Dorothy Lee | The Ministry of Women in the New Testament
3:07AM Nov 17, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our gigantic honor to be speaking with the Reverend canon Dorothy Lee. Reverend Lee is the steward research professor of New Testament at Trinity College in Melbourne and is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Melbourne, Australia. Reverend candidly, we are so grateful to be speaking with you this morning.
It's lovely to be here, Jonathan.
Reverend, candidly, if I can ask first of all, I could blame it on the viewers that I'd like you to explain this to the viewers. But in fact, I'm just curious myself, what exactly is a Canon in the Anglican Church?
Well do its bit embarrassing, really, it's just means that I'm part of the organ, the group that runs the cathedral. So a canon is someone and you know, we have us, each of us has a stall in the cathedral. Not that we ever get there these days in lockdown, but But it's someone who's basically part of the the overarching group that runs the cathedral. And that's true of anywhere in Anglicanism.
That's fascinating. How long have you been a canon?
Oh, about? Oh, goodness, quite a few years since about 2010? I think. So. Yes. So that's coming up for 11 years at it. I should add that it consists of both laypeople, and and clerics. So it's not just a group of clerics.
Good. And for our viewers, when we're your damned if I may ask that too. Well, that's
a complicated question. I'll keep it brief. I was first ordained in the Uniting Church, which is a combination of Methodist, Presbyterian Congregationalists. And then I moved to the Anglican Church in 2008. And I was re ordained or my ordination was reaffirmed, as I like to put it,
super. The Reverend canon Lee is the author of the text that we'll be discussing today, which is titled The Ministry of Women in the New Testament with the subtitle reclaiming the biblical vision for church leadership. This is available from Baker academic came out in 2021. And I have to congratulate you, Reverend cannon, Lee, this is a marvelous book. This is I look at a lot of books for this interview program. But this is really a spectacular book, if you, dear listener, are wondering, is there a book out there that sort of gathers together all of the New Testament evidence about the work of women in the church? This really is the study where you bring all of that together. So when did you start writing this book? What is the genesis of this project for you?
I started writing in response to a group of women about four years ago, I think, who, in Sydney, who had said to me really would be good to have to write something on women in the New Testament. And I said, I think it's being done. And they sit on maybe, but we would really appreciate something from you. And the more I've thought about it, the more I thought, well, there's actually a lot of new evidence that of that has come out. And also there's a bit of a backlash against women's ordination in some quarters. So given that, I thought, well, it would be worth writing something small, I thought, you know, 40,000 words. Well, you know, Famous last words. So the more I got into it, the more the more I felt. Well, I had to stop myself. In the end. It was so fascinating. So and I enjoyed it so much. Quite a bit of a lockdown, I might say, which was not easy. But, but I managed,
and you're a full time teacher. So what are some of the classes that you teach in a normal academic year?
I teach at the introduction to the New Testament, each year for undergraduate students and for postgraduate students. I teach the gospel of John on a regular basis. In the past, I've taught units on Matthew and Mark and, and Luke, one Corinthians years ago on the book of Revelation, which was wonderful. On Hebrews lot, lots of New Testament exegesis, and some units on women in the Bible. I taught that with an Old Testament colleague last year, that was fantastic. And then a few things and occasionally something in Patristics as well, which is a secondary interest of mine.
So Reverend cannon lead, let's dive straight into the the beginning section of your book there. you survey the Gospels, and you note that Jesus had many significant women followers, who among these women followers, in your view is the most significant in your case for the ordination of women in the church today.
I would say Mary Magdalene, by far is the most significant. I mean, she's not alone, far from it, but she's part of a larger group of Galilee and women. But I'd say that she is most significant because of her place in the resurrection narratives.
