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Change: Dr. Caryn Reeder Re-examines Misinterpretations, Unveiling the Samaritan Woman's Story
Episode 12515th February 2023 • A World of Difference • Lori Adams-Brown
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In this podcast episode, Dr. Caryn A. Reeder examines the irony of the traditional interpretation of the Samaritan woman in John 4 and challenges long-held beliefs about women's roles in the church, illuminating the powerful role of women in the New Testament.

Dr. Caryn A. Reeder is a professor of New Testament and the coordinator of the Gender Studies Program at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. She is the author of several books, including The Enemy in the Household, Family Violence in Deuteronomy and beyond, Gendering War and Peace and The Gospel of Luke, and her latest book, The Samaritan Woman's Story.

In this podcast episode, Caryn Reeder examines the irony of the traditional interpretation of the Samaritan woman in John 4 and challenges long-held beliefs about women's roles in the church, illuminating the powerful role of women in the New Testament.

"What if we recognize that and celebrated women's words in our own churches? Oh, I do. Definitely do. Yeah. Women are really important in the narrative. In John's gospel, Jesus public ministry starts because of a woman, because his mother tells him, take care of this problem with we've run out of wine at this wedding. Take care of it, Jesus. And he does it because his mother tells him to, and that is what it says in John."

Dr. Caryn A. Reeder is a professor of New Testament and the coordinator of the Gender Studies Program at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. She is the author of several books, including The Enemy in the Household, Family Violence in Deuteronomy and beyond, Gendering War and Peace and The Gospel of Luke, and her latest book, The Samaritan Woman's Story.


Caryn Reeder grew up on a farm in Illinois, where she was introduced to the Bible on an academic basis. After college, she went to Jerusalem and studied the Misinterpretation of the Samaritan Woman in the transcript. Caryn discovered that the traditional interpretation of the woman being an immoral outcast was damaging and silenced her story. Despite the traditional perspective of women being silenced, Caryn realized that in the New Testament, women were important participants and patrons in the early Christian communities. Caryn is now on a mission to change the perspective of women in the church and to celebrate their words.


In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. How did the Bible's interpretation change over time and around the world?

2. What is the real story behind the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman?

3. What challenges does the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman pose to our views on gender, identity and who is worthy to understand and respond to Jesus?


Resources:

The Samaritan Woman's Story: Reconsidering John 4 After #Churchtoo

Buy the book at the link above from IVP with code: AWORLD23 to get 30 percent off the ebook and physical book (plus free shipping)


Other episodes you'll enjoy:

Hannah Nation on Faithful Disobedience in China's House Churches

Jenai Auman on Spiritual Abuse Survivors

Winfield Bevins on Liturgical Mission


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Chapter Summaries:

[00:00:02]

This episode is a special one for those of us who are interested in what the Bible actually says about certain women and from a woman's perspective. Dr. Karen A. Reeder is a professor of New Testament and coordination of the Gender Studies Program at Westmont College. She's here to talk about her latest book with IVP Press, the Samaritan Woman's Story.

[00:01:39]

Welcome to the world of Difference Podcast. I think there are many who have misunderstood the Samaritan woman for various reasons. I'm very excited about what we're going to discuss today.

[00:02:11]

Author's research has often been centered around issues of violence and family life and gender in the Bible. She says the women of the Bible preached about or researched or theologically understood through the lens of women has been lacking for a long time. For her, it's just a hobby.

[00:05:07]

What would you say we have gotten wrong about the Samaritan woman? Most sermons on her had all been preached by men. Once she started reading more like female theologians, she realized there was a different perspective. How do you walk through that?

[00:14:46]

The contrast in John's gospel between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman challenges a lot of our stereotypes. It can be a lesson for us in the church to respect women in a way that Jesus does.

[00:25:15]

We have a couple of texts in the New Testament that do seem to silence women. But all the books are really contextual. They're written to particular people who are experiencing particular situations. What would you say to someone who says it's not okay for women to preach?

[00:26:38]

In the New Testament, we have a witness to women's significance, importance and contributions to the church. Maybe we shouldn't prioritize One Timothy chapter Two over this wide array of evidence. It's playing fast and loose with scripture when you don't take the time to look into something.

[00:30:37]

Some scholars have argued that what happened in the Church was connected to what was happening in Roman society more generally. Even though we have the primary voices of the time saying women should not have authority, women were still doing it. Reincorporating those women into our church history is also really important.

[00:34:31]

My New Testament intro classes are one of the classes that all students at Westmont College are expected to take. Using those as lenses to help read Scripture is really revolutionary for a lot of students. Getting the lenses to examine scripture and what it might have meant for its earliest audiences is a game changer.

