You Promiscuously Call One Another Brothers and Sisters!

Last week Michael Kruger wrote a good little article on the peculiarity of early Christian worship and how believers managed to offend everybody. Rumors were flying about what kind of people Christians really were. I wanted to elaborate on one of Kruger’s points and compare that to how Christians worry over “appearances” today. Kruger said:

The other offensive aspect of Christian worship was their private meetings. For obvious reasons, Christians weren’t eager to put their worship practices on full public display. So, they tended to meet early in the mornings, or in the evenings, often when it was dark, away from the masses.

Of course, this was seen as highly suspicious. As already noted, Romans regarded religion as public. So, what were these Christians up to in their “secret” meetings? As is well known, this occasioned all sorts of speculation (and accusation) about whether Christians were engaging in licentious or even cannibalistic activities in these gatherings.

Christians were being persecuted for their faith, so they met in secret. Of course this would fuel rumors. Here is a Roman argument against Christianity in the early days of the church. Mark Felix narrates these accusations from Caecilius in his apologetic work, Octavius, published 150-210 A.D.:

And now as the world grows more wicked, your abominable shrines are sprouting up throughout the whole world. This entire impious confederacy should be rooted out and destroyed! You know one another by secret marks and insignia. You love one another almost before you know one another. Yours is a religion of lust. You promiscuously call one another brothers and sisters. You apparently do this so that your debaucheries will take on a flavor of incest. Your vain and senseless superstition revels in wickedness. I would apologize for passing on the reports I hear about you if I weren’t so certain they were true. (We Don’t Speak Great Things, We Live Them, 31) 

The Romans heard of their love feasts with wine, brother/sister language, and holy kisses, and let their imaginations run wild: 

Your banquets are also well known and are spoken about everywhere. On a solemn day, all of you assemble together as the feast, along with your children, sisters, and mothers. People of every sex and age are present. After much feasting, when the group is boisterous and when incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, you throw a piece of meat just outside the reach of a dog that has been tied to the room’s lamp. In trying to reach the meat, the dog overturns the lamp and plunges the room into darkness. The incestuous lusts of those present are now unfettered, and nature takes its course in the dark. (32) 

I guess the early church wasn’t so uptight about appearances. These rumors spread because of the brotherly and sisterly love they had for one another. But they didn’t decide to soften their language. They didn’t respond to these accusations by distancing themselves from one another. They lived according to their proper identity in Christ and their joint mission. And Octavius responded to these outlandish claims from Caecilius, affirming the modest and chaste lives of Christian men and women that weren’t “a matter of outward show” but of joyful obedience to the Lord (53).

Even today, Christians are under the microscope. The church has tried to be a godly voice in the midst of a world seduced by the sexual revolution. But often, the church has swung the pendulum too far to the opposite extreme, also over-sexualizing men and women, by imposing guidelines on not only friendship between the sexes, but even on acquaintanceship. For both the sake of appearances and the threat of lust and sexual impropriety, Christians are often counseled not to text, email, share a lunch, ride in a car, or even share an elevator unchaperoned with the opposite sex. Is this the way we should be seen treating brothers and sisters in the Lord? Is this how we show the love of Christ to the watching world? 

For suggesting that men and women in the church should be the very people to model distinctive but not reductive sexuality to the world, that we are called to communion with the triune God and one another, and that brothers and sisters are to promote one another’s holiness in friendship, others have been suspicious of me. But the strange thing is that it isn’t the secular world accusing me of being a closet egalitarian, being a thin complementarian, ungodly and immodest, a danger to the OPC, feminist, and upholding a teaching that leads to adultery—it is fellow Christians.  

How do we handle rumors both inside and outside the church? Do we promote a behavior that is led by fear, or is our desire for obedience to the Lord one that can persevere despite what others think? Justin Martyr responded to attacks of judgment this way:

So that no one thinks I’m writing recklessly, we not only request the charges against us Christians be investigated, we demand it. If anyone can prove the charges they make against us are true, then punish us as we deserve. But if no one can convict Christians of anything wrong, justice forbids you to punish innocent people simply because of false rumors…

In short, it is our responsibility as Christians to bare ourselves before you—to enable all of you to inspect our lives and teachings. (74)

Martyr gives an account of what is really going on in their weekly meetings, holy kisses and all, and it is beautiful and pure. 