Great. Who are some of the other women in, in the gospels you are most interested in, in your own research? Where where you think you see, most clearly, paradigmatic interactions between Jesus and His women followers? Um,
I'd probably part of me would go, Well, part of me would go to the Gospel of John, I do tend to go there first anyway, and say that there are extraordinary women in that gospel. You know, Martha and Mary of Bethany, for example, two really important characters, right, the middle section of John's gospel in the story of the raising of Lazarus. And, and, and of course, as I've said, Mary Magdalene, the mother of Jesus, of course, in, in both John and Luke. Yes, so I think and that whole group of Galilean women that Luke tells us about in chapter eight women that are unknown to many of us whose names are unknown, I mean, if you say, as someone whose cell amaze, they will say, you know, the dance of the seven veils or something, but not the disciple who's most likely the mother of James and John, you know, so, we don't know these women, we don't know their names, we, of course, we don't know very much about them. Anyway. As with so many of the disciples of Jesus, we know very little about their subsequent history, but nevertheless, their names are not familiar to us. And, and I think there's an assumption that of maleness, you know, when we read a about a group of disciples, we assume they're all male. And whereas I take the opposite view that they're, they're male and female, unless we're told otherwise. So I make the assumption that women are present at many of the events. For example, let me give you an example. I think, I think it's quite likely that women are present in Luke story in the in the events following the empty tomb story. I don't actually think that the second disciple on the road for most is a woman, I don't. But But I think when they come back to Jerusalem, to say that they've seen the Lord, I think that group consists of women as well, and right up to the ascension. And they're obviously present in Luke at Pentecost, about other women, and I assume it's the same group of Galilee and women that we've met in Luke eight, verses two to three, that that same group is present in all those events, whereas we tend to see a Hollywood hasn't helped us here. You know, we have this picture of Jesus and the 12, all straggling along on the way to Jerusalem. But in fact, you know, at one point Jesus sends out 70. So there's a large crowd, you know, who are interacting, coming and going, probably a little bit, but but it does include women. And of course, it includes other men apart from the 12. But, but I think it's it's, it's that it's that thing of perception, we need to sort of see women in in these stories, when, when I think we've been trained to see men only.
Some scholars point out that Luke appears to be particularly interested in women and also the poor. What's your view? Is that an accurate perception of what Luke is about?
Look, I think so that was certainly an early reading of Luke. But since then, there's been a somewhat more negative view of Luke that Luke includes women just to silence them. It's to my mind it's verging on a bit of a conspiracy theory. With Luke, I don't think that's the case. I do think that Luke does is very interested in women I think John is as much if not more than Luke, but But women are also present in that Mark and Matthew, so we need to be aware of that as well. I think and and yes, Luke, Luke is very interested in the poor as well. There's a strong theme of social justice and, and and a call to disciples to live a life of evangelical poverty. For the sake of the Gospel for the sake of the poor, you're very much so and that's played out in Acts in the way that the early church lives together shares positions, cares for the poor and the needy them among them. And so yeah, there is a very, Luke is concerned with anyone is on the outer. I don't think Luke is specifically concerned about gender I'm not sure that's quite a category in the same sense as it is today. But he's concerned with those on the outer, and with those who are second class citizens or not citizens at all, in the case of women. So, he his gospel is a very inclusive one, I think, in many ways. And and also, I think it reflects the fact that, in many ways Jesus own ministry, appeal to the sinners, you know, those, those who were outcast, I think the picture at the beginning of Luke 15, of, of the the, the authority is becoming more and more alienated from Jesus, while the outsiders, the sinners are tax collectors. And of course, the women are drawn more and more to Jesus ministry and to and to what, to the hospitality of God, as, as one writer has put it, which is embodied, of course, in Jesus himself.
So on pages 76 to 78, you have a section there with the heading women as disciples discussing John's perception of, of Jesus women followers as as among the disciples. So help me through that section, if you would? Is it inaccurate to understand that Jesus had only 12 disciples and that they were those men listed in Matthew 10? And other passages? Is this term disciples something that's exclusive to that group? Or what's your what's your view?
John is not terribly interested in the 12. He's aware of them. He's aware of the tradition, and how could he not be. But it's not a primary category theme. The other the other gospels, I think, are not always consistent about what they mean by the disciples. And it's not always clear. You know, they're writing, they're writing narrative, for goodness sake, they're not. They're not, they don't see the need to be precise about who's in and who's out. In fact, the boundaries are rather porous. In any case, of who belongs to Jesus, you know, Jesus says, Whoever is not against me, it's for me. He also says the opposite in one of the other gospels, but But you know, there is a sense of porous boundaries anyway, with a group around Jesus, it is inaccurate to say the disciples is only the 12th. Sometimes, they used as a equivalent of the 12. But, but more often, the senses have a wider grip, as for example, the sending out of the 70. These are all disciples. And we know for example of Clio plus another male disciple who's not part of the 12. And, and just as I mean, there is there is a kind of inner group of men, the 12 of them, there's an inner group of three, occasionally four. And there's also an inner group of women, who are not perhaps quite so formally designated, they're not given the title, the actual title of apostle. But, but there is an inner group of women who are particularly close to Jesus and who, I imagine would have stayed with him the whole time, whereas other disciples might have come and gone. The garrison demoniac, in Mark, five is told to stay where he is. And he too is a disciple. Because a disciple means a learner, with a student, we think disciple means a follower, but it doesn't, it means a student. And that's what the word disciple from disciple of switches Latin, and relates to the Greek mother tears, which is a learner. And so they're not Mary and Martha of Bethany, and both Luke and John, are not actual followers of Jesus in the literal sense, but they are disciples of Jesus. So So I think we need to allow for a much more inclusive a wider turn than we generally think.