[00:36:15]

Coming back to this issue of Women and the Bible. I gave the students a chapter from Kat Armis's Abuelita Theology. It sparked so much conversation among the students. I hope that it will open a whole new way of reading and understanding scripture.

[00:38:43]

Lori ADBR: In this Change series, we're embracing change. She says it can be very uncomfortable to change our minds. But when new information comes our way, we get to take it in, research it, try to understand it. She hopes this podcast has brought new information to you.



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Transcripts

Transcription

Lori Adams - Brown:

Welcome to the A World of Difference podcast . I'm Lori Adams-Brown, and this is a podcast for those

who are different and want to make a difference . Welcome back , everyone , to our Change series . How

much change has happened in your life in the last week? I've had a lot of change . I've been enjoying my

new job. Thank you for all of you who have been praying and supporting me in this job change process .

And I know that several of you are encountering new information and changing your minds , and that can

feel very overwhelming . And this episode is going to be a special one for those of us who are interested

in what the Bible actually says about certain women and from a woman's perspective . We get to hear

today from Dr. Karen A. Reeder who is a professor of New Testament and coordination of the Gender

Studies Program at Westmont College here in Santa Barbara, California . Her books include The Enemy in

the Household , Family Violence in Deuteronomy and beyond and Gendering War and Peace and The

Gospel of Luke. But she's here today to talk about her latest book with IVP Press, the Samaritan

Woman's Story. We're going to get to hear what might be a little bit of a different perspective for some

of you about the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman. Some of you may have heard all kinds of

things preached about her, which may or may not be accurate , which may or may not be from a very

narrow perspective that has been passed down from some of us through history , from many sermons

preached , from pulpits . But today we're going to dig into the scholarship , the hermeneutics , the cultural

exegesis , and we're going to hear from Dr. Reeder. Welcome to the world of Difference Podcast . Dr.

Reeder.

Caryn Reeder:

Hello, and a very warm welcome to you there in Santa Barbara to the A World of Difference podcast

today.

Speaker C:

Thanks so much . It's great to be talking to you.

Caryn Reeder:

Great to be talking with you as well. I'm very excited about what we're going to discuss today because I

think there are many who have misunderstood the Samaritan woman for various reasons and so excited

about your research and scholarship around this book . But I wanted to start off with just you. I'd love for

you to tell us about your background and how you became interested in your field of expertise .

Speaker C:

Yeah, so going way back , I grew up on a farm in Illinois . It was a small community , a small school system .

We didn't have sort of advanced placement classes or anything like that , so going to college was just

eye opening for me. It was an introduction to a whole world beyond the ways that I had been raised to

think and understand how society works . And in college , I got to start studying the Bible on an academic

basis, which was also so exciting to me to think about how different people have read Scripture through

the years and around the world to think about how the words and what they might have meant in the

ancient times might be understood differently today. It was just incredibly exciting to me. So after

college , I spent a couple of years in Jerusalem . I was working for University Christian Fellowship as

international staff . And there again, I added on all these other layers of reading scripture in the places it

was written and understanding how the geography and the cultures of the time would have influenced

what people would have understood when they heard these stories the first time around . So that sent

me to grad school for Biblical studies . And through my education , I was always really interested in

thinking about the parts of the Bible that didn't get enough attention . So my research has often been

centered around issues of violence and family life and gender in the Bible. And this book , of course , is

right at the intersection of all of those .

Caryn Reeder:

Oh, my goodness . Absolutely . I'm so excited to have this discussion today because you've probably had

this many times over because it's kind of your field , but for me it's just a hobby . I mean, I preach

occasionally at churches . I did professionally work in ministry for a while , but now I don't work in

business in Tech and Silicon Valley, but I still preach once in a while . I just preached on Sunday on fester.

I feel like the women of the Bible preached about or researched or theologically understood through the

lens of women has been something that's been lacking for the most part for a long time . Not completely

absent , obviously . Women are all throughout church history and the Bible itself that often ignored or

misinterpreted through gender stereotypes or sexism. And so this is definitely your field . So I just want

to start off with a really big question , and you can take it wherever you would like and we can unpack it in

more ways, but what would you say we have gotten wrong about the Samaritan woman?

Speaker C:

Oh, my goodness . Everything . Exactly. Yeah. So if you think of sort of the standard interpretation that I

have heard in so many sermons , so many Bible studies , the woman went to the well in the middle of the

day because she was a social outcast . And probably lazy as well, because why else would you go in the

middle of the day to draw water when you don't have water in your house? There's a question we could

ask. She is rude to Jesus. It just is not polite to him at all. She doesn't welcome him. She doesn't

understand his questions . He has to break through her hard heart by accusing her of the terrible sins

that she has committed of having five husbands and now living with a man who is not her husband . And

then she immediately tries to turn attention away from herself right . By saying, oh, well, right , marriage .

But what about the temple and where should we worship God? So she's deflecting attention from her

sins. And I think that all of those points are actually doing damage to this woman and her story and her

significance in the Gospel of John.

Caryn Reeder:

Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker C:

So and that interpretation , you can trace it all the way back to the earliest recorded interpretations we

have in Christian history , and it still is predominant today. But what have we missed by reading the

woman in those ways?

Caryn Reeder:

Yeah, absolutely . I remember six or seven years ago, I began to realize I had fallen into this oxygen we all

breathe in the ocean we all swim in, where I just preferred male, even white male theologians to read.

And I was more often listening to male voices , which is what we're kind of all trained to prefer. And had

heard most sermons in my life. Not all, but by far the majority . On the Samaritan woman itself . Well, I

would say exclusively the sermons on her had all been preached by men. Most of the sermons I'd heard

through all my life have been preached by. And then once I started reading more like female theologians ,

and then I started to see, oh, there's a whole different perspective . And it's been there all along. Right.

And then it's like I remember flying back from Singapore , because I was living in Singapore when I really

started reading more about this . And I had to be at a mission conference in Atlanta , and the pastor of a

very large church and had had a very large position in a denomination preached on Samaritan woman.

And he preached on her in ways that made her sound like a loose woman who had cheated on all her

husbands . And once I knew that that wasn't likely the interpretation , I lived most of 20 years working

with Muslims in Southeast Asia, and most of my women friends were not allowed to seek divorce from

their husbands because they didn't work that way. And so I understood that even now. And I just saw her

through the lens of that , like, no, she couldn't leave them , they left her. And she makes me sad. She

needs , like, help. And so when I heard the sermon in another way, I almost couldn't physically stay in the

room anymore because it made me so sad for her. And every man and woman listening and boy and girl

that was now being fed this lens that , no, we got her wrong . So as you've written this book , how has it

been just for you, experiencing and hearing people still misinterpret her? How do you walk through that ?

Speaker C:

Yeah, so last summer, I was doing an in person presentation on this work at a local church , and it was

exactly this that some of the people were really listening and paying attention and trying to take this in.

There was one woman who, halfway through , interrupted me to say, but doesn't Jesus tell her to go and

sin no more. And I said, no, that's in another story in John's gospel . It's not part of John force . So I could

just see this woman go, really? But at that same lecture , there was another member of the audience who

continued to interrupt me to push the point that she must have been a sinner because no woman in that

age could have had so many marriages without being adulterous . If she's living with a man, then she's

clearly a prostitute . And this person just could not give this up. He actually came up to me after the

presentation while I was getting in my car and continued to say, no, this is I know, right ? Wow. I don't

know. There's clearly nothing that I can say here that's going to sort of convince this particular person

that there might be more to understand about , as you say, about women's marriage rights in the ancient

world , about how early women got married , about the need to remarry so that you can remain connected

with a household in a male dominant , male centric society . About all of the different ways we could

interpret that idea that she's living with a man who's not her husband . That don't make her into a

prostitute , but actually recognize her as a survivor in a very difficult , socially , economically very difficult

situation .

Caryn Reeder:

Yeah, absolutely . When you understand that women didn't have the same it's not that no women in the

Bible didn't have rights . I mean, some at various levels did, and it's very nuanced . We can't blanket

statement anything . And there were women who had financial means and others that didn't . I mean,

that's the case today. But what we're saying about her and what many female theologians have written

about her is that she very likely was abandoned by all these husbands , and if she was living with

someone , it was just for survival . I don't know what your research has shown . I've heard some people

say maybe she was with some kind of Roman centurion or something as a concubine , but it may or may

not have been her own choice . She was trying to survive . And when you see her as a survivor as

opposed to a sinner and a jezebel or whatever people put on her, then you start to see her differently

and the conversation makes more sense, actually .

Speaker C:

Yes. If you read the story without that lens of, well, clearly the woman must be a center. If we just take

that aside for a moment and read the story as it presents the woman to us, you can understand her

completely as a representative of the Samaritan community who now is interacting with a Jewish man.

And there's a long history of political tensions there . We also see here she's theologically very smart .

