Category Archives: History

The Wicked Journalist of Port Huron, from Andreas 1883

Perhaps the editor Andreas* refers to in this little story took the title “printer’s devil” a little to seriously during his training.  Another example of guile and subterfuge at …

Source: The Wicked Journalist of Port Huron, from Andreas 1883

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Where I’ve Been & the Christian Genocide Resolution

Port Huron, 1939 USGS section
Port Huron, from 1939 USGS quad map.

Hello and happy Tuesday!  I haven’t posted in a while (which isn’t terribly unusual, I know), and knowing full well that my mind has been elsewhere, I wanted to give a “why.”  As I’ve posted about before, we moved from Southern California back to my home state of Michigan, and more specifically, to Port Huron.  We decided on this location because of all the water (and we happily concur that the St. Clair area’s nick name of Blue Water is justified), because we could afford to buy a low-cost house, and because–on paper, at least–it looked like there were enough jobs to keep us going.

(We originally wanted to move to Grand Rapids, which is the only region in Michigan really recovered from the last “recession,” but couldn’t get help with buying a low-cost home at a distance . . . realtors have replaced the lowest place holder of the employed in my mind now, with lawyers bumped up one.)

While the job front turned out to be less rosy than we anticipated, I have enjoyed getting back into my older career choice involving historical resources.  I used to work in cultural resources management–prehistory, then history–until consulting jobs became too far away from my family (as you might imagine, permanent employment in this field is rare and you have to be willing to move to wherever you can get it).

Now that we live in a place with obvious history and historic structures, my passion for investigating those things has been rekindled.   And finding that the city is a very mixed bag of preservation and anit-preservation sentiment (the state is having an anti-preservation infection now, too), which is reflected in how much a regular person can find out about it here, I decided to make a web page about it, with the hope that others would like it and benefit from it and a group would form.  I’ve spent a ton of my time getting up to speed on the history in Port Huron, catching up on preservation laws and such, and building the site:  Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association.

St Joseph Church, Port Huron
One of the historic churches in Port Huron, St. Joseph’s.

The city, being one of the older and busier ones in historic Michigan, has quite a few grand old churches, too.  And, I never ended up posting about something that we, as Christians, were excited to find here:  nativity scenes out in public areas at Christmas time.  How refreshing!  There weren’t a huge number of them, but they did pop up, and one felt that you might hear a “Merry Christmas!” come your way and not just a “happy holidays.”  I did run across an internet post somewhere by a lady who had lived here and moved to Tennessee, where there was even more openness and  joy displayed over Christmas, not just “the holidays.”  She was critical of Port Huron, but it is better here than where we used to live.

On a very different note, the US house of representatives voted 383-0 (!) in favor of calling what ISIS is doing to Christians in Iraq and Syria “genocide.”  Other countries in the world that seem to be less sympathetic towards Christians have already declared that Christian genocide has been happening.  Why is the US behind in doing so?  Obama and his administration, that’s why.  It’s strange how this administration can use the arguments of the persecutors to justify a “not genocide” stance when others know from either experience of research that the actions behind those arguments are covers for murderous intent, for the actual genocide going on.  Read about it at House Votes to Declare ISIS’s Actions ‘Genocide’: What’s Next? , House Passes Resolution Calling ISIS’ Mass Slaughter of Christians a ‘Genocide’, and at other online news outlets.

“The facts are well documented in our nearly 300-page report on this matter, and we must remember that for the State Department to issue declaration of genocide, the standard required is merely probable cause, which any prosecutor could find on any of ISIS’s Facebook pages.”  S. Smith, 03-15-16

 

Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.
Abraham and Isaac. Laurent de La Hire, 1650.

That question, “Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians?” is not a new one, but has been in the Christian news (at least) recently over the controversial suspension of a black female professor at Wheaton College.  I haven’t written specifically on this topic, though I touched upon it in Does DA: Inquisition’s Imshael have anything to do with Ishmael and Islam?  In that article I point out how Islam rejects God’s plan for humanity, as provided by God in the Old Testament through Isaac, and openly celebrates this rejection through their holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  How can it be claimed that Muslims worship the same God when they reject biblical scriptures and even God’s plan for humanity?  As any bible student knows, God’s plan is interspersed throughout all of the Old and New Testaments, so to reject it and then claim you worship the same God makes no sense.  Yet the Wheaton professor, besides showing solidarity with the repression of women (which is not biblical), claims that Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Continue reading Do Muslims Worship the same God as Christians?

