Want Some Answers ???


By Mark Purchase PhD ThD. mpp@xtra.co.nz

A Review of the
Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Journal
Issue 122 Aug. 1990

Visible or Invisible? Women's role in today's church




The Journal..........."Visible or Invisible? Women's role in today's church"
Prof. FF Bruce........"One in Christ. Thoughts on Gal.3:26-29."
Dr. Gordon D Fee...."Women in Ministry: the Meaning of 1 Tim.2:8-15 in Light of the Purpose of 1 Timothy"
Dr. J Keir Howard... "The New Eve: Paul and the Role of Women."
Dr. Paul Trebilco....."Women as Co-workers and Leaders in Paul's Letters."
Dr. Mary J Evans..."The Invisibility of Women: An Investigation of a Possible Blind Spot for Bible Commentators."




In the 1980's-90's the issue of women's participation first surfaced at Lincoln Rd Bible Chapel, my local church. Funny because women had always taken part in many ways and no one complained. I was amazed how the issue was forced along by it's promoters. Our church was tripped-up (see footnote). Traditionally Brethren assemblies are known for scriptural loyalty. So what does the bible say? I soon discovered it didn't matter, church Elders do what they want. The Elders driving this were, Max Liddle - Laurie Bell - the late Len Stevenson. Other influences - John Hitchen, Chris Marshall ("NZ Bible College", renamed Laidlaw College).

I recall discussions when illustrations from this Journal were twice used in our church. So wrote for a copy and assumed its lengthy articles [by qualified experts] must be convincing. But we shall see.

Individual Open Brethren Assemblies are free to practice faith as they see fit and we have seen Assemblies go 'Pentecostal'. Denominational trends are contagious and fashions of the world influence churches. When hats were worn by men, Christian men worn hats. When men's long hair became popular, it was so with young Christians. There are dozens of similar examples when fashion has influenced churches. This is not an idea on my part, its a fact. Feminism has also influenced churches [1] So what is it? "Modern feminism is very much about equality between men and women and opposed to any emphasis on differences between the sexes" (Prof. P. Vitz. "Cutting Edge" No.55. p19 Oct. 01). If churches don't embrace the latest fashion they are criticized and called 'old fashion' and 'will die'. So I reviewed this Journal. [2]


This Wellington based Journal commenced in 1964, its editors were concerned Open Brethren Assemblies "should be both faithful to Scripture and relevant to contemporary society". Unfortunately to be 'contemporary' scriptural 'faithfulness' often suffers. The editors regard "tradition as "insufficient".

The Journal was published occasionally throughout the year. This particular volume impacted on the Assemblies. If you ask me, by fostering debate and causing division. There was no contrary position published for balance.

So who are the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship (CBRF)? Ossie Fountain is Chair, and author of articles in past Journals. Also author in the Treasury Magazine (NZ Brethren publication). Another significant figure was Dr Peter Lineham (9 articles in previous Journals) serving on the committee of the CBRF. Today Lineham is a homosexual activist (obvious when interviewed on National Radio). Yet he still preaches among the Brethren. And greatly respected at Laidlaw College (the Principle assures me) and they still publish his ideas in their 'Stimulus' magazine
(p.43 vol.19 Iss.1 Apr.2012).

Lineham is also promoted on the official NZ Brethren website Brethren.org I made the mistake of enquiring about this. Their replies were very critical of me, not Lineham. I was called "deceitful", "incorrect", "if not divisive" and "untruthful". The webmaster was "offended" and "disappointed in" my "attitude" and "assumptions" and "not prepared to wrangle and rail on any topic" (See footnote 15).

The Journal claimed worldwide membership, subscribers and contributors. You didn't '
need to subscribe to a set statement of faith' just pay the subscription. If you 'like to be heard', and your article agreed with "the aims of the fellowship" they might publish it.

The Journal 122 August 1990

The title is revealing. "Visible or Invisible? Women's Role in Today's Church". What a choice, are your church women "visible or invisible"? In the Brethren Assemblies they have always been visible and no one complained. But the title suggests a debate and that they should not be 'invisible'.

The new direction appeared like a biblical departure. So the Journal brought together scholarly studies to encourage Brethren churches to modernize. Feminism has caused some good changes in society, we weren't complaining, so why now? Should a modern society have modern churches?

The Catholic Church was first to have a feminist debate which still continues in their vast organizations. [3] Catholics discovered that male church leaders who are not feminist converts are vilified at every opportunity. And women who dare contradict feminist nostrums are treated like the enemy. Interesting to note Catholic's admit of their 'feminists' a 'significant proportion are lesbians and disapprove of gender entirely".

So this Journal endeavored to promote a modernization in Brethren Assemblies dressed up in scholarly clothes. It is not a trivial issue (who decides what is important for God?) nor a grey area (ie Rom.14 1 Cor.8-9). So what did the scholars write?

Author: F.F. Bruce.

Article: "One in Christ. Thoughts on Gal.3:26-29." (pp.7-10).

Bruce divides his article into four sections. Most bible students won't disagree with most of his comment. He is consistently accurate and rightfully one of the most respected scholars today and the best of the Journal contributors.

In one section titled – "No 'male and female' he elaborates from Gal.3:28 and gets into difficulty. Keep in mind 'Christian feminists' also use this as the banner for the obliteration of role distinctions between genders.

Traditionally the Brethren Assemblies have always held that men and women are created in the image of God. And "the Spiritual union in the fellowship of the one mystical 'Body' of Christ is a truth established by God". [4] The manner in which that fellowship is expressed in the 'temple' of the NT local church is also divinely established. Both sexes are liberated (from sin and death) in God's redemptive plan. Having a common equality and calling in unity with one another to serve God. True regardless of race, occupation or gender; all are 'one in Christ'.

