About Tell Her Story
A Conversation with Nijay Gupta
Every Voice: What led you to write this book?
Nijay Gupta: When I hear pastors and even theologians talk about issues surrounding women and men in ministry, the focus tends to be on the prohibition and submission passages. Too often that is treated as the end of the story. But I have always been left wondering – what are women actually doing in the Bible? If women are meant to be at home in domestic activity (nothing wrong with that by the way, I do most of the cooking in my family), why are they so often out of the house doing front-lines ministry? I wrote Tell Her Story to showcase the many amazing women of faith who heeded the call to support and lead the people of God, to share the gospel, and teach and build up the Church.
EV: What problem or issue(s) are you seeking to address
NG: There is evidence right in the Bible that women led (like Deborah), taught (like Prisca), and ministered (like Junia and Phoebe) in the early churches, called by God and responsive to the needs of the people of God. We need to tell their stories to hear the full gospel taught in the Bible.
EV: Who’s your target audience, and what are you most hoping they hear from it?
NG: I wrote this for pastors and students, hoping a scholar or two will pick it up! I wrote Tell Her Story to encourage women (like my wife, who has been in ministry for a long time) and to widen the broader conversation about women in ministry to include the amazing stories of the many women who lead and minister in Scripture.
EV: Did you have any “aha” moments while writing the book?
NG: Absolutely! Two come to mind: first, in Luke’s account of the empty tomb, the angel chides the women for not fully remembering that Jesus taught he would die and rise again, just as he taught them! Jesus taught these women directly and the angels held them to that teaching (Luke 24:6). Amazing. Second, Junia (Rom 16:7) is named as a prisoner for the gospel. Women, I learned, rarely went to prison, and Roman prisons were very dangerous places full of stories of suicide, assault, and more. For Junia to face such incarceration reminds us of her serious calling as an apostle and her dedication to spreading the gospel whatever the cost. What a hero!
EV: What was the most challenging part of the book to write?
NG: Definitely the chapters on the Household Codes (on submission of wives) and the statement in 1 Tim 2:8-15 that women should not teach men. As for the former, I think the apostles wanted to maintain present structures of society while altering the DNA of those systems with the gospel. I don’t think we are bound to those systems, just as we realized we are not bound to slavery even though the Household Codes reinforce slavery. As for 1 Timothy, I am convinced Paul was giving very specific instruction to Timothy to stamp out false teaching, not teaching that women in general are not capable of teaching men. You’ll have to read those chapters for my full arguments! 🙂
EV: If your book was made into a movie, what actor/actress would play the lead role?
NG: Assuming a blind cast (they don’t all have to be Jewish), I would love Viola Davis in the role of Deborah, Iman Vellani (aka, Ms. Marvel) for Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Junia? Gotta go with Shohreh Aghdashloo.
EV: What kind of seminary/church classes should assign your book?
NG: Highest hopes? A New Testament introduction, we need to make sure this isn’t filed only under “women stuff.” It’s about the whole gospel, the whole church, the whole cast of leaders in Scripture. Let’s tell their stories everywhere.
About the Author
Nijay Gupta (DPhil, University of Durham) is Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary.