These references are not intended to be inclusive and they are not necessarily
recommended. They are not listed in any order of priority. Rather, they are
provided to demonstrate the range of views on the topic of the role of women
in the church.
Osburn, Carroll D (ed.): Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity (Volumes
I and II). Joplin Missouri, College Press, 1993, 1995
The most scholarly and thorough review of the role of women in the church
by members of the churches of Christ. Articles written by scholars from
the Restoration movement (mostly church of Christ). Provides significant
historical background and generally takes a close look at the historical
context of scripture in order to render an interpretation. Addresses all
the key passages. Generally balanced but more focused upon the historical
Schussler Fiorenza, Elisabeth: But She Said. Boston, Beacon Press, 1992
A good example of a feminist interpretation (and criticism) of the Bible.
Schussler Firoenza is a serious scholar, yet she begins with the premise
that since men, for the most part, wrote the sacred scriptures, the scriptures
are suspect from the feminist perspective. I seek to work
out a process and method for a feminist political reading that can empower
women who, for whatever reasons, are still affected by the Bible they read
against the grain of its patriarchal rhetoric. Explores
key women in the scriptures, such as Miriam, Mary Magdalene and Priscilla.
Rowland, Robert H: I Permit Not a Woman To Remain Shackled.
Corona, CA, Lighthouse Publishing Company, 1991
An elder and former faculty member at Oklahoma Christian College, Robert
Rowland makes an impassioned plea for us to change our views on the role
of women in the church. He focuses upon what he believes to be our misreading
of key passages especially on women holding offices in the church and women
remaining silent in the church. We do not practice what we claim the
Bible teaches with any consistency and, most shocking, I concluded that
the Bible does not really teach what we claim it does. He focuses
upon Greek words which he believes we have misused.
Murphy, Cullen: The Word According to Eve. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company.1998.
Murphy, managing editor for The Atlantic Monthly, provides a most readable
review of current feminist biblical scholars. There are a few pearls scattered
through the book which can inform a study of scripture related to womens
issues. This work, however, is of most benefit to someone who wishes to
obtain an overview of feminist biblical scholarship, especially from the
perspectives of the key players in the movement.
Smith, F. LaGard: The Cultural Church. Nashville, Tennessee, 20th Century
Smith explores the new hermaneutic. He challenges the trend within churches
of Christ to leave our traditional approach to the interpretation of scripture,
namely command, example and necessary inference. His challenge is especially
relevant regarding how we view the scriptures in the New Testament (especially
the letters of Paul) in terms of their historical context. He notes that
theres no reason to be embarrassed about our roots or threatened
by our future as long as we stay the course. In the main, the call for a
new hermeneutic reflects more reaction than action. My fear is that it may
be more deconstruction than reconstruction. He concludes that tahking
command, example, and necessary inference seriously would mean
having to accept the well-documented biblical principle of male spiritual
leadership. (see below)
Beasley, M: Set Me Free. Understanding our Traditions in the Light of
Grace. Houston, Diversity Press, 1999.
A book which emphasizes a more narrative and historical approach to Biblical
interpretation by a lawyer and sometimes minister at a large Texas congregation.
Covers a number of subjects including the role of women. He concludes that
there is sufficient evidence in Scripture and from the ministries
of women in the early church to support a more active role of women in ministries,
including allowing women on worship teams, distributing communion, appointing
women deacons, and even leading public prayer.
Lightfoot, Neil R.: The Role of Women: New Testament Perspectives. Memphis
Tennessee, Student Association Press, 1978
Lightfoot is one of the more respected scholars in churches of Christ,
a long time professor at Abilene Christian University. He examines four
critical passages: I Corinthians 7, 11 and 14 as well as I Timothy 2. He
considers their historical and literary settings and their application today.
His views probably reflect closely the current role and activities of women
at the Brooks Avenue congregation.
Allen, C. Leonard: Distant Voices: Discovering a Forgotten Past for a Changing
Church. Abilene, Tx, Abilene University Press, 1993
Allen reviews the lives and activities of persons who were active in the
Restoration Movement during the 19th and early 20th century. Among these
persons is Silena Moore Holman who participated in a long time debate with
David Lipscomb about the role of women in the church. Also documents some
interesting reflections of Alexander Campbell who believed that women were
appointed as deaconesses in the New Testament church (though he did not
crusade for their appointment during the early Restoration movement).