But according to FF Bruce, the Greek of Gal.3:28 "
says no male or female" (which he says means) "no ground of sex any more" (p.10). Bruce says "all nations" are accepted by God so race 'distinctions' are gone - correct. But 'gender' involves more than nationalities. Bruce generalizes beyond the Greek saying - "no matter what grounds of cleavage had kept them apart" are gone (p.8). To be consistent he should endorse unisex. And even homosexuality (which is anti-human and unnatural). As Schaeffer writes,

"To deny the truth of what it means to be male and female as taught in the scriptures is to deny something essential about the nature of man and about the character of God and His relation to man. But this denial has equally tragic consequences for society and human life. If we accept the idea of equality without distinction, we must logically must accept the ideas of abortion and homosexuality. For if there are no significant distinctions between men and women, then certainly we cannot condemn homosexual relationships." (The Great Evangelical Disaster. p397 Complete Works of F.S vol.4. 1982)

Bruce becomes confusing with blanket statements like,
"distinctions disappeared in Christ". Why? Because when one becomes a Christian, do all "male and female" distinctions disappear? No! So by saying "no matter what grounds..." is beyond Paul's intent when he wrote "all are one in Christ".

The Journal editor comments -
"Bruce argues the gender distinction has also disappeared in the local church. While the distinction between male and female continues since it belongs to the order of creation, this distinction is foreign to the new creation". So here we have 'gender distinctions" that ‘disappeared' yet "male and female distinctions" that 'continue'. Not what Bruce said, and can read either way. According to D.A Carson this really “suits what we want the text to say, or think that a text says more than it actually says[5]

Bruce says
"in Christ" and means "in the local church". Although we add 'local church' are not Paul's words. Paul made a similar comment to Gal.3:28 in Col.3:11 - "Christ is all and in all" but wives are still subject to husbands "in the Lord" (v.18). And again, the Corinthian's were 'all one in Christ', neither "Jew or Gentile, slave or free" (1 Cor.12:13). Yet Paul regulated "in the local church" gender distinctions (1 Cor.11:1-16 see also). Bruce overlooks that 'the local church' is 'one body' but has 'many parts', and not all have the 'same function' "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit gives them. There are DIFFERENT ways of SERVING but the same Lord is served.... There are different abilities to perform service..." (GNB 1 Cor.12:4-31). Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity. Spiritual unity can even co-exist with differences of doctrine and practice. But clearly men and women have different strengths and abilities and the Spirit recognizes and utilizes these.

On page 10 Bruce applies Gal.3:26-29 to the "
whole of one's new existence in Christ". He violates the context of Gal.3:28 ignoring the fact Galatians refers to 'law and grace' (while 1st Corinthians 'church order'). All those 'in Christ' are freed 'from the curse of the law' (3:13). While all men are prisoners of sin (3:22) 'faith in Christ' confers the blessings in Abraham (3:18-22). The Law was schoolmaster until Christ came (3:24). He freed 'all' "through faith in Christ", whether Jew, Gentile, man, woman, slave or free. All are one in Christ.

So the expression "in Christ" doesn't remove us from the creative order. Whoever uses Gal.3:28 as FF Bruce at best can only say, in this (my) illustration -

In Christ'
-------–-- In the Church –-- Distinctions removed
"Creative order"
---- In the World ----- Distinctions remain.

Yet even that isn't satisfactory. Distinctions or differences should not be viewed as something to remove but as complementary. God gave men their manhood as women their womanhood as something 'good'. This is a gift from God and should be honoured in church, not just the local Rugby club. The role of men and women in the church is different, why not emphasize a positive model that honors the sexes as different and honour the special gifts of the other?

Why not embrace that old fashion policy? Treat women as valuable, special, with dignity and honour they deserve. Open doors, stand up when they want to sit. It's feminism that removes "
distinctions" confusing that with equality. Pretending women don't have children or nurse young, and men are not expected to stand up with an authoritative voice for family and country.

The fact is, in
"church" and 'in Christ' there are gender distinctions while on earth. Joining "Christ" or a "church" does not mean gender vanishes nor annul the fact all are one "in Christ". Just as a Christian servant is still bound to their master (Phil.12-19).

  An other awkward point Bruce raised was at the start of his article. Feminists will quote FF Bruce to refute St Paul. Bruce suggests Paul was corrupted by Jewish tradition. He wrote “
it is highly probable” Paul 'recited' a basic Jewish prayer daily thanking God he was not 'made a woman'. This is an assumption. So we begin to think perhaps Paul was prejudiced when he wrote to the churches. But not when he wrote Gal.3:28? It's the kind of assumption of those who label Paul anti-women. Which is not true, 1 Cor.5:1-13. 7:1-16, 25-40. Is it also "highly probable" Peter, John, James and even Jesus often 'recited' this prayer? FF Bruce; also assumes (claims) elsewhere there were more than "the 12 original Apostles". And they were "female" Apostles. He says these females were far more faithful and trustworthy than the 12 who were pitiful in comparison (see footnote 27)

Finally, we need to be careful when using words as feminists of "
discrimination or inferiority in status or function" (Bruce) "equality" and "subordinate" (Trebilco p.33). These words are misleading. We are all equal in status and position but have different responsibilities (1 Cor.11:2-16 I Tim.2:11-15 Gal.3:28). Otherwise Bruce would have us liberate ourselves from obedience.[6]

Feminists endlessly complain of "oppressed" womanhood wrongfully 'denied' power, rights, and privileges. And suffering under Jewish religion. Often the 'anti-women' views of Ben Sira and Josephus are quoted. But "other Jewish sources, such as Judith, Pseudo-Philo, Testament of Job and Jubilees present a much more positive image of women who featured in Jewish tradition. This positive picture is less well represented but it does show us that women had a high profile in some streams of Judaism". [7]

Author Gordon D Fee.

Who is he? An ordained Pentecostal Pastor who 'prays in tongues'. In other publications he recommends finding "the spirit of the text" but gives no boundaries for this principle. Amazing Brethren Assemblies would follow his doctrinal advice.

Article: "Women in Ministry: the Meaning of 1 Tim.2:8-15 in Light of the Purpose of 1 Timothy" (pp.11-18).

