Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Women Church Leaders in the New Testament

Women Church Leaders Eph 411

For most of the Church’s history, in most Christian denominations and movements, women have been denied the privilege of serving as leaders. Just one or two New Testament verses, which do not seem to allow women to have a ministry which involves public speaking (1 Cor. 14:34) or which involves teaching a man (1 Tim. 2:12), are frequently cited as the reasons women cannot be leaders.[1] There are however, several women mentioned in the New Testament who did function as church leaders. Even though these women are mentioned briefly, they do serve as valid biblical precedents which call into question the widespread and persistent belief that the Bible teaches that church leaders can only be men.

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul lists several kinds of ministers which Jesus Christ has given to the church:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .  Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV 2011) (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-31).[2]

In this article I use Paul’s list as a reference point, and show that there was at least one woman in the New Testament who fulfilled each of these ministerial leadership roles.

Women as Apostles

Paul begins his list in Ephesians 4:11 with apostles. Apostles were people sent initially by Jesus (Mark 6:7; Gal. 1:1), and later by the church (Acts 13:1-3), to pioneer a new work which facilitated the spread of the gospel. In the New Testament, several people, apart from the Twelve, are mentioned as being apostles.[3] One of these is a woman – Junia.

Junia and Andronicus (who may have been husband and wife) were members of the church in Rome; they may even have been the founders of the church there. Paul sends greetings to them in Romans 16:7 and speaks warmly of them, mentioning that he is relatives of them (or fellow Jews), and that they had become Christians before he did. Andronicus and Junia had suffered persecution because of their faith and at some point had been fellow prisoners with Paul. Paul also states that Andronicus and Junia were “outstanding among the apostles”. This is a wonderful commendation coming from someone who was himself an outstanding apostle.[4]

Unfortunately, Junia’s impact as a precedent for female church leadership has been slight because many people have failed to realise that she was a woman. This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that, in the 13th century, a New Testament copyist masculinised her name to (the equivalent of) Junias.[5] This alteration to scripture was then adopted by many English translations, until recently. However, in all the Greek manuscripts before the 13th century, Junia’s name is feminine and several early church theologians, such as Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome, referred to her as being both female and an apostle.[6] Junia was one of the first female apostles, but many more apostolic women, throughout the church’s history, have pioneered new works which have facilitated the spread of the gospel. [More about Junia here.]

Women as Prophets

Second on Paul’s list of ministers are prophets. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the function of prophecy became more widespread than previously. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from the prophet Joel and said:

And it will be in the last days,” says God, “that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your youth will see visions and your seniors will dream dreams. Even on both my male servants [ministers] and on my female servants [ministers], in those days, I will pour out my Spirit and they will prophesy. Acts 2:17-18.

Prophets were people who spoke for God. Their speech was inspired by the Holy Spirit and it may or may not have included foretelling. In the early church, prophets provided guidance (Acts 13:3-4; 16:6), instruction (1 Cor. 14:31), strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). Paul considered the ability to prophecy as being the most desirable of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1); and he regarded the ministry of prophets as important and influential. Paul lists prophesying and prophets before teaching and teachers in the lists of ministry gifts in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, and Ephesians 4:11.

In Acts 21:9 we are told that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Some argue that Philip’s daughters are not explicitly called “prophets” or “prophetesses” in the Greek text of Acts 21:9 (cf Agabus who is clearly called a “prophet” in the next verse, Acts 21:10). However, this does not mean that the women were not recognised as prophets. The participle of “prophesy” is used to describe the women in Greek text of Acts 21:9. The participle is often used in the New Testament to give a more immediate sense of an action. “Prophesying” is what characterised the ongoing ministry of these women. Thus they were prophets.

Philip’s four daughters are barely mentioned in the New Testament, but they are mentioned several times in other early church writings. The fourth century church historian Eusebius described these women as “mighty luminaries” and ranked them “among the first stage in the apostolic succession.”[7] Moreover, he regarded the ministry of Philip’s daughters as the benchmark for prophetic ministry in the early church. Quoting Miltiades, Eusebius compared them with other notable male and female prophets: Agabus (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:22, 27, 32), the prophetess Ammia of the church in Philadelphia, and Quadratus of Athens.[8] By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected female prophets and leaders in the early church, as was Ammia. [More about Philip’s daughters here.]

