Towards the end of last semester as I was immersed in studying Greek, I came across the names of a couple of female New Testament scholars.  Naturally my curiousity got the better of me.  My preliminary quest turned up a platform on gender issues amid other publications.  I must say I was disappointed.  I then sought to find a female NT scholar whose research and speciality did not involve gender issues.  Why did it bother me so much that women scholars utilized their platform for gender issues?  As a women with academic and leadership interests, it seems like I would have been pleased to see such efforts.  But I wasn’t.

To be clear, what I am referring to ranges from women’s role in leadership in a complementarian paradigm to full blown support for egalitarianism and everywhere in between.  I am referring to research that specifically addresses to what extent a woman can exercise authority over a man, if at all, and participate in ministry leadership.

So what’s my beef with gender issues?  I know I might get into a bit of hot water with the ladies for this one.  Maybe it’s just me and this is only an opinion, but I think it undermines the legitimacy of female scholarship, particularly in fields where issues are secondary.  I am not saying that Biblical theology of women, and particularly women in leadership should not be explored, but there is something about effort being exerted to promote a cause that can be perceived as self-beneficial.  And especially where the sword of gender issues is optional and research efforts can be focused on other topics.  It might be subtly or not so subtly saying, ‘I’m here and demand that you take me serious.’

I am NOT saying that is the motive behind such a platform but I can’t help but wonder if that is the ultimate impact.  I can’t help but wonder if the perception of self-promotion can be self-defeating, and perhaps undermine the premise that such scholarship aims to promote.

Yes, somebody has to research them.  To be honest, I appreciate the men that take up the cause for gender issues.  I think far too many men, particularly in more conservative evangelical circles, are prone to lethargic study and easy dismissal of understanding a woman’s place in leadership.  After all, why should they be concerned?  But for the ones who do, I think it does give a little more credibility to the issue because it is no longer perceived as a woman trying to insert herself where some believe, she should not be inserted.  Again, I am not saying that those who take up the cause with their research interest and literary publication are doing this, but perception can say a lot.

Why do I have concerns?   While I maintain an active complementarian perspective regarding male headship in the home and church, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that it is not as neatly packaged as the more conservative platforms would espouse.  I don’t believe I will ever accept the abolition of an authoritative order, aka, egalitarianism.  But I do believe there is ample room, in present day context, for women to legitimately hold leadership roles more than some segments within conservative evangelic circles are willing to accept.  I say this not in support of my own ambition, but as a student of Scriptures that seeks to honestly digest what the whole counsel of Scripture would say on a topic.  This also involves evaluating what is contextualized versus commanded.

Yet, there have been solid lines drawn in the sand.  For those that hold to #1-4 in Michael’s chart (here), I think there is the expectation that women will rebel and possibly construed as outward defiance against God’s authority.  A smart, capable, degreed and well-read woman taking up the cause against restrictive views most likely support this expectation.  Moreover, for the stricter conservative branches of evangelicals with low incentive to investigate issues further, I can’t help but wonder if the cause of scholarship in the area of gender issues would not be construed as further motivation for strengthening those lines.

Regardless of one’s position in the complementarian/egalitarian debate, perhaps the best support for the legitimacy of female leadership is demonstrating scholarship in a variety of disciplines within theological study.  Rather than concentrating research on why women can hold leadership positions or to what extent women can hold leadership position, perhaps the greatest proof would be in the pudding of demonstrated capability and meaningful contributions in all areas in the body of Christ.  I know this can mean various things depending on ones position, (whether a woman can pastor, for example) but the argument of the position is not really the point here nor is this post in support of one position vs. the other.   The point is that if there is a place for women in leadership, it might be better to demonstrate leadership in that area rather than proving why you should.

So getting back to my search, I came across Dr. Karen Jobes, a professor of New Testament study at Wheaton College.   No gender studies, only research involving the LXX and New Testament exegesis.  And her commentary on 1 Peter is bar none, where she also gives props to her husband for modeling Ephesians 5.  I do not know much more about Dr. Jobes than is written here but am eager to learn more.  I would like to believe there are others like her, who quietly work out their giftings for expedient contribution to the body of Christ amongst the din of gender promoters.  I am likely to take Dr. Jobes a little more serious because of it.

    59 replies to "Women, Scholarship and Authentic Agendas"

    • Cliff

      Check out the work of Cynthia Long-Westfall at McMaster’s Divinity School in Canada. She is an expert on Greek grammar, linguistics, discourse analysis and the book of Hebrews.

