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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Was Wrong (I Think)

All comments, disagreements, and discussions are welcome as we delve into scripture. In Second Peter, we are told that scripture is not to be privately interpreted. Through discussions, we come to have insights that our own preconceived ideas and prejudices may prevent us from discerning on our own. For example, a reader pointed out a discrepancy in my last newsletter, causing me to re-examine some scriptures.

In my newsletter, I pointed out that in Mark 16:14, Jesus rebuked the Eleven for not believing the women. I assumed Jesus was speaking of Mary Magdalene and also the other women with her. 

Let’s look at the entire passage for clarity:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. ~Mark 16:9-14

We are told clearly that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The other two, I believed when I wrote the newsletter, were Mary the mother of James, and Joanna. After a reader questioned this, I did more research and realized that my conclusions were more than likely incorrect.

If not Joanna and Mary, who were the other two he appeared to? Most commentators believe we find the answer in Luke 24. 

Let’s listen in the shade:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” …

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. ~Luke 24:10-18; 28-43 (ESV)

We know that there were other women besides Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and two are specifically mentioned in Luke 24:10--Joanna and Mary the mother of James. (So many Marys!) All three women told the Eleven. And then later, as we see in the passage above, Jesus appeared to Cleopas and an unnamed person.

Who was Cleopas? Some scholars believe Cleopas and Clopas are the same person—their names are certainly similar. We find the name Clopas in John 19:25: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister-in-law, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If indeed Cleopas and Clopas are one and the same, this would make Clopas the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

Cleopas, therefore, was walking to Emmaus, more than likely with Mary his wife. Although not provable beyond a shadow of a doubt, it does seem likely.

Let’s look a little closer at part of one verse, Luke 24, verse 42: “… they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling …” The disciples were having a difficult time believing their own eyes.

So, with the 24th chapter of Luke in mind, now when we read Mark 16:14 (Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.), we see this is probably referring to several people: Cleopas, an unnamed person (possibly his wife), and the women at the tomb. At least one man is in the mix, possibly two men if the unnamed person is not the wife of Cleopas or some other woman.

More than likely, the rebuke would not have been solely because the disciples did not believe the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, but also because they did not believe the man (or possibly men if his companion was a man). The rebuke could also have come because the disciples refused to believe their own eyes.

I believe it's clear that Jesus is rebuking the disciples for not believing the women and man (or men). Thanks to the discerning reader who pointed this out!

I hope I'm not as stubborn as the disciples, refusing to believe the evidence in front of my own eyes, but I fear that sometimes that might be the case. 

Let’s pray our hearts will be softened as we search the scriptures together to find God’s truth. Explore the Word, examine your faith, exalt the Lord! And always listen in God's shade!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review and Historical Perspective on the Woman's Role

In my newsletters and here on my blog, I’ve been exploring the biblical role of a woman.

As we listened in the shade, we’ve covered the following:

1. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 

Martha was troubled about many things--mainly preparing and serving the food. Yet only one thing was necessary according to Jesus—to be a disciple and learn from him.

2. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” ~Genesis 1:26

The “mankind” in these verses included both men and women. We saw that Eve was not made to cook, clean, and do laundry. At that time, there was no need to do any of that. Instead she was created to rule with Adam.

3. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” ~Mark 10:6-9

Jesus reiterated the oneness of husband and wife before the fall. We concluded that either there has never been a curse for man to rule over woman or else Jesus has lifted it—re-stating what marriage should have been if it had not been for the hardness of hearts.

4. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. ~1 Timothy 2:11-12

If Jesus reinstated the oneness of husband and wife, what are we to make of Paul’s words? We saw that these words were written a particular place, the church at Ephesus; during a particular time, when the church had false teachers; given for a particular reason, to stop the idle, foolish talk; and ordered by a particular man, the apostle Paul. We see that Paul uses first person to emphasize this was his particular teaching.

A friend of mine, Laura Lassiter, shared this with me from the IVP Commentary on Timothy 2:11 that sheds light on the historical background at the time.

From the IVP: The proper way for any novice to learn was submissively and “quietly” (a closely related Greek term appears in 1Ti 2:2 for all believers). Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul’s advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural. (In the second century, Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir, was instructed in the law, but she was a rare exception. Women could hear expositions at the synagogues and did sometimes attend rabbinic lectures, but the vast majority of rabbis would never accept them as disciples, and Hellenistically oriented Jews like Josephus and Philo were even more biased against them than the rabbis were. There is evidence for a few women filling higher roles in some Diaspora synagogues, in local cultures where women had higher social positions, but the same evidence shows that even there prominent women in synagogues were the rare exception rather than the rule.)

1Timothy 2:12. Given women’s lack of training in the Scriptures (see comment on 1Ti 2:11), the heresy spreading in the Ephesian churches through ignorant teachers (1Ti 1:4-7), and the false teachers’ exploitation of these women’s lack of knowledge to spread their errors (1Ti 5:13; 2Ti 3:6), Paul’s prohibition here makes good sense. His short-range solution is that these women should not teach; his long-range solution is “let them learn” (1Ti 2:11). The situation might be different after the women had been instructed (1Ti 2:11; cf. Rom 16:1-4, Rom 16:7; Php 4:2-3).

We often forget, surrounded as we are by opportunities for women, that it has not always been so. Jesus broke with tradition when He allowed women to become his disciples. As we continue to search the scriptures to discover the true biblical role of women, this will give us perspective on the words of Paul.