Again, this is an absolutely amazing study, and I would highly recommend it to our our viewers. Many of us have imagined, wouldn't it be great to work through the whole New Testament and to chart out all of the different capacities in which men, women minister in the New Testament, you've done the work for us? It's an amazing book. And there are so many characters that we could speak of, and that are developed in the New Testament, there are women, as you mentioned, they're listed at the end of Luke chapter eight, who are some of the financial backers of the early church. There's business women like Lydia that Paul meets up with in the book of Acts who are sort of anchoring the Christian community in their place of read residents because there's not a larger community or a synagogue. There's They're people like Phoebe who are entrusted by Paul she's a deaconess, apparently at the Church of King Craig You're Corinth, and she's entrusted by Paul to bring this letter to the, to the Roman current community that we remember that letter is Paul's epistle to the Romans. So there's there's a cast of extraordinary characters. There are a few characters that we like to argue about. What about Junior? Or Junior? Is this character mentioned in in Romans 16? What's your view of who that person is? There's a verse there in Romans 16, about a one Junia, who is renowned among the apostles or known well to the apostles. Do you have an opinion on who that character is?
Or do I take the majority scholarly view that the name is JR. One of the early manuscripts p 46. I think I may have that wrong. And it actually has Julia. So clearly, the early church regarded her regarded this person as a woman. Now the problem is seeing the accusative case union. So the nominative case could be unique, unique, or unique. Yes, but we don't have any references to a male named, Jr, Jr. uniarts is no J, of course in Greek. So whereas Jr is a relatively common name, almost as common as Julia. So there's there seems to be no evidence based on names to assume that this is anything but a woman who is working alongside either a husband and DRONICUS, or her brother, it could be either probably, most likely or husband. But I think it's stretching the Greek to say well known to the apostles, I think it's it's renowned among the apostles are renowned as apostles. And and I think we need to bear in mind here that Paul has a wider understanding of who apostles are, then say Luke in in Acts, because Luke's writing a bit later. And he has a more formal definition, but it's less formal. In Paul's day, Paul himself, his letters stress right from the beginning that Paul is an apostle of pasta loss of Jesus Christ. So Paul has a wider notion of who, who are apostles, and I think it's included among them is at least one woman. And that is Jr. And there's even the possibility. This has been suggested by Richard Bauckham. That, that I mean, it's speculative, but it's plausible. That Jr, is to be identified with Joanna in Luke eight. Borkum argues this, on the basis of the fact that they're both that he's Paul says they've been Christians before him, and that she may have actually been an eyewitness of Jesus own ministry, which of course, Paul himself was not. So I mean, there's even that possibility that Joanna and she's taken on a Roman name, as, as many people do, coming from other cultures, they get sick of us Westerners mispronouncing their names, so they take on a European name. And they did that in the Roman world, two people took on Roman names. And so there's even that possibility. But now that is, that's, that's not there's no proof of it. But I think Borkum establishes a reasonable case that at least it's plausible, and he strongly as a number of evangelical scholars do strongly supports, Jr, as, as an apostle.
Thank you so much for your exposition there. So there is a there's a core cast of these women who are doing so many different roles in ministry. There's some disputed cases too, but there's such such a cast of characters here. Walk me through the theological argument. It's one thing to look into the New Testament and say, look at these 30 women, the different roles they're fulfilling in Scripture. And it's another thing to say, our modern denominational structures ought to be equally open to women as two male candidates for ordination. What is the theological argument that that connects those two dots for you?