    • Denny Burk

      Morna Hooker is no slouch either! I think you can add her to your list.

    • Laurie M.

      Thanks for this discussion. I would love to do what this woman is doing with her life. I’m glad God has enabled her to pursue this field of study and service.

      I also agree that it tends to appear self- serving when it is women focusing on women’s issues, although I must say it seems like it’s always women discussing women’s issues regardless of where on the spectrum they find themselves. The majority of the men who have much to say about women’s roles tend to be those who would be more restrictive, which, unfortunately also come across as a bit self-serving. I suspect the women that do this reason, for better or for worse, that if they don’t take up the cause no one will.

      All that said, I agree it seems much more ingenuous to see women committed to Scripture for Christ’s sake rather than their own – which is as it should be – exercising the gift’s God has given and letting Him produce the growth and bring about what advancement He sees fit.

    • Heidi

      Those who argue for a legitimate place for authority have to do so because it has already been taken away from them. Some of them have a calling, for instance. And – like men – women are sometimes interested in these issues and sometimes not, sometimes quiet and sometimes not. Our gifts are different. Some are scholars, some are healers, some are speakers, some are writers, some are teachers… and so on. I don’t understand the underlying assumptions here. Why should a women following her path need anyone’s permission to do so? Why would leadership be denied her? It seems to me that there is no male or female in the kingdom beyond what traditions have imposed.

      If you look at all, you will find that there are many, many female scholars across all the fields you mention. This is so strange. Why wouldn’t she give props to her husband – or other high-quality scholars? Do you have some feeling that women interested in gender studies are by definition man-haters or selfish? What about the ones who are unloving and selfish enough to reject them for their gifts?

      For some work in this area, you could do worse than to start with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s works, especially “But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation” and “Discipleship of Equals: A Critical Feminist Ekklesao-logy of Liberation.”

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cliff and Denny, thanks. You know any good systematic scholars, especially focused on issues of bibliology and hermeneutics? I would love to uncover some more.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Laurie, I hear what you’re saying. While I was writing this, I browsed the CBMW blog site and kind of got that same sense. However, I think it is language like “take up the cause” that can cause problems or the perception of problems. It can be perceived of as fighting for rights. I always like to think of God as the avenger and perhaps focus would be better spent on how we live that out in His economy rather than defending a position. Paul had some things to say about that in Philippians (chapt 2).

    • Lisa Robinson

      Heidi, I think you missed the point of my post. I did not say they are self-interested but have the perception of self-interest, which can be self-defeating.

      Regarding permission, I am wondering how much you understand the complementarian position. It is not about permission or even the exercise of gifts, but recognition of the authoritative structure that does have Scriptural support. Those who hold to this position do so in submission to Scripture, which is ultimately submitting to God’s authority. However, there can be the exercise of self-interest on both sides of the equation, both egalitarians and complementarians alike.

    • Robert Whitaker

      A friend of mine, Dr. Amy Anderson, is another good one. Her expertise is New Testament and textual criticism I believe.

      I sent her the link to your post. 🙂

    • EricW

      Regarding permission, I am wondering how much you understand the complementarian position. It is not about permission or even the exercise of gifts, but recognition of the authoritative structure that does have Scriptural support. Those who hold to this position do so in submission to Scripture, which is ultimately submitting to God’s authority. However, there can be the exercise of self-interest on both sides of the equation, both egalitarians and complementarians alike.

      Bad nomenclature, IMO. Both patriarchalists and egalitarians are complementarians – i.e., egalitarians don’t regard male and female as being identical in all respects. So to set “complementarians” opposite “egalitarians” is, I think, incorrect. The opposite(s) of egalitarianism are patriarchalism and matriarchalism.

      Egalitarian complementarians would argue, contra patriarchal complementarians, that either males or females can occupy and perform all the roles and offices and functions in the ekklêsia, without a requirement that there be a person of the opposite gender hierarchically above them.

      Contra this, patriarchal complementarians would view males in most or some instances as having to be hierarchically superordinate to females who occupy certain positions or perform certain roles and functions – if the females were even allowed to occupy or perform those things in the first place.

    • Mike

      Margaret Thrall comes to mind.

