Did Paul Really Mean Women are ‘Never’ to Teach Men?

March is Women’s History Month: Discussing 1 Timothy 2:12

As a woman Christian Apologist felt called by God to teach, a first reading of the passage in 1 Timothy 2:12[1]is extremely troubling. A literal reading of this verse declares that a woman should not teach or have authority over a man. But was this instruction by Paul to Timothy’s church universally applicable to all churches for all time? There are some who interpret this verse to mean that women are never to teach within the Church – ever. The Matthew Henry Commentary reflects this interpretation:

 According to St. Paul, women are not allowed to be public teachers in the church; for teaching is an office of authority. But good women may and ought to teach their children at home the principles of true religion. Also, women must not think themselves excused from learning what is necessary to salvation, though they must not usurp authority. As woman was last in the creation, which is one reason for her subjection, so she was first in the transgression. But there is a word of comfort; that those who continue in sobriety, shall be saved in child-bearing, or with child-bearing, by the Messiah, who was born of a woman. And the especial sorrow to which the female sex is subject, should cause men to exercise their authority with much gentleness, tenderness, and affection.[2]

– Matthew Henry


This isn’t a ‘rare’ interpretation. Many in the Church over the centuries have understood the entire passage of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 similarly. At first reading, it does seem to infer that women are second-class citizens, who are not even allowed to dress attractively, and are the daughters of Eve, the “original trouble-maker.”[3] This view of women, the other half of the Imago Dei (Image of God), has been used to mistreat half of humanity for far too long.

Yet, this interpretation is hard to swallow. Given other passages in the Bible that contradict this instruction, since women have taught throughout Scripture, it is plausible that the Church has seriously misunderstood this verse.[4]When this verse is studied in its cultural context, we will see that Paul did not mean to prohibit women, who are gifted to teach, from exercising their teaching gifts in a public congregation with mixed company for all of time.

Cultural Influences

Without understanding the cultural context of Scripture, or knowing the heart of God, skeptics are quick to jump to the conclusion that the Bible contradicts itself because there are some passages that appear mutually opposed. That is why it is critical, for a more comprehensive view of the Word of God, to grasp what was going on in the First Century when this letter was written to the young pastor, Timothy.

Timothy’s church was in the city of Ephesus. This was a commercial crossroads, and therefore, attracted a great variety of visitors with diverse religious beliefs. According legend, Ephesus was founded by the tribe of the Amazons, great female warriors. The name is possibly derived from “Apasas,” the name of a city in the “Kingdom of Arzawa,” which means the city of the Mother Goddess.[5]Ephesus was also the home of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple Artemus (or Diana), where a statue of the goddess Diana, who was believed to be a product of angels, was worshipped.[6]

There was a ‘female-only’ cult in Ephesus, that met in the Temple Diana. The “priests” there were all women, and “they ruled the show and kept the men in their place,” according to New Testament Scholar, N.T. Wright.[7]

Paul wrote to cities that were Greek and often had goddesses, instead of gods, as the chief leader of their city. The Greeks adored women, holding to some of Greek Mythology and polytheism. Greeks went overboard and made gods out of women, and since men gave into temptation easily, they believed that women held this kind of power over men.[8]In nearby Corinth, Aphrodite was also worshipped as the goddess of love. 

The Exception, Not the Rule

The cities of Corinth and Ephesus are the only areaswhere Paul addressed the differences between men and women in leadership of the church. It is important to note that 1 Timothy 2:12 is also theonly versein the Bible that prohibits women from teaching, or being in positions of authority over men. The meaning of “to teach or have authority over” occurs nowhere else in Scripture.[9]Hence, it demands careful attention.

Historical Influences

Under Greek rule, Ephesus was a center of learning and the birthplace and home of the great Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. Women enjoyed rights and privileges equal to men and there are records of female artists, sculptors, painters and teachers.[10]Under Roman rule, at the time of Paul’s visits, it remained a leading political and intellectual center, with large libraries and schools of philosophy.[11]One secular-historian says there was a decline in this once cosmopolitan city when Christianity became the dominant religion in the region. Thus, the Emperor Theodosius had all the temples and schools closed; women were reduced to second-class citizen status, no longer allowed to teach men or work independently in the arts:[12]

Worship of the ancient mother goddess Artemis was forbidden, and the Temple of Artemis was destroyed by a Christian mob, the ruins used as a quarry for building materials for other local projects such as churches. The streets, once adorned with statuary, highly maintained and lighted by the oil lamps at night, fell into decay and darkness as the attention of the now-Christian citizens of Ephesus was directed toward the Second Coming of Christ.[13]

Could this radical social reform be what God had intended for women? It is understandable why cult ritual practices were forbidden (and it is typical of human behavior to often “throw the baby out with the bath water”), but to reduce women to be viewed as second-class citizens? Sadly, this attitude has been prevalent in history, and it reduces the female half of the Imago Dei to a status of inferiority. 

Adjusting to New Ideas

 It is probable that the letter to the Galatians would have been circulating among the new Christian churches, as well, and the new-found freedom in Christ, of which Paul wrote, was perhaps causing some testing of new behaviors that were not always acceptable. Just like churches struggle today trying to make sense of male and female roles, imagine not even having the entire New Testament available (since it was still being written) for guidance on how to organize this budding new religious movement.

So, Paul taught what is required of membership in God’s family. Christians are now the renewed people of Abraham: the male line and circumcision no longer matters (Gal. 3:28). This could have led women to assert themselves in the worship service in ways that threatened unity, which was a major focus in Paul’s writing to Timothy.[14]

Imagine what Paul must have encountered when the new churches were formed: disruptions in the worship services (by women inquiring of the meaning of prophecies[15]), anger stemming from confusion, arguments of some men also contributing to the problem, and a possible disregard for biblical distinctions.[16]These are the issues Paul sought to address, among troubling false teachings.

Regarding the issue of speaking in church services, in the Middle East it was taken for granted that men and women would sit apart. Services were also held in formal or classical Arabic, which men knew and many women did not.[17]So, when Paul says the women should “remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:12), he was probably addressing the women who may have been bored in the service, and talked among themselves. Paul encourages them instead to ask their husbands questions about the sermon when they get home.

