Sunday, April 30, 2006

Difficult verses; 1 Corinthians 11

I have asked Ruud Vermeij of EquaMusic, to blog here in English. Ruud lives in the Netherlands with his wife and two children and worked for the Salvation Army. He is musician and advocate of equal rights for women. Thanks, Ruud for joining me.

When people talk about difficult verses, usually they mean that it is a difficult topic. Take for example the verse "love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you." The meaning of this verse is crystal clear, but the application of it in our daily life is quite a challenge...

But there are also verses in the Bible that are kind of obscure. We just don't understand their meaning or we are not familiar with the situation at hand. Sometimes we just know half of the story. That can happen in the Epistles. These are often an answer to a question or a problem in a certain congregation. We read the answer, but we do not know the question or the problem...

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 is such a passage. Here is verse 10 in 3 versions.

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. KJV

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. ESV

It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. TNIV

It is full of exegetical questions and problems. Even Bible translators come to different, sometimes even opposite, translations of verses from this passage.
  • What were the women in Corinth doing? What was Paul responding to?
  • What is the relation between the prohibition of long hair for men and the prohibition (in the Old Testament) of cutting one's hair for Nazarites (Numbers 6:5?)
  • When is the term head used literally and when figuratively here?
  • What is the relation between the speaking and praying of women here (verse 5) and the alleged ban on public speaking for women in meetings (1 Cor. 14:34)
  • What is the relation between the headship of Christ and God in verse 3 and the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • What do angels have to do with all of this (verse 10?)
  • To what extend are we dealing here with cultural defined regulations? (If a woman with a bald head is not a shame, is there then no need to cover it? See verse 6.)
  • Are the questions in verse 13 and 14 rhetorical (are they obviously answered with yes,) or is there no reason at all to translate these verses as interrogatives (I hope to write more on this later.)
These uncertainties alone are a big red flag! Using this passage as a foundation for a doctrine of male leadership is a very hazardous venture!

Read related posts in Dutch at Equamusic.

Archibald Fleming

Disturbed this morning by the awareness of increased dogmatism within the Christian community, I turned to one of my favourite books, Archibald the Arctic by Archibald Lang Fleming, the Flying Bishop. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. New York. 1956.

Archibald Fleming trained for 8 years as a teenager and young man in naval architecture and marine engineering in Glasgow. He also found time to complete university studies in philosophy and religion. He describes this period,
    Sooner of later a man must drink this bitter cup of intellectual doubt, for the eternal question forces itself upon the earnest seeker after truth - Where is now thy God? Is there no alternative to the depressing metaphysics of Hegel? Can we assume that, in spite of the evil, disease, suffering, cruelty, hate, the chaos and tragedy of life, order and meaning can be found? For months I walked in the dark valley of derision and doubt because no clear answer came. page 22
I apologize for leaving you with this but I am not the fastest typist. Archibald Fleming gave up a promising career to go as a missionary to the Canadian Inuit. His autobiography is a unique story of long travels by dogteam, prolonged living in igloos, deep mutual friendship with his hosts and reflective meditation. If I had to chose only one book to see reprinted this would be it. Reading this book is like sitting and listening to a friend of unusual intellect and self-effacing modesty, recount detailed tales of intrepid adventure. It also stands as a unique photographic and ethnographic record of the Inuit.

Here he meditates on his appointment to the office of bishop.
    There was another situation that I had not foreseen at the beginning of my English visits and which at first caused me great unhappiness, I refer to the question of churchmanhsip. It is far too easy to become so entangled in theological niceties that one loses sight of the vital issues of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, it will be readily understood that churchmanship is a matter on which every bishop must declare himself. The sifting of thought and searching of heart that I underwent in my few short years as archdeacon were of the greatest value after I was raised to the episcopate.
        It seemed to me that as an invited guest, as a Christian and a gentleman, I must adapt myself to the type of service I found in each church where I was invited to preach. I felt that this courtesy was laid upon me. At this time to wear full vestments was a grievous trial to my spirit even while I could see no fundamental objection to them. Alas, some of my dear evangelical friends did not agree.

          Brought up in a Presbyterian home, I became in young manhood a convinced Episcopalian and I have been intimately associated with most of the other Protestant denominations, including the Moravians and Danish Lutherans. Is it strange that I perhaps see things from a different viewpoint than those of less wide experience? I was and am in agreement with the French Jesuit de Lubac who said in "Catholicism" "the church which is not tarnished by our own sins is also not straitened by our artificial barriers nor paralysed by our prejudices."


          My difficulty was not with orthodox theology but with an increased dogmatism in what appeared to me to be speculative points on the Faith once delivered. I found that after listening to the theological wrangles, I could only maintain with Archbishop Temple that my earnest desire was to be a true Catholic not so much in externals as in devotion to the person of Christ Who alone is Head of the Church. The Faith once delivered I knew and believed. The doctine of the Apostles was clear. But through the years men had built up superstructures which might or might not be useful within certain limits but they were not essential to the Faith. In fact they tended to obscure that which is vital to the believer.


          To me the basic character of the Holy Catholic Church of Christ is clearly set forth in the New Testament as a belief in Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God and the Saviour of Mankind. I also believe that some things which are of great value in devotional life, and which our non-Anglican brethren have not preserved, are to be found in the Church of England.


          Our first call, surely, is to follow in the footsteps of the Master. By many my attitude has always been considered far too liberal but I cannot see how all this bitterness between brethren is related to the Man Whose name we bear and Who left us no indication that such things were of vital importance. To me it is imperative that we return to the fundamental simplicity of faith in Him Who said, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life." And being, all of us, near enough to the Cross of our Saviour to touch wood, we are surely near enough to touch each other." pages 277 - 280.
        I think there is a copy of this book for sale here. It is worthwhile for the photographs alone. However, I have found in the past that when I write for a book it is already sold.

        Saturday, April 29, 2006

        The contradictions of history

        I wouldn't be so worried about one mens only conference, Together for the Gospel, but I received an email from Florida today. It contained this.
          One of our Bible teachers, a girl, was not able to get a job in any other Christian Reform school to teach high school Bible because she's not a man.
        Here is a story from 100 years ago.

          Elizabeth Hammond was born into a Plymouth Brethren family in Ottawa in 1873. In 1899, she was the first woman to graduate with an MA in classics from McGill University and later went on to teach classics at McGill. So one of the first women to lecture in Greek in Canada belonged to the Plymouth Brethren.

          In 1905 she married a widowed friend of her fathers, a labouring brother and preacher in the Brethren. He fell into financial difficulties and was excommunicated. She worked to support him until he died. Much later she remarried but never returned to the Brethren. She eventually attended an Anglican church so she could at least 'listen to a man speak who had a modicum of education.'
        Well that is what she told me. Today I read that women must not teach any Bible related topic to males in the Christian community, but must remain at home and nurture their children. Elizabeth Hammond, my great-aunt, never had any of her own children, but she did entertain me with her stories those last few years. She also knit an afghan for my bed, embroidered with children dancing in an circle. I have it still.

        Such are the contradictions of history.

        Excommunication revisited

        Read this post with the 24 articles of the Together for the Gospel statement and then read this comment. Is this possible?

          They also hinted during the discussion panel (both here and elsewhere) that this statement was soon going to be used somehow as a formal benchmark statement of modern orthodoxy, and whomever, ministers, ministries, or denominations that will not sign/agree with this statement will be as Paul mentioned, ultimately anathema.
        Anathema. I have heard this before.

        Update: The above is a comment only and does not necessarily represent the views of those who wrote the statement.

        From eros to agape

        I have been reading an article by Francis Watson 2000 'The Authority of the Voice: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor. 11.2-16', New Testament Studies 46, pp. 520-36. Hat Tip Mark Goodacre

          It is this suggestion – that the head-covering is just the beginning of a process that will ultimately silence women altogether and leave speaking in church to men – to which Paul responds by way of the general dogmatic assertion that woman is not woman apart from man and man is not man apart from woman (11:11). The assertion opens with an adversative, πλην (‘Nevertheless . . .’), suggesting that the denials that follow rebut a conclusion that might be drawn from what Paul himself has just said. Women who pray and prophesy are now to cover their heads, thereby differentiating themselves from men who perform the same functions – nevertheless, this is not a first step towards a separation of women from men within the congregation’s meetings for worship.

          It does not imply that, in the ministry of the word of prayer and prophecy, the men who speak and the men who listen can speak and listen in a self-sufficient, all-male sphere in which women are silent and, as such, absent. On the contrary, in the Lord woman and man belong inseparably together, and it is this belonging together that is articulated in the shared practices of prayer and prophecy. In the church, men and women must hear the word of the Lord as articulated both by men and by women.
        What a different picture arises from this. How hard it was for me in childhood to know that my great-aunt, whom I cared for in her last years, who was the first woman to receive an MA in classics from McGill, and who taught there for many years; would not be allowed to contribute to a church where not a single man had studied Greek beyond the vocabulary of the NT text.

