PODCAST: Meet Katharine Bushnell, Another Hero You Need–Plus Fixing Sexist Bible Translations

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Podcasts | 12 comments

Time for another hero of the faith!

Well, three, actually!

This month we’re telling amazing stories of women that God used in history to fight against injustice and show that God values women. Last week we looked at a biography of Josephine Butler, and this week Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the author of Jesus and John Wayne, joins us to talk about her biography of Katharine Bushnell. 

Bushnell fought against sex trafficking first in the United States and then in India and abroad in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the latter part of her life she dedicated considerable time to challenging biased translations of the Bible that erased women’s contributions. 

Today Julie Coleman also joins us to talk about her new book, On Purpose, looking at some of those same Bible passages!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Transcript of the Podcast

If you don’t have time to listen in, or you’re hearing impaired, we’ve got the transcript right here.


Sheila: Welcome to another addition of The Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from tolovehonorandvacuum.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life.  And I hope you are prepared for a jam-packed podcast today.  We are in the middle of our heroes of the faith series where we are looking at women that history has largely forgotten.  Last week on our first episode of our new season for Bare Marriage we were looking at Josephine Butler, and this week, Kristen Du Mez from Jesus and John Wayne, is going to join us to talk about Katharine Bushnell, a woman that she wrote a book about even before she wrote Jesus and John Wayne.  Then after that, we have another interview with a woman with some unique understanding in 1 Corinthians 11 and what man is head of the wife means.  So stay tuned for that.  But before we get there, a few announcements.  We are soon going to be leaving tolovehonorandvacuum.com and going over to baremarriage.com.  That’s going to be happening, hopefully, in the next week or two so keep your eye out for that.  Also just a reminder, it always helps us when you subscribe to this podcast and when you rate it five star it helps other people find it.  So please do that.  And without further ado now, here is Kristen.

I am thrilled to welcome back to the Bare Marriage podcast Kristen Kobes Du Mez.  Hello, Kristen.

Kristen: Hey, Sheila.  Thanks for having me back.  

Sheila: And Kristen is the author of Jesus and John Wayne, which is awesome, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.  

Kristen: No.  No it’s not.    

Sheila: So this is the summer of women’s biographies, and the book that you wrote before Jesus and John Wayne was a biography of Katharine Bushnell which was called—what—I—you know what?  This is terrible.  I don’t even know what the biography is called.  Rediscovering God’s Word to Women?  No.

Kristen: No.  It is A New Gospel for Women.  I have it right here.

Sheila: A New Gospel for Women.

Kristen: Yes.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  And I’ve read it.  I love it.  Sorry.  I forgot the title.  When you’re reading stuff on Kindle, you don’t see the cover of it all the time.  

Kristen: Yes.  I totally get that.  And I went back and forth on this title.

Sheila: So say it again.

Kristen: So I have to think about it.  What did we finally end up with for the title of that book?  Yes.  

Sheila: Yes.  So say it again.  And I will put it in the podcast notes.

Kristen: A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism.

Sheila: Awesome.  And I love Katharine Bushnell.  I love Josephine Butler more.  I have to admit it.  I think it’s the Canadian in me where I had relatives who were fighting alongside Josephine Butler.  And so—

Kristen: She is remarkable.  Right?  Her story is so amazing.  

Sheila: It is.  And I loved how they intersected.  So Josephine Butler was older than Katharine Bushnell, so she—they were compatriots.  But she was going before Katharine Bushnell was, and she died sort of at the height of Katharine Bushnell’s career, so to speak.  So they knew each other, and she was definitely a mentor to Bushnell which I think is amazing.    

Kristen: Yes.  

Sheila: But let’s paint the picture.  So Josephine Butler is over there in England, and Katharine Bushnell is in the U.S.  And she did three big things.  Tell me if I get this right.  So she started off as a missionary doctor.

Kristen: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: And then she started campaigning about purity in the sense of holding men to the same standard that we hold women.  

Kristen: Yes.

Sheila: And then it became Bible translation.  

Kristen: Yes.  Yep.  All of those things.    

Sheila: Awesome.  So let’s go back to the beginning.  She did so many cool things, and we’re talking about starting in the 1870s.  So this is—I think her first medical missionary journey was 1879 or something.    

Kristen: Yeah.  So she was just one of these do gooder Protestant women.  Methodists seem to produce a large number of these, in particular.  As a young woman, she went to college, which was not all together unusual.  But she was a bit precocious.  And her family had moved to Evanston, Illinois, which was kind of the center for this kind progressive Methodist women’s culture, and she met Frances Willard there who would later go on to found the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  So she was really embraced by the women of this community and had a way to kind of hold together her faith and her sense of life’s calling.  And it was actually the women in her town who convinced her to go to—after—actually, after she decided to study medicine to become a missionary.  And she ended up going to China for a couple of years, had a harrowing experience there but kind of faithful missionary work.  And that’s what introduced her first to the subjectivity of biblical translation when she saw missionaries—right?  Missionaries who cared deeply about the Word of God because they were bringing it to all the nations who were playing fast and loose with biblical translation in order to quote unquote not offend the sensitivities—or sensibilities of heathen people.  And so they would translate passage more patriarchal then the original words, right?  

Sheila: And she noticed that first—I think it was—what was it?  Philippians 4 when it was talking about Euodia and Syntyche.

Kristen: Syntyche.  Right.  I’m not a biblical scholar, so I will probably butcher some of the pronunciations here.  But yes.  That they had changed two women in the story into men.  And that, to her, was just shocking because she took the Word of God so seriously.  Every word of Scripture was God breathed and inerrant.  And how dare you?  Right?  And then all of a sudden she thought, “Now, wait a minute.  If missionaries could do this, what have our biblical translators throughout history done with the text?”

Sheila: Right.

Kristen: And so she just—that was in the back of her mind, right?  

Sheila: Yeah.  That’s where it all got started.  It’s going to come back (cross talk).

Kristen: Exactly.  Yeah.  Then she went back to the States, ended up getting involved with Frances Willard.  

Sheila: Hold on a sex.  I just want people to understand this a little bit more for context.  So we’re talking about 1879.  She goes to China until 1882.  And she was only 24 years old.

Kristen: Yes.  Very young.  Right out of med school.

Sheila: She’s already been working as a physician in a hospital for awhile because she was really young when she went to college and everything.  And she goes across the world.  This is a time when there are no planes.  We’re talking about getting in a boat, and there’s not a lot of western people in China.

Kristen: Yes.

Sheila: And she goes by herself as a single woman to join a mission there.  That’s incredible.

Kristen: Yes.  Yes.  And she always ends up having close companions so other women missionaries, other single women at that time.  So I think it was Ella Gilchrist that she ended up becoming close to, and then Ella ended up passing away because it was—the diseases were rampant.  And the health of the missionaries was very poor.  And yes.  But then she came back to the States.  And then she became involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  But her cause wasn’t just—or even primarily—alcohol, right?  Which was their primary cause.

