Course: Studies in Feminist Theology: The Feminist issues in Luke-Acts

Professor: Dr. Lehtioe

Student: Mr. Philip Yim Kwok Hung


Rebera, Ranjini. ed. Affirming Difference Celebrating Wholeness:A Partnership of Equals.

(Hong Kong: Christian Conference of Asia Women's Concern, 1995).

The Critique on Section Two & Three.

A. Table of Content of the whole book


1.Women's Identity in Society: A Synthesis22

2.Women's Identity in the Home:43

3.Women's Identity in the Church:61

4.Women's Identity in Leadership:77



Introduction: on the theologians & methodologies used. 97

< O.T. Character Study>: with the emphasis on Woman as Leader

1. Bringing Liberation - The Call to Two Women (Ex. 1:8-2:10)100

2. The Faithfulness of Two Midwives (Ex. 1:15-22)103

3. A Woman leader of Minjung - Miriam105

4. A Woman leader of Community - Deborah109

5. A Woman leader of a Household - Abigail112

6. A Woman leader of the Church - Huldah115

< Comparing O.T. & N.T. Character Study>

7. Empowered by Faith - A Widow and A Business Woman:119


< N.T. Character Study>: with the emphasis on the New Community

- as reflected in the Gospels

8. The Values of the New Community - The Parable of the Vineyard:122

9.Recognising Change in the New Community - The Parable of the Sower:127

10.Faith and Power in the New Community -

Jairus' Daughter and the Woman with Haemorrhages132

11. Breaking Barriers to establish the New Community -

The Syrophoenician women. 136

12.In Memory of her - The Anointing at Bethany139

13. Roles models for the New Community - Mary and Martha143

- as reflected in other N.T. writings.

14.Heirs of God148

15.Partnership in Leadership - Priscilla and Aquila152

16. Is Paul Controversial?154


Conclusion: 158

Suggested Reading Resources164

B. Summary of Content:

The text (s) were read in English and national languages of the participants. Then they were required to make their own questions relating to the text from their own experience (personal level), from the point of view of oppressed people (class level), from their country's perspectives (national, cultural level). The ¡§( )¡¨ is added by me to analyze the point of view. This is intentionally the reversal of the traditional approach.

The following studies scrutinize the female characters in the Bible and strive to re-discover their significance from a feministic perspective. This will de-construct the ¡¥history recorded' in the Bible that is colorized by the patriarchal viewpoint. Then a more balanced view of the female contribution to the salvation-history through Israelites will surface.

The first six studies reflected different levels of influence exerted by female characters in the Israelite history. The first two studies were about two midwives who saved the whole nation, while Miriam was the national prophetess who joined Moses to liberate the Minjung (people). Deborah was the judge of several tribes in the Israelites. The Abigail was the ¡¥real master' of her household and Huldah was the woman leader of the Church (better say, the prophetic community).

The first two studies concentrated on the two midwives, Shiprah and Puah, who saved the Israelites from extinction. The emphasis on the male babies is noticed by the participants. The second study focus on the ¡§fear of God¡¨ as the motive for the two midwives. Miriam, studied by the third one, was one of the most significant prophetess in the Israelite history. The song of Miriam was one of the oldest hymns preserved. Though Miriam and Aaron were rebelling against Moses, only Miriam was punished. This was interpreted as the male-orientated bias (p.107). In the era of the Judges it was a comparatively equalitarian society. Though Deborah was the leader, the leadership was exercised through the co-operation of Jael and Barak. Nabal's wife, Abigail, took the initiative to make petition to David when he was very enraged by her husband. She acted as both an obedient wife and clever diplomat. Besides, David's alliances with many women led to the power struggle in the royal family and division of Israel. Huldah was the prophetess who could explain the book of the covenant to the people. She helped the in the revival started by king Josiah, but she was ignored later in the O. T. She did not belong to the royal prophets who tended to flatter the king.

A comparison between two women was made in the seventh study. The widow of Zarephath was challenged by Elijah to make food for him first, even though she had very little food left. She conquered her self-centeredness in the days of economic crisis. The other good example was Lydia who became a Christian under Paul and Silas. Lydia was rich and invited them to stay in her house after her conversion. It is a good example of Christian hospitality.

The parable of the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) was a parable only for Jesus' followers.

This parable was related to the saying, ¡§So the last will be first and the first will be last¡¨ (Mt. 20:16). The landlord in the parable gave the minimum wage. He hired more men in 5:00 p.m., even they could work for him only for an hour. The men were hired because they were valued, not for their productivity. This was understood as a change of system, similar to the change of the patriarchal system. The parable of the sower (Mk. 4:3-20) was about ¡§understanding¡¨ (see Mk. 4:9,13). Four kinds of soils were related to different responses from people, and they were associated to the suffering experience of the women.

