John T. Willis

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers--Part 2

Before examining and discussing specific texts, two additional introductory considerations concerning female teachers, deacons, elders and preachers as testified according to the Bible need some clarification.

First, there is a widespread scholarly and popular idea or impression that the ancient Near Eastern society in Old and New Testament times was dominated by a patriarchal society, that is, the husband or the father is supreme or superior to women and children. This assumption is deeply embedded in the DNA of modern society, and thus will undoubtedly remain for a long time.

However, when one studies the Bible, it is extremely difficult to support the view that a patriarchal society was dominant among God's chosen people. In sequential blogs, we will discuss numerous texts specifically, but in this blog, we will point out a "survey" of the way the Bible thinks of males and females. This is only general without going into detail.

*At the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1:26-27 declares that Yahweh created human beings MALE AND FEMALE. There is NO IDEA AT ALL in this text that there is a HIERARCHY from God above male and then male above female. Such an idea clearly contracts this text. RATHER, God is above BOTH MALE AND FEMALE EQUALLY. Males and females are on the same level before God.

*In the stories of Abraham (Genesis 11:27-25:18), Hagar and Sarah [and other women as well] play a very significant role in these stories. Abraham listens to Hagar and Sarah just like Hagar and Sarah listen to Abraham. There is an equality portrayed in these texts. The same thing is true about the stories of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

*In the stories of Moses, women play a very important role. Exodus 1-4, for example, highlight the importance of Jochebed [Moses' mother], Miriam [Moses' sister], the daughter of Pharaoh, Puah and Shiphrah, Zipporah [Moses' wife]. But as the story of Moses continues, there are numerous texts dealing with the importance of women.

*In the stories of Joshua, Rahab plays a very important role in Canaan at Jericho. In the stories of Judges, Deborah is one of the judges and plays a significant role. The whole book of Ruth is built around women, both Israelite and non-Israelite.

*In the stories of the kings, many women play very significant roles. A few examples are: Bathsheba, Abigail, Zeruiah, the woman of Tekoa, the widow at Zarephath, the necromancer at Endor, the women of Israel who sang and danced, and many others.

*The Wisdom, Devotional, and Prophetic Literature in the Old Testament often refer to various activities of women. Think of Proverbs 31:10-31; Job 1-2; Psalm 131; Isaiah 4; Ezekiel 13; and many other texts.

*In the New Testament, many important women play major roles among the people of God. A few examples are: Elizabeth, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Jesus' sisters, Priscilla, Lydia, the woman at the well at Sychar, Philips' four virgin daughters, Euodia, Syntyche, Lois, Eunice, and the list goes on and on.

Second, the revealed message of God and human tradition have always been closely connected in trying to determine what the Bible actually teaches. Many factors feed into this. This includes a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, a knowledge of the history and society of biblical times, which themselves vary from time to time, the influence of so-called important books, articles, and people whether scholarly or popular, each person's background in the family, church, nation, and society.

In studying any topic, one must decide whether that person wishes to study what the Bible says and teaches or wishes to agree with the views of influential preachers or scholars or churches or universities or other institutions. Several years ago, one church decided to try to study the Bible about a certain topic, and several people left theat church just because they will study this topic.

In the present study, I am assuming each person wishes to study the Bible, NOT one's tradition or the tradition of the church. This very issue lay at the root of the great Reformation with the works of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others.

PLEASE be patient as we study together subsequent texts in the Bible concerning God's will about female teachers, deacons, elders, and preachers.

Share YOUR insights and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yahweh will Overthrow Babylon and Restore the Faithful People--Part II--Jeremiah 51

The oracle or oracles in Jeremiah 51 continue the very same thoughts as those announced and declared in Jeremiah 50. The primary message is that Yahweh will soon overthrow Babylon and restore his faithful people. Remember that Yahweh frequently announced throughout the prophetic career of Jeremiah that Yahweh will intentionally and deliberately raise up and bring the Babylonians into Judah and overthrow his sinful people. Then, after Yahweh has punished his people, he declares he will overthrow Babylon through the Medo-Persians beginning with Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE and restore his faithful followers from Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the wall. Jeremiah 50 and 51 announce the fall of Babylon and the restoration of Yahweh's faithful people. Jeremiah 51 may be divided into two parts: 51:1-58, and 51:59-63. One may also divide 51:1-58 into smaller units to attempt to follow changing metaphors and emphases.