Sheila: And let’s just give people—because now when we hear temperance that has a really negative connotation because we know prohibition didn’t work. 

Kristen: So prudish, right?

Sheila: Right.  But at the time, the reason it was such a big deal is because in among the lower classes especially so many men were drinking away their paychecks, and there was no money to feed the kids.  

Kristen: Right. 

Sheila: And this was what my great-great-grandmother was so involved in.  She had ten kids, and she was married to a drunk.  And so she was a very, very smart woman, and she became really involved in this in London.  And it was a big thing too because—so really it was a matter of survival for a lot of these women.

Kristen: It was survival, and it ended up being one of the most essential tools for protecting women and for women’s rights because so many of these men would drink away their paychecks, come home drunk from the saloons, abuse their wives and children, and then go off and do it again the next day.

Sheila: Right.

Kristen: And in a patriarchal culture where divorce was very difficult achieve and if you did get a divorce, your husband retained custody of the kids.  So that was not an option for the vast majority of women.  You are trapped.  And so the temperance was a way to say, “Here’s how we can make lives better for women by restraining alcohol consumption of men.”  

Sheila: Right.  So it was really like a modern anti abuse movement.    

Kristen: It was anti abuse.  It was essentially the mainstream women’s rights’ movement to a significant degree in the late nineteenth century.  And so she fit right in.  A lot of Christian women were totally in on that cause. 

Sheila: Yes.  But for her, it wasn’t mostly about the alcohol.  It was the other side of it which is she got really involved basically like Josephine Butler in the sex trafficking side of it.  

Kristen: Yes.  So she ended up settling in Denver and started as a medical doctor and volunteering with the WCTU.  But very quickly she was draw into this kind of new branch, but she helped them to create as a department which was that of social purity within the WCTU.  Now that’s a kind of euphemism for sexual purity.  So this was Victorian era.  

Sheila: Right.

Kristen: Most people weren’t talking a lot about sex.  Bushnell was the exception.  But she said—and she convinced a lot of Christian women, “Hey, we have to talk about sex because we have to talk about abuse,” right?  

Sheila: Right.

Kristen: And so she started working with prostitutes in Denver.  Denver was a pretty rough and tumble place in the 1880s still.  And so she was working with prostitutes to help restore them and to protect, give them legal protections, and so on and quote unquote redemption, right?  Which in that day, people saw her as—most people saw prostitutes as fallen women.  Just give up.  They’re beyond redemption, and they can be used and abused.  And so she started working with them and realized very quickly on this was a much broader problem, and that the root of the problem was the sexual double standard.  The idea that men could be men.  Boys will be boys, and you can’t really hold them to high standard of morality.  But women have to be unsullied, perfectly pure.  And any woman who is not, even though through a fault of her or no fault of her own—didn’t matter—beyond redemptions.  She said, “This is not Christian, and this is not biblical.”  And so she took on that entire ideology.  First WCTU.  She does this mass investigation of the brothels in Michigan and Wisconsin lumber camps.  But that’s just the background—this investigation—to really focus in on the theology.  That it is respectable Christian men and women who are perpetrating these abuses and offending them, and that turns her to the theology. 

Sheila: Yeah.  I have a quote that you wrote about this.  She says, “Appalled to find so many upstanding citizens coming to the defense of local brothels, Bushnell was particularly distressed to find that some virtuous—God forbid the misnomer—women considered the degradation of young girls necessary for the protection of their own virtue having embraced the belief that such girls provided an outlet for men’s natural iniquity.”  

Kristen: Yes.  Exactly.  I mean it’s horrifying to read that, and she was horrified because, like many Protestant women, she had been raised in this purity and morality and had believed that and had believed that this was for all Christians, not just for women.  And she also believed that there was redemption, and that was the heart of Christianity.  And what she realized, shockingly, is that she was in the minority on that.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Kristen: So that was all before she came into touch with Josephine Butler, but it was after Butler saw what she had done in the United States that Butler said, “Why don’t you come over here?  And we need to meet.”  Excuse me.  And then Butler asked her and her friend, Elizabeth Andrew, to lead this similar kind of investigation into the brothels in Colonial India that was sponsored by the British.

Sheila: Which the British military was setting up.  Actually setting up.  Not just using.  But actually setting up.  Mm-hmm.

Kristen: Horrible stories.  And so she does that investigation, gets international attention.  And here the situation is even more starkly set up for her which is here you have white, Christian, respectable men, right?  The British empire, civilization.  And, again, western Christianity—that’s who these guys are abusing women.  In this case, heathen women, right?  Non white women.  But they were supposed to be the civilized Christians bringing this civilization and Christianity around the globe.  They were not.  They were abusing women in horrific ways.  And that’s—that just present so starkly to Bushnell.  This situation.  And that is when she ultimately—actually it was a later visit back to Colonial India where she read about this brutal rape of a Burmese woman at the hands of several men from the British military.  And that’s when she opened the Scriptures of her and said, “This crime is the fruit of the theology,” and she had to face the fact that these were not men who were doing this despite their religious faith.  These were men who were acting with such cruelty towards women because of their Christian faith.

Sheila: Yeah.  Which is just horrifying.  When you look at how she describes the way that people justified the brothels and the sex trafficking, I don’t see how that sounds any different from Every Man’s Battle today.  I feel like we’re still fighting the same thing to a large extent.  

Kristen: It was quite something reading Bushnell.  First the history that I uncovered and her work against abuse to call christens to account for the sexual double standard.  This was over 100 years ago that she started this work, and it just feels so very present in terms of purity culture.  We have the sexual double standard very much alive and well.  But what we don’t have today, which we did have in the 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, is a whole bunch of Christian women, evangelical women, out on the front lines saying, “Enough of this,” right?  And calling men to account.  You have some of that going on, but you don’t have this mass movement anymore.  What a sense of loss.  As a historian, it’s often tempting to think that things are getting better through history, right?  We’re becoming more enlightened.  And when you look at stories like this, when you look at women’s history often, you think, “Ugh, this is not a story of unrelenting progress.”  In some ways, it’s one step forward and two steps back.

Sheila: Right.  So Bushnell got quite famous in writing several reports about India and then coming home and writing several about the U.S.  She was very famous, but she was also very stressed, losing some ground.  And at that point, Josephine Butler invites her instead, “How about if you start—change track?  Change tactics and just talk about the Bible.”    

Kristen: Yes.

Sheila: And that’s what she did.  So she moves to England.  And she becomes a blogger in a sense.

Kristen: That’s a great, great example or great illustration.  Yes.  She starts a correspondence course.  So these mimeographed papers that she is reading the Scriptures.  And I never mentioned that.  Before she began her study of medicine as a college student, she had studied the classics.  So she knew Greek.  She taught herself Hebrew.  And she refused to believe that the distortions of the Scriptures that she was reading about women’s subjugation to men and this patriarchal authority and the sexual double standard that they were really contained with the Christian Scriptures.  And instead she started to think about, what about those translations?  What about the men who had translated the Scriptures for centuries now?  And so she went back to the Hebrew and the Greek text, and she started a pattern of mistranslations and misinterpretations.  And so she started this correspondence course.  She was visiting British libraries.  I mean her papers now are held—you can see these correspondence courses that draft after draft after draft—just piles of them—in the British library.  

Sheila: Oh, that’s so cool.  I want to own—that’s awesome.

Kristen: There’s so many.  There are so many.  And you can read the drafts.  What I wrote about in A New Gospel for Women is just the tip of the iceberg.  Somebody really needs to write a comprehensive history of just that book, God’s Word to Women, which is how she eventually published those lessons because there is a whole book just describing the process and the changes and the edits that she made.  And then women, a small group of women, would pay her, right?  So it’s kind of like Substack. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Like Patreon, Substack.  Yes.  Yes.  

Kristen: For these lessons that would circulate.  And so the final product was a book, God’s Word to Women, that contains just all kinds of mind blowing retranslations, reinterpretations of the Christian Scriptures, passages that refer to women, to sex, to gender from Genesis through Revelation.  And honestly, when I was first reading this book, I thought, “This cannot be real.  What do I even do with this?  And why have I never heard of this before?”  Because it is really revolutionary.  But she did this all as a conservative Christian.  By conservative, I mean theologically, right?  She identified as a fundamentalist against modernist.  She took every word of the Scriptures seriously as God’s Word, which was why she was so angry when she saw men mistranslating and misinterpreting those Scriptures. 

Sheila: And I want to read another quote that I picked out from your book because I think this is really key.  You said, “What is perhaps most remarkable about God’s Word to women is that Bushnell pressed to revolutionary claims while upholding the authoritative truth of the Scriptures.  She considered every word of the biblical text inspired, infallible, and inviolable.  However, she rejected modern translations as patriarchal corruptions of the true Word of God and turned instead to Hebrew and Greek texts as the basis of her theological revisions.”  So this is not a theological liberal.

Kristen: No.  Not at all.

Sheila: This is not a woman who says we need to throw out Scripture and just have new interpretations.  This is a woman who remained very true to the original language and intent.

Kristen: Absolutely.  So much so that—because she was dependent, right?  Writing as essentially kind of a blogger.  As a woman, she was not given a respected position in a prominent seminary.  She wasn’t a pastor of a church.  She was just a woman, a reformer, who was doing this on her own really.  And so she didn’t get a publisher.  She self published this book.  It wasn’t reviewed in a whole lot of places, but I did track down several reviews.  And what was really surprising to me was just to see how positive those reviews were from conservative Protestant pastors.  

Sheila: Yep.  One was from Moody, I think.  

Kristen: One was from Moody.  And it was, “You know what?  Essentially it’s like we don’t agree with every interpretation that she makes, but we have to say it’s—they’re at least as good as the standard ones and definitely take a look at this.”  And they gave her work the stamp of approval because they saw that she took every word of the Scriptures seriously.  And in this fundamentalist, modernist battle over the, “How do we read the Scriptures,” she was so firmly on their side, and they knew it.

Sheila: Right.  Which is a very interesting thing.  Okay.  So I want to look at two—in your book, Kristen, you go through 1 Corinthians 14, which is the first thing that she tackled.  1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, et cetera, et cetera.  I just want to take two quick snapshots that are—that people can easily understand.  Okay.  The first is deacon.  Our listeners may not know this, but the Greek word diakonos is translated differently when it refers to a man or it refers to a woman.  So you said this, “In a similar vein, Bushnell pointed to the Greek word diakonos, which was translated as minister or deacon in each instance where it referred to an office held by a man in the church but was rendered servant in the single instance where it referred to a woman.”  Romans 16:1.  That’s Phoebe.  “Despite the fact that it was distinctly stated that this is her rank in the church, an ecclesiastical order.”

Kristen: Yeah.  And Bushnell has no time for that, right?  She is like, “Enough of these different weights and measures.  Or enough of this.  What we want is God’s Word.  Unadulterated.  And we want it equally applied, translated.  We want the same words applied the same ways.”  And what she early on discovered is in so many different words in the Old Testament and in the New, a different set of translations or possible translations if that word was describing a man or if it was describing a woman. 

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Okay.  Now, I don’t know how—here’s another example.  I don’t know how to say this word.  I read it all the time.  This is the problem with living online when you always read and you never hear anyone say it.  It’s like, “I don’t actually know how to say this.”  So is chayil?  

Kristen: Chayil.  So I asked my brother-in-law, who is a Hebrew scholar, and he’s—so I’m probably still getting it wrong.  But chayil or C H A Y I L.

Sheila: Right.   And the problem is when it’s a man of chayil it is a man of valor.  

Kristen: Valor.  Strength.  Yes.

Sheila: Right.  But when it’s a woman of chayil, it is a woman of virtue.

Kristen: Virtue.

Sheila: But it’s the exact same word.

Kristen: It is.  It is the same word.

Sheila: So men get to be valorous and strong and brave, and women get to be virtuous.  

Kristen: Exactly.  And she has just—I can’t remember how many.  She counts them up.  All of the times that the word is used to describe a man it’s strong, army, strength.  All these things.  And then women it is virtue.

Sheila: So here are examples.  Boaz in the Ruth and Boaz story was a man of valor.  And yet, Ruth was also a woman of valor, but that’s a woman of virtue.

Kristen: A woman of virtue. 

Sheila: Even though same word.  Proverbs 31.  

Kristen: Proverbs 31.  Yeah.

Sheila: The famous one.  Woman of virtue, who can find?  Right.  Even though, chayil.  Yeah.  We see this throughout that when it’s a man it’s valor.  It’s strength.  When it’s a woman, it’s virtue.

Kristen: And her dissection of Proverbs 31 is just brilliant because she lists all the attributes of the woman of chayil in Proverbs 31.  What is it?  She’s industrious.  She’s up early in the morning.  She sells things.  She cares for her household.  I think she dyes cloth.  I can’t remember.  There’s this massive list in Proverbs 31, but there’s actually no mention of her particular relationship with her husband or her sexual fidelity in this long list.  And yet, they render her a woman of virtue.  That’s how they reduce all of that.  And now she says, “Okay.  Great.  We can look at the root of the Latin word virtue.  And we can get vir, and that’s (inaudible).  And so there’s a link there between virtue and valor or this kind of masculine strength.  But,” she says, “we all know that in the 19th century,”—where she’s writing—late 20th century—“and up to today virtue means something very specific.”  It means—it’s generally reduced to sexual morality and generally applied to women.

Sheila: Yes.  

Kristen: And that’s how these translators were using it when they were differentiating how we talk about women and then how we talk about men.  So we need men to be strong and valorous, and we need women to be virtuous.  

Sheila: Right.  Even though, again, in the original language, Scripture did not differentiate that.  That is something which is done by translators.  