The other studies got some lights from the Pauline Epistles. In Gal. 3:21-4:7, Paul took children and slaves were both the same because both were weak and dependent. But the sons / daughters of God were heirs and free. Therefore when the Galatian Christians strived to force the new gentile converts to obey the Jewish laws, they were enslaved the new Christians. So the relational opposite of Father (God) should be heirs, not child. Later study demonstrated the partnership model in leadership of Priscilla and Aquila. They shared leadership in their home. Aquila was mentioned before her husband in all the quoted texts, except 1 Cor. 16:19, indicated her strong leadership in comparing to her husband. The study entitled ¡§Is Paul controversial?¡¨ revisited the authority of women according to Paul. His non-subordination vision was clearly stated in Gal. 3:26-28. When Paul implemented this vision, he had to maintain the order in the life of the congregation. When the equality challenged the contemporary culture and the life of his congregations, he was forced to act wisely in this dilemma.

All these works were concluded by Ranjini Rebera in her article -- ¡§A Community of Equals." She advocated a shift from ¡¥the patriarchal pyramid of power' to ¡¥the Circle of Love.' Men and Women became partners not rivals. She suggested that the traditional roles of women in the Church were an extension from the family life. The Church's theology of self-sacrifice and servanthood should be re-interpreted to reject the oppression of women. As Gal. 3:21-4:7 said, women and men were both heirs of God. She suggested to re-examine the Bible for role-models, so that we could restyle paradigms of partnership. Unique model should be abandoned, while the varieties of models were encouraged. The new community of Equals was to be pursued.


C. The Critique on this work.


Analyzing the Bible from our own experience (personal level), from the point of view of oppressed people (class level), from our country's perspectives (national, cultural level) will help us to apply the Bible more closer to our daily life. The Bible will then be blurred by our pre-determined mindset. For example, only the women are assumed to be oppressed. In the patriarchal system, the persons who are in power oppress both men and women. One question must be answered: ¡§What is the real root of the problems?¡¨ Does patriarchy mean a mindset, cultural ideology, social system, sinful nature, sexist theology, organizational structure, or evil spiritual power? Does patriarchy a universal problem? If so, why is it so? What kind of patriarchy is used in different times in the Old Testament and New Testament? Do the regional and individual differences in these systems are reflected in the Bible?

I agree that women in Hong Kong are not given equal opportunities to exert their full abilities. Chinese people in Hong Kong are less male-orientated than that of Mainland China (in Ancient times, now it is not so). It may cause by many reasons: the British cultural influence, the needs for working women, and the equal chance for education. This reflects the regional difference and the change through times. When we study the Bible, we may see the same trend: the role of women varies in different times and places. Kathleen E. Corley has demonstrated the radical social change throughout the Greco-Roman world in women's roles -- both in moving toward equality and in returning to a more traditional role. A female Filipino educator has shown the change from equality to sub-ordination after the arrival of western Christianity! The liberation of women from ancient Chinese oppression, i.e., prostitution, is done by western missionaries. The sub-ordinations of women in clergy roles and leading roles are still found in many Hong Kong churches. According to the survey done in 1994, 62.7% (=1465 persons) of the pastors are male , but 88.9% (672 persons) of minister-in-charge are male! We must note that most churches have only one pastor.

The ancient Chinese kingdoms are usually seen by us as extreme patriarchal, but they are occasionally ruled by female rulers. The female rulers are found in every dynasty and period! They ruled 25% of the whole history of Chinese kingdoms! Their significance and influence are diversified. They can be classified into three periods. The first one includes the period of warring kingdom to the Han dynasty. In this period, the female reign was established and legitimated. Most of them ruled in the identity of the 'mother of the young king.' In the second period, the diversified roles of female rulers were unified. It started from Ngai dynasty to the Mogul period. The female reigns were suppressed in the third period, which included the Ming dynasty and the Ching dynasty. The social conditions for female reign might be the change in marriage system, the power shift, and social customs.

This suggests that the female-male power struggle is not a simple and linear game. Hence, I suggest to research on the change of women's roles in ancient Israel and N. T. times.

Content of the studies

The study of Miriam was a very insightful one. The ancient form of the song of Miriam showed that this tradition was an important and respected one. The role of Miriam was a very important, but strange too. If Moses was seen as the savior of the people, she and Aaron would be taken as the co-saviors. Why then was only Miriam punished because of the rebellion? Chung Sook Ja posted this good question, but took it as a product of patriarchal ideology might have simplified the case. The power struggles of the three persons was seen in the O.T. itself. The role of Aaron was that of the High Priest that had no direct competition with Moses. On the contrary, Miriam being a prophetess of the Israelites, was in direct and open competition with Moses the Prophet! To deify the person of Moses, Miriam was diminished intentionally. The study also highlighted that ancient women might have a higher role that we expected today. For example, the prophetesses and leading women in dancing on the days of triumph were public leading roles!