        As the women in our family graduated in the classics and biblical languages, it simply became easier to leave the church altogether than to be obliged to sit and suffer the liberty allowed 18 year old boys to get up and 'minister'. Us silent in out hats and scarves, and them going on about the women's place. How fractured can one become before it is time to go around and gather up the bits and pieces of one's personality?

          Paul’s principle of interdependence also implies a further negation. It is not the case that women who speak do so primarily for the benefit of women listeners, on the basis of one set of shared experiences or concerns, and that men who speak do so primarily for the benefit of men, on the basis of another. That would be a further infringement of the principle that, in the Lord, woman is not apart from man nor man from woman. If this principle is correct, men need to hear the word of the Lord in the words of women as well as of men, and women need to hear the word of the Lord in the words of men as well as of women. Where this does not occur, the underlying theological error is serious and damaging: for men and women have failed to realize that their humanity, as constituted or reconstituted ‘in the Lord’, is such that each cannot be fully human without the other. Where men enclose themselves in an all-male world, or where women enclose themselves in an all-female world, they deny their own humanity; that is, they deny the humanity redeemed and recreated in Christ, and reassert the distorted, unredeemed humanity that exists apart from Christ. (page 8-9)

          Paul’s concern that current practice be modified expresses a commitment not to male primacy but, on the contrary, to its overthrow. His anxiety is that the woman who prays or prophesies with uncovered head may become the object of the male erotic gaze: the problem to which female head-covering is the proposed solution is that of a male-oriented eros. As a woman articulates the word of God to the congregation or the word of the congregation to God, her appearance may obstruct the reception of her word; or so Paul fears. In describing the uncovered female head as a source of shame, equivalent as such to hair cut short or shaved off altogether (vv. 5c–6), the shame Paul has in mind is that of physical nakedness. This shame is the consequence of self-exposure to the male gaze. How can there be proper attention to the content of what is said where there is an improper attention to the person of the speaker?
          Paul is aware that his readers, male and female, are likely to find his argument here alarmist and insulting (cf. v. 16); we shall return to this issue later to ask whether anything of theological substance can be retrieved here. For the present, it is worth emphasizing again that the reason for Paul’s embarrassing contortions is his concern that women’s voices be heard – truly heard – as representing both the congregation and God in the ongoing divine–human dialogue. (page 11)

          In the Lord, women and men are interdependent, and this is the interdependence of agape and not of eros. It comes to expression in the shared practices of prayer and prophecy, and female head-covering is intended to ensure that this interdependence is preserved and is not distorted into covert eroticism. The headcovering is therefore woman’s ‘authority’ (εχουσια, v. 10) to put definitively behind her an origin which binds her to male erotic desire, in order to discover her true humanity within the divine–human dialogue that she helps to articulate.

          The role of the subordinationist language of 1 Cor 11:7-9 is therefore to outline a problem to which the head-covering is the solution. The claim that ‘man was not created from woman but woman from man’ (v. 8) is not contradicted by the later claims that woman and man belong together and that neither is the ultimate origin of the other (vv. 11-12); for these later claims serve to define the male/female relationship as it now stands ‘in the Lord’ (v. 11), and increation only as viewed from that perspective (v. 12), whereas the preceding passage defines a form of that relationship derived from creation but now definitively surpassed and superseded. The head-covering marks the limits of the old, asymmetrical, erotic construal of the male/female relationship, and the turn to new, reciprocal modes of interaction ‘in the Lord’ that express the reality of agape. (page 13)

          It is now clear why Paul wishes to modify the shared practices of prayer and prophecy so that they express more appropriately the new reality of themale/female relationship as it exists ‘in the Lord’.... The veil signifies the distinction between eros and agape as the basis for the relationship of men and women within the Christian community.
        So I understand the complementarian position as an unwillingness to give up woman as an object of eros, 'other'. Yet the Bible describes us as 'of the same womb' 'similar' - members of a family of brothers and sisters. Obviously we are different in our sex, but the same in our condition, human. How are we in Christ?

        I can remember, 15 years old, sitting discussing the focus of liberation from legalism, my friend and I articulating it not as 'feminism', but 'humanism' - in our terms, we had not read the classic philosphers yet - but freedom for both men and women from the binding and cruel effects of the law, a legalistic approach to scripture. We did not understand our predicament as women, gendered selves, not yet, that was later, but as humans, in tension with the elemenatary forces of a fallen condition.

        So, no, we did not rebel as females from the strictures of our environment, but observed as those who saw the women seeking escape in absence, or shelter in silence, while the men dominated or were dominated. That was the misery.

        Akeelah and the Bee

        We went to see Akeelah and the Bee tonight. I don't often get to see a movie on the opening night. Loved every minute. Cried and laughed. It was easy to identify with the mother and every other character in the movie.

        Afterwards we walked down the street under a roof of cherry blossoms, fat and rotund. Sometimes there are so many petals on the sidealk it is like walking in pink snow. We went into Starbucks which is advertising this movie, and had hot chocolate and chai.

        Friday, April 28, 2006

        T4G on Women

        The Together for the Gospel Conference Article XVI

          We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the chuhrch, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

          We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful minstry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.
        The teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings. If this is the conference whose registration form I read earlier, then it had a 'no women need a apply' condition.

        I understand from this that if a woman preaches the gospel it damages the church's witness to the gospel.

        Update: I have heard that some women did attend but it is possible that attendance was filling up and there was a last minute restriction put on women registering. Please contact me if this is not accurate. Unfortunately when I went back to check the registration page had been modified.

        Wednesday, April 26, 2006

        William Kelly

        I was recently sent this excerpt from F. F. Bruce's memoir, In Retrospect: Remembrance of things past. He comments on the nature of 'knowing' Greek vs being acquainted with New Testament in Greek.

        William Kelly mentioned here, and one of the early Brethren, edited Darby's works, but should be recognized for his own commentaries. His partial translation of the NT is published in the Kelly/Darby Parallel New Testatment. William Kelly's writings are available online here. My older brother now attends a Kelly Brethren assembly.

              Here is F. F. Bruce on language and lexicons.

                As for lexicons, those by Brown-Driver-Briggs, Buhl and Baumgartner serve me well in the Hebrew field, supplemented by M. Jastrow’s Dictionary for post-biblical Hebrew. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon deals primarily with classical Greek, but no student of the New Testament can afford to ignore classical usage.

                I have met students who claimed to ‘know Greek’ on the basis of their acquaintance with the Greek New Testament; even if that latter acquaintance were exhaustive, it would no more amount to a knowledge of Greek than acquaintance with the English New Testament would amount to a knowledge of English.

                There is a story told of A. S. Peake writing a Greek word on the blackboard of his Manchester classroom, and one of his students saying, ‘You needn’t write it down, Doctor; we know Greek.’ To which he replied, ‘I wish I did.’ To know a language, even an ancient language, involves having such a feeling for its usage that one can tell, almost as by instinct, whether a construction is permissible or not, or whether a translation is possible or not. Translation is not simply a matter of looking up a word in a dictionary and selecting the equivalent which one would like to find in a particular passage.

                It is this manifest mastery of Greek usage which makes William Kelly’s New Testament commentaries, especially those on Paul’s epistles, so valuable. ‘And you know what is restraining him now,’ says the RSV of 2 Thessalonians 2: 6, following some earlier interpreters. This construing of ‘now’ with ‘what is restraining’ Kelly describes as a solecism, pointing out that the ‘now’ is ‘simply resumptive’. Kelly is right. But how did he discover that the construction of the adverb with ‘what is restraining’ is a solecism? No grammar-book or dictionary would tell him that; it was his wide and accurate acquaintance with Greek usage that made it plain to him, an acquaintance which is the fruit of long and patient study.
              F. F. Bruce, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1980), p. 293.

              More about F. F. Bruce another day. His book has excellent reviews.

              Sunday, April 23, 2006

              Women in Ministry

              As I have been reading around the blogs, the issue of women in ministry has come on Scot McKnight's blog, and Three Hierarchies. The comments have led me to a number of supportive commenters like Makeesha and Danny Zacharias. Here is his comment on Scot McKnights blog, #98.

                I don’t if it was my mention of Larry’s comment being “horribly wrong” that started this torrent, but if it was, my apologies.I do not have time, or really the desire, to go through a thorough reasoning for biblical foundations of women in ministry. I am a little sad that Scot isn’t going to do it, but it sounds like Makeesha will on her blog.

                Let me just say one thing, I think I’ve read every single post, and while Larry keeps harping on 1Tim and saying there is absolutely no biblical basis- he has not discussed Junia the female apostle named in Romans, Phoebe, the mention of deaconnesses in the pastoral epistles (not “deacons wives” as some translations say), the fact that women are assumed to prophesy in 1 Cor, that’s why they are to cover their head (a social convention- not a universal law), as well as other females in Paul (and Jesus’) ministry.

                I get really tired of this conversation honestly. There is too much Kingdom work to be doing, but we are fighting about trying to limit half of the church’s involvment in ministry. I used to be Plymouth Brethren- I can spout of the reason for women to stay out of ministry (and Dispensational eschatology) better than anyone.