    • Ron Wolf

      Being new to the theology program and still lacking much intellect/wisdom I really would not have a statement to express as much as I would a question or a concern. With respect to all that have commented thus far and referring to the scriptures referenced in this post, I would not question the fact that a woman/women can study and have just as much wisdom/intellect as a man. I would not question that a woman/women cannot be in ministry (in general). What I would question is if in fact God has appointed a man over a woman, what authority or situation comes into play for that to be over ridden by anyone? Is there a reason for God appointing a man over a woman? If that reason in not existent does it mean it is acceptable? I will admit I have learned much from many women in my life (Mom, wife, friends even daughters) but, does it give them authority to preach and teach the gospel over me or other men? Guess I back to your question!

    • Jugulum


      Hmm… I’m contemplating your point… I wonder, though. By comparison, if a Calvinist decided that the word “libertarian” could in some ways describe his position, would it actually be valid for him to appropriate the historical term “libertarian free will”? Or better, would it be helpful, even if it would be arguably valid?

      I suppose you have a good point, as far as clarifying that egalitarianism doesn’t mean the sexes are identical–they’re complementary. But “complementarian” has meant specifically that men and women have complementary but distinct roles in the structure of the church. It’s not just about any and all kinds of complementarity. Yours doesn’t strike me as a particularly helpful approach to the terms of the discussion–though by all means, do make the clarification.

    • EricW


      It may not be ideal, but it makes it more plain, IMO, than the current comp-egal vocabulary distinction, because I don’t think the patriarchal complementarian position is really complementary.

      E.g., all, if not just about all, roles in the patriarchal complementarian ekklêsia can be occupied and performed by men – even ministries to women – but the reverse is not true. Thus, how can patriarchalism claim to be complementary when it is able to function fully as an ekklêsia even in the absence of females performing any necessary or required ecclesiastical roles or functions?

      I.e., in patriarchal “complementarianism,” men can do any role or function that a woman can do, but the opposite is not true, or is in large part not true.

      Just my thoughts.

    • JohnO

      Probably not quite the field you are interested in, but I want to give a shout out for Helen Bond whom I have had as a lecturer:
      Less into commentaries on NT, but very knowledgeable about its historicity.

    • Ishmael

      Bravo! Women researching gender issues is itself rather of a stereotype (not that it’s not an important field of study). Rather like a woman with a MD — must be a pediatrician, right?

      In my own field, Grace M. Hopper (
      proved that a woman could be a valuable professional in the field by being an exemplary one. One of her well-known teaching stories invovled holding up a one-foot piece of wire as the answer to “How long is a nanosecond?” (it takes about 1ns for current to travel a foot in copper) and comparing it to a 1000 foot roll of wire that was a microsecond.

      Of course, we have a bit of a head start in that the first computer programmer was a woman (Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Byron, wrote programs for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine).

      Again, bravo for your post!!!

    • Heidi

      Grace Hopper is a wonderful example! Not only an extraordinary woman and thinker, but also a sterling teacher!

      I guess my point here is that if men were denied authority in speaking, there would be no “perception issue” about their call to a basic ethic.

      I have experienced this issue from a variety of positions – from being a member of the very gender-regulatory Jehovah’s Witnesses, to being an academic student of theology and ethics, to having an eclectic spiritual path of my own. Especially revelatory in this respect have been the situations where women had internal conflicts – such as a seminar that included Ph.D.-path women from theology, pastoral studies, and women’s studies. What a ride that was!

      I don’t think I’ve misunderstood what you’re saying, but I think I have a different set of perspectives on it.

    • EricW

      ISTM that much of Evangelical Protestantism retains the patriarchal sacerdotalism of the groups it claims to have broken away from. Instead of a male-only priest officiating over and administering the sacrament of the Eucharist to the laity, EP’s have a male-only preacher/teacher officiating over and administering the “sacrament” of the Scriptures to the laity, the “milk” and “meat” and “manna” of The Word being regarded as the primary essential spiritual nutrient of and for the faithful whereby they are to grow in their knowledge of Christ and obedience to Him.

      That the gender of the speaker/teacher/leader(s) trumps a person’s intellectual and academic and organizational and prophetic and pastoral abilities, both natural and Holy-Spirit-given, to teach and exhort the congregation from the Scriptures or to administer the ekklêsia, such that in many cases a female cannot do what a male with the same qualities and qualifications and education and training and gifts can do, seems to me to be a holdover of the idea that a male in front and in charge represents Christ to the congregation (and when praying for the church, represents the congregation to God), whereas a female would not or could not.

      Because, of course, God incarnated as a “man.”