Women as Evangelists

Third on the Ephesians 4:11 list are the evangelists. Evangelists were men and women who preached the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[9] Euodia and Syntyche of Philippi were coworkers of Paul.[10] Paul wrote that these women had “contended at my side for the cause of the gospel” (Phil. 4:2-3). This is similar to what Paul says about Timothy in the same letter: that he had served with him “in the gospel” (Phil. 2:22). Like Timothy, Euodia and Syntyche were involved in gospel work. This may well have involved ministering as evangelists [More about Euodia and Syntyche here.]

Another female minister esteemed by Paul was Phoebe. In Romans 16:1-2 Paul described Phoebe as both a diakonos and a prostatis. Kevin Giles writes:

The meaning of the last term has been much debated. In either its masculine or feminine form it means literally ‘one who stands before.’ This meaning is never lost whether it be translated leader, president, protector or patron . . . Its verbal form is proistanai (cf. Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17), a term used of male church leaders elsewhere in the New Testament.[11]

The term diakonos is always used by Paul to refer to a minister with a sacred commission; however in this one instance, where it is referring to a woman, the King James Version and some other English translations have unjustly translated diakonos as “servant.”[12] Phoebe was a minister or deacon, and a leader or patron, in the church at Cenchreae. Sadly, this fact is rarely acknowledged in most older English translations of the Romans 16:1-2.

Many deacons in the apostolic and post-apostolic church made journeys during which they acted as agents and envoys of their church. We know that Phoebe traveled to Rome as Paul’s envoy, but a later writer asserts that she traveled to other places too.[13] Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-460 AD) wrote: “[Paul] opened the world to her and in every land and sea she is celebrated. For not only do the Romans and Greeks know her, but even all the barbarians. . .”[14] It seems that Phoebe traveled widely and proclaimed the gospel in foreign lands where she effectively ministered as an evangelist. [More about Phoebe here.]

Women as Pastors and Teachers

Fourth on the list of ministers in Ephesians 4:11 are the pastor-teachers. The terms “pastors” and “teachers”, joined grammatically in the Greek of this verse, may reflect two aspects of the one role. Or the terms may be two different words for the same ministry. (There is little evidence of ministers being referred to as “pastors” in the very early church, but there is ample evidence of ministers being called “teachers”.) [More about the Greek grammar of Ephesians 4:11 is in a comment here.]

While the exact function of a pastor is not specified in the New Testament it certainly involved spiritual leadership. There are several women in the New Testament who functioned as pastor-teachers. Priscilla, another close friend and coworker of Paul, was one of them. Together with her husband Aquila, she taught the already learned and eloquent Apollos, who was himself a teacher, “the way of God” (i.e. theology) more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).

In the more reliable, earlier Greek manuscripts, Priscilla’s name appears first in four of the six mentions of this couple in the New Testament.[15] This may denote that Priscilla’s ministry was more prominent than her husband’s. It may also indicate that she had a higher social status than Aquila.[16] “It is well known that the early church attracted an unusual number of high status women . . .”[17] Some of these women, who lived in relatively spacious homes, hosted a congregation that met in their home.[18] As a prominent member of the congregation, the host would have functioned as a leader employing a ministry gift, possibly the pastor-teacher gift. Priscilla and Aquila were active in ministry and hosted a church in their home at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19) and later at Rome (Rom 16:3-5) where they ministered as pastor-teachers. [More about Priscilla here.]

Kevin Giles writes:

Prisca [Priscilla] is not the only woman associated with house church leadership. A surprising number of women are mentioned in this role. . . . In Acts we see Mark’s mother providing a home for the Christians to assemble (Acts 12:12) and at Philippi we hear of believers meeting in the home of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Writing to the Colossians, Paul greets “Nympha and the church in her house” (Col. 4:15). Perhaps Chloe is also the host of a home-church (1 Cor. 1:11), as may have been some of the other women Paul greets in the last chapter of Romans.[19]

The “chosen lady”, whom John addresses in his second letter, was a woman functioning as a house-church leader and pastor. In the Greek of 2 John, it is clear that at times John is addressing a single person (the lady), and that at other times he is referring to plural persons (her followers or her congregation). John refers to his followers, and hers, similarly, as “children” (2 John 1:1, 4, 13 cf. 3 John 1:4). Furthermore, the word “lady” (kuria) used in 2 John 1 & 5, is the female equivalent of “lord” (kurios). This lady was a woman with an elevated social position. Numerous ancient papyrus letters, as well as ancient Greek literature, show that kuria was a respectful way to address a woman.[20] The “chosen lady” was a person, a house-church leader and pastor. The “chosen lady” was not a church (i.e. congregation) as some have suggested. [More about the “chosen lady” here.]