                One suggestion. Read John Stackhouse’s “Finally Feminist”. It’s a good hermeneutical understanding of this issue.
              Here's the catch for me. I really want to think about what the introduction of the diaeresis tells us about first/second century CE literacy. However, these women's issues keep popping back up. I guess I will have to run over to the Regent bookstore some day to look at this book. Thanks Danny for the recommendation.

              I finished listening to the mp3 on women in ministry by Fee, Packer, Peterson and Waltke. No surprises, but a very nicely presented discussion to promote understanding where they are coming from. Not about exegesis, this was a time limited affair, not intended to put people to sleep.

              My impressions from what they said about themselves are,

              1. Fee always assumed women could preach. He never thought otherwise.
              2. Packer is a 'Vive la difference, man" Woman is 'other' and that's all there is to it.
              3. Peterson's mother was a preacher and she really struggled with this issue.
              4. Waltke is the most thoughtful, expressing the reality that we are all on our way to learning the truth, none of us have arrived.

              Here is a piece of the exchange from Three Hierarchies.

                Much more broadly, as I suspect you know, as one moves toward the "rightward" edge of evangelicalism & fundamentalism, one tends to start to pick up women "pastors" again. I guess the old 19th century populist/evangelical coalition continues to live on at the fringes.

                I think it's a difference in the function of the pastor: objections to women as pastors correlate not only with views of male/female role interchangeability, but also with a high view of the pastoral office and also an institutional (regular call by a congregation), rather than charismatic ("I've been annointed by the Spirit"), view of the ministry.
              This is a little roundup of some recents thoughts on women in the ministry. I didn't really want to write about it right now but I don't want to lose track of these comments.

              Saturday, April 22, 2006

              Head Covering Links

              Here are the rest of the links on head coverings. I didn't expect to be writing about this. I don't think women should wear head coverings unless it is part of the cultural tradition to which they belong. I strongly oppose the idea that Jesus taught that women should be either 'in subjection', or 'subjected' as some of these links suggest.

              However, it seems that I am drawn to continue a dialogue in my own mind with Brethren ecclesiology. And like it or not, head coverings are part of the Brethren tradition.

              My parents were a faithful Brethren couple who did not teach subjection, they never mentioned it. Now I am evangelical Anglican and they do not teach it either. Each denomination choses things not to teach, like giving away all your goods, and living in a community, foot washing, supporting widows, the office of elders, allowing instrumental music, etc.

              For Head Covering

              Man and Woman: The Divine Order Brethren authors
              Head Coverings in Scripture quotes from church history

              Against Head Covering

              You were what you wore in Roman Law Bruce Winter
              What is the Head Covering Dan Wallace
              Rethinking the Veil William Welty

              Call to Charity

              Head Coverings and Charity Douglas Wilson

              As I type I am listening to a forum published online on women in ministry. At this point Eugene Peterson is talking about his mother who was a preacher. It is quite a story and one that I had not heard before. It is a blessing to hear of this woman preaching in timber camps and mining camps. Thank God for faithful women.

              Note: I have posted a draft and taken it down - sorry.

              Mars, Venus and the admonitory hand

              Here is another tombstone showing the woman wearing a head covering. This image is also from Women in the Classical World.

                The woman extends an admonitory hand to touch her husband, as the little boy peeps out from behind them. The inscription with its many names cannot be used to identify the self-absorbed family group set before us, but the woman's gesture is based on a scene from high art, showing the divine couple Venus and Mars; yet the simple and veristic style of the relief seems worlds away from such classical sources. For the freed slaves who commissioned this group of reliefs, upward mobility came from the public self-representation of family, something to which only a free person was entitled, since a slave had no right to her or his own children, or to make a legal contract such as marriage.

              In sculptures of Mars and Venus, Venus is often posed with a hand on Mars shoulder. This pair have occasonally been used as a model for a married couple in art ever since. I know the story of Mars and Venus, but I am not familiar with the reference to the 'admonitory hand'. I have posted this image for its simple beauty, the way it shows a married couple, the woman wearing a veil, with her hand on her husband. There is no other intention but just to enjoy it. And if you know the history of the admonitory hand, I would love to hear it.

              Friday, April 21, 2006

              Head Coverings and Married Status

              Why do I favor women in ministry?Ken Schenck is a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University.

                Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 predicted that Christian daughters would prophesy. Indeed, we see the 7 virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist prophesying in Acts 21:9. 1 Cor. 11:5 refers to married women prophesying as well. We know they are married because their lack of covering dishonors their head—which 11:3 defines as their husbands. There is nothing in these contexts that indicates that these women only prophesied to women. Indeed, since the spirits of women and men are undifferentiated "in Christ," we would be surprised if such a distinction were made. Christ has conquered the limitations of the earth and the sin of Eve! Any lingering traces of the limitations of earth will fully disappear in the kingdom of God.
              Interesting to me, since I am convinced that the head covering applied specifically to married women. Notice that this author says that the lack of a head covering for the women in Corinthians dishonours their head (husband). It is not lack of submission, but lack of a more public honour, dressing in a way that could be construed as a symbol of the adulteress, that dishonours a husband.

              Really, would a man make a public issue out of lack of submission. No, the lack of honour, then as today, is lack of fidelity. In this, Christians stand together, there is not one understanding for complementarians, and another for egalitarians.

              Here is Tertullian on the veiling of virgins.

                "But that point which is promiscuously observed throughout the churches, whether virgins ought to be veiled or no, must be treated of. For they who allow to virgins immunity from headcovering, appear to rest on this; that the apostle has not defined 'virgins' by name, but 'women,' as 'to be veiled;' nor the sex generally, so as to say 'females,' but a class of the sex, by saying 'women:' for if he had named the sex by saying 'females,' he would have made his limit absolute for every woman; but while he names one class of the sex, he separates another class by being silent. For, they say, he might either have named 'virgins' specially; or generally, by a compendious term, 'females.'" Tertullian, On Prayer, cited in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Cleveland Cox, ed,. (U.S. A.: The Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885), III:687.Emphasis his. Head Coverings in Scripture

              Thursday, April 20, 2006

              You were what you wore in Roman Law

              Yesterday I posted an article by Dan Wallace. Today, an article by Bruce Winter. You were what you wore in Roman Law,

                Statues of the emperor’s wife were reproduced throughout the empire, showing in detail the hairstyle for the modest woman. The high-class prostitute wore elaborate braided hair piled high on the top of her head and with gold and pearls worn over expensive ‘see-through’ clothes. Seneca the Younger, writing at the same time as Paul, complained that in some cases you couldn’t distinguish whether a woman had her clothes on or off — a dilemma not unfamiliar on the cat-walk of to-day’s fashion shows. ‘Modesty’ was the term that identified the chaste married woman.

                There are very moving inscriptions found on a large numbers of graves both in Rome and other parts of the ancient world about married women where the term ‘modesty’ dominates. They commend the virtuous wife who had loved her husband, cared for her children and managed her household (Titus 2.4). Thus, together, we have evidence from the legislation of Augustus, from the Stoic and neo-Pythagorian philosophical schools and also from inscriptions on tombstones that modesty epitomised the virtuous wife.

                Augustus brought in two pieces of legislation — one aiming to restrain the adulterous woman and make adultery an explicit criminal offence for the first time in Roman law; the other offering incentives to marry and have children. This is but one surviving piece of evidence pointing to the fact that there were numbers of avant-garde married women whom ancient historians refer to as the ‘new’ women.

                If a married woman were convicted of adultery under Roman law her hair would be cropped as a sign of her disgrace. She could not wear the marriage veil again, even though she might re-marry. Consequently the status of women of the first century was clearly identifiable by their appearance.


                Contemporary evidence external to the New Testament can help illuminate what is being said in the Word of God and bring us to a better understanding of the text. The true concern of the church was that some men and women were sending inappropriate signals by what they chose to wear. Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 10.32 was to give no offence to either Jew or Greek or the church of God. It was important, therefore, that outsiders should not misread the gospel by what Christians wore, for they were what they wore.
                The Rev. Dr. Bruce Winter is Director of the Institute of Early Christianity and Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge.
                ROMAN WIVES, ROMAN WIDOWS The appearance of new women and the Pauline communities By Bruce W. Winter Eerdmans. 244 pages. £17.99 ISBN 0 802 849 717
              I personally believe that wearing the veil was a cultural symbol of adhering to the proper practise of a modest and virtuous woman. It means that she was married and that she was not adulterous. Woman wanted to be married and they wanted a symbol to show that they were married. They would be proud to dress like the empress.

              I have to ask where in the Bible it says that the veil is a symbol of submission. I don't remember reading that but maybe I have forgotten. Please remind me. It does say that a woman should have power on her head. No one is sure what that means. Maybe she has control over her own head. Maybe the veil gives her status.