      (Or was it as a “human”?) 🙂

    • John T III

      Lisa as always an excellent article.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, I’m afraid I’d have to side with Jugulum concerning the nomenclature. I think “egalitarian complementarian” in itself creates confusion.

      Also, you see the incarnation symbolized in the patriarchal structure? I thought rather it was based on divine order as Paul explains in 1 Timothy 2:13 and 1 Cor 11:8-9.

    • Ron writes: What I would question is if in fact God has appointed a man over a woman, what authority or situation comes into play for that to be over ridden by anyone?

      Simply this: If God gifts a woman to be in leadership over a man.

      That would be the egalitarian position.

    • EricW


      I agree that “egalitarian complementarianism” might create confusion because of the way the terms have been used.

      So going by what the terms and practices and beliefs actually mean, a more accurate, IMO, terminology for these opposites might be “egalitarianism” vs. “patriarchalism,” or “egalitarianism” vs. “gender-restrictionism.”

      (And “patriarchal” need not be considered pejorative, though I suspect complementarians prefer not to use the term to describe themselves because it is or can be viewed negatively.)

      As I’ve argued or suggested, I think that if “complementarianism” is used for one, it has to be used for both, or should not be used at all.

      But maybe it’s the same kind of thing as “pro-life” vs. “pro-abortion” or “pro-choice” vs. “anti-choice.” 😀

    • Steve in Toronto

      I would suggest you check out the work of Donna L. Petter at Gordon Cromwell .

    • David Zook

      Thanks for having the courage to let us know what is going on in your mind. It’s a delight to read your posts.

    • Char

      Ooo. SO true-so many female scholars aren’t concerned with the “real” scholarship, so who’s going to read them but other women interested in this?

      Like Dang. Come out from among the Christian version of The First Coven of Bitter Old Women’s Studies Majors and make a contribution.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Char, LOL!

    • john sullivan

      professor Elizabeth Groves at Westminster Philadelphia is an AWESOME Hebrew teacher. though i dont know how much scholarship shes done

    • john sullivan
    • Joe

      Parts of the Bible suggest there is no gender at all – “neither male nor female” – in the kingdom of heaven.

      Using this text, some female feminist scholars in the Catholic Church – which does not allow women to be priests – have argued that 1) they are in the kingdom; and 2) they are therefore not really women. And/or that 3) the “kingdom” when it arrives will make no gender distinctions; and so therefore, why should the church do so now.

      The point: even if the Bible forbids “women” from doing certain things … at some point, (in the “Kingdom”) the ladies are not to be “women.”

      A strange but defensible position?

    • EricW

      A strange but defensible position?

      More defensible, IMO, than the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical and priestly system itself. 🙂

      But I think this discussion and application of what is “now” in the Kingdom vs. what will only be so at the eschaton is part of the debate, and the “not male and female” is a defensible or arguable position.

    • Joe

      In the ongoing progress of women in our era, women are increasingly educated, trained in practical things; and are more and more capable of doing a man’s work, many might say. So that women ministers are increasingly capable of doing this tradionally male job.

      Beyond that though, I am suggesting that some gender scholars might even say, that women are becoming more like men. (And men more like women). In our kinder and gentler age, we are becoming “androgynous” as they say in Gender Studies. So that in effect, gender, the female role, is not as pronounced as it was. (And men not as macho male either: Jesus himself some say, in his gentleness, has many “feminine” aspects.)

      In this climate, in a sense, one of the old prophesies of the Kingdom might even now, be partially fulfilled; there are neither “men” nor “women,” but merely, people.

      In this case – genderlessness – we probably step past both 1) complementarian and 2) egalitarian views.

      Indeed, universal education makes men and women more and more alike in many ways. So that gender roles are no longer important.

      Though until this process is complete, still, to the extent that women theologians are still women, it would seem likely that most women will often be, the best experts on the feminine gender role. And 1) their first useful contributions to theology, will be in part, from a “feminine” perspective.

      Though to be sure, 2) as women are better and better trained, at some point they simply make genderless contributions.

      Madame Curie would be an example of the “second” generation; she was not 1) talking about women in science. Instead, 2) she did not mention her gender at all, but just got down to the job at hand.

      I think Lisa (if I understand her from a quick reading) is partially right here; 1) female theologians that focus merely on gender issues, are not quite doing the whole job. I would say 2) they are just an early, transitional stage. An early step, on the way to women simply working on the job, without calling attention to gender at all.