Yeah, I'm glad you. I'm glad you asked the question in that way, Jonathan, because I don't think it's a matter of rights. I don't think it's a matter of justice. I think it's it's a matter of theology of having a correct theology or a theology that's got the depths of the New Testament. I would argue on two on two grounds, first of all, on the nature of baptism itself. And, and here I'm using Paul's understanding of baptism, particularly of course in Galatians three, but also in Romans I'm where Paul speaks about baptism as incorporation into the death and resurrection of Jesus, its incorporation into Christ through His death and resurrection, leaving behind the old age and entering into the new age. And therefore it becomes not just one event, but the whole pattern of Christian living. The Christian living is always a dying to the old and rising to the new, and living out of the New Age, and not not the old age, which Christ has inaugurated through His death and resurrection. I'm assuming that Paul has that essentially Christianized apocalyptic worldview. And the baptism therefore is the entry into that, therefore, the covenant markers of, of Judaism that enable us to enter into the covenant people of God are relegated to secondary status, if not irrelevant for Paul. Now, I don't think Paul thinks the law is irrelevant. But I do think he thinks that things like food laws, calendar issues, like Sabbath, and circumcision, above all, circumcision, are now no longer relevant, they no longer the marks of identity, how do we become part of the new people of God in Jesus Christ through faith, of course, through faith, and baptism. And baptism gives us a radical new identity, that breaks down because of because we're talking of not the historical Jesus, but the risen Christ. Baptism breaks down all the divisions between people on the basis of class, or gender, or, or, or race or, you know, for that matter, any other divisions because there's a new identity formed in Christ, and it's this Christic identity that is determinative for, for Christian identity, for identity in the new age, and therefore in the life of the church. The second is, is more to do with anthropology, that is to say the nature of human beings. And, and it's not explicitly biblical, but I think theology cooperates and understanding of what it means to be male and female. I think that in the ancient world, the notion of female leadership was a leader leadership was was considered to be a male quality. Okay, the ancient world didn't know of women who, who were exceptions. They were aware of exceptions, but they thought for the most part that leadership was, was a quality of maleness at that Miles belonged in the private sphere, Women in Public Sphere, women in the private and so on. A whole lot of things to do with honor and shame and and all sorts of other things. This was true right across the ancient world, though, to varying extents, in different places could be different. So I think we need to understand that that is not a view that we hold today. Now, I mean, we have outstanding examples of leadership, you've got one in your own country, you're in at the moment with Angela Merkel, of women who show whatever your political views who show marvelous leadership, and they're not necessarily exceptional, they're also women who show appalling leadership as well. But it's not a lack of leadership qualities, that's the problem. So and the fact that women can be lawyers and doctors and all the other things, we know that inconceivable in the ancient world now possible today. I guess my question is, why not? Why not? Why would God and I'm really taking off from something that CS Lewis who's a bit of a favorite of mine, and a sustain me over many decades.
Something he says that the universe, wherever you fairly tested is to be trusted. And that says something about human experience that when it's fairly tested, it is trustworthy, because it has been created by God. And and I think that what has emerged about women, since the enlightenment, and at least in Western culture, and other cultures differently, but what has emerged about women is that they do have many of these qualities for leadership. I'm not necessarily saying that they're better than men, but some of their experience has given them gifts of that, that are rather different from men so so I can't see why God would would not allow women to lead in the church and in the home, or CO equally lead anywhere in the home, if if they can lead elsewhere. So it seems to me to be logically consistent to deny women authority in the church or In the home, his his two means that you have to deny them authority everywhere. So I have friends who are so called complementarians, I really dislike that word. Can I just say, but I'm friends with complementarians, one of whom I'm thinking of who's a priest and whose wife is a lawyer and who's got tremendous authority, and yet, she is required to obey Him. I mean, that that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I think they both sit very lightly, lightly with that anyway. But, you know, if we can't just say, sequester, the home and the church, from the rest of society. And I think human experience is showing us that if women are educated, they have a lot to contribute to society right across, including in leadership positions in authority. And because I think the world is created by God, and experience actually can be trusted, I have to ask, why not because I think the Buddha is on the other foot, I think it's, it's not up to us, as women to defend our ordination, or our leadership, or our lay leadership or whatever, in the church. It's up to those who disagree, to actually give an argument, and then to go on and do the much more difficult task of explaining why the home and the church are sequestered from the rest of society, and why a man who wants his wife to obey Him, and also will encourage his daughters to, to go into all sorts of leadership positions, and who may end up Prime Minister for goodness sake, or Premier or, or, or chancellor, whatever.
The Reverend candidly, I do have to hand it to your friends, because at least they're still together. And she hasn't sued him and he hasn't excommunicated her and they're still making it work. That's that's good thing. But point well taken.
I did say to him one day, what happens if, if if you came to the conclusion that women did not have to obey their husbands? What difference would that make to your marriage? No difference. Which I thought was was rather wonderful. It's always good to see a good marriage, isn't it?
Yes, it's a beautiful thing. Some claim that the apostle Paul is a misogynist, that he has an anti social, almost pathologically skewed view of women. Is that a fair accusation?
No, it's not. It's extremely unfair. And as one of my own colleagues said, a few weeks ago of Paul is a misogynist. So as Jesus, they're in the same boat, Paul is not a misogynist. And and I think if you start, instead of instead of starting with the difficult passages, again, it's a question of starting point. If you start with the difficult passages, and you kind of end up in this sort of knot, of wondering what on earth Paul actually thinks and how he sees women, but if you start instead with the, with his practice, that is with the women with whom he worked, and with whom he labored in his mission, and they are not exclusively but but at least largely in Romans 16, where you have a list of 10 women, some of whom have got leadership positions in the church, like Phoebe as a deacon, Jr, as an apostle, and of the other women of Priscilla Prisca, as he calls her, who's always known to before her husband, who seems to be been according to Acts, the teacher of a polis. I think if you start with his practice that far from being a misogynist, he has very warm relationships with women, affectionate relationships with women, but also respectful relationships. He respects their labors, their work, some of whom have been in prison with him, some of whom have worked with him alongside him in his missionary work. So I think if you start from his actual practice, and then go from there to some of the more positive passages where he explicitly assumes certain things about women and their leadership, then I think it's a much better way and then go to the more difficult passages. I think that's a better way to go. And, and I think Romans 16 destroys any notion of Paul isn't misogynist. I think Paul, in many ways was ahead of his time, on many issues. He really is the first I think theologian in the in the church and and great pastor, church planter and all the rest. He's had an he's had an enormous impact on on the subsequent history of Christianity, and he needs to have more of an impact, not less.
Reverend, candidly, if I may ask, what's your view? Was Paul the Apostle once married? Did he ever have children? Or was he single all his life?
I think I think he, he does. I haven't actually given this a lot of thought I think he I think I really don't know, actually. I mean, there is a possibility that he was married and that, that he's separated from his wife for the sake of his mission, and therefore and effectively celibate. And there is a possibility that he didn't marry i There's no evidence, I think of him having children. So it's, it's a little bit that always questions we have and what did he look like? You know, what? What were his marital relationships? I mean, all these questions that concern us. Nobody's interested in the New Testament. So I don't know. But I think Paul values marriage, and he also Val value celibacy. He says both as, if you like vocations, but but he does think that celibacy and that marriage should not be a celibate marriage. So perhaps he's, I don't know. Sorry, that's not that's vague. But I simply don't know the answer to that question. It's a good question, but I can't answer.
So Reverend, Canon Lee, for many following this interview, when you lay out the evidence that Jesus had many significant women followers, we're going to have to say that that has to be the case. And when you tip the question on its head of whether Jesus followers were men and women or if the Gospels leave it open to the fact that there were women also, as those followers that's, that's very interesting and adds a lot of forcefulness to your argument. You theologically tie together. The modern reality is testing reality and seeing what it holds. And and certainly in many cases, women are having very successful careers all over the world for many general several generations now. Certainly. Okay, so but for some of our listeners at this point, they're going to say, but what about that passage where Paul, requests that women in the church stay silent? How can I understand the ordination of women in the church today, given Paul's language? And just to cite the passage there? It's in First Corinthians 1434, usually through till 36, the traditional passage there were Paul asks that women stay silent in the church. What what is Paul doing or saying there? And how does that align itself with your view of women's ordination?
Well, it is a very difficult passage. It's very hard to know what Paul is saying, in these verses. I have my own view, just for the from the very beginning is the words, as in all the churches of the saints in the inverse 33 B, I think belongs with verse 33. For God is a God of not of disorder, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. I think that that's where the full stop and then women should be silent in the church is the beginning of a new sentence as it is a new verse in verse 34. So that's the first thing that I would say. There's a problem with this text. And the major problem is that it contradicts one Corinthians 11. And one Corinthians 11. It which is Paul is going there from the lesser to the greater, so he is raising a minor issue, so that he can go on to the major issue which is at the Lord's Supper about behavior at the Lord's Supper. He he is arguing about veils, probably veils, but possibly long here, it's just not exactly clear to us what the custom is behind it. But it makes it clear that women should have a sign of authority on their head, that is their own authority to pray and to prophesy in the church that is to speak. Now prophecy is not just I think, I think sometimes prophecy is a bit closer to what we would call preaching today, but certainly for Paul, it's one of the highest of the gifts and and he allows women to speak so that they they can't be silent in the church if they're allowed to pray or prophesy. And at So, so that's the first problem. The second problem is that it's a little bit those verses are a little bit uneasy in the text itself. Some some manuscripts, add them later. It's it, there's there's a little bit of textual uncertainty, it's not major, but it's minor. So there's a little there's a few tremors if you like underneath the text there. And then there's also the possibility that this is a statement that the Corinthians are making to Paul to which he is responding, because he does that elsewhere. In one Corinthians, We know that he's replying to a letter, as well as to the gossip that he's heard from close people, members of close household, so another potential leader in the church, incidently. So it's it's a difficult text to base anything on for that reason. And it may well be that what sort of speaking is Paul's? I mean, he's concerned is with order and not disorder in the in the church that you know it's not to be this sort of thing where anybody speaks and says whatever they want even though they're speaking over other people and he wants there to be as a sense of what we would call liturgy, a sense of order in the assembly. And, and, and so what what is disordered then about the women speaking, if that text does, in fact belong, and if it is Paul's voice speaking, which not everybody agrees with, what sort of speaking is that they're doing now, there's been a number of suggestions. One of them is that they are much less educated than their husbands. Right? We know that right across the ancient world, that women are much less educated than men. And it could be that they're asking questions, or they're interrogating their husbands or, or even that they're shaming their husbands by by asking questions. Or another possibility is that they're because there is a house churches, they're preparing the meals, and they're talking among themselves. I mean, I'm not so keen on the idea that it's just idle chatter. But but it could be that even the Greek is not up to understanding what's going on. And they're told to us their husbands at home. I think, very difficult there is that the phrase as the law says, It's unusual for Paul to it's almost unparalleled for Paul to appeal to the law in that way, as the law says, but I think Cynthia Westfall is right in saying that as custom direct dictates, as common law dictates is the sense that that I mean, women are intended to be in the ancient world, modest and quiet. And they're supposed to have all those feminine virtues as part of the culture, but I think that Paul is not forbidding in the end is not forbidding women to speak. In the assembly. It's a certain type of disordered speech that Paul has in mind. And I think it's most likely questions that they're asking that because of their lack of education, that they're expected to ask the leader of the home who is the husband, and he's the leader, because apart from anything else, he's better educated than she is that he can answer.
I think even more telling passage, which lacks the insecurity of this passage, textually is one Timothy two, which talks about women women not teaching or appears to talk about, but we probably don't have time to talk about that passage.
I was going to move us to, to our last question, but go ahead and make a comment or two on on the one Timothy passage, if you would, how do you understand?
