The Remaining Books in the New Testament
The Remaining Books
in the New Testament
Only some of these letters indicate relationships between brothers
and sisters and we give the relevant passages below. As in Paul’s letters,
believers are addressed in the masculine as adelphoi
“brothers” or agapetoi “beloved”, but
unless we are to conclude that there were no women in the ecclesias it is
necessary to take this as a general address to both brothers and sisters.
Hebrews is addressed to “… holy brethren, who share in a heavenly
call”, i.e. to all believers (“… brothers and sisters, holy partners in a
heavenly calling,” NRSV).
Instructions are given, without distinction of roles, that believers should
exhort (parakaleo) one another daily
(Hebrews 3:13). They ought to have become teachers (didaskaloi, 5:12) but need to be re-taught in order to become
teachers as they were “dull of hearing”.
by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the
first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one
who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by
practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
The intention is that they should be properly trained, and then
they can be teachers.
Believers ought to meet regularly together for mutual
... let us
consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to
meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging (parakaleo) one another, and all the more, as you see the Day
drawing near. (Hebrews
No distinction is made between activities (like exhortation) in
everyday life and activities at meetings of the ecclesia. This passage in
Hebrews 10 is prefaced by comments which indicate the new position of all
believers in Christ compared to the position of those who had been under the
brethren (adelphoi = brothers and
sisters), since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of
Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain,
that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of
God, let us draw near.... (Hebrews
This passage indicates that the former divisions under the Old
Covenant no longer apply. It is not priests alone who can enter the presence of
God; all believers can, male or female. The purity laws which previously
restricted women’s worship no longer exist.
In Hebrews 13 the same teaching
is reinforced by the comment that all believers (not just male priests) offer
him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the
fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share
what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews
In Hebrews 13 leaders are mentioned in the masculine, but as elsewhere
the masculine terminology can include feminine.
your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of
their life, and imitate their faith.
One of those in the early ecclesias who taught the word of God was
Priscilla, and she could therefore be considered among the leaders here
mentioned, leaders whose life and faith are commended as examples.
leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men
who will have to give account. (Hebrews
The word “men” gives a misleading impression, for the word “men”
does not appear in the Greek. The GNB translation avoids this addition.
leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting,
since they must give God an account of their service.
The same Greek usage of masculine to include both masculine and
feminine is clearly illustrated by the closing greeting.
your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. (Hebrews
“Leaders”, “saints”, and “those” are all in the masculine gender.
If Christianity had been a male-only religion, like the cult of Mithras, it
would be natural to take these masculine terms as referring exclusively to men.
But since in the ecclesia there are both brothers and sisters, the words
“saints”, and “those who come from Italy” include male and female. In view of
the description elsewhere of people like Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia and
Syntyche, “leaders” should similarly be understood to cover both male and
of you should become teachers (didaskaloi),
my brothers and sisters (adelphoi),
for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1, NRSV)
Again, “brethren” (RSV) equals “brothers and sisters” (NRSV). If
not many brothers and sisters should become teachers, this implies that some
brothers and sisters should. No male/female distinction is shown.
among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray
over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of
faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up. (James
The elders are masculine, as elsewhere, but this passage further
illustrates the manner in which masculine language is used to include feminine.
“Is any among you sick?” “... let
them pray over him...”. Such comments
presumably apply equally to a sick woman.
In this letter believers are
described using terms once applicable only to Jews but now applied to all who
believe in Jesus:
living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy
priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus
Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that
you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into
his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people. (1
These verses express the fundamental truth known as the priesthood
of all believers. It is on this basis that we, as Christadelphians, do not
ordain priests or clergy. This does not mean that there may not be different
fields of service within the ecclesia, but this passage describes the equal
position of all believers and makes no male/female distinction. All are priests, all are to “declare the wonderful deeds”.
for the Lord’s sake to every human institution....
The need to submit to the recognised human authority structures is
emphasised here. This list involves believers being subject to the government,
slaves to masters, wives to husbands. The same vocabulary is used, as it is
when young men are told to submit to the elders in 1 Peter 5:5. Other than in
the willingness of each believer to submit to the other, this teaching has no
direct bearing on roles within the ecclesia nor on how the ecclesia itself
should be organised.
you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not
obey the word, may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives when
they see your reverent and chaste behaviour.
These instructions are to Christian wives, including those with pagan
husbands. This is of particular interest because by being baptised they were
inevitably not submitting according to generally accepted pagan ideas of how
wives should be submissive. Part of submission was that the wife should follow
the husband’s religion instead of having a mind of her own on such matters.
becoming for a wife to worship and to know only the gods that her husband
believes in. (Plutarch: Moralia, 140D)
It was particularly important, therefore, that sisters married to
unbelievers should do their best to show that they did accept their husbands’ normal legal authority according to
In the pagan world where women
were denied most opportunities to use their talents, lavish and expensive
self-adornment was often the only means of self-fulfilment. In the new life in
Christ, however, many opportunities of service were opened up and it was to
these that the Christian sister’s attention was to be directed.
yours be the outward adorning ... but let it be the hidden person of the heart
with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight
is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn
themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.
