minnesota, it was abundantly clear that we were commemorating a leader who stands as part of a unique evangelical tradition. Cathie embodied the evangelical belief that God speaks through Scripture, that the cross redeems all of life, and that we are called to live out vigorously our reconciliation with God and others in word and deed. Cathie’s utter devotion to these theological ideals places her beside evangelicals such as Pandita Ramabai, Frances Willard, and Katharine Bushnell. Read more
Christians for Biblical Equality’s founder, Catherine Clark Kroeger, was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She defined the words “can do.” Read more
One of the epiphanic moments of my faith came about in north Philadelphia at what had been Temple University’s theological school, redubbed Conwell School of Theology after Russell Conwell, the Civil War officer whose coming to Christian faith was profoundly influenced by a devout and devoted assistant, Johnny Ring. Johnny seemed a perfect candidate for the ministry when his life was abruptly cut off in “the war between brothers.” Severely wounded himself and left for dead for a night at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (Georgia), Conwell eventually embraced Johnny’s God.1 Years later, now a Baptist pastor, he was asked by a young deacon to teach him to preach and responded in the grand style, founding Temple College in Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love,” perhaps as much a tribute to the young believer Johnny Ring. Temple blossomed into the university with a theological seminary, the latter becoming independent and soon acquiring a new name, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, when Billy Graham brokered a merger with another seminary, Gordon Divinity School, which was also leaving its present campus. Read more
In 1664, a young Puritan minister named John Cotton Jr. was found guilty of “lascivious unclean practices with three women.”1 Mr. Cotton was a Harvard graduate, a descendant of well-respected parents, and a husband and father. As a punishment for his sinful deeds, English officials in Massachusetts forced Cotton to give up his pastorate of a local church. The question was, what could he do to support Joanna, his wife, and their children? Puritan leaders found the answer in an unlikely place: Martha’s Vineyard. For many years, members of the Mayhew family had labored as missionaries on the island, trying to teach local Indians about Christianity. The Mayhews needed help, and John Cotton Jr. was sufficiently qualified, in the eyes of the English at least, to preach to Indians. So, in 1666, John Cotton Jr. began a long missionary career on both Martha’s Vineyard and in the town of Plymouth. In many respects, his legacy lasted beyond his death, for his two sons, Josiah and Roland Cotton, preached to Indians in Massachusetts long after their father was gone.2 Other scholarly works have examined male members of the Cotton family and how they interacted with Native Americans.3 In this article, however, I wish to explore the experiences of Joanna Cotton, a wife and mother of missionaries in colonial America. In particular, I will explore the extent to which Joanna fell in line with expectations regarding gender roles in colonial New England. These roles typically involved a degree of female subordination to males. Read more
Writing a commentary on one book of the Bible is a serious responsibility—not to mention three books. So, when Aída, my wife, was given that opportunity, we shook out our savings from under every mattress, so as to say, and the whole family went to the island of Crete where Paul sent Titus so long ago to nurture the fledgling church. Our son Steve, who is in media productions, took 1,400 pictures and did the driving. I edited what Aída had written so far on her manuscript (which was considerable) while she took copious notes on what she needed in each spot to enlighten more obscure parts of the texts of the pastorals. We had our team. Read more
“Skip a meal, if you must, but buy this book!” That was the professorial exhortation eager students would take to heart when I was in seminary. In those days before personal computers and the various BibleWorks-type programs, the most precious of such must-buy books were the reference books. Read more
The Stilwells’ Dodge Ram van weighed five tons. Donna Stilwell weighed 115 pounds. Her husband, Richard, was hardly thinking about the comparison when he slid underneath the van to fix the transmission. But, as he worked on it, suddenly it slipped out of park and the vehicle crushed down on him. He could not move. He screamed for Donna, who dashed out of the house, and leaped into the van, trying to drive it “gently” off him, but “the pain was unbearable.” So, Donna Stilwell, all five feet two inches and 115 pounds, jumped back out, grasped the van over the front left wheel, and lifted the van off her husband. “She has wrist problems and has a hard time moving a coffee table,” Richard reflected afterwards, as he recovered from “internal bruising” and a “broken arm.” “The end result could have been a lot worse if not for the super human strength of his wife,” observed reporter Christina Wallace of the Boston Metro. But, another remarkable aspect Wallace records is that “Donna has reported no back, wrist or arm pains since performing her feat of strength.”1 Read more