She recognizes who Jesus is just on the basis of the conversation they're having . She asks him the

biggest theological question of their time . Right. Who are the true people of God? Is it the Jews who say

worship only happens in Jerusalem ? Or is it the Samaritans who say worship happens in the Samaritan

Temple at Mount Garazine, which was right beside the well where Jesus and this woman were talking .

And then you can also see why, when she goes back to her village and says, hey, I think maybe the

Messiah is sitting at our well, why don't you all come and see? Everybody in town goes to see, right ?

They do not treat her as an immoral outcast . They treat her as a respected , wise woman whose words

bring them to belief . According to John's narrative , none of that makes sense if the woman is a sinner.

But if we take away the idea that she's a sinner, suddenly it all becomes clear.

Caryn Reeder:

Yeah, it's so true . And, yeah, this has been that . We have a lot of women throughout the Old Testament ,

what we call Old Testament and New Testament scriptures . In the Old Testament , we have books named

after two women , right ? We have Esther, we have Ruth, but also many other women , like Deborah , who's

amazing and rings 40 years of peace in Israel, and her friend Ja Il with her tent peg, which is crazy and

wild , and it blows our gender stereotypes . And so how would you say, just looking at this particular story ,

the Samaritan woman, how does it challenge our sexism and our gender stereotypes around women and

how Jesus handled that ?

Speaker C:

Yeah, I think it really does . And I think , to be honest with you, I think that's one reason that in the

preaching of the church and as you say, in the preaching of men in particular , this woman has been

silenced and marginalized and sexualized in really negative ways because it has consequences for how

we view women in our Christian communities . Yeah. So I would say a really good way to think about how

this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman challenges a lot of our stereotypes is to

notice the contrast in John's gospel between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. So Jesus meets this

guy named Nicodemus in John, chapter three . Nicodemus is a Jew, so he's like Jesus in that way. He's a

man. So clearly he is superior in that way by ancient standards . I'm not saying that . That is my

perspective . He's also a pharisee . And so the Pharisees were really well educated . They were religious

leaders . They had a lot of power in the community . And that conversation happens in Jerusalem , the

heart of Jewish power and authority and identity . So all of those factors make us think when we meet

Nicodemus , he is going to get it. He is going to understand who Jesus is. He is going to become a

follower of Jesus. This is an important conversation , and yet Nicodemus does not understand Jesus.

And in that conversation , Jesus is even a little bit mocking towards Nicodemus and sort of saying, your

response is ridiculous here. This is not what we're talking about . And at the end of the story , Nicodemus

does not become a follower of Jesus. Also, that story happens in the middle of the night . And near the

end of the chapter , there's this really telling statement that those who are caught up in evil stay in the

dark because their deeds are dark and darkness hides them , and they don't want to bring their acts to

the light to be seen by all. So contrast that with the conversation in John chapter four, right after, where

we have a woman who is therefore socially , politically , economically unprivileged in ancient society . We

have she's not just a woman, but she's a Samaritan . So she's a member of this group that from a Jewish

perspective , was perceived to be inferior and wrong in very basic ways. She's never given a name. So

that even sharpens that contrast with Nicodemus even more. And yet, through her conversation , she

listens to Jesus. She continues to engage in the conversation . So Nicodemus says two or three things

and then he's silent . In the story in John Four, the woman is talkative all the way through , and she says

almost the same number of words that Jesus does , which is quite remarkable . Her contributions really

drive the narrative forward in important ways. And at the end of the story , she brings her entire village to

Jesus, and they all become believers and become followers of Jesus. That fact that she meets Jesus in

the middle of the day then becomes really important because she is not like Nicodemus . And so with

that pairing , we can see how John Four is undermining all of our expectations about identity and gender

and who is worthy and who is able to understand and respond to Jesus, or even who is able to be a

witness to Jesus, which is a majorly important theme in John's gospel . It's a Samaritan woman, not

Nicodemus .

Caryn Reeder:

Yeah, I love the comparison of those two . And I spent most of my life not realizing that John 316 is the

famous verse. You see it in American football players written on their foreheads and places . I think it's in

and out , burger under the fries . I don't know which part of it is, but yeah, it's just a famous verse. And

yet wouldn't it be interesting if we saw John Four verses everywhere and pointing people to this story ?

And I have friends that I know from my time of living overseas that we're trying to share the

understanding they have of what the gospel is and really largely basing it on the Samaritan woman story ,

where there is more of like a conversation back and forth in an exchange , in a public place . And what is it

that you believe in engaging those questions ? And I find that that conversation just goes a whole lot

better if indeed I think God is doing many things in this story to help open our eyes. And all the things

that you just mentioned that we've mostly been blind to for a long time . But if nothing else, it's a model

of how to have a conversation with somebody who's different , but to be respectful . And not only are

they different with their gender and how people perceive them racially , but there's a lot of differences

between them . And yet Jesus shows such respect . Right. So in general , how would you say it's a lesson

for us in the church in a way, to respect women ? And how do you see that Jesus respected women both

in this story and maybe in other stories , if that's relevant ?

