Women Who Speak In Scripture

One of the things I hoped for when I began a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at a Christian-founded university was that I’d get a chance to study some Biblical rhetoric. This semester, I’m taking classes on Classic and Contemporary rhetoric. In one of them, we read texts by women written during the Renaissance where they used rhetorical strategies to prove that women have a role in teaching scripture.

It was both fascinating (and a little discouraging) to read Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz using the exact same arguments to defend her ability to teach the scriptures in 1691 that I’ve used in the 21st century. I agree with her that when Paul calls for women to remain quite in church (1 Cor 14:34; 1Tim 2:12), his “prohibition applied only to public speech from the pulpit” not to writing or even to teaching (The Rhetorical Tradition, 2nd ed., p. 788). It’s absurd to think that Paul meant women should never speak or teach when he also gives instructions for how and when it’s appropriate for women to pray and prophecy in church (1 Cor. 11:1-16) and since he directly instructs women to teach other women (Titus 2:3).

Stepping away from Paul’s writings for a moment, we see examples of women speaking, leading, and teaching throughout scripture. Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, Abigail, Ester, Rahab, and Hannah are all mentioned by de la Cruz, and she could have added Miriam, Ruth, Huldah, Anna, Philip’s daughters, and Priscilla as well. We also read another text in my class from 1666 written by Margaret Fell–one of the earliest Quakers and a highly influential teacher. She points out that there’s no indication in scripture that the apostles despised or rebuked women like Priscilla for teaching (The Rhetorical Tradition, 3rd ed., p. 860). Furthermore, God Himself said that His daughters would prophesy (Acts 2:14-18), so who are human beings to say women should not speak when they’re inspired by the Lord?

Fell also points out something I hadn’t thought of before. Women’s words are recorded throughout scripture and men often base sermons on their words. Fell accused men in the churches of her day of hypocrisy in this area, saying, “you will make a Trade of Women’s words to get money by, and take Texts, and Preach Sermons upon Womens words; and still cry out, Women must not speak, Women must be silent; so you are far from the minds of the Elders of Israel” (The Rhetorical Tradition, 3rd ed., p.865). Even if ministers today aren’t profiting off their work the same way the priests Fell criticizes were, many will still use Biblical women’s words as a sound foundation for teaching while telling modern women not to teach.

Last week, I wrote about a woman from the Bible named Hannah in my post “What Potential Does God See In You?” She’s one of the women whose example and words–including her recorded prayer–are still used to teach people today. God saw her and regarded her with favor though she was initially judged harshly by the priest. And Hannah is far from being the only example of women whom God takes notice of and whom He gives a key role in His plan. Let’s look at some others today.

Huldah

King Josiah was one of the very few righteous kings in the years following David’s reign over Israel. He became king at just eight years old, and when he was 26 he asked his scribe to make sure the priests had the funds needed to repair the temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22; 2 Chr. 34). While working in the temple, the priests found a book of the Law. They read it to Josiah, and he tore his clothes in grief when he realized how badly his nation had strayed from following God. He told his advisers, “Go inquire of Yahweh for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found.”

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the second quarter); and they talked with her.

She said to them, “Yahweh the God of Israel says, ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, “Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will bring evil on this place, and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.’” But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of Yahweh, tell him, “Yahweh the God of Israel says, ‘Concerning the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before Yahweh, when you heard what I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and have torn your clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard you,’ says Yahweh. ‘Therefore behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. Your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.’”

2 Kings 22:14-20, WEB

Though this group included the high priest, he didn’t ask God for advice directly. Prophets and priests had different roles–the priests served in the temple and a prophet or prophetess delivered God’s messages to people. At this time, the go-to person for making inquiries of God was a prophetess named Huldah. She delivered God’s message, and King Josiah listened (2 Kings 23:1-30). There was no question of whether or not God could speak through her because she was a woman; He simply did, and that was that.

Priscilla

The first time in the Bible that we hear of Priscilla and her husband Aquilia is when Paul went to Corinth (Acts 18). They were tentmakers like Paul, and so he stayed with them to practice his trade while he preached Jesus Christ. When Paul left, Priscilla and Aquilia went with him to Caesarea. They stayed in that region while Paul went on to preach in Galatia, and they were there in the city of Ephesus when Apollos showed up.

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus. He was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Acts 18:24-26, WEB

Here, both Priscilla and Aquilia explained the way of God. She was teaching alongside her husband. In his letters, Paul sends greetings to them both and describes them as his “fellow workers” (Rom. 16:3-4; 1 Co. 16:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:19). Not once does he tell Priscilla to stay silent or stop teaching and let her husband do all the talking. That’s particularly worth noting because sometimes people will argue that Paul’s instruction for women to be silent applies only to wives (the Greek word could be translated either way), but both Priscilla and Huldah were married when they acted as teacher and prophetess. The more evidence we look at, the clearer it becomes that silence for women is situational (e.g. they shouldn’t disrupt church services, and typically don’t hold public/authority roles in the church).

Thoughts for Further Study

There are so many more examples we could look at. We could go to Exodus 15 where Moses’s sister Miriam is called a prophetess. We could turn to Judges 4-5 and read about Deborah the prophetess, a judge and leader of Israel. We can read in 1 Samuel 25 of how Abigail’s words and actions turned King David away from vengeance. Or we could travel in the New Testament to Luke 2 where Anna the prophetess proclaims Jesus to those looking for redemption. Then we could go to Acts and read about Philip’s four daughters who prophesied. We can also look at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans and see how many women he mentions helping forward the gospel including Junia, who is “notable among the apostles,” and Phoebe who is “a servant of the church in Cenchrea” (the word translated “servant” is the same as the one translated “deacon” in 1 Tim. 3).

One of the things I appreciated about both Sor Juana’s and Margaret Fell’s writings is that they were careful about how they used scripture. Rather than saying Paul was wrong or that his words could be dismissed as outdated, they argued from scriptures that Paul’s letters were misinterpreted. That misinterpretation led to hundreds of years of women needing to fight for the roles in modern churches which God already gave us in His Bible. Thankfully, women are far more fully involved churches today than they were several centuries ago. Even so, I still occasionally hear things like, “Is it okay for you to have a blog where you’re teaching? Women shouldn’t do that, you know.”

There are ways that God has different roles for men and women to play (see, for example, Paul’s words on how marriage pictures Christ and the church). This includes some differences in how they serve in the church. Women in the Old Testament didn’t serve as priests in the temple, but they did serve as prophetesses and they continued that role into the New Testament. And while we don’t see women spoken of as pastors or church leaders in the New Testament, they are clearly serving in the congregations and sharing the gospel. It makes sense that there’d be plenty of areas where our serving roles overlap. We’re all children of God and we’re all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26-28). God pours out His spirit on all of us alike, and gives us gifts and roles to serve and build up the church congregations (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 12).

Women have always been closely involved in God’s church and in His plan. They prayed, taught, sang, preached, and followed Jesus. In His time here on earth, He interacted with women as equals in a way that shocked His disciples (John 4:27). He included women in the gospel and pointed out that their actions should be recorded (Mark 14:3-9, for example). Women traveled with Him during His ministry, and they’re the ones He appeared to first after His resurrection and entrusted with taking the news to His disciples (click here to read that account across gospels). In Acts, women and men both received the gospel, got baptized, and endured persecutions together (Acts 5:14; 8:3, 12; 9:1-2; 17:4, 12). God even uses feminine imagery for the church as a whole, calling it calling it a Bride fully involved in serving alongside her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have a problem with women being fully involved in His church; He thinks it’s a good thing.

Featured image by Ben White from Lightstock

Feeling Is A Rational Function, and Other Things You Might Not Know About Thinking and Feeling in Myers-Briggs®

In the Myers-Briggs® typology system, a preference for Feeling (F) or Thinking (T) shows up as the third letter in your personality type. But what does it actually mean to use Thinking over Feeling, or vice versa?

You’ve probably heard that Thinking types tend to be more rational and cerebral than Feeling types, who are typically more emotional. There’s a lot more to it than that, though, and the stereotype isn’t entirely accurate. Keep reading to learn 5 things you might not have known about the Thinking and Feeling processes.