Conclusion

Stanley Grenz notes that the gospel “radically altered the position of women, elevating them to a partnership with men unparalleled in first-century society.”[21] This is seen in the New Testament. The following first century women are all ministers and church leaders mentioned in the New Testament: Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), possibly Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (Phlm. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1), “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), and probably Lydia (Acts 16:40), etc.

The church as a whole has been very slow to embrace the New Testament ideal of equality and mutuality among people regardless of race and gender (Gal. 3:28). This is shown by the fact that the slave trade and slavery was only outlawed in the “Christian” nations of Great Britain and the United States of America in 1833 and 1865 respectively,[22] and by the fact that racial discrimination has only been declared both immoral and illegal in recent history. I am convinced that discrimination against church leaders on the basis of gender will also become a thing of the past, and that future generations will look at our present difficulties and debate on this subject with incredulity.

It would be wonderful if the Church as a whole would recognise that, according to the New Testament, women did function as leaders – as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers – and that they were respected and valued in these roles by such people as the apostle Paul. In short, it is biblical for a woman to be a church leader. Moreover, if we deny gifted women the opportunity to exercise their leadership ministries, we reject some of the very people Jesus has appointed and given to his church. The church’s mission can only be enhanced and made more effective when gifted men and women minister together using their complementary skills and abilities. Men and women should be united in the cause of the gospel and in building up the body of Christ, as well as in equipping the people of God to reach the lost (Eph. 4:11-12).


Endnotes

[1] 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 are discussed in articles here and here.

[2] In the Greek, there is no hint that Ephesians 4:11, or any other verse which speaks of spiritual gifts, including those of leadership and teaching, applies more to men than to women. On the contrary, every New Testament verse which speaks of spiritual gifts, manifestations, or ministries is completely free of any gender bias in the Greek. (Verses which mention spiritual ministry gift: Acts 2:17-18; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11 & 27-28; 1 Cor. 14:26-33; Eph. 4:11-12; Heb. 2:4; 1 Pet. 4:9-11.)

[3] These apostles include Paul, Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7). Jesus is also called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1.

[4] In his Homilies on the Book of Romans, fourth century church father Chrysostom preached favourably about Junia, and using Paul’s words, he acknowledged her as an outstanding female apostle.

[5] The masculinised name “Junias” does not appear in any early Greek manuscript whatsoever – religious or otherwise. The feminine name “Junia” however is used about 250 times in various other early Greek manuscripts. James D.G. Dunn  writes:

Lampe [in his Patristic Greek Lexicon] 139-40, 147 indicates over 250 examples of “Junia,” none of Junias, as was taken for granted by the patristic commentators, and indeed up to the Middle Ages. The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity. . . We may firmly conclude, however, that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity was a woman and wife.
James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16 (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B) (Dallas: Word, 1988) 894.

[6] “The earliest commentator on Romans 16:7 Origen of Alexandria (c.185-254/55) took the name Junia to be feminine, as did Jerome (340/50-419/20), Hatto of Vercelli (924-961), Theophylact (c.1050-c.1108), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142). In fact no commentator on the text until Aegidus of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine.”
Bernadette Brooten, “Junia . . . Outstanding among the Apostles (Romans 16:7)”, Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Catholic Declaration, Arlene and Leonard Swidler (eds) (Paulist Press, 1979) 141-144, 141.

[7] Eusebius, History of the Church. 3.37.1

[8] Eusebius, History of the Church. 5.17.3

[9] Based on how the word is used in the New Testament, C.H. Dodd explains that the content of preaching (kerugma) in the New Testament was primarily concerned with the lordship and resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, Dodd defines preaching (kerugma) as “. . . the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world”. The Apostolic Preaching and it’s Developments (Harper and Row, 1964) 261. The proclamation of Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord”, may be regarded as an example of New Testament preaching (John 20:17-18).