Fee regards this not as a "Pastoral Epistle" but a book of the past. With no authority today, it applies to people of "
that historical situation" (p.14). It's not "applicable for all believers at all times". Fee says "it simply cannot be demonstrated that Paul intended 1 Tim.2:11-12 as a rule in all churches at all times". But Fee is wrong. We can't even read vs.11-12 without noting the reason for the instructions in vs.13-15. And vs.9-15 regarding women is a natural flowing statement (as vs.1-8 regarding men). Read it! Fee forces the whole section (v.9-15) into obscurity.

Fee says of 1 Timothy that it is "
not a church manual' for Timothy was not an elder. Not so! Paul instructs Timothy in the “oversight of the church” (3:1-7 5:17 LB) Deacons in the church (3:8-13 LB) He gives Timothy “rules to guide…. The church” (3:15 5:17-20 LB) and Timothy is to “command and teach” Paul’s advice (4:11, 21, 6:3-5). And this advice "intended 1 Tim.2:11-12 as a rule" is reflected elsewhere - "as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Cor.14:33-4).

Fee illustrates why he dismisses the text as an historical event. He says Paul told Timothy to "bring his cloak left at Troas" as he is cold. He correctly says this '
was not meant for our obedience' (This same argument was used at Lincoln Rd Bible Chapel in promoting change).

Two points (a) Here we have a Pentecostal Pastor insisting 1 Tim.2:8-19 doesn't apply today. Yet he insists Tongue speaking of that day is for today. (b) So do women no longer need to dress sensibly and modesty? (v.9-10) Can they come into church naked? No! Because 2:8-19 is indeed a good manual.

Fee says, this "
factor is the clincher for me; to deny women to minister and teach in the church is to deny the clear gifts of God…if God had never gifted a women to teach, then of course one might have a case" (p.16).

But surely the issue is not ability, capability, giftedness, or talents indeed true of many women. God did not give gifts then say we must not use them.

Consider the beautiful poetry of Frances Ridley Havergal written around 1850-90.
Consider the amazing ministry of Mrs Penn-Lewis who from 1892-1927 traveled the world preaching to women's groups and children.
Consider the 2500 amazing songs written by Dottie Rambo 1934-2008. A life devoted to poetic lyrics and melodies that have inspired millions].

The issue rather is concerning God's order in the church. Should it follow a biblical teaching of man's 'headship' (1 Cor.11:3) and what that leadership demands? Traditionally there have always been many women ministries, "teaching children and women, discipling women and pastoral care, ministry in prayer, writing, music, evangelistic service in special group activities eg blind, deaf, handicapped or socially disadvantaged" [8]

Paul is saying any gift from God should be used according to biblical guidelines. This is not put-down women. They were created by God with beauty, wisdom, intuition, a motherly care and with a special role in the church no male can fill.

In summary, Fee looks back on what he wrote. He knows, "
all will be satisfied with this articulation". How true. "Such a hermeneutical stance makes some people nervous. They see this as… relativism….that causes us to go contrary to God's Word" (p.16).

He accepts he is interpreting "
the anew in our own contexts". That is, to fit with what we want to believe. Coined in theological circles as 'the New Hermeneutic’. No surprise his article has a chapter division titled, "The Hermeneutic Task". Where he sets out to refute First Timothy as an authority.

Carson rightly said, “I do not know what biblical authority means nor even what submission to the headship of Jesus Christ means if we are unprepared to bend our opinions, values and mental structures to what the bible says [9]

Author:    J. Keir Howard.

Who is he?   A Medical Doctor.

Article:     "The New Eve: Paul and the Role of Women." (pp.19-26)

There is some kind of affiliation between Howard and Fee, the former relies on the later. Howard states that the "foundational principle" for his view is Gal.3:28. We agree Christians are "one in Christ". Howard applies this particularly 'within the fellowship of the Church" but blurs male and female distinctions. His comment abbreviated,

…those divisions produced by differences of… sex… which continue to be so obtrusive in social, have been totally negated by the formation of a new humanity…." (which is ambiguous). Sensing nebulous "divisions" Howard says "those things which outwardly distinguish the sexes should be maintained". (p.19) This is not clear either, a similar problem to Bruce.

Paul made no reference between '
those divisions' and 'those things' in Gal.3:28. And after reading Gordon Fee we ask, - what 'things' and by whose authority? Twice Howard mentions that Gal.3:28 is "the basis" for "the full participation of women in all aspects of the Churches ministry". Yet this is not a good 'basis', both Fee and Howard know they must reconstruct the 'submission' verses. But he was correct saying liberal denominations were first to ordain women (since 1979) - a reaction to the women's liberation movement, not a rediscovery of Gal.3:28.

It's not long in reading this Journal we notice the authors are influenced by feminist authors. Six times in his footnotes Howard directs readers to "Murphy-O'Connor, "Sex and Logic in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16" (p.25). [A Catholic Biblical Quarterly dated 1980. O'Connor was Archbishop of NY and supporter of 'Courage', an organization for homosexuals and Richard Murphy a RCC Priest].

Many arguments used by Fee, Howard, Trebilco & Evans are not new. Feminist women (and men) occupy prominent chairs in theology at Catholic and secular universities, they are members of seminary faculties; and hold powerful diocesan offices. They are writers and editors for Catholic journals and publishing houses. And have produced the materials used to promote feminist theology.

Feminist theologians have given themselves license to create a new theology free from the "oppressive" inherited "myth" they believe was imposed by 'the patriarchy'. They reject authority (though they want authority over others) and they deconstruct scripture texts and re-construct them according to the feminist 'hermeneutic of suspicion'. Howard, Evans, Fee, and Trebilco use their literature, which becomes obvious.

