Silence in the Assembly

 

Photo by Kristina Flour

 

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. ~ 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (NIV)

Claim: In 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Paul tells all women to sit down and shut up in church.

OR

Claim: 1 Cor. 14:33b-35 restricts women from preaching.

Short Answer: 1 Cor. 14:34-35 isn’t about preaching at all, nor is it directed at all women. It was an injunction against a small group of Corinthian wives who were interrupting congregational meetings with (probably uninformed) questions. It should be translated, “Let the wives remain silent when the congregation meets; they are certainly not permitted to speak out. Rather, let them submit themselves, as says the law. If there is something they want to know, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a wife to speak out in a congregational meeting.”

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Jesus Christ, Wisdom of God

(Part 3 of 4)
(continued from Part 2, “The Biblical Data on God and Sexuality”)

The previous post refuted the incorrect claim that the Bible teaches all three persons of the Trinity as quintessentially male. But what about Jesus Christ? After all, the fact that he was incarnated as a man had to mean something, right? In recent years, arguments against women’s ordination have come to rely more and more heavily on Jesus’ human gender.

Such arguments overlook the entire nature of who Christ is. More importantly, they overlook the fact that the early Christians undeniably associated Jesus with the female person of Wisdom in the Old Testament and other Jewish intertestamental literature.

In both the Greek and the Hebrew, the word for wisdom (σοφία / חָכְמָה) is feminine. In numerous places in the Old Testament, this feminine concept of wisdom is personified as a woman, sometimes with majestic and powerful language wherein Wisdom makes divine claims of herself. For example:

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always[.] [1]

Wisdom was also a regular fixture of intertestamental Jewish literature such as Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon, the result being that Wisdom as a personified divine aspect of and authorized assistant to YHWH was already an important philosophical and theological concept among the Jewish community at the time of the birth of Christ.

Throughout Christian history, Wisdom has received significant attention from figures and movements in search of a feminine understanding of God. (more…)

The Apostle Junia

There is a female apostle in the Bible named Junia (Romans 16:7): “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” (NIV) Anyone who opposes the ordination of women needs to reconcile their theology of ordination with that fact.

Several early church fathers commented on the passage and confirmed this Scriptural witness to a female apostle:

Origen (AD 184/185 – 253/254): “It is indeed possible that they were Paul’s relatives even according to the flesh and that they believed in Christ before him and were held to be noble among the apostles of Christ. It can also be understood that perhaps they were of the seventy-two, who themselves were also named apostles, and on that account he would call them noble among the apostles, even among those apostles who were before him.” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 10.21.2, as translated into Latin and preserved by Rufinus, translated into English by Thomas Scheck)

John Chrysostom (c. AD 349 – 407): “To be apostles is a great thing, but to be distinguished among them—consider what an extraordinary accolade that is! They were distinguished because of their works and because of their upright deeds. Indeed, how great was the wisdom of this woman that she was thought worthy of being called an apostle!” (In epistulam ad Romanos 31.2; PG:60.669-70, translation mine)

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. AD 393 – c. 458/466): “Then to be called ‘of note’ not only among the disciples but also among the teachers, and not just among the teachers but even among the apostles . . . ” (Interpretatio in quatuordecim epistolas S. Pauli 82.200, translated by Linda Belleville)

That alone is enough to establish that the first sentence of this post is a sound translation of Romans 16:7 with the backing of history and tradition.

“But—but—we don’t know that Junia was a woman!”

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The Biblical Data on God and Sexuality

 

Image via David Hayward @ NakedPastor

(Part 2 of 4)
(continued from Part 1, “The Shack and the Gender of God”)

For some, the gender [1] of God is obvious. The God of the Old Testament is referred to exclusively with masculine pronouns, adjectives, and verbs. [2] For the New Testament, both the Father and the Son are similarly described in masculine terms, while the titles used for God in both testaments are entirely masculine as well. Many believe this alone represents enough data to show that God is an essentially male or masculine being.

Most male headship advocates [3] will assert that the Spirit is referred to as a masculine being as well. [4] In actuality, the data on the Third Person of the Trinity is less decisive. In Hebrew, the word for “spirit” is the feminine רוּחַ, so the adjectives and verbs associated with it throughout the Old Testament are usually feminine—for example, מְרַחֶפֶת for hovered in Gen. 1:3. In Greek, the word for “spirit” is the neuter πνεῦμα with most of its adjectives and pronouns matching that case. Going by gendered language alone, the Spirit is a “she” or an “it.”

The oft-cited exceptions occur in John 15-16 when Jesus is delivering his sermon on the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, wherein he refers to the Spirit with the masculine pronoun ἐκεῖνος. At first glance this seems significant since a neuter form for this adjective exists (ἐκεῖνο) and John seems to have shunned it in favor of the masculine even though it does not match the case of the noun under discussion. However, the antecedent to ἐκεῖνος is not πνεῦμα, but παράκλητος, a masculine adjective functioning as a substantive noun. This could still be a decisive declaration on the Spirit’s sexuality if John had originated this usage of the term, but he did not. The masculine plural form was similarly used as a substantive adjective by Demosthenes in the 4th century BC. [5] John took the pre-existing masculine concept of a παράκλητος as one’s legal advocate and applied it to the Holy Spirit. It therefore follows that his identification has everything to do with the Spirit’s function in the lives of believers, not its gender.

