blue tinted glasses

I was at a church meeting this week, and a man—let’s call him “Norman”—was retelling the story of the time the Angel of the Lord visited Samson’s parents with the news that they would have a special son (Judges 13). I was amazed that throughout his entire narrative, Norman did not once mention Samson’s mother.

The Angel, Samson’s father and mother, are the main characters in the story,[1] yet the mother was completely overlooked by well-meaning but short-sighted Norman.

Like many men, Norman reads and teaches scripture from a masculine perspective. And, like many men, he is unaware of his bias. (Norman actually believes himself to have affirmative and supportive views about women in ministry.)

Samson’s father is named in Judges 13, his mother is not. It was not unusual for women to be nameless in narratives written during patriarchal times.[2] Yet, while the Bible narratives were mostly written within a patriarchal frame of reference, reflecting the culture of the time, no Old Testament writer minimises the roles of the women mentioned in the national and spiritual history of Israel, women such as Deborah and Huldah as just two examples.[3] Rather than the biblical authors, it is the mostly male ministers, teachers and commentators who seem to overlook the women in the Bible—ministers like Norman.[4]

I am aware that I have a feminist bias when reading the Bible. I am overly conscious of the many women mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, the named and the unnamed.[5]

I am especially interested in the women in Acts and the New Testament letters who made valuable contributions to the church. Many of these women were ministers, some were even leaders. Yet these women also are frequently overlooked, or their ministries downplayed, by people reading the Bible with a masculinist bias. Sadly, it seems that many church leaders make restrictive rules about women’s roles in the church without fairly recognising and considering these early female ministers and leaders.

My hope is that the church, as a whole, will move beyond the centuries of blue-lensed biblical interpretations and biased masculinist teachings. My hope is that the examples of Bible women will be more fully appreciated, and that many more women today will be accepted by churches as interpreters and teachers of the Bible.


Endnotes

[1] The Bible says that the Angel of the Lord initially visited Samson’s mother, not his father, twice. And the Angel safely entrusted the special instructions on rearing the child to the mother, not, initially, to the father.

[2] God tolerated patriarchy in the past, and he still does. However, neither 0ld fashioned patriarchy or the newer idea of hierarchical complementarianism are not God’s ideal.

[3] More about Deborah, Huldah and Samson’s mother here.

[4] I do realise that there are many male Bible scholars and Bible teachers who are supportive and affirming of women in leadership ministries. Conversely, I am also aware of women who are very much against other women being church leaders.

[5] Women being ruled by men is one of the affects of the Fall (Gen 3:16). It is because of the Fall that we have patriarchy. This has made it easier for men to be ministers, especially in the Old Testament. But Jesus came to overturn the affects of the Fall.


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