It may seem strange that I became an egalitarian through the back door of Old Testament patriarchal culture and history. But it worked for me because the whispers of subversion became louder than the voices of patriarchy and oppression. Those whispers sounded like God. My Old Testament studies gave me permission to rethink the New Testament and how its writings might also be subversive to patriarchy. Eventually I followed those whispers into the egalitarian camp. I was all in.
This moment would become the very cornerstone of our faith.
Preached in millions of sermons, proclaimed in every nation and tongue, written about by every theologian and Christian thinker.
But before all that, it was just a woman and the Teacher, the Rabbi, the Son of God she worshiped and followed and knew like a brother.
Deeply grieving, Mary Magdalene wept at his empty tomb, thinking that she’d been robbed of her last opportunity to look upon him, and anoint him. There was a man; she thought, maybe, the gardener. Weeping and distraught, she asked him where the body was.
This week we are pleased to bring you three Easter reflections on women disciples who were an integral part of Jesus’ live and ministry. Like them, may we follow close despite the cost.
The symbolism of his anointing by Mary of Bethany just days before his death was not lost on Jesus. He understood and said her act “will be told in memory of her.” She poured the oil to memorialize him, but he says to remember her. It is significant that a woman serves as the anointing agent. In this moving account of the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany we have the chance to reflect in new ways on this prophetic act.
Kate and I are away at a conference and were not planning to write any new posts this week, but then this email came in:
Hi there, I lead a bible study with the campus ministry I’m involved in at Appalachian State. The girls involved want to study women in the bible, which I think is a great idea. Do you have any recommended resources for a topic like that, or perhaps a resource for studying a specific woman like Ruth? Thanks, A. K.”
We’ve had several requests like this recently, so wanted to share our recommendations.
I really never understood the sister relationship. I grew up as the only daughter and only granddaughter on both sides of my family. But in the past 21 years I have had a crash course in what it means to be a sister through my four girls.
I have learned that sisters can be very similar and still very different. No matter how many times this one may borrow that one’s sweater, she will never know when it was ok to take it without asking. I have learned they may fight with you at home but anyone else will have to deal with them first hand if they speak poorly about you.
I have learned that even the best of sisters try hard not to compare themselves to each other, but often fall into this trap anyway.
Consider the story of Mary and Martha. In the Church we have often compared these sisters to ourselves and others.
The story of Jericho is a gruesome one. When the Israelites took the city they destroyed the inhabitants, men, women, children, and animals, and burned it all. When Achan, an Israelite, disobeyed God and took some of the devoted things from Jericho, he and his family were destroyed as well. Sin, destruction, and loss of life abounds. But in the midst of the chaos, destruction, and calamity, the story of Jesus is there – in Rahab.
Being nurtured in a Wesleyan Holiness tradition, I have not always had a deep appreciation for Mary of Nazareth. Protestants in our world may neglect, either intentionally or unintentionally, the most obvious and powerful example of Jesus treasuring women: his mother. The gospel writers depict Mary in various ways, with the author of the Gospel of Luke providing the most insight.
The gospel writers depict Mary in various ways, with the author of the Gospel of Luke providing the most insight. In Luke 1:28-30 the angel Gabriel approaches the young virgin with these words:
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
The incarnation is mysterious in mechanics, but the reality of it is crucial for theology. God chooses to speak with women. God chooses and favors women for crucial tasks and at crucial times. It is directly stated in the bible that Mary is intentionally chosen and given a grand task that includes, but also extends beyond, childbearing.
There is no evidence in the bible or church history to suggest that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or the wife of Jesus.  The Catholic Church formally rejected this characterization of Mary in 1969, yet this tarnished picture continues to be perpetuated through books and films like Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Passion of the Christ (2004), The Da Vinci Code (2006) and most recently, Risen (2016), a new Columbia Pictures film starring Joseph Fiennes.  Since Mary is not around to defend herself, I’d like to set the record straight.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that has so much to say about the ability and calling of women and men. As I read through I continually encounter story after story of God using unexpected people without condemnation. In the midst of a hierarchical culture we see women, slaves, foreigners, poor people and outcasts continually gifted, blessed, called and accepted by God. It was reading through the Bible like this that brought me to my understanding of mutuality: There are small tales everywhere which undermine inequality and bring the Kingdom of God into even the darkest times.