              And Winter also explains that the 'angels' are likely 'messengers'. There is no easy way to make sense of 1 Corinthians 11 otherwise. Here is the passage in King James Version. I have put the parts in red that I have added to show an equally valid alternative translation. The parts in blue are hard to intepret even in Greek.

                3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [wife] is the man [husband]; and the head of Christ is God.
                4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
                5But every woman [wife] that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
                6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
                7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
                8For the man [husband] is not of the woman [wife]: but the woman [wife] of the man [husband].
                9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
                10For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels [messengers].
                11Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
                12For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
                13Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
                14Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
                15But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 16But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
                So this is not an easy text to understand. I certainly do not think that a woman should wear a head covering to church now, unless she wants to.

                Those women who wear head coverings in Vancouver today show that they belong to an identifiable group like the Moslem, the Orthodox Jews, or maybe visiting Amish. There are orthodox Jewish women in Vancouver who wear a scarf, I saw one today, but I don't see them very often.

                When I was growing up my mother and the other Brethren women wore hats. Of course, my mother always wore her hair up in a French roll or a braid or bun, so her hair was nicely covered by her hat. She always looked like a well dressed woman that belonged to the normal church attending population. She did not look odd. No one would stop her and ask why she dressed oddly - she did not.

                When the Brethren started in the 1840's they did not have a distinctive style of dress that was different from other groups. This was not part of the tradition, to look odd and different. It was changing a little when I was young. Then some parents wouldn't let the girls ever cut their hair or wear pants. So those girls weren't very modest when they went toboganning. But they toboganned anyway. I thought that was a bad thing. My parents weren't strict about that. I alway wore pants toboganning.

                Wednesday, April 19, 2006

                Head Coverings in Rome

                In this picture Augustus and Livia lead the procession with Julia his daughter, her children, other royal children, Vestal vergins, male officials and priests.

                This is from a favourite book of mine, Women in the Classical World. It is hard to generalize about who covered their head in the classical world. However, covering your head was always a sign of dignity and status. The divorced women, courtesan or slave would not cover her head. All Roman matrons would wear cover their head for some occasions.

                This kind of head covering does not compare with putting on ones head an object that was designed to cover the arms and back of a chair. That is a humiliation and men who wish to see their wives accorded equal dignity and worth with men would never think of it. Well, I am refering to Dan Wallace's argument. That is more or less what he says about head coverings.
                  The important thing to note is that the early church adopted a convention already in use in society and gave it a distinctively Christian hue. That Paul could say that no other churches had any other practice may well indicate how easily such a practice could be adopted. This finds parallels with baptism in Israel. The Pharisees did not ask John, “What are you doing?” Instead, they asked, “Why are you doing this?” They understood baptism (even though John’s baptism was apparently the first to be other-baptism rather than self-baptism); what they didn’t understand was John’s authority and what his baptism symbolized.

                  In a similar way, the early church practice of requiring the women to wear a head covering when praying or prophesying6 would not have been viewed as an unusual request. In the cosmopolitan cities of Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece, no one would feel out of place. Head coverings were everywhere. When a woman wore one in the church, she was showing her subordination to her husband, but was not out of place with society. One could easily imagine a woman walking down the street to the worship service with a head covering on without being noticed.

                  Today, however, the situation is quite different, at least in the West. For a woman to wear a head covering7 would seem to be a distinctively humiliating experience. Many women--even biblically submissive wives--resist the notion precisely because they feel awkward and self-conscious. But the head covering in Paul’s day was intended only to display the woman’s subordination, not her humiliation. Today, ironically, to require a head covering for women in the worship service would be tantamount to asking them to shave their heads! The effect, therefore, would be just the opposite of what Paul intended. Thus, in attempting to fulfill the spirit of the apostle’s instruction, not just his words, some suitable substitute symbol needs to be found.
                I think maybe his wife didn't want to wear a head covering. I was brought up to wear a head covering, but now I do not. I think that it is better to dress as a dignified and modest member of the society about you, a person that other people do not want to take pictures of because of how quaint you look. That does not honour God.

                Actually I am not sure that wearing a head covering was originally a sign of subordination. In the image above only the emperor and his wife were wearing head coverings. It was certainly a sign of dignity and respectability. It used to be that a man wanted his wife to wear a hat or a covering as a sign of her status and dignity. My father was very careful to go with my mother to buy her a really nice hat. My mother wore a hat really well, better than the queen, I think. My dad was always proud of how she looked.

                Wendy's Modest Dress has an excellent collection of head coverings if you really want one. I think a triangle looks better than a doily. Now the only women who wear a head covering in my city are Moslem women, cancer patients, and members of the Red Hat Society. Red Hat ladies are becoming very popular in Vancouver. My husband doesn't want me to look like any of these. It would be upsetting for him.

                Tuesday, April 18, 2006

                Brothers and Sisters

                I was very surprised to find that anyone would use the 'headship' metaphor for men and women in church. The sibling metaphor is excellent. I realize now that it might seem awkward to use the terms of brother and sister as a form of address, but it does reinforce an atmosphere of healthy respect.

                  But I want you to understand that
                  the head of every man is Christ,
                  the head of a wife is her husband,
                  and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV

                  Do not rebuke an older man
                  but encourage him as you would a father.
                  Treat younger men like brothers,
                  older women like mothers,
                  younger women like sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1 ESV

                We should leave the discussion of 'headship' to marriage where it belongs and not make up new and difficult rules for how men and women should relate in the church. Then we can get back to talking about what is really important.

                "We should avoid all this other stuff that is a distraction and damaging to people and get down to the real discussion about what is in the Bible." This understanding of 2 Tim. 2:15 was suggested to me today in an email. Thank you very much.

                Monday, April 17, 2006

                Women in Brethren Churches

                In January The Brethren Assemby News published for comment a document on Women in the Brethren Churches and I was asked to respond. At first, I felt that I would only offend if I did respond but I later came to understand that the request was genuine.

                First, I would like to commend the authors of this document for making it clear that women are not inferior by nature to men. In this document women are recognized as receiving the same spiritual gifts as men and special mention is made of the 'priesthood of all believers.' #6 in particular, is an affirmation that celebrates the role of women in relationship to Christ.
                  #6 The Bible teaches the significance of women in the life and ministry of Jesus in that they were friends, supporters and followers (Luke 8:1-3; John 4:1-42; John 20:1-18). It is notable that women were the last at the cross and that the resurrected Lord appeared first to women.

                In #16, many of the teachings are summarized. I believe that (1) is within marriage and is of a private nature. Then (2) is the teaching that I am most familiar with. It is a very traditional teaching and I will not argue with it today. (4) is commendable. Now read this paragraph and note (3).

                  16. The four over-riding Biblical principles in this issue, in no particular order, are that of (1) "headship" (I Corinthians 11:3-16), (2) "orderliness in the meetings of the church" (I Corinthians 14:40), (3) the responsibility of men to lead and women to respond to that leadership (Ephesians 5:21-24), and (4) the gifting by the Holy Spirit of all believers alike for mutual building up of the body of Christ (I Timothy 2:11ff).

                If, as (3) says, it is the responsibility of women to respond to male leadership why did women remain last at the cross, and why did women go first to the empty tomb?

                I would be interested in hearing where in the Bible this teaching that women have the responsibility to respond to male leadership is found or even an example is given. In the Bible women respond to God, to Christ and to angels. They relate to God in the same way men do, directly.

                If a male is in a legitimate leadership position, then one must believe that either all Christians under his responsibility must respond to him, or none at all. There cannot be a differential in the responding of women and men. That would cause very innapropriate behaviour if women all responded to one man's teaching, leadership and 'strength' (as John Piper puts it) but their husbands did not, because it was not explicitly their responsibility to do so. How would the husbands feel?

                If women are only responsible to respond, then who would tell women missionaries who have initiated work without male companions that they have gone byond their biblical responsibility and not remained within their boundaries?

                Or is it only when men are around that they must be responded to? Is a woman on her own capable of responding to God, but a woman in the company of a man not capable of this? This two tier system is difficult to disentangle. If women are capable of responding to God on their own, then is it to meet the needs of men that women must respond to them. Is that taught in the Bible?

                I do not think that this phrase found in #16 (3) is Biblical. It would be better left out entirely. It is an important teaching in complementarianism and it is one reason that I am committed to demonstrating that complementarianism is not Biblical.

                Ultimately, I do not perceive of this teaching as a traditional Brethren teaching. In #16 only (2) "orderliness in the meetings of the church" (I Corinthians 14:40), and 4) the gifting by the Holy Spirit of all believers alike for mutual building up of the body of Christ (I Timothy 2:11ff) are traditional Brethren teaching. (Headship refers to marriage not to behaviour in the assembly.)

                These are only my opinions which I am expressing because I was asked to. Thank you for asking me to respond to this document. Please understand that I do not seek to offend.

                Sunday, April 16, 2006

                The Ruthwell Cross

                This is the South face of the Ruthwell Cross, Northumberland. (8th century) The image of the south face here shows two female figures facing each other. Below is Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus' feet.

                The following is from the Rood and Ruthwell website.