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Book Review: Nancy Hedberg's Women, Men, and the Trinity

This very accessible book is an excellent place to start one's exploration into what has come to be called the "New Subordinationism" in current evangelical discussions of the Trinity. Author Nancy Hedberg, who is vice president for student life at Corban University in Salem, Oregon, is accustomed to communicating with young college students and brings that clarity over to her discussion of theology. She is a philosophical thinker who is gifted in understanding what an author is communicating as well as in relaying an accurate description of that position to readers.

Book Review: Submission within the Godhead and the Church in the Epistle to the Philippians

This volume by Sydney Park started life as a doctoral dissertation in New Testament studies. The style of the work is very academic, and the price of the hardback means very few, if any, nonspecialists will read it. This review will be devoted primarily to explaining the author's main argument, but I will indulge in just one critical comment toward the end.

Book Review: Responding to Abuse in Christian Homes

Responding to Abuse in Christian Homes: A Challenge to Churches and their Leaders represents the final book edited by Catherine Clark Kroeger, together with her colleagues Nancy Nason ­Clark and Barbara Fisher-Townsend. Similar to other publications by the late Dr. Kroeger, this book addresses the link between violence against Christian women by their (oftentimes) believing husbands and the incorrect theological presuppositions which enable the violence to persist.

Book Review: No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction

Marnie Ferree presents a deeply moving and sometimes disturbing investigation of sexual abuse from the perspective of the injured, as one who was deeply wounded through sexual victimization, and the healer, as an actively working counselor and minister to those who have experienced similar abuse. And, as if such revelatory investigations from the first-person perspective were not difficult enough, Ferree takes the discussion to an entirely new depth of difficulty: she presents herself as the perpetrator as well.

Book Review: Man and Woman, One in Christ

The research of Philip Payne is exceedingly important for all who are concerned about justice for women. Over the years, gifted women and those who support their cause have treasured the work of Dr. Payne—each of his articles, presentations at learned conferences, and accessible Bible studies. Year in and year out, he has been there for us, by his patient handling of Scripture authenticating the legitimacy of women in ministry.

Book Review: The ESV Study Bible

Christianity Today (March 2009) 21 reports the ESV Study Bible sold 100,000 copies prior to its release. Its goals are admirable: "Within that broad tradition of evangelical orthodoxy, the notes have sought to represent fairly the various evangelical positions on disputed topics" (11). "Emphasizing word-for-word accuracy . . . it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original . . .

Book Review: Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is appropriate for laypeople who are motivated to study the Bible, as well as pastors and scholars. Kenneth Bailey intentionally writes in a way that those outside of the circle of scholarly discussion can hear and apply some of the important insights and contributions that emerge from the dialogue. He is well qualified as an author, lecturer, and emeritus research professor of Middle Eastern New Testament studies for the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. He lived in the Middle East for sixty years.

Book Review: William and Aída Spencer and Steve and Celestia Tracy's Marriage at the Crossroads

Many of us have longed for a sane, nuanced conversation around differing viewpoints on gender issues in marriage. The Spencers and Tracys have given us that conversation in this fine book. This is not a debate pitting egalitarian against complementarian and vice versa. This is a genuine conversation in which each couple has laid out their beliefs about the nature of Christian marriage, issues of headship and submission, marital roles and decision making, and, finally intimacy.

Book Review: Margaret Köstenberger's Jesus and the Feminists

How would feminists answer Jesus' question: "Who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15). This is an intriguing question raised by Margaret Köstenberger (adjunct professor of women's studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary).

Book Review: Mignon R. Jacob's Gender, Power, and Persuasion

In Gender, Power, and Persuasion, Mignon Jacobs examines the ancient Genesis narratives with fresh insight and clarity. She weaves together both a faithful identification of key texts and a modern "multicritical" analysis of those texts. Indeed, this book is particularly relevant for egalitarians looking for different methodologies to address the gender issues of the familiar Genesis stories.

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