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God’s Word to Women: 100 Bible Studies On Woman’s Place
In The Divine Economy (pdf)

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LESSON 87.

ADVICE FOR EMERGENCY.

708.     Turn to 1 Corinthians 7. This chapter has been used by the Church to combat the false teaching of the superior holiness of celibacy, to that extent that its natural sense is difficult to grasp. Paul did not have sacerdotal celibacy in mind when he wrote it, but he did have a tribulation in mind, as verses 29-31 and other verses prove.

Three of the Gospels (Matthew 24:19; Mark 13:17; Luke 21:23) record a warning of Christ’s, that no woman should be found pregnant or with little children when that Day came; and the fact that every account of Christ’s prophecy of this period repeats this “woe,” proves that the warning had taken deep hold on the hearts of the disciples. Nothing could be more natural to suppose than that the Corinthians had asked Paul in their letter some question like this: “If our wives are not to bear children, in view of the coming tribulation, shall we not separate altogether, husbands from wives?” (Read par. 111).

709.     Paul’s advice is suited to an emergency, but not intended for permanent conditions. This letter was written in A.D. 57, and sore tribulation began in A.D. 64 by the martyrdom of the Roman church (see Lessons 41, 42), and persecutions throughout the Roman Empire; and in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (See also Luke 23:29). Expecting this tribulation under Rome, who knew but that it might prove to be the great tribulation?

Verse 1.  Paul’s answer to this unrecorded question is, that it is well for a person to have no intimate relations with his wife (the word translated “woman” is also the ordinary word for wife).

Verse 2.  But he does not recommend an actual separation, “because of fornications.” The A. V. does not render this accurately. There is no such word as “avoid” here. Corinth was an exceedingly wicked city. Profane history says that every other house was one for prostitution. There were over a thousand “religious” slave-prostitutes kept at the Temple of Venus in that city. Pagan religion and fornication went together, in worship. Men recently converted from a paganism which made a virtue of fornication, if thrown out of homes by the break-up of their domestic relations, from very loneliness might backslide into these corrupt conditions.  So each man should keep his home and wife, each woman her husband. Or, if this did not happen, separated wives and husbands might become estranged, and remarry without Scriptural grounds for divorce; and this would amount to fornication.

710.     Verse 3.  The expression “due benevolence” has been given the same vile translation, “duty of marriage” of Exodus 21:10. See our notes, pars. 603-606 in refutation of any such sense. Such a meaning, here, would make Paul teach, between these two verses, “It is good not to do so, but nevertheless be sure to do so.” It would not only put verse 1 at variance with verse 2, but also at variance more or less, in spirit at least, with the teachings of verses 5 (as we shall presently explain), 7, 8, 11, 26, 27, 29, 32, 34, 37, 38, and 40. In fact, it makes of the chapter a mass of contradictions. All Paul means by this verse is that the husband should continue to minister to his wife by performing his usual duties of support, protection, and heavy tasks about the home; and that the wife should continue her domestic ministrations. This is “due” from each to the other. It is doubtful whether “benevolence” belongs to the original text.

Verse 4 speaks of the power of restraint, not of self-indulgence, in view of the teaching of continence for an emergency, of verse one. The one can exert this over the other.

711.     Verse 5.  Dean Alford, in another passage (Mark 10:19), shows that the word rendered “defraud” is equivalent to “covet.” This “coveting” in the marriage relation brings about the defrauding of time that should go to prayer, and the “incontinency” spoken of at the end of the verse. Sexual union must be of mutual consent “as to time.” The expositors who make out that Paul is speaking of incontinent continence, lend themselves to cheap sophistry. The word “fasting” here is probably an unauthorized addition to the original text.

Verse 7.  “His proper gift.” If this meant, as is taught, “the gift of continence,” then we must believe that Paul taught that other men had from the Lord “the proper gift of incontinence!” (See par. 703).

Verse 9.  See Lesson 86. “Cannot,” here, is a corrupt rendering; the original says “do not.” Guilty couples should get married.

712.     Verses 12-16 teach that the matter of absolute avoidance of the matrimonial relation, in case one is married to an unbeliever, or else divorce, is not to be enjoined. There is but one cause for divorce, at least, as Christ taught; and the date of the approaching tribulation was too uncertain to found such rigid teaching as this upon it. This was emergency advice to believing couples expecting at any moment, what however might not occur for many years, ¾the close of the age and its attendant tribulation.

Verses 20, 24. The teaching of these verses has been much abused,¾for instance, to teach a slave that he should not struggle for his freedom. There is excellent reason for believing rather that Paul would direct attention to our one calling of eminence, our “high calling in Christ Jesus,” and teach us at all cost to abide in that calling, and do nothing which would mar our title to that high calling.

Verses 21 and 23 show that Paul did not instruct slaves to be contented with slavery.

Verse 25. Answers to another question from Corinth begin here, and the answers are somewhat obscure. Evidently the question relates to virgin persons of both sexes, as shown by verses 26, 27; the word “virgin” is applied to males in Revelation 14:4. In verse 28 the word is used in its more common female sense.

Verses 26-35. Paul makes it clear that he is not talking of what is “right” and “wrong” in the ordinary sense, but what is wise, or less wise, in the emergencies of the time.

713.     Verse 36. The sense is obscure. Most expositors think it refers to fathers disposing of their virgin daughters. Others think that it refers to a man disposing of his virginity in marriage, because he is getting older, than the usual time for marriage. My own belief is that Paul is speaking of affianced young men, and their duty towards their betrothed virgins. If marriage is delayed so long that he feels he is not treating her right in the matter (in those days it was a reproach to a maiden to remain long unmarried), then “let them marry.”

Verse 37. The word “nevertheless” is misleading, as though showing a contrast. The Greek word should have been given its usual rendering¾But the young man who has deliberately made up his mind not to marry, and with whom there is no (such) need to marry (as spoken of in the previous verse,¾on account of his betrothed), and has decided to keep his virginity (under the present stress of the times), does well not to marry.” This I believe to be Paul’s teaching.

Verse 38. Dr. Adam Clarke calls attention to the many ancient authorities who read, here, not “giveth her in marriage,” but merely “marries,” and “does not marry.” Note that the word “her” in the Bible is italicized; it does not occur in the original. “He that marries doeth well, and he that marries not doeth better.”

714.     As to that expression “giveth” in relation to the marriage of a woman: Such an expression occurs nowhere in the entire Greek N. T. The O. T. sometimes uses the word “give” of a woman’s marriage. She is often “given” or “sold” to a husband in the O. T. but no such idea is conveyed by any expression used of the marriage of a woman in the N. T. This is an English importation into both the A. V. and the R. V., because we have not two words which distinguish between the male and the female part in marriage, such as the Greek has.

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621.     I think we find another case of prejudiced translation in Isaiah 3:12. The word translated “children” in this verse in Isaiah, is a plural masculine participle of the verb “to glean,” “abuse,” “practice.” It is translated “glean” in Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21, Judges 20:45, and Jeremiah 6:9. The word has no translation such as “children” anywhere else in the Bible, and it occurs 21 times. Another word altogether is used for “children,” and “child,” in verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter; the sense seems to have been fixed by the supposed context, to correspond with “women.” As to the word translated “women”: Two words, without the rabbinical vowel “points,” are exactly alike. One is pronounced nosh-im and the other na-shim. In appearance the only difference is a slight mark under the first letter of the Hebrew word na-shim. The first word means “exactors;” the one with a vowel mark under the initial letter means “women.” The entire decision, therefore, as to whether the word means one or the other depends upon OPTION. Those who pointed the word, evidently thought the nation could sink no lower than to pass under women rulers, and then translated the word “children” to match it. Commentators frequently call attention to the alternate reading. See Adam Clarke on the passage. The Septuagint translates: “As for my people, tax-gatherers (praktores) glean them, and exactors (apaitountes) rule over them.”

622.     There seems little in the context to support the translation “children” and “women.” But study the context as regards the other reading. After complaining of the “gleaners,” (that is, “tax-gatherers”) and “extortioners,” they are threatened in the following language: “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth up to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgement with the elders of His people, and the princes (“rulers,” masculine, not feminine gender), thereof for ye have eaten up the vineyard (the conduct of extortionate tax-gatherers), and the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush (R. V.) my people, and grind the faces of the poor?” Because of this context, we believe that OPTION took the wrong turn when it decided to translate this verse as it stands in our English version; and that this translation would have had a strong showing up of its sophistries, had educated women been on the last Revision Committee.

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LESSON 78.

SEX BIAS INFLUENCES TRANSLATORS.

(Continued.)

623. Before we proceed to exhibit other places in the O. T. in which an unusual meaning has been put upon a word that would not have been put upon the same word had it not specially related to woman, we must explain: Words in the Hebrew language are more difficult to set forth after this fashion, to those who do not understand the language, because of the great variety of uses to which a word can be put. The same form may do duty as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb and even a preposition.

624. Next we will consider the Hebrew word cha-yil (HEB), which occurs 242 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “army” and “war” 58 times; “host” and “forces” 43 times; “might” or “power” 16 times; “goods,” “riches,” “substance” and “wealth” in all 31 times; “band of soldiers,” “band of men,” “company,” and “train” once each; “activity” once; “valor” 28 times; “strength” 11 times: these are all noun forms. The word is often translated as an adjective or adverb. It is translated “valiant” and “valiantly” 35 times; “strong” 6 times; “able” 4 times; “worthily” once and “worthy” once. We have now given you the complete list of the various renderings of this word excepting four instances in which the word is used in describing a woman. Please review the list, and get the usage of the word clearly in mind before proceeding further.

625. Now we will take the first of these four remaining cases, relating to women: Ruth, the Moabitess, was a woman of courage and decision of character. In her loyalty to her dead husband’s mother, she refused to turn back and re-marry in her own land, but forsook her country and kindred to accompany her mother-in-law to a (to her) foreign land, and undertook there, to keep them both from starvation by the labour of her hands. Boaz, who afterwards married her, said to her: “All the city of my people doth know that thou art a woman of cha-yil,” (Ruth 3:11). Now considering the girl’s courage and devotion, how should this word have been translated? You have the list of meanings before you, and are quite competent to form an opinion. How would “thou art an able woman” or “thou art a woman of courage” do? The Septuagint Greek says, “Thou art a woman of power” (dunamis).

626. But it almost looks as though our English translators took no care, as to the precise language here. The circumstances, when Boaz spoke the words, were peculiar, but not improper in Israel; but man was praising a woman, and “of course” here is a reference to her reputation for chastity, and so it is translated, “thou art a virtuous woman.” But glance over the various meanings given to this word elsewhere. Not once has it reference to any other moral characteristic than that of strength or force. What courage this foreign girl had shown in supporting her mother-in-law!

627. Now for the next mistranslation of this word, because it relates to woman. The last chapter of Proverbs describes an ideal woman for a wife. The description is a mother’s, to her son. It is quite different from the average man’s ideal of woman at her best. But the Bible describes her, in the language of Lemuel’s mother, as a woman whose “price is far above rubies:. Here are some of her striking characteristics: “She is like the merchants’ ships, she bringeth her food from afar.” “She considereth a field and buyeth it.” “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” “Strength and honor are her clothing.” Surely this must be a “strong-minded” woman who is praised here.

628. Three times over the “strength” of this woman of Proverbs is referred to. Each line of the description speaks of efficiency. She is praised in turn for general goodness and trustworthiness, energy, efficiency, enterprise, far-sightedness, early-rising, business capacity, gardening, muscular strength, weaving, benevolence, fore-thought, embroidery work, elegant clothes for herself, tailoring for her husband, honor, wisdom, kindness, piety. But, as it happens, no definite reference is made to her purity, or to her faithfulness to her husband in the marriage relation.

629. Now what one word would best sum up such a character? The precise original expression is the same as in the verse we have quoted from Ruth,¾“A woman of cha-yil.” We must suppose that the translators hastily concluded that they knew, without looking closely at the original, what sort of a woman a mother ought to recommend to her son for a wife, and so they translated: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” That represents the undoubted sentiments of the translators; but it does not represent the teaching of the original text. “Virtue” is of priceless value to woman, to be sure; but her duty to her husband is not her only duty; all her life cannot be summed up in that one moral quality.