                  "The South Face has a (later?) Crucifixion at the base (which would have been visible when the Cross stood by itself rather than within a well). Above it is the Annunciation (a lesson in accepting the will of God), then the healing of a man born blind (the healing power of God), then Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus' feet (humility before God), and then, just below the head of the Cross, a panel of Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, two women who, according to Carol A. Farr, "are meritorious in a Christian sense . . . . [As such, they] would be especially relevant to the ongoing process of Christianization in Anglo-Saxon society" (49).

                  To Farr, they are a pair comparable in their worthiness to Saints Paul and Anthony found on the North face. These scenes revolve around "Mary"--the different forms Mary can take (as the mother of God, the humble prostitute, or one of the two worthy sisters). There is a sense of Christ in His human form, from becoming man, to His acts as a person, to His physical death." About the Ruthwell Cross

                  [An alternate interpretation is offered here.] "The two panels just below the head of the Cross offer first a representation of either the Visitation (the Virgin Mary's visit to her sister Elizabeth, then pregnant with John the Baptist) or of Martha and Mary. The Latin inscription is essentially obliterated, reduced to "M....M..I...R." Howlett (74) finds the reading of Martha Maria mr (read as merentes) dominnae ("Martha [and] Mary, meritorious ladies") very satisfactory. Carol A. Farr builds on this reading, saying, "[T]he significance of Martha and Mary [as] women of high status who are meritorious in a Christian sense . . . would be especially relevant to the ongoing process of Christianization in Anglo-Saxon society" (49). To Farr, they are a pair comparable in their worthiness to Saints Paul and Anthony on the opposing North Face.." South Face
                While some of this information is speculative, it is clear that primarily women are represented on the South Face. It is remarkable to see that male and female figures have been carefully balanced in the images represented around the cross. The following is a description of the North Face.

                "Here we have a representation of Paul and Anthony breaking bread. This scene relates to the one above it as Anthony, searching for Paul in the desert, meets helpful beasts. When Paul and Anthony met, they had (ironically) a contest in humility; each insists on letting the other break the bread in Eucharistic fashion. They then decide to break the bread together. The Latin of the panel reads "+ SCS PAULUS ET A[ntonius duo eremitae (from Howlett 75)] FREGERUNT PANEM IN DESERTO," "Saints Paul and Anthony, two hermits, broke bread in the desert." North Face

                The east and west faces have inscribed on them in runes the text of the Dream of the Rood.
                  This monument stands as a testimony to a deeply felt Christian faith in a time when it was not thought to be innappropriate to give equal prominence and representation to women. It shows faithful women and men in the proper Christian perspective, in their relationship to Christ, not to each other.

                  Where I am now

                  I have thought for some time that I should explain where I now attend church and some of the influences that have led me(us) in this direction. First, I would like to say that I am a relatively traditional wife and mother. However, I do not mention my immediate family out of respect for their privacy. This does not reflect their relative importance in my life.

                  Instead, I have decided to explore the Christian influences in my early life. This gives me the freedom to talk about things without getting into the present. It also necessitates my exploring the contribution that an Exclusive Brethren upbringing, combined with an education in Greek and Hebrew throughout high school and university, made to my personal perspective.

                  To recount my journey from the Darbyite Brethren to the present, briefly, here are a few pivotal events. When I was 16 our family was involved in a split in our Brethren community. Our family and many others left and started our own assembly but eventually we were absorbed into the Open Brethren and the Bible Chapel fellowship.

                  At the age of 17 I attended university and in 1976 the Anglican Church of Canada first ordained women. I became aware of this through our Inter Varsity group where Dr. Longenecker and some other Anglican professors spoke.

                  I was always aware that the Brethren had come out of the Anglican church and although we had been taught that they were wrong, I found many cultural similarities. When my great aunt died she left me her Anglican prayer book. She had herself returned to attending the Anglican Church after her husband had been excommunicated from the Brethren.

                  After university I married and my husband and I moved frequently, living in small towns in different places in Canada, where we attended whatever church was available, Presbyterian, Christian Alliance, etc. My husband was brought up by his missionary parents in North Africa and considers his upbringing to be more or less Presbyterian but also some Brethren.

                  He tells me that his great aunt, a Plymouth Brethren from Ireland named Eva McCarthy, used to preach in the churches in Macedonia. I look forward to getting more of this story later this summer.

                  About 15 years ago when my husband and I lived in a northern town for several years, we decided to attend an Open Brethren assembly. This decision was made by both of us.

                  This was a very traumatic experience in the end. We became aware of 4 woman in that town, 3 in that church, who were being abused by their husbands. All were from very different backgrounds otherwise. The husbands were in 2 cases not Christians. However, the wives, as Christians, were being advised by the elders to stay with their husbands. This teaching was in association with the recommendation to read Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In the end all of these women were able to leave but not with the help of the church.

                  We left the church and shortly after moved to Vancouver. Since we have been here, we have been attending an evangelical Anglican church. We have found that some other Brethren have been coming to this church as well, among them some of my distant relatives.

                  It seems that many of the older Brethren, (although I would call myself middle-aged, not old) prefer the Anglican service and see in it many similarities to the Brethren. Among these are the consistent and chronological reading of the Bible. Then there is the lack of an entertainment style music ministry. Our choir, which is excellent, sings from the choir loft, and there is no attention on individual singers. The ultimate good for our choir members is to have all the voices blend, rather than to have a soloist stand out.

                  The ministers speak quietly and respectfully and there is little emphasis on personality. That is perhaps the most peculiar thing that I find in some of the more evangelical churches. When too much attention is paid to individual men as preachers or women as singers/speakers, I find that very awkward. I prefer the ritual, quiet, solemn service in which the word is placed at the centre. There is a similar sense of community.

                  In our church all three ministers are men. However, among the church board men and women serve equally and both pray, read the Bible, and serve communion. Technically we could have a woman minister but we don't, and have only had women as interns from time to time.

                  Men and women share most tasks in the church. They share catering and greeting, accounting and management. There are both women's and men's ministry, but these seem to be practical arrangements and there is little stereotyping of activities either way.

                  The word 'complementarian' had not been invented when I grew up in the Brethren. I also doubt that most people my age in our Anglican church would ever have heard of it. They might be aware that some people are more 'traditional' than others, but only in a vague sort of way.

                  How I tumbled into the gender debate this fall is a story to be told when it becomes ancient history.

                  The Dream of the Rood

                  But yet I lying a long time there
                  25 gazed at the Savior's troubled tree,
                  until that I heard it call out;
                  the best wood began then to speak words:
                  "That was years gone by--I still remember--
                  that I was hewn down at the forest's edge,
                  30 cut out of my tree trunk. Strong foes took me there,
                  shaped me there for themselves in the form of a spectacle,
                  commanded me to raise their criminals.
                  Warriors carried me there on shoulders,
                  until that they set me on a hill;
                  many foes fastened me there. I then saw mankind's Lord
                  hasten with great zeal; he wished to climb on me.
                  35 There I then darest not bow nor burst
                  contrary to the Lord's word when I saw earth's surface
                  trembling. I would have been able
                  to kill all foes but I stood firm.
                  The young hero stripped himself--that was God almighty--
                  40 strong and unflinching; he stepped up on the high cross,
                  brave in the sight of many,
                  where he wished to redeem mankind.
                  I trembled when the Warrior embraced me;
                  nor did I dare, however, to bow down to the earth,
                  to fall to the surfaces of the earth. But I had to stand firm.
                  As a rood I was erected; I raised the powerful King,
                  45 the Lord of heavens; I dared not bow myself down.
                  They drove through me with iron-colored and sinister nails:
                  on me the wounds are visible,
                  the open malicious wounds;
                  neither dared I to injure any of them.
                  They mocked us two both together.
                  I was completely stained with blood,
                  covered from the man's side after he had released his spirit.
                  50 I had endured on that hill much of cruel fates.
                  I saw the God of hosts
                  severely stretched out. Shades of night had
                  covered with clouds the Lord's corpse,
                  the bright radiance; shades went forth
                  55 dark under the sky. All creation mourned,
                  bewailed the king's fall; Christ was on the cross.
                  "But there the eager ones came from afar
                  to the Prince. I beheld it all.
                  I was with sorrows sorely afflicted;
                  I bent down nevertheless to the hands of the warriors,
                  60 submissive, with great zeal.
                  They took there the almighty God,
                  raised him from the heavy torture. The warriors left me
                  to stand covered over by moisture;
                  I was all with punctures wounded.
                  They lay the limb-weary one there; t
                  hey themselves stood at his body's head;
                  they gazed there at the heaven's Lord,
                  and he himself there a time rested,
                  65 weary after that great battle.
                  They, the warriors, themselves began to form
                  an earth-urn in the sight of the rood;
                  they carved that out of bright stone;
                  they placed therein the Lord of victory.
                  They themselves then began to sing a dirge,
                  wretched in the evening hour,
                  then they wished again to travel,
                  weary from the glorious prince;
                  he rested there with a small band.
                  70 However we there weeping a good while
                  stood in a fixed position. The voice of the warriors
                  rose up. The corpse cooled,
                  the fair dwelling of the soul. Then a man began to fell us
                  all to earth. That was a dreadful fate!
                  75 One dug us into a deep pit.
                  However, there the Lord's servants,
                  friends, found me by seeking;
                  they adorned me with gold and with silver.