Kruger says, despite hacking off basically everyone, the early church did not waver:

But, here’s the key. Christians did not, for these reasons, decided to abandon, change, or modify their worship.  Despite the opposition, they stayed true to their practices and true to their Lord.

That’s a great lesson for today’s church.  Exclusive, Christ-centered, Scripture-based worship must continue to be the heartbeat of the modern church.

That is key! We are called to exclusive, Christ-centered, Scripture-based worship and living. How does this affect our relationships and service in the church? It costs us something. Dealing with the sin in our own hearts, confessing temptations, offering them to God, and choosing obedience and holy, purifying love is much more difficult than avoiding people. Challenges should not be ignored. But they don’t mean we aren’t called to intimate sibling communion with one another. They just mean that we need to grow.

What do both insiders and outsiders see when they examine us? Do they see growth? Purity? Love? Plenty of naïve Christians have committed sexual sin because they didn’t give proper thought to the implications of their identity in Christ or exercise wisdom and discernment in their relationships. This should be addressed with competent teaching, calls to personal responsibility, and discipline. But keeping an arm’s length away from half of our community doesn’t prepare us for our eschatological hope. Yes, we need to call out predators and sexual sin. Along with that, we also need to know appropriate, pure platonic love in the relationship that will outlast marriage and erotic love—siblingship. Let’s do the work and experience the joy we are called to in maturity.

Law and Gospel in Judge Aquilina’s Court

I will not rehearse the grotesque acts of Larry Nasser.
 

As you probably know by now, Nassar is the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor whose crimes led to his disgraceful end. Today (January 24) he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is estimated that Nassar sexually assaulted over 150 women and girls.
 

During the sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave some of those assaulted by Nassar an opportunity to address the court and the man who victimized them.
 

Rachel Denhollander is the woman who first shone the light on Nassar’s deeds by recounting the abuse she suffered at his hands. Mrs. Denhollander’s statement in court was powerful. But it was much more than that. She gave a better presentation of law and gospel than you will hear in many evangelical churches.
 

Mrs. Denhollander spoke boldly about the depth of Nassar’s guilt. Her words exposing his actions and the impact of those actions gave him no place to deflect his sin or in anyway minimize its impact. Extraordinarily, after methodically naming his evil she held forth the radical promise of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I say “radical” because that is exactly how it sounds in light of Nassar’s wicked deeds.
 

In all of this we are reminded that the gospel demands repentance. It is not a self-help program meant to make good people better. The gospel is not a nice word for nice people. It is a word of pardon for those devestated by their sin. It is a promise made to sin’s slaves that purchase has been won through the death of God’s Son. So great is the sinner’s guilt that nothing else would satisfy the demands of perfect justice.
 

Speaking directly to Nassar, Mrs. Denhollander said:

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

Read Rachel Denhollander’s entire statement HERE
 

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A Remarkable Man

Many people outside of Scotland may be unfamiliar with the story of the Rev. Kenny Macdonald who died last weekend.  His story is well worth reading and pondering.

I met him only once — when we both happened to be visiting my soon-to-be father-in-law in hospital in Inverness in 1989.  A most remarkable man.

On the Relevance of Racial Reconciliation Services

In a continuing effort to bring to you the voices of those you will likely not hear in the current race “discussion” I pass along an excellent article on the propriety of so-called “Racial Reconciliation” services by Reverend Sam Murrell.

Sam Murrell is an Anglican priest living in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a graduate of Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary.

Reverend Murrell writes:

Years ago, I participated in my first”racial reconciliation” worship service. It was a well-integrated gathering of black and white folk. The service, while very moving, left me feeling very awkward as white strangers approached me to confess their racism toward me and “my kind”. It wasn’t that I had never experienced unfairness or injustices because of the tone of my skin. On the contrary, the issue was that the confessions came from people who had never done any wrong towards me in particular. So, I was left not knowing what I should do for them in response to their confessions; I was young and so chalked my discomfort up to my inexperience. Since that gathering, I recall participating in at least two other instances of worship services that were focused primarily on racial reconciliation. And I have actually worked for a church where “intentional racial reconciliation” was part of the mission statement. Over the years, I have come to a greater sense of clarity regarding my uneasiness with such event. Here, in no particular order, are the few reasons that I no longer take part in “racial reconciliation” services:

