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Priscilla Papers

Public debates continue—and sometimes boil over—concerning approaches to Bible translation. “Literal” is often trumpeted as the divine model, while “interpretive” approaches are seen as invariably sliding away from the ideal. The sacred text’s teaching about women—their role and the language used to describe it—stands at the center of a factious debate in the Western church. This article presents some of the key passages cited to buttress or confound one side or the other, analyzing them to demonstrate what the author believes is scripture’s strong, if not always obvious, egalitarian position on the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church. That teaching has often been obscured by literal renderings devoid of implicit but vital contextual information. This article attempts to explain and supply that missing information in succinct ways. Equivocate as we might about difficult passages and key terms, translators are sometimes forced to make interpretive choices that, one way or the other, are bound to stir debate, affect lives, and support or derail centuries of church practice. We translators are not always free to leave such decisions to the reader. We need to be honest: our theology affects the nature of our work—in this case, the daily life of half the audience and the worldview of the whole. Read more
In the previous edition of Priscilla Papers, my article, “The Genesis of Equality,” outlined the prevailing view that the Bible’s opening chapters make substantial or essential equality of the two sexes the creation ideal, and that the subordination of women is entirely a consequence of the fall. I further noted that Pope John Paul II made this interpretation of Gen 1–3 binding on Roman Catholics. In this essay, I move on to discuss four key terms—“role,” “equality,” “difference,” and “complementary”—which “complementarians” consistently utilize to give a different interpretation of Gen 1–3 and of other biblical texts important to their cause. Again, I bring in the Roman Catholic voice to give a wider perspective. Read more
My perhaps-naïve assumption is that the editor’s introduction is the least-read part of any journal. As a result, I should briefly reiterate my first introduction from the autumn 2014 issue—in case you missed it. My name is Jeff Miller. My wife Dana and I live, work, and minister in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. I have become increasingly involved with CBE since attending their 2007 conference in Bangalore, India. My predecessor Bill Spencer and his editorial team of Aída Besançon Spencer and Deb Beatty Mel deserve sincere thanks for their decade of exemplary service. “Tertius” at the top of this page refers to Romans 16:22, where Paul’s amanuensis says, “I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord” (NIV). I feel an affinity with Tertius; the work that associate editor Theresa Garbe and I do for Priscilla Papers is not terribly unlike the work Tertius did for Paul. Read more
It is common to view the entire debate between complementarianism and egalitarianism in terms of which side has more biblical support. Both sides of the debate have an explicitly high view of scripture that gives biblical texts a central place of authority. Exegetical theology, then, is naturally given a tremendous amount of weight—as are hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. Read more
Is the Bible divided on the issue of gender? Many highly respected evangelical scholars believe there is a tension in the Bible between affirmations of gender equality and gender roles. Can we arrive at a consistent biblical position without doing violence to the text? Need one sacrifice good exegesis at the altar of systematic theology? Surely, good exegesis and good systematic theology go hand in hand. I have prayerfully wrestled for forty-one years with the texts’ apparent contradictions on gender and can honestly say that the biblical texts themselves have transformed my understanding. From creation to new creation, the Bible’s message about gender in the church and marriage consistently affirms the equal standing of man and woman. Read more
The claim is often made that Christians who advance the shared leadership, authority, and ministry of men and women in the church and home do so only by circumventing the authority of scripture. Because of this claim, egalitarians are accused of theological liberalism. I was inspired to write this paper after an evangelical scholar confessed candidly to me that, though he was trained in a tradition that viewed egalitarian theology as pernicious, through a series of circumstances including a positive encounter with an egalitarian leader, he determined to study egalitarian theology more thoroughly. Cicero reminds us that a fair hearing of any position must include a full grasp of the historical context. This paper briefly considers historical material often overlooked by evangelicals in assessing the theological orthodoxy of egalitarians. 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
Rooted in my kitchen chair, your eyes blue flashing fire, leaping from soul, flare where burn flames hottest. 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
Near the end of Paul’s letter to the Christians of Rome, we gain a rare glimpse of a behind-the-scenes participant in Paul’s letter-writing ministry. Romans 16:22 says, “I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord” (NRSV). Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis, the person who penned the letter which Paul spoke aloud. His job was to prepare Paul’s words to be read and heard. Read more

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Book Review: Women Caught in Conflict

This book deals in depth with the rocky relationship between evangelicalism and feminism. The author believes it is no less than part of the "culture war" that replicates on a smaller scale what is going on in secular society.