Michigan: God’s Beautiful Creation & Fallen Man

S Lake Huron shore
At south Lake Huron shore.

I was born and raised in Michigan, left as a young adult, and recently returned as an older adult.  While I am relieved to be back again, to walk and live among all that is nature once more, I am dismayed at the fall of the culture here.  Or, in more Christian terms, the fall of Michigan man into baseness, selfishness, and corruption.  When I was young, Michigan was considered “progressive,” and it relished its own high-mindedness.  Not that this progressive attitude was necessarily one with Christianity, but it was something; it was better than shrugging ones shoulders and letting greed and selfishness simply take over.

Continue reading Michigan: God’s Beautiful Creation & Fallen Man

Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

family-iconPhilosophy professor William Lane Craig maintains a web site, Reasonable Faith, where he has apologetics articles and answers people’s questions.  He answered someone’s question about the recent gay marriage supreme court ruling, and I’ve reproduced much of it here.  See Craig’s site for the full response.


I’m going to use your question, R.C., [as] an excuse for addressing the Supreme Court’s tragic and misguided decision to re-define marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

We need to understand clearly that that is exactly what the Supreme Court has done. By ruling that same-sex unions can count as marriage the Court has implicitly redefined what marriage is. Marriage is no longer taken to be essentially heterosexual, as traditionally conceived, but has been implicitly redefined so that men can be married to men and women to women.

The Court’s majority opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, shows a clear consciousness of what the Court is doing. Referring to the traditional view, Kennedy writes, “Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world” (my emphasis). It is this view which Court’s majority declares is now obsolete.

Continue reading Prof. Wm Lane Craig on Obergfell v. Hodges

Words Christians Use Explained: “B” Terms

An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration...
An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This is the second in a series of “Words Christians Use,” or simply, the first section of a Christian dictionary/desktop encyclopedia.  Short phrases may occasionally be included, and some words or phrases have a Christian base but are used more often by the general public.  (Click  for >  “A” terms.)

(c) Vicki Priest________________________________________________________________

Babylon.  This word probably isn’t used as much as it should be.  Not for the historic city it was, but for the its symbolic Biblical meaning.  “Babylon” (or mystic Babylon) refers to the world system, containing religious and political aspects, that are corrupt, self-centered, and against God.  It is the global anti-God if you will.  Since the Bible tells us that Satan is the ruler of this world (a lot of folks seem to forget that; see John 12:31), mystic Babylon seems to be a simple way of referring to the physical manifestation of the Satanic world system.  Not all Christians interpret the symbolic use of Babylon so broadly, but view it as a term used for any corrupt commercial center that is or will be judged.  In any case, many who call themselves Christians today don’t recognize the anti-God nature and effects of modern global corporatism and such and appear to support “mystic Babylon”; this could explain the term’s relative non-use.

Bacon (and Biblical laws).  Just kidding.  Christians don’t use the term “bacon” more than anyone else, BUT, bacon can be the focal point of an important lesson.   Christians are often accused of “picking and choosing” which Biblical laws they follow.  Aside from certain sects and annoying individuals, the accusation itself is false or deceptive.  It is based on ignorance of the difference between a Jew and a Christian.  Christians don’t follow the Jewish laws–the laws of ISRAEL–because Christ’s work set believers free from them and from the Jewish nation.  Folks, it’s not a matter of “picking and choosing”; Christians are not Jews and so don’t need to follow the laws of Israel.  God told the Israelites not to eat pork, and He had good reason.  But Christians are free to eat pork.  There are some prohibitions that were maintained under the new covenant, however, that are reiterated as sin against God in the New Testament (like any sex outside of marriage [and marriage is maintained as heterosexual] and deceiving people).

