Two Literary Women of Pentecost

As I pour over the early Pentecostal periodicals, I am struck that despite the many limitations concerning leadership placed upon women within Pentecostal fellowships, there were numerous women preachers and writers who were making profound impact for the Kingdom.
Several women appear throughout these journals: Pandita Ramabai receives mention for her work in India, Maria Woodworth-Etter was used mightily to heal the sick, and Aimee Semple McPhearson boldly preached the full gospel message. While these names at least bear mention in many volumes dealing with Pentecostal history (due to their public ministries), I am yet more impressed by, and grateful for, the literary work of the likes of two women I wanted to highlight that have impacted me as I work on my PhD studies: E.A. Sexton and A.R. Flower.
Elizabeth A. Sexton initially served as the associate editor for G.B. Cashwell’s Atlanta based journal Bridegroom’s Messenger (founded 1907), but in 1908 took the helm as editor until 1923  at which point she was followed by her daughter, Hattie M. Barth. These two women (along with Hattie’s husband, Paul) founded The Association of Pentecostal Assemblies in 1921 (later merging into The International Pentecostal Church of Christ which still maintains the Bridegroom’s Messenger as its official periodical).  She also was the impetus (and a founding trustee) for Hattie and Paul to launch a Pentecostal school in Atlanta known as Beulah Heights Bible Institute (now Beulah Heights University). Sexton gave voice to thousands of Pentecostals spread across the globe as she shared their articles, testimonies, and letters along with her own editorial works.

Alice Reynolds Flower
Alice Reynolds Flower

Another woman who has stood out in my research is Alice Reynolds Flower who, along with her husband J. Roswell, founded The Christian Evangel in 1913 (which later became The Pentecostal Evangel and the official publication of the Assemblies of God). She contributed the weekly Sunday school lessons in the Evangel along with providing numerous poems and books addressing spiritual matters. (HERE is an interview with her in 1980 by Delbert Tarr concerning the early years of the U.S. Pentecostal movement and the founding of the A/G).
These women are unsung champions of the Pentecostal faith. They wrote and edited works over those early formative decades to help spread the message of Jesus in His fullness as Savior, Sanctifier, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King. And I, for one, am grateful for their faithful work and witness! May the Father raise up many more such daughters to carry forward His mission to the world!

Counterpoint Series and The Socratic Club

Counterpoints-TwitterSeveral other faculty members of Trinity and I started a “Socratic Club” this last year on campus (on the origins of such a group see this short synopsis). We gather every Thursday night and discuss matters primarily biblical, philosophical, literary, and theological. While our Club is not as targeted as the original one of Oxford we still operate along the same principles of an open forum where anyone can share.
It has included presentations by individuals on topics ranging from such topics as the nature of Christian preaching, what is the gospel and how are people saved, and engaging “spirit/s” in Greek literature. We’ve also had group counter-point discussions. Thus, this post.
This week only Zondervan is offering each of their Counterpoint series for only $4.99 (a steal of a deal). These have made our Club able of tackling all sorts of issues that we don’t have to be concerned with intense research or the stress of what to say. We simply provide a copy via our library, ask individuals in the Club to read a particular view/chapter and highlight the key points of the argument being presented. We’ve covered such topics as genocide in the OT and women in ministry, with plans to continue using this series. It also allows the rest of us the opportunity to hear a number of perspectives from within the broader scope of Evangelicalism on a topic.
If anyone is interested in starting such a group on their campus this is a great way to supplement discussions that is low cost and low stress.

The Beauty of the Bible

How to Read the Bible as LiteratureThe more I study the Scriptures, the more I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the Scriptures…and by the God who has inspired writers in their own day and culture to write with beauty. The deeper I dig, the more treasures I discover. It never ceases to amaze me what depths of literary fashioning the Scriptures have been formed by. Thankfully others have helped along the way (for a very concise introduction to literary reading, see 5 Strategies for Reading the Bible as Literature; better yet, pick up a copy of Leland Ryken’s brief “How to Read the Bible as Literature” [Zondervan, 1984]).
One of my assignments I’ve given my Former Prophets class is to write a brief “Literary” research paper. I was surprised to read some of their topics: mirroring, poetic analysis, characterization, irony, wordplay, inclusios, and chiasms (among others). Even their papers remind me of the depths of the creativity which pertains to God’s creation (of these students, the writers of Scripture, and the Scripture itself). God is creative beyond comprehension…it should not therefore surprise us that God’s word to us is so creative as well.

Leviticus: A Literary Structure

What follows is a brief literary outline of the Book of Leviticus as I understand it:
A. Sacrifices/Offerings (ch.1-7)
    B. Priestly Ordination (ch.8-10)
        C. Clean/Unclean in daily life (ch.11-15)
             D. Day of Atonement (ch.16) [1]
        C’. Holiness in daily life (ch.17-20)
    B’. Holy Orders (ch.21-22)
A’. Holy Observances (ch.23-25)
Conclusion: Blessings-Curses and Dedication (ch.26-27) [2]
I think the book offers a chiastic literary structure that demonstrates a literary unity overall and that places the Day of Atonement at the center.[3] Many refer to this book as being about “holiness”[4] (which it is), but holiness toward what end?
Toward the blessing of Yahweh’s presence with His people. As I stated in my earlier post, I believe that the intimate presence of Yahweh in relationship with His people is the point of Leviticus. Holiness is the means by which this is accomplished, but the aim is nearness in relationship. This is further clarified by the last two chapters which delineate the associated blessings-curses with faithfulness to Yahweh and the voluntary dedication of persons and properties to Yahweh. While all that precedes is commanded of Israel in their relationship with Yahweh, the final chapter speaks to what is voluntary in that relationship. The promised blessing in that relations was: I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”(Lev. 26:11-12 NIV)
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[1] Leviticus 16 as the literary “center” of the book is also argued by Joel N. Lohr, “The Book of Leviticus” in A Theological Introduction to the Pentateuch: Interpreting the Torah as Christian Scripture (Eds., Richard S. Briggs and Joel N. Lohr; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 87; and cited in that volume is the work of Wilfried Warning, Literary Artistry in Leviticus, Biblical Interpretation Series 35 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 178.
[2] Admittedly, many scholars consider chapter 27 to be a sort of appendix. I have included it as part of the conclusion because of its voluntary nature for a people who have already covenanted relationship with their God, Yahweh.
[3] For several alternate and more complex chiastic proposals that do not describe the whole book, see Nobuyoshi Kiuchi, “Leviticus, Book of” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Eds., T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 524.
[4] Critical scholars even go so far as to refer to chapters 17-26 as a so-called “Holiness Code” which was codified at some other time than the book it has been included in and only later attached because of the emphasis throughout the whole work on “holiness.”  One of the commentaries I am using is notably called “Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus” by Allen P. Ross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2002).  It is because “holiness” is considered the watchword of this book of Scripture (which certainly seems pertinent), but I believe my point remains: holiness to what end?