630. “But,” someone will reply, “virtue is often used in the sense of a summing up of all moral characteristics.” That may be; but it would not be so understood by the common folk, in this connection, and the Bible is supposed to be translated for them. The vast majority, reading this verse, would suppose the word “virtue” to refer to the woman’s chastity. The Septuagint translates here (“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Askelon,” lest the study of the sacred tongues be prohibited to woman!), “A masculine woman . . . more valuable is she than very costly stones.”[5]

And finally, the description of this ideal woman is summed up in the 29th verse, in the words: “Many daughters have done cha-yil, but thou excellest them all. “Worthily,” “valiantly,” are the only translations that we have in any other part of the Bible for this word, when used as an adverb. But after the same careless manner, the word is here translated “virtuously.” We suppose there was an instinctive distaste, disrelish, for showing that the Bible praised, in the inspired words of a woman writer, a “strong” woman, for doing “valiantly.”

631. Now for the fourth instance of the mistranslation of this word: Proverbs 12:4 reads, in the original, “A woman of cha-yil is a crown to her husband,” and there is no doubt that she is here again praised for her strength of character. But the English reads, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” Doubtless such a woman is a crown to her husband, but women prefer to know what the Bible says, rather than to be merely reminded of a favorite axiom among men. Here again, the Septuagint translates, “masculine.”

632. “But,” an objector will say “ ‘virtuous’ comes from the Latin word vir, which means ‘man’, and why is it not the proper word to use here, ¾in the sense of ‘manly’, ‘strong’?” Because “virtue,” while it has this literal sense, is not used to describe “manliness” in English, but “morality” in general, among men: and when used of woman, it is understood to refer to morality of one sort, more particularly, which happens not to be referred to in these extended descriptions in the quotations from Proverbs. If the translator had thought that this word “virtue,” or the word “virtuously” were likely to be understood in their literal sense by women,¾“manly” and “manfully,” who can believe that he would ever have employed those words here?

633. Virtue is a quality of great importance to women, and had they been more clearly taught from pulpit, and by a more careful translation of such passages as we have been considering, the obligation laid upon them in the Bible, to be strong, in body, mind and spirit; if these theologians themselves had learned this from the Bible, women would have been far better equipped to guard their virtue,¾since the ruin of girls is usually due to weak character and general unfitness to cope with the world. To sum up: This Hebrew word, cha-yil, used over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible, signifies “force,” “strength,” “ability.” But in every instance where it relates to women, and nowhere else, isit translated “virtue,” i.e. “chastity.”

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289. No teaching of the New Testament has ever been more cunningly perverted than this concerning the “headship” of the husband. Does Christ jealously keep the Church from rising into His power: or does He say, “Behold I give you power?” Does He say, “This is My throne, keep away!” to the Church; or does He say, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne?” Christ’s delight and His constant exhortation is for us to share His throne-life with him. If we fall short, it certainly is not because He has ever shut the door to our attainment of it. He is not jealous of His own exaltation; He only secured it (for He had it before He came to earth), in such a manner that He might bring it within our grasp also.

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LESSON 37.

HEADSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

282. The “head” in the symbolic language of the Revelation (where alone it is used in pure symbolism in the N. T., aside from the headship of Christ and of the husband), does not signify rule. The red dragon has diadems on his seven heads to signify rule (Revelation 12:3); the Beast has diadems on his horns (not on his heads) to signify rule (Revelation 13:1); the diadem, not the head, is a symbol of rule in these instances. The heads in each case signify divisions; the diadems, rule. The teaching is that all divisions of rule unite in the dragon, and in the Beast, in turn; they obtain universal sovereignty. In Revelation 17:9, 10, we read: “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth: and they are seven kings” (R. V.). This refers to the Beast and the Scarlet Woman on the Beast. Here the symbolism is support. Seven mountains support the foundation of this great city, and seven kings support her rule (Revelation 17:18). The Woman rules these “heads;” they do not rule her.

