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A Complementarian Vision? : Kevin DeYoung on Men and Women in the Church

How are men and women to relate to one another, in the church and in the family?

When we read the Bible, we find various statements about men and women that seem to be at odds with one another. Galatians 3:28 sees no distinction between male and female, whereas 1 Timothy 2:12 seems to place a restriction on women that men do not have, when serving in the church. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 has Paul saying that husbands and wife share mutual rights with one another, whereas Ephesians 5:22-33 suggests some type of priority husbands have in relation to their wives, in terms of who submits to whom.

What is a biblically faithful Christian to do with this?  Select a certain group of texts has having priority over others, thus having a “canon within the canon” approach to Scripture, …. or find a way of integrating the whole of the Scriptural material?

A debate rages among evangelical Christians as to how to resolve the tensions that various Scriptural passages like these present to us. On the one side are the egalitarians, who sense a profound embarrassment over anything in the Bible that appears to be misogynistic, and thus emphasize the equality between men and women. For egalitarians, the liberating message of Jesus for women takes center stage. On the other side are the complementarians, who recognize gender equality, but who refuse to shy away from those passages that might suggest otherwise. Complementarians instead see such difficult passages as offering clues into the complementary relationship between male and female. Instead of embarrassment, complementarians see a beauty being expressed in the gender complementarity of the Bible.

It is important to say at the outset that Christians of good faith, can and indeed do disagree on these matters. Nevertheless, the positions we do take on how male and female relate to one another do have an impact on both marriages and the structure of a local church, and in how we think about gender more generally.

 

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Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Lucy Peppiatt on Men, Women…and Family?

For the vast majority of secular-minded people in the West today, any traditional Christian perspective on women is considered strange or weird, at best, or misogynistic or inherently oppressive, at its worst.

In many respects, church history does not have the most stellar record when it comes to dealing with the abuse and degradation of women. Far too often, women have been treated as second-class citizens in the Christian movement. On the other hand, it also could be argued that the Christian faith has been the primary catalyst affirming the value and contributions of women, a reality that most sophisticated Westerners today simply take for granted. Christianity has led to the most vital protections for women, and the most uplifting force supporting women, more than any other movement in world history. While this issue has an impact on how Christian churches and marriages function, it also has an impact on Christian apologetics, and how nonbelievers hear the Gospel message. So, the question stands: Which narrative best represents the message of the Bible for women? One of abuse and degradation, or one of affirmation and honor?

Despite recent advances for women, a most pressing concern in our postmodern world is the decline of the traditional family. The joy of having a mother and a father, who stay together until the death of one of them, is a vanishing characteristic throughout much of Western culture. Living in blended families has become more of the norm, rather than the exception. The definition of marriage keeps changing. The number of Americans who live alone keeps rising every year.  Yet in the words of Dallas Theological Seminary’s Sandra Glahn, for men and women, “we need one another.”  A rediscovery of Scripture’s vision for women, and how they relate to men, and vice-versa, must also address a theology of the family, which is in considerable crisis today in the West.

Christians today are divided over understanding what the Bible teaches regarding how men and women are to relate with one another in the church and the home. We need to have better good faith conversations among professing believers, as to how best work through what we find in God’s Word, and act in obedience accordingly. Scripture teaches that men and women are both created equally in the image of God, and yet are distinct from one another. Nevertheless, egalitarian Christians emphasize the former, and complementarian Christians emphasize the latter. For readers unfamiliar with this topic, I would suggest starting your journey into this topic with this introductory Veracity blog post, linked here, from 2019.