Speaker C:

Yeah, I do think that it's interesting you say that this conversation can be a model for us in the church

because sort of the traditional interpretation that the woman must be a sinner is also taken as a model

we should accuse people of their sins so that they will come to the truth of Jesus. And I think , well,

is that what Jesus does here? No, actually , right . He does reveal something about the woman's life, but

that's so that she will understand who he is, not to accuse her of sin. And so, yeah, this conversation ,

the back and forth , the slow sort of dive in, a deep dive into these big theological messages that we get

from John for it happens in the framework of the give and take of conversation . And I think that's a really

important point that sometimes we tend to not listen very well when we're in a conversation about big

ideas because we want to get our own words out and share what we believe and what we think so that

everyone will see that we're right . But what we see in John Four is really listening and responding to

each other. And I think that's a very helpful model for us to think about . And I would say in John's

gospel , the conversation with the Samaritan woman and the way that she reacts to Jesus and then also

witnesses to him and her community , that's the model for discipleship . So this is a really interesting part

of the gospel of John as a whole that I also think we need to recognize a little bit more. Women are really

important in the narrative . In John's gospel , Jesus public ministry starts because of a woman, because

his mother tells him, take care of this problem with the we've run out of wine at this wedding . Take care

of it, Jesus. And he does it because his mother tells him to, and that's it says in John. This is the first of

the signs that Jesus does that people become convinced that he is the Messiah because of a woman.

Then we have this long conversation with the Samaritan woman in which Jesus reveals really important

concerns like, hey, in this new community I'm forming , it's not going to be just Jewish , it's going to

include all the world , including the Samaritans . Right. So we see this inclusivity in her conversation with

Jesus. Then Martha , in John chapter eleven, the story about Lazarus and the resurrection of Lazarus ,

martha makes the clearest proclamation of faith in Jesus that we have in John's Gospel, it sort of stands

in the narrative place that in the other Gospels , Peter, one of Jesus followers , makes this grand

declaration of who Jesus is. But in John's gospel , it's Martha who does that . And then at the end of this

story , mary Magdalene is the one who goes to the tomb to care for Jesus body. She's the one who hears

that Jesus has been risen, raised from the dead. She meets the risen Jesus face to face. She's the first

person to do that . And then she is commissioned to go and tell everybody about this . So again, the

gospel starts because of the words of a woman, and it ends with the words of a woman. Wow. What if we

recognize that and celebrated women's words in our own churches ?

Caryn Reeder:

Oh, absolutely . Yeah. I wholeheartedly agree that women have been there all along doing incredible

things , using their voice , using their God given gifts , being placed in particular places for particular

reasons , in God ordained ways to further the work of God all throughout Scripture . Very theologically ,

very prophetically . Preaching , pastoring , leading , being involved in the delivery of Romans 16 is a long

list , starts with probably I love that chapter too, complimentary and friends kind of squirm around it. And

then there's Junior, right ? Prominent among the apostles , not just an apostle , but also prominent among

them . I'm always looking at you, SBC, all of you out there who raised me, informed me, and many of you I

know and love. And there are other denominations of people who listen within the church . We have

Catholic friends . It's certainly not exclusive to one denomination or one type of church where women are

either told they can't preach or can't be pastors or both , or can't lead or can't pass an offering plate , or

can't pray, or can't this or that . There's various forms of how women have been silenced because of

cherry picking , of sometimes a verse intimacy . Right. But when you take the whole council of Scripture ,

it's really hard to ignore all the things you mentioned and the many more. I don't know. How do you

explain how you see both the Samaritan woman and maybe women in general that we have gotten that

wrong ? And what would you say to someone who says it's not okay for women to preach or teach or

have any kind of authority over men? Do you get that question and how do you answer it?