Letters Versus Epistles

When Paul wrote his letters to certain churches, theologians see these letter writings as a kind of hybrid between a private letter addressing specific issues going on within a particular church, and a literary epistle containing more generalized theological matters as a whole.[18]First Timothy is a letter, and Raymond F. Collins notes that “of all the literary genres, it is the epistolary genre that is most conditioned by the coordinates of time and space, historical and relational circumstances.”[19]One can infer, then, that the content of Paul’s letter to Timothy immediately related to a situation that determined this composition. So, what was the problem that led to the restriction on women teaching in Timothy’s church? 

False Teachers: Gnostics & Pagans

Timothy’s church had split from the synagogue. Even though its members were both Jewish and Gentile, it was the Gentiles who “openly confessed their evil deeds,” including the practice of “magic arts.”[20]Because of this, many theologians state that what Paul is stressing is the infiltration of false teachings into the church at Ephesus.[21]Others concur, insisting that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains a temporary restraining order issued to stop a certain group of women who were teaching the heresy in Ephesus. They see this restriction as a local rather than universal rule.[22]Considering what the city of Ephesus was like back then, it is very plausible that newly converted women may have been bringing pagan practices into Timothy’s church. 

An early form of Gnosticism was also infiltrating the Ephesian church during the time Paul wrote to Timothy. The Gnostics taught that material things are bad, and this carried over into the view of marriage: they had an ascetic attitude towards it. This is what Paul addressed in chapter five, when he speaks of young widows (5:3-16). “The prominent teaching role of women in Gnostic circles helps explain Paul’s restriction on women teaching in this situation,” Dr. Payne noted.[23]

The Gnostics held a dualistic view of a person: the spirit was good, the body was bad. This carried over into the forbidding of marriage, while engaging in libertarian behavior (since one’s body was considered of little importance). This libertarian tendency directly opposed Paul’s teaching on holiness, propriety and modesty, to name a few.[24]Gnostics also held that Christ did not bodily raise from the dead, and that only Jesus’ spirit resurrected. Paul addresses this in the second letter of Timothy, saying this teaching had already destroyed the faith of some.[25]

In addition to the false teaching of the Law and the Gnostics, women teachers were not acceptable in either Greek or Jewish societies in the First Century and before. Women were not even counted as reliable witnesses in courts back then. So, it would have been counter-productive to allow women to teach.[26]

False Teachers: The Jewish Heresy

Again, Paul’s primary purpose in writing a letter to Timothy was to advise Timothy on how to overcome false teaching.[27] In 1 Timothy 1:7, Paul refers to those “who want to be teachers of the law.” Centuries of traditions from observing the Law were now being changed as Christ became the culmination of the Law (Rom. 10:4). New converts probably had the Old Testament (since New Testament was literally being written), and continued observance of the Law was a constant problem Paul sought to correct. He also addressed myths, endless genealogies, controversies causing people to leave the faith, and other meaningless talk and/or misuse of the law.[28]

In chapter two, Paul stresses peace in contrast to the contentiousness of false teachers. Some infer that women were more easily led by false teaching because of Paul’s reference to Satan’s deception in 1 Timothy 2:14. This is what some other theologians think also provided the basis for restricting teaching by women.[29]        

Suffice it to say, women had it rough. They were not educated, had no voice in politics, and could not be witnesses in a court trial. They were not allowed to speak to men in public, and were required to veil their faces whenever they left their homes.[30]

It is important to note that in 1 Timothy 2:10, Paul is addressing women “who claim to be devoted to God,” or submitted to Him. Then, following in verse 11, Paul encourages women to be educated. N.T. Wright believes, given the Biblical context, that the main point is that women should learn in full submission towards God.[31]The focus is that women are encouraged to learn; by doing so, learning could eventually lead to teaching.

Regarding the words “having authority over,” the word choice Paul used was a rare verb (authentio), and has more to do with ‘flouting’ authority by ‘control and dominance’ rather than a forbidding of shared participation in corporate congregational decisions.[32]Paul also says that Eve “became a sinner” (v. 14), but this has been poorly misunderstood to deride Eve as the sinner who plunged humanity into misery.[33]Paul does not mean to infer because Eve is a sinner he is restricting her from teaching. Instead, it is understood that he may have seen the woman as more easily deceived and perhaps not as trustworthy. Paul did not intend to make women appear insubordinate to men; some think he is merely referring to the original deception.[34]Paul was no sexist, but rather a champion of the equality of men and women before God.[35]It is thought that he was addressing Eve’s ‘bad influence’ over Adam (v. 14), which resulted in disaster.

Evidently, a Jewish heresy related to the Fall, was also being taught at the time. These false teachers taught that male authority in the church and home, and the women’s childbearing role, were curses for sin. Paul corrects this by explaining that Jesus’ atoning work restores everyone to the pre-fall state. Eve’s curse involved oppressive male leadership and pain in childbirth, shattering the original harmony between man and woman. In pre-fall creation, leadership and childbearing were not cursed but blessed.[36]

Concluding Thoughts 

If it is true that women should not teach or preach to men in any public capacity in the church, then it follows that a pastor should never recommend a book to his church that is written by a woman, or allow a testimony given in church that includes explanation of scripture or encourages the church to obey. How about allowing women to be worship leaders? Since lyrics can have a teaching or exhorting capacity, one might as well prohibit that, too. Does this fit with the biblical narrative? Just think of the songs Miriam and Deborah sang to publicly edify Israel for that answer (Exodus and Judges).

Even Complementarian New Testament Scholar, Thomas Schreiner, said that: “men should be open to receiving biblical and doctrinal instruction from women. Otherwise they are not following the humble example of Apollos, who learned from Priscilla and Aquila.”[37] Schreiner encourages women to share what they have learned from the Scriptures when the church gathers, citing both 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 as mutual teachings not limited to men. He rightly stated that “sometimes we men are more chauvinistic than biblical.”[38](Where he feels the line should be drawn is women filling the pastoral roles, but that is not the subject being addressed in my article.)