[10] “Coworker” is Paul’s favourite ministry title. E.E. Ellis writes: “The designations most often given to Paul’s fellow workers are in descending order of frequency as follows: coworker (synergos), brother (adelphos) [or sister (adelphē) as in the cases of Phoebe and Apphia], minister (diakonos) and apostle (apostolos).” E.E. Ellis, “Paul and his Coworkers” in The Intervarsity Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Ed. Craig S. Keener (Downers Grove: InterVarsity 1993) 183.

[11] Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Sydney: Collins Dove Publishers, 1992) 35.

[12] “All important modern translations of the Bible now restore the original language used by Paul . . . but somehow the illusions fostered by the King James falsifications remain common wisdom. Nevertheless, there is virtual consensus among historians of the early church as well as Biblical scholars that women held positions of honour and authority within early Christianity. . . .” Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997) 109.

[13] M. Mowczko “Deacons as Envoys in the Apostolic Fathers”, Phoebe: A Deacon of the Church in Cenchrea (25.11.14) <http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-in-cenchrea-part-6/>

[14] Theodoret’s commentary on Romans 16:1-2:

Cenchreae is a large village of Corinth.  It is worth admiring the strength of the preaching.  In a short time not only the cities, but also the villages were filled with such piety.  Such was the significance of the church at Cenchreae that it had a female deacon [i.e. minister], honorable and well known.  Such was the wealth of her accomplishments that she was praised by the apostolic tongue… I think what [Paul] calls patronage (prostasia) is hospitality (philoxenia) and protection (kēdemonia).  Praise is heaped upon her. It seems that she received him in her house for a little time, for it is clear that he stayed in Corinth. He opened the world to her and in every land and sea she is celebrated.  For not only do the Romans and Greeks know her, but even all the barbarians.  Quoted by Kevin Madison and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005) 16.

[15] Priscilla’s name appears first in Acts 18:18, 26; Romans 16:3 and 2 Timothy 4:19.

[16] Luke, the author of Acts, was very careful in which order he placed names. This is seen in the shared ministry of Paul and Barnabas; whoever of the two was the most prominent in ministry, or the most recognised in any given situation, his name appears first.

[17] Stark, Rise of Christianity, 107.

[18] M. Mowczko, The First Century Church and the Ministry of Women (08.10.14) <http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-first-century-church-and-the-ministry-of-women/>

[19] Giles, Patterns of Ministry, 34-35

[20] M. Mowczko, Kuria “Lady” in Papyrus Letters (23.08.13) <http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kuria-lady-in-papyrus-letters/>

[21] Stanley J. Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press, 1995) 78.

[22] Advocates of slavery often used scripture to support their position. Slavery was abolished throughout most of the British Empire when the Slavery Abolition Act came into force in 1833. The United States abolished slavery in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to their Constitution.

© Margaret Mowczko 22.08.2008, revised 22.08.2015. 


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Paul and Women, in a Nutshell
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The Apostolic Ministry of Gospel Women

Posted July 28th, 2010 . Categories/Tags: Bible Women, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, Women in Ministry, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

61 comments on “Women Church Leaders in the New Testament

  1. Emma says:

    Thanks Marg, that was fantastic. I’m looking forward to the article on 1 Tim 2:12 🙂

  2. Lucinda Bolton says:

    I was just interested in what it is you feel that the Woman’s role is in a Family. Does the bible not speak of the husband as the leader? I believe that both man and woman have different roles (NOT capabilities) within the church and household. However different they’re roles are, God views them as EQUALLY important.

  3. Marg says:

    Hi Lucy,

    I have another (older) article simply entitled “Submission” which concentrates more on the husband and wife relationship. This may answer some of your questions.

    I firmly believe that God’s ideal is that men and women lead together whether that is in the home, in the work-place or in church ministry.

    Before the fall, God said that men AND women were to rule over his creation together. See Genesis 1:27-28. The concept of a man “ruling” his wife came as a consequence of sin: Genesis 3:16d! But Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences.

    I don’t believe that leadership is only confined to males. Some men are lousy at leadership and some women are fantastic at it.

    We all have different talents and capabilities, different strengths and weaknesses and each marriage is unique. How each marriage works is something that each couple should work out together. Ultimately, for a Christian couple, Jesus is the ruler and leader of the marriage.