Serious pot-o-bacon
Is there ever enough bacon? (Photo found on internet and is somewhere at http://www.foodown.com)

Continue reading Words Christians Use Explained: “B” Terms

Words Christians Use Explained: “A” Terms

James Arminius (1560-1609), Pastor, Professor,...
James Arminius (1560-1609), Pastor, Professor, and Theologian.  One of a pair with a portrait of his widow, Lijsbet Reaal, by David Bailly (1620) (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

You guessed it.  This is the first in a series of “Words Christians Use,” or simply, the first section of a Christian dictionary/desktop encyclopedia.  Short phrases may occasionally be included due to an associated controversy.  It seemed appropriate to begin with “A,” so let’s just dive in.

(c) Vicki Priest

Acts, Book of.  The Book of “Acts” doesn’t refer to a play.  “Acts” is the word used instead of “activities” or “doings” that we might more ordinarily use today, in reference to what the earliest Christians did.  That section of the New Testament covers the time from immediately after Christ’s death, probably in AD/CE 30, to  AD/CE 60 or 61.

Adam.  Adam is widely known as the first human made by God, but there’s more to understand about “Adam” than that.  First, God said He made man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27), but “man” is the term for “human,” since man includes both “male and female” (see verse 27).  Second, it is very basic and very important to Christianity to understand that Adam was the cause of the Fall of Man, and not Eve.  God had instructed Adam to not do something (eat of the Tree of Life), and he disobeyed God by following Eve’s lead after being deceived by Satan.  Eve had been mistaken and Adam could have corrected her, but instead, he purposely defied God.  Because of Adam’s action, the entirety of humankind fell from God’s grace.  Third, Jesus Christ is referred to as the new Adam in the New Testament.  Jesus came to take away the sins of all those humans who would accept him and his obedient work in God.   Jesus’ complete obedience was, and is, the [only] corrective to Adam’s (and thus humanity’s) disobedience.

Continue reading Words Christians Use Explained: “A” Terms

New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Female Co-workers

1171414 girl jumping, freeimages.comFor an introduction to this subject, please see New Testament Views of Women: Overview.

For a discussion of this subject relating to 1 Corinthians, see New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

Considering that there were no women that had any kind of leadership role in the religion of Israel at the time of Christ, it is truly radical that there are so many women mentioned in the New Testament who promoted the faith and who in fact had leadership roles. Jesus led the way for women to not only find salvation and comfort in him, but to realize what Galatians 3:28 says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That the latter church chose, for the most part, to forget Jesus’ lifting up of women and change words in the translation of Paul’s writings – some are shown below – is unfortunate (to say the least) and makes arguing for the accuracy of many translations more difficult.

But who were Paul’s co-workers, and what level of leadership did they really have? For right now, let’s focus on three: Priscilla, Phoebe, and Junia. There is so much that could be covered that information on their roles is presented in a concise list format:

Priscilla. Apparently well-educated, and thus from an influential Roman family.

  • Priscilla and Aquila, her husband, taught Apollos more about Christianity after they had heard him speak publicly (Act 18:26). Priscilla was the primary teacher, as evidenced by her name being given first. Of the six times she and her husband are mentioned in the NT, she is first four times. “The order of names in ancient times indicated priority of role and importance” (Schmidt 178). St. Chrysostom (AD 347-407) confirmed that Paul placed Priscilla first for good reason. Significantly, whether ahead of her husband or not, she taught a man.
  • She is acknowledged as being well known by the gentile churches (Romans 16:4). She would not have been well known unless she had leadership functions. Paul refers to her as synergos (Romans 16:3), the same word he used for Timothy and Titus, who preached and taught. She was a “fellow worker” (synergos) with Paul, not a silent and passive female.
  • One of the oldest and largest catacombs in Rome bears her name, as do several monuments.
  • No one really knows who wrote the Book of Hebrews, and the suggestion that Priscilla wrote it is not discounted even in the Archaeological Study Bible (Garrett); some suggest, too, that she “polished up” Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Phoebe. Carrier of the Roman epistle to Rome from Corinth, a 400 mile journey.