“The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers,” said former President Jimmy Carter, who is now advocating for women’s rights globally.[39]

Just consider the countless women on the mission field that preach, teach, evangelize, and lead evangelical ministries in non-Western countries. The Church needs women to help fulfill the call to “go into all the world and preach to all creation” (Mark 16:15). However, just like any leader in the church, women (and men!) should show appropriate submission to the spiritual head, or the elders of a church body where they teach, and most importantly, Christ Himself, who is the Head of the Church (Eph. 5:23).

Practical Church Application

After careful consideration of the historical and cultural settings surrounding 1 Timothy 2:12, I believe I have shown that women who teach biblical concepts to a mixed audience in the Church are not being disobedient to God’s law. The three most significant principles learned from this passage are: 1) False teachers (male and female) were bringing heretical ideas into Timothy’s church; 2) Women were worshipped as goddesses in Ephesus, and that kind of influence, or anything resembling deception, was prohibited; 3) Women sat separately from the men in church services, and were chatting amongst themselves (since they may not have understood the language), which is why Paul instructed them to keep silent during the service. Given these cultural and historical factors, and since there are many examples elsewhere of women leaders in Scripture who engaged in biblical instruction, women should be allowed to teach men today in church settings. 

Individual churches manage women teachers in a variety of ways. Some churches, that take a more conservative view of this verse, try to get around it by putting a man in authority over a woman so she does not usurp his authority. These churches will often allow her to teach other men in certain situations. However, the verse does not say: “I don’t allow a woman to teach unless she has a man over her.” A church practicing this would still be in violation of its own interpretation. 

The best thing churches can do is to have a governing body in which every teacher, preacher, prophet or leader (male or female) should be submitted. All churches should be fully submitted to God, and seek His wisdom, guidance and instruction in the Bible as best understood. If a woman is called to teach, and is not permitted because of a church’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12, it might behoove her to find a church willing to use her gifts to build up the Body of Christ. If she feels called to remain in such a church, then she should pray for God’s favor to show those in decision-making roles how the Bible does not prohibit women teachers. With prayer and God’s blessings, hopefully the church will see the benefit of allowing the gifts of the Spirit to be fully utilized by women, who should teach under the submission of church leaders and God Himself, just as godly men should do.

Works Cited

Beck, James R. General Editor. Two Views of Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Kindle.

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

Carter, Jimmy. “Losing My Religion for Equality.” TheAge.com.au.(April 27, 2017.) Website. Accessed May 5, 2017.

Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament.Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012. Print.

Hutchison, John. Matthew–Revelation New Testament Survey Course-pack. La Mirada, CA: Biola University, 2017. Print Course Materials.

Liefeld, Walter L. The NIV Application Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999. Print.

Mark, Joshua. “Ephesus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. (2009.) Website. Accessed May 1, 2017.

Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. “1 Timothy 2.” The Bible Hub.(2017.) Website. Accessed March 13, 2017.

Payne, Philip B. Man and Woman, One in Christ.Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. Print.

The Telegraph, “Top 10 Worst Bible Passages.” Telegraphy Media Group, Limited.(2017.) Website. Accessed March 13, 2017.

Towner, Philip H. 1-2 Timothy & Titus.Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994. Print.

Vallotton, Kris. Fashioned to Reign. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2013. Print.

Wright, N.T. Surprised by Scripture. New York, NY: Harper One, 2014. Print.

Footnotes


[1]“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

[2]Matthew Henry Concise Commentary, 1 Timothy 2, The Bible Hub website, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/1_timothy/2.htm, accessed March 13, 2017.

[3]N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture(New York, NY: Harper One, 2014), 79. 

[4]Women functioned as prophets in the Old Testament (Exod. 15:20-21; Judg. 4:4-5; 2 Kings 22:14-20). Anna in the New Testament also served as a prophetess (Luke 2:36-38). At Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out on both men and women (Acts 2:17-18). Phillips daughters were prophets (Acts 21:9), and women in Corinth exercised the gift of prophecy, as well (1 Cor. 11:5). Prophecy is not the same as teaching, but one can infer that women spoke spiritual revelations over both men and women. Junia is also listed as an apostle, and most scholars agree that this is a feminine name (Rom. 16:7). The spiritual gift of teaching as listed in Romans 12:6-8, also gives no indication that a woman cannot have this gift. It follows, then, that women would exercise this gift in mixed company within the church and, in fact, did. In Acts 18:6, Priscilla and Aquila together instruct Apollos in the ways of the Lord. Also, in Titus 2:3 the teaching of women is commended. 

[5]Joshua Mark, “Ephesus”(Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ltd., September 2, 2009), accessed May 1, 2017.

[6]John Hutchison, Matthew–Revelation New Testament Survey Course-pack(© Biola University), 30. 

[7]Wright, 80.

[8]Kris Vallotton, Fashioned to Reign(Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2013), 103.

[9]Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 291.

[10]Mark, “Ephesus,”accessed May 1, 2017.

[11]Ibid.

[12]Ibid.

[13]Ibid.

[14]Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus(Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 69.

[15]1 Cor. 14:33-35

[16]Ibid. 

[17]Wright, 72.

[18]Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 404. 

[19]Payne, 291.

[20]Acts 19:18

[21]Payne, 294.

[22]Towner, 72.

[23]Payne, 298.

[24]Ibid.

[25]2 Tim. 2:16-18.

[26]Walter L. Liefeld, The NIV Application Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 98.

[27]Payne, 294.

[28]Payne, 296.

[29]Ibid, 297.

[30]Vallotton, 103.

[31]Wright, 80.

[32]Liefeld, 99.

[33]Ibid, 100.

[34]Liefeld, 100.

[35]Ted Cabal, general Editor, The Apologetics Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1801. Also, in Romans 16, Paul lists people he considers colleagues, and approximately 30% of them are women.

[36]Ibid.

[37]James R. Beck, general editor, Two Views of Women in Ministry(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), kindle location 5256. 

[38]Beck, 5330.

[39]Jimmy Carter, “Losing My Religion for Equality,”(TheAge.com.au: April 27, 2017), accessed May 5, 2017. Carter has served as a Deacon and Bible Teacher for decades in his Southern Baptist Denomination, and after sixty years, recently broke ties from this denomination due to its biblical interpretations on the role of women.

