Friday, August 17, 2012

Gender and the Bible

In some circles Christians are still debating the role of women, not just in ministry but society as a whole. And as with most other subject, the Bible is brought in as part of the debate. When someone suggests that a biblical text on women should be read a different way or that perhaps it doesn't or shouldn't mean that for us today, the reaction can sometimes be fierce. 

Craig Keener is one New Testament scholar who has long worked for a better understanding of these texts. He has also sometimes been accused of undermining the Bible for his work.

Craig has a short article on the Huffington Post that looks at the subject. Here is a bit of what he says.

Sometimes more traditional interpreters have accused those of us who follow this approach of dishonoring the Bible. This accusation, however, misrepresents the debate's real crux: how one should apply the Bible. After all, the prophets, Jesus and Paul all reapplied some earlier biblical principles in new circumstances; addressing a new situation, Paul, for example, adds an explicit exception to Jesus's teaching about divorce. It is therefore biblical as well as pastorally sensitive to consider how we apply texts.
Moreover, the issue involves how we can apply the Bible consistently. Most of those who oppose women's ordination do not follow biblical instructions to greet one another with holy kisses or wear head coverings in church. Most recognize that these were cultural expressions of principles (such as friendly greetings) that may be applied differently in different cultures. Certainly most churches do not take up offerings for the Jerusalem church every Sunday (1 Corinthains 16:1-3) and most Bible readers do not feel compelled to go to Troas, get Paul's cloak and try to take it to him (2 Timothy 4:13). When they neglect these instructions, they do not see themselves as disobeying the Bible. They simply recognize that we need to take into account the situations the biblical writers addressed, before extracting larger principles. That is not only how we read the Bible but how we learn from any wisdom originally written in the past. Nearly all communication uses a language and some cultural setting!

You can read the whole article here


  1. Specifically relating to women pastors, the Timothy passage causes me to pause along these lines. Paul gives some logic there that doesn't seem to involve culture or the times.

    1. How much of what Paul wrote in Timothy was culturally driven? Whatever logic is present in the text was colored by that culture. If we, as stewards of God's word in OUR culture are to do as Paul did, apply the scripture to the culture, should we not consider the case for egalitarian ministry? I don't know. I'm just putting this out there for consideration.

    2. Welcome back Mike! I've missed you.