Too often, the premise of the worship service is that Whites are guilty because they are White. This is evident in the fact that the white people present at such events are expected, even pressured, to confess the sin of racism even if they cannot recall any specific instances of racist action that they have perpetrated. The assumption is that because you are white then you must have knowingly, or unknowingly, caused offense towards Blacks (and maybe other ethnic minorities too). An example of this guilt-by-association is that, although you may be unable to find any instance of slave ownership in your genealogy, you are held accountable for the history of slavery in the United States of America. The black person stands as representative of the innocent victim of so-called racism and thus serves a priestly role for the white confessor who is guilty because of a lack of melanin in the epidermis. The white person’s pigmentation carries with it a privilege, and that is enough to require repentance.

Continue Reading…

More helpful voices on race

Given the profusion of regrettable things being said about race by those who are members of reformed churches like “repent of your whiteness” it is necessary to actively support those whose voices are aggressively marginalized. It does not take much to be marginalized in the current climate. Simply suggest that being a white male does not necessarily mean you are a vile racist and you will be told that you just don’t get it (as I was recently by a fellow PCA pastor). Suggest that there may be a problem with a ministry leader in a PCA church publicly praising the terrorist Angela Davis and you will be called a racist. And then watch all the great people of influence in the PCA remain silent lest they risk their influence. Such is the current condition of the race “discussion” in the PCA.
 

So, in a continuing effort to promote helpful voices on race and reconciliation I give you the following links…
 

Lisa Robinson (someone always worth reading) has posted a helpful article entitled “When They Don’t Want to March.”
 

Darrell Harrison was the guest on this week’s Mortification of Spin. We talk with Darrell about race, the gospel, and being called an Uncle Tom.
 

And here is a heads up for an upcoming Mortification of Spin. We are scheduled to interview Ismael Hernandez on his essential book Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America. You really ought to read this book.

Seismic shift or wasted opportunity?

While thinking about the #MeToo movement, and the prominent place being played in it by members of the Hollywood establishment, I have asked myself a couple of times, ‘Is this a root-and-branch reformation of the structure of modern morality or merely something superficial?’  To be more specific, given the way that figures such as Meryl Streep and Whoopi Goldberg have in the past advocated (advocated passionately!) for the convicted child rapist, Roman Polanski, and the manner in which Woody Allen’s many –ahem – “issues” have been ignored or trivialized, I wonder if what we are witnessing is a truly significant moment or not.  This is not to belittle many of those who have been strengthened and encouraged to speak out because of the movement.  That is something for which we can all be grateful.  It is rather to ask whether those who have played a large part in creating this sexually abusive culture are now truly repentant or simply doing what they always do: Carefully marketing their images to an adoring public.

I am not sure we are actually seeing anything other than a shift in taste.  Suddenly Hollywood has woken up to the fact that sexual abuse is bad and has been part and parcel of the way Tinseltown has operated since the couch was first used for a casting call. Many of the knew the way it was, of course, and chose to keep silent or to play along.  And the day of moral reckoning is always delayed, if not deferred indefinitely, for the world of the creative. Artists have always enjoyed what George Orwell compared to the old benefit of clergy, whereby their sins were forgiven or treated less seriously, simply because they produced works of beauty. Those who entertain us tend to be treated as a breed apart, even when it comes to basic canons of moral decency.  But now the weight of public distaste for abuse has tipped the scales to such an extent that this benefit of clergy is, at least for a time and on this precise issue, being withdrawn. 

So are we seeing a fundamental, radical moral rethink?  Well, that will only be the case if we see a fundamental, radical rethink of the philosophy of sex which underpins the modern entertainment industry and which is promoted by the same in somany of its products.  If sex continues to be presented as a recreational activity of no significance beyond the immediate pleasure it provides, then the #MeToo celebrities really have no more credibility than someone who campaigns against drunk driving while making endless movies about the fun to be had getting hammered and driving at high speed through a crowded street as the clubs are closing.

I am a cynic, especially when it comes to Hollywood.  I do not think we are seeing a root-and-branch reformation of the morality which has tacitly enabled sexual abuse and even, in the form of those dreadful Polanski apologists, gloried in excusing it in its most criminal form.  I suspect rather that we are seeing a shift merely in matters of cultural taste which Hollywood is superficially appropriating in order to maintain its status as the moral guardian of the modern world.   Which makes #MeToo not so much a moment of seismic significance but of wasted opportunity.