1 Cor.11:2-17

Howard says this passage goes against the "
freedom that is in Christ, Paul never attempts to impose the cultural norms… of one group upon another" so Paul can't be the author. The veiling of women was a "Jewish custom" and Paul would never ask Greeks to obey a Jewish custom. So Howard calls this an 'non-Pauline interpolation". (p.20) The real author likely a Jewish-Christian ascetic text-tamper. Fee holds the same view [10]

There are a number of "
interpolation" theories with similar objectives. Explained in the footnotes [11]

Inconsistently elsewhere in this article Howard seems to indicate Paul was the author (p.22). He says the reason few scholars call this an "
interpolation" is because "Insufficient attention seems to have been paid to this in the past". He is incorrect 'Interpolations' and reconstructions are well known. But they are based on speculation which is a serious problem. [12]

Howard says there’s "
no evidence that Greek or Roman men ever covered their head". What about Rabbi's of that day? They insisted men cover their head. If text tampering occurred, why didn't the Jewish tamper insist 'men' be covered?

 Paul regarded Jewish customs as misinterpreting Moses and the reason for the veil (2 Cor.3:13). He says men as created in God's image and "
in Christ" ought not to cover heads as a symbol of dignity and liberty. So if 1 Cor.11:2-17 is a non-Pauline interpolation why would a Jewish offender contradict Jewish custom?

Having rejected the author as Paul; Howard wants a dollar each way, reinterpreting the text. But why if the author is not Paul? Because Howard wants the authors concern turned into a minor cultural issue. It's not the hair needing covering but women are not to have "
unloosed" hair with an unfeminine "style". It's all about 'hair styles" those "associated overtones of sexual excess". So women don't select the wrong hair style! Whatever, 'the issue' Howard says it is a 'local problem' confined to the 'first century'. Yet in summary (and in contradiction) Howard says the injunctions have 'lasting value' for ‘proper order’ and ‘decorum’.

Howard in fact also destroys the link between headship and authority. To answer questions his footnote directs the reader to a book by R. Scroggs. So who is Scrogg? A theological feminist who also rejects the traditional biblical view that homosexual behaviour is unnatural. [13]

Surely Howard believes his comments are creditable. But no, "
there will always remain some doubt as to the exact interpretation that should be placed on these verses" (p.21). An understandable comment from him. Because to read as it is written, there is no reason to assume Paul was thinking about ‘hair fashion' or "prostitutes”. Paul says on account of the angels and creation (1 Cor.11:7, 9-10, 14-15 see Gen.3:9-12 Prov.12:4). Paul has the idea that ‘no flesh should glory before God’ (2 Cor.1:29). And he mentions distinctions (that 'remain') in all the ‘assemblies of God’ (11:16).

1 Cor.14:34-35 (p.22)

Howard says “
there is little doubt that in their present position these verses form an interpolation into the text”. Yet we note "in their present position" they fit well, the chapter is about the "assembly come together" (14:5,12,19,23,26,29,33). However, Howard quotes Fee "there is considerable doubt on their authority”. So they have “no apostolic authority”. A serious claim for " in their position" they are “the commands of Christ”. “Let your women keep silence in the church” could be called a Jewish ordinance. Howard says, “the statement ‘even as the law says’ is not the kind of thing that Paul says, he does not refer to the Torah as something binding and absolute on the Christian community”.

 But according to FF Bruce it was “
highly probable” “the kind of thing” Paul would say. Paul believed the law was "good" if used properly (1 Tim.1:8 WEY see also 6:14 2 Tim.3:16). Paul said, "I'm telling you what the law says..." then gave an example of Mosaic law given in principle to us (1 Cor.9:8-10). Howard says, “nowhere does the law actually say any such thing as set out here”. Yet Paul believed the principle of ‘submission’ was in the law - Gen.3:16. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Here is the submission Paul referred to, and Deut.16:16 excluded females a particular place in public worship. If we (as Bruce elsewhere) insist Gen.3:16 is post-Fall, then note [1] Even the pre-fall creation narrative suggests a male priority (1 Cor.11:9 1 Tim.2:13) (not superiority) as the female was formed after the male to be "a help answering to him" (Bruce's words) [2] Note also the consequences of the fall incorporate Christian and non-Christian.

1 Tim.2:11-12

In keeping with his rejection of 1 Cor.11:2-17, 14:34-35, Howard also rejects 1 Tim.2:11-12 as a ‘
interpolation’. He says “the very real problem of authorship has to be addressed” (p.23). But he doesn’t, he simply says “the reasons… are complex and outside the scope of this present paper”. The case “against” Paul’s authorship he says is “difficult to refute” and we add, a case he fails to make.

Once again it’s the tampering Jewish-Christian and those who best understand are those who have “
experience of collecting, editing and publication of someone else’s literary remains”. Suggesting they are slightly dishonest and will alter a text. And it just happens, Howard also rejects every text that differ to his views. Even FF Bruce regards the passage belonging to Paul.

One wonders what extent Howard believes the Holy Spirit played a part in scriptural inspiration and preservation. And where do ‘
interpolations’ begin and end?

Author. Paul Trebilco

Who Is He? A Methodist Minister, Prof in NT studies (Univ. Durham). Known for his book on the Jewish and Greco-Roman background to the NT and the relationship of Scripture and Church tradition. On the topic of homosexuality he does not regard the bible as the final authority but "
we must also attend to a range of other factors". And 'must be very serious in our intent to listen" to both bible and the 'contemporary experience'. So he does not "advocate for a particular viewpoint" but to revaluate the "current homosexual practice" for direction. He finds "no Biblical text specifically comments on “sexual relations between two men or two women who are in a loving relationship characterized by lifelong commitment".[14]

Perhaps this issue is the next debate for the Open Brethren as standards change. Some Assemblies could take a stand on this issue either way. The greatly admired Dr Lineham (mentioned repeatedly in the Journal), is a homosexual activist today. He remains a recognized preacher and authority in some Brethren Assemblies and at brethren.org . [15]

Article. "Women as Co-workers and Leaders in Paul's Letters." (pp.27-36)

Trebilco comments on a number of NT women. All of which are exceptional and fine examples of godly women. No one denies credit to who credit is due. The fact Paul speaks in glowing terms of the ministry and service of women in 1 Tim.2:11-17 and 1 Cor.12,14 he's not anti-women.