Kristen: And she had a (inaudible) 24:28.  Remember?  She worked with all these abused women and prostitutes and former prostitutes.  And she said, “Okay.  You want women to be virtuous.  How about you teach them to be strong first,” because she saw so many cases where they were abused, where they did not have the power to extricate themselves from these abusive situations.  She’s like, “You want virtue?  Teach women to be strong because that’s what the Bible says.”

Sheila: Let me read another quote that you had.  “So the more she searched the Scriptures the more she came to believe that the abusive of women she had observed in her travels was, in fact, closely linked to the most sacred institution, Christian marriage.  Men could not make women obedient slaves within the marriage relationship,” she surmised, “without coming to see all women in that light.”

Kristen: Exactly.

Sheila: And so she had to tackle this.  And then one more thing, “She defended her use of the term abuse insisting that subordination was abuse.  Men would feel abused if enslaved to a fellow man,” she argued, “and the same was true of women.”  

Kristen: She does not mince words.  When I read that, I just thought, “What do I do with this?”  And she also—really the heart—she does a lot of very careful textual analysis, right?  Throughout the Scriptures.  Very careful work.  But at the heart of her critique is her understanding of who Jesus Christ is.   And her understanding of Christ, biblical understanding of Christ, is the incarnate, right?  Word of God, who divests Himself of power and gives his life for the redemption and restoration of all things.  So she says, “Okay, men.  Why on earth would you be claiming power over women when the very model of Christ is divesting of power?  Claiming power and usurping power is not the way of Christ.”  She goes back to Genesis.  That’s the way of the devil, right?  That’s the way of sin.  And so the patriarchy is a disobedient response.  And women who align themselves with patriarchy are aligning themselves with sin.  And so for her to live according to Christ and according to God’s plan and in the redemption of Christ is to live as liberated women, who can obey their God and not submit and subordinate themselves to men.

Sheila: Yeah.  And, again, this is a woman who was writing over a hundred years ago.  Well, a lot of the stuff she was writing about a hundred ago, but she started even more than a hundred years ago.

Kristen: Exactly.  Exactly.

Sheila: What struck me too, in reading your work of her, is just how alone she felt especially at the end of her life once she got into the Bible translation.  When she was doing all of the sex trafficking stuff, she had this network of women around her and different political things happened within that movement.  And she lost supporters and felt herself very alone.  Let me ask you something.  Do you feel like that?  Because you’re kind of at the forefront of a lot of things, do you feel like we’re more alone?  Or do you feel like we’re a network?

Kristen: No.  We’re not alone.  Nothing like Bushnell was.  First, you’re right.  In the 1870s, 1880s, she was not alone.  She was so supported, financially supported and emotionally supported, spiritually supported by tens of thousands of women through this network of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  So she was very well supported.  And you could see the amazing work that she did because of that support system.  For a variety of reasons, right?  Josephine Butler passes away.  Frances Willard passes away.  You have broader changes in terms of American Christianity, this growing split between fundamentalists and modernists.  You have changes in the women’s movement that make it more difficult for some of this Victorian Christian women to fit in with the mainstream women’s movement.  All of that is going on.  And so she ends up being isolated, and you can see how that affects, not just her personally, but also her platform, right?  She doesn’t have the same power to disperse her ideas.  And I wonder sometimes.  If she had been able to write God’s Word to Women, her women, 30 years earlier when she was at her prime and when she was well networked, I think it would have had a dramatic impact.  Instead by the time she finally was able to cobble together this book, didn’t have a publisher, didn’t have an editor, didn’t have a distribution system, a few people found it.  And it changed their lives.  And you can kind of trace how it was passed along through American Christianity down through the 20th century.  And it was powerful, but its influence was very limited.  I don’t think we are in the same boat at all.  Like I said on Twitter the other day, “Man, if Kate Bushnell had had Twitter, she,”—first of all, she was very sarcastic, and she was very blunt.  She would have been amazing, and she was meticulous.  But just the reach, right?  And that’s what we have.  We can come from nowhere, like I did.  I spent years in the archives doing this research, publish with an academic press—several hundred people read it, and that’s great.  But now we have blogs.  And we have Twitter and Facebook, and we have podcasts.  And so we can take this information and tell these women’s stories and share what is actually generations of Christian women doing amazing, remarkable, and liberating work.  And that work can find its audiences.  And it’s really fun to be able to do that for Bushnell especially because she had been almost entirely abandoned and forgotten by the time she died in her early nineties.    

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Kristen: And now to think that her work could be resurrected.  And on the one hand, it’s very tragic that it still is very timely and it speaks to where we are.  On the other hand, there’s something redemptive about  being able to bring her voice into this moment.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  I want to bring up this one quote.  This was early in the book as you’re setting up the book sort of reflecting on her whole life.  You said, “Time and again women have wrestled with the Christian Scriptures and have penned intriguing and insightful commentaries only to have their work quickly forgotten leaving each generation to begin the task anew.”  And I know it feels—all the arguments about what 1 Corinthians 14 really meant or what 1 Timothy 2 really—she already dealt with all that.  

Kristen: She did.

Sheila: Over a hundred years ago.  And we’re still talking about.  But hopefully, now, if more people read about Kate Bushnell, we won’t have to do this from scratch anymore.  Now there are so many people saying it.  We do have Twitter.  We do have numbers again, and, hopefully, we won’t have to keep reinventing the wheel this time.

Kristen: Hopefully.  And one thing I noticed too early on when I started talking about her work, a lot of conservatives, conservative men in particular, have kind of written off all of Christian feminism as that’s something recent, and it’s secular and kind of 1970s women’s libbers.  And they’ve got all of their arguments down pat.  And so to bring in somebody like Bushnell, no.  No.  No.  She was way before women’s libbers, right?  She’s working in the late 19th century.  Oh, also she identified as a fundamentalist.  So now you got to listen to her.  You can’t just write her off and then maybe that will open you up to some of the more recent work as well.  But she’s a lot harder to dismiss for people who already have all their arguments lined up for why they’re not going to listen to women’s biblical interpretation.

Sheila: All right.  Well I am so glad you could join.  Tell us about your other book.  

Kristen: I’m absolutely pleased.  Any time I get the chance to share Bushnell’s work, so thank you for having me.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Thank you, Kristen.  And I hope you have a wonderful summer and get a chance to read too.

Kristen: Thank you so much.

Sheila: So grateful to Kristen for making time for us out of her busy schedule.  And now just as Katharine Bushnell learned so much more and had so much more understanding of the New Testament when she started the Greek and looking at the context, I want to turn to another woman, who has recently written an amazingly easy to understand conversational book about how we can look at some of these difficult passages.  So here is Julie.  Well, I am so please to bring on our podcast today, Julie Coleman.  Hi, Julie.  

Julie: Hi.

Sheila: You are the author of this new book, On Purpose: Understanding God’s Freedom for Women Through Scripture.  I love it.  I have read it.  I even endorsed it.  So thank you for writing it.