The song of Deborahis believed by Chung Sook Ja has re-shaped by the editors, because it has two people. Why does a war led by two important must remember only the female judge? This may be a discrimination against Barak! If we re-read the story, the leadership of Deborah is uncontested. Barak asked Deborah to go with him and refused to go if she did not go. This would make him lost his honor (Jud. 4:9). Therefore Barak's insistence of Deborah's appearance was a disgrace to a patriarchal man. Hence, the description was not so patriarchal as Chung proposed. On the contrary, Deborah the Judge was affirmed by the text. This situation might be similar to that of the ancient Chinese kingdom. The position of Deborah was higher because she had charismatic (God-given) authority. Assuming that all Biblical records are patriarchal will blind my eye to see the possible varieties of women's roles in the Biblical times.

The story of Abigail certainly reflected the complicated and dirty David's human relationship. Abigail could act independently and the workers would follow her instructions without the consent of their master. Why did they listen to Abigail if she had no authority! Nabal was sure a bad temper man, who would act without his consent? Therefore, this story reflected the authority of Abigail was small. Besides, why David marry her? (Because of her cleverness or the power and influence of Nabal's kinship?)

The title of this study was mis-leading. Huldah was a prophetess, not a member of the Church! She was a leader of a group, but an independent prophetess who did not follow the attitudes of the royal prophets.

The faith of the widow of Zarephath was over-looked, but re-discovered by this study. Lydia's act was certainly an act of faith. Why did she have this authority to invite Paul to her house? And ¡§she and the members of her household were baptized¡¨ (v.15). Only the head of the house could determine the faith of a family (c.f. the jailer 16:33). Therefore the headship over her family was unique.

The two parables were strangely related to the topic. C. A. Ali emphasized that ¡§the men were not being hired because he had work for them to do but they were being hired because it was important that they were valued.¡¨ (p.124). It was a very good devotional insight, but in no way emphasized in the story. The key of the story of was the strange result of ¡§equal pay in spite of the working hours."

The contrast with Jairus' daughter and the woman with hemorrhages was a very insightful work. The two were belonged to the ¡§weaker group¡¨ in the society. The girl had to be protected by her parent and the woman was unclean. The guess on the woman's family situation and her personal frustration was a very impressive one. This reminded me of the problems and the shame caused by menstruation. It helped us to understand the characters deeper.

Taking the Syrophoenician women as a model for discipleship was a good insight, but I thought the emphasis was her faith (Mk. 7:29). The woman met Jesus on his retreat to the Gentile lands, but she showed an extra-ordinary faith in Jesus. Ch. 7 - 8 in Mark was concentrated on the preparation of the disciples to know Jesus as the Messiah. Clearly ¡§have faith in him¡¨ was stressed.

The anointing at Bethany was taken as a prophetic act and the women showed a prophetic authority. It was a new insight, but the prophetic role of the women demanded further study before we could confirm it. The association of Mary and Martha with the young women and widows in the early Church was a very good one. Did Mary's act represent a male disciple's role, or generally every disciple, disregard of their sex, had the same act? Mary and Martha had a different tendency towards Jesus' teaching. Martha was doing her role of serving the lord and other disciples, while Mary was sitting. Why was Mary accredited by Jesus? What was the real contrast between the two? Martha was not blamed to have done something wrong, but Mary had chosen what is better (v. 42).

On the study of Gal. 3:21-4:7, the contrast between the image of God and its relational opposite was discerning. The relational opposite of Father (God) should be free heirs, not bondage child. The feminist application or reflection was less.

The partnership model in leadership of Priscilla and Aquila was impressive, but might not be true. The authority of Aquila might be greater than we thought. Aquila was mentioned before her husband in all the quoted texts, except 1 Cor. 16:19, indicated her strong leadership in the related house church. She might be the deaconess or even ¡¥pastor' or the church! For example, the Philippian Church was divided by two women who might be the leaders of two house churches. Paul had said they had worked with him and his fellow-workers (Phil. 4:2-3).

Yes! Paul had a non-subordination vision was clearly stated in Gal. 3:26-28. He had many problems to implement it. When we understood Paul from the angel, we could apprehend his struggle more easily. Deeper understanding on his struggles might help us to resolve the contemporary struggles.

Rebera's conclusion has shown her vision of a community of equals. I like her idea of a Circle of Love, which rejects the Pyramid of Power. It is a good vision, but hard to implement. The problem is not in sex, but on power struggle. Power games are very dangerous and have deteriorated many clergy teams.