I. Yahweh declares he will overthrow Babylon. Jeremiah 51:1-58.
a. Yahweh announces he is going to stir up "a destructive wind," obviously a metaphor for Medo-Persia. Yahweh will send "winnowers" to destroy Babylon. Yahweh will "utterly destroy" Babylon. By contrast, Yahweh had punished his people "Israel and Judah" because of their guilt, but he has not "forsaken" his people. 51:1-5.
b. Yahweh uses two additional metaphors for the fall of Babylon. (1) Like Jeremiah 25:15-29, Yahweh commands Babylon to "drink the cup of the wine of Yahweh's wrath." (2) Like Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; 30:12-17, Yahweh offers "a balm" and "healing" for Babylon, but Babylon refuses to accept such an offer. Yahweh brings "vengeance" and "vindication" on Babylon, and tells his people "in Zion" to pay careful attention to this announcement. 51:6-10.
c. Yahweh specifically declares that "the kings of the Medes" will march against and overthrow Babylon, because Yahweh has both "planned and done" this. Yahweh is "the Lord of hosts," his hosts are the angelic armies. He will prevail against Babylon through his angelic armies. The same God, Yahweh, who created the heavens and the earth, will easily overthrow Babylon or any other nation on earth and its gods. By contrast, Jacob is Yahweh's portion and Israel is Yahweh's inheritance. 51:11-19.
d. The Medo-Persians are Yahweh's "war club," his "weapon of battle," and will "smash" Babylon. 51:20-24.
e. Once again, Yahweh summons "the kings of the Medes" and their allies to march against and overthrow Babylon, and "tell the king of Babylon that his city is taken from end to end." Babylon is like a threshing floor that is trodden. 51:25-33.
f. Nebuchadrezzar II and Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Judeans into Babylonian exile. At that time, the Judeans prayed that Yahweh will overthrow Babylon. Now, Yahweh declares, this will indeed occur. 51:34-37.
g. Now, Yahweh uses FIVE metaphors to announce the overthrow of Babylon. (1) Lions will "roar" against and destroy Babylon. (2) Babylon must drink the cup of Yahweh's wrath. (3) Babylon will sleep a perpetual sleep and never awake. (4) Yahweh will bring Babylon down "like lambs to the slaughter," a familiar metaphor in Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 11:19). (5) The Medo-Persians will overthrow Babylon like the sea rises over the land. Babylon's problem is "pride," self-centeredness, ingratitude. In 51:41, the Hebrew term "Sheshach" is an athnach or a cryptogram for Babylon. Yahweh will destroy the god of Babylon, Bel. 51:38-44.
h. Now, Yahweh summons his faithful people to come out of Babylon and have no fear, because Yahweh will overthrow Babylon and punish the images and idols of Babylon and restore Jerusalem. 51:45-53.
i. Once again, using the metaphors of the powerful flooding sea, the cup of God's wrath, and the perpetual sleep, Yahweh announces that he will bring "a destroyer," clearly Medo-Persia, to overthrow Babylon. 51:54-58.

II. A Symbolic Act in 594 BCE. Jeremiah 51:59-63.
a. The composer of Jeremiah DATES 51:59-63 in the "fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah," which would be 594 BCE. 51:59.
b. At Yahweh's command, Jeremiah writes on a scroll all the disasters that will come upon Babylon, and instructs the quartermaster Seraiah to carry this to Babylon and throw this scroll into the Euphrates River, symbolizing that Yahweh will make Babylon SINK into the sea to rise no more. 51:60-63.

Our God is a mysterious, powerful, awesome God. His works are mystifying for us human beings, but as we look back into time, we marvel at Yahweh's plans and purposes. How who have thought that Yahweh would raise up and send the Babylonians against Judah and Jerusalem to overthrow Jerusalem and carry the Israelites into captivity? And then, who would have thought that Yahweh would raise up the Medo-Persians and restore the faithful Judeans back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the walls? But over time, Yahweh did all this. We need to learn to trust in God in all circumstances, and give God time to work out his plans and purposes.

Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers--Part I

The Bible is the final, supreme, authoritative standard for human life. This applies to all aspects of life.

In the next several blogs, we will discuss the message of the Bible concerning female teachers, deacons, elders, and preachers, all of which play a significant role throughout scripture.

To understand what the Bible teaches about this subject, several introductory thoughts are very significant. In the past several years, the bibliography on this subject is daunting, amounting to thousand well-thought out scholarly books and articles. An entire book would necessitate a complete list on this subject. Every serious biblical seeker should spend several years reading and pondering this subject. A brief study of six months or one year on this subject would merely begin the study. The thoughts on the following blogs come at the end of several years of careful study, previous articles, and spending numerous classes at my university and elsewhere. I am still in pursuit of attempting to understand all the passages involved in the Bible.