This poses a dilemma for Christians who assert that God is wholly male or masculine: (more…)

The Shack and the Gender of God

(Part 1 of 4)

I never read the entirety of The Shack, the popular 2007 Christian novel about a man who converses with God about the murder of his beloved youngest daughter. My reasons were not theological. I had a childhood friend who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered when I was 9 and she was 11, so the subject of the novel was a little too close to home for me.

I did read enough of the novel to know that two members of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, manifested themselves as women (a black woman and an Asian woman, respectively), and this became one of the many theological “problems” that was protested in the novel. For example, Mark Driscoll, then at the zenith of his megachurch pastor career, decried this as “goddess worship.” Mary Kassian, writing for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, lamented that evangelical fans of The Shack were “succumbing to the feminist pressure to image God in feminine ways.” In quite recent history, complementarians and other male headship advocates [1] got it into their heads that all three members of the Trinity are quintessentially masculine and/or male, and as such, God could not have incarnated as a woman nor could he ever manifest as one, even if he wanted to.

 

 

Pictured: Human beings made in the image of God who can’t image God. Makes perfect sense.

The Shack has now been made into a major motion picture starring Sam Worthington. It was released today. Its reviews have sadly gone the way of most Christian films (15% on RottenTomatoes as I write this), but in light of the film, I thought it might be worth it to revisit what the Bible says about whether God has a gender, along with some extrabiblical details and philosophical considerations.

I am of the opinion that gender is created and God does not possess one as part of any eternal nature, so God could theoretically incarnate and/or manifest himself as a woman as well as a man should it please him to do so. And I want to point out that viewing God as genderless is not some novel feminist incursion on traditional Christian theology. It is historic and quite mainstream. (more…)

The Year 2016 in Review: A Year in Reading

A Year in Reading

These were the books that I read (or re-read) in 2016, and how I rated them. I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books (2 per month) and exceeded that with a total of 27 books. 24 of those books were read between August and December. What I have found is that, since completing my master’s degree and Harper classes, I have a lot more free time for reading—and I am loving it.

  • Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life [1992] by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Religion / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Essential Car Care for Women [2012] by Jamie Little (Automotive) – 3/5 stars
  • Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide [2016] by Tracy Schorn (Relationships / Self-Help) – 5/5 stars
  • Shadows of Self [2015] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Bands of Mourning [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 4/5 stars
  • Secret History [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Road Rage: Two Novellas [2009] by Richard Matheson, Stephen King, & Joe Hill (Horror / Suspense) – 3/5 stars
  • After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters [2010] by N. T. Wright (Religion / Theology) – 5/5 stars
  • The Turn of the Screw [1898] by Henry James (Horror / Suspense) – 5/5 stars
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886] by Robert Louis Stevenson (Horror / Mystery) – 4/5 stars
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency [1987] by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction) – 2/5 stars
  • Undaunted [2012] by Christine Caine (Religion / Self-Help) – 4/5 stars
  • Watchmen [1987] by Alan Moore (Comics / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman [2014] by Jill Lepore (History / Feminism) – 5/5 stars
  • Alcatraz v. the Dark Talent [2016] by Brandon Sanderson (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 5/5 stars
  • House of Leaves [2000] by Mark Z. Danielewski (Horror) – 3/5 stars
  • Healthy Aging [2005] by Andrew Weil (Health / Self-Help) – 3/5 stars
  • Death’s End [2016] by Cixin Liu (Science Fiction) – 3/5 stars
  • The Pearl [1947] by John Steinbeck (Drama / Suspense) – 4/5 stars
  • The Books of the Bible (New Testament) [2011] – 4/5 stars (for the edition, not the actual New Testament)
  • Elantris [2005] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity [2015] by Steve Silberman (Health / History) – 5/5 stars
  • The Emperor’s Soul [2012] by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) – 3/5 stars
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? [2016] by Kathleen Collins (Short Fiction / Drama / Race / Feminism / Sexuality) – 4/5 stars
  • All About Demisexuality [2015] by Arf (Health / Sexuality) – 2/5 stars
  • Dark Matter [2016] by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction) – 5/5 stars
  • The Christmas Tree that Ate My Mother [1992] by Dean Marney (Young Adult / Fantasy) – 3/5 stars

Some “awards” for these books:

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Bad

As I said in my last post, this has overall been a really good year for me. But here are some of the bad things I’ve had to deal with.

The Bad

The Ex-Boyfriend Stalker – Had to deal with a stalking ex-boyfriend this year. Not fun. My life is beginning to look like that Elle King song, but without the sex.

My “Position Available” Suitor – See this post on Medium here.

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The Year 2016 in Review: The Good

Right after my thesis defense, 4-15-16

Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:

The Good

Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.

Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)

My Hope is You

1st Sunday of Advent

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

I’m a lucky woman.

I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.

I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.

I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.

The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)

"Look at that!" He decorated it himself.
“Look at that!” He decorated it himself.

I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.

It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.

And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.

The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.

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