283. “Head” (kephale), in the N. T. is used in the same way as “head” (rosh) in the O. T. for “chief,” in speaking of Christ as the “head of the corner” in six different passages; but these are quotations of, or references to, Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner.” The head or cornerstone gave support to the entire building and was usually of immense size for this purpose; it also bound the sides of a building together. So Christ is the support of His church, and binds its members together into one (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 2:19).

284. We have shown (pars. 248-250) that St. Paul is not teaching the subordination of wife to husband, in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, unless it be implied in the one phrase, “of a wife the husband is a head;” and we waived the discussion of this symbolism until the present time. As we have already said, the only other place where it is stated that the husband is head of the wife, is Ephesians 5:23, and there we are told in what sense he is head,–as Christ also is Head of the Church” (R. V.). Christ is the cornerstone of the church,–its support, Builder. For Christ is no mere stone; He lives, and Christians are represented by St. Paul as growing “up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). And Colossians 2:19 describes Christ as “the Head, from which all the Body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” Neither of these two passages refers to Christ’s government. They represent Him as the support, nourisher and builder of the Body, its Savior.

285. But Ephesians 1:22 does speak of Christ’s Headship as a reign. God “hath put in subjection all things under His feet” (R. V.); and the preceding verse informs us that this means that all “principalities and powers” are put under Him. But where is His church? The opening verses of the next chapter tells us. We have been quickened, and raised up with Christ. The Church is not, therefore, under His feet, in this headship of governments; it is designed that the Church share His rule,Revelation 1:6; 3:21; 20:4, etc. We are taught that God gave Him “to be Head over all things to the Church.” He is God’s gift “to the Church” that we might share His headship over all things; as Dean Alford says here: “He possesses nothing for Himself . . . but all things for His Church, which is in innermost reality Himself,”–speaking, of course, of the mystical Body.

286. Christ began to found that Church when He said, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high,” then, “Go ye into all the world “. . . preach . . . teach . . . baptize.” (See Luke, Mark and Matthew). Men and women listened to the command; women tarried and got the power as well as men (Acts 2:3-4); but men said: “No! Paul teaches that woman is merely a symbol of the Church; man a symbol of Christ. Therefore woman must not preach; must not teach; nor have power, or she will destroy the symbol.” Symbol of a strange church this! Woman with no message for the world; no converts to baptize; veiled like Judaism; stripped of power.

287. I have a friend, who belongs to a sect which teaches these things. A devout niece who belonged to the same sect confided in this lady that the Spirit often moved upon her with such power, in meetings, that she did not know how to refrain from speaking out; it was like a “fire in her bones.” Her aunt could but advice her, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Following her aunt’s advice, the next time the Spirit constrained her she did speak out. Sitting far at the back, her husband by her side, the “brethren” sitting with downcast eyes, thought that her husband had spoken so thrillingly. They allowed themselves to be moved mightily by the message; and had an unusually “melting time,” that morning. Then, after meeting, they learned that a woman had done this! In consequence, this “symbol of a church,” who happened to be quite like a church “twice dead and plucked up by the roots,” was driven out of the sect.

288. No church can long survive the silencing of its women. The church which silences women will be found to silence the Holy Spirit. A sect, or sex, or race which attempts a monopoly of the Spirit’s voice and power, will find that the Holy Spirit will flee far from it. Woman is destined to have a very large share in the preaching of God’s messages, and in bringing souls to Christ, for did not God promise, long ages ago, as regards woman, that her seed should bruise the Serpents head?

289. No teaching of the New Testament has ever been more cunningly perverted than this concerning the “headship” of the husband. Does Christ jealously keep the Church from rising into His power: or does He say, “Behold I give you power?” Does He say, “This is My throne, keep away!” to the Church; or does He say, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne?” Christ’s delight and His constant exhortation is for us to share His throne-life with him. If we fall short, it certainly is not because He has ever shut the door to our attainment of it. He is not jealous of His own exaltation; He only secured it (for He had it before He came to earth), in such a manner that He might bring it within our grasp also.