Tagged in: roles of women in the churchwomenwomen in the workforcewomen's oppressionwomen's roles Read more...

Does Christianity Oppress Women? How biases influence views

Many women I have encountered over the years perceive the Christian faith as one that oppresses women. Some will not even consider Christianity as a reasonable religion to place their faith in because of this presupposition. Is this a fair assumption? These prejudices do exist, yet I will show that they stem from a historical or a cultural bias, and they are not correct biblical views on the role of women. Oppression of women is a misconception of what Jesus modeled and taught. Instead, a better understanding of what the Bible teaches is a liberating force for the female half of the Imago Dei.[1] True biblical Christianity does not oppress women.

How did Christianity become a religion that many see as misogynist? Some of the church’s history played a role in this poor perception. Sadly, many of the Early Church Fathers of the Patristic Period (100 AD to approximately 600 AD) did not view women favorably. One reason for such a low view of women probably originated from the Early Church Fathers’ interpretation of The Fall, and specifically, Eve’s role within that narrative. For example, Tertullian likens all women to Eve, calling them “the devil’s gateway.”[2] Based on his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:14, Tertullian saw the woman as the reason sin was released when she ate from the forbidden tree. To further illustrate the severe negative view Tertullian had of women, this is what he said in his treatise on the apparel of women:

God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. … you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die.[3]

Another prominent Church Father, Ambrose, the bishop of Milan from 374 to 397 A.D., wrote in his treatise On Paradise, that “though the man was created outside Paradise, an inferior place, he is found to be superior, while woman, though created in a better place, inside Paradise, is found inferior.” Ambrose believed it was a fact of nature that men are superior to women.[4]

Augustine (354–430 AD), perhaps the most influential of the Church Fathers, also wrote negatively about women, furthering the unfavorable attitude which affected the developing church’s response towards women, especially in the ministry. In his Literal Commentary on Genesis, Augustine speculates as to how Adam, being already spiritual “in mind” could have been led astray. He concludes that this was one of the reasons “woman was given to man, woman who was of small intelligence and who perhaps still lives more in accordance with the promptings of the inferior flesh than by the superior reason…that through her the man became guilty of transgression.” Assuming woman’s natural inferiority, Augustine asks, “Is this why the apostle Paul does not attribute the image of God to her?” Contemporary feminists would be quick to point out that this statement is perhaps the worst form of misogyny: “inferring women were not created in the image of God.”[5]

To set the record straight, this is not the correct interpretation of Scripture. The misunderstanding begins back in the Garden of Eden. The church’s predominant memory of Eve is at her worst possible moment, when she, a glorious creation placed in the Paradise of Eden to rule alongside Adam as his partner, swallowed the forbidden fruit. (Gen. 1:26). Tragically, to be Eve is to be one never forgiven.[6] In a few terrible moments, Adam and Eve were lost. Kicked out of Eden, they were thus cursed due to the Fall—something that was done together, not apart (Gen. 3:6). Eve’s sentence was painful childbirth and a desire for her husband who would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). This was part of the curse and is the effect of sin. Considering that God is full of grace and mercy (Heb. 4:16), and is in the process of redeeming all of creation (Eph. 1:10), perhaps He was merely stating what He knew would occur as the consequence of sin.

Prior to the curse, Eve was created to be an image bearer of God alongside Adam (Gen. 1:27). She was to have children (Gen. 1:28), and finally, Eve was to rule the planet together with Adam as his ezer. This is the Hebrew word translated in English as helpmate. Ezer literally means “one who helps” or “the help of God.” It occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament in places where God helps men against their enemies, as a warrior-like deliverer or shield of protection.[7] This suggests possibly that God intended Eve to be warrior-like in helping Adam, not in the sense of being a soldier in today’s armed forces, but in a fierce determination to assist in the battle for God’s kingdom.[8]

As an image bearer, it should not surprise us that ezer is used to describe Eve. Being created in the image of God includes these qualities: reason, morality, love, wisdom, spirituality, relationality, and creativity.[9] As image bearers, humans are called to align themselves with their Creator, to share His heart of love, imitate His ways, and to join Him in the good works of His Kingdom purposes of redeeming all of creation. It is the highest honor that God calls men and women to partner with Him as His ambassadors on Earth. This is the original design before the corruption of sin destroyed the motivations of humanity. The overall meaning of ezer, however, should not be viewed negatively. Even Jesus came down to ‘help us’ become right with the Father, and to ‘help us’ learn how to be fully human. He also sent the Holy Spirit to ‘help us.’ In that case, everyone should strive to be helpers!

We are now called by Christ, who paid the price for our sin, to follow the narrow road to redeeming that which was lost—our true humanity. Thus, all people are called to know Him deeply, as “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28.) We are to reflect the character of Christ, being rooted in intimacy with God.

The Bible tells the story of the history of humanity and the relationship with our Creator. This history is fraught with human error and misperceptions, since we lost our true identities and became orphans. Through faith in Christ, however, we are adopted again into the family of God. He is in the process of redeeming everything and reversing the curse, but in the meantime, humans still make mistakes.

First Century on Women’s Attire

Many people today object that Paul’s instruction on covering women’s heads is oppressive.[10] Sarah Ruden argues differently. She takes a unique approach to some of Paul’s more controversial words by setting some of his statements in context of what ancient Greek and Roman literature reveals about that culture. She recognizes a stark contrast between Paul’s writings and the exploitation and dehumanizing customs of the Roman empire in his era. Ruden contends that Paul’s main message centers on equality of all people before God, and the need to love one another in a Christ-like manner. For example, when Paul states that women in church should have their heads veiled, it is actually a “rule aimed at outrageous equality.”[11] She states that head coverings in that time were seen as the flag of female virtue, status and security.[12] For a Roman woman to veil herself was the equivalent of being married.

Ruden states, “In that culture, if a woman had committed adultery, she’d lose the right to wear a veil. Any woman who’d ever been a prostitute, the most common trade of unmarried women in those days, was not also allowed to wear a headdress.”[13] So, by requiring all women to wear a headdress, Paul was asking the church to honor all women without distinction of beauty, wealth, respect or privilege.