 

Two Books in the Complementarian/Egalitarian Conversation

This year, I endeavored to read two books in this conversation, one by a complementarian, Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church. The other book, the focus of this review, was authored by Lucy Peppiatt, a theologian and Principal at the Westminister Theological Center, in the U.K. She has written an insightful set of expositions of Scripture, along the lines of an egalitarian theological framework, in her Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts. A charismatic evangelical, Lucy Peppiatt lectures in systematic theology, and serves as a lay minister in the Church of England. Many readers sympathetic to an egalitarian point of view have recommended Lucy Peppiatt to me, as representing perhaps the most mature, balanced argument defending this perspective currently in print.1

The intended audience for Peppiatt’s work is targeted towards those thoughtful Christians who hold to a traditional, complementarian view, what she calls a “heirarchialist” view, who are willing to consider a change in perspective regarding the teaching of Scripture. However, the book is also for egalitarians nervous as to whether or not the Bible actually teaches egalitarianism. For several disputed passages, the issue comes down to whether a distinctive teaching is prescriptive for all times and all places, versus being descriptive,  possessing a set of instructions for a particular first century, cultural setting. Unfortunately, a more sacramentalist approach, which looks for concrete ways for regarding men and women as fully equal within the sight of God, and yet relating to one another in the church and in the family in non-interchangeable ways, is not sufficiently interacted with in Peppiatt’s work. To put it briefly, Lucy Peppiatt succeeds in admirable ways to make her case for what she calls a “mutualistic” view of relations between men and women, while still coming up short in certain specific and crucial areas.
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Is the Ukraine Crisis Revealing Russia’s Role in the End Times?

Events over the last few weeks in Ukraine have triggered a renewed interest in the End Times. Christians should pay attention to what is happening in the Ukraine, due to concerns about a possible World War III, for many reasons. But while the End Times could be near, it probably has nothing to do with the reasons why many Christians think Russia is a key player in future events.

Evangelist Pat Robertson recently entered the fray by suggesting that the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel predicted centuries ago that Russia would ultimately fulfill prophetic events associated with the Second Coming of Jesus. In fact, according to Robertson, Vladimir Putin is being “compelled by God” to invade Ukraine:

Pretty impressive, right? Well, let us take a closer look.

The story about Russia and the End Times finds its connection from a reference in Revelation 20:8, in the last book of the Bible, where “Gog and Magog” are associated with a great battle, that some say is elsewhere described in Revelation as Armageddon. The “Gog and Magog” reference points back to Ezekiel 38, where Ezekiel gives a prophecy about Gog and Magog, and a future invasion of Israel, led by these foreign powers.

There is a lot to unpack here, but we can just focus on where “Russia” is said to come in, at verse 2, in Ezekiel 38. Here is how the New American Standard Bible (1977/1995) and the New King James Version (late 1970s) render this verse:

Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him…” (NASB 1997/1995)

Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him...” (NKJV)

Notice that the word “Rosh” is capitalized, which makes it a proper name, of a particular place. Many prophecy pundits will tell you that “Rosh” sounds like the word “Russia,” which would suggest Russia is somehow involved with this future invasion of Israel. Pat Robertson identifies “Rosh” with “Russia” on his map in the video. This gets a lot of attention: Is is possible that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is yet a prelude to a future invasion of Israel, that might signify the End Times?

Ah, but just compare the same verse with a few other translations, such as the ESV and the CSB:

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him…” (ESV)

“Son of man, face Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him…” (CSB)

And finally, let us consider the venerable KJV:

Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him... (KJV)

Notice what is different. In these other translations, that word “Rosh” is instead translated as “chief.” In these other translations, “Rosh” is no longer a place name. In other words, “Rosh” is no longer “Russia.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

So, what is going on here?

John of Patmos, receiving the Revelation, by Gasparde Crayer. The Book of Revelation makes a curious reference to “Gog and Magog,” somewhat cryptic names that go back to the Book of Ezekiel. Is the current Ukraine/Russia crisis somehow tied to the events of the Last Days?

 

Sorting Out the Whole “Russia” / Ezekiel / Revelation / End Times Quandary

Back in the 1970s, the United States and Russia (technically the U.S.S.R.) were involved in the height of the Cold War. Both the NASB and NKJV translations, as shown above, were developed in the 1970s, and these translations tended to reflect a lot of popular prophecy thinking of the time.