    There is sooooo much more that I could say about this, but this will have to do for now.

    Have a look at my article “Leading Together in the Home”.

    • jen says:

      Thank you for writing about women in the church. I can’t believe the controversy that arose in my church after me challenging the pastor’s idea that only men can be leaders in the church!

      • Marg says:

        Hi Jen,

        I can imagine. Some people have a very poor understanding of how the Christian community (i.e. the church) operated in the first few decades after Pentecost. Women ministers, and even leaders, were not rare in the church.

  4. Lucinda Bolton says:

    Jesus did deal with sin but that does not mean that Christians are immune from God’s Judgement on earth Today (we still experience painful child birth!) I think what you are saying could perhaps relate more to our life in heaven. Some males may be lousy leaders but some of our bosses (Ephesians 6:5-9) and governing authorities (Romans 13:1-9) are also lousy but God still requests that we must obey and serve as if serving the Lord because this is the will of God.

  5. Marg says:

    Hi Lucy,

    I’m not thinking of heaven; I’m thinking of now. While the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom is in the future, as Christians, the Kingdom is within us already (luke 17:21). We should be living as Kingdom people now. I actually do believe that Christians are immune from God’s punitive Judgement – completely immune. See 1 John 4:16-18

    We do live in an imperfect, “fallen” world and some of its consequences are inescapable, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing about pain and injustice and oppression. As God’s representatives we should be challenging these things and modelling a better way – a way of mutual regard, respect, submission and servanthood.

    I fully don’t understand why there needs to be a “boss” in a healthy, Christian marriage. In more complex organisations there needs to be a leader to stop things turning into chaos, but if its only two people, why does there need to be a boss? Did you get a chance to read my article on submission? I am all for submission!!!

    I think this emphasis on male leadership is out of proportion with the teaching of the whole Bible. There were MANY amazing, wise and courageous women leaders in Biblical times. [I think I’ll post their names soon.]

    And Abigail actually went against her husband’s wishes and was commended for it. (Something that really confused me for ages when I was a girl!)

    We give women pain-killers in labour if they want it, and some don’t. If you would like your husband to be the boss, that’s cool. In my marriage there is no boss and we are very happy. We work things out together.

    BTW My labour was completely pain free with Michael.

  6. Ross says:

    Hey Marg,
    Did you see ‘Compass’ last night? They were interviewing the Sydney Anglican dude… One of the matters they raised was his stand against women in leadership. They didn’t really go into depth, just to say he was against it… unlike the more traditional anglican churches who are actually embracing women leaders (as well as homosexual leaders…. although I know you don’t like those two being put in the same category)

    Anyway…. thought of you when I watched it haha 🙂

    ross

  7. Ross says:

    By the way…. interesting article 😉

  8. Marg says:

    Thanks Ross. 🙂

    So are you coming to our “Women in Leadership” seminar on the 21st of November? (Details soon.)

    Yeah, because women and homosexuals are not the same thing!!!! It’s a red herring! It’s like saying if we allow women to be church leaders then next we have to allow tax cheats or adulterers, etc, to be leaders.

    Being a women is not a sin and being a women in leadership is not unscriptural.

  9. Mabel Yin says:

    Does the bible not speak of the husband as the leader?
    No, the bible never speaks of the husband as the leader of the household. It only speaks of the husband being the head of the wife, and head does not mean leader. Many believe that the husband is spiritually responsible for the wife, which is never correct theologically. The husband for example cannot possibly be the head of his children. Many are led to believe (I used to be one of them) that wives must submit to the husband 24/7, but what if the husband is an abuser? Would God really decree that all wives submit to their husbands 24/7? Functional inequality is inequality in essence. To believe that wives are functionally unequal to their husbands, or sisters are functionally unequal to their brothers is sexism, no matter how you define it. The word “role ” is gender neutral until it has been unfairly used by christians to describe unequal treatment of men and women in Christ, and all of a sudden, gender based “role” becomes acceptable. Roles are changeable, not locked by gender, e.g. children becomes parents, students become teachers, and no-one is locked into a forever subordinate “role” based on an inaccurate interpretation of certain texts.

  10. Mabel Yin says:

    Cont’d from last comment: Men and women have different biological roles, but not unequal ministry roles. Not all men are gifted as pastors, just as not all women are gifted as pastors. But let those called by God, men or women, be free to serve without being restricted by their gender.

