A Biblical Theology of Women in Leadership -- By: Brenda B. Colijn

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 34:0 (NA 2002)
Article: A Biblical Theology of Women in Leadership
Author: Brenda B. Colijn

A Biblical Theology of Women in Leadership

Brenda B. Colijn

Brenda Colijn (MA, ATS; PhD, Cornell University) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology at ATS and directs its Columbus Center.


Too often the discussion of women in leadership has focused on the exegesis of individual passages and the study of individual words. In some cases, those on different sides of the issue cannot even agree on which biblical passages are relevant to the discussion.1 The church badly needs to move beyond the level of exegesis to develop a constructive biblical theology of women in leadership.2

In what follows, I will attempt to outline such a theology by tracing women’s leadership through salvation history as it is granted in creation, crippled in the fall, restored in redemption, and validated in the consummation. I will then suggest some theological principles to guide us in our reflections. Although I will make some exegetical comments on central texts, I will not answer other exegetical views in detail. That has been done effectively by others.3 My primary purpose is to construct a positive biblical theology.


Understanding the theological significance of the creation narratives involves first understanding them in context as stories. The first creation narrative (Genesis 1:26–31) describes the origin of human beings as a creation of God and their relationship to the rest of creation. The second creation narrative (Genesis 2:18–25) describes the relationship of man and woman to each other. Proponents of restricted roles for women tend to emphasize the second creation narrative, while egalitarians tend to emphasize the first.4 Both narratives, however, yield significant insights when considered as stories rather than as texts to mine for exegetical ammunition.

According to Genesis 1, man and woman are the crown of creation, bearing the image of God and serving as stewards of God’s creation. Man and woman are created in God’s image: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27)5 . The Hebrew text says that God created ʾādām in the image of God. In this instance, ʾāda...

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