Trebilco also leans heavily on feminist writers. Unlike Fee and Howard, Trebilco doesn't mention about "
interpolations". That's obvious when discussing 1 Tim.2.11-12 in one of his books.[16]

Why? Because he believes "
the Pastorals (letters) are pseudonymous and are probably to be dated in the generation after Paul's death". He calls the author "Pastor" not Paul. [17]

But we note if Paul is not author, some verses are senseless (2 Tim.4:9-22) others deceitful (1 Tim.1:1-3 1:12-16). Fee would disagree with Trebilco on authorship (p.17).

Regarding 1 Tim.2:12 in his book he says there "
seems to be a comprehensive prohibition of teaching by woman among the readers" (p.512). And "it seems unwise in the Pastors view for women to occupy positions of authority or influence within the church" (p.515). He qualifies saying the 'Pastor wished' only some women "silence" (those teaching wrong doctrine) (p.516). Yet Paul on this same issue, says "as in all the churches" (1 Cor.14) which points to a universal standard not a local problem with 'some' women.

But did Trebilco change his mind? His Journal article has Paul author of First Timothy, not as his book, the unknown '
Pastor". On pages 27-29 Trebilco undertakes a Greek word study on 'diakonons' (deacon). He concludes a deacon must be in "leadership" and "teaching". So logically if we find the word applied to a woman (Rom.16:1-2 ie 'Phoebe') she "most likely" and "may have" been a teacher and leader. (p28) He seems to doubt, but after a few paragraphs decides, "We conclude that Phoebe was a leader in the church…" (p.29). This is conjecture, not all commentators agree.[18]

It is certain many NT women (ie Phoehe) were a witness to Jesus and served Him. As 'We are all saved to serve'. Women have all the gifts of men, yet must exercise them as scripture requires. But as the early church developed over time so did the expectations of elders, preachers and leaders. So in 'services' when the church came together there was particular instructions that would apply.

 Trebilco says of Phoebe, "
the correct translation of prostates is patron" (p.29). For proof of this in the footnotes he directs us to read, "Women and the Churches in Early Christianity". (B.J. Brooten). He doesn't mention that Brooten is a feminist known for religious views about lesbian love. [19] With articles also found in "gay, lesbian and bisexual" journals.

 We can only infer "Phoebe was a deaconess. The Greek word was used in a very general sense in early times, quite apart from official relations". In these early days the ministry preceded the office and the office grew out of the ministry. So eventually Paul regulated the office. So "we should not assume Phoebe was a deacon in the full later sense of the word"[20]

She was one who was a helper of those in trouble. Deacon qualifications do not include specific gifts, anyone could qualify (1 Tim.3:1-13 Ti.1:5-9). But Trebilco's word study is unconvincing. Word studies can construct something not said. "The meaning of a word cannot be reliably determined by etymology, or that a root, once discovered always projects a certain semantic load onto any word that incorporates that root"[21]

In the footnotes on Phoehe Trebilco refers to "Women in the Pre-Pauline and Pauline Churches" (USQR 1978) by Schussler Fiorenza. He doesn't mention this but Fiorenza is described by Catholics as one of their 'inventors of feminist theology' and a 'profoundly influential' Catholic feminist theologian. And caused so much argument among Catholics regarding feminism their Church authorities endeavored to ban her book ("In Memory of Her" SCM 1983). Its shocking Trebilco recommends this feminist book over 7 times in his footnotes and does not mention the full title.[22]

SEVEN times means the book must be an important source of information for Trebilco. So what does Fiorenza believe? Well not only that Phoebe was an apostle, but also Mary Magdalene. She believes in textual 'reconstruction' and construction which rejects historical reality.

A young student accused her of 'emasculating Scriptural scholarship', she replied "of course I am". For her, one can only view scripture through a feminist lens. Liberation Theology is her frame-work and she regards no scholar as neutral. "Intellectual neutrality is not possible in a world of exploitation and oppression". She regards no text is a 'revelation' unless it 'critically breaks through patriarchal culture'. She will read into any text 'a woman'; if she thinks 'a woman' should be there and recommends Gnostic and apocryphal sources[23]

Regarding Rom.16:2 Trebilco reconstructs the meaning of the word '
patron'. He says this was hidden by "translators and commentators" using the word 'helper'. It should be "leader" he says, his footnotes refer to "Biblical Affirmations of Woman" by L. Swilder. Its not mentioned but Swilder is another Catholic feminist and married to one of the 'top four' prominent Catholic feminists. [24]

Trebilco mentions Aquila and Priscilla who had a house-church and are called 'fellow-workers'. It's not mentioned by Trebilco, but in context, the 5 references in the Greek show in personal and home matters Priscilla had a considerable part to play. Yet this outstanding couple are never mentioned separately. But Trebilco does, with conjectural theology. He says, "
Prisca was an important leader and teacher in the Early Church" (p.30). Scholars say she was a tent maker and hard worker, her gipsy life was likely because of her husband's trade as he moved around for work. No doubt a witness for Paul's gospel but "not among Paul's evangelistic staff" [25]

Regarding Junia (Rom.16:7) Trebilco says "
it is enormously significant that Paul can use the title 'apostle' of a woman…a very significant apostle and leader in the early church was a woman" (p.32). Again conjectural theology. We cannot know those "outstanding among the apostles" were all 'apostles'. More likely they were known by the apostles. Tredilco then belittles an apostle's qualifications and blurs the word 'apostle' to apply to anyone. Accept his argument and we have "apostles" today. [26]

In summary Trebilco says Junia was "
commissioned as an apostle by the Lord shortly after the resurrection (1 Cor.15:7)." But there is no evidence for this in 1 Cor.15:7 or the NT. [27]

On page 31 Trebilco quotes "Women Priests. A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, p.141". [Editor Arlene Swidler 'Catholic feminist']. This quotes John Chrysostom (c.350-407), that he said Junia "
was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle". Yet we add, no Church Father said she was an 'apostle'. Chrysostom actually wrote, "she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle". She 'should be' doesn't mean she was. A designation is not a commission. All apostles required signs of their office (2 Cor.12:12 see footnote 26).