  • In Romans 16:1-2, Phoebe is referred to as a diakonos, or deacon. “Deaconess” was not a word at that time and was first used in AD 375. The common word “deacon” is most often translated “minister” in the King James Version, though it is rendered “deacon” three times; however, when that word is used with Phoebe, the KJ translators used “servant” instead. Amazingly, the slightly earlier Miles Coverdale bible had kept the word “minister” for Phoebe, but recent translations still use “servant.”
  • Paul called himself a deacon (diakonos) in 1 Corinthians 3:5, and it is used for Timothy in Acts 19:22. Deacon is used with “co-worker” (synergos) and commonly meant someone who teaches and preaches; the person would have some authority in the church. Another thing to consider is that the term deacon was masculine and only males functioned as deacons in Greek culture. Paul very well knew what he was doing when he used that term for Phoebe.
  • Paul not only said Phoebe was a deacon, but a prostatis (Romans 16:2) as well. Prostatis “meant ‘leading officer’ in the literature at the time the [NT] was written” (Schmidt 181). To us it would mean something like “superintendent.”
  • Origen (AD 185-254), who was not a feminist, wrote that based on Romans 16:1-2 Phoebe had apostolic authority.

Junia

  • Junia is found in Romans 16:7, where the name is still often mistranslated “Junias.” The name “Junias” was non-existent at that time. The Archeological Study Bible (Garret, p 1860) notes that “the more common” reading in Greek is “Junia.” She probably was the wife of Adronicus, the other person mentioned in that verse. For the greater part of church history—the first 1300 years—all acknowledged that the person was a female! Why did bible translators in the last several hundred years change Adronicus’ companions name? Because Paul referred to them both as apostles, and outstanding ones at that. St. Chrysostom, St. Jerome, and Peter Abelard all considered the person to be a woman.
  • Paul did not restrict the word “apostle” to the twelve only (he called James an apostle and interchanged it with the word diakonos), as is common today. Origen wrote that women had “apostolic authority” in the church based on Romans 16.

The note on Romans 16:7 in the Apologetics Study Bible (ASB) goes almost as far as what Origen wrote and thought, but why can’t our Christian culture acknowledge what Paul actually wrote?  Interesting, isn’t it?  I, the author of this paper, am female, yet I have a bit of a hard time personally accepting female church leaders.  I believe my view is based on both personal and cultural factors, but knowing what Paul wrote and what Christ did, I would not argue that a congregation is wrong in having a female leader. This is the note from the ASB (Cabal, p 1704):

Many claim that Junia (or Junias), designating one of Paul’s relatives, could be either a man’s or a woman’s name. In fact, the masculine form, Junias (as a contraction of Junianus), has not been located elsewhere, whereas the feminine Junia is common. Of course, if this person was a woman, this would be an intriguing fact, particularly since Paul called Andronicus and Junia “apostles.” J.D. G. Dunn suggests they were husband and wife—a reasonable assumption. The precise status of all who are called apostles isn’t clear. Some were close associates of the apostles, such as Barnabas (Ac 14:14) and James (Gl 1:19), but also see the Greek term apostolos in 2 Co 8:23 and Php 2:25.

 

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)

New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

For an introduction to this subject, please see New Testament Views of Women: Overview.

When it comes to the question of women in Christian leadership, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 are used to show God’s disfavor of women having such roles. In light of both the whole New Testament and of all of Paul’s extant writings, we know that these passages are contradictory; they at least seem so without looking deeper into the social contexts or possible translation issues. Some scholars even propose that 1Timothy was not written by Paul, and therefore not genuine. However, in this article we will explore some possible reasons for Paul having written 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, even though he acknowledged females praying and prophesying in chapter 11 of the same epistle.

1 Corinthians 14:34b-35 states: “women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (NIV 1984).

Why would Paul say this when he commended many women who had house churches? These include Mary (mother of Mark), Nympha, Priscilla (with Aquila), and Apphia. These house churches did not follow sexist synagogue rules. Also, Mary, Jesus’ mother, prayed with the other disciples. Women apparently spoke at Pentecost (even though “men” are mentioned, the text states that the Holy Spirit rested on all who were there, and Peter quotes Joel concerning women prophesying as well as men) and Tabitha was a disciple. Considering that Paul writes of women praying and prophesying in church earlier in the same letter, why would he then write verses 14:34-35?

One explanation is that these verses were added later—called an interpolation–and there is a possibility of this. These verses are commonly found at the end of the chapter in various manuscripts and seem to have been added by scribes early on (but later than Paul). However, since no early manuscripts have been found that do not entirely omit the verses, the interpolation explanation remains only a hypothesis.  Another thing to consider, however, is the command for women, or wives, to ask explanations of their husbands at home later.  At the time 1 Corinthians was written, there were many more women in the church than men, so were they to ask their unbelieving husbands about Christian truth?

Katherine Bushnell, a conservative scholar, agrees with the interpolation theory: “[Bushnell] buttressed her argument by saying that it was not like Paul to use the laws and traditions of the Jews ‘as a final authority on a matter of controversy in the church. He spent a large share of energy battling against these very “traditions” of the Jews, as did his Master, Jesus Christ’” (Schmidt 188-189).

CS CowlesWhile the interpolation theory seems like a plausible explanation, not all those who dismiss the direct but contradictory message of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 agree with it. Another explanation is provided C.S. Cowles.  She provides a word study showing that some women were being referred to, not all women; that the “silence” was that of voluntary restraint; and that the “speak” referred to—and there are 30 different Greek words for “speak”—has the meaning of “talk” or “chatter.” Paul wasn’t saying that women could not pray or prophesy, only that the women who were talking during service needed to not be disruptive. She defends the use of the word “law” as Paul’s way of appealing to social convention.

Regarding the admonition for wives to consult with their husbands at home, Cowles believes that the women had felt free to ask questions during service since the early services were not formal, but quite social, and it had gotten out of hand. She does not try to explain why women with husbands are the only ones referred to here, nor the related criticism of them having to possibly rely on unbelieving husbands.

Another explanation, which is highly possible and thought by many to be most likely, is that Paul is quoting from a letter (or stating an argument) from the Judaizers.  Judaizers wanted traditional oral law enforced in other ways and places as well (for example, they wanted males to be circumcised), and these verses are very similar to the actual Jewish oral law prohibiting women to speak during services. Considering how the law is cited in this passage–which would be highly out of character for Paul, the explanation that those verses are a quote makes perfect sense.  Also, the verse immediately following is a rebuke: “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?” (14:36). Is Paul rebuking the Judaizers for trying to silence women, when Paul already acknowledged that women can speak and prophesy in church (11:5), and when Paul so often commended the women co-workers, deacons, and even ministers or apostles that he knew and worked with? It seems so.

But why don’t we know for sure that verses 34-35 are a quote? Quotation marks of any kind were not used in these ancient writings. However, it is accepted by many NT scholars that 1 Corinthians has many quotes within it, but not all agree that 34-35 is a quote. One of the scholars who does believe that it is a quote from Jewish oral law, however, is Neal Flanagan, a Catholic. He has written that since it is a quote and that Paul rebukes those who would silence women, it is then a text that reaffirms 1 Corinthians 11:5 as well as Galatians 3:28.

To read further, please see:  New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Co-workers and New Testament Views of Women: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

[edited on 10-8-2014]

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)

New Testament Views of Women: Overview

Veiled and Silenced, amazonChrist is primarily known as the savior of the world – his sacrifice being for all who want to dwell with God (Jesus’ blood removes our sin so that we are able to be in the presence of the sinless God). But Jesus did something quite significant and often overlooked (as evidenced throughout the writings of the New Testament): He raised the status of women to the same level as men. Many would argue that men and women have a few different responsibilities in regard to the family and church, but in God’s sight the sexes have equal standing: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

There is a great deal that can be written on this topic–including the contradictory teachings of, and actions by, some church leaders and Christian men. But first, let’s look at some social mores that exhibit the status of women in Israel and the surrounding cultures at the time Jesus walked the earth, and some that are still with us today in various parts of the world.

Female babies are of low worth: In past and present non-Christian cultures, female worthlessness is widespread. Female babies were commonly the victims of infanticide. While that continues today, in places where ultrasound is available many more female fetuses are aborted than male fetuses (especially in China and India). Christians do not value females less than males and do not abort or kill female babies.