      Until the full kingdom, for now, I see a place for both. Some female theologian’s writings on the female sponsors of Jesus, offer a whole, fascinating new insight on Jesus, for example.

      Though if Lisa or someone else wanted to pursue a genderless theology, that would be just as good – or better, I would think.

    • imblessed

      Wow, this is a very interesting exchange. I appreciate the respectful nature of the dialogue.

      For some time now I have been following another blog that comes from the position of mutual submission between husband and wife, and that the spiritual gifts given to both men and women by the Holy Spirit are to bring unity of the faith for the benefit of the entire body of Christ.
      “The mature body of Christ needs complete nourishment and women’s gifts are required for the edification and the building up of the entire body of Christ.” (go here for the whole article:
      I like that it does not emphasize one geder over another, similar to Joe’s position in his statement:
      ” Though to be sure, 2) as women are better and better trained, at some point they simply make genderless contributions.
      Madame Curie would be an example of the “second” generation; she was not 1) talking about women in science. Instead, 2) she did not mention her gender at all, but just got down to the job at hand.”
      Her contribution in the secular world benefited mankind.

      Should we not as Christians also just “get down to the job at hand” and stop holding back women’s gifts?

      I appreciate your thoughts.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joe and imblessed, I don’t think Madame Curie’s contributions are relevant as an example of equal exercise of gifts. The complementarian perspective does not deny the full exercise of gifts given to both men and women but delegates their use within a proper authoritative structure within the church, which is a model of the home. I would go so far to say that the complementarian perspective is really not about restriction of gifts at all but is about submission to authority from a Scriptural standpoint that is specific to the church and home. What well trained women do in the scientific field or corporate world, etc really has no bearing.

    • Joe


      I concur. It was not my intent to cite Madame Curie so much as an example of 1) complementarianism, but of 2) second stage feminism: egalitarianism. Or 3) better said, beyond both: of genderlessness.

      Curie was just a person who was not concerned with proving anything about “women”; but just going about doing the hard work.

    • Joe

      And is the “home” a proper model for all women in all situations? Or is a proper place for “women” relevant or appropriate at all, in the genderless kingdom in which there is “neither male nor female”?

    • EricW

      The complementarian perspective does not deny the full exercise of gifts given to both men and women but delegates their use within a proper authoritative structure within the church, which is a model of the home.

      The church is a model of the home?


      I am Joe’s state of confusion.

      In fact, one thing that persuades me more to the egalitarian position, especially with respect to church structure, order and function, is that I think the church has wrongfully imposed and imported the marriage relationship into and onto the church.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, I was speaking strictly in terms of male headship.

    • EricW


      But I still don’t understand the basis or your basis for saying that “the church…is [supposed to be] a model of the home.” Can you clarify/explain? That suggests to me that home life is to be considered the ultimate or ideal earthly expression and operation and situation (i.e., where it’s situated) of the Kingdom, when you say the church is to model itself after the home.

    • Joe

      The idea is popular in Catholicism especially. Which seems odd, in that priests are 1) not allowed to actually marry; 2) nor have actual children. So that the “father” analogy is strictly metaphorical. And not true in many key ways. While 3) the analogy is even less pronounced in Protestantism, whose priests are not known as “fathers.” Thankfully, since 4) we are commanded to “call no man on earth your father.”

      Which makes for strange families on earth, to be sure. And strange churches too?

    • Jugulum


      To go down a bunny trail: Is the church a model of the home, or is the home a model of the church?

      (By comparison, marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage illustrates something about the body of Christ. So, how about the home? Does the home illustrate something about what church is supposed to look like, or is it the other way around? Which is the more fundamental, eternal thing? Church, or family? Which is the higher calling?)

    • Joe


      Good point.

      You might not agree with this next point. But I’m suspicious when the Evangelical God, strangely, reaffirms Republican party planks, like “family values,” all day. And puts the good bourgoise family it seems, even above the church.

      Are we praying to God … or Pat Robertson & Rush Limbaugh & Glen Beck?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, Eph 5:22-31 invokes a model of mutual contribution through a complementary structure. Jugulum, makes a good point especially considering this model serves as a metaphor for Christ and his church. However, I was thinking strictly in terms of headship.

      Obviously, there are differences in the structure of the church vs. the structure of the home. The point though is that the structure rests on an authoritative model of male headship. Unfortunately, that has been construed to mean restrictive, abusive and dictator roles but I don’t think that is the intention of headship.