Women’s Sexuality in Ancient Rome

Regarding Paul’s preference for celibacy, because of a modern western view of sexuality, some have interpreted Paul as holding a grim or negative view of erotic intimacy enjoyed in marriage (1 Cor. 7). Ruden thinks that Westerners assume that marriage was a ready option for Christians when, in fact, there was a traditional tyranny of arranged unions (some women being married off at extremely young ages), or else widespread prostitution, in which case, sexual exploitation was common.[14]

Again, Ruden sees the language Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 7 as one of equality: “Paul, in a polytheistic world, was not only putting brand new limits on male desire, but licensing female desire, which had been under a regime of zero tolerance.”[15]

Greco-Roman Treatment of Women

In the ancient Greco-Roman, infanticide was widely practiced, and especially targeted toward female infants. A study of inscriptions at Delphi made it possible to reconstruct six-hundred families. Of these, only six had raised more than one daughter. As would be expected, the bias against female infants showed up dramatically in the sex ratios of the imperial population. Due to the Didache, a first-century manual of Church teachings, Christian wives did not have abortions (nor did Jewish wives).[16] This was an advantage for women, as many of these abortions were forced and unsanitary. The Christian faith thus allowed the female population to slowly increase.

Roman law also allowed arranged child marriages, usually to a far older man. Only a third of pagan girls married at eighteen or older, compared with half of Christian girls.[17] Early on, Christianity was very attractive to women, who flocked to the faith, not only for these reasons, but because there was the option of remaining single and serving the church.

Historical Women’s Influence on the Church

Historically, women have had far more involvement in the church’s mission and other ministries than has generally been realized. Unfortunately, little is known of the influence of women due to scholars’ dismissal of early women’s roles in church history. Historians have often overlooked women because of inherited assumptions about what is considered important and what counts as serious history.[18]

Thelca was a woman who held great influence early on in church history. She was a friend of Paul’s and upon hearing his preaching, refused to marry her fiancé, and decided on a life of celibacy and asceticism. This was unheard of in her day, and by doing so, she was viewed as counter-cultural and resistant to the pagan belief systems. She was eventually martyred for her faith, but she inspired countless Christians to live a life devoted to God.[19]

Later, in the 2nd century, Perpetua and Felicitus were also martyred for the faith. St. Augustine mentioned these two women as embodying the Christian ideal of suffering and sacrifice of non-retaliation in the face of oppressive violence.[20] Their story is heart-wrenching. They both had children and were sent to their deaths after handing over their newborns and infant children to caregivers.[21] Both women were captivated by Christ, prizing him beyond family or even motherhood. These women challenged deeply embedded Roman familial virtues.

Throughout the Middle Ages, becoming a nun was an option for women who desired a life other than marriage. Monasteries were some of the only places where women were educated and allowed to publically express their grasp of the Christian faith.[22] Matter of fact, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), was the first abbess of the Benedictine community, and was renowned for her remarkable set of writings on scientific, theological, and musical subjects, as well as for discerning correspondence with kings, bishops, and religious leaders of her day.[23] Overall, women nuns contributed greatly to the expressive, contemplative, and mystical dimensions of the faith.[24]

After the reformation, Susanna Wesley had a great influence on the modern church movement in America, and is known as the “Mother of Methodism.” She was, in essence, a female apologist of her time. She homeschooled all ten of her children in a ‘methodical way,’ and taught them faith in God against an “age of reason,” or the growing secular doctrines of the early 18th Century. [25] The influence of her upbringing had great impact on her two sons, John and Charles Wesley, who went on to begin the Methodist denomination, one with a rich musical tradition and vigorous missionary work.

Regarding missionary work, women’s work in missionary activities played a significant, and historically neglected, role. Recent scholarship for several historical periods indicates that the expansion of Christianity was the work of women as well as, or even more than, men. “Where the business of the church can be counted, women normally show up more often than men,” Marl Noll said. [26] He stated that a turning point in church history is the growing public awareness of women’s importance and influence for ordinary Christian activities.[27]

Equality

Many people misperceive the Bible as teaching male superiority over women. Yet Paul writes, in 1 Corinthians 12, of inclusion and a oneness of the functioning of the Body of Christ. Each person has a different function within the Body, and without that particular part, the Body would not operate as efficiently. Note the concept that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights comes from the Enlightenment period, but was a thoroughly alien concept in the ancient world.[28] An “all-in-one” concept was the basis of the Body of Christ in a new creation of unity as the Holy Temple of God: a relational concept. There is a larger concern here for a loving unity of God’s people in their differences. Equality, in the modern sense of the word, is not the primary goal.

“Equality speaks to one’s personal privileges and rights, whereas love describes one’s willingness to prioritize others,” Michelle Lee-Barnewall concludes.[29] She states that Paul’s overriding concern is not the rights of the individual, but the glory of God as seen through the church. The focus is more towards a transcendent way of functioning as Christians for the “sake of the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23.)

Unlike the modern concept of equality between the sexes, the Christian faith is better understood, perhaps, as one of interdependence between male and female as the primary goal. We must remember Christianity is not an “American religion,” or even a concept of Western civilization. It was birthed in the Middle East and is not of this world. The truth of Christ transcends established social structures.

Jesus was inclusive of all to become disciples in a “surrogate family”[30], despite the criticism that He did not have any female disciples. Yes, Jesus’ closest, inner circle of disciples were men. This is understandable given the lack of credence a close woman disciple would have faced in that ancient society. However, Jesus did have women disciples in the outer circle. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are just a few mentioned in Mark 8:1-3. Later, after the resurrection event, Junia, a female believer, is mentioned as outstanding and well-known among the apostles (Romans 16:7).

Conclusion

“What is behind this way of seeing things – that women should be defined against men?” Eric Metaxas asks. He is right to point out that the reasons some prominent women made history is precisely from their being women in the first place.[31] Men and women are not interchangeable. They have different things to do and were not created by God the exact same way for a purpose. We should, instead, celebrate differences, not suppress them or denigrate them.

All people, male or female, regardless of race, culture, or status, can receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and inherit eternal life. This is true based on the Resurrection of Christ, the very foundation of the Christian faith. Recall that the Risen Lord first appeared to women, so He must have implicitly trusted them to deliver the pivotal message of the “Good News” to the other followers (Luke 24).

