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Priscilla Papers

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
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 God speaks in the Bible, it is with authority—and this is no less the case when God speaks through women. Sometimes it is privately through ordinary women like the matriarch Rebekah (Gen. 25:25) or the young woman Mary of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-38). Elsewhere, women serve as public heralds of Israel’s deliverance (Ps. 68:11, Isa. 40:9), and later of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-18, Luke 24:1-12, John 24:1-12). In the book of Proverbs, the very wisdom of God is personified as a woman who calls the foolish to repentance and the wise to obedience. She also provides an idealized model for a person of wisdom as the “woman of valor” in the poem that King Lemuel’s mother taught him (Prov. 31). And throughout biblical history, the official “thus saith the Lord” of the prophets is heard through courageous women like Miriam in the exodus from Egypt (Exod. 15:20-21,Mic. 6:4), Deborah during the era of the judges (Judg. 4-5), Huldah at the time of the kingdom’s fall (2 Kings 22:14-20, 2 Chron. 34:22-28), as well as the New Testament examples of Anna (Luke 2:36), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), the unnamed women who prayed and prophesied at Corinth (1 Cor. 11), and the prophesying daughters of Israel in the last days announced by the prophet Joel (Joel 2) and celebrated by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Read more
In the most famous chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we find a litany of Israel’s faith heroes, punctuated by the repetitive phrase “by faith” (Heb. 11:1-38). This rhetoric device drives home the unmistakable theme of the chapter and creates the strong impression that faithful heroes are plentiful in Israel’s past. Chief among those heroes are Abraham and Moses, but brief attention is also given to the actions of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, and Jacob. Read more
What does it mean to be founders of a nation chosen by God? Power? Privilege? Pride? Jacob’s blessing of his first four sons, recorded in Genesis 49:1-12, paints a different picture of God’s ideal. This article will trace themes of alienation and identification to show that the integrity of the sons of Israel is challenged and ultimately identified by the voice—or the lack of voice—of a grieving concubine (Gen. 35:16-22), a disgraced sister (Gen. 34), and a widowed daughter-in-law (Gen. 38). Read more
In recent years, much discussion has centered upon the role of women disciples as they encounter the person of Jesus. The word “disciple” (mathētēs), related to the verb “learn, study, practice” (manthanō), means “the one who directs his mind to something,” often in the sense of a learner, apprentice, or pupil. In the Greek philosophical world, the term designated a devotee of a philosopher, one who would continue the intellectual link with the teacher (adherent). While many argue for exclusively male disciples due to the fact that Jesus’ twelve disciples were all male, we can respond that all disciples were also Jewish. This, then, leads to the important question of implication: Does this mean that all Gentile disciples through the ages, male and female, are to be excluded from participatory discipleship? Certainly not! Read more
I believe that God calls both women and men into roles of leadership with all the opportunities and challenges these roles entail. Scripture and church history make abundantly clear that women can and do exercise significant influence and power in a variety of contexts, including the church. Yet, most of the books and articles available on Christian leadership are written by and for men. In this paper, I will address some leadership issues with a focus on women as leaders. Read more
The complementarian conviction, that women are under male authority and therefore must be excluded from (some) positions of leadership, rests in no small measure on their interpretation of God’s eternal, created order as established in Genesis 1-2. However, when the complementarian exegesis of creation is given close scrutiny, substantial—indeed fatal—problems are revealed at the very foundation of their framework. Read more
We all like to believe ourselves to be discerning. However, Luke 7:36-50 challenges us: Do we really get the main point? And if so, how shall we respond? In the account of the anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman, Jesus radically reverses all assumptions about himself, the woman and Simon, highlights true repentance and forgiveness, and causes us to reflect on the boldness of the Lord’s ministry to women. In examining this account, we need to ask: How does it relate to Luke’s major themes and its immediate context? Is this text reliable? What is the historical-cultural meaning of the woman’s act? How do the grammar and literary aspects highlight the Lord’s major point? What is the significance of key words? How does this text apply to our own lives? Through seeing this passage as representative of Luke’s theme of discerning the truth (which causes paradigm shifts) and the theme of God’s gracious forgiveness, we see this woman’s seemingly lavish response as appropriately representing a repentant heart. Because the historical-cultural information has such importance for the clarity of this article, it has been moved to the forefront of the following presentation, to be followed by grammar and word studies. Read more
Christian tradition is sometimes remarkable for the liberties it takes with the reputations of its saints, and in this regard no example springs so readily to mind as that of Mary Magdalene. Tradition has had its field day with the reputation of this once deeply troubled woman; the recent blaze of controversy set by Dan Brown’s incendiary novel, The Da Vinci Code, is only the latest in a series of firestorms stretching back almost two thousand years. Read more