    • EricW

      In the church, there is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female (note that Paul quotes the LXX text for Genesis 1:27, changing the conjunction from “or” to “and” when he comes to male/female in Gal 3:28 – i.e., the church is not even a restoration of pre-fall creation, but a New Creation, a new Adam). The church is One New Man, not a male-female organism or a Jewish-Gentile one. It has one head, Christ, from whom the whole body – made up of men and women and children, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, red, yellow, black and white – derives its growth and unto whom the whole body, by the working by grace of what every joint supplies as it has been gifted and empowered by Christ, grows itself up together with all the other joints and ligaments in love into a dwelling place of God in and by the Spirit.

      As I said, I think the patriarchalists are importing into and imposing on the church the marriage structure, or one type of marriage structure, and to say that the church is to be modeled after the home is, to me, somewhat skewed thinking and ecclesiology.

    • Joe

      Eph. 5.23 says Christ is the head of the Church. Not “men,” or male priests: “Christ.”

      TO be sure, a home/church analogy is developed for a moment in Ephesians. We are told that 1) in a marriage, wives should submit to husbands; just as, in a Church, we all submit to Christ. But 2) strictly speaking, there is nothing here that says that women should submit to men in all situations. While again, 3) women and men in the Church, are not (here) told to submit to anyone – but Christ himself.

      The home analogy goes just so far, here at least; not so far as to tell all women, to obey any man. Even in a church.

      Obey Christ. Not men.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joe, I think you have missed the point of the Eph 5 analogy. It does not say nor am I saying, that women must submit to any man. I think Scripture is clear the submission is done by the wife to her husband, not just any man. The analogy is that the home and church are governed by an authoritative structure of male headship. Just as the man serves as head of his household SO ALSO the male serves as head of the local assembly.

      Yes, Christ is the head of the church and as Eric brings out there are varying positions of what being one in Christ really means in terms of working out all giftings.

    • EricW

      Just as the man serves as head of his household SO ALSO the male serves as head of the local assembly.

      And I suggest that this assumption is a holdover of the Catholic/Orthodox idea of the priesthood – i.e., that only a male (because Christ was a “male”) can preside over and administer the sacrament(s) (which in the Evangelical Protestant case is the reading and teaching of the Scriptures in the church meeting) and/or function in a shepherding/pastoring/teaching or co-shepherding/pastoring/teaching capacity over the flock as gifted by the Spirit. Insistence on a patriarchal church model seems to me to ignore the Acts 2 Pentecostal fulfillment of Joel and the continuing pneumatic operation and equipping of the members irrespective of gender as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians and Galatians and Romans, and the nature of the New Man.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, it wasn’t my intention to get into a comp/egal debate with this post. However, I am curious about a couple of things regarding your last comment. Given our history of interaction, I believe we can have a civil and reasonable dialogue. So in the vein of trying to understand your rationale for the abolition of an authoritative structure such as would exist under the complementarian (ok if you insist-patriarchal) model based on Gal 3:28 and the church representing a “new man” in Christ. How do you reconcile that with the functional hierarchy expressed in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9?

    • EricW

      I think “head” in 1 Corinthians 11 is vague. In fact, the whole passage about head coverings and/or hair, etc., is unfathomable, IMO, re: what Paul is saying and how it is to be applied to Christians today.

      As for 1 Timothy 2:12-14, I also think the argument is unclear. It’s not certain if he’s talking about husbands vis-a-vis wives or men vis-a-vis women; in Romans Paul blames the fall on the man, but here he seems to blame it primarily on the woman. Then he makes a somewhat confusing statement about their salvation via childbearing, and also switches from singular to plural. If it’s primarily about wives vis-a-vis husbands, then it’s not necessarily transferable to women in the church, IMO.

    • Lisa Robinson

      No, I wouldn’t necessarily say transferrable. But why then does Paul bring out the motive for submission – man is the head, he was created first?

    • EricW

      Paul never uses the word “head” or says that “man is the head” in 1 Timothy 2, where he is talking about the man being created first.

    • Bridget Jack Meyers

      Jugulum & Lisa Robinson ~ It sounds like you’re both unaware of the history of the term “complementarian” and its use in the so-called complementarian-egalitarian debate. Prior to its appropriation by the male headship movement in the mid-1980s, the terms “complementary” and “complementarity” were most often used by egalitarians to express the idea that men and women had differing, interdependent gifts which functioned best when exercised together at all levels of church ministry. Before then, male headship advocates usually called themselves “traditionalists.”