Well, I think that you said this is what's interesting. And what I found fascinating about this book, is reading a whole lot of women, particularly women, but not just women, rereading these texts in new ways, and saying, Well, maybe it doesn't mean what we've we've always assumed, maybe it actually has a different meaning. I mean, I've got the English here, I should have brought the break. But so let a woman learn in silence with full submission. This is the translation I'm using here, which is the NRSV. So that, in fact, what the Greek says, let a woman learn in quietness, silence, its quietness. And there's a difference actually, with full submission, full submission to whom? Well, there's been the assumption that's to men. But what if it's to God? What if it's to God, what if what a women are being asked here to be open and to learn from God and from the leaders of the church? Therefore, I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she is to remain silent. Well, again, it's choose to be quiet. I prefer permit now there's another way of translating that I permit no woman to teach so as to have authority over a man. So as an In fact, it's not even have authority. It's a very strong verb, to dominate over a man it's not the normal verb to have authority. It's to dominate so it's not so as I do not permit a woman to teach so as to dominate over a man she has to be quiet. Her teaching, therefore, is to be quiet. So it's not necessary and there are a number of women who have argued a case for this text in including Cynthia Westfall and Lucy Pepe at and a number of other women who identify in the evangelical tradition, and therefore who take Scripture very, very seriously indeed, yet she will be saved through childbearing. And I think that the definite article but they're through the childbearing a significant, who's childbearing will she be saved through that of Mary, in other words through Jesus. And now that's a posit one, one possibility, and I find that actually a very plausible reading, but there are other readings. So there's what's going on is, you know, to use this image again, of the earthquake there, there's, there are tremors going on there, the some of these scholars and I should say that there's a Melbourne scholar, Kevin Giles, who's also written on this, and again, who identify strongly in the evangelical tradition. There are scholars from the evangelical tradition who that is designed by evangelical I mean, who take seriously the scriptures. Now, it's not directly my tradition. Although I identify with it in many ways, because I take Scripture very, very seriously indeed, who are not prepared to say, well, that's just what Paul said, he's just a misogynist. And it's only in the Bible, who cares? It's in the Bible, therefore, we care. We care very much for what the Bible is saying. But we need to always to interpret the Bible in its context, and to grasp what we can through intelligent means of what the context of the biblical world wars, and therefore, we are at liberty to question how a text has been interpreted. Yes, so so some of these difficult passages are can be read in other ways and the traditional ways. And I think we need to be open to that. Jonathan, can I talk about one text that I find this is a kind of left field jump, that I think and feel free to just leave this out. And it's an example I think of what I'm saying about the way that that women have been silenced. Women within the text have been silenced. And that is a Matthew 28.
Matthew 28 Is is the story of course of the resurrection. And, and, and we focus very much on on the the scene on the mountain with the 11 disciples. But there's I've seen it seen before it that I think we ignore, and that is the same with the two Mary's, Matthew only mentions to Mary's there's always there's, the Gospels will have different numbers of women present. And it could be that there are more there, but they're not interested in like, for example, John only has Mary Magdalene, but then she goes back and says, We, you know, we have seen the tomb and founded empty. So it's clear there are other women there and John's not interested in them. So he's going to write them out. So so in that Matthew's Gospel, it's two women that go to the tomb on on Easter morning, and they find it empty. Now they're given the message of the resurrection. And there's no there's no ambiguity whatsoever about their response. They run away with joy. Now, Max response in Mark's gospel, it's a little more ambiguous, whether they run run with with with negative fear or positive thing, you know, holy fear, I think it's wholly fear myself, but But Matthew does us the favor of making it absolutely plain to us, that in fact, it is holy fear. And, and that it's great joy, that it's an all a sense of all we would say, filled with joy, and they run away with joy to proclaim, they've been given the message that the precious message of the resurrection, they've been given that what we might call apostolic role to proclaim the resurrection to the rest of the community. And then the 11 are given the role to proclaim out there in the world. But isn't it interesting that as they run the risen Christ appears to them there's no reason for that. It's completely gratuitous. Why should Jesus appear to them they already believe they don't need it, but they're given it it's an act of sheer grace. And and of course, what they do straightaway is followed his feet in adoration and worship. And and it's it's one of the most beautiful scenes in all the Gospels to my mind. And and and when we come to the 11th this is a little bit of one upmanship, and I apologize for doing it. But, you know, Matthew says, They worshiped good on them glad they did, but they doubted or some doubted. The great could go either way. It's either all of them. Or or or a few of them it's not clear but there's no doubt in the in the to the to women disciples, there's no doubt in their minds code. There's only two out of against 11 but even so, so there's something there about But we only focus on the proclamation, the apostolic ministry that's given to the 11. And not on the apostolic ministry that's given to the, the two. And, and that's what I want to recover. I want to recover the actual, the grace that Jesus shows to women, the the privileges he gives them to proclaim the gospel, this is not a right. This is a privilege, or that women adds a terrifying privilege, actually. But it's still an exquisite privilege that women are given to proclaim the risen Christ. And and in this context, to proclaim it to the other disciples, that is to say, in the church, in the church,