Sexless, Open Marriages: A New Trend?

Both the secular society and the church have hardly mentioned one, enormous causality of the sexual revolution—friendship. This latest story about a sexless marriage reads like a satire of its neglect, revealing a complete confusion of categories between friendship and marriage. Here is the opening paragraph:

When New York socialites Quentin Esme Brown and Peter Cary Peterson got hitched in Las Vegas over the weekend in front of a small group of friends — including Tiffany Trump, who acted as the flower girl — they knew that people would make some assumptions. Either they were madly in love or drunk, right? In reality, the best friends said they were neither. They’re planning to make theirs a sexless, open marriage, they explained, and this actually sounds like a pretty wise idea to relationship experts.

Quentin Esme Brown and Peter Cary Peterson. (Photo: Instagram/quentinesmebrown)

Sexless? Open? Wise? It’s easy to read this and lament about how they have the notion of marriage all wrong. And they do. But this whole story reveals that these NY socialites and the “experts” interviewed have not only lost the meaning of marriage, but of friendship as well. And a proper understanding of friendship is foundational to build from in something like marriage.

The so-called relationship experts interviewed concur that this is a wise idea. I would think that if one were a relationship expert, one would then know the categorical distinction between friendship and marriage—one is platonic, one is sexual. Friendship is not exclusive. Marriage is exclusive. You don’t have a non-sexual marriage with a friend and have sexual relationships with everyone else, just like you don’t stop making and building non-sexual friendships with others once you enter the sexual union of marriage. But the experts have a different take:

Susan Pease Gadoua, a licensed therapist and co-author of The New “I Do,” has yet to meet anyone else with this kind of marriage, but she says it fits in with the way she sees many people deciding to change the rules to suit their relationship needs…

“Basically, rather than being an emotion-based marriage, it’s a purpose-driven marriage, which is kind of a throwback to how we used to marry before the industrial revolution,” 

First of all, while this indeed exposes the problem with a merely emotion-based marriage, I have to pose the question: what is their friendship based on? The couple uses rather emotionally charged language to describe their friendship. Brown calls Peterson her “soulmate” and elaborates, “we are just each other’s hearts.” 

Peterson explains on his Instagram account, “Esme and I have taken progressive steps towards what we believe marriage should be. I need to be constantly growing, evolving, and progressing…we did this because we want to finalize our commitment to each other as life partners and best friends. Life is short and I just want to be happy.” 

And second of all, I’m pretty sure that part of the purpose-driven nature of marriages before the industrial revolution was that they were both exclusive and sexual. I wonder what the purpose of this non-sexual friend, open marriage is? The language of growing, evolving, and progressing is a bunch of psychological gobbledygook.

And how does one finalize a commitment to a friend? The very thought that one would have to marry a friend to show commitment to them reveals how disposable we view friendship as a whole. And the irony is not lost that a society that views marriage as a disposable agreement looks to it as a virtuous commitment in this case. The secular world has stripped sex from all of its meaning, oneness, relational value, fruit, danger, and commitment. Sex has been reduced to a recreational activity. Whereas, Christians are so reactive and guarded to this romanticized and sexualized age that we set marriage up as the ultimate relationship in which all of our commitment, passion, and intimacy is shared and invested. Friendship is minimized in both cases. 

The result is that we don’t know how to behave as lovers or as friends. If you want to keep a friendship platonic, marrying them is a bad idea! And if you want to make an exclusive commitment in marriage, having a sexual relationship with someone else is also a bad idea!

Friendship indeed calls us to worthy practices and commitment. Peterson and Brown are right not to want to minimize friendship like so many do. But while they are making a categorical mistake by thinking marriage is the highest expression of friendship, they are also on to something that so many have lost. Friendship is something you do. To be a friend, we need to exercise virtue. It requires moral excellence. This is indeed a demanding kind of moral excellence because it is not primarily for the benefit of ourselves, but through our own sacrifices for another. The beautiful paradox is that this others-centered virtue creates what we call friendship, enhancing the souls of all participants. Friends are advocates who promote one another’s holiness. That is a relationship, unlike marriage, that will carry on to the new heavens and the new earth.

Friendship is not merely companionship. It is not merely recognizing affection for another person. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue” (The Four Loves, 57).  So I hope that marriages do have a foundation of friendship, even as it is a relationship with exclusive additional blessings and responsibilities.

