Have a scriptural question? Write to Ben Witherington III at columnists@staff.Beliefnet.com.

Q. Why has the church begun ordaining women? Deborah and Esther and Ruth were not priests. There is no indication of women pastors, bishops, or priests in the New Testament.

Galatians 3:28 ("there is neither male nor female") refers to salvation; 1 Corinthians 14 indicates Paul's rigid stance is not his command but rather God's: "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says."

In the first place, the Old Testament priesthood is a very different (and all-male) institution compared with the various forms of ministry listed in the New Testament, which involved both men and women. There were women prophetesses, teachers, preachers, and pastors in the New Testament era, and there may even have been women apostles (see Romans16:7 in the NRSV).

Clearly enough, Paul had both men and women co-workers. Priscilla and Aquila were a ministry team that taught Apollos, according to Acts 18:24-26. Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe as a servant of the church at Cenchreae, and the term "servant" is used elsewhere by Paul to refer to his own pastoral roles (Romans1:1). Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2) his ministerial co-workers and addresses them as leaders in the Philippian church, a church that is said to be led by bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1).

As for 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, this refers to women interrupting the worship service with leading questions during the time of the weighing of the prophets' utterances. Paul is correcting a specific problem here, a misuse of a woman's right to speak in church. He had already affirmed they had the right to pray and prophesy in worship in 1 Corinthians 11.

In Leviticus, God sets all these rules for his chosen people to follow. Why then do we as Christians not follow these rules? Weren't we all Jews to begin with? Wasn't Jesus Jewish? Wasn't he a descendant of God's chosen people? So, shouldn't we be following his traditions that were set down for him?

The answer to this question is complex. First of all, yes, Jesus was Jewish. It is also true, however, that he took a radical approach to his Jewish faith. He believed he had come to fulfill various parts of the law and to inaugurate a new covenant.

The obligations of the new covenant would have some overlap with the old (for example, "honor thy father and mother" is affirmed in the Old Testament law and also by Jesus), but it would also have various differences. Instead of "a life for a life," Jesus called upon his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Thus, the simple answer to the question is that Christians are obligated to obey the commandments of the new covenant, not the old covenant, and sometimes this corresponds with what the Old Testament law says, and sometimes it does not.

What is the Christian belief on reincarnation?

Christians do not believe in reincarnation; they believe in the unique existence of every human person. In part, this means that each human being has a particular beginning in space and time. There was a time when each one of us did not exist at all. In other words, Christians do not believe that in a previous life you were another person or perhaps a lesser being in creation.

Also, eternal life from the Christian point of view does not have to do with living through a series of human lives through human history but rather living one human life as yourself, and then living eternal life as the same person, first in the spirit in heaven, and then in the body when Christ returns.

Is there anywhere in the Bible where God says singing in a choir or a solo is a sin, as a Christian group called "Truth for the World" says?

Not only is there nowhere in the Bible that prohibits singing in a choir or singing a solo, the psalms regularly refer to the choir and the choir director in Solomon's temple, and of course we have the example of David singing solo to Saul.

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