Julie: Thank you for endorsing it.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I think what I like about it, it’s an accessible book, okay?  So those of you who are watching on YouTube, you can see.  It’s a good length, but it’s not super, super dense.  And what you do is you go through each—well, you interweave it with your own stories, which I love.  Let’s make this stuff personal.  But you also go through each of the passages that are often talked about when we refer to a woman’s role in Scripture.  And you break it down in Greek and the historical context and all these different things that should come into play with our interpretation.  So you deal with each individual passage because I get asked so much about, “Well, what about Ephesians 5?  And what about Genesis 3?  And what about 1 Timothy 2?  And what about 1 Peter 3?”  And it’s like they’re all there.  So I do want to get to a specific passage.  But before we do that, how did you get started on this journey yourself?

Julie: Well, I was raised in a very conservative denomination where women wore head coverings and kept their mouths shut.  And so I thought that was the right way to do things.  I mean it was in the Bible.  And I always did that, but it was hard because, unfortunately, God gave me a whole lot of leadership ability.  And I always felt like I was hitting my head on the glass ceiling inadvertently.  I mean I wasn’t trying to do anything.  I just found myself always trespassing against that boundary line.  But like I say, they had a verse for everything.  So I was in because I wanted to do what God’s Word said.  But over the years, one was marrying my husband, who was not—he was in our denomination but was not a fan of those interpretations of those passages.  And little by little, in studying myself, I just started coming around to the conclusion that I don’t think that means what they think it means.  And so when I started seeing women, men too, who were leaving the church because of the treatment that they were getting because of gender things, doctrine, and I started seeing people actually walk away from God because they understood Him to be this tyrant that only had picked one sex out to be the beloved, the chosen ones, and the rest of the—the females were to be second class citizens.  And especially in light of the fact that our society has moved on from that kind of thinking, it gets harder and harder for people to accept that the Bible teaches that which, by the way, it doesn’t.  

Sheila: Yes.

Julie: Which is why I wrote the book because I thought, “You know what?  If people are leaving the church, people are leaving God, over misunderstood teaching, then if I could just get the truth out there, look at these passages.”  I’m a seminary grad.  I know how to do that.  “Look at these passages and say what is it really saying.”  And so I started the journey.  But I was scared to do it because I hate controversy.  I want everyone to like me.  It was just too controversial, and I knew I’d get a lot of nasty feedback because I’ve seen others.  And so I was afraid.  And I’d write it, and I’d put it down.  And I’d write again and put it down.  And then finally, the Lord just really impressed on me it’s time through a series of events and people that I talked to.  And I also, in that time period, listened to a lady named Mimi Haddad, who is the president for Evan—wait a minute.  I’ve got the wrong acronym.  Christians for Biblical Equality.  Wonderful woman and loves the Word of God.  But she has love in her heart.  And so as she talked, she said, “You know, whatever we do in order to help people understand, we have to do it in love.”  And that was the missing ingredient for me because I was more about anger from what I had been taught.  And I thought, “You know what?  Everyone is just trying to do what the Bible says.”  Christians want to do that.  But the problem is how we interpret what the Bible says, and that’s the human component that can go wrong.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yes.  Because you can be seriously convicted of something, but, at the same time, be seriously wrong.

Julie:   Absolutely.  

Sheila: And well meaning.

Julie: Yes.  Absolutely.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  So I want to focus—there’s so much good stuff in here.  There really is.  And when I was 16 years old, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this on the podcast before.  I think I did.  I think I shared it a couple years ago on the podcast.  But when I was 16 years old, I was really struggling with the role of women in the church because I loved Jesus.  Absolutely loved him, wanted to serve, wanted to be a missionary.  I wanted the whole bit.  But I could not reconcile the fact that He would give me certain gifts and then tell me I couldn’t use them.

Julie:   Right.

Sheila: And that was really problematic for me that God would say that He preferred someone over me simply because someone else was a guy.  For no other reason.  Something so arbitrary.  And I didn’t know how to reconcile those things.  I didn’t know how can I keep being a Christian and how can I follow a God that wouldn’t love me as much just because I’m a girl.  And I talked to my pastor, didn’t have anything to say to me.  But then my aunt gave me some great books, and those set me on a journey where I really did find freedom, which is exactly what your book is for.  And so this is for a new generation.  And, again, I just love how biblical it all is.  And the chapters really are not overly long, but they get to the heart of everything, of all of the different passages that are so problematic.  So before I hit record, I said to you Julie.  I said, “You know what I would love to do?  Is just focus on one passage.”  And I told you which one, and your reaction was, “Oh, that’s the long one.”  But this is the one I get asked about so much.  So I’m going to put you on the spot, and I thought we could do 1 Corinthians 11.

Julie: Yes.

Sheila: So why don’t you set the stage and tell us what the controversy is about 1 Corinthians 11?

Julie: Okay.  So much controversy.  I had a schedule that I had to keep to in order to make the book deadline.  Three weeks per chapter is what I gave myself.  It was intense.  But as I wrote, I kept to that, and I knew that I would have time at the end to do this and that before I sent in the manuscript.  But anyway, I got to 1 Corinthians 11, which I know very well.  I was raised with that passage.

Sheila: Yeah.  The head coverings.

Julie: Yeah.  Exactly.  Exactly.  And so I screamed to a halt, and I just couldn’t understand what Paul was doing.  And I wrestled with it, and I prayed over it.  And I talked to my husband and other people that knew their stuff.  And I just couldn’t get—I just couldn’t do it.  And so finally, the breakthrough came when I was listening to Ron Pierce, who is a professor at Biola and Talbot Seminary.  And he does a class online and YouTube that is free on gender.  On gender.  He’s a super great teacher.  So anyway, so I went and looked at what he had to say about 1 Corinthians.  And he gave me the thing that just blew it open for me.  And so I even wrote him a thank you letter.  I was so thankful.  He didn’t know me or anything.  But I just wanted him to know how much it meant to me because what I wanted was a big picture of view before we zeroed in and started getting lost in the trees.  And so my problem was this.  Paul makes these statements, and he says these three things and then finally the middle thing about the head coverings.  And then he says three more statements, which actually are opposite or contradictory to the three statements he made earlier.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Julie: I didn’t understand why he would compete with himself.  What was he doing there?  And it took awhile to figure out that this was something that’s—and this might be a little bit too detailed.  But it’s a chiastic structure used very frequently in the New Testament and in the Old Testament.  Paul used it quite a bit.  And it’s a way of setting up an argument.

Sheila: Yes.  And I just want to put in.  When we had Bruce Fleming on last year, he was talking about the chaiastic structure too that’s also in Ephesians 5.  So yes.  Very much—yeah.  Very common device that Paul uses, and it was very common in Greek literature.  

Julie: Very.  Very.  Now we don’t spot it right away because we’re—that’s not our thing.  But definitely back in ancient Greek times, it was certainly a thing.  So anyway, so I started looking at the statements in terms of a chiasm.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And what’s a chiasm?