(1 Peter 3:3-6)
Christian husbands are addressed in verse 7, demonstrating the
typically Christian emphasis on reciprocal care and respect shown elsewhere in
the New Testament in instructions on married life. The equality of both husband
and wife before God is stressed:
you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honour on the woman
as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order
that your prayers may not be hindered.
are “the weaker sex” in muscular strength, and are therefore more prone to
being physically abused by unChrist-like husbands than vice-versa. They were
also weaker in ancient times from a legal point of view. They were at the mercy
of the men who owned them by law. But in Christ they are “joint-heirs” with
their husbands, and are to be treated with honour and consideration. Without
recognition of the wife’s spiritual equality with her husband, joint prayer
would be impaired.
The spiritual equality within the
ecclesia, already taught in chapter 2, is repeated in chapter 4.
hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of
sins. Practise hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a
gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service (diakonein), as one who renders it by the
strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified
through Jesus Christ. (1
There is no male/female distinction shown in these gifts: “whoever
speaks”, “whoever renders service”.
“Elders” (masculine) are
addressed in chapter 5. They are warned against domineering over the brothers
flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for
shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but
being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
The word “domineering” is katakyrieuein,
not the same word as authentein in 1
Timothy 2:12, but along with the reference to “shameful gain” it suggests an
interesting parallel to the problems which had arisen in Ephesus.
The younger brothers are told to
be subject to the elder brothers, and all are to show humility towards one
another, another way of describing mutual submission:
you that are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you,
with humility toward one another. (1
ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you, be subject to
one another, and be clothed with humility.
There is nothing incompatible with being “subject to one another” and also taking an active
part in ecclesial work such as described in the previous chapter:
has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s
varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders
service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies. (1
A comparison with 1 Corinthians 14:26-35 is instructive, for it is
not speaking as such (in the presence of others to whom we should be
submissive) that is forbidden, but speaking in a way that does not show
submission. Otherwise 1 Peter 5:5 would forbid younger brothers speaking in the
presence of older brothers.
Jude addresses his letter:
who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ…. (Jude 1)
He calls for action to defend the true faith:
being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary
to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all
delivered to the saints. (Jude
After explaining how the faith is under threat, he instructs them
beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit;
keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
unto eternal life. And convince some who doubt; save some, by snatching them
out of the fire…. (Jude
If we take Jude’s words seriously, he is calling on all believers,
all brothers and sisters, to active participation: contending for the faith,
building up, praying, convincing doubters of the truth of the gospel and saving
people from the evils of the world. The commands are to all believers, not just
leaders, not just elders, not just deacons, not just brothers, but to “all the
saints in Christ Jesus” without any distinctions of class, age, gender or race.
The Revelation to John was
likewise directed to all believers: they are described as “servants” (1:1) and
blessings are declared on those who read, hear and obey the words of the
prophecy (1:3). As is usual, those addressed are spoken of in masculine
terminology which includes the feminine.
Praise is given to Jesus Christ:
faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a
kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever
and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)
No distinction of roles is made. All believers are a kingdom,
priests to God, in the same manner as described in 1 Peter 2:4-10.
In the letter to the ecclesia at
Thyatira there is criticism of a woman teacher.
But I have
this against you that you tolerate the woman called Jezebel, who calls herself
a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practise immorality
and to eat food sacrificed to idols. (Revelation
Several points are worth noting:
(1) The objection is that she calls
herself a prophetess. There is no
objection shown to prophetesses as such.
(2) There is no objection to the fact that she teaches. The
objection is to what she teaches.
(3) Her teaching involves
immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.
The objections are to this particular woman and to her particular
teaching. It is interesting that no objection is made on the basis that it is
wrong for a woman to prophesy or teach.
In the last chapter of
Revelation there is an invitation:
Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”. And let him who hears say, “Come”. And let
him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without
price.” (Revelation 22:17)
“Him” is, of course, inclusive language, referring to male and
female. “Come” here is not asking Jesus to come in his Second Coming (as in
verse 20), but it is an appeal to people to come to Jesus, to accept the Gospel.
The appeal is made by the Spirit, which in this context seems to mean “the
Spirit of Christ”, i.e. Jesus speaking through the author of this book, as in
Revelation 2:7 & 11. The Bride is the ecclesia.
So the text is stating that Jesus and his ecclesia invite people
to come to believe in him. And in turn the converts are to invite others to
believe in him: “And let him who hears say, ‘Come’.” And the last part of verse
17 connects with Revelation 21:6 and John 7:37.
stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He
who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow
rivers of living water.’ ” (John
Here then is further authorisation of disciples, male and female
(“the Bride”) to preach and teach.
and the Bride, say “Come!”
who hears this must also say, “Come!”
whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it.
(Revelation 21:4, GNB)