Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

women bible scholars women bible translators

One of the highlights of my year is attending a summer school in ancient languages held every year in January. Each January I usually meet at least one woman at the school who has studied theology with the hope of becoming a Christian minister but, mainly because of her gender, that hope has not been realised. I’m in a somewhat similar boat.

So what do we do? Many of us go back to school and do more study.

My observation is that there are a considerable number of Evangelical Christian women doing advanced degrees. And, instead of aspiring to be pastors and preachers,[1] some are changing tack and becoming Bible translators, researchers, writers, and academics. Are these occupations any less influential or “authoritative” in the church than being a leader in a congregation?[2]

I cannot think of anyone who has more theological and spiritual influence in a Christian community than the person, or persons, who translate the Scriptures into English or another language.[3] Translators select the words and phrases in new Bible translations according to their understanding of the original biblical languages and according to their understanding of the original author’s intent. The translations then affect how others interpret and apply the translated Scripture. I wonder if there are some communities who depend on Scriptures translated by women, but, at the same time, prohibit women from being leaders and Bible teachers.

It has never been easier for women to study at universities and in seminaries, especially in Australia. And compared with women of previous generations, we have many other freedoms and opportunities as well. So unlike women of the past, many Christian women today are not giving up on their God-given call altogether. Yet we simply do not have the same options and opportunities in the church as our brothers. Or the same regard and respect.

It is a shame that women are still being dissuaded and restricted from senior positions and certain functions of ministry within many congregations—functions that gifted and godly women could readily fulfil.

I am interested to see where this trend of increasing numbers of women pursuing biblical and theological scholarship will lead.[4] I am interested in seeing how scholarship from evangelical women will be received by the church and how it will affect the church. In the meantime, I continue to hope that women will increasingly be accepted as church leaders.

Image

Photo is of Sheri Klouda, a Hebrew professor who was removed from Southwestern Seminary (USA) in 2006 simply because she is a woman. More about the unjust treatment of Dr Klouda here.

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Footnotes

[1] Some Christians have a sacramental view of the Sunday morning message. Even many evangelicals believe that only an ordained, priest-like man can preach a sermon from the “hallowed” pulpit. This sacramental view—and the history and jargon that goes with it—hinders many people from seeing the possibility that women also can teach and preach in congregational settings.

[2] Some denominations place importance on the “authority” of church leaders. Unfortunately, the word “authority” has an exaggerated significance because of its use in most English translations of 1 Timothy 2:12.

[3] English translations have powerfully influenced Christian beliefs and practices in English-speaking countries. Here is a list of women who have been involved in some recent English Bible translations.

[4] This trend highlights a recurrent theme in church history: that despite prohibitions against women, a called and gifted woman, if she is tenacious enough, can sometimes still find a way to lead and inspire others in the faith, albeit unofficially. In past times, women had to be extraordinarily gifted and tenacious to be able to function and be recognised as spiritual and theological leaders. In the early days of the church, however, it was not uncommon for house churches to be led by women as well as men. Prohibitions against women ministers were added later by the church councils.


Related Articles

Female Bible Translators
Complementarians and Women Bible Commentators
The ESV Bible’s Men-only Club
The First Century Church and the Ministry of Women
New Testament Women Church Leaders
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
1 Timothy 2:12: Women, Teaching and Deception

11 thoughts on “Women Bible Scholars and Translators in the Church

  1. I am hopeful that these women will prove themselves knowledgeable, and that this factor will cause churches to respect and honor them. This has to cause a shift in the ‘male dominance’ groups.

  2. I do hope so, Marg. It seems that some such women, particularly if the intellectual academies accept them, shy away from both the gender debate and sometimes the name “evangelical” (even if their beliefs are in accord), and they just dig in to their field, rather separated (seemingly) from what’s going on in our churches. I hope more and more are emerging who retain something of a connection to both facets and thus can influence them.

  3. TL, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if good female scholarship can positively influence the more misogynistic Christian groups.

    Deborah, your comment is interesting because I only inserted the word “evangelical” in a few places at the last moment. My beliefs are broadly in accord with evangelicalism, but I don’t feel that women like me are accepted by many conservative evangelical churches. (And I am a long way off being a bonafide Bible scholar.)