Book Review: A Cord of Three Strands

This book, written by a woman on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, makes a distinct contribution to the current literature on biblical teachings about men and women in the marriage relationship and as co-workers in the service of Christ. The title is taken from Ecclesiastes 4:12: "A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." The three strands, in Wright's book, refers to man, woman and God.

The book is divided into two sections: the first discusses the marriage relationship; the second concerns how men and women can and should work together in Christian service.

Book Review: John Stackhouse Jr.'s Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender

Finally Feminist is designed to speak to both sides of the gender debate within the evangelical church. Stackhouse attempts to affirm both sides with "a single, coherent paradigm that amounts finally to a Christian feminism" (10). The book grew out of a series of lectures given while the author was a visiting scholar at Taylor University (Indiana) and Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia. Only 144 pages, the book's discussion of gender is limited to the status and roles of women and men in church and family.

Book Review: Del Birkey's The Fall of Patriarchy

Del Birkey, an independent scholar and author of The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1988), has written a passionate, wide-ranging, and interesting book on the harmful power of patriarchy and its critique by Jesus and the apostles, representing the biblical truth of gender equality. Birkey published an article on patriarchy in the Spring 2000 issue of Priscilla Papers, which he says was the beginning of his work on this topic.

Book Review: Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation

Biblical feminists will be interested in a chapter co-authored by Helen V. Stehlin which appears in James Davison Hunter's new book (1987) Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (University of Chicago Press). The chapter is entitled "Family: Toward Androgyny." Hunter's sociological study of evangelical college and seminary students surveys current attitudes regarding world, morality, self, theology, politics, and the family.

Book Review: Kari Torjesen Malcom's Building Your Family to Last

In July 2006, I welcomed the reprinting of this marriage classic. Kari Torjesen Malcolm is an expert on the subject of marriage and family. Born of a Norwegian missionary couple in China, Malcolm later served as a missionary to the Philippines for fifteen years with her husband and two children. Building Your Family to Last was written to help individuals build lasting families by putting Christ first in their lives (9). Christian married couples and single readers alike will find her message relevant, precise, provocative, and biblical.

Book Review: Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis's Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Heirarchy

The editors of this large volume of 515 pages have put together twenty-nine essays arranged under five headings: Setting the Stage (the Historical Backdrop); Looking to Scripture (the Biblical Texts); Thinking It Through (Logical and Theological Perspectives); Addressing the Issues (Hermeneutical and Cultural Perspectives); Living It Out (Practical Applications). All are scholarly presentations that are well documented and compellingly written by more than twenty contributors, three by contributing editor Gordon Fee.

Book Review: Steven R. Tracy's Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse

Dr. Steven Tracy is the vice president of academic affairs and associate professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary. He and his wife founded the Door of Hope ministry, which provides training and resources for abuse healing ministry. Drawing upon his fifteen years of pastoral and counseling experience, the author uses illustrations from real cases and the Bible to provide practical advice on how to minister to abuse survivors.

Book Review: Marriage Made in Eden

Alice Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard write an extraordinary book about Christian marriage and family. The book's purpose is to explore God's perspective on marriage, an ancient view, for a postmodern world. Marriage Made in Eden is bursting with rich historical, cultural, sociological and biblical background on marriage. But the authors' unique contribution in advocating for strong, enduring Christian marriage is their belief that God's purpose for marriage is both to transform us as the people of God and to use us to witness God's amazing love and power to an unbelieving world.

Book Review: Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and Pauline Communities

I was very pleased to be asked to review Bruce Winter's book on women in first century Roman society and the Pauline churches. Bruce and I studied together at Moore Theological College in Sydney in the mid-1960s. He went on to complete a doctorate at Macquarie University, Sydney, and is now the warden at Tyndale House Cambridge. Bruce's scholarship shines through in this work. He is completely conversant with Greek and Latin texts from the first century and makes excellent use of them.

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