                  Dream of the Rood

                  The Dream of the Rood is found in an 11th century manuscript written in West Saxon. Parts of the same text are found in runes on the Ruthwell Cross, Northumbria, dated 8th century. It is thought that the second half of the poem (Lines 77 on) has a different author. Much of the discussion of the atonement this Easter has helped me to see that this may be so.

                  Listen to the podcast of this poem from the Bitter Scroll with the Saxon text here. The download for this took me a few minutes but it was worth the effort as I was able to listen to a recent discussion of this 'enculturation of the crucifixion story'.

                  The Bitter Scroll is a new website about Germanic languages and literature. I have to admit that the American accent might be disconcerting to a British ear. However, the narrator treats his theme with respect and reverence and turns this into an informative discussion on Early English literature and an Easter sermon. His reading in Saxon was very moving. There is a lot of information about the vocabulary and concepts presented in this poem and as I sit listening to the analysis, the poem comes alive. I deeply appreciate the treatment this poem receives in this podcast.

                  More info here. Hilda and Caedmon: Dream of the Rood
                  Note: I have split the lines of this text to make it fit in blogger.

                  Saturday, April 15, 2006

                  The Passion of the Father

                  Caravaggio's Sacrifice of Isaac


                  I have been reading Scot McKnight's post and the long comment section on atonement. Atonement Wars on Good Friday? I have conflicted thoughts on Good Friday. It was always an Exclusive Brethren distinctive not to celebrate the church calendar. Since we remember Christ's death for us every Sunday we should not make too much of it on Easter, which is a worldly and once a year recognition of Christianity.

                  In looking for the first ever use of the diaeresis, I noticed that (so far) it is found in the Papyri 52. This fragment and its text is a good Easter reading.

                  Friday, April 14, 2006

                  Knitting Socks

                  I am knitting a pair of socks for my daughter. I learned how to knit when I was knee high to a grasshopper. What I think happened was that in the summer at the cottage, my little sister needed a lot of care and attention from my mother, and I was sent over to my grandma's cottage every day. There she taught me how to do cross stitch, crochet and knit when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My grandfather helped.

                  So knitting is one of my earliest memories. As I knit with the children at school it became obvious that knitting was not a female only activity. I talked about my grandparents and they talked about theirs. They talked about grandfathers who worked as knitters. This was their job.

                  Then just a few weeks ago the celebrity photo of Russell Crowe knitting turned up in the newspaper. Well, one look shows you that he doesn't know how to knit. He does seem to play the violin but not knit. Google 'Russell Crowe knitting' for more details.

                  However, knitting probably began with men as this more reality based site shows. A good history is documented.

                  I can't keep up the knitting blog, but knitting must always be the warp of thought for those brought up in our family.

                  I chuckled when a visiting complementarian mentioned my knitting blog as an example of how women are of a different nature than men. They clutch at straws. Saint Paul himself sewed for a living.

                  In memory of my mother.

                  Thursday, April 13, 2006

                  Richard Longenecker

                  Euangelion had started an Evangelical Exegetes Hall of Fame. His first pick is Richard Longenecker, who taught at the University of Toronto and once in a while spoke to our Inter Varsity Group. I'll always regret that I didn't take his courses myself, I had a full slate with all those languages and didn't know any better. However, my Brethren girlfriend reported carefully his reasoning for permitting the ordination of women, and we spent a lot of time discussing these issues. He was great influence on our group of young people. I'm glad he came out to talk to our group. Thanks, Dr. Longenecker.

                  Blessed is the Womb

                  Here is a great piece of writing from The Real Questions and Answers .

                    Luke 11:27-28 (NASB):

                      While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, " Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

                    Back in December, I heard a few words from the pulpit at my mother's church which I would have accepted as truth in times past, but which still greatly disturb me now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser:

                      "A woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother."

                    As a single woman who is seeking God's will but who has not been given a husband and children, I find this kind of talk discouraging at best and condemning at its worst. It's a good thing for me and for every other single/childless woman that it is also Scripturally inaccurate.
                    The Apostle Paul encouraged men and women alike to remain unmarried, just as he was himself, in order to have more freedom to serve God fully. He encouraged men and women alike to learn the Scriptures, to encourage one another, to lead others to Christ, and to instruct others in the Christian life.
                    The Bible never forbids an unmarried woman or a childless woman to be saved.The only childbearing that saves a woman is the birth of Christ, the Savior... never her own childbearing. In short, a woman's highest calling in Scripture is exactly the same as a man's: to be a disciple of Christ.
                    I'll go on a limb and risk serious criticism by saying something sure to offend, but it looks like it's true: Christians who believe that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother are reducing women to nothing more than their sexual and reproductive organs.
                    We can go into the importance of training children and all that other family values stuff as much as we want, but it still looks like women are reduced from soul and mind to body parts best kept covered. In short, there is a disturbing parallel between this teaching and pornography. Read the rest of the article here.
                  I am a wife and mother, and I find it just as bizarre to think that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother. It still reduces women who are wives and mothers to the body parts best kept covered. I have made a practice of never shaking hands with the same committed complementarian male twice. (On one single occasion I made an exception. I braced myself and said to myself, I am here for a task.) Usually I am too squeamish to interact with people who think about women in these terms. It is not that I despise these men, but I am too embarassed, knowing all the things they might be thinking.

                  Yes, I find a similarity between this kind of teaching and pornography.

                  Wednesday, April 12, 2006

                  Male and Female in Heaven

                  This is another example of complementarian thinking. Here is an example of the intellectual underpinnings of complementarianism. From Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Wayne Grudem and John Piper.

                  Chapter 12
                  MEN AND WOMEN
                  IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
                  John M. Frame

                    Are men and women equally in the image of God?
                    Some have answered in the negative because of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:7, “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”

                    I agree with C. K. Barrett that “in this context Paul values the term image only as leading to the term glory.” The reference to “image” is incidental to Paul’s purpose, and therefore not mentioned with respect to woman; but it notifies his readers of the Old Testament basis for saying that man is the glory of God, “glory” and “image” being roughly, but not entirely, synonymous.

                    “Glory” in this context is the honor that one person brings to another. Man, Paul says, was made to honor God. Of course, woman was also made to honor God; but in addition, she is also made for a second purpose: to honor man. God made her specifically to be a helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18, 20; cf. Proverbs 12:4; Ephesians 5:25-29). Man honors or glorifies God by uncovering his head, for covering the head connoted subservience to another creature.Such subservience to men is especially inappropriate for a male prophet, whose whole function is to speak for God, or for one leading in public prayer, whose whole function is to lead the people to God’s own throne. Woman, however, even when prophesying or praying in public, must not only honor God, but also honor man. Indeed, she honors God when she honors the specific task of “helper” for which God made her. Unlike the man, then, she honors God best by displaying a symbol by which she honors her fellow-creature. (page 230)

                    Will We Be Male and Female in Heaven?

                    Scripture doesn’t explicitly address this question, so we should not be dogmatic in trying to answer it. But some broad Biblical principles may lead us in one direction or another.

                    We might be inclined to answer “no” to this question because of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 that resurrected saints will neither marry nor give in marriage. In the resurrection, earthly families will be overshadowed by the great family of God (cf. Luke 20:36). I am, however, inclined toward an affirmative answer:

                    (1) Those who appear after death in Scripture always appear similar to their earthly forms (1 Samuel 28:11-15; Matthew 17:1-13; 27:52ff.; Revelation 11:1-12). I would assume that the men continued to appear as bearded (if they wore beards on earth), speaking with masculine voices. This fact seems to yield some presumption, at least, that we retain our sexual characteristics after death.

                    (2) Even angels (whom Jesus says we will resemble in the resurrection) tend to appear in Scripture as men, rather than as women or as asexual beings (Genesis 18:2, 16, 22; Joshua 5:13; Hebrews 13:2).

                    (3) Jesus’ resurrection body also resembled the form He bore on earth, even down to the wounds in His hands and side (John 20:25, 27), although His new existence is mysterious in many ways. At the resurrection appearances, I have no doubt that the disciples saw a male figure.

                    (4) Sexuality, as we have seen, is part of the image of God, part of what it now means to be human. It is possible that this resemblance might in the next life be replaced with other kinds of resemblance. (“Image of God,” we will recall, covers much territory.) But if we lose our sexuality, why should we not also lose our arms, eyes, and brains?

                    (5) Our sex organs and secondary sexual characteristics have functions other than procreation. They also image different attributes of God and express the variety of human personality. Sex, after all, is not just reproductive capacity. Stereotypes aside, men and women do differ in personality and in the distribution of their spiritual gifts. The body of a godly woman often serves as an appropriate accompaniment to her personality, reinforcing our impression of her inner meekness and quiet strength. Similarly for men, mutatis mutandis. We would, I think, sense something odd if Mother Teresa’s personality were found in the body of, say, Sylvester Stallone, or vice versa.

