Tidbits on women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the History of Churches of Christ (3)

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

Psalm 68 celebrates the movement of Israel from Egypt (v. 7) to Sinai (v. 8) and then victory in Canaan (vv. 9-14) whereupon God ascends to the throne on Mount Zion (vv. 15-18).

Paul uses Psalm 68 to describe the ascension and enthronement of Jesus in Ephesians 4:8. Jesus, released from the grave, ascended to the throne and gave gifts to the church through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 68:11 reads: “The Lord gives the command; great is the company of those who bore the tidings.” In the ancient Greek translation, the word “bore the tidings” is the same word as in the New Testament that describes “preaching the gospel” (euaggelizomenoi). They preached the good news.

In Hebrew, unlike in the Greek translation, that word is feminine. In other words, the Psalm envisions a great company of women who declare the good news! In the light of Paul’s application of Psalm 68 to the ascension of Christ, we may hear an echo of the gifting of women to preach the gospel.

New Testament

Why did Jesus choose only male apostles? This is a good and important question.

It seems rather obvious that twelve is a number that reflects Israel’s twelve patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob. Twelve male apostles underscores continuity with Israel and also the renewal of Israel.

The twelve apostles were free Jewish men, and the apostleship before Pentecost was limited to those categories. However, Pentecost changed this. While the twelve retained a unique honor in the Christian community, after Pentecost the gifting of apostles, prophets, and evangelists (preachers of the gospel) also extended to slave as well as free, Gentile as well as Jew, and women as well as men. The pouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, enlarged the community of gifted leadership from free Jewish men to even enslaved Gentile women.

The gifts given to the church in Ephesians 4 include apostles (Junia was an apostle, Romans 16:7), prophets (Philip’s daughters were prophets, Acts 21:9), and women preached the gospel (the men and women who were scattered went preaching the word, Acts 8:2-4).

Pentecost shifted the dynamics. Those once excluded were now included, and those once unchosen were now chosen. Slaves, Gentiles, and women were now empowered and gifted to participate in the mission of God.

History

C. R. Nichol, a renowned and beloved conservative among Churches of Christ, published an important book in 1938 entitled God’s Woman.

Nichol advocated for female deacons from 1 Timothy 3, underscored that women prayed and prophesied (taught!) in the public assembly of the church in 1 Corinthians 11, and affirmed that women have the right to teach men in a Bible class when the church gathered. While he also taught a kind of patriarchy, he did not believe this eliminated the female voice from the assembly or excluded them from teaching men.

His book, with a few exceptions, was well-received. But its views did not win out in the end, and most Churches of Christ silenced the female voice in the assembly and in teaching men (including, teaching eleven year old baptized males).



4 Responses to “Tidbits on women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the History of Churches of Christ (3)”

  1.   Bobby G Deason Sr Says:

    As an 82 year old male, brought up from birth in the churches of Christ (my family that I love — that molded my thinking about the authority of Scripture and how to read and interpret them).

    I still love and respect my heritage, but have studied my way out of a pattern theology to seeing all of Scripture as God’s Love Letter to all humanity and me personally as a disciple of my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Brother Leroy Garrett wrote in his Autobiography A Lovers Quarrel —My Pilgrimage of Freedom In Churches of Christ, describes many of my feelings too.

    I am in agreement with you in this blog. I read C.R. Nichol’s book early in my ministry. It help to guide me in my studies. Fraternally In Jesus, Bobby.

  2.   Johnny Cox Says:

    After man years of study on this subject I have concluded two things. First, we are too restrictive on women and they should get to do more, but second, we are even more restrictive on men in that we don’t encourage them to LEAD. It is the males in the church not getting to perform their godly duties, not the females!

    I deny that women in society are being held down, all signs point to the contrary, even in the church if we extend it out to the larger community.

    I believe the conservative position is mostly right, but executed poorly.

    Adam was formed first and then Eve. That is from the creation, before sin, and it transcends all other arguments to the contrary.

    The gender argument in Psalms is irrelevant. For example, Proverbs 8 is about Wisdom and is feminine in language but understood to be talking about the Logos who revealed himself as an incarnate male by the early church fathers.

    A friend of mine voluntarily decided to teach me some “dirty Spanish words” one day on the powder coating line. Please trust me in that some feminine words in Spanish describe some very masculine things. Gender in language is mostly for conjugating verbs and nouns, and you need more context to definitely know physical gender.

    The Apostles were male, Jesus was male, the OT Elders were male and the NT Elders are husband of one wife. Eve sinned first, but Paul says “in Adam we all die”. Their is a reason for this, as women are called HELPERS.

    There were 12 Apostles (and/or Paul), yet we are all “sent out”, that doesn’t men there are women apostles given authority to bind and loose upon the church! There are Deacons, yet we are all encouraged to minister as that is the meaning.

    Arguments from both sides can’t seem to find the balance between primary and secondary usage of terms and conveniently exchange these definitions when making their point.

    I am the preacher of my church, but I want everyone in my church to preach the gospel. Yet, they don’t get their own nifty business card, but I do!

    Could a women get up and talk at church. Yes, I think so, but the men (the Elders) will weigh what was said and affirm or deny it. The reason, we don’t do it though is because the elevated pulpit infers a type of authority that is not reserved for women, just men.

    “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua said that. Adam said nothing, “so in Adam we all die”.

    Men are to draw the moral line and say we shall not pass, women are more likely to cross it. That is the story all through the Bible. The problem with men today is that we no longer draw that line.

    Thank you for given me some practice, preaching on Gen 2:15-24 this week!

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    I can’t say I agree with much of what you said or, at least, the significance and sense you attach to some biblical language, but I am willing to give you some space to express your views. Much of what you said I have addressed in this or previous articles. So, we will leave it where it as. Peace

  4.   Jerry Jones Says:

    Interesting observations about Psalm 68. The NIV 2011 translates it in agreement with your explanation.

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