Speaker C:

Oh, I do. Definitely do. Yeah. I don't think you can have a job like I have and not get that question run into

it. So, as you say, I think we have those couple of texts in the New Testament that do seem to silence

women , and those texts are often taken to be blanket statements that apply to all women throughout

history , throughout the world . But I would want to say all the books of the New Testament , they are really

contextual . They're written to particular people who are experiencing particular situations . And we have

to keep that in mind when we're reading particular statements , especially when there are statements

that only appear in one or two texts , like women should be silent . That is not a statement that appears

everywhere in the New Testament . It's just in a couple of books . We have to balance that , then , against

the fact that , as you say in the New Testament , we have a witness to women's significance , importance

and contributions to the church over and over and over again. So I was just teaching the Gospel of Luke

yesterday in my New Testament intro class, and we were noticing all of the women who are there

through the story and our participants and even the primary patrons , the primary supporters of Jesus

work . It's women who are there . Women are the ones in all the Gospels who witness the resurrection and

tell everybody else about it. That's really important to notice . The women are really important . In John's

Gospel, we have Romans 16, but we also have Paul mentioning various women through his other letters .

So Chloe, in First Corinthian , seems to be the head of a church . We see a woman named Nimfa in the

letters to the Colossians , the letter to Phylliman names. Of course it's written to Phylman, but it also

names aphia as a key leader in that particular Christian community . So if you look at that and think

about , hey, we're talking about the ancient world where while women did have different social positions

and they could have a public voice in different ways, but basically no, right , basically women didn't have

a lot of public presence in the ancient world . So to see them become so important in so many New

Testament texts , that is a really important thing for us to notice and to say, well, we've got this wide array

of evidence that women were leaders in the early Christian communities , the very earliest Christian

communities . So maybe we shouldn't prioritize One Timothy chapter Two over this wide array of

evidence . Maybe we need to think about why does One Timothy Two seem to say something different

from all the rest of these texts ? And I think there are ways to explain that and to understand what was

happening in that particular community that made that instruction have meaning for that community , but

maybe not for all communities in all places .

Caryn Reeder:

Absolutely , yeah. And that particular verse has been used as a weapon against women to silence them ,

when in fact , there's very good scholarship and research to show it was very likely to one particular

woman. When you look at how it's written in the textual kind of understanding of the original intent , both

in that particular context and then the language of how it's written in a singular form to a particular

woman. And so, yeah, I think you just have to me, it's playing fast and loose with scripture when you

don't take the time to look into something that is one or even just two verses that seem to be

inconsistent with the whole of Scripture . I was taught in seminary . Good hermeneutics means that if it

doesn't look like congruent with everything else, you know, then you need to dig deep into it and not just

pass over it in a fast and loose way. And I feel like that verse in Timothy in particular has been played that

way and to the detriment of wow. Half the church , half the world , sisters in Christ , quenching the Holy

Spirit and women . That's a pretty significant thing that in the body of Christ we would want to cut off

half of it because this work is important . God's heart for all of us to flourish and God's inclusive heart

that beats towards justice and helping us all experience God's love in these beautiful ways. Why would

we ever want to cut off half the team? Right? So it's very shocking how that's been done, not only just in

our generation , but , as you said, going back to some early parts of church history . So how do you think it

happened that women were so involved early on in the church and we're having their lives changed and

we're following Jesus. The men were ditching Him and denying him three times and the women were at

the cross and everything was so beautiful . And then we have, like a few years later, we start to see it

change in terms of what they're allowing them to do. How do you explain how that happened ?

Speaker C:

Some scholars have argued that what happened there in the Church sort of late first , early second

century , was connected to what was happening in Roman society more generally , that women were

perceived to have gained too much authority and power and social capital and society as a whole was

sort of turning against them . And women were being silenced , put in their houses , kept out of society as

a whole . I think that's possibly part of what we are seeing , because that's just the moment then , that the

church is spreading outside of just small communities . It's becoming more and more important across

the empire . And that meant that it became more important for some at least, to see the church

respected . And if you've got a community where women have voices , where women have authority ,

maybe that would have been seen as shameful by Roman standards . And if you want to prove that you're

a worthwhile religion , that you shouldn't be persecuted or shut out , then maybe you want to try and

correspond to some of the social ideals of the larger community , the imperial community . I think there's

probably some of that that is happening there in the early church . I would also say, though . That even

though we have the primary voices of the time saying women should not have authority , women should

not speak in public assemblies , women were still doing it. Right. They were finding ways to continue to

be significant leaders and teachers . I think reincorporating those women into our church history is also

really important . So I really love Paula. She was a Roman matron , so a really privileged , wealthy woman

who moved to Palestine and set up monastic communities that included women and men. She learned

Hebrew so she could help Jerome in his Bible translations , and Jerome actually says she knew Hebrew

better than he did. And so that makes me kind of wonder how much of Jerome's Bible translation

actually was Paula's Bible translation ? Right. Yeah. So there are all these women who find ways to

continue to be significant leaders and teachers in the church through time . And that's an important

history to realize as well.

Caryn Reeder:

Yes, absolutely . I mean, it's not the only time in history . And this happens all the time , even in 2023 ,

where men and women have collaborated on something and we gave credit to the men. Right. There are

pieces of music written by a sister, and then the brother gets credit because for all the reasons you just

mentioned oftentimes , which is that it will get more traction if it's got a man's name on it. I mean, we all

know this reality , even today. I mean, there's times where we have meetings with the schools over my

husband and I and our parenting , and I'll be like, if you show up today, honey, the whole meeting will be

different .

Speaker C:

It's just different .

Caryn Reeder:

When a man is there and there's a man's voice , we all get that . But selling out our sisters , this isn't what

Jesus modeled for us.

Speaker C:

Yeah, right .

Caryn Reeder:

Incongruent .

Speaker C:

Yes, indeed .

Caryn Reeder:

So my last big question for you here is we're in a change series right now, and so was there anything that

you, over time , used to really hold very tightly and that you changed your mind on? Or if that's not

something you want to answer, maybe there's a time where you as a teacher, a professor , have been

able to help change a student's mind . And what in particular was it about that that helped change a mind

in that regard ?

Speaker C:

That's a fascinating question .

Caryn Reeder:

You probably get to see that a bit in your I do, yes.

Speaker C:

That is for sure trying to narrow it down to one thing . So my New Testament intro classes , it's one of the

classes that all students at Westmont College are expected to take, and that can be simply the

experience of learning the historical and social and cultural context that New Testament books were

written in. And using those as lenses to help read Scripture is really revolutionary for a lot of students

when they've heard Scripture read in church , of course , or they've studied it in Bible study , but it's

always been from a what does this mean to me? Standpoint . So getting the lenses to examine scripture

and what it might have meant for its earliest audiences , it is a game changer for a lot of students .

Coming back to this issue of Women and the Bible. Last week we were reading Matthew's Gospel and

focusing in on the story of the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus and asks for help on behalf of her

daughter . And there's an interesting , very interesting and complicated conversation that they have. I

gave the students a chapter from Kat Armus's abulita Theology . Abilitarian to read. Yeah, it's fantastic .

And that conversation around what Armus does with that story and how she brings additional lenses to

read the story and to focus on the K to Night Woman herself , that sparked so much conversation among

the students . And I had several of them come up afterwards , all women students who came up and said,

wow, I didn't know women could do this work . I thought what ? Yes. So that was just a moment when I

could see light bulbs going off in their heads and I could see the excitement of finding these different

ways of reading scripture with a sort of feminist lens that was really great . And I was able to then

recommend a lot of other resources for them , and I hope that it will open a whole new way of reading

and understanding scripture .

Caryn Reeder:

It's wonderful . I think that if people haven't been introduced to Womanist or Muhetista theologians yeah,

you're missing out , because there's just beauty there , and the scripture comes alive in ways that only

Abolita is going to show us. Right?

Speaker C:

Yes.

Caryn Reeder:

That's the beauty of her book and so many other books written by incredible feminist theologians , both

Muhadista Woman is and of all Types and Stripes . So I'm so glad that that was helping change your

students minds . I think so much of it is just giving people stories in the different lens and then

automatically we have to reno, reckon with what we've been told from different perspectives . And then

once you get new information , you have an opportunity , are you going to change your mind ? Are you

going to stay the same? And we're constantly faced with those opportunities .

Speaker C:

Yeah.

Caryn Reeder:

Thanks for the great work you do as a professor teaching this next generation . I'm going to have you

hang out after this interview to talk to our patrons and ask you a little more. But for the purpose of

everybody listening right now, that's signing off. How can people find you in your writing and to find your

book in particular ?

Speaker C:

Yeah, so the Samaritan Woman's story is published by University Press, so you can find it there at the

University Press website , and you can find me through Westmont College . So my Westmont College

website would be the place to go.

Lori Adams - Brown:

All right , well, we will link all.

Caryn Reeder:

That in the show notes . Thank you so much for being with us today. It's been an honor to try to do

justice to the Samaritan woman and give her what she deserves after all these years.

Speaker C:

Yeah, absolutely . Thanks for the invitation to be here.

Caryn Reeder:

You're welcome . Thank you.

Lori Adams - Brown:

I don't know if your mind changed on this . Maybe you've seen the Samaritan woman story in this exact

way your whole life and you've always heard it preached and taught on this way. Maybe this is the first

time you've even heard of the Samaritan woman, and so your mind has been changed just to understand

the story for the first time . And I'm so glad that you got to hear it from the perspective of this scholar

who's carefully trying to understand all the nuances of what it would have meant at that time for

someone like Jesus of Nazareth to interact with this woman who was a Samaritan . And if there's just so

much going on here in this conversation and it just feels like it's just too much , it feels even wrong to talk

about it in these new ways. I just want you to feel free to be curious about why it feels that way for you.

And that's not an abnormal reaction when something that you've held so strongly is suddenly you're

getting new information . And I think that's why it's so important to stay curious is because we're getting

new information all the time . And if the information we've had is somehow flawed or incomplete , then we

definitely I personally want to be the kind of person who can take in that new information , be very

thoughtful about it, be curious about it, be investigative about it and research about it. And I know many

of you who are listening are the same way. It's that curiosity and open mindedness that we talked about

in last week's podcast with Donnie Aldine that helps us be positioned to be the kind of empathetic ,

inclusive people who embrace and love people of all different backgrounds who are like us and unlike us

in a myriad of ways. And that's what this podcast , I hope, is encouraging us all to do. It can be very

uncomfortable to change our minds , and some of us may have been raised in communities , cultures ,

high control , religious environments , even, where changing one's mind was considered a horrible ,

horrible thing . You may have been raised in a situation where you were taught things like the long road of

obedience in the same direction is what it means to be faithful . And yet you can still be faithful and take

in the new information as it comes . And we have new technologies coming at us all the time . Are those

things we're going to embrace or not ? There's ethical issues around new technologies such as Chat

GTP, which FYI, I am now using a little bit to help with some of the show notes . I'm very grateful for AI,

but I also realize the ethical nature of it for my college kid and my two high school children . And when

they do their research papers , we're still expecting all of them , and they still all are writing them

themselves . But when new information comes our way, we get to take it in, research it, try to understand

it. And I hope that if this podcast has brought new information to you about the Samaritan Woman and

the nuances around that story and you're kind of wrestling through it, I'd love to hear from you. The

Patreon community is a great way to interact and message back and forth and get some extra content ,

but you could also message on Twitter at lori ADBR. I link all my information in the show notes . I'd love to

hear from you as you're changing your mind about things or going through other changes in your life. In

this change series , we're embracing change . We're lamenting change . We're wrestling with change .

We're celebrating change . It's all about change . So I'd love to hear what changes are going on in your life

and if this episode may have struck you in a way where it made you think about someone else, or maybe

you've sat through a sermon of the Samaritan woman before with someone . Or maybe you've heard

someone preach on it or teach on it in a Bible study and you thought , I want to send this to them and

have a conversation . That's what this is for. I'd love to let dr. Reeder speak to whomever around the

world that she could speak to to get this conversation going . And once again, it's about change . Let's sit

in it and let's celebrate it and all the things that change brings to us, and let me know. Love to hear from

you. In the meantime , we are getting ready for some exciting things in Women's History Month coming

up in March . We have a great guest on the podcast , alison McKinney , the executive director of Justice

Revival. I sit on the board . You're going to love her. She's incredible . And I'm getting to travel with my

good friend who just received an award, forbes 40 under 40. Shout out to Shana Mazer at NASA, who's

done incredible work and also been such a help to my son, who's studying aerospace engineering

because she's an aerospace engineer. But she's invited me to go with her to Abu Dhabi for International

Women's Conference , and I'm very excited about that . So I will be sharing all kinds of things when I get

back in March from that and hopefully meet some people that maybe want to be on the podcast , say a

prayer for that . Would love to do that . There's going to be some incredible speakers there . But as we get

ready for Women's History Month , I'd love to hear from you. Is there somebody you want to hear on the

podcast during Women's History Month ? And if we don't get them scheduled for the in, we could always

have them later in the year. We'd love to know any particular people that you're thinking of. And of

course , we don't want to forget the incredible men out there . We've had some outstanding men as

guests on this show. We have some outstanding men in our community . And I really want to dig in after

Women's History Month to get more of a male perspective on some of that . But for Women's History

Month , we're going to try to stick to women's perspectives , but look out for April to have more men on

the show back again. In the meantime , I would love to know how you're processing some of the things

around International Women's Day that's coming up and Women's History Month . Let us know. Send me

a message on Twitter and a DM. I'd love to hear about it or just tweet it out . We'll get a little conversation

going . In the meantime , thank you for who you are. I celebrate you and your differences , and you are

wonderful . The work that you're doing , the life that you're living , is to be celebrated . So many of you are

doing incredible work around the world , and I love hearing about it. And I just want to say, keep making a

difference wherever you are. We'll talk next week. Bye.