Here are some introductory thoughts.

I. The entire Bible--the Hebrew Bible and the Newer Testament--is the word of God. For example, Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, clearly declares that the Hebrew Bible is fully the word of God just like the Newer Testament. Hence, a complete study of female teachers, deacons, elders, and preachers call for a study of the entire Bible, not just the Newer Testament. A common presupposition that the Newer Testament is superior to the Hebrew Bible is a modern view of scripture, not a biblical understanding of scripture. Thus, this study involves the entire Bible.

II. Several terms in the Bible are fundamental to understand the subject under consideration. First, the word "son" in the Bible often is NOT a gender specific term, but means BOTH males and females. Each person is responsible for looking at the use of the word "son" in Hebrew and Greek concordances. Here are ONLY a few examples.
Genesis 3:16: Adam said to Eve: "in pain you shall bring forth SONS." It is obvious that "sons" here does not mean "males," but both "males and females." Here "sons" is a Hebrew idiom, which any Hebrew person in scripture would know immediately.
Genesis 10:21: "To Shem, the father of all the SONS of Eber." Obviously "sons" here does not mean "males," but both "males and females."
Genesis 11:5: "the city and tower, which the SONS of MEN built." Clearly, the "sons of men" are not males, but both males and females. Thus, correctly, the NRSV translates this "mortals."
Genesis 46:5: "The SONS of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him." Obviously "sons" cannot possibly mean males, but both males and females.
Throughout the entirely Bible, "SONS of Israel" the common Hebrew idiom for "the Israelites," and most English translations use the term "the Israelites" or "the children of Israel," certainly NOT "MALE SONS of Israel." See for just a beginning, see Exodus 1:1, 7, 9, 12, 13; 2:23, 25; 3:9, 10, 11, 13. A perusal of a concordance emphasizes this fact.
Psalm 8:4: "What is MAN that you are mindful of him,
the SON OF MAN that you care for him?"
Here "man" and "son of man" cannot possible mean "males," but all humanity, both males and females.
In conclusion, the word "son" or "sons" in the Bible is NOT a gender specific term, but often means all human beings, male and female.

III. Second, the word MAN in the Bible often is NOT gender specific. Here are a very few introductory examples. Check YOUR concordance to find all the texts relevant to this idea.
Genesis 1:26, 27: "God said: 'Let us make MAN in our image. . .
So God created MAN in his image,
in the image of God he created HIM;
MALE AND FEMALE he created them"
This text explicitly explains that MAN means MALE AND FEMALE, certainly NOT male alone.
Psalm 8:4: What is MAN that you are mindful of him." Here, MAN clearly means all humanity, not just males.
Deuteronomy 8:3=Matthew 4: "MAN does not live by bread alone." Obviously, MAN in these texts cannot mean males, but all humanity, both males and females.
1 Kings 8:46: "there is no MAN who does not sin." Clearly, this cannot mean males only, but any human being.
The examples are abundant throughout scripture. MAN throughout scripture is a non specific gender word meaning all human beings, not merely males.

III. The word BROTHER or BROTHERS or BRETHREN throughout the Bible cannot mean males only, but both males and females. Hence, many recent English translations correctly translate this term "brothers and sisters" to avoid the incorrect, unscriptural idea of males only. Here are ONLY a few examples.
Deuteronomy 15:7: "If there is among you any BROTHER in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy BROTHER." Obviously "brother" hear does not mean males, but anyone: males or females.
Joshua 1:14-15: "All the warriors among you shall cross over armed before your BROTHERS and shall keep them, until the Lord gives rest to your BROTHERS as well as you." Many more recent English translations read: "kindred," to avoid the incorrect idea that this means males only. "Brothers" here obviously means all the people of Israel: males and females.
Psalm 133:1: "How very good and pleasant it is
when BROTHERS live together in unity!"
Clearly, this cannot possibly mean males only, but all people: males and females.
Throughout the Newer Testament, Paul and other speakers and writers address all Christians, male and female, as "Brothers." This is an idiomatic term used throughout scripture, NOT a gender specific term meaning "males." As a few reminding examples, see Acts 15:3, 23, 36, 40; 28:14-15; Romans 1:13; 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1;
12:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:1. 3:1; 4:6; and numerous other texts. Recent English translations correctly read "Brothers and Sisters" to avoid the incorrect idea that this might mean "males only."

These introductory suggestions initiate a study of biblical female teachers, deacons, elders, and preachers according to the teaching of the Bible. Following blogs go into detail about each of these terms with relevant biblical texts.

Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis