Biblical Women Weren’t Always Submissive. -- By: Joe E. Lunceford

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 14:4 (Fall 2000)
Article: Biblical Women Weren’t Always Submissive.
Author: Joe E. Lunceford


Biblical Women Weren’t Always Submissive.

A Review Of Some Surprising Women In Patriarchal Societies.

Joe E. Lunceford

Joe E. Lunceford is professor of religion at Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY, where he has taught since 1981. He is also a former pastor and U.S. Air Force chaplain, a contributor to many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, and the author of Bible Book Studies.

The author, who is a member of the faculty at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, was selected to give that school’s annual Cawthorne Award lecture this past spring. The article that follows is taken from the text of that lecture.

One of the things that led me to my subject was a promise I made to a pastor from Florida whom I met while at Oxford. His church struggles with a biblical basis for women in leadership roles. The church has female deacons and women in other positions of leadership in the church, but as often happens, he was being challenged with some regularity to give a biblical justification for this. We had several lengthy conversations on the subject, and he later asked me to write up for him the essence of our conversations. I readily agreed to do so once I got back to my office and personal library and had some time to give the matter serious thought.

As I began to do some research and writing, I became more and more fascinated with some things I was discovering, and so I decided to make this the basis for my Cawthorne Lecture. I cannot present nearly all that I have written. but I want to share with you some of what I have discovered.

Abraham And Sarah

The author of 1 Peter exhorts his female readers to be submissive to their husbands, invoking as an example Sarah who “obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord” (1 Peter 3:1-6). This is true—as far as it goes. But a careful examination of the biblical stories of Abraham and Sarah reveals that they are strongly tinged with hero/heroine worship. To demonstrate this, I will focus upon just a couple of passages in Genesis.

The biblical promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son in their old age is so well known as not to require comment. Faced with the apparent impossibility of the fulfillment of this promise, Sarah took matters into her own hands by directing Abraham to go have sexual relations with her maid Hagar (Gen. 16:2). Out of this relationship a son named Ishmael was born (Gen. 16:11). The text tells us that Abraham listened to the voice of Sarah. To put the matter simply, Sarah spoke, and Abraham obeyed—as countless husbands have done down through the centuries!

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