The oppression of women in the church was not God’s intention... Click To Tweet

The oppression of women in the church was not God’s intention, but it stems from a misinterpretation of Scripture, rooted in biased historical and cultural influences. Instead, God’s plan is for men and women to work together in a blessed alliance, no one less valued than the other. This is what the church needs to embody, and this is what biblical Christianity teaches.

 

 

Works Cited

Brekus, Catherine. The Religious History of American Women. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Print.

Clark, Elizabeth A. Women in the Early Church, Message of the Fathers of the Church, vol. 13. Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983. Print.

Cohick, Lynn H. and Brown Hughes, Amy. Christian Women in the Patristic World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017. Print.

James, Carolyn Custis. Lost Women of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

Lee-Barnewall, Michelle. Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker      Academic, 2016. Print.

Metaxas, Eric, Seven Women: The Secret of Their Greatness. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016. Kindle edition.

Noll, Mark A.  Turning Points. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012. Print.

Ruden, Sarah. Paul Among the People. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2010. Print.

St. Ambrose, On Paradise. The University of Virginia, Humanities Institute of Advanced   Technology. www2.iath.virginia.edu/anderson/commentaries/Amb.html#glossGen2:15. Accessed: November 27, 2017. Website.

Stark, Rodney. Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief.
New York, NY: Harper One, 2008. Print.

Sumner, Sarah. Men and Women in the Church. Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 2003. Print.

Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women: Book 1, chapter 1. Christian Classics Electronic Library.       www.tertullian.org. Accessed September 25, 2017. Website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Latin term for the “Image of God.”

[2] Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women: Book 1, chapter 1 (Christian Classics Electronic Library, www.tertullian.org;), accessed September 25, 2017.

[3] Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women.

[4] St. Ambrose, On Paradise (The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, The University of             Virginia, commentary file: www2.iath.virginia.edu/anderson/commentaries/Amb), accessed: November 27, 2017, 301.

      [5] Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, Message of the Fathers of the Church, vol. 13,             (Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983), p. 40.

[6] Carolyn Custis James, Lost Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 29.

[7] Lexicon Strong’s H5828 ezer.

[8] James, Lost Women of the Bible, 36-37.

[9] James, Lost Women of the Bible, 32.

[10] 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

[11] Sarah Ruden, Paul Among the People (New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2010), 87.

[12] Ibid, 85.

[13] Ibid, 86.

[14] Ruden, 97.

[15] Ibid, 98.

[16] Rodney Stark, Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief, (New York, NY: Harper One, 2008), 320-321.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Catherine Brekus, The Religious History of American Women (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The            University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 13.

[19] Lynn H. Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes, Christian Women in the Patristic World (Grand Rapids, MI:             Baker Academic, 2017), 12.

[20] Ibid, 28.

[21] Ibid, 33.

[22] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 90.

[23] Noll, Turning Points, 90.

[24] Ibid, 315.

[25] Eric Metaxas, Seven Women: The Secret of Their Greatness (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016),       kindle location 39.

[26] Noll, 315.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 85.

[29] Ibid, 89.

[30] John 19:26-27.

[31] Metaxas, xix.

Tagged in: apologeticsChristianityculturefaithroles of women in the churchwomen in the workforcewomen's oppression Read more...

The Demise of Western Civilization - a historical perspective

How did the United States get to the point where murderous attacks against students in schools have become common? Too many of these horrific events have occurred in the past decade. Everyone is asking: “Why is this happening?” The answer is not simple, but may I suggest to you it has a lot to do with our history.

History teaches us so much about who we are today, and after reading a history book on Western Civilization’s culture during the past 500 years, it’s evident that our society is decadent. Let’s see how we’ve gotten to this point of decadence — an excessive indulgence and moral decay.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses challenged the authority of the Catholic Church in the 1500s, and rightly so. The Church had become too powerful, and this led to corruption. Luther’s “protests” resulted in throwing off old church rules that oppressed, as citizens eagerly absorbed the revelatory information. The printing press spread the news into the hands of the people much faster than Luther could have imagined. This led to many different sects of religious thought, splintering the once universal Church.

Now instead of a church-led society, the monarch took more authority and nationalism spread. Eventually, common man saw the monarchy as being too much like the Church in its overarching control. Kings didn’t have much of a desire to relate to their constituents, and lived luxurious lives while the regular folk were often impoverished. After some time, this contributed to the formation of democracies.

Establishing democracies in Western Civilization gave people a chance to pursue what they believed to be right, and this was largely led by Puritans in the United States. The preference of the individual became highly valued. Some prized themselves over community. Instead of finding honor in contributing to the world around them, many sought after individual gain, not always considering the effect that their actions may have on those around them. This played out in many ways.

In the mid 1600s, a shift occurred from religion as the establisher of truth, to science as the truth tellers in the modern era. Critical of the church, rational thinkers used reasoning over the soul (heart).

These natural philosophers began to discover that nature was regular or uniform, something testable and observable. They made great advances in mathematics and physics. They focused on the immediate, and tended to disregard the eternal. Scientism, or the belief that science would ultimately answer all questions, became a type of “new religion.”

This reduced life to parts, calculations, methods, criticisms, and experimentation. This is a form of ‘abstraction’, which in due course, pointed to lawlessness and meaninglessness. Truth was no longer viewed as static. There was no apparent eternal laws. If there is no meaning in life, and no apparent lawgiver, then to whom are we ultimately accountable?

Truth is viewed as no longer static. Click To Tweet

When Darwin published his Origin of Species, expanding the idea of Evolution, there is no way he could have foreseen how his theory would be applied by some in what is called “Social Darwinism.”

Social Darwinism played out in wars – could we “engineer” better societies?

After the devastation of World War I, a sense of lawlessness ensued and violence erupted in communities more frequently. Modernity, with all its promises to solve the world’s problems, failed. Science didn’t stop the senseless loss of life. Then World War II began. Atrocities never before committed to the extent Hitler did horrified people. Had the world gone mad?

