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Breakthrough News for Women

Reprint of a newsletter article by DAVID FEES
(Click here for a short bio of David Fees)

A book God's Word to Women by Katharine Bushnell has recently been privately republished.  Born in 1856, the author was a medical missionary and a scholar of Hebrew and Greek.  Her work provides a doctrinal foundation to the church concerning the role of women in God's plan and in the church.  She scripturally breaks down some of the doctrinal and cultural biases that have hindered women in ministry.  What makes her different from the feminist movement of recent years is that she believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God--verbatim.  What she has done, through much study of the Hebrew and Greek, a thorough knowledge of the Word', and an understanding of cultural settings, is explain some of the difficult passages that have historically brought women to a lower status than God intended.

To give you an idea of her teachings, I have summarized a few of her insights concerning some of the Scriptures that may have been mistranslated or misinterpreted.

* Gen. 3:16: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Context: This statement was a judgment given by God to Eve for her part in the fall.

Traditional Interpretation: The last part shows that men are to rule over women and that a woman's natural desire would be to come under that rule.

Bushnell: The correct interpretation of the last part should be rendered, Thou art turning away [from God] to thy husband, and he will rule over thee.  In other words, when Eve turned away from God in the fall, she set a course for women in all history.  God did not make men to rule over women, but when sin entered in and rebellion and ignorance followed, women lost their freedom.  We see this mishap particularly in cultures which have not had a Christian heritage.  The greater that Jesus is allowed to flourish, the more true liberty will result for women.  The model is Jesus and the church.  Jesus laid down His life for the church.  He is head of the church but not in a dictatorial authority.  He brings a model of leadership, which is true humility and the giving of one's self for others.

    * I Cor. 14:34-35: Let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.  And if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Traditional Interpretation: The men and women were divided in where they sat in church.  Paul was addressing a problem in which women would yell out to their husbands across the church.  Paul was saying to address the issue at home.

Bushnell: First, there is no law in the Old Testament that states this.  There are references in the Jewish Talmud that women should remain silent, but she doubts Paul would quote from it because he was always at odds with their legalism.  She makes a strong case that this statement is coming from the Judaizers (Jewish Christians who wanted to retain much of Jewish legalism), and Paul is quoting their argument and then answering it in the next two verses: What?   Came the word of God out from you?  Or came it unto you only?  If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

She maintains that Paul allowed the ministry of Priscilla and Pheobe to flourish and considered them to be a part of his co-laborers.  His practice of allowing them to teach would not be consistent with what many have traditionally interpreted that he taught.  She also points out that the traditional interpretation of separation of the sexes would not address single women who had no husband.  How would they learn?

* I Tim. 2:12: But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Traditional Interpretation: Perhaps the most quoted Scripture used as justification that women should not be in public ministry.

Bushnell: There should be no comma after the word "teach", which changes the meaning of the sentence to mean that women were not to teach men, but could teach women.  But more importantly, she provides a historical context of this epistle stating that women were in great danger at the time of its writing.  The growth of Christianity had made believers great enemies of Rome and the Jews, both which treated women with disdain.  To freely allow women open ministry would place women at great risk, and Paul refused to jeopardize their status.

She maintains that this admonition is a personal one similar to his suggestion to Timothy to drink some wine for his stomach's sake.  While she believes the Word of God is inviolable and absolute.  there are personal words given in the context of' Scriptures that are not intended for all believers at all times in history.  For instance, Paul told Timothy to bring the cloak and books with him that he had left at Troas with Carpus (II Tim. 4:13).  Anyone would know that this piece of instruction was meant for a situation at that time.  No one expects us to be looking for a cloak at Troas as part of our spiritual obedience.

She contends that Paul did not practice this teaching of refusing a woman to teach, neither did he teach it in other settings.  She states that while men are quick to jump on this Scripture and others like it to justify their view of male dominance, they do not adhere to other teachings that are in a similar cast such as when Paul wished that all men were single and celibate like himself.  Very few men have taken Paul up on that one.

Ephesians 5:22: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Bushnell: The word submit is not the best rendering of this word.  A better translation, to be in subjection, does not mean to blindly obey.  She uses a base Scripture for this point: No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).  The Word tells us to obey those who have the rule over us in Romans 12 (speaking of' civil government), but Scripture also gives us the right for civil disobedience when man's law tries to supercede God's law.  An employee cannot follow his employer into sin.  Neither can a wife follow a husband into immorality or deception.  Like the apostles, we must say that we must obey God rather than man.

She maintains that while Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (I Pet. 3:6), God told Abraham in the manner of Hagar and Ishmael to obey his wife.  So there is a balance that must be maintained through humility and mutual subjection to each other.

In ministry, she points out that Paul enjoins the Corinthians to submit (or subject themselves) unto every one that helpeth with us, and laboreth (I Cor. 16:16).  In Romans 16:3, he calls Priscilla his helper.  We know that Phoebe and other women assisted him, thus there is an admonition that men should be in subjection to those women ministries who are in a place of leadership.  No man would interpret these Scriptures to mean blind obedience, but rather to defer to them in mutual respect, honor, humility, meekness, forbearance, and the yielding of one's preferences."

Commentary

This book has been of great assistance to my theology.  I have known from observation that God called women into ministry.  Some of the greatest preachers of this century have been women.  C.W. Ward, who heard most of the leading preachers of this century, from Billy Sunday to Billy Graham to Kathryn Kulman, said that the most anointed person he ever heard was Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1930's and 40's.  She became the founder of the Foursquare Gospel.

I also have known from Scripture that God used women.  One rule of Scripture interpretation is that you base your doctrine on the whole Word and then fit the isolated Scriptures that seem to contradict to the whole.  You do not base your doctrine on a couple of Scriptures and then try to make the whole fit.  Therefore.  when I see Deborah, Miriam.  Esther, Huldah, Anna, the four virgin daughters of Philip, Phoebe.  and Priscilla, to name a few, being used mightily by God, I have to understand that the practice of God is to call and use women.  I could not articulate theologically come of the isolated Scriptures that seemed to contradict that practice.  This book helps in those areas.

Miss Bushnell's work is a refreshing and liberating work for both men and women.  She fights centuries of cultural male bias in the interpretation and application of Scripture.  At times.  she may, veer past that elusive area known as balance (one person's balance may be another's extremism), but we can give her some space for what she had to battle.  For instance, her views on the headship of a man in marriage seem to be borne from those of a single woman who never had to face some of the practicalities of marriage.  Also, the book does not address the principle of delegated authority, a revelation given to Watchman Nee in this century and developed by others.  On the other hand the Lord gave me a dream one night and showed me that certain elements of the men's movement go far past the middle road of balance and freedom.  While they advocate servanthood.  it is still in the context of rulership and womanless ministry.

It is a rare person who does not view Scripture and relationship issues through the eyes of his or her gender to one degree or another.  We were made male and female by an all-knowing, Heavenly Father.  Men and women approach certain issues differently, but one is not better than the other.  The key word seems to be respect.  If men can understand that God not only uses women in ministry but scripturally confirms it, then a whole world of understanding would untold for many of them.  Also, many marriages could be greatly strengthened it' the husband would recognize the voice of his wife more.  While some men emphasize the Scripture in Ephesians that the wife is to be subject to the husband, that Scripture is sandwiched between one that says to submit to each other in the fear of the Lord and another that teaches the husband is to love his wife like Jesus loved the church.

The Spirit of God is dealing with men to become leaders through humility and with women to boldly step up to their rightful place in God's Kingdom.  This is not the fleshly self-assertion of the feminist movement, one that eventually self-destructs women.  This is the Kingdom of God at work, inviting all of us to submit to one another in godly respect, love, and selflessness.  True authority liberates.  It brings people up, not down.  God in men will cause them to elevate women.  God in women will cause them to honor men.  Then we can all say that in Him we are neither male nor female.  The book is written in an older style that makes for somewhat tedious reading.  Also, she leaves no stone unturned and is extremely meticulous and detailed in her presentation, which contributes to her credibility but also slows down the speed of reading.  Yet, the work would seem to be a great asset to any serious student of the Word, in particular, those women who are called to ministry.  Women fight such an uphill battle, and this work provides a Scriptural basis for ministry.

To order the book click here.

Scripture is Finally Explained--I Timothy 2:11-14

The rest of this newsletter was already printed and ready to he mailed when we obtained an article written by Don Rousu, who pastors the Vineyard Christian Fellowship with his wife Ruth in Edmonton, Alberta.  It is the most liberating truth about the main Scripture that holds people in bondage about women in ministry.  I got so excited that I could not sleep much that night.  My wife dreamed that she was proclaiming everywhere, "Did you know what the Scripture about women not teaching really means?"  It was so powerful that I had to delay the mailing and insert this page.  Please note also that the section on this Scripture in the article about Katharine Bushnell's book is obsolete, although she did realize that it was a pertinent word to a situation with which Timothy had to address.  So get ready, women (and men), be loosed!

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression (I Timothy 2:11-14 NKJV).

Don Rousu:

 "The translation hinges on the Greek verb, authentein.  The problem is that this verb is found nowhere else in the Bible.  From years of studying biblical languages, I know that translators learn the meaning of a word by studying it in other Bible passages.  Where there are no other Bible passages, they must look in comparative literature of the same time period.  Although most translators of I Timothy have interpreted authentein to mean 'to usurp authority' over a man, or 'to have authority' over a man, such a translation violates both the context of Paul's writing and the first century usage of the word in other literature...

"Around the time the New Testament was written, the most common meaning of authentein was 'to be, or claim to be the author or the originator of something.' To underscore the point with a pun, this appears to be the authentic translation of authentein, the crucial verb of I Tim. 2:12.

"Not only have translators overlooked the prevailing meaning of the word authentein at the time the New Testament was written, but they also seem to have missed the cultural context in which Paul wrote his letter to Timothy.

"Timothy was in Ephesus.  Ephesus was the world center of paganism governed spiritually by the female deity Artemis, whom the Romans called Diana.  The cult of Artemis taught the superiority of the female and advocated female domination of the male.  It espoused a doctrine of feminine procreation teaching that this goddess was able to bring forth offspring without male involvement.  The cult was characterized by sexual perversion, fertility rites, endless myths, and elaborate genealogies traced through female rather than male bloodlines...

"Also present in Ephesus was a contingent of Jewish Gnostics who represented the first century's equivalent of the New Age movement.  The Greek word for 'Gnostic' is gnosis meaning 'knowledge.' Gnostics acknowledged spirit guides and combined the teachings of Artemis with the teachings of the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve.

"In the most prevalent Gnostic version of the story, Eve was the 'illuminator' of mankind because she was the first to receive 'true knowledge' from the Serpent, whom Gnostics saw as the 'savior' and revealer of truth.  Gnostics believed that Eve taught this new revelation to Adam, and being the mother of all, was the progenitor of the human race.  Adam, they said, was Eve's son rather than her husband.  This belief reflected the Gnostic doctrine that a female deity could bring forth children without male involvement.

"In light of the authentic meaning of the word authentein and of the social context within which Paul wrote his letters to Timothy, let me offer what I believe is an appropriate rendering of the text in I Timothy.  I believe Paul is saying, 'I am not allowing (present tense for that situation) a woman to teach or to proclaim herself the originator of man authentein.' Do you see how this translation offsets false doctrine?

"The word that is frequently translated 'silence,' hesuchia, also means harmony, peace, conformity or agreement.  I therefore suggest Paul goes on to say, 'she must be in agreement,' meaning agreement with the Scriptures and with sound teaching in the Church.

"He continues in this vein saying, 'Adam was formed first, then Eve.' This statement militates against the doctrine of Eve as progenitor.  He also says, 'Adam was not deceived, but the woman was! And sinned!' This statement directly contradicts the notion that Eve was the 'illuminator,' and carrier of new revelation."

Timothy 2:11-12 (Paraphrased and Amplified)

[Now in response to the Gnostic teaching stemming from the worship of Artemis that Eve was the originator of Adam and the goddess of life], let a woman learn (in agreement with sound doctrine) with all submission (to that doctrine).  And I do not permit a woman to teach that she is the originator or the illuminator of man, but to be in agreement (with the church).  For Adam was first formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived [his was direct disobedience], but woman being deceived [thus not being infallible], fell into transgression [proving that she was human.]

David Fees:   There is a liberating peace from the Lord about this interpretation.  I believe it is THE correct one.  It corresponds with the practice of Paul and other Scriptures.  Men and women, be set free!

Why does God seemingly wait for centuries to reveal a truth?  Just like being saved by faith was not revealed to Martin Luther until the fifteenth century, there is a time and place in the economy of God.  I now sense that God is going to open up other Scriptures that will totally release women.  There will always be those who will not believe, but that will be a heart problem.  There have been many well-meaning believers who did not want to violate the apparent translation of this Scripture, so they would not allow women in certain places of ministry.  Now, there is no excuse.  It will be a stubbornness of heart, a clinging to the old, a refusal to let go, not correct doctrine.

Be advised, ladies.  Just as there are those today who still think the gifts of the Spirit have passed away, there will be those who never change in their view about women ministries, even if you show them in black and white.  But for all who will hear what the Spirit is now saying to the Church in this area, there is a new liberty that will march militantly against the gates of hell.  Women and men of all colors, in all nations, will minister the Gospel and bring the resurrection power of Jesus in a great harvest of redemption.  The work is too great for only one gender.  Let us all work together in the vineyard of the Lord, respecting each other and appreciating what God has gifted in each of us, male or female. 

 

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