They’re Both Judging Functions

Thinking and Feeling are both what we call “Judging” functions. They’re used to describe the psychological process you use most often when making decisions. If you have an F in your four-letter type code, then you use Feeling to make decisions. If you have a T in your type, then you use Thinking.

If you’re a Judging (J) type, then that means you use your judging function to interact with the outer world. A TJ type uses Extroverted Thinking and an FJ type uses Extroverted Feeling as their most comfortable way of making decisions. If you’re a Perceiving (P) type you still have a judging function, but it’s oriented to your inner world. A TP type uses Introverted Thinking and an FP type uses Introverted Feeling.

Both Thinking Are Feeling Are Rational

One of the biggest surprises when I started diving deeper into research on psychological types is that Feeling and Thinking are both considered rational processes. Read more

The Curious Case of the INFJ Hero

Today we’re going to talk about INFJ heroes in fiction, especially male heroes. But before we get to that, let’s talk about Russian literature for a moment. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky opens with an apologetic explanation from the narrator about his hero, Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov. Here are a few highlights:

“While I do call Alexei Fyodorovich my hero, still, I myself know that he is by no means a great man …

One thing, perhaps, is rather doubtless: he is a strange man, even an odd one. But strangeness and oddity will sooner harm than justify any claim to attention …

If I, that is, the biographer himself, think that even one novel may, perhaps, be unwarranted for such a humble and indefinite hero, then how will it look if I appear with two; and what can explain such presumption on my part?” (p.3-4, Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Alyosha is an INFJ (most characters and the narrator use this nickname throughout the novel. In the Cyrillic alphabet, Alyosha is two letters shorter than Alexei, which makes this something like calling a man named Robert “Bob”). And I suspect that it’s his personality type that makes the narrator so worried about how people will respond to his hero.

It’s not that there aren’t other INFJ heroes in fiction. Just take a look at my post about 10 Stories You’ll Relate To If You’re An INFJ if you want some examples. Jane Eyre, Amélie, Yoda, and Atticus Finch are all INFJs in fiction who play a hero role. But even though there are male characters on this list, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if Alyosha was a woman with all the same personality characteristics the narrator wouldn’t have felt the need to apologize for her.

Read more

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Strong Female Characters

I’m fascinated by female characters who find ways to live life on their own terms within their culture’s ideas of femininity. Many of my favorite “strong female characters” from Classic literature (like those in Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Francess Burney, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s books ) already have a sense of their own worth and, while they may push against certain confining ideas on appropriate female behavior, they don’t hate their own femininity or attack other women for being feminine. When they fight for their rights, they do it as women who are inherently equal to men — not as women trying to be men.

My two latest books for The Classics Club list are both written by Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is a re-read for me and Cranford was a new one. I decided to blog about these two books together so I wouldn’t be devoting quite so many articles here to book reviews. I’d expected them to have enough similar themes that this would be easy to do (similar to blogging about Cooper’s sea tales together). But I was pleasantly (if somewhat inconveniently) surprised to find out that the two books are very different. Gaskell is a much more versatile writer than I’d been giving her credit for in my mind.

Characters Who Need Each Other

The contrast is immediately apparent. North and South (1855) opens with a wedding while Cranford (1853) opens with the line, “In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.” Men are extremely rare and viewed with much suspicion in Cranford, but in the world of North and South most of the action is driven by or centers around men. One might say Cranford is defined by the absence of men and North and South by the actions of men.

That wouldn’t quite be fair to the women of these books, though. Both stories are filled with what I would call strong female characters. They don’t punch things, shoot stuff, or walk around talking about how empowered they are while wearing sexy clothes. But I would submit to you they’re actually better-written and even “stronger” than the female characters who run around modern films insisting they don’t need anyone’s help. Gaskell’s characters model a connected community of both men and women who are stronger together. Read more

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier’s Novel My Cousin Rachel

I should never have stayed here. Nay, I should never have left Italy.

If my cousin Philip had not been so like Ambros perhaps I could have left. To see his face — that beloved, tormenting face — staring into my eyes once more was more than I could leave. More than I could resist when he asked me to stay. Or I should say ordered me. They were orders, though I turned a blind eye to it then because I wanted him. Or perhaps not him, but Ambros back in my life. I know not.