I’ve recently been reading the Old Testament, about Moses being called back to Egypt, where I came across this little section:
“On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone.” – Exodus 4:24-26a
I have a confession to make. I don’t have a problem with the Proverbs 31 Woman.
One of the upsides to growing up Catholic is that I lack much of the scriptural baggage that my evangelical friends cart around, particularly in regards to Proverbs 31. I was exposed to the text through the rhythm of the liturgy, but it was never emphasized during the early years of my religious education.
So when I stumbled across this proverb I was impressed. Here was a woman in scripture who embodied the virtues described throughout the Book of Proverbs, who seemed to know herself and what she was about, and was praised for this.
Throughout history, the church has been characterized by a male-dominated social hierarchy. This worldview has been so pervasive that some even consider it to be “God’s created order.” In light of the prevalence of this pattern, some people have asked me, “Has there ever been a female-dominated culture?”
A 1st century B.C. historian by the name of Diodorus Siculus provides us with the following information:
“Beside the river of Thermadon, therefore, a nation ruled by females held sway, in which women pursued the arts of war just like men…. To the men she [the nation’s Queen] relegated the spinning of wool and other household tasks of women. She promulgated laws whereby she led forth the women to martial strife, while on the men she fastened humiliation and servitude.”
This is the winning entry from our recent blog contest in the category of Women in the Old Testament. During my freshman year at a conservative Christian high school, my keyboarding teacher suddenly fell ill. That week, after our regularly scheduled chapel service, the principal announced that my teacher was suffering from a life-threatening brain tumor. He […]
I can’t imagine a world in which it would be culturally acceptable for a hostess to walk up to her guest of honor and ask him to have a word with her sister, who was not anticipating the needs of her guests with the same alacrity as the hostess (especially loudly enough for at least one eyewitness to hear and write about it). That is not the world that I live in, and it was certainly not the world that Martha of Bethany inhabited.
I’ve heard quite a number of sermons about “Mary and Martha” over the years, and they have all had the same tenor: Strive to be more like Mary and less like Martha. Martha has come to represent the influence of the world (with her distraction and busyness) and Mary seems to represent the ideal Christian woman, sitting at Jesus’ feet, at least, in the eyes of many Christians I’ve heard speak.
Just over a year ago, I was captured by the story of Martha. It was a season of recovery for me. I was having trouble finding the strength to “do” my faith the way I’d been taught through my formative years. Have you ever had a Biblical person reach out and grab you, asking to be noticed? That is what happened with Martha. I haven’t been able to stop reading her story since, over and over.
Today Gail has a guest post up on the Sophia Network website, a group in the U.K. with a similar mission the The Junia Project. Here are the first few paragraphs and a link to the full post. While you’re there, check out the other great articles featured and sign up for their monthly newsletter!
I have a three-year-old granddaughter who loves to be read to.
When I start reading she always pays close attention, but sometimes when we get to the middle she abruptly closes the book, because she already knows how the story ends and is ready to move on to something new.
I realized recently that I have been guilty of doing the same thing when it comes to understanding what it means to be made in the image of God (Imago Dei) and the implications this has for gender equality. That is, my understanding of Imago Dei has been based almost entirely on the creation narratives of Genesis. In these first pages of the Bible there is true equality between the first man and the first woman. Both Adam and Eve are image bearers who equally reflect their Creator, both are under the authority of that creator alone, and both are given the mandate to fill the earth and have dominion over it.
End of story.
An argument often brought up in discussions about women in church leadership is that Jesus’ twelve apostles were all male, and, because there were no females among the Twelve, this means that women cannot be church leaders.
This argument is usually countered with the fact that, as well as no women, there were also no Gentiles among the Twelve, so if we genuinely want to use the Twelve as a paradigm of people suitable for church leadership we should restrict leaders to Jewish men.
I find neither of these arguments useful in discussions on church leadership because they miss a critical point: Jesus’ earthly ministry occurred before the Church was in existence.
Jesus’ ministry occurred at a vital juncture between the Old Testament and the New Covenant – between “Israel only” and the inclusive, universal Church. The New Covenant had not yet been inaugurated when the Twelve were called. And so, at that time and at that place (Israel), Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his first disciples.