Perterson and Brown are quite vague about their purpose in their friendship and their marriage, revealing their confusion about both relationships. Again, Lewis is instructive in explaining that the focus of a friendship isn’t on the friendship itself, but rather the pursuit of common interests and convictions. This is also what distinguishes friendship love from erotic love. “In some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship” (61). And yet we see the language from Peterson and Brown to be focused on their friendship rather than any actual common pursuit. What is it that they want to evolve to or grow in? 

Another “relationship expert” comments:

“To me it seems like they’re creating a family out of two people; it’s a family member you can always count on,” Maryland-based psychologist Samantha Rodman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “A lot of these sorts of marriages are in response to society getting increasingly isolated, and people want to create a kinship model. You either have to be married or you have to be blood relatives; otherwise, you can walk away from each other.”

Real friends don’t have to marry to be able to count on each other. But it is very perceptive to note how our increasingly isolated society is longing for a kinship model. This is exactly what God gives us in his church, which is a committed body made up of brothers and sisters in Christ, spurring one another on and promoting one another’s holiness as we grow together in his mission of eternal communion with the Triune God and one another. God reveals himself to his people so that he can make friends with us. How well to we represent this to the watching world by our friendships?

Friendship requires rooted identity, mission, holistic value, purity, maturity, and growth. This is costly. Our Savior thought of the cost to be a friend to us, one that we could never afford, and then warned us to count the cost before becoming his disciples. Because of his sacrifice, I want to represent him by being a good friend.  Aelred of Rievaulx offers a mindset that will help us represent this in our own friendships: “You and I are here, and I hope that Christ is between us as a third…Gratefully let us welcome the place, the time, and the leisure.” (Spiritual Friendship, 1.1, 55).

Wordsworth and Mrs West

I am grateful to Todd for mentioning my upcoming DC lectures and also to RTS DC for their kindness in asking me to present some of the firstfruits of my Princeton work in a public forum.  The two lectures are entitled as follows:

Lecture 1: Acknowledging the Unacknowledged Legislators: From William Wordsworth to Kim Kardashian

 

Lecture 2: True Life among the Death Works: Christians and Contemporary Identity Culture

I have always wanted to lecture on William Wordsworth and also publicly to express my withering disdain for the world of Mrs West.  Never dreamed I would be able to do both at the same time.

Vindicating the Vixens

The Introduction explains that this is a fresh look at some women in Scripture who have been given an unfair bad reputation. It also accounts for the diversity among the contributors: “a team of male and female scholars from different nationalities and ethnicities, as well as educational institutions and religious traditions…’all over the map’ on their view of women preachers and even their approaches to the women explored in this book. But they agree on this: We must visit what the Scriptures say about some Bible women we have sexualized, vilified, and/or marginalized. Because, above all, we must tell the truth about what the text says” (16). For this reason, it was a most refreshing read. “And time and time again, God’s heart for the silenced, the marginalized, the powerless, the Gentile, the outsider, was what had been missing” (16).  

The book isn’t a feminist male-bashing, but a Christ-focused endeavor that upholds the authority of his word. I appreciate how the editor, Sandra Glahn, included the varying views of the contributors. It highlights the unity in the essentials of the gospel, sharpens the reader and drives us to the biblical text, and prevents writing with feigned neutrality. 

The first chapter helps the reader to participate in reading with discernment by outlining the six questions each contributor brought to the text:

What does the text actually say?

What do I observe in and about the text?

What did this text mean to the original audience?

What was the point?

What truths in the text are timelessly relevant?

How does the part fit the whole?

For the most part, I believe this book succeeded in its mission and interacted well with historical interpretations. The vixens they vindicated were Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Deborah (and Jael), Huldah, Vashti, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, and Junia/Joanna. I was happy to see Richard Bauckham’s work, Gospel Women, footnoted by different contributors, as it was such fascinating read for me. 

I thought I would highlight two chapters, even though I enjoyed interacting with all of them.