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My Cousin Rachel (2017)

I’m in such fear. It was a foolish thing on both our parts, the midnight of his birthday. He knows too little of the world to realize what I gave him was nothing more than a thank you. A birthday gift that would mean more than that stupid little pearl cravat pin. And yes, I wanted it too. A younger, more devoted Ambros to worship me once again if only for a moment.

And how could I have known that he meant marriage by his comment about lacking warmth and comfort? Or that he thought I’d agreed to be his when he took me into those primroses? Or that he would get so drunk he’d announce our engagement to his godfather and poor Louise at dinner?

I still feel the pressure of his hands at my throat. Those big, powerful hands of a man who works on his farm every day and stands a head taller than me. Stronger than the ones Ambros once put around my neck. My cousin Philip could have snapped my neck, though he wouldn’t have had to. The slightest squeeze more and I’d not have been able to draw the thinnest breath.

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My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Should I feel guilty for bringing Mary Pascoe into this house? Surely his fury won’t touch her, too. The worst he’d do is throw her out of the house. While me … I know not what he’d do were we alone now. Would he wrap his hands around my throat again and expect me to make myself his? Would he force me and afterward tell me I liked it and must marry him?

His fantasy is as complete as the paranoia that claimed Ambrose. I half-believe in his mind we’re already married. That he thinks I’m so sure to agree it’s as if I’ve done so already. That his ridiculous present of his entire fortune will surely convince me to stay.

I must get away. I have the means to do so now, though God knows it’s not why I came here. I simply wanted to see the home Ambros talked about. The symbol of what could have been before he turned on me. The idea of our marriage rather than the reality of it. The allowance my cousin Philip gave me was more than enough. More than I expected or even hoped. To have him honor the will Ambros never signed …

Did he think he’d bought me?

Will he let me leave?


This is quite a bit different than my usual review for books I’m reading on my Classics Club Book list. But I think Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (1951) is the sort of novel that invites you to look at it from different perspectives. The fact that you’re trapped inside Philip Ashley’s mind for the entire novel leaves you guessing at what the other characters are really thinking. He’s an unreliable narrator and he’s hopelessly naive, especially when it come to women, so the motives he assigns to Rachel are likely untrue. But if he’s wrong about her, then what is right? Everything we know of her is filtered through Philip. We don’t know her true motive or any of her thoughts. We can only guess, as I’m doing in my little retelling from Rachel’s point of view (which overlaps Chapter 23 of the original novel).

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My Cousin Rachel (2017)

I watched the 2017 film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel before reading the book. I suspected I would still enjoy the book after seeing the movie, but knew if I read the book first there was a good chance I’d spend the film grumpy about how they’d adapted it. It turned out to be a very faithful adaptation, though.

*Spoiler Warning* The only major changes were made at the end. The film provides less evidence of Rachel’s alleged guilt, pointing viewers towards the idea that she was not poisoning Philip. And it also has Philip sending her to ride along a dangerous path rather than choosing not to warn her about a dangerous bridge in the garden. The film pushes you toward believing he intended her to die where the book leaves it a little more ambiguous. But then again, Philip’s the one telling the story. Of course he’d make himself look as good as possible.

Philip wants us second-guessing his cousin Rachel. But I suspect Du Maurier wants us to look at Philip just as closely. Because even though we’re getting his perspective on things and he’s certainly not putting any blame on himself, there are things about being in his mind that make me as scared of him as I think Rachel is.

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Repeatedly, Philip says he wants to isolate Rachel from everyone but him. And that’s before he starts becoming overtly controlling. And when he puts his hands around her throat, it’s not in the heat of anger. He presents it as a calculated decision to add fear to the list of reasons she should marry him. Later, he barely contains his fury and indignation when (after he’s given her all his property and she still hasn’t married him) she states that she can and will invite whoever she likes to stay with them because the house belongs to her and she doesn’t feel safe alone with him.