Tredilco often refers to Brendan Byrne who said "
Paul uses the title of 'apostle' of a woman". Byrne is another Catholic theologian who teaches at a Jesuit College. We should heed the warning of those who 'occupy prominent chairs in theology at Catholic and secular universities' (footnote 24).

Trebilco's analysis of Phil.4:2-3 is interesting. He says the verb "
sunethlesan" means "to struggle together for some cause" but "much more is involved". It must mean "preaching". And the word "co-workers" must imply she was a "prominent leader of the church" (like Paul?). More conjecture? Struggling 'together' doesn't mean both had the same function. As Paul says there are "various kinds of gifts" and "various forms of servicediversities in work" (1 Cor.12:4-6) yet all are 'co-workers' (1 Cor.3:5-10). Equally important doesn't mean identical.

Trebilco says its all "
an outworking of Gal.3:28….. so Paul's other statements about women should be interpreted in a way that is compatible with this fact." (p.33). This is not 'rightly dividing the word of truth'. Taking a verse which is silent on an issue to explain clear verses. The end result is generalizing beyond the text, as FF Bruce.

All agree there is a unity with male and female as co-workers. But we shouldn't press Gal.3:28 into what it doesn't say. Paul's instructions elsewhere cannot be contradicted by a verse that doesn't refer to those very instructions. As also instructions for widows, young men or young women. So Gal.3:28 cannot overthrow apostolic commands for church order and function.

Author: Mary Evans .

Who is she? In an interview, in one of her books, she describes herself as a feminist who believes the world is "
very definitely masculine-centered or male-focused". She reads "the text from a woman's perspective" only concerned with "woman's interests" which males have 'ignored'. She's not concerned with "sound scholarship" but to "elucidate and clarify the text". She believes the result is an entirely new way of understanding the bible.

Article: "The Invisibility of Women: An Investigation of a Possible Blind Spot for Bible Commentators." (pp.37-40)

Evans says the "
small number" of verses on submission is in "dispute" and "cannot be adequately interpreted in isolation". But if "set in the context of the whole of the bible" we get "the correct interpretation of (the) difficult verses". (p.37) To say verses are in 'dispute' so inadequate can justify a whole range of questionable practices. But they are not few. [28]

Evan speaks of the oppression of women by Christian men - who write bible commentaries. Why? Evan says because of the "
teaching found in biblical commentaries". "(S)ome 99% of commentaries on the bible have been written by men" who have a "blind spot... women and their concerns have been invisible to them". Some commentaries may have been "prejudiced against women and introduced a deliberate bias into their writings". But all this is just typical. Feminists complain endlessly of oppression, been ignored or denied rights.

The implications are throw-away your bible commentaries. She selects four commentaries to demonstrate her point. One has the prestigious FF Bruce as editor. How could he identify with such a 'oppressive' commentary given his views of Gal.3:28? And Gordon Fee, Howard and Trebiloc appear happy to quote any commentary.

She gives three examples of commentaries "
ignoring" women. (1) Gen.17. Why do they give 'special place to Isaac' but "no mention of the possible relevance" of women? There is too much about Abraham, not enough about Sarah. (2) Judges 13. One commentary "completely ignoring the role of women" (p.39) another "stops short", another gets it wrong. But one commentary takes the story "seriously" and did well. No surprise, it "was written by a woman". And finally (3) Pro.31:10-31. One commentary 'makes virtually no comment", one is "very limited", another "makes little summarizing comment" and the other has "no summary of significance" (p.40).

So there you are, this is classical theological feminism, "One goal of many feminists is to create a distinctly 'female' religious system based upon women's experience."(Christian Research Journal. p.8,48 1995. Betty T Wettler).

If commentators can address this ignorance then "
it will not be too long before we really are able to provide a more adequate and honest answer to the question of what the bible says about" (p.40). About what? There was no full-stop. We will never know the Journal deletes the rest. We remain in the dark about her final words. And if we are not a feminist, apparently in the dark about "what the bible says".


The Journal starts well and appears scriptural. The articles are lengthily and detailed. The whole issue is dressed up with enough scholarly ideas and bible verses to fool the unsuspecting. But after a study, we find feminist ideology. FF Bruce is convincing but stretches Gal.3:28 into a principle destroying Paul's comments elsewhere. But like it or not the framework of research for this debate comes from Theological Feminism. They have a loaded agenda and the wider agenda is not mentioned. The authors of the Journal articles have relied on this research for only what appeals reasonable and respectable for their target audience. It was disgraceful that this Journal was dished-up for the Assemblies to persuade them to put aside scripture and cause debate.

If this issue comes to your church pretending only small unimportant changes are needed and scripture needs reinterpreting - watch out! You are not told of the radically new way of understanding the bible. The call for a gender neutral bible without masculine pronouns and "a church liberated from patriarchy". Or the feelings of oppression that develop and debate that results. While the subtle expectations of sexual liberation and acceptance of homosexuality are not far away. These people also complain endlessly about equality and oppression.

 The church can only survive by God's help by remaining the counter-culture. Assemblies that have modernized (so-called) should question their commitment to scripture if they desire the impression to be biblical. If we don't make the bible into a set of rules, what of those passages by Paul intended as principles to obey?

 I'm so glad to be 'old school'. Treat women as more valuable and special. With manners and respect, open doors, stand up when they want to sit. Treated with the dignity and honor they deserve. Feminism not only removes "distinctions" in the name of 'equality' and degrades women, its sexual liberation is deceptive.


Tripped-Up. There was a regular Early Bible Study at church before the Main Sunday Service. And all were encouraged to attend and 'share' (incl. women). This was considered the most wonderful idea since sliced-bread as "cell-groups" were the 'rage of the day'. Soon questions arose, 'Is this a 'church' meeting?' What is a church meeting? Why can't women pray and share (minister/preach) in the Main Sunday Service as the 'sliced-bread' service? The Elders could not tolerate this. Soon they came to believe this was "inconsistent and self-contradictory". The Pastoral team (& Elders) were "embarrassed" and couldn't "explain" or "defend" it. They said the situation "cannot be Scriptural" (a stunning admission). So the Elders decided the Main Service should "change" to be more like the other. (Elder's Update 13/11/1989) Comment on 1 Cor.11:5 - here.