290. But are we not to obey Christ? Yes, most certainly; obey Him because He is God, because He is King of kings; and these a husband is not, and he should not usurp Christ’s prerogatives. Christ said: “Be not ye called Rabbi: for ONE is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”. . . “Neither be ye called masters; for ONE is your Master, even Christ.” Woman’s spiritual Head is also her King; and so is man’s spiritual Head. But woman’s matrimonial head is not her king,–he is only a fellow-disciple and fellow-servant of the King; and the King has laid down His rules as to the conduct of fellow-disciples towards one another: “Ye know that the princes [rulers] of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (see Matthew 20:25; Luke 22:25).

291. When the Word says, “the husband is the head of the wife,” by the pen of St. Paul, it merely states a fact; those where the conditions under which women lived at that time. The husband was, in those days, the head of the wife simply because he held the superior place. In days when a man could divorce his wife “for every cause” (Matthew 19:3; and even Christ’s own disciples demurred when Christ declared this was not right), there could be no doubt that women were compelled to be ignorant, inferior and very cheap. The rabbis taught that it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife if she even burned his food. Hence the Apostle says: “Be a head, as Christ is a Head of the Church,–to help your wife upward to your own level,”–for it is only as man imitates Christ in his conduct that he can remain in the Body of which Christ is Head. Therefore the woman should “imitate” (1 Corinthians 11:1, R. V.) St. Paul, and the others in worship. And the man has certain duties to perform toward his wife which are analogous to what Christ purposes to do for His Church, for its elevation, until it shall “reign in life with Christ Jesus.” This is the headship of the husband that Paul speaks of. He would never encourage the husband to imitate Adam and Antichrist in trying to be “as God,” to woman, and to interfere with Christ’s authority over His own servant,–woman.

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LESSON 25.

SHALL WOMEN KEEP SILENCE?

189. The Apostle Paul speaks twice, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, concerning the public ministry of women, in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, and 14:29-40. We shall treat of the second utterance, as the simpler, first. Please read these two passages in turn, and note that they occur in the same letter, and if the writer was not interrupted, he wrote the second in the next breath after the first, that is, one could not have been written more than fifteen minutes or a half hour after the other. This point is important. Next note that if St. Paul veiled women he did not silence women, for, according to this interpretation he ordered them to veil only when prophesying or praying, not at other times; so that, if they were silenced they were left unveiled, so far as Scripture teaches. Yet the general idea and teaching is that Paul both veiled and silenced women.

190. Now turn to the second passage: Fix your attention, for a moment, on verses 31-36. Does it not seem strange that unless Paul means “all,” he should have repeated “all” three times over? It is probable that the women far outnumbered the men in these early churches, held in the homes of the people,[4] for they have usually outnumbered the men throughout Church history even since meetings have been held in public churches. Now if only a small fraction of the attendants (the mature men released from business so that they could be at home meetings), were allowed to prophesy (Paul says nothing about mere Sunday meetings), then why did the Apostle say, “Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted?”

191. Again, at verse 34 he says, “It is not permitted . . . as also saith the law.” Who did not permit it? Where was it not permitted? The O. T. says absolutely nothing from Genesis to Malachi to forbid women to speak. No “law” can be found anywhere in the Bible forbidding women to speak in public, unless it be this one only utterance here by St. Paul. And besides, we know perfectly that the O. T. permitted women to speak in public (Numbers 27:1-7), and Jesus Christ did also, without rebuke, Luke 8:47, 11:27, 13:13.

192. What is actually known about the situation which occasioned the writing of this Epistle to the Corinthians? We gather from the Epistle itself that the Corinthian Christians had written Paul a letter (7:1) and he is answering it. There were divisions among them (1:11). He had enemies at Corinth, who disputed his right to be called an Apostle (9:1), and criticized him and his companions for leading about a woman with them (9:5) and he declares that “we” have as much right to do it as “the other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas.” Who was this woman? Doubtless Priscilla, who with Aquila her husband had left Corinth, in company with the Apostle, shortly before (Acts 18:18), the woman whom Paul mentions before her husband. He actually dares to put this woman’s “head” on behind! How that would scandalize the proprieties of modern theology! She was, all are bound to agree, a very able person, and well known to: “all the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:4), and how could that be if she was altogether silenced and veiled? Paul was probably writing this very Epistle in her home at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19). Here we have the proper setting for these words addressed to the Corinthians.

