by Amy Peeler
Each month Blogos features an article created in partnership with the Logos Institute’s Logia initiative. This month’s Logia post is by Prof. Amy Peeler. More information about Logia and additional articles are available here.
I was captured by the complexity and beauty of Biblical Studies as a junior in college. I had taken Old and New Testament Introduction classes, and enjoyed them, but it was the more in-depth classes, Life of Christ and Beginner’s Greek, that arrested my attention. One can study the Bible in its original language as an academic pursuit? I could not imagine anything better. Truly it was in the first week of these classes that I had made my decision to make this my major.
Almost immediately, a concern arose in my mind: How can I as a woman study the Bible and then teach it to men, even to college-age men? Did that not conflict with passages that prohibited women from teaching? I initially spoke with a friend, a passionate and talented male senior student. “How would you feel about having a woman teach you the Bible?” (We had no female faculty, so this was only a hypothetical.) He thought about it for a moment and concluded that if the woman was faithfully learning and faithfully teaching, he would not find it threatening. I appreciated his openness, for that encouraged me to continue to ask the question to my own satisfaction. My New Testament professor allowed me to write my Hermeneutics paper that next semester on 1 Timothy 2. Instead of giving me some preformed answer, he, with great patience, allowed me to make the discoveries on my own. I wrestled with that text, as Jacob wrestled with the angel, and would not let it go until I understood it and submitted myself to its authority. My first discovery was that the educational difference between women then and women in my own time was a striking (and game-changing) difference. Those women in Ephesus were not prepared, so how could they teach? I, however, was being afforded the opportunity to study God’s word with all the same resources given to my male colleagues. Context mattered, and a different context meant a different result. I still had a thousand more questions, some I didn’t even know I could ask at that point: what about marriage, what about leadership, what about ministry? But as a 20-year-old young woman, after experiencing exegesis for the first time, arrived at a confidence and peace that God allowed women to learn and to teach the Word.
I have since danced with that text a thousand times, and asked more questions, seen more facets, arrived at more answers, but that first realization has never changed. God can and does call women to the vocation of teaching the Scriptures.
Currently, my favorite thing to teach is the Scriptural theme of kinship. In my PhD work, I focused on Hebrews, a complex, beautiful, and powerful document in the New Testament. In a class on ancient rhetoric, I learned the importance of developing one’s character or ethos through speech, and it struck me that the author of the letter to the Hebrews, whomever that may be, has God do a great deal of speaking (the Scriptures of Israel) and in so doing portrays the character of God. I argued that God’s paternal character, as presented in God’s first speech in the letter, shaped the author’s argument in vital ways. The same is true of much of the New Testament. What these authors say about God as Father, Jesus as Son, and the relationship between them in the Holy Spirit, as well as the story of salvation through a human mother, and Christian identity as daughters and sons offers fresh and exciting insights into these texts. I have already discovered that my role as a daughter and mother have provided helpful perspective into this analysis. My hope is that this project will offer new insight for all readers, for everyone comes from a family and all are invited into the family of God.
Amy Peeler is an Associate Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, former Research Fellow with the Logos Institute, and Associate Rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Geneva, IL. Her primary research centers in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has prompted her to explore ancient rhetoric, the use of the Old Testament in the New, Israel’s sacrificial system, atonement, family & inheritance in the Ancient World, and theological language.