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Does the Bible Reflect a Patriarchal Bias?

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This is a guest post by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger, coauthors of God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey.


What’s Wrong with Patriarchy?

For many decades, feminists have characterized the Old Testament’s teaching on gender roles in terms of patriarchy, the control and domination of the father in exercising an authoritative, if not oppressive or even abusive, rule over his wife and family. What is more, feminists have often alleged that the Bible is laced with a patriarchal bias that they must “uncover” by a hermeneutic of suspicion and correct with a sort of “affirmative action” through which women’s rightful place in Christianity and in the world is reclaimed, restored, and recast. But is the underlying premise of much of the feminist critique of the Bible and Christianity, namely their patriarchal nature and bias, actually accurate?

Recent scholarship from both feminist and non-feminist circles suggests otherwise. For example, noted evangelical Old Testament scholar Daniel Block, who teaches at Wheaton College, has pointed out that the term “patriarchy” unduly focuses on the father’s rule (the meaning of “archy”) while diminishing significant aspects of the father’s role in Old Testament times, such as his care, provision, and protection of the extended household.

Carol Meyers, too, professor of religion at Duke University, in her presidential address to the Society of Biblical Literature, recently published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, chronicles how the labeling of the Old Testament teaching on gender roles in ancient Israel as “patriarchy” has fallen on hard times in various fields of scholarship. Meyers, who holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, contends that the label simply doesn’t do justice to the complexity of gender relations in the ancient world and expresses concern that the label constitutes an anachronistic imposition onto the biblical data.

Thus a critical mass of leading evangelical and non-evangelical scholarship concurs that patriarchy in the modern sense of the term does not adequately reflect the role of the father in ancient times.

The bottom line is that even feminists are starting to realize that characterizing the Old Testament teaching on gender roles in terms of patriarchy is misleading and inaccurate. Using the notion of patriarchy as a foil for a feminist critique of the biblical teaching ultimately fails because of its underlying false definition of patriarchy. Rather than engaging this strawman argument where Old Testament “patriarchy” is used as a red herring, we should be more precise in our description and definitions of terms related to the Old Testament teaching on gender roles.

Male Leadership, Male-Female Partnership

In our book God’s Design for Man and Woman, we attempt to trace the plain and undistorted teaching on manhood and womanhood through all of Scripture from Genesis through Revelation. We confirm that there is revealed in Scripture a pervasive pattern of responsible sacrificial, loving, and caring male leadership; this is directly and indirectly seen to be practiced or taught in the lives of Adam and the patriarchs and in the twelve tribes of Israel as well as in the roles of kings and priests; it continues later in the life of Jesus and in the roles of the twelve apostles and those in the Pauline circle, as well as in the elders in the New Testament church (even though, of course, these men often didn’t live up to the divine ideal).

Women, also created in the image of God, under the leadership of their husband, are to partner with their husband in being stewards of God’s creation in fulfilling the cultural mandate. They are to come alongside them as they together aim to be “fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.” New Testament teaching for the church affirms what has been taught to God’s people from Genesis onward, and as part of the community of believers in the New Testament era, women and men, under overall male leadership in the church, are shown to partner together in fulfilling the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching all that Jesus commanded them. This privilege and responsibility for both in their joint mission in our world highlights each one’s unique yet equally significant and indispensable set of roles in the family and in the church.

Contrary to many feminists, the root problem of humanity is not male authority, or authority itself; the problem is human sin, which affects the way in which both men and women relate to each other. In Christ, we can be set free once again to live out God’s design for us according to which he created us male and female from the very beginning. As Spirit-filled followers of Christ, we can partner in mission for God in love and unity, for God’s greater glory and for our own good.

Why Study the Books of Ruth & Esther?

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This is a guest post by Kathleen B. Nielson. She is the author of Ruth and Esther: A 12-Week Study in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.


Ruth and Esther make quite a distinguished pair: they’re the only two books in the Bible named after women. Of course, that’s not the only reason to study them—although God clearly means for us (both men and women) to pay attention to the crucial role of women in the big story of redemption.

Imagine for a Moment

Take a minute and call up pictures of these two women in your imagination. What do you see?

Our pictures might be partially shaped by children’s Sunday school classes long ago, or by art or film representations we’ve taken in. Neither woman is described in physical detail in the text, although we know Esther was smashingly gorgeous.

But I’m guessing you included the settings in your pictures—Ruth perhaps out in the barley fields of Bethlehem, and Esther in the ornate Persian palace. Of course, that’s how stories work: they put characters in certain settings to work out carefully shaped plots. Think of these settings in relation to the characters: Ruth is a foreign Moabitess who finds a home among God’s people; Esther is one of God’s people called to live in a foreign land. What we’re seeing is God’s sovereign hand throughout all his earth, drawing people from other nations, and using his people among the nations.

Flesh and Blood

What’s wonderful is that these stories show God’s redemptive work, not in the abstract, but in real live flesh and blood. The characters are real people—women and men who struggle and long and wonder and rejoice, just like us.

We’re drawn in immediately to Naomi’s bitter suffering in Ruth 1, and we wonder at the experiences of a beautiful young woman thrown into such ungodly hands as those in King Ahasuerus’ court.

Amazing Plots

Imagine again. If you had one minute to describe each of these stories to someone who’d never read them, what would you say?

I’m guessing you’d focus on the plots—because the events and details of these stories unfold in amazing ways. Just as narratives, these books are remarkably put together. We have to relish the four simple scenes of Ruth that move from emptiness in Moab to fullness in Bethlehem. We must marvel at the complex pattern of the Jews’ rising and their enemies’ falling, with Esther and Mordecai right at the pivot point.

Part of a Larger Story

Both these plots are episodes in a larger plot: the story of God redeeming a people through Abraham’s seed, just as he promised. Ruth comes in advance of the kingdom that grew out of that seed, as she joins the line leading right to King David. Esther comes after the kingdom has come and gone, making us long for the promised eternal king in David’s line. Both women play their parts in God’s great plan of redemption through his Son, King Jesus.

Stories like these help us understand how the plot of each individual life—my life, your life—is an episode in a much larger plot written and directed by God: the story of his redeeming a people for himself through Jesus Christ, his Son.

But it’s no good just talking and reading about Ruth and Esther; we have to dig in ourselves! It’s the words of the biblical text that are living and active, and that pierce our hearts with the truth and beauty of our Lord. The rewards are rich, as we dig into this remarkable pair of Old Testament books.


Kathleen B. Nielson (PhD, Vanderbilt University) serves as the director of women’s initiatives at the Gospel Coalition. She a popular conference speaker and the author or editor of numerous books, including Ruth and Esther: A 12-Week Study, and co-editor (with D. A. Carson) of Here Is Our God. Kathleen and her husband, Niel, have three grown sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

 


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June 24, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life / Doctrine,Old Testament,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Why Study the Book of Genesis?

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This is a guest post by Mitchell Kim. He is the author of Genesis: A 12-Week Study in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.


The Forgotten Family Tree

When I was growing up, my father plopped a tome as large as a telephone book with yellowed pages on the counter. “Boys,” he said, “this is our family tree.”

In beautiful, calligraphic Korean script, this book traced our family line going back hundreds of years. With my brothers, we pored over our family tree, reliving old stories of family legend, kings, and ancient battles that stretched back to bygone years.

Actually, not.

I had no frame of reference to understand this book. Since our family immigrated to the United States, Korean language and history were foreign. I thumbed through its voluminous pages for a few moments before I turned back to my attempts to conquer the next level of Super Mario Brothers. What should have been immensely important felt immensely irrelevant because I had no framework to understand this book.

Genesis and Genealogies

Many of us feel the same way as we stumble through the book of Genesis and its many genealogies. In the inspired, inerrant Word of God, we hear them like the safety instructions of a flight attendant before takeoff . . . which means we hardly hear them at all.

However, these genealogies form the backbone of the book of Genesis. Creation climaxes with the command to Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The rest of the book plots the fulfillment of this command with its genealogies (Gen. 4:17-24; 5:1–32; 10:1–32; 11:10–32; 25:1–18; etc.) and structural divisions marked by the phrase, “These are the generations of…” (e.g., Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; etc.).

Why? Genesis traces two lines: the line of the rebellious offspring of the serpent and the line of the blessed offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). In Genesis 4, the rebellious line of Cain culminates in the seventh generation with the murderer Lamech (Gen. 4:23–24). In Genesis 5, the blessed line of Seth culminates in the seventh generation with Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not” (Gen. 5:24), and in the tenth generation with Noah (Gen. 5:29).

From the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, the narrative zooms in on the blessed line of Shem (Gen. 11:10–26) and Terah, the father of Abraham (11:27–30). The story of Abraham and the patriarchs in Genesis 12–50 revolves around the struggle for the birth of blessed offspring (e.g., Isaac, Jacob) in contrast to the rebellious (e.g., Ishmael, Esau). The line of blessed offspring sets a trajectory from Genesis through the Old Testament, eventually culminating in the genealogy of Jesus, “the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:36).

Do You Know Your Family Tree?

Genesis’s genealogies are our family tree, as we trace our lineage backward to Abraham, the forefather of our faith (Rom. 4:11–12; Gal. 3:29). But they also remind us to look forward, as the gospel continues to bear fruit and multiply disciples (e.g. Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20; Col. 1:6, 10).

Children look like their parents; the more parents look like Christ, the more their children look like Christ. Seth reflected the image of Adam, who reflected the image of God (Gen. 5:1–3)—suggesting that Seth reflected God’s image insofar as Adam reflected God’s image. Similarly, the image of God in us is reflected in our physical and spiritual progeny.

May we grow to reflect the image more and more through worship (2 Cor. 3:18) so that we might raise up spiritual progeny who reflect Christ’s image well.


Mitchell M. Kim (PhD, Wheaton College) is the lead pastor of Living Water Alliance Church. A participant in the 2010 Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, he is passionate about raising up men and women to serve as kingdom workers in our globalized world. He and his wife, Eunsil, have three children and live in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Genesis: A 12-Week Study and blogs at mitchkim.wordpress.com.


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June 20, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life / Doctrine,Old Testament,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:18 am | 1 Comment »

Why Study the Book of Proverbs?

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This is a guest post by Lydia Brownback. She is the author of Proverbs: A 12-Week Study in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.


Wisdom for Life

What draws you to Proverbs? One thing, surely, is the desire to grow in wisdom—biblical wisdom. And if you’re at all familiar with Scripture, you know that Proverbs is the go-to for getting it.

Many of us love the book of Proverbs for its practicality. Every verse seems to provide us with insight—some way to think or be—that will make our lives run just a bit more smoothly.

And because the book of Proverbs provides us with a poetic roadmap of how God has designed the world to work, following its practical day-to-day guidance does make our lives more pleasant. But even this will prove a bit hollow in the long run if that’s the only reason we study Proverbs. We don’t want to miss the heart of it—what God is saying to his people through this unique portion of Scripture.

Advice vs. Wisdom

We want to rightly understand this collection of sayings that provide skill in the art of godly living and show us how to reflect God’s glory in the details of our lives and relationships. It’s the difference between going to Proverbs for advice and going to it for wisdom.

Seeking wisdom and not just advice requires more heart work, but it’s worth it! That’s because the wisdom found in Proverbs takes us outside of ourselves and our own lives to someone else—our covenant Lord. It teaches us that wisdom is not primarily about what we do but about who God is and what he’s done for us. That’s the heart of the book and the primary reason to study it.

Seeing Ourselves on Every Page

We find in Proverbs people like us—fathers, mothers, children, friends, colleagues. We find men and women of wisdom, and we find fools. We see the passionate and the lazy. We encounter those tempted by sin and those who do the tempting.

In the book are those who embrace God’s ways and others who scorn them. In every case, we’re shown that the orientation of one’s heart determines one’s destiny. With passion, poetry, and a bit of humor, we’re made to see ourselves and our greatest need.

Wisdom Is a Person

Overall, we see that wisdom isn’t just what and how—it’s who. Ultimately, wisdom is a person—Jesus Christ—and it’s to him that the wisdom in Proverbs points.


Lydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the author of several books and a speaker at women’s conferences internationally. She has served as director of editorial for Crossway’s Book Division; writer-in-residence for Reverend Alistair Begg; and broadcast media manager for Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, where she produced The Bible Study Hour radio program with James Montgomery Boice. Some of Lydia’s books include the On-the-Go Devotional series, A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything, and Proverbs: A 12-Week Study.


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June 17, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life / Doctrine,Old Testament,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:29 am | 0 Comments »

Why Study the Book of Isaiah?

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This is a guest post by Drew Hunter. He is the author of Isaiah: A 12-Week Study in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible study series.


A Hidden Treasure

I suspect Isaiah may be the great hidden treasure of our Bibles today. Not that we don’t know of its existence, but that we may not appreciate its worth. I’m still finding this out for myself.

There are some barriers that make its value seem allusive. Written nearly 2,700 years ago in an ancient Near Eastern culture, it is largely in the genre of Hebrew poetry. It’s also quite lengthy. But there is great joy to be gained from diligently engaging with it.

Clarifying Our Vision of God

“Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up,” with seraphim calling out, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:1–3). This exalted vision of God is sustained through the entirety of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah is unremittingly God-centered and God-focused. Twenty-five times God is called “the Holy One of Israel.” There is no one like Him, and his greatness stands in contrast to the sinfulness of humanity and the emptiness of idolatry.

And yet this God draws near: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly” (Isa. 57:15). Repentant sinners do not repel this God; they draw him closer. He doesn’t demand that we try to rise up to him, but that we acknowledge that we can’t. Isaiah shows that this God comes to us.

Filling Out Our Understanding of the Gospel

Isaiah has been called the “Fifth Gospel.” It’s a fitting title, for the New Testament’s use of the word “gospel” is largely rooted in Isaiah’s own use of it. Against the backdrop of God’s judgment, Isaiah says, “herald of good news (lit., gospel)” (Isa. 40:9). It is the good news that, although God’s people rightly deserve judgment, God will come as their king and bring peace and salvation to all who trust him (Isa. 40:9; 52:7).

At the heart of this “gospel” is the coming of a Servant who will accomplish our salvation through his righteous life, guilty death, and victorious resurrection (Isa. 53:4–6, 10–12). This is the heart of Isaiah’s gospel and ours. It is the substitution of Jesus Christ, the righteous for the unrighteous, that we might be restored to God.

Expanding Our Hope For the Future

The book of Isaiah has a forward tilt. It points us to the coming of Jesus Christ and the glorious future that he opens up for us. He shows us that the gospel is not just about personal forgiveness, but also cosmic renewal. God will not only redeem sinners, but also restore their world.

There will one day be a new creation with no more sorrow, pain, sickness, or death (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:17-25). It will be like a jubilant wedding feast, where people from every nation will swallow up “a feast of rich food” and the Lord “will swallow up death forever” (Isa. 25:6-8). Our future is a joyful feast in God’s presence, with his people, in a new creation forever.

Putting Our Bibles Together

Isaiah is also uniquely suited to help us get our bearings on the whole Bible. The deeper we go with Isaiah, the deeper we find we’ve gone with the rest of the Bible. It stands as a towering mountain on the biblical landscape. As we climb, we gain a great vantage point from which to look backward and forward across the sweep of the Scriptures.

Isaiah forms a bridge between his biblical past and future. He looks backward to the first exodus and then forward to a new exodus (Isa. 52:11-12); backward to the first creation and forward to a new creation (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:7, 11); backward to the first Jerusalem and forward to a new Jerusalem (Isa. 1:26; 65:17-18); backward to the first Davidic king and forward to a new Davidic King (Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5). Several hundred years later, Jesus arrived to bring Isaiah’s promises to fulfillment.

The New Testament quotes Isaiah forty times and alludes to it countless others. Scratch any page of the New Testament and Isaiah will be found underneath.

For the Glory of God in the Everlasting Joy of His People

Isaiah is a difficult book. But it repays the time and labor given to it. God has given us this book for the increase of our joy.

It’s no surprise that a repeated command throughout Isaiah is to “sing for joy.” This is the fitting response to what we find here, for Isaiah displays for us God in all his holiness, the gospel in all its grace, and our future in all its glory.

Isaiah is a treasure because it helps us treasure Christ.


Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is a teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. Previously he served as a minister for young adults at Grace Church of DuPage and taught religious studies at College of DuPage. Hunter is the author of Isaiah: A 12 Week Study and Matthew: A 12 Week Study. He and his wife, Christina, have three young boys.

 


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June 11, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life / Doctrine,Old Testament,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:35 am | 0 Comments »