  4. Interesting! For a variety of reasons, I sometimes like to refer to myself as orthodox or catholic, but it seems beneficial to one’s fellowship and influence to retain the nomenclature when other evangelicals may be reading. Sometimes doctrinally evangelical scholars are pretty outside of having that influence w/in evangelicalism (and may have some of our various discomforts w/ evangelical causes as widely perceived and may be trying to network w/ a lot of mainliners and Catholics) and so just use more classical lingo as a way of blending in at their diversified schools and having influence with OTHER groups. Their pathway can be tempting to me even as a non-scholar but might also defeat my heart to have influence for women and other issues w/in evangelicalism.

  5. I actually thought of you when I was inserting “evangelical”. Initially I didn’t want to sound as though I was only thinking of evangelical women. But I also didn’t want it to sound as though I was including budding extreme-feminist theologians in my musings.

    I’ve been thinking of you as we approach St Nina’s day. 😉

    My hope is still to be a pastor.

    1. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to unsurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. FOR
      ADAM WAS FIRST FORMED, THEN EVE. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
      1 Timothy 2:12 means is that THE WOMAN CANNOT TEACH WITH AUTHORITY. That is the context . Examples of this would be.. teaching from a pulpit, teaching mixed Sunday School classes, teaching in Bible conferences to mixed crowds of men and women, and teaching at mixed Bible college classes.

      Let your women keep silence in the churchs: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as aslso says the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: FOR IT IS A SHAME FOR WOMEN TO SPEAK IN CHURCH. 1 Corinthians 14:34-37 (This is referring to teaching and prophesying).

      > This is what the New Testament is teaching us, based upon our gender.

      > This instruction is clear teaching for the church.

      > A WOMAN CAN NEVER HOLD A POSITION SUCH AS PASTOR.

      This is what God’s Word, The Holy Bible says. You are being disobedient, by going against what God’s Word Says.

      1. You’re mistaken, Talya. Regarding 1 Corinthians 33ff, the only time teaching (or instruction) is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 is in verse 26, and this verse does not exclude women. Furthermore, a few chapters before 1 Corinthians 14:33ff, Paul acknowledges that women prophesied in Corinthian assemblies and he does not silence them. Rather, in 1 Corinthians 11, he tells both men and women who were prophesying and praying to do so in a respectable manner.

        More on 1 Corinthians 11 here:
        https://margmowczko.com/womens-hair-in-corinth-and-in-sydney/

        On the other hand, three groups of people are silenced in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. A short post on these three groups of people is here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/

        1 Timothy 2:11-15 refers to a woman who was not ready to teach and needed to learn, and who needed to stop domineering her husband. The word translated as “to usurp authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 does not refer to a wholesome good authority. No one should use the kind of domineering control that Paul is prohibiting in 1 Timothy 2:12.

        A short post on the word authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 is here:
        https://margmowczko.com/authentein-authenteo-1-timothy-2/

        Paul encouraged participation in church meetings as long it was done in an edifying and orderly manner (1 Cor. 14:26; Col 3:16). And none of Paul’s general teaching on ministry gifts and functions excludes women (Romans 12:6-7; 1 Cor 12:7-11, 28; Eph. 4:11). Gender is not a prerequisite of ministry. Paul gives gifts, grace, faith and ability as the prerequisites. Paul’s theology of ministry was, “You have a gift, use it!”

        I’ve written about Paul’s theology of ministry here:
        https://margmowczko.com/paul-and-women-in-a-nutshell/

        And there is simply no verse that says that women cannot be pastors. Being a pastor is a ministry gift mentioned by Paul, and yet he identifies none of his fellow ministers as pastors in his letters. Rather, he refers to both his male and female ministry colleagues using the words: coworker or minister (diakonos) or apostle or labourer, or even simply as brother or sister. Paul used ministry terms that did not convey a sense of hierarchy, power or prestige. And he had no problem with godly women who ministered.

        I mention some of these women here:
        https://margmowczko.com/paul-and-women-in-a-nutshell/

        God wants both his daughters and sons to minister. And I would be very wary of hindering a woman who God has gifted and called for ministry.

  6. WOW! I’m impressed by your memory and grateful for your thoughtfulness. Please repost your Nina blog next weekend, so we can savor it once more ;).

  7. OK, will do. 🙂

  8. It would be interesting to see what, if anything, has changed four years down the track from when you first wrote this.

    1. I personally haven’t noticed any difference. 🙁

      Just today I read an article where I imagine the male pastor thought he was being encouraging and magnanimous towards women, but he included this line: “The church is to be led by men after all. That much is clear from Scripture.”
      https://20schemes.com/2016/first-church-hire/

      We’ve still got a long way to go!

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