in conversation, and it's an amazing book, and to those of our readers who are interested in these questions, it's going to change a lot of people's minds and make us open to considering ordination of women in the church today in a way that maybe we never have. Still, the church when we look at it at the church in a global sense, this is still a really big question. The Roman Catholic Church has been very clear that it's not open to women's ordination, at least if I'm reading the people decrees correctly. That's that's what I understand to be the case. There are still traditional cultures in the world, maybe in Africa, maybe in the Middle East, where such a teaching would, would seem culturally very strange. There's a lot of people still discussing this as a live question. So we're not going to settle everything today. But let me ask you the question that really is the foundation of our program, and that is, would you help us envision what a reunited church would look like? How would we recognize a reunited church? Maybe on this question, or maybe, generally? And what can we do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed in John
17? Yep. Well, I mean, I would say in the first place, that that unity is, is is a gift that we're given. So it's not something that we need to manufacture. It's a gift of grace. And, and therefore we need to receive the gift. And, and the first thing I would say was we need to receive rather than manufacture or make great efforts, and I'm not talking about structural union, because that's not really my thing. Others can can think about all of that, but, but I think we need to see that, that that union is something that we received by virtue of being drawn into the relationship between the Father and the Son, through the Spirit, of course, and that's what John 17 is about, that, that we take on the filiation, the sonship, if you like of Jesus, and therefore become sons and daughters, daughters and sons of God, through entering into his identity, and that ties in very much with Paul and baptism. I think there's wonderful consonances between John and Paul, oddly enough. Anyway, I won't get sidetracked by that. So I think that so that we need to accept what we've been given. Now that means for us, what do we need to do? First of all, we have to have a very strong sense of what the center of faith is. And I don't think it's strong enough in enough places, we divide over things that are secondary, and we should not divide over secondary things. We can divide over the divinity of Christ or over the Trinity, or on over the atonement, although the means of atonement, the way we understand that will differ, but we should not be differing about these core issues. And for me, the important thing is, I guess, at the Creed's of the church because they it seemed to me, over the early centuries, the church has, has has hammered out what it understands about the those core issues of who Jesus is, and who God is and who God is for us. And, and, and therefore, the ecumenical creeds, at least for me, exemplify what the core of Biblical faith actually is. And the early church was reflecting on the scriptures as they, as they as they hammered out these things. So, so having a strong sense of center, I think is is absolutely essential. It's like a centripetal force that holds us like a magnet that holds us together. And I think we need to treasure that, to treasure that gift that we've been given in our understanding now. And I think therefore, the boundaries can be more porous, because we have a strong center, and therefore we can disagree on issues of baptism. I mean, I'm a strong exponent of infant baptism, but I have have brothers and sisters who who believe in believers baptism? Well, okay, that's fine. That's not the way I would go. That's not the way I went with my children or not the way that's happened with my grandchildren. And I was delighted to be present at their baptisms, but, but I can live with people who disagree on that issue, because of the unity that the vast things that that hold us, I remember someone who was opposed to me on an on an issue in the church writing to me and saying that he was shocked by my views, and that, therefore we have nothing in common. And I wrote back and said to him, but given that we believe that God created the world, and that God redeemed the world through Jesus Christ, whose incarnation he's dead, his resurrection, and that we believe in the life of the church and the Holy Spirit, and that He will come again, I find it hard to say that you said, and he wrote back, God, God bless him, he wrote back and said, You're absolutely right. And that that was a lesson for me, actually, because my first response to him was very hostile. And and, you know, my first reaction, I thought, I'm just gonna sit on this for a couple of days. And and I think it's, that is that sense of, of a common a unity in, in, in what, what, what holds us together. Is, is the faith itself is our belief in the Holy Trinity. And above all else, the Holy Trinity, I think that's absolutely central to our fight. And, and so I think anything else is secondary. And I think we've got to live with diversity. We've got to learn to live to disagree, charitably, in charity, and respect for each other. But we can only do that if we have a strong center. And if we celebrate that center, and treasure it.
It's been our tremendous joy today to be speaking with the Reverend canon. Dorothy, lead, author of this amazing book, the Ministry of Women in the New Testament, reclaiming the biblical vision for church leadership available for Baker academic 2021, which you dear listener should pick up. Hope you have a wonderful day everybody and thank you so much, wherever candidly for me.
Thank you, Jonathan. I've enjoyed it very much.