Julie: So the letter chi is an X.  And so what you see in this X is it kind of goes in and then comes back out again on the half of the X.  And that’s what a chaiastic structure is.  I wish I had a PowerPoint slide I could show you better, and I didn’t think I was going to need that.  So sorry about that.  But anyway, I’ll try to do it orally here and see what happens.  Okay.  So the first statement he makes—and it’s—and I’m going to call that Statement A, right?  And that’s the one that’s furthest over, and it says, “Now I praise you because you hold firmly to traditions just as I have handed them down to you.  But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman.  And God is the head of Christ.”  That’s Statement A.  Then he goes to Statement B, “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head, but every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head.”  Now Statement C, “Man is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.  For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man.”  Okay.  And then finally, here’s the center.  So it’s gone—let me see if I do this backwards.  A, B, C.  So they’re kind of lined up this way.  Okay.  And then Statement D is the center, which is the main point of the argument.  And it is, “Therefore, the woman should have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels.”

Sheila: Okay.

Julie: Okay.  Then he says this, “However, in the Lord,”—and he makes a C statement that contradicts the C statement above.  So I’ll call that C Prime.  Okay?  And so in the statement above—or statement below matching C it says, “Neither is woman independent of man, nor man independent of women.  All things come from God.”  Now in Statement C above was woman came from man.  

Sheila: Right.

Julie: And he contradicts that now.  See how it’s contradicting?  That’s what was driving me crazy.  Then he says for B, which matching the B above—B Prime—“Judge for yourselves.  Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does even nature itself not teach you that if a man has long hair it will dishonor him?  But if a woman has long hair, it’s a glory to her.  For her hair is given to her as a covering.”  So now he’s contradicting what he said about head coverings up above.

Sheila: So that’s B Prime contradicting the head covering.

Julie: Right.  B Plain.  

Sheila: Yep.  Okay.

Julie: And then finally, A Prime says, “We have no such practice nor have the churches of God.”  So you’ve got this—and before he was saying about traditions with Letter A over there.  So these statements match up as they go along, but they’re contradictory.  He answers the B Prime—or A Prime, C Prime—all are contradicting the statements he had A, B, and C.

Sheila: Right.

Julie: Well, that was driving me crazy.  And the thing is that one statement at the beginning that he makes about—and this is the one that I’m sure everybody asks you about on your podcast.  “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is a head of a woman.  And God is the head of Christ.”

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Julie:   So I can get Christ is the head of every man.  I can get Christ—or that a man is a head of woman.  Sure.  That can happen.  But then it says, “And God is the head of Christ.”  So, okay.  Wait.  Christ is God.  And so that’s where I was stumbling.  I was just like, “How can this be?”  As a matter of fact, some of the people who are on the other side of this women’s issue they believe that—a doctrine, a teaching—called the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Julie: And they believe that, “Oh, yes.  Christ is equal to God, but He is subordinate to God.”  That’s not equal.  That’s subordinate.

Sheila: No.  And that’s actually a heresy.  That’s specifically against—the Council of Nicaea figured that out in the 300s that that’s not kosher.  That’s not good.  We ain’t doing that.  

Julie: And yet, we’re bringing it back because—

Sheila: We’re bringing it back.  Yeah.

Julie: Well, because it backs up a position on women, see?  

Sheila: Right.  Mm-hmm.

Julie: And so I started looking and thinking, “What is that?  Why did Paul say that?”  So the word that Paul uses for head is actually kephalé.  And kephalé—there’s two words that are translated head in the New Testament.  Greek words.  One is kephalé.  And the other is arke.  And arke is absolute authority.  You had to obey no matter what.

Sheila: Head of the army.  Head of the army.  Head of a corporation.

Julie:   Yes.  Generals.  Yeah.  So that’s arke.  But he doesn’t use that word.  He uses kephalé, which means—can mean leadership, of course.  But it’s a different kind of leadership.  It’s going in by example.  It’s leading in that way, putting themselves out front to be, at most risk, that kind of an idea.  Or it can mean source.  Comes from.  And, of course, God sent the Son, so that could mean that there.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Julie: So anyway—but then I started looking at this thing, and I thought—I went all the way back to chapter 7 in 1 Corinthians.  And in chapter 7, Paul starts answering questions that they had written to him in a previous letter.  

Sheila: Right.  

Julie: Okay.  We don’t have that letter.  But he’s answering the questions because of that.  And so the first thing he says, “Now concerning the things you wrote,” and he starts in chapter 7 and starts answering their questions.

Sheila: And this is something that we talked about on a previous podcast specifically about 1 Corinthians 7 where one of the issues that was going on in Corinth was celibacy.

Julie: Yes.

Sheila: And so a lot of what—we use the 1 Corinthians 7 verses to say that you’re not allowed to say no to sex.  And you need to have frequent sex, but Paul wasn’t arguing that.  Paul was arguing against the idea of marital celibacy not saying you get sex whenever you want.  So we have actually talked about this on a previous podcast too that a lot of 1 Corinthians was actually Paul answering their questions.  It wasn’t trying to make these big doctrinal statements.

Julie: Right.  And he goes on and talks about eating food that had been sacrificed to idols.  He talks about how they met together.  So there’s all these different things that were—he was discussing from their questions.  Well, now we get to this chapter 11, and he says—and he starts it off again.  “Now I praise you because,” and he starts this thing.  What if he’s stating their statements they sent to him, their understanding of things?  And then they got to that conclusion about women wearing head coverings.  And then Paul says, “Okay.  I understood you said that.  But, however, in the Lord,” and he starts making those three contradictory statements.  And so I really believe that’s what was going on there.  The problem is in Greek there’s no punctuation.  So there’s no quotation marks.  I mean if he had been writing in the 20th century we would have had nice quotes around that.  And we would have known he was quoting, and there’s no way to do that.  But I feel like we can assume that since they’re contradicting—the one set is contracting the other.  That he wouldn’t—why would he do that?  It would just add confusion.  But he was clarifying where they stood and then talked about however in the Lord this is how it should be.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s actually really important because this idea—a lot of people make a big deal about how man is the image of God, but woman is the image of man.    

Julie: Yes.

Sheila: And so we were made to reflect men.  We were made to support men.  And on our own, we’re not important.  And Nancy Leigh DeMoss, I think, has written a lot about that.  There’s a lot of Christian writers, female Christian writers, who have really pushed this idea that women are the image of men, not the image of God.  That men were made more in the image of God than we are, and that’s simply not biblical.  

Julie: Not if you look at Genesis because in Genesis 1 it says that they were equally made in the image of God.  “Male and female he created them,” but in His image.  And then He turns around and He says to them, “You are to have dominion over the earth and over the animals and that kind of thing.”  But he’s talking to both of them.  So there was no distinction between man and woman when it came to God and how He viewed them.