  • Polygyny and divorce: Polygyny was permitted though not very common in ancient Israel; it was relatively common elsewhere. In Greece, a man had one wife but he also had a legal mistress (so, essentially, a 2nd wife). Polygyny was not approved by God, though there are a number of instances of it recorded in the Bible. The NT clearly reiterates God’s will that one man be married to one woman; polygyny is not allowed in Christianity. A man could divorce his wife easily in ancient Israel, but the NT does not allow for this.
  • Complete control of wife and children by father or husband: In Rome, fathers had total control over family members, and a husband had absolute power over his wife; he could sell a daughter to her future husband. All these powers became illegal some years after Christianity became legal in Rome (374/313). Women also were granted the right to own property and have guardianship of their own children. In Greece, wives had segregated quarters and could not visit male guests of her husband’s in her own home. As in ancient Israel, women in Greece were not to speak in public. Women simply had a very low status in Greece and ancient Israel, and in Israel at the time of Christ, women’s legal witness was virtually non-existent. This obviously changed with Christ’s work.
  • Clitoridectomy: The removal of the female clitoris, and often other genital parts, is a common practice in many African countries (and is found in countries where Africans have immigrated to). This is condemned and outlawed in Christian-based countries.
  • Binding feet, China: In order to be more attractive to men, girls used to have their feet bound so that they remained “small.” The fact is, the foot only became very disfigured and it often became severely infected. Because of Christian missionary pressure in the 19th century, the Chinese government outlawed the practice of female foot binding in 1912.

There are other practices around the world (past and present), like burning or burying widows alive (in India), arranging marriages of female children (this still occurs in China, India, and parts of Africa), maintaining double standards for adultery, and the forced wearing of veils, that make obvious the widespread low status of women but which are condemned by Christianity. As Alvin Schmidt, author of How Christianity Changed the World, said in an interview, “Geroge Sarton, a historian of science, once said, ‘The birth of Christianity changed forever the face of the Western world.’ As far as I know, Sarton had no love for Christianity. He merely said what history revealed to him. Another historian, for instance, has said, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was the turning point in the history of women.’”

Now let’s look more specifically at how women were viewed and treated by Israel when Christ lived, and what Christ did to elevate women. Today when we read the New Testament (NT) text alone, we simply cannot understand how radical so much of what Jesus did was; our culture reflects in so many ways the changes that Jesus began. The radical things Jesus did seem normal to us now, so we must look into the context of the times to fathom the changes that he wrought.

At the time of Christ¹ women existed for the pleasure of men. If a woman did not bear a male child or didn’t please her husband in some way, he could divorce her with ease. A woman could not divorce her husband. Women were not to speak in public with men (men should not even give a greeting to a woman in public), they were not to testify in court, they were not supposed to read the Torah (Law), nor were they to be taught. As a rabbinic teaching advised (Sotah 3.4), “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to a woman . . . . If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery.” Also, women were set apart from men in synagogue worship, either by a partition or by being in separate rooms.

Each one of the above negative aspects of womanhood in ancient Israel was reformed by Jesus, as it was never God’s will that such treatment of women exist. First, regarding a man’s ease in divorcing his wife, Jesus told his disciples that it was not to be—that instead a man could divorce his wife for unfaithfulness only (Matthew 19:4-9). Second, what about women speaking to men in public? To the great shock of his disciples, Jesus not only spoke to women in public, but also to a Samaritan woman publicly (she was very shocked as well) (John 4:5-29)–both no-nos in ancient Israel. In speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus also taught her. Jesus both spoke and taught to Martha in public (John 11:25-26). Jesus taught Mary, Martha’s sister, and commended Mary for wanting to learn from him (Luke 10:38-42). Another woman followed Jesus in order to be healed. She was not only healed by him, but he talked with her and blessed her publicly (Mark 5:25-34).

These are not the only interactions that Jesus had with women. There are very many recorded in the NT. Of very real significance, however, is Jesus’ appearing to women first after his resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). This put women in a whole new realm of being chief witnesses. Remember, women could not testify or be a witness in court. The fact that Jesus appeared to women first, and told them to go and tell the male disciples of his resurrection, had to have really driven home the message of women’s spiritual equality to the disciples—once they accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection that the women were telling them. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the believers, both male and female, met and prayed together (Acts 1:14). As the fellowship of believers grew they met in houses for “church,” and many of these houses were owned by women. The possibility of the women as leaders in these early churches will be included in another of this series.

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Note 1. How Israelite men viewed and treated women changed and varied through time, and was no doubt influenced by the cultures that surrounded them. This essay is interested only with the status of women at the time of Christ.

The second and third articles in this series can be found here:

New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Co-workers

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)