Many began to accept the absurd. It was expressed in artwork in the 1900s through abstraction, and a loss of excellence. Andy Warhol said, “Art is what you can get away with.” People began to celebrate the ordinary, mediocre and average.

Today there is a deep desire to abandon rules in personal lifestyles, as well. People want to be free to “love who they wish,” pleasure seeking is loudly applauded, and is profitable, for example, for companies producing pornography (it’s a multibillion dollar industry). The sex-slave trade is probably the worst example of a society gone decade—this industry dehumanizes people as “objects.” There is a rise in violence, as prisons are at capacity. We’re spending ourselves silly as indebtedness (personal and governmental) is at an all-time high. We also have really bad examples of art. The latest being Lady Gaga’s recent concert where she had a someone vomit on her as an expression of so-called “art.” People seem bored with “life as usual,” and that’s why news and entertainment is often based on extremes: Extreme Makeover, Survivor, superhero movies, Biggest Loser, etc.

It doesn’t take much to see that we’re headed in a disturbing direction. There is an absence of hope, the proliferation of violence and perversion, unsustainable practices affecting limited resources, and no longer an adherence to a common moral objective.

A poster from a movie made called “Decadence.”

How can we survive this demise? We need to maintain a Biblical worldview despite the pressures around us, and offer hope through Jesus Christ to those who seek truth. With faith in God, hope lives. And don’t forget the power of your prayers—God has called His faithful to partner with Him in this, and with God, all things are possible.

Tagged in: culturedecadencefaithmoral declinewestern civilization Read more...

The Thoughtlessness of Relativism

Eletronic Truth Meter

Eletronic Truth Meter

It’s mainstream in our culture to hear people say things like “you have your truth, and I have mine,” or “there is no one right way, there are many.” This is relativism. On the surface, it sounds kind and tolerant, but if you dig deeper, you’ll discover that although this idea is broadly accepted, it’s almost completely unexamined. The idea that there is no moral objective truth is just plain foolish. Let’s examine relativism closer, and see where the truth ultimately lies.

Moral relativism is a point of view that teaches, when it comes to right or wrong, people do their own thing—there is no absolute or objective moral truth. This viewpoint is strongly held today, as it’s practically considered a moral imperative in its own right. If it’s a moral judgement that we should all respect another’s point of view, then it’s assumed any other point of view is immoral, or un-American.

This statement is self-refuting because saying there is no absolute truth is, in fact, making an absolute statement about truth. “The only place of true neutrality is silence. Speak up, give your opinion, state your view, and you forfeit your claim to neutrality,” states Gregory Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason.

At the heart of relativism is a desire to be more understanding in the hopes that we’ll all get along and be at peace, as long as you’re of that opinion. Relativists are intolerant of those who don’t agree with them.  “People who hold that their religion is absolutely true are often strenuously opposed by the relativist. Only those adherents of various religions or philosophies who share the relativist’s perspective on reality that their religion or philosophy is no better than anyone else’s are truly welcome,” said Dr. Clay Jones, associate professor at Biola University. So relativists are actually hypocritical because relativists really only tolerate other relativists.

If you define morals based on what one individual perceives as good or bad, then if I come to visit and decide to take your iPad because that’s what is good for me, you can’t object. I need that tablet, and it’s my belief that I should take what I need. That doesn’t sound so good, does it? As you can see, relativism breaks down under scrutiny.

Philosopher Mortimer Adler adds “that reducing moral judgement to mere opinion, having no hold on any truth about what is right and wrong, we would be left exposed to the harsh doctrine that might makes right.”

This is why there are laws governing certain, commonly held objective morals: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie in court, etc.  Where does the relativist stand on these issues? Would he say that it depends on if the person who harmed another saw it as his right? That is what the Al Qaeda terrorists believed when they flew planes into the Twin Towers. The world stood up and cried out for the injustices of that act because deep within, most people knew taking those innocent lives was wrong. It’s stamped into any normal, healthy conscience. Anyone who believes otherwise has lost their moral compass.

This shows there are objective morals, despite what the relativist may decry. Where did those truths come from? Jeremiah 31:33 says “…I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.” In the Bible, God states that He is the law giver, and what some term your “conscience” would be that innate sense of right and wrong. Pushed into an emergency, that conscience is acted upon, like when someone is drowning and you cast them a life preserver.

Deep down, we all have a sense of what is right and wrong, but the community in which you surround yourself can influence those feelings. For example, in 1963, prayer was no longer allowed in public schools because it was considered a violation of Article 1 of the Constitution, which prevents religious teaching at tax payers’ expense. Secularism was then adopted into our public education system, which was supposed to remain religiously neutral. (As stated earlier, there really is no “neutrality” because when you state your view, you forfeit neutrality.) Steadily over the years, a philosophy of Naturalism replaced a Christian worldview. This position believes everything comes from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or rejected. From this viewpoint, the idea of personal autonomy and one’s personal subjective preference has become the deciding factor of what is the correct course of action, rather than some objective moral standard.

As our culture embraced this worldview, women became adamant that they should have personal autonomy over their own bodies, and thus in 1973, abortion became legal. Slightly over two decades later, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, infamously known as “Dr. Death”, argued for physician-assisted suicide based on the abortion decision. He brought the issue to the forefront, and eventually, his views won over some of the populace. Since women have the right to terminate their pregnancies, why shouldn’t people who are suffering have the right to die?

Today, physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in now legal in four states. This demonstrates how the views of the culture can influence peoples’ thinking to change from what was once considered a moral imperative to value human life at any stage, to a value of doing what is right in one’s own eyes.

Morality based on the “flavor of the day” is subject to change as quickly as the popularity of an idea takes root. For example, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted in 1996 to allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage, and defined “spouse” as a heterosexual couple, which the majority of Americans supported. However, in the past five years, support for DOMA has waned. Perhaps due to the influence of the media depicting fun gay couples in TV shows and movies, those in favor of same-sex marriage grew. In the summer of 2013, the US Supreme Court decided DOMA was unconstitutional, and as of November 20, 2013, same sex marriage is now legal in sixteen US states, and that is expected to increase.