      So it isn’t that the egalitarians are appropriating complementarian terminology; they’re simply hijacking back a term that was hijacked from them in the first place.

      I also have to concur with EricW’s critique of the male headship use of the term “complementarian.” Male headship advocates restrict women from fulfilling certain roles in the church and home while men have no restrictions whatsoever. Men provide the leadership; men can also provide the followership. Women possess no roles in the church or home which are uniquely theirs, so male headship complementarianism simply isn’t. Call it hierarchicalism, call it restrictivism, call it patriarchy, but to call it complementarianism is to call it something that it is not.

      @ the topic ~ I’m rather disappointed to witness the denigration of women scholars for participating in gender studies. I’ve been working through Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds. (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), and one of the first things I did when I began reading it was to take a head count on the genders of the contributing authors. 3 of the book’s 27 chapters were authored by women, and 2 of those were brief, personal essays, so women contributed a grand total of 21 pages to a volume with approximately 423 pages of main text. In other words, men wrote 95% of a volume dedicated to arguing for male headship. Does that not appear equally self-serving?

      How, then, should we remedy this problem? Female scholars are in trouble for writing about gender issues, be they egalitarians or male headship advocates. Male scholars are just as bad for promoting male headship. Are male egalitarian scholars the only ones who can’t appear self-serving? I don’t think that’s fair. How do we know they don’t feel compelled to get involved in that field on behalf of their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters?

      The tone of this thread (and not all of it is coming from Lisa’s OP) seems to be, “gender studies is not a serious issue and women do not establish themselves as serious scholars when they devote themselves to this topic.” And if that’s a correct assessment, I heartily disagree. I’m happy that gender studies are going on, and I’m happy to see women involved in scholarship and academia at all.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Bridget, thanks for that contribution. You said,

      The tone of this thread (and not all of it is coming from Lisa’s OP) seems to be, “gender studies is not a serious issue and women do not establish themselves as serious scholars when they devote themselves to this topic.”

      I think you missed my point. I never said they were not important and in fact, paragraph#5 supports that. My point is that it gives the perception of selfish ambition. Someone commented that it is also a stereotype for women to pursue gender issues. I would agree with that.

      I also agree with you, that selfish ambition can exist on both sides of the equation, as I noted in an earlier comment.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, I concur that Paul does not mention male headship in 1 Tim 2. But why does he then talk about the creative order in reference to women not exercising authority over a man in a corporate church structure? The same question applies to Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 11 of the creative order.

    • EricW

      Re: 1 Timothy 2: You are assuming that he is talking about a corporate church structure. He may be, but he may also be talking about husbands and wives, not men and women.

      Re: 1 Corinthians 11: It’s too vague and confusing to understand WHAT Paul is saying. E.g.:

      a. One cannot clearly tell which parts of what Paul wrote there are from himself, are his quoting of what someone else said or wrote to him, or are his response(s) to what someone else said or asked.

      b. One can’t tell from 11:16 if he’s referring to the custom of women not being covered when praying or prophesying or the custom of women being covered when praying or prophesying.

      c. If nature has given woman long hair in place of a “covering” (11:15) and if a woman is to cover her head when she is in God’s presence, that could support a long-haired woman NOT having to cover her head when praying or prophesying.

      d. While one can find support for translating 1 Corinthians 11:10 as “[a sign of] authority on her head,” this is not at all certain. It could mean a woman has her own authority over her own head. See BDAG on εξουσια, #7.

      e. One can’t determine what Paul is finally concluding or affirming or rejecting here, or what he is telling them to do or not do.

      f. Due to the confusing nature of the passage, the vagueness of some of its statements, and the vast cultural differences and assumptions and practices that separate us from Paul and his readers, which add to our confusion about his intended meaning, I cannot find support in this passage for concluding or insisting that men today are to pray or prophesy with their heads uncovered and women today are to pray or prophesy with their heads covered.

      g. Some argue that κατα κεφαλης εχων (lit. “downward-from head having”) in 11:4 is referring to (long) hair, and not to an additional head covering, and that the adjective in 11:5,13 from ακατακαλυπτος (its component parts can literally mean “not-downward-covered/hidden”) is referring to the absence of long hair. The verbs in 11:6-7 from κατακαλυπτω have the literal component parts meaning “to downward-from cover/hide,” and also don’t specifically refer to a covering other than one’s own hair. Such an interpretation perhaps explains the comments about κομαω (“to wear-long-hair/let-hair-grow”) in 11:14-15. If this understanding is correct (though it is not without its problems, and no version I know of translates the passage this way), then the debate on whether or not women should cover their heads in church is based on a misunderstanding and mistranslation of this passage.

    • EricW

      (cont’d) And because of the confusing nature of what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and our inability to understand exactly what he is saying, I think it’s risky to take his statement in 11:3 about the man being “the head of a woman” and extrapolate or conclude something about male headship vis-a-vis women from that. The verse/statement has a context, and in this case, we don’t understand the context (and I suggest that with our current level of knowledge of this passage, we can’t understand it), so if 11:3 is used to support a position about male headship, it could very easily become an example of D. A. Carson’s father’s statement: “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”

    • Moara

      Lisa said:
      “I think you missed my point. I never said they were not important and in fact, paragraph#5 supports that. My point is that it gives the perception of selfish ambition. Someone commented that it is also a stereotype for women to pursue gender issues. I would agree with that.”

      This reminds me of a study I read about a while ago. It was addressing the wage gap between men and women in professional environments. It found that a large portion of the difference came from men asking for a higher starting wage during job interviews, and women accepting the first offer. But, it also found that women who haggled over their wages during interviews were less likely to be hired, because they were perceived as being overly self serving. Kind of a catch 22.

      I think it’s the same situation here. If people don’t do gender studies, there will be fewer opportunities for women in perceived “harder” theology. But, when women do those gender studies, it’s perceived as selfish ambition.

    • dcljoy


      I have enjoyed reading your articles (esp. the one on women and theology) … so I was saddened by this one.

      Have you considered that women scholars bring up the gender issue because there is a genuine point which needs godly, bible-believing Christian men and women to really think about, and not just to follow what has always been taught in our churches.

      I know all the arguments because I was taught them from the moment I began going to church as a young child. It wasn’t until I actually read what some of these women scholars (and some male scholars too) had to say that I began the long, slow, and sometimes painful journey of thinking differently. …. and it took a while.

      From the other side, some of those arguments are almost nonsensical … like the order of creation for instance …. if taken to its logical conclusion, then using the argument of prior creation, animals are superior to humans …. from the other end, using the argument of progressive creation, then woman is the pinnacle of God’s work. All this proves is that we can always argue for our own point of view.

      But when reputable male scholars of the caliber of F.F.Bruce, R.T.France, N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington111 and Gordon Fee say that the translation of these “proof” verses is not as cut and dried as we have been led to believe, then we should begin to look into the matter.

      To say nothing of the wonderful women scholars who are a blessing to their sisters in Christ, and to the church.

      Have you read any of Rebecca Groothius’ books or articles? She has a quite brilliant article on logic.

    • Lisa Robinson

      dcljoy, I think you may have missed my point. I didn’t say the studies have no value. But it is the perception of women engaged in the study of gender issues that is problematic. It can actually undermine the point that is intended to be proven.

      And this comment here is in line with what I was saying: “But when reputable male scholars of the caliber of F.F.Bruce, R.T.France, N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington111 and Gordon Fee say that the translation of these “proof” verses is not as cut and dried as we have been led to believe, then we should begin to look into the matter.”

      It is a catch 22 as somebody else mentioned. How do you investigate the matter without it appearing like self-promotion. No easy answers. It is also is very stereotypical for women to be engaged in gender issues.

    • Bonnie


      I appreciate your concern. Yet I wouldn’t say that the perception that women who study gender issues are self-promoting is necessarily the problem of those women. It might be the problem of those perceiving it. The implication of the former would be that women shouldn’t apply their talents to such studies. Yet (in response to the latter) any work should be examined to see what value it actually has, whether it could be said to be self-serving or not.

      Any significant conflict sees lots of words and ink spilled over it; gender issues are no exception. It is a topic of great interest to a great many people, and, I think, rightfully so. Yet it does seem that most of the women who have written on these issues have also done high-level scholarly work in other areas.

      I also see gender issues come into play in areas in which they needn’t, and in which they are considered to be more primary, and less secondary, than they actually are. I’ve found this out the hard way. And wish it weren’t so.

    • […] it got little notice. But the post also pointed to an article I wrote three years ago on why I don’t get into the gender debate.  Unfortunately accusations of self-serving motives quickly arise at the mention that there might […]

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