Interestingly, the venerable KJV, dating back to 1611, predated the Hal Lindsey craze of the “Late Great Planet Earth” by several centuries, and did not associate “rosh” with a place name, like Russia. That word “rosh” has an ancient Hebrew meaning of “chief” or “head,” and it appears over 500 times in the Old Testament. The KJV translators simply followed the traditional Hebrew “rosh” to mean “chief” in Ezekiel 38, following the example set by Jerome, in his translation of the Latin Vulgate, in the late 4th century.

So, what really drove the translators of the NASB and the NKJV to change the translation of the Hebrew “rosh” in Ezekiel 38 from “chief” to a place name, like “Rosh?” Well, they were not entirely crazy. It turns out that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, dating back to a couple of hundred years before Jesus, translated the word to what appears to be a place name, simply “rosh” (or “Rhos” in some English versions). Therefore, the NASB and NKJV were not making this up. The “rosh” name translation is a real possibility. But how plausible is this translation?

Now, it must be said that ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many scholars have come to the conclusion that the Septuagint might offer superior understandings of the original Hebrew text, thus suggesting that certain translated portions of the Greek Septuagint correspond to an earlier Hebrew text, that predates the Masoretic text, the Jewish Hebrew Bible that serves as the basis for most translations of the Old Testament today.

However, it is important to realize that this conclusion is complicated by the fact that there is no one, single Septuagint translation. There are actually multiple “Septuagints,” whereby various Jewish scribes over a good hundred of years, or more, put together different sets of Greek translations of the original Hebrew Scriptures. As a result, some Septuagint translations of certain texts work better than others.

The key to resolving this quandary is to try to locate where Ezekiel might have thought “Rosh,” as a geographical place, might have existed. This is where the massive stumbling block behind the “Rosh” as “Russia” argument really lies. To date, no one has been able to establish the location of “Rosh” anywhere in the ancient near east, or anywhere remotely near Russia, in any ancient record. Not a single reference. None.

Mmmmmm…..

Defenders of the “Rosh” as “Russia” thesis often make a rather bizarre argument that the name “Russia” comes from the phrase, “The Rus,” which is said to be the same as the Hebrew “Rosh.” The problem with this argument is “The Rus” actually comes from the Vikings, in the Medieval Period, when they came down from Scandinavia, and settled around Kiev, in the Ukraine, and parts of modern Russia. There is absolutely no connection between the ancient Hebrew “rosh” and the medieval Swedish “rus.”

This is just a form of bad logic, and faulty use of evidence. Just because a word in one language sounds the same as another word in a different language does not definitively mean that the two words mean the same thing. For example, flat-earthers take a Hebrew word, transliterated into English as “nasha”, which means “to deceive,” to mean that “NASA” is deceiving us in thinking that the earth is a sphere, simply because “nasha” and “NASA” sound alike. Really???

To make matters worse, some then go ahead and claim that the word “Meschech” in Ezekiel 38:2 and the word “Moscow” mean the same thing, because the words sound the same. There you go, Russia still is in Ezekiel 38, right?

However, is there any ancient historical evidence to support the claim that “Meschech” and “Moscow” are referencing the same geographical place?

Nope. We strike out again here.

The word “Meschech” (or “Meshech“) actually comes from the Table of Nations in Genesis 10:2, and in 1 Chronicles 1:5, and refers to an area in Asia Minor, in what we today call Turkey, which is on the south side of the Black Sea. Moscow is way, way far away to the north, on the north side of the Black Sea. We do not have a single scrap of ancient evidence that associates the area of modern Moscow with the ancient Hebrew “Meschech.”

The same goes for identifying “Tubal” with “Tobolsk“, a town in Siberia. The words sound the same, but “Tubal” is often paired with “Meschech” in the Bible, and was located in Turkey as well. Likewise, we have zero ancient evidence for linking “Tubal” to “Tobolsk.” This lack of evidence pretty much changes the possibility of Russia being in view, specifically, in Ezekiel 38, to that of being improbable.