  11. Mark says:

    Hi Marg,

    Why do we always discuss women in the NT in isolation from men? This disturbs me. For example, only 19 passages refer to a total of 17 women in Paul’s epistles. This works out to be only 18% of the people involved in Paul’s mission. Two thirds of those women, are found in chapter 16 of Romans in the greetings with very little information gleaned. Let me mention a few comments.

    Junia- ‘episemoi en tois apostolos’ could be inclusive. That is, Junia and Andronicus were among the circle of apostles. It could also though be exclusive, meaning that the two were simply ‘well known among the apostles’ and were not apostles themselves.
    I lean on the former yet what do we mean by ‘apostle’. Does that one reference decisively imply that the early church applied no restrictions on women? There are 4 types of ‘apostle’ in the NT; 1) the twelve (Matt 10:12) 2) the term is used for someone like Paul who had seen the Lord and been commissioned (1 Cor 1:1), 3) it could mean a person sent out to perform a certain task or convey a particular message (1 Cor 8:23. Phi 2:25) or 4) it may refer to an itinerant missionary (Acts 14:4, referring to Barnabas)

    So what category does Junia fall into?

    It is highgly unlikely that these two otherwise unknown people are said to stand out among the twelve (1) or Peter, James or Paul (2). The sense ‘messenger’ appears more likely (3), yet the phrase ‘outstanding among the apostles’ seems a little awkward applied to thsi cate. The meaning ‘travelling missionary’ is therefore the most likely especially in light of 1 Cor 9:5 (also Acts 14:4,1, 1 Cor 12:28, 1 Thess 2:7). In this case they were outstanding among the missionaries.

    More to come.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Mark,

      “Why do we always discuss women in the NT in isolation from men?” Your question is a little vague. In fact most people discuss men in isolation from women, while others do not distinguish between men and women at all when discussing Christianity, etc. I have written about Paul and John in my Bible study notes. I have also written about Timothy and Epaphroditus here.

      I choose to discuss women because, for centuries, women have been ignored, and dogma has been formulated that did not take into account women ministers. I don’t dispute your maths; most NT ministers were undoubtedly men. I just want to highlight the women that many people know nothing about.

      I have written more about Junia here.

      I don’t for one moment believe that Junia and Andronicus were counted among the Twelve. Andronicus and Junia are not well known, but so are some of the Twelve. Next to nothing is know about Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot. This does not mean that Matthias and some of the other original Twelve had insignificant apostolic ministries.

      Apostle (which is derived from a Greek word) is identical in meaning to missionary (which is derived from a Latin word.) All of the apostles mentioned in the New Testament were missionaries. Both men and women continue to be missionaries, pioneering new Christians ministries and taking the gospel message into new territory.

  12. Mark says:

    “By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected prophets and leaders in the early church”

    Here is the text

    Act 21:8 “On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
    Act 21:9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”

    Look at the information we have, and look at your claim…hardly compatible. This is what Kostenberger saids in regards to this sort of hermeneutic…”the frequent, yet fallicious hermeneutical procedure of drawing simplistic conclusions from a designation applied to a given person…”

    • Marg says:

      When I say “By all accounts . . . ” I include the extra-biblical accounts of Eusebius, who also quoted Papias, and I include the observations of E. Earle Ellis. I am not pretending that Papias (who was alive in the first century and knew some people mentioned in the Bible) is a biblical author, so your comment about poor hermeneutics doesn’t apply.

      As mentioned in the article Eusebius described these women as “mighty luminaries” and ranked them “among the first stage in the apostolic succession.” Philip’s daughters were highly respected and they prophesied regularly. I stand by my statement that, “By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected prophets and leaders in the early church.”

      I have more information on Philip’s daughters here.

  13. Mark says:

    Evangelists

    “Euodia and Syntyche were women who were warmly regarded and respected as fellow-workers by Paul. He said that they “contended at my side for the cause of the gospel.”

    First, they are not identified as ‘evangelists’.

    Second, the same verb ‘synathleo’ (contended) is also used in Phil 1:27, the only other NT use of the verb. There in 1:27, it refers to the whole congregation which suggests that these two women had participated as part of the Church in supporting Paul. To have ‘contended’ with Paul is a broad designation and does not therefore mean they fulfilled the same role as Paul.