[1] The 1980's was the post-feminist period. Feminist ideals of equal employment, contraception, abortion sexual permissiveness reigned in the media, but top feminists were disillusioned. The future of the feminist movement claimed Berry Friedan, was "theological". She was right. The demands for ordination and 'inclusive' liturgical language have been well documented by the Roman Catholic Church. Feminist theological books poured out of Catholic colleges. The Catholic Church experienced a battle within, Protestant churches didn't escape. The authors of the journal articles quote from these books and use the same arguments.

[2]   The Treasury (a Brethren Assembly publ. 2006) published an article by Dr Nickelson. of the Eden Community Church. He blames the belief of the old Brethren Assemblies to have caused women "brokenness… dysfunction… loss of identity… empty existence…. antagonism.. abused women… lack of self-worth… distorted male-female.. marriage(s)". I ask why do people who embrace this 'modernization' become resentful of those who don't? Could it be true, that "feminism stirs up rage against male 'oppression' even in women (& men) who had not previously felt oppressed".

[3]    "It will likely be a very long time before (church) recovery can be expected" (Helen Hitchock 'Women for Faith & Family' Missouri Jan. 1991).

[4]     Froster Crane as quoted in "Because of the Angels" LG Mackay 1990.

[5]    "Exegetical Fallacies". D.A. Carson. Baker Book House. 1984. p.110.

[6]   Eg, Lordship is illustrated in Phil.2:7 when Christ took the form of a servant. We do not assume the issue is "inequality" or "inferiority". Although equal with the Father, Jesus was submissive during His incarnation Phil.2:5–8. Christians are to submit to rulers and one to another, this relates to 'obedience'. This includes living to please another, and their happiness. The concept of submission or obedience is a common NT exhortation (Rom.13:1, 5. 1 Cor.14:34, Eph.5:21-22, 24. Col.3:18 Titus 2:5,9 3:1. 1 Pe.2:13,18 3:1, 5 Heb.13:17). If we describe this in words like ''discrimination, inferiority and equality" we misunderstand the concept. Biblical headship and submission are not something evil but an ideal objective in kingdom living.

[7]     p.28 CBRF Journal. Issue 122 1990.   Paul Trebilco.

[8]  "Truth for the Times".  p.22 Vol.1.  P. Robinson. 1993.

[9]   Ibid, p.130.  D.A Carson.

[10]      Fee regards this passage as an 'interpolation'. He wrote ten pages in the New International Commentary on 1 Cor. (N.I.C p.308 Eerdmans) Fee (as Howard) argue the text is "not authentic" so it is "not binding on Christians". An examination of the manuscripts indicates variations in them but there is no solid obvious tangible convincing evidence that the verses are not original (See also –"The Role of Women in Ministry today" p.42 W. House. Publ. Nelson). FF Bruce also believes the passage IS all Paul's writing. And women veiled was NOT "strange in the Mediterranean world of that century". (p.324 footnote 6. 'A Mind for What Matters'. Grand Rapids. 1990)

[11]  See 'The Text of the Epistles' p.46. Prof. G. Zuntz. A Disquisition upon the Corpus Paulinum, 1953 (Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1994, Oxford Univ. Press, Lon.). Gordon Fee has a huge respect for Zuntz, and Bruce almost the same. Zuntz decided the best way to account for a Pauline textual tradition which differed in minor aspects (but not greatly), was to posit the compilation of a definitive variorum edition about a half-century after the original writings. He also believed he could identify differences introduced into the text by Alexandrian scholars. FF Bruce in the main also accepts this reconstruction but others go further.

 Eg, W Munro (Authority in Paul and Peter, 1983) argued all our copies of Paul's epistles descend from a particular archetype which (unlike Zuntz) she does not identify with the original collection. She demonstrates many textual interpolations in Paul's writings. These, for her, stand out because of a socio-political stance. She reviews a raft of previous critical treatments of the "subjection texts" and notes that scholars would often peg a text as a possible interpolation (ie 1 Cor 11:1-16, 14:34-38). Munro uncovers several more passages of the same type but from a more advanced stage of Christian history.

D. R. MacGordon makes a similar case in "The Legend and the Apostle" (1983). He regarded the interpolations from a motley collection of Christian radicals, whereas Munro from Jewish-Christian ascetics. Trobisch’s theory was that Paul himself edited this collection and provided the archetype. If Zuntz, FF Bruce, Schmithals, Munro, MacGordon, and Trobisch believe a single archetype edition lies behind all extant manuscripts, their agreement is impressive but not unanimous. Significant voices take an opposite view - Kurt Aland and Harry Gamble and the pit-falls of this practice are explained in footnote 12.

[12]    It's a fallacy to think speculative reconstruction of first century Jewish and Christian history should be given weight in the exegesis of NT documents. A number of scholars have traced texts through a network of hands claiming the church changed it's thinking decade to decade and place to place eg., Jews calling Jesus 'the Messiah', then Gentiles calling Him "Lord" and then ascribing deity to Him. However this kind of uncontrollable reconstruction practice goes much further and if you agree with all the speculation you end-up with no reliable text or doctrine.

The problem is we have almost no access to the history of the early church during the first 5-6 decades apart from the NT documents. Speculative reconstruction is acceptable if we lack evidence regarding something but it is totally unacceptable to use those speculations to undermine large parts of the only evidence we do have. We already have mountains of scholarship to draw from, but it's simply nonsense to assume speculative reconstructions have any force to overturn the evidence. This problem is so endemic that 'conservative and liberal' NT scholars in this practice seem to blend in their methods and results. The end result is that it is impossible to know what any original text once said.

[13]   The New Testament and Homosexuality.  Robin Scroggs. (Philadelphia Fortress Press 1983). He views pederasty as the only form of homosexuality condemned in the NT.