From these examples, you can see where relativism can lead. In the future, who is to say that if a bi-sexual male wants to marry his female and male partner, since he loves them both, he can’t do that? What about someone wanting to marry a sibling—who are you to say that is wrong? If we continue to go down the path of relativism, lines of right and wrong will blur. We will stumble, trying to redefine those lines by adopting new laws to fit society’s status quo. Ultimately, someone defines those standards. Who might that be? We need to ask ourselves what truth is and who determines it.

Jesus Christ said that he is the truth. His resurrection gives good reason to believe in Christianity, which teaches people to live with clearly defined moral objectives that help humanity remain civilized, treating each other with respect from a core belief that all people are sacred beings, created in the image of God.

When you thoroughly look at relativism, it’s clear that everyone believes in something, and to say all truth is relative is simply not true—it lacks good judgment. Therefore, if relativism is false, moral objectives must be true. There is no middle ground.

 Bibliography

Beckwith, Francis J. and Gregory Koukl. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.

Jones, Clay. Prepared Defense: Fast Answers to Tough Questions, CD-ROM, v. 2.0. Austin, TX: Wordsearch, 2011, s.v. “Relativism’s Folly.”

Greve, Joan E. “Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Legal Battles Loom in 10 More States,” ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/11/illinois-legalizes-same-sex-

marriage-legal-battles-loom-in-10-more-states/, (accessed November 24, 2013).

Tagged in: apologeticsCritical Thinking SkillsculturefaithRelativismright thinkingscience & christianitythoughtlifewestern civilizationyouth Read more...

Miracles Do Happen

Po_vodamThe most common objection to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that miracles are impossible. A miracle is a supernatural event that can’t be explained by natural laws (science) because it transcends those laws. Since the resurrection was a miracle, trying to explain it scientifically won’t work. There are good reasons to believe this pivotal event in history really happened because of eyewitness accounts of the resurrection. There were plenty of people who claim they saw the risen Christ, and their testimonies conclude that Jesus miraculously rose from the dead.

Not only did the disciples see the risen Christ, but hundreds of witnesses say they saw him at various times and places. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fishermen on the shore, to James, and even to five hundred people at once, as Paul wrote, “most of whom are still alive.”

Paul wanted the Corinthians, who doubted bodily resurrection, to check out his claim—meaning, he wanted them to verify his account with some of those hundreds who saw Jesus alive—stressing the trustworthiness of the appearance. The witnesses were available for cross-examination by those who wanted to stop this new religious movement in its tracks.

Well known speaker and author Josh McDowell asserts that there were plenty of “New Testament accounts of the resurrection being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.”

Skeptics argue that no amount of personal testimony is sufficient to establish a violation of natural law. Physicists don’t believe the facts of physics because of personal testimony from other physicists; rather, they believe because they can do the experiment for themselves.

This rationale works well for natural sciences, but not well in history, for historians still judge events by the reliability of witnesses.

The witnesses of the resurrection are reliable for several reasons. One is that this event completely transformed their lives. For example, the furthest thing from Paul’s mind was that he’d see the resurrected Christ. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul the Pharisee who participated in the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:58), hated Christians, thought they were heretics, and was bent on destroying them. Jesus would have been the last person Paul would have wanted to see. A transformation also occurred in James, the brother of Jesus, who previously thought Jesus was simply confused about being the Messiah. Furthermore, both of these men were radically converted into believers upon seeing Jesus resurrected to the point they were both martyred for their belief. Historians wrote that eventually ten apostles were killed for preaching the risen Christ.

Lastly, if these people lied about the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body, faced with death, wouldn’t they have recanted to save their own lives? Author Paul Little wrote, “Men will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false. They do not, however, die for what they know is a lie.”

There is also the fact that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. If the enemies of Christ wanted to prove his resurrection didn’t happen, all they had to do was to get his body and show it to the authorities, but no body was ever discovered. Legal scholar John Warwick Montgomery asserts: “It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus.”

When these points are discussed, skeptics will attack the credibility of the Bible itself, determined to dismiss the miraculous event of the resurrection. However, regarding the accuracy of the gospels, the New Testament documents are the best attested documents of ancient history,as there are historical methods for assessing the reliability of classical texts by which the Bible has been reviewed.

English skeptic David Hume adds up the evidence against the miracle of the resurrection by stating that since death happens to almost everyone, as there are only a few stories of resurrections, these accounts must be false in comparison to the billions of deaths in history. This equates evidence with probability and implies you should never believe that long shots win. If this is true, even naturalists, who only believe in the material world and reject anything spiritual or supernatural, shouldn’t trust the Big Bang Theory since it supposedly only happened once.

Finally, stating that miracles are impossible may be an indirect way of saying there is no God. (Justifying the existence of God is a point that can be made in another paper.) If you recognize there is a God, then He could most certainly work outside of the laws of nature and raise Jesus from the dead. After careful examination of the New Testament testimonies, and being honest about whether you have an anti-supernatural bias, there is only one reasonable conclusion: a miracle happened over two thousand years ago when God raised Jesus from the dead.

Bibliography

Come Reason Ministries. “Are Miracles Logically Impossible?” http://www.comereason.org/phil_qstn/phi060.asp#ixzz2kddnZD59, (accessed November 17, 2013).

Geisler, Norman and Ronald Brooks. When Skeptics Ask: a Handbook on Christian Evidences, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013.

Gertz, Steven. “How do we know 10 of the disciples were martyred?” Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/sep23.html (accessed September 30, 2013).

Hazen, Craig. 2001. Evidence for the Resurrection. Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA. June 7.

Little, Paul. Know Why You Believe, Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1967.

McDowell, Josh. “Evidence for the Resurrection.” Leadership U, Leaderu.com. http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html (accessed October 1, 2013).

Montgomery, John W. History and Christianity, Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 1971. As quoted in Clay Jones, Prepared Defense: Fast Answers to Tough Questions, v. 2.0, (Austin, TX: Wordsearch, 2011), s.v. “Hallucination Theory.”

Russell, Jeffrey Betrand. Miracles are Impossible, Part 1, BioLogos Foundation,
http://biologos.org/blog/miracles-are-impossible-part-1, (accessed November 23, 2013).

Tagged in: apologeticsculturefaithMiraclesright thinking Read more...