193. Aquila was a Jew of Pontus in Asia Minor, converted to Christ, and his wife probably also a native of Asia Minor (Acts 18:2). Here women were held in great honor, as Professor W.M. Ramsay of Aberdeen University clearly shows in his valuable books, The Church in the Roman Empire, and The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia. This woman would expect to take her position as on a perfect equality with her husband, and the attempt to do so on her part would at once arouse the ire of the Palestinian Jews who pursued Paul wherever he went, the so called “Judaizers,” bent on winning the Church back to Judaism. We believe this is what stirred up the “woman question” at Corinth, and led to Paul’s two famous utterances in the Epistle.

194. Says Prof. Ramsay: “The honors and influence which belonged to women in the cities of Asia Minor form one of the most remarkable features in the history of the country. In all periods the evidence runs on the same lines. On the border between fable and history we find the Amazons. The best authenticated cases of Mutterrect[5] belong to Asia Minor. Under the Roman Empire we find women magistrates, presidents at games, and loaded with honors. The custom of the country influenced even the Jews, who at least in one case appointed a woman at Smyrna to the position of archisyna-gogus” (“ruler of the synagogue”). Again he says: “Among the Asian Jews, women took an unusually prominent place.” But later, when Priscilla was at Corinth, she was in a totally different atmosphere, as regards the position of woman. Here, all she did would be subject to severe criticism by the “Judaizers,” and by the Jews, who must have hated her for having instructed Apollos so well that he was converting many of their number to Christianity (Acts 18:26,28, and 19:1); and St. Paul could not have given a woman such prominence under any circumstances without angering the Jews, for the latter (of a later date at least, and probably by this time), forbade that women should even learn the Scriptures, much less teach them.

195. For candid scholars admit that, according to the best manuscript authority Acts 18:26 should read as in the R.V.(not as in the A.V.) that is Priscilla and Aquila expounded” unto Apollos the Way of God; and Dean Alford says. “There are certain indications that he himself (Aquila) was rather the ready and zealous patron than the teacher; and this latter work, or a great share of it, seems to have belonged to his wife, Prisca or Priscilla. She is ever named with him, even in Acts 18:26, where the instruction of Apollos is described.” When first met with, and comparative strangers to St. Paul and Luke, the husband is mentioned first, according to usual custom (Acts18:2), but quickly the order changes: after eighteen months’ acquaintance (Acts 18:11) Priscilla is mentioned first (Acts 18:18,26; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19) with a single exception (1 Corinthians 16:19 ).

196. We are not accustomed to look to German sources for broad-minded statements as regards women, therefore we the more readily turn in that direction for a statement as to Priscilla’s position in the Apostolic Church. Prof. Harnack of Berlin says, “In any case she must have been associated with and more distinguished than her husband. That is verified from Acts 18:26 and Rom 16:3, convincingly. For according to the former passage not only Aquila, but she also instructed Apollos. One is allowed to infer from it that she was the chief instructor; otherwise she would scarcely have been mentioned. And in the Roman Epistle Paul calls her and Aquila not the latter only his ‘fellow-laborers in Christ Jesus.’ This expression, not so very frequently employed by Paul, signifies much. By its use Priscilla and Aquila are legitimized official Evangelists and Teachers. Paul adds, moreover the following: ‘Who for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.‘ To what heroic service the first half of this clause refers we unfortunately know not. From the second part it follows that the Christian activity of the couple was genuinely ecumenical work. Why ‘all the churches of the Gentiles’ were obliged to thank Priscilla and Aquila Paul does not say.” Then Dr. Harnack adds in a footnote, quoting the views of Origen and Chrysostom as in accord with his own, “That the thanks of the Gentile churches relate only to the fact that Priscilla and Aquila saved the life of the Apostle is to me not probable.”

(To be continued.)

[4] The meetings of the Corinthian Church were probably held in the house of Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14; Rom. 16:23).

[5] Matriarchy, see pars. 53ff.

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