Sheila: Right.  And I think that’s so important for us to see because there’s been a lot of hurt caused, I think.  And you experienced this too, right?  Growing up.  You just want to love God.  You just want to serve God.  And yet, at every turn, you’re told that, “Well, you can’t do that because you’re a woman.  Or He didn’t make you to do that.”  And that can be very hurtful.  And then if you try to express that you’re hurt, people say, “Well, you just don’t believe the Bible.”  It’s like yeah.

Julie: Yeah.  It’s a matter of verses that have been taken out of context and plucked out and then grouped together to form a doctrine.  But the problem is is that nobody is looking at the context of each of the verses that they’ve just plucked.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  

Julie: And so when you look at the context of what’s going on in the chapter, what’s going on in the book, and in the whole New Testament, whatever—if we’re not looking at the context, then we’re going to miss the purpose it has.  We used to say in seminary, “I love it when the Bible backs me up.”  That’s not how you approach Scripture.  You’re supposed to do what the Bible says, not the Bible says what you say.

Sheila: Exactly.  Exactly.

Julie: And we knew we were joking.  Honest.  In seminary.  But just that idea of you can’t approach Scripture with a preconceived idea and then expect to find something new because all the time in your heard you’re going, “I know this.  I know this.  I know this.”  And so you’re not open to the Holy Spirit leading in any other direction or helping you to understand because you’re already sitting on something that you already firmly believe.  So I really feel like what we need to do is, as believers that have the Holy Spirit in them who is ready to guide and teach, that we study those passages for ourselves because maybe what we were taught was incorrect because what we were taught were interpretations which is exactly what my book is.  It’s interpretations.  The Bible is the Word of God, and it’s absolutely accurate.  But interpretation is human, so it’s not. 

Sheila: Right.

Julie: And so we have to be really careful about that.  So yeah.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And one more thing about how so many of these pastors have been used to hold women down.  And yet, often, the interpretations that we give these passages contradict even each other.  And you can see that in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14 is that in 1 Corinthians 11 the whole point is women praying and prophesying in public at a church service.  That is what is being discussed is whether they do it with a head covering or without.  In this conversation, Paul brings up, as you’re saying, that Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of—he brings—Paul brings all of this up, but it’s in the context of trying to figure out if women are supposed to wear head coverings when they pray and prophesy in public.  But then three chapters later, you look at 1 Corinthians 14 where it says women must stay silent in church.  And Beth Allison Barr actually has an interpretation of that passage where she makes a similar thing where he’s actually quoting what is commonly said.  That that’s not his belief either, but he’s quoting what is commonly believed in the culture.  And then he’s dismantling it.  And so once again, we—you can’t both believe that women are supposed to be silent in church and also believe that women can pray and prophesy in church.  

Julie:   That’s a passage—that verse that you’re talking about is super—context is important because Paul starts this argument where people are—the problem with the Corinthian church was they were in the Corinthian society.  And the Corinthian society was all about getting honor and prestige.  So there were people in the church who were trying to do that, and they were stepping over the backs of each other trying to make it to the top.  And you see it entirely through the entire book.  He starts with what preachers each person follows, and they were all following somebody that they thought would give them the most prestige.  

Sheila: Right.

Julie:   And he goes on to all these other things.  Well, he gets to this, to the gifts, and one of the ways that they were mistreating each other was that they were valuing some gifts above others.  And one of the gifts that they all thought was the most spiritual and the most commendable was speaking in tongues.  And I think that probably came from their background where speaking in tongues was part of a thing in some of the pagan religions that would be—that were—given the same kind of value.  They’re really spiritual if they speak in tongues.  Closer to the gods.  So anyway, but for whatever reason, they were saying it.  And then he said there’s another problem.  This is all about their meeting.  Another problem was that there were prophets, a lot of prophets or many anyway, and they were wanting to talk about what God had impressed on their heart.  But once a prophet got the mic—I know there weren’t any mics back then.  (cross talk) and he would start talking he wouldn’t stop.  He would just keep going and going, and he would just hog it.  And there were other people waiting to give their prophecy, but he wanted to be the most important.

Sheila: Right.  

Julie: And then finally, the third thing he addresses is women asking questions out loud within the meeting.  But every single one of those three groups, the tongue speakers, the prophets, and women that he’s addressing, he uses the word silent.  Sigao.   

Sheila: Right.

Julie: So he’s not just telling women to be silent.  And he’s talking about men in the same ways.  There were men and women speaking in tongues.  I’m sure there were men and women that were prophets.  And so they needed to be silent.  Why?  Because they were hogging the stage, and they weren’t allowing people to use their gifts to build up the body.  And that’s what the gifts are all about.  They’re not for us.  They’re not to make us feel good about ourselves.  They’re to build up others.  And so the tongue speakers were building up themselves by making a big deal of speaking in tongues in front of everybody, and they didn’t even worry about interpretation or anything.  They just wanted to show they could do it.  And then you go the prophets, who were wanting to be the most important prophet.  And so, again, they were trying to build up themselves as the most important and not worrying about building up the church.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Julie: And the women, who had not been used to sitting through a kind of a meeting like the men had been, they were asking questions.  But there was a whole thing in Greek culture at that time.  It was like an unspoken rule that when somebody was lecturing if you had an intelligent question that showed you knew what you were talking about you could ask it in the middle of a lecture.  But if you didn’t know what you were doing and you’re just enjoying the sound of your own voice and you were actually disrupting the meeting instead of clarifying things, and so, therefore, you were expected to stay silent until you knew what you were talking about.

Sheila: Right.

Julie: And I think that was what was going on.  The women were loving the freedom that Christ has given them, and they were yelling out questions or making comments or whatever.  And they didn’t know what they were talking about.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because until this point, women wouldn’t have been educated at all.  This was the cool thing was in Christianity suddenly women can be a part of it.  Even in Greek culture, women weren’t educated.  So it wasn’t just in Judaism, and these aren’t Jewish converts.  These are Greek converts.  And so for the first time, women are actually included.  And so this is—and so it’s like how do we get women and men to learn together when this has never been done before?  And so this is a huge deal.  Yeah.

Julie: I’ll tell you as somebody who has a gift of teaching I would have been first up there making comments and disrupting everything.  So I can sympathize with those poor girls.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  Exactly.

Julie: But Paul’s whole point was, “Look.  Every gift is important.”  He says that in chapter 12.  “You’re all members of the same body.  There’s one head.  That’s Christ.  Everybody else, you’re on equal ground.” Everybody has been given a gift, and the gift is the Holy Spirit’s choice.  Not ours.  And He decides who gets what, and then we are to use that gift not to make ourselves look good but to build up the body of Christ.  And when that’s happening, it’s a healthy, healthy church.

Sheila: Yep.  Amen. 

Julie: And so Paul could see, it wasn’t healthy.  So that’s where that verse came from, but it’s pretty much the same instructions that he gave to the other two groups, if you look.  If you do a word search on that silent, you’ll see it.  So again, another verse taken out of context.  And what I’ve seen happen is people take 1 Timothy 2, “I suffer not a woman to teach,” and then group it with, “Women should be silent in the church.”  And together that makes a foolproof doctrine that women should not be vocal at all.