[14]   "Paul Trebilco’s presentation on Homosexuality". This was given in a series about The Windsor Report, held at The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Auckland 2005. http://duomo.ac.nz/Trebilco%20Paper.htm

[15]   I didn't email them to rail or wrangle. The official Brethren website promotes Lineham as a leader and authority regardless of his homosexual activism. eg www.brethren.org.nz/aboutthebrethren  www.brethren.org.nz/aboutthebrethrenearlyon When inquiring if they were aware of this the webmaster defended association - "when I read the Bible I am more interested in the message than the human messenger.... while Dr Lineham may have said he is a homosexual it also says he does not practice the habits associated with that sexual orientation. Is there something wrong with that stand?".  I emailed links to internet websites indicating he practices "the habits" ie.,



  The webmaster replied. "I don't defend anyone on brethren.org. neither have I an association with Dr Peter Lineham". So I was "deceitful if not divisive" and "untruthful". And she was "disappointed" in my "attitude and assumptions". I had not mentioned she personally had any "association".

 The replies from Brethren.org were acrimonious. They had known for at least two years and did nothing. And for this official website [of a large organization] to attack enquirers is unsatisfactory. As an "unofficial reply" and "not on behalf of brethren.org". I was vilified and Lineham justified. If the "messenger" doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter who preaches and its acceptable to publish or endorse homosexual activists. If there is no accountability or responsibility one can have any authoritative position with double standards.

[16]    The Early Christians in Ephesians, From Paul to Ignatius. P. Trebilco. (Publ. Mohr Siebeck 2003).

[17]    See "The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins". J.D.G. Dunn. (Eerdmans Publ. co.) See page 241 the chapter by Trebilco, "The Spirit Significance and Relevance of the Spirit in the Pastoral Epistles". He will not say Paul is author so the word "Pastor" is used. He also believes "the Holy Spirit gives gifts to leaders rather than to everyone".

[18]    "Phoebe is here termed a servant, diakonon, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea. There were deaconesses in the primitive Church, whose business it was to attend the female converts at baptism; to instruct the catechumens, or persons who were candidates for baptism; to visit the sick, and those who were in prison, and, in short, perform those religious offices for the female part of the Church which could not with propriety be performed by men. They were chosen in general out of the most experienced of the Church". (Clarke's Commentary. Vol.6a)

[19]   "Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism" Bernadette Brooten (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1997). A number of websites reveal her writings seem to appeal to homosexuals.

[20]   The Greater Men and Women of the Bible. (p.375-6) Ed. J Hastings. Vol.6. T & T Clark. 1916. See also J.A. Beet's Notes on Romans vol.1-4) "It is unfortunate the same Greek word requires the two English renderings ‘minister’ and ‘deacon.’ In Rom.12:7, the mention of other kinds of work suggests the word denotes the regular office of a ‘deacon,’ i.e. apparently one who attended to the material interests of the Church. A close parallel in 1 Peter 4:11."

[21]    Ibid, p.31 D. Carson. Carson also refutes the idea that the word 'law' in 1 Cor.14:34-35 refers to rabbinic rules and not the OT. And any "assuming a role of doctrinal authority (by women) in the congregation" would be "contrary to 1 Tim.2:11-25 (p.40).

[22]   "In Memory of Her; A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins". Schussler E. Fiorenza (NY Crossroads Books 1983). Why mention this book often, quote and recommend it yet exclude the whole title? Any reader in the Brethren Assemblies should have alarm bells ringing.

[23]   Ibid, pt. III, 243-351. Schussler E. Fiorenza.

[24]    See "Ungodly Rage". p.304-6. D. Steichen. Ignatius Press 1991. Steichen's title "Ungodly Rage" reflects the argument and debate feminism caused the Catholic Church. Steichen a Catholic, had enough of this ungodly rage and exposes the issue. Howard and Trebilco refer to authors that Steichen mentions are Catholic feminists.

[25]    Ibid,  p.275.  J. Hastings.

[26]   The title 'Apostle' cannot apply to anyone today. The office of Apostleship ceased because none today meet the biblical criteria. Apostles were given for a special purpose and were temporary. None today have the necessary credentials or qualifications. They had (1) to have been around since John the Baptist (Ac.1:22) (2) specially called by Christ personally (Mk.3:13-19 Lk.6:13-16 Jn.1:43 20:23-30 21:15-19 Ac.10:41-42) (3) to have seen the resurrected Lord (Ac.1:22 2 Cor.12:12 Lk.6:13) [The 'last' person Jesus appeared to was Paul 1 Cor.15:5-9. Jesus is not appearing to people today or it makes a lie out of 1 Cor.15:8] (4) to perform miracles to prove their office (Mt.10:1 Lk.9:1-2 Mk.3:15 Ac.2:43 1 Cor.14:18 2 Cor.12:12). Hence their words became binding on the church for all time and they had authority none else could. God has revealed in Scripture all necessary for this dispensation. When the church foundation was laid apostles were no longer needed (1 Cor.13:8-10 Eph.2:20 3:5). Qualifications of elders and deacons do not include any specific gifts (1 Tim.3:1-13 Ti.1:5-9), but the apostles did (2 Cor.12:12).

[27]   In fact, when the apostles were discussing their 'numbers' they describe themselves as all "men" and who God particularly "chose". The 'apostleship' of Judas ended and a replacement selected (Act. 1:17-26). The only other added to that number was Paul. FF Bruce maintains there were more than "12 original apostles There were "females" he says, and refers to Chrysostom's mention of 'Junia' (A Mind for What Matters p.261-262 Grand Rapids. 1990). Nevertheless, the bible is the only reliable source of information on this issue and it does not allow for any secret list of female Apostles. In this book he blurs the words 'apostle' and disciple' (p.261-2). He also says we shouldn't "treat the NT as a book of rules" but as "guiding lines" not "laws binding for all time" (p.263). I wonder how far Bruce would push this 'no rules' concept?

[28]  The concept of submission or yielding is a common NT exhortation (Rom.13:1, 5. 1 Cor.14:34, Eph.5:21-22, 24. Col.3:18 Titus 2:5,9 3:1. 1 Pe.2:13,18 3:1, 5 Heb.13:17).