So instead of just asking, “Did Rachel poison Ambros and/or Philip?” I think we need to ask whether such an act could be considered self-defense. Abuse does not justify murder, but even if Rachel killed someone she may not be the evil and/or misguided character that Philip (who describes himself as feeling a strange compassion for her once he makes up his mind about her guilt) makes her out to be. It might have been more of an act of desperation and fear than calculating malice.

But that’s assuming she’s guilty at all. And there’s no clear evidence that she is. Laburnum (the plant Philip settles on as the murder weapon) isn’t even all that poisonous. The most common symptoms are nausea and vomiting, and that’s after eating several seeds. “Higher doses can produce intense sleepiness, convulsive possibly tetanic movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. … [However] the MAFF publication ‘Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man’, says that all stories about laburnum causing serious poisoning and death are untraceable” (The Poison Garden).

My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com
“Laburnum” by Neil Turner

Perhaps Du Maurier believed her chosen poison really was deadly based on the rumors that have made it one of the most feared garden plants. But perhaps she did her research and knew that Philip was jumping to unjustifiable conclusions. Maybe she would have known, as Rachel surly did with her expertise in herb lore and gardening, that most gardens are home to far more reliably deadly plants (like foxglove and oleander). Perhaps Du Maurier meant for her readers to realize that a brain tumor (for Ambros) and a relapse of meningitis (for Philip) are the most logical explanations for symptoms both men attribute to “Rachel, my torment.”

There’s an argument to be made that Philip isn’t really concerned about whether or not Rachel poisoned Ambros at all. He decides her guilt based on whether or not she “conforms to his desires and whims” (from “My Cousin Rachel (2017) and Male Entitlement“). After all, he already possesses everything else that belonged to Ambros. Why not Rachel as well?

The question of whether or not Rachel poisoned Ambros consumes Philip only until their first meeting. After that he’s quite certain she’s innocent until she makes it clear she won’t marry him. All his worry about whether or not she’s guilty of murder covers the fact that his inability to deal with rejection brings out a desire to posses and control her. He and Ambros call Rachel “my torment” because she brings out the ugliest side of their natures and they blame her for their darkness rather than looking to the true culprits. Themselves.My Cousin Philip: Examining Perspectives In Daphne Du Maurier's Novel My Cousin Rachel | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Click here to get a reading copy of My Cousin Rachel, and here for the movie. Please note that these are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

Why Can’t We Just Let Guys Be Mentoring, Nurturing, And Protective Without Giving Them Feminine Labels?

There’s been a big push culturally to erode traditional gender roles; to prove that men and women are equal and equally capable of filling roles that were once assigned to just one sex. For example: that women can pursue successful business careers and men can care for children. Or that women can display strong logic and men can be emotional and nurturing.

But somehow this has backfired on us and cultural expectations of gender are just getting more rigid. That statement probably raised a few eyebrows. We’ve come a long way, many will argue. Women are now accepted in traditionally masculine professions. They don’t have to just stay at home and raise children any more. We have freedom, equality! Besides, gender is just a cultural construct and we can redefine it however we want so those roles aren’t so confining.

That’s not what we’ve done though. Take, for example, the problem of people pushing young children to identify as transgendered (which the American College of Pediatricians defines as “child abuse”). If a child displays traits outside the gender associated with their biological sex, they’re encouraged to get their sex changed. Instead of making it acceptable for a little girl to embrace femininity and enjoy “boy things” like superheroes and tractors, she’s told she’s not really a girl. She’s a boy. In a fit of mass cultural insanity, we’re making social constructions of gender more rigid while trying to make a person’s biological sex something that’s flexible.

Stranger Things’ New “Mom”

I started thinking about this topic (at least in the context of this blog post) when I came across this image while scrolling through Pinterest:Why Can't We Just Let Guys Be Mentoring, Nurturing, And Protective Without Giving them Feminine Labels? Looking At Scriptural Mission Statements For People Following Jesus | marissabaker.wordpress.comLike many Stranger Things fans, Season 2 turned Steve Harrington into one of my favorite characters. For those of you not watching the show, Steve was a stereotypical character  in the first season but in Season 2 he got some spectacular character development. He grew from a standard jock  into a hero who has a great relationship with the younger main characters. And for some reason that gets him labeled as their “mom” by the Internet. Read more