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Book Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

The four-volume Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) provides a well-rounded overview of life not only across time periods but also across the several cultures of the biblical world. Thirty-three scholars, including editors Edwin M. Yamauchi (Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University) and Marvin R. Wilson (Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College), have contributed to the DDL.

Book Review: Gender Roles and the People of God

Theologian and author Alice Mathews recently said in a Christianity Today interview with Hannah Anderson, “Satan knows that if he can keep women out of service, in the church and in the world, he will have won an enormous victory.” Mathews’s most recent book, Gender Roles and the People of God, takes back some of the territory gained by the enemy.

Book Review: Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry

Walter Brueggemann dedicates his seminal work, The Prophetic Imagination: “For my sisters in ministry who teach me daily about the power of grief and the gift of amazement.” As he describes the grief and amazement that together shape the prophetic imagination, he also describes the story of many women in ministry—lamenting what is broken in themselves, the church, and the world while also imagining what can be.

Book Review: The New Perspective on Mary and Martha

Recently, as I was listening to a Christian radio station, the female announcer shared that she was feeling guilty about her busy life. She made reference to the biblical “story of Mary and Martha,” typically feeling at fault because she was not taking ample time to “sit at Jesus’ feet” properly. She went on to say that Martha had it wrong because she was more concerned about her chores than she was about being in the presence of the Lord. These two sisters are examples, one positive and one negative.

Book Review: The Message of Women: Creation, Grace and Gender

As part of the “Bible Themes” series within the larger The Bible Speaks Today collection of Bible commentaries and themes, The Message of Women is an exposition rather than a detailed commentary. It explores the life of women in Old Testament times and in the life of Jesus and the subsequent life of the early church. Without actually saying what is suggested by the title of their work, Derek and Dianne Tidball find a message for the twenty- first century church.

Book Review: Her Story: Autobiographical Portraits of Early Methodist Women

Reading Her Own Story is like looking through an ancient, rusty trunk in your great-grandmother’s attic and finding, hidden under yellowing linens and fading daguerreotypes, the journals of a forgotten female relative. The journals make this unheard-of kinswoman come to life in such a way that you feel you know her intimately. She writes of her spiritual journey in all of its joy, splendor, pain, and frustration.

Book Review: Equal to Serve

When I attended the last Sydney Diocesan Synod I was aware that events outside the Chapter House were frequently of greater interest than those inside that hallowed structure. One of the exciting extramural activities was the visit of Mrs.G.G. Hull who spoke lucidly and informatively on the subject of the role of women in the church.

What Mrs. Hull said on that occasion is available on tape from the Anglican Radio Unit and is expanded in this book. The book has as its subtitle, ''Women and Men in the Church and Home".

Book Review: Equal to Serve

"We are to concentrate on the inner characteristics of a person, not on his or her gender." So states author Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, a biblical feminist whose new book, Equal To Serve, comes to grips with the controversial social issues of today. What are the roles of women and men in marriage, parenthood, the workplace? They are to be assumed with complete freedom and shared responsibility, answers Hull.

Book Review: Priscilla's Letter

Ruth Hoppin has spent decades researching Adolf Harnack's hypothesis that Priscilla wrote the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews. A first book, Priscilla, Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, was published in the late 1960s. Since that time additional relevant material has been published, some of it related to the Dead Sea Scrolls. This book is an update which takes such material into account.

Book Review: I Suffer Not a Woman

Until now, this reviewer had to acknowledge he simply did not understand Paul's statement: "I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man" (1Tim 2:12).

No explanation rang scripturally true: e.g. "rabbinical male bias" or "a local cultural problem." Exceptions for women teaching or preaching ("only occasionally" or "under male authority" or "if there aren't male missionaries") sounded like semantics.

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