Sheila: Yep.  Yeah.  And, again, let’s remember the bigger context of what you just said about how the Holy Spirit gives gifts, and it’s to build up the body.  And this is what Paul was talking about is how we, the whole body, could be built up.  And that includes women.  And so I love this book.  Again, the book is On Purpose: Understanding God’s Freedom for Women Through Scripture by Julie Zine Coleman.  I will put a link to that in the podcast notes that go along with this.  Julie, any last words on what you want people to take away from your book?

Julie: Take another look.  Take another look at the passages.  Put aside what you’ve always believed or have been taught and take another look.  And look at the context.  Look at the things that you would do to be able to get a good interpretation.  On my website, juliezinecoleman.com, I have all kinds of study tips on taking a passage apart and really looking at each component.  And I’ve got some free—I call them cheat sheets, but it’s different things you can do to open a passage up for yourself.  And just pray.  Pray over those passages.  Ask the Holy Spirit for help because it really matters.  We’re talking about not just half the church.  We are talking about the whole church because if we are limiting women unnecessarily we will be endeavoring to walk on one leg in the church instead of the two we were given.  And I think that, if we want to see health and we want to see growth and we want to see God really on the move, we need to incorporate all members in being able to perform their gifts as they were designed to do.  

Sheila: Amen.  Thank you.  Well, that’s great.  So glad to have you one, and thank you for writing this book.  I think it’s going to help a lot of people.

Julie: Well, thanks for helping me be on the show.  I’m very excited about that.

Sheila: So appreciated Julie and Kristen making time this week.  It can be really hard when you are in a church and you start to wonder does God really care about women.  And what I just want all of you to know is that He does.  And if you are in a church where you’re feeling like He doesn’t, please read some of these amazing biographies of women like Josephine Butler or Katharine Bushnell or read a book like On Purpose and get a glimpse of what God really thinks and how maybe, just maybe, we’ve misunderstood Jesus’s heart.  And if we can get back to Jesus’s heart, the church is going to be a lot healthier because Jesus cares about us.  And if you’re feeling like He doesn’t, something is wrong.  And lean into that.  Ask the questions.  He’s big enough to handle them, and I believe He will point you to some amazing resources, even like the ones we’ve mentioned this week, that can put you on the right track.  So thank you for joining us.  Tune in next week for some more women that history forgot in our great series of women heroes of the faith.  Bye-bye.

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Announcements
1:20 Kristin joins to talk about Kate Bushnell
10:00 ‘The fruit of the theology’
15:30 Katharine the ‘Blogger’
20:30 Translation particulars
33:00 Julie talks women in scripture
38:40 1 Cor 11: Let’s discuss!
52:00 1 Cor 14: Context matters 

Katharine Bushnell with Kristin Kobes Du Mez


Katharine Bushnell book

Katharine was amazing. She trained as a doctor in the mid 1800s and served as a missionary in China. She fought against sex trafficking and brothels in the United States and again called men to more. She went overseas and fought against them in England. And she embarked on a huge project to show that the Bible did not disenfranchise women, but instead treated them as full people, made in the image of God, equal in God’s eyes.

Just one example that Kristin and I discussed: When Katharine realized that the Bible had been translated to hurt women, she threw herself into learning ancient Greek and Hebrew. In so doing, she found that when the word diakonos (which we translate deacon) was applied to a man, he was called deacon. But when applied to a woman, it was translated servant (and still is in many translations). But it was the exact same word. No difference.

Many of the critiques Katharine made are still being made today, and many Bible translators have still not listened.

Julie Coleman and On Purpose


On Purpose

Julie Coleman set out to write a book that was highly accessible, easy to read, and full of stories to look at all the complicated passages in the Bible that are often used to limit what women can do or to portray women as less than men or under men.

It’s very readable (you don’t need to be a Greek scholar to understand it), but it’s also very thorough. I really love it!

Today we look at just one passage–1 Corinthians 11. What does it mean that man is the head of woman? And why do women need head coverings? If you’ve ever wondered, listen in!

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

Katharine Bushnell podcast with Kristin du Mez and Julie Coleman

The Women Heroes Series

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. A2bbethany

    This is one I’ll be looking at again! I don’t even really know when I decided to start acting on the assumption that God intended men and women to be equal. And that it actually mattered. I was never really taught about it either way, but of course all of our books showed the role of women as under men. Because that’s where we naturally desired to be. As designed by God……
    When I moved out and stopped being lazy with putting everything on my husband, was likely a tipping point.

  2. CMT

    No comments?

    I haven’t listened yet but I’m excited for this conversation!

    Thanks for this series. I’ve personally been struggling a lot lately with feeling like there is not a place for me in the church ecosystem where I am. I need to be reminded what women in the past and present have overcome, and what they’ve contributed to the Kingdom (whether other people approved or not!)

  3. Sarah O

    Fascinating discussion on Katharine Bushnell. I wonder how many “heathen” women have declined Christianity because they only heard it presented as a means of subjugation? How many declined because they saw “Christian” men and missionaries setting up and visiting brothels?

    And how many children they had that never heard the story of Jesus as a result?

    How did all these inerrantists sit around the table and look each other in the eye while they were recklessly translating God’s word instead of wrestling with it?

    How do we keep ending up at a place where sex trafficking and Christianity are compatible? Where we have to convince “Christians” that purchasing humans for sex is not theologically sanctioned somehow?

    Love the series so far, thank you. It’s nice to know these ideas are not newfangled or modern.

    • Bre

      It breaks my heart… in some places in India, girls becoming religious prostitutes is still a thing in places and I can only imagine it was much worse back then. How did it look to those poor women and girls suffering when the Christian’s basically did the same thing? Like it wasn’t ritual prostitution for the British but it may well as been for how they though it was good and needed. And that’s not even getting into the polygamy and stuff… how many women were locked into dispair and shut off from God when they desperately needed the love and freedom of Jesus?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wonder all of these things too! It’s so unbelievably sad. But the bravery of the women is also really, really inspiring.

  4. exwifeofasexaddict

    I am absolutely outraged by the quote about proper women thinking they needed girls in brothels to protect them from men’s advances. Like, sucks to be you, girl who is being trafficked and exploited, but thanks for taking the brunt of my husband’s sexuality. Reprehensible!

  5. Bre

    I love this! Katharine’s book was one of the first ones I read when I was first digging into the question of women’s purpose and agency and I loved it! I really can’t remember a lot though… I’ve been meaning to reread it but haven’t had the time. Also, I find it funny cause I just realized that the book Kristian wrote was one i had really wanted but was too expensive for me, years before her name blew up in the Christian world! That’s kinda funny! But I loved this; I’ve loved Katherine ever since I first heard of her because she was such an amazing lady.

  6. Janey

    I had never heard of Katherine Bushnell. In her translating of the BIble , then, did she leave a copy of that translation? Or did she never complete it?


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