Other arguments associating the story of Gog and Magog specifically with Russia pretty much go downhill from there. Here is the point: I personally do not find this to be a hill that I am willing to die on. I would much rather rely on evidence that we already have instead of depending on supposed evidence that we do not have. However, if it turns out that new evidence surfaces that clearly has an ancient source identifying “rosh” with a particular geographical location, way up north from Israel, then I am perfectly willing to change my mind. Furthermore, it is still possible that a great battle at the end of the age might still feature Russia as a major player in it. You just can not clearly get this from Ezekiel 38. So until we get more clarity, we probably do not need to stock up yet on a 3-month emergency food supply.

Looking forward to the ultimate Second Coming of Jesus Christ is something that all historically orthodox Christians anticipate. However, it is probably best to regard this “Rosh=Russia” issue as a matter of wishful thinking among a certain group of Bible commentators and prophecy specialists. For decades now, Russia has always featured prominently in Bible prophecy speculations. Russia fits neatly in many End Times schemes. Certain commentators have a lot invested in defending their future prophecy fulfillment timelines by placing Russia squarely in the center of the action. But as even progressive Christian scholar John Barton says, the Bible can be “shape shifted” to make it mean whatever you want it to mean.

Simply wanting something to be true, does not make it true.

For more information on this topic, I would suggest that Veracity readers check out Dr. Michael Heiser on his Naked Bible Podcast, number 152, where Heiser goes into the various place names discussed in Ezekiel 38, in great detail.  Regarding the Septuagint “rosh” translation in Ezekiel 38:2, Dr. Heiser concludes that the Septuagint translator simply did not know what to do with the Hebrew word “rosh” and therefore left it transliterated into Greek, without suggesting any particular meaning for the word. For a quick 8-minute summary on YouTube, you can listen here.

As an aside, it might be worth noting that the good folks at the Lockman Foundation, who produce the NASB translation, have since the 1970s made an update to the 2020 revision of the NASB. This change reflects the conclusion made by the KJV, ESV, and CSB translators, by rendering “rosh” as “chief” and not as a place name (In fairness to the earlier NASB translation, the “chief” translation is actually mentioned in a footnote. It just is not in the main text). If you go back and view that YouTube video with Pat Robertson, you will notice that they actually use this 2020 revision of NASB in that clip, where the place name “Rosh” is strangely absent, not even in a footnote! My guess is that my fellow Washington and Lee University graduate, Pat Robertson, and his crew at CBN, never picked up on that.

No matter what one thinks about the Ukranian/Russia crisis and its connection to the “End Times,” this utter tragedy in that part of the world is something that all of us as believers should be in prayer about, looking for ways to try to help people who have been bitterly impacted, and offer a ray of hope in a very dark time.


Saving a Forgotten Black Baptist Cemetery in Williamsburg, Virginia

Here is a story that just made national headlines, about my hometown, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Christianity Today magazine reported this week about “Black Baptists Discover Lost Cemetery in Virginia.” When I was in high school, my school bus would pass by a cemetery everyday. This cemetery just seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. There was no church building nearby. No other buildings. No houses. So, I always wondered what the story was about this place. No one on my school bus, a bunch of mostly white teenagers, knew anything about it either.

As it turns out, this particular cemetery was associated with an old black Baptist church, part of a community called Magruder, a few miles out of Williamsburg, near the current Interstate highway (I-64).

Magruder no longer exists.

Before the Civil War, several large plantations encompassed the area, along with a few small parcels of land owned by free African Americans. After the Civil War, slaves freed from these plantations stayed in the area and built these neighborhoods, all part of the Magruder community. The Oak Grove Baptist Church was founded there in 1887, when parishioners decided that walking a full three miles to attend Sunday services, at the First Baptist Church, in the Williamsburg town, was too inconvenient.

In 1941, as the United States entered World War II, the Navy eyed the property as the perfect place to build a Seabees training base for 26,000 officers and men, known as Camp Peary, which later became a CIA training facility. The African American families were forced to move, and the church buildings abandoned, leaving the cemetery behind. Many of those former Magruder residents settled in the community of Grove, on the other side of Williamsburg. A group from the Oak Grove Baptist Church moved to the area of Waller Mill, not too far from Camp Peary, and the large cemetery. But they had to vacate that property (again) when the new city reservoir was built.

During the time that the church was at Waller Mill, they acquired another parcel of land for another small cemetery. This small cemetery is the lost cemetery described in the Christianity Today article. Over the years, that church community has dwindled, and the site of that small cemetery was lost. In 2021, the lost cemetery was finally rediscovered. The Christianity Today article cites a William & Mary historian, Hannah Rosen, as saying that there might be over 1,000 lost African American cemeteries like this all over the country, most of them probably in a sad state of decay.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about the Confederate military general and educator Robert E. Lee. Controversy about various R.E. Lee statues and memorials have swirled around us for the past few years. But it is important to note that monuments to African American history are fairly rare. The remarkable thing about these Black church cemeteries is that they are mostly built with stone, which will make them more easily preserved, while they also serve as a powerful witness to how the Gospel has sustained these African American communities over the decades, despite being overshadowed by the history of racism in America. Making an investment in them is making an investment in preserving history.

A local television station tells part of the story about preserving the larger cemetery, that I passed by everyday on the bus to my old high school.


Better Days Will Come Again: A Brief Review

Arthur Briggs, the greatest jazz trumpet player in Europe, between the two world wars. His story is told in Better Days Will Come Again, by Travis Atria

A friend of mine is a great niece to Arthur Briggs, a jazz trumpeter, who was known as the greatest trumpet player in Europe, in the years from the end of World War I to World War 2. She asked me to read a book written about her great uncle, Better Days Will Come Again: The Life of Arthur Briggs, Jazz Genius of Harlem, Paris, and a Nazi Prison Camp, by Travis Atria, and I am glad I did.

To my embarrassment, I was completely unaware of Arthur Briggs, even though I DJ’ed a jazz show, on my college radio station, as an undergraduate. But there is a good reason why Briggs was so unfamiliar.

Though he was born on the island of Grenada, he made his way as a teenager to Harlem, during World War 1, and learned the art of jazz trumpet. However, America would not remain home for Arthur Briggs, as the pernicious effects of racism left him a strong distaste for American life. Briggs was most likely a descendant of London Bourne, an early 19th century African slave-turned-abolitionist, on the island of Barbados. Arthur Briggs had no patience for racist bigotry, so he no desire to stay living in America.

Arthur Briggs left America at the end of World War I to advance his career as a jazz trumpeter in Europe, where he finally settled in Paris, France. The years between the world wars were the hey-day for early jazz in Europe, and Briggs was at the top of his game. While the more familiar Louis Armstrong wowed audiences in America, Briggs toured nearly all of Europe with various jazz ensembles, but made his reputation primarily in Paris, where racism was much less an issue than it was in America. He played with the likes of guitarist Django Reinhardt and singer/dancer Josephine Baker. Briggs’ years in Europe explains why many like myself never knew of him.

The most challenging period of Briggs’ life was when Nazi Germany overran Paris in 1940. Briggs failed to escape Paris and was sent to a Nazi prison, at St. Denis, on the outskirts of the city, and spent the remainder of the war there. He experienced brutal dehumanizing conditions at St. Denis, along with the added insult of Nazi-imposed racism. Yet he survived the war, largely through the exercise of his extraordinary talents, which entertained his fellow prisoners, along with his Nazi guards and prison commanders.

Author Travis Artis introduces each chapter with a quote from the Bible, meaningful to Arthur Briggs, thus indicating a spiritual side to the great musician, but makes little emphasis on that aspect of Briggs’ extraordinary life. Better Days Will Come Again is a remarkable story of how one man stood up against the brutality of racism, excelling at his craft as a musician, as a crucial figure in the history of jazz.


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