MacArthur, John: Gods High Calling for Women. Panorama City, CA,
Word of Grace Communications, 1987.
MacArthur, a conservative minister and prolific writer examines I Timothy
2:9-15 (perhaps the most challenging passage regarding the role of women
in the church). He concludes that Paul, under the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit, says women are to accept their God-given role. They must not
seek the leadership role in the church. Primarily they are to raise godly
Craig, Darlene: A Worthy Woman. Salem, Oregon, Valor Press, 1983.
An example of a number of books written by women for women based on Proverbs
31:10-31. She focuses in particular upon the importance of the woman as
mother and homemaker and in this her worth is incalculable. Today
the home must be upheld both by example and specific teaching, that our
daughters not be embarrassed to happily anticipate marriage and motherhood,
and our sons may look forward with genuine masculine pleasure to the prospect
of loving and providing for a family. Well written and well referenced.
Smith, F. LeGard: Male Spiritual Leadership. (Formerly titled Men of Strength
for Women of God and What Most Women Want.) Nashville, Tennessee, 21st Century
A thoughtful interpretation by a more conservative member of the churches
of Christ. Smiths primary argument is that the debate over the role
of women in the church derives from a lack of male spiritual leadership,
a pattern which God instituted at the creation. He states, the principle
of male spiritual leadership has nothing to do with rules for inhibiting
women and everything to do with encouraging men to be more responsible,
more participatory, and more spiritual . He concludes that the
controversy over womans role in the church will abate when the divine
pattern is accepted.
Kroeger, RC and Kroeger, CC: I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy
2:11 15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, Baker Book House,
The Kroegers propose a unique interpretation of I Timothy 2:11
15. Specifically they suggest that these verses are not intended as
the rationale for prohibiting a gospel ministry for women, but rather they
constitute a refutation of a widespread heresy directed against Gnostic
or proto-Gnostic mythology glorifying Eve. An interesting though somewhat
extreme attempt to understand the passage within its historical framework.
Kostenberger AJ, Schreiner TR, Baldwin HS (eds.): Women in the Church:
A Fresh Analysis of I Timothy 2:9 15. Grand Rapids, Baker Book House,
This volume is beyond most of us in terms of our ability to follow the
arguments made by the authors. An in depth study of the Greek text of this
most critical passage for understanding the role of women in the church.
The conclusion of the authors is that Paul states that women are prohibited
from teaching or exercising authority because of the creation order they
are more prone to deception since they are more nurturing and relational
than men women are less likely to perceive the need to take a stand
on doctrinal non-negotiable since they prize harmonious relationships more
than men do…the church in the twentieth century has brought sex role confusion
on itself by male sins [incompetence, chauvinism].
Bristow, JT: What Paul Really Said About Women. San Francisco, HarperCollins,
Bristow, a Disciples of Christ minister, writes an easily read volume (a
word study) suggesting that we have misunderstood the meaning of Pauls
teachings given the implications of faulty translations of the Greek text
of the New Testament. Paul was in fact revolutionary in challenging the
poor status of women by the Jews, Greeks and Romans. For example, Paul
approved of women praying and prophesying during worship these were…radical
ideas to both Jew and Gentile in practice[in Corinth] sexual equality
among Christians led to a disregard for orderliness and courtesy during
worship Paul said, Hush up.
Sandifer, JS: Deacons: Male and Female? A Study for Churches of Christ.
Columbus, GA, Brentwood Christian Press, 1989
Sandifer, a graduate of Abilene Christian University and church of Christ
minister, takes the position that many of our concepts of the appointment
and work of deacons is not based on the text but on tradition. From in-depth
study of the role of deacons as well as the history of the role within the
Restoration Movement, Sandifer believes that there is no clear reason for
excluding women from the role. Deacons were recognized for service and were
under the oversight of elders (perhaps a deacon was an assistant to a particular
elder). The emphasis regarding deacons in the New Testament was upon function
and service and recognition of a particular office was less emphasized.
I do not recommend any specific commentary. Rather, I suggest that commentaries
be used if available but that you review more than one in order to compare
Most of us are not Greek scholars. If you are interested in pursuing the
meanings of the Greek words, consider the one volume abridgment by Geoffrey
Bromiley of Kittel G , Friedrich G: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1985. Unlike some of the books above, this volume
does not approach the word study from the perspective of understanding a
particular passage but rather from the perspective of language use in the
Greco-Roman world. Almost all Greek words of theological significance are