    Third, internal evidence in Phil shows that the church supported Paul financially (1:5, 4:10; cf, 2 Cor 8-9, Rom 15:25-29) thus it is likely these two women participated in this.

    Fourth, Paul singles out these two women to stop arguing which is highly embarrassing for a letter that is to be read out.

    Therefore to claim that these two women were evangelists or even ‘leaders’ is overblown.

    • Marg says:

      In reply to your third comment: Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche contended together with him for the cause of the gospel, i.e. the euangelion. They were involved in gospel work – evangelistic work. The fact that Paul personally addresses Euodia and Syntyche personally reinforces the idea that these women had considerable influence in the Philippian church.

      It is not at all unusual for two people in a congregation to have different views. However Paul does not actually say or even imply that these women were arguing. Nor does Paul reveal any sense of embarrassment in Php 4:2-3. You are reading these things into the text. Paul actually speaks very well of these women.

      Furthermore, if you look at the preceding verses in Philippians, Paul was encouraging mature people to have the same view as himself – of reaching out for the goal spiritual perfection (Philippians 3:14-15). It could well be that Paul is carrying on this thought, and using very similar language, is simply saying, “I encourage Euodia and I encourage Syntyche to have the same thinking in the Lord . . . ” (Php 4:2).

      It is true that Paul regarded the financial support of his ministry as true partnership koinonia with him in ministry, and that the Philippians (and Macedonians in general) were generous givers. However it is difficult to reconcile the word sunathleo with giving. Sunathleo is not used in Php 1:27 in the context of giving, but rather in the context of standing firm and striving together in unity. Euodia and Syntyche may not have fulfilled the same role as Paul (who was an apostle), but they certainly worked together with Paul in evangelistic work, and he clearly valued their ministry.

      It could be that Euodia, Syntyche and Clement were leaders in the Philippian church; they were certainly ministers of some sort. More about these women here.

      Apart from Philip (Acts 21:8), no one is mentioned as being an evangelist, even though many people, including Timothy (2 Tim 4:5), were involved in evangelistic work. [The word “evangelist” is only used 3 times in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:11 contains the word also.]

      BTW One of my main ministries is sharing the gospel every week with mostly non-churched school children. Does that make me an evangelist? Many women in the Early Church were instrumental in spreading the gospel, and were even devoted to evangelism.

  14. Mark says:

    Pastor- teacher,

    Here your analysis is typical. No where does the Bible instruct that Priscila was a pastor-teacher. Kostenberger saids…

    “all that can be said is that Priscilla, together with and in the presence of her husband, and in the context of their home, helped to provide corrective instruction to a man, Apollos”

    All your quotes of Giles etc are historical revisionism with no substatial facts from the Bible. This is not a hermeneutic that takes the doctrine of Bible innerancy seriously (especially Giles). It brings one’s own agenda into the text and postulates and guesses beyond what the scripture teaches.

    For example, here is what you say…
    “As a prominent member of the congregation, the host would have functioned as a leader employing a ministry gift – most probably the pastor-teacher gift.”

    and i ask, where does the Bible confirm this? You provide proof in footnote 21…

    “It is currently estimated that there are approximately 50,000 house churches in China. 80% of these are run by women.”

    And i respond…there are plenty of western churches ordaining homosexuals…doesnt’t make it right. Nor does the fact that women now run house churches, prove your point. Honestly, it shows simple manipulation of Biblical evidence- this saddens me.

    • Marg says:

      Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone, man or woman, named as a pastor-teacher. That does not mean that there are no people in the New Testament who were pastor-teachers. I think the chosen lady in 2 John also was a pastor-teacher.

      The Greek does not specify that Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos in their home. The verb proslambanō in Acts 18:26 is the same verb in Mark 8:32 where Peter took Jesus aside. This verb is used in a variety of ways and can mean: “to take to oneself, assume, take as a companion or associate … to take food … to receive kindly or hospitably, admit to one’s own society and friendship …” (Perschbacher 1990:354)

      Priscilla and Aquila might have invited Apollos into their home. They hosted and undoubtedly led a house church from their home in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) and later in Rome (1 Cor 16:19). If they did invite Apollos into their home maybe their teaching on baptism was part of a church meeting.

      Furthermore Priscilla and Aquila did not just help to provide corrective instruction to Apollos. (This sounds rather lame). Priscilla and Aquila explained to Apollos the Way of God more accurately, including the doctrine of Christian baptism. This is especially significant as Apollos was himself an eloquent and educated man. I have written more about Priscilla here.

      I hardly think that footnote 21 can be thought of as proof! It is just a bit of extra, and I think interesting, information. The Catholic church actually have even more impressive numbers than what I have quoted.

      I have not manipulated Biblical evidence. I have provided extra evidence and information. But I have not misquoted what the Bible says.

      So, just what is your problem with women being church leaders?

  15. Mark says:

    Final point,

    The passages on men/women roles are rooted in creation (1 Tim 2:13-14, 1 Cor 11:2-10, Eph 5:22ff). All these passages refer to scripture pre-fall, thus before sin. Therefore biblical manhood and womanhood is rooted in God’s good creation. Egals are messing with God’s creation plans.

    Slavery on the other hand was never instituted by God, nor supported in such a way. It is a red-herring to argue this way. One could equally argue the egal= homosexual argument.

    Ironically, the whole feminist movement has pushed women away from the value and beauty of raising children, which in effect is damaging both children and women. I fear that future generations will suffer more because of the current situation. Why are devaluing the role of mother and wife, both of which are God’s ordained plans. I fear our generation will be judged severely for the manipulation of the text that keeps occuring. Egals need to re-think the damage they are doing to Biblical authority, the church, the home and society.

    • Marg says:

      In reply to your fifth comment: I VERY much value my roles of being a wife and a mother. I agree that there are dangers in devaluing these roles! I advocate that mothers (or in some cases, fathers) stay at home with their children when the children are young. Parenthood is a huge responsibility and a joy!

      Having said that, the role of motherhood is not mentioned until after the fall. Not that I think that motherhood is negative, far from it.

      I just don’t think that you can say that motherhood, or in fact any role is stated or implied in the creation accounts, apart from the role stated in Genesis 1:26-28: both men and women were commissioned by God to rule over his creation. I have more on the created order here.

      I am concerned that you mention 1 Corinthians 11:2-10, but not the verses after. Verses 2-10 are the first half of a chiasm, the following verses (1 Corinthians 11:11-16) should not be left out of any reading of this passage. More on this here.
      Also, I do not think being submissive is a role. All Christians are to be submissive–cooperative, deferential and loyal–towards oneanother (Eph 5:21-22).

      I only bring up slavery because it is so clearly not part of God’s ideal plan for humanity, and yet it took the Christian church ages to realise this. Similarly I do not believe that emphasising unilateral submission or restricting roles of women to be part of God’s ideal plan for humanity.

      Thanks for your comments, Mark. 🙂

  16. Abera Abay says:

    Thank you so much for such concise and strong information you send, in relation to women’s role in leadership. I have benefited much from it and hope you will send related materials that you think are helpful to enhance my knowledge on this area.

    blessings,

    yours in Christ,
    Abera

  17. Marg says:

    Hi Abera,

    I’m glad that you found this article useful. If you search this site and look at the “related articles” (at the bottom of most posts) you will find many articles with related material.

    If you have any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.

    Marg

  18. […] New Testament Women Church Leaders […]

  19. […] New Testament Women Church Leaders […]

  20. […] Junia (Ro 16:7), Euodia and Syntyche (Php 4:2-3) and probably Lydia (Ac 16:40), plus others, were New Testament women with significant Christian ministries and which probably included house church leadership. Just as […]

  21. zeb says:

    THE ANSWER AND THE KEY TO THE DEBATE IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!Your article is mostly correct! There are two categories of “leadership”. 1=the 4 fold ministry gifts that JESUS GIVES. 2= The two fold “offices” of the church overseer/elder/shepherd and deacon/servant that MANKIND SEEKS AND APPOINTS. Jesus appoints men and women with giftings to be used throughout the universal church=4 fold ministers that can go from church to church based off of respect and good fruit used to edify and bring maturity. NEXT>>>1 timothy= Men seek to be overseers/bishop and are appointed by church to have authority and ministry ONLY AT ONE LOCAL CHURCH only a man, has to meet qualifications. Men