                    So here’s a weak vote in favor of the affirmative: I rather suspect that we will still be male and female in the resurrection.

                  Athenian Democracy

                  Kenny Pearce has written in his blog from Greece,

                    Furthermore, although the idea of the Church being governed democratically is a post-Reformation invention and does not seem to have occurred in the early Church, there is something inherently democratic, as the Greeks understood democracy, about the Church: everyone is invited. Now the Athenians and the other Greek democracies invited a very limited 'everyone' to their Assemblies - excluding women, children, slaves, and foreigners - but they nevertheless considered it to be everyone, and were very proud of this. They were especially proud of their inclusion of the poor, since these were the ones the oligarchic city-states excluded. The early Church was inclusive to a degree never seen before, including also slaves, women, children and even 'barbarians' (in this time period, this meant those who lived outside the realm of civilization, where civilization is synonymous with the Roman Empire).
                  Read the whole post here. This post emphasizes the democratic nature of the early church. Certainly the use of he term 'ekklesia' implies a democratic institution rather than a hierarchic one. What does God intend us to understand about the nature of his church from the use of this term?

                  This is the understanding that the early Brethren had as they expressly refused to name elders.

                  Tuesday, April 11, 2006

                  Hierarchy within the church

                  Here are a couple articles on hierarchy within the church. The first is naturally on the blog "Three Hierarchies" and proves once and for all that priests and bishops are the same order in the New Testament.

                  The other article is an excerpt from J. N. Darby and proves that The Notion of a Clergyman is Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost.

                  Neither of these articles prove that the apostles are not examples of male leadership in heaven, as Grudem affirms, but it makes you wonder whether males will be able to agree on how to distribute male leadership in heaven. Fortunately they will not be the ones to decide.

                  This description of the Exclusive Brethren explains that they do not to this day appoint elders.

                    The Exclusive Brethren differ from the Open Brethren in that they reject the notion of assemblies being independent and uphold the necessity of assemblies acting in unity. They also reject the appointment of elders today. They have varying postions on the reception of Christians to the Lord's Supper. In theory, at least they accept that all Christians have the right to participate in the Lord's Supper, but they will not accept Open Brethren, as they consider them to be upholding evil because of the events of 1849.
                  I hasten to add that I did not grow up in the Taylor Brethren, but the other Exclusive Brethren. We were teatotallers, and the women did not have to wear scarves except in the assembly. But elders were not appointed. The only distinction was between the 'brothers' and the 'sisters'. Otherwise there were 'labouring brothers', travelling preachers who depended on faith for their financial support. Naturally those local brothers who were wealthy had more influence, that goes without saying.

                  Monday, April 10, 2006

                  Grudem on male leadership in heaven

                  A while ago I downloaded Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem. I now cannot find it available on the internet in its original easily accessible PDF format. However, that may be a temporary problem, I'm not sure.

                  In any case I have a serious question here. I was not previously aware that there was there would be a hierarchical relationship between men and women in heaven. But this is the logical fulfillment of Grudem's teaching. First, he says that male and female are part of creation order, and God saw that that was good. Therefore, there will be male and female in heaven. Then, he says that a hierarchical relationship between men and women is part of creation order.

                    Adam's headship in marriage was established before the Fall, and was not a result of sin. page 29
                  And then, the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones in heaven as a "permanent reminder of male leadership among God's people."

                    The Bible says people will not marry in heaven, but it does not say there will be no male and female in heaven
                    We must be careful not to claim more than the Bible teaches. It says that in the resurrection people "neither marry nor are given in marriage," but nowhere does it way that we are not male and female in heaven. In some way we will be "like angels in heaven" (Matthew 22:30), but Jesus does not specify just how we will be like angels - except that we will not marry.

                    Several considerations argue that we will still be male and female in the age to come: Jesus was a man after His resurrection, and it is our own bodies that will, like Jesus' body, be raised from the dead on the last day. Moreover, our identity as male and female is something good, not part of sin or the curse, for "male and female" was part of the way God created Adam and Eve and said they were very good. (Genesis 1:31). So it seems that to be fully human requires that we be either man or woman. In the age to come, God will restore His creation to what He first intended, by removing the effects of the Fall and the subsequent curse. (Romans 8:18 - 25). But our identity as either male or female is so integral to our personhood that it seems unlikely that our gender will be abolished in the age to come. page 169

                    The maleness of the apostles established a permanent pattern for male leadership in the church.

                    The highest human leadership among God's people in the New Covenant is simply not egalitarian. Even in the age to come, Jesus said, there will be a place of high authority for His twelve apostles. "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twleve thrones, judging the twleve tribes of Israel." (Matthew 19:28). And in the heavenly city we will see a permanent reminder of male leadership among God's people, for "the wall of the city had twelve foudations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:14) ...

                    The most unique, foundational, authoritative leaders in the church were all men. At its very foundation, the church of Jesus Christ is not an egalitarian institution. It has 100 per cent male leadership. page 172
                  As a former Brethren I am surprised by this blanket statement against egalitarianism in the generic sense, and the outright enthusiasm for hierarchy. The Brethren are not in favour of officially elevating any men to a position of authority above other men. Only the word has authority. Since our earthly existance is flawed this has led to Brethren men using the word to exercise authority over other men and women, in unregulated ways. However, the ideal of a Spirit led church in which we "call no man father" (Matthew 23:9) has carried on.

                  I find both the notion of eternal hierarchy in heaven, and the notion of eternal sexuality, to be oddly our of step with the Victorian Christianty I was reared in.

                  I will further examine this book on Evangelical Feminism to see exactly what Grudem has to say about the eternal subordination of the Son.

                  For more on this topic see The Eternal Subordination of Christ and of Women.

                  I cannot help but see an increasing rapprochement between this kind of theology and Islam, whose name means 'submission'. In complementarian teaching, the highest ideal of Christianity appears to be eternal submission.

                  Sunday, April 09, 2006

                  A mind mighty in great affairs

                  "A princess," says D'Aubigné, "having nothing of the woman about her but the sex, a soul entirely given to manly things, a mind mighty in great affairs, a heart unconquerable by adversity."

                  Merle D'Aubigné, author of The History of the Reformation.

                  Saturday, April 08, 2006

                  The Trillium

                  My trillium has bloomed today. A couple of years ago I planted it under the spruce tree beside the Solomon's Seal and Lily of the Valley. Each plant recreates a memory for me. My mother loved wild flowers and taught us all the names of every plant and flower on our endless mosquito clouded summer hikes. I am sure that the names of certain flowers were some of the first words I learned.

                  When I was 3 or 4 years old, we were on one of our many woodsy walks and I discovered a trillium. In triumph I picked it and brought it back to my mother who spanked me for my pains. She sternly explained that the trillium was a wild flower and the emblem of our province, Ontario, and that I must never pick one. It may even be against the law. I am not sure but I have never picked one since.

                  However, when I see that trillium it brings back one of my earliest memories, Mother's love of botany. Her grandfather, a botanist, had taught her as a young child and she passed it on.


                  I can't say enough about how much I am enjoying The Scroll. First, someone else besides me is remarking on the odd publications of the CBMW. Then there is a wonderful post about Dorothy Sayers and female stereotyping.

                  This really speaks to me. In most ways I am a very traditional women for my age, but I happen to find that technology is just as interesting, and considerably less complicated than knitting socks.

                  I don't do well in many of the tradition 'women's' things. I remember being asked to help with crafts and preparing dinners for different Christian events and programmes. I am not good at these things. I like crafts and dinners, but I am not particularly gifted in these areas. Nobody asks me to do these things any more. One gets a reputation I guess.

                  I also like knitting but I am not great at it. It is a social thing and I like it and I do it with the kids, but I am not particularly talented at knitting, handcraft design, art, music, gardening, or any of the traditional 'women's' things. How terrible I felt when I was once told that as a women I could contribute to the church by writing hymns. One might just as well tell a man to have a baby.

                  So when Dorothy Sayers "What is unreasonable and irritating is to assume that all one’s tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class to which one belongs," it soothes my soul.

                  Carolyn Custis James

                  Ron Smith has just brought my attention to the fact that Carolyn Custis James has won a badge of merit on the CBMW website. They are officially voicing their concern over her teaching. I am really enjoying Ron's series. It is important to be reminded that women should be encouraged to do what women have always done, rather than putting emphasis on having to find socalled 'new' avenues of service.

                  Thursday, April 06, 2006

                  Gospel of Judas

                  I watched a news special on the Gospel of Judas tonight and then sat down and installed a Coptic font and so on, which I posted on Abecedaria. I saw Bart Ehrman on the show, so that puts a face to the name. I quoted a chapter of his recent book yesterday.

                  The book on the Gospel of Judas will be out later this week. I'm not lining up for a copy at this point. I'm sure more will be out on the net about it soon. I did read a couple of gnostic gospels many years ago and wasn't overwhelmed with the experience at the time.

                  The story of the manuscript itself is by far the most interesting thing about this book for me. Imagine finding an original authentic document to work on.


                  On another front I really appreciated the fact that I had read C.S.Lewis and Joan Didion this week as my neighbour started talking to me about her aging parents and the many difficult decisons coming up.

                  Wednesday, April 05, 2006

                  Adding Language Resources

                  I have added a few language resources to the sidebar. Among them are NT Manuscripts, an audio site for the NT, and other goodies. I even realized that the Polytonic greek keyboard layout has a mouseover feature so you can see what each of the deadkeys does. Okay, so I hadn't seen that and was simply using trial and error. Anyway there it is.

                  Did Scribes Edit Women Out of the Bible?

                  This excerpt from Bart Ehrman's recent book has been published as an article. I haven't read the book but it has been reviewed here.

                  Did Scribes Edit Women Out of the Bible? Early scribes altered certain New Testament texts to downplay women's role in the church. From Misquoting Jesus. By Bart D. Ehrman
                    We might consider briefly several other textual changes of a similar sort. One occurs in a passage I have already mentioned, Romans 16, in which Paul speaks of a woman, Junia, and a man who was presumably her husband, Andronicus, both of whom he calls "foremost among the apostles" (v. 7).
                      This is a significant verse, because it is the only place in the New Testament in which a woman is referred to as an apostle. Interpreters have been so impressed by the passage that a large number of them have insisted that it cannot mean what it says, and so have translated the verse as referring not to a woman named Junia but to a man named Junias, who along with his companion Andronicus is praised as an apostle.

                      The problem with this translation is that whereas Junia was a common name for a woman, there is no evidence in the ancient world for "Junias" as a man's name. Paul is referring to a woman named Junia, even though in some modern English Bibles (you may want to check your own!) translators continue to refer to this female apostle as if she were a man named Junias. Read in context on page 2

                    Now look at Romans 16:7 in the KJV and the ESV. Strange to say the least. In the ESV Junia is still a woman, but not an apostle.

                      Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. KJV

                      Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. ESV
                    There are only a few relatively minor reasons why I wouldn't want to use the ESV as a translation. This is one. 2 Tim. 2:2 is another. There the word in Greek is 'anthropos' in the plural, but the ESV insists it means 'men', because the context is about teaching, something women are not supposed to do. Then there are all those 'sons of God' instead of the 'children of God'. Brothers also seems odd to me, as a generic term. I did grow up Brethren, but I never once thought of myself as a 'brother'.

                    The TNIV on the other hand makes the mistake of saying "People of Athens" instead of "Men of Athens" in Acts 17:22. I am not quite sure what the theological significance of this is but it could be argued that in Greek it says men, although this word is sometimes used generically. However, it doesn't strictly speaking say 'people.' But just to be clear about this, the problem with the TNIV, according to Dr. Packer, is not that it is inaccurate, but rather that it is a concession to modern cultural demands.

                    Update: I have found a responding article to Bart Ehrman here. However, this does not explain the ESV translation. When I find an article that explains that I will add it here.

                    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

                    Year of Magical Thinking

                    This is a recently published book by Joan Didion, on the bestsellers list, about the sudden death of her husband, John, at the time that her only daughter, Quintana, was hospitalized and in critical condition. Her daughter lived through a hematoma and brain surgery only to die the following year, after Didion's book had been sent to the publisher.

                    I do not think that this real life event is the punchline; my revealing the outcome does not spoil the suspense. Her husband died and then her daughter died. That is a good summary of the book. As Didion writes,
                      This will not be a story in which the death of the husband or wife becomes what amounts to a credit sequence for a new life.
                    While there is a measure of resolution or peace, this is primarily a self observation of pain and grief.

                      I am dropping my keys on the table inside the door before I fully remember: There is no one to hear this news, nowhere to go with the unmade plan, the uncompleted thought. There is no one to agree, disagree, talk back. "I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense," C.S. Lewis wrote after the death of his wife. "It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down. So many roads lead thought to H. I set out on one of them. But now there's an impassable frontierspost across it. So many roads once; now so many culs-de-sacs."
                    Here is one more example of what to expect in this book, in a short anecdote about Quintana.

                      In the eleventh grade she had been woken at Susan's at 6:30 in the morning to learn that Dominique had been murdered.

                      "Most people I know at Westlake don't even know anyone who died," she said, "and just since I've been there I've had a murder and a suicide in my family."

                      "It all evens out in the end," John said, an answer that bewildered me (what did it mean, couldn't he do better than that?) but one that seemed to satisfy her.

                      Several years later, after Susan's mother and father died within a year or two of each other, Susan asked me if I remembered John telling Quintana that it all evened out in the end. I said I remembered.

                      He was right," Susan said. "It did."

                      I recall being shocked. It had never occurred to me that John had meant that bad news will come to each of us. Either Susan or Quintana had surely misunderstood. I explained to Susan that John had meant something entirely different: he meant that people who get bad news will eventually get their share of good news.

                      "That's not what I meant at all," John said.

                      "I knew what he meant," Susan said.

                      Had I understood nothing?
                    Read reviews here. I found this book in some ways almost clinical and in other ways simply too painful to read in more than short segments. I put it down to read C.S. Lewis' Letters to an American Lady. This was a happy decision, as Lewis intersperses dental difficulties and the delightful idiosyncracies of cats with the events around the time of his wife's death.

                    Joan Didion's book is well worth the read, a book that will help people articulate and share experiences which are on some level common to us all. I am glad that this is the one recent bestseller that I have read.

                        Monday, April 03, 2006

                        Women and Men in Purgatory

                        Since I completed my little study of orthotomeo, or how to retranslate 'rightly dividing the word of truth' in 2 Tim. 2:15, I paused to notice that no one challenged my mentioning Paul as the author of 2 Timothy. Most (?) scholars label this as one of the Pastoral Epistles, and not written by Paul.

                        One of the reasons mentioned are the absence of a key Pauline concept like the indwelling spirit, and the stress on good works. (There are other textual reasons which may or may not be more valid.) However, I was amused at the similarity in these arguments to two statements I read about C. S. Lewis.

                        I have just finished rereading Letters to an American Lady by C. S. Lewis and I want to quote from this book with impunity. So I first scanned a few articles and came across these statements. First this,
                          Lewis preferred the company of men. He considered that women's minds were intrinsically inferior to men's.

                        And then this more generous view.

                          Was C.S. Lewis a misogynist? The answer depends on which point in his life you choose to examine. Until fairly late in life, Lewis' view of gender relations was more influenced by his attraction to classical Greek philosophy, pagan myth and Jungian psychology than by 'mere' Christianity. However, with his late acquaintance and marriage to the gifted American writer Joy Davidman, this began to change, as can be seen in his last (but least-read) works, The Discarded Image, Till We Have Faces, and A Grief Observed. Van Leeuwen
                        So his later works would not reflect the same attitudes as the earlier. Two possibly very different views from the same person at two different times in their life.

                        Here is a private letter containing one of C.S. Lewis' terrible/wonderful fantasies of women and men in purgatory. You be the judge. I simply find this funny. I am quoting the entire letter to show three recurring themes of his later years. His grief for his wife, his ability to be endessly amused by cats, and his willingness to entertain others with mundane nonsense.
                          Dear Mary,

                          Yes, it is strange that anyone should dislike cats. But cats themselves are the worst offenders in this respect. They very seldom seem to like one another.

                          I have a notion that, apart from actual pain, men and women are quite diversely afflicted by illness. To a woman one of the great evils about it is that she can't do things. To a man (or anyway a man like me) the great consolation is the reflection "Well, anyway, no one can now demand that I should do anything". I have often had the fancy that one stage in Purgatory might be a great big kitchen in which things are always going wrong - milk boiling over, crockery getting smashed, toast burning, animals stealing. The women have to learn to sit still and mind their own business; the men have to learn to jump up and do something about it. When both sexes have mastered this exercise, they go on to the next ....

                          I think I continue to improve physically. As I get better I feel the loss of Joy more. I suppose the capacity for happiness must re-awake before one becomes fully aware of its absence.

                          Yes, one gets sick of pills. But thank God we don't live in an age of horrible medicines such as our grandparents had to swallow.

                          All blessings,


                          Jack (Letters to an American Lady)
                        You get the drift. It doesn't really matter whether this is about men and women, or simply two stereotypically different personality types. I can see the pot boiling over and the cat stealing chicken from the spit. One has to be cooking over an open fireplace for purgatory - surely. What would a painting of this look like?

                        This correspondance of C. S. Lewis' with an American woman he never met continued over the last 13 years of his life, spanning his marriage, widowhood and final illness, and is a splendid example of the lost art of letter writing.

                        I have been enjoying the reflections on visits to the dentist, accepting life in a seniors' home, getting the most out of time spent with a loved one you know is dying, and many other important topics that too little is written about.