Tamar: The Righteous Prostitute

When you think of Tamar, what’s the first word that comes to your mind? Usually, the first thing we think is prostitute. But Carolyn Custis James makes a good case that righteous is the defining word in this account. That’s a very different word! And it is unexpectantly Judah who calls her this. Tamar’s account is one that we wrestle with. Yes, she secures the line of Judah, the ancestors of Jesus. But she does this by tricking her father-in-law to sleep with her. She seems a bit shady to us. But Custis James points out that Tamar isn’t a “skeleton in the closet” to her descendants. Of all places to bring up Tamar, she is mentioned in the marital blessing of Boaz and Ruth: “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12, NIV). “Significantly, both Kind David and his son Absalom named their daughters ‘Tamar’ (2 Sam. 13:1; 14:27).

Custis James explains that Tamar’s descendants name their children after her, Judah calls her righteous, and Matthew includes her in the genealogy of Christ because “God chose a marginalized Canaanite woman to put the power of his gospel on display and to advance his redemptive purposes for Judah and the world” (48). We do need to wrestle with this account. “Tamar’s story makes no sense unless we see how she gets caught in the crossfire of primogeniture, both within Judah’s family of origin and among his sons” (34). Scripture exposes the abusive social system that arises in patriarchy. “It mobilizes a marginalized woman to act with extraordinary boldness to reveal a patriarch’s hypocrisy thus leading to his renewal.” While it’s not by any means a “recommendation of prostitution as a means of furthering the redemptive plan of God or in any situation,” Tamar acted in the one way she had power to ensure the duty of childbearing in her dead husband’s name that she was honor-bound to do (48). Tamar wasn’t actually a prostitute, but she was willing to appear and act as one to get Judah to fulfill the law to preserve his son’s family line. And what a family line that is.

Huldah: Malfunction with the Wardrobe-Keeper’s Wife

I was so glad this was a chapter in the book. Sadly, whenever I begin talking about Huldah I get blank stares. And so this chapter fittingly begins with the subtitle, “Huldah Who?” Christa L. McKirland reasons, “Huldah’s vindication comes through the simple act of making her visible once again” (213). True to the that.

I don’t understand how she is so ignored, as if her inclusion as the prophetess sought out for Josiah after the Book of the Law was found was some sort of accidental vestige. There is so much to pay attention to in this 2 Kings 22 passage and 2 Chronicles 34 parallel. Here we have a prophetess, who Wilda Gafney describes as “arguably the first person to grant authoritative status to the Torah scroll deposited in the temple treasury,” authenticating the Word of God, largely accepted as the heart of the book of Deuteronomy (222). Here is a bright and shining account of a woman authoritatively confirming an important text in the cannon of Scripture to “the most righteous king in the divided kingdom’s history” (231). And it wasn’t because there were no good men available. This was the same time that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophets—that’s right, I said Jeremiah and Zephaniah!! Huldah “played a significant role in the last major reformation in the kingdom of Judah before its final downfall” (213).

Josiah sends out his dignitaries to inquire of the word of the Lord once the Book of the Law was discovered. It’s sad to read the explanations some commentators give for why they seek Huldah and not Jeremiah or Zephaniah, but I don’t have space to go there. McKirland explains how the sending out of the dignitaries to her rather than summoning her directly to the king should queue the reader in on the respect both the king and his dignitaries have for her. This is a matter of high importance, as Josiah laments, “for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13b). She answers with the “Thus says the Lord” authoritative formula of a prophet, speaks in the first person voice of God, confirms the judgment Josiah anticipated, the details of the charge, and the delay of God’s wrath because Josiah’s “heart was tender and [he] humbled [him]self before the Lord” (vv 16-20).  In this, Huldah authenticates what Josiah recognized as the word of God, the rediscovery of Deuteronomy. “In the same way that women were the first to testify to the resurrection of Christ, the living Word, how poetic might it be that the first person to authenticate the written Word might also have been a woman?” (222)

No, women were not left out of active traditioning in testifying to and passing down the faith. As a matter of fact, in Scripture we see a testimony to the opposite. 

As Bauckham points out, the women’s voice in Scripture corrects any promotion of androcentrism. The canon itself corrects this kind of promotion (see Gospel Women, 15). And as Carolyn Custis James points out, “stories such as Tamar’s, Rahab’s, and that of the sinful woman who wept and poured perfume on Jesus’s feet give the church opportunities to raise the subject of prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse and to confront an issue to which the church cannot in good conscience turn a blind eye” (41). God sees and cares for all of his people. And these gynocentric texts in his word are rich with doctrine-meets-real life, history-meets-experience and depth of insight. 

So I’m thankful for the vindication done by these contributors.