Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 18 (Gupta)

The Books that Helped Me Change My Mind about Women in Ministry (written before 2003)

I changed my mind in favor of supporting women in ministry around 2003, while I was in seminary. In this post, I will mention a few books then that moved me along on this issue towards that change. In a separate post I will point to more recent works of note.

Craig Keener, Paul, Women, and WivesHere is a conservative, biblical scholar who is absolutely brilliant, and he had answers to a lot of my questions. Craig is always careful with his scholarship not to overstate what the evidence can prove.

Beck and Blomberg, ed. Two Views on Women in MinistryOn the “pro” side you have Keener and Belleville, on the “not-pro” side you have Schreiner and Blomberg. This book helped me see the strengths of various arguments and how the “other side” would respond.

Ben Witherington, Women in the Earliest Churches. Back then, Ben was someone I admired greatly as a biblical scholar and thought-leader for pastors—and I still love his work, but he is slowing down just a little bit! He made his case with penetrating insight and good scholarship.

Gordon Fee—commentariesIn seminary, I spent ample time in the commentaries of Gordon Fee, esp on 1 Corinthians and Philippians (and also check out his little 1-2 Timothy, Titus NIBC volume). For me, there is no better role model of the passionate and wise biblical scholar than Fee. His exegetical work was significant towards turning me in favor of women in ministry.

Discovering Biblic Eq #2834

Ronald Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothius, and Gordon Fee, Discovering Biblical Equality. This book was a bombshell for me. Here, all in one place, several expert scholars tackled virtually all of the tough issues related to women in marriage and ministry. Even today, there is nothing that compares in size and scope to DBE! I was especially attracted to Howard Marshall’s essay on the Household Codes. I still refer to back to that today when I teach or write on Col/Eph.

Richard Bauckham, Gospel WomenWhen I was at Gordon-Conwell, Bauckham’s influence and status were on the rise. He is considered one of the most weighty NT scholars in the world. So when he did the spadework on the women in the Gospels, I was hooked. READ THIS BOOK!

William Webb, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. This book put words to some hermeneutical thoughts and questions I had. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Webb, it is a must-read. Webb has forced Christians to think about the ultimate ethics behind Scripture and how we might discern what those ethics are. This was a missing piece I needed.

Linda Belleville, Women Leaders and the Church. This book is clear, concise, and hit all the major concerns. She also introduced me to the work of Brooten, where I learned about what leadership titles women had in the ancient Jewish synagogues.

Klyne Snodgrass, “A Biblical and Theological Basis for Women in Ministry” (The Evangelical Covenant Church). I was very interested in evangelical denominations wrestling with questions about women in ministry. Klyne and his committee did their research on this and came out supporting women in ministry. Klyne is a trusted evangelical scholar, a Gospels expert, he also knows his way around Paul’s letters. I appreciate the ECCs work on this issue.


Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld, Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministryfrom New Testament Times to the PresentThis is a massive book (450+ pp.) which gave me a sense of women in ministry not only in the early church, but throughout history.



Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 17 (Gupta)

Biblical Interpretation and Modern Cultural Influences

Sometimes I hear this argument: you are just arguing for women leadership because of modern sensitivity to women’s rights.

This is an important issue, because this can be a real obstacle for people accepting an argument in favor of women in ministry—that somehow it is contaminated by cultural pressure and therefore spoiled.

I want to raise the following points in response.

1) Modern culture is not a threat per se to the Bible

We cannot sustain the assumption that all modern cultural forces are bad. There are a lot of good things in culture.

2) Biblical interpretation does not take place in a vacuum

We do not take off our presuppositions, experiences, or values when we approach the Bible. We bring ourselves to the reading of the text.

3) Sometimes modern cultural insights can be beneficial

Imagine that you have a child with a disability. And that you bring interest in people with disabilities to the biblical text. Your eyes are more trained to see those who are different in the Bible. By virtue of these experiences, you have something special to bring to others whose eyes are not trained the same way. This actually enhances your reading of the Bible, and this can help others.

4) Cultural values need to be recognized, not suppressed

We cannot discard our cultural values, but we ought to understand them as best as we can. How do we keep them in check if they might clash with Scripture? We need to be a part of a reading community that can form and help us, and correct us if we are not respecting the holy Word.


It was seeing women training for and in ministry (and as theologians) that first sparked me to re-think women in ministry leadership. I can readily admit that. But that turned me to the Bible to examine the relevant texts exegetically. Cultural forces are not always bad—they are often eye-opening for our reading of the Bible. Ultimately, though, Christian conviction should be grounded in biblical witness and wisdom. And for me it is. The more I re-read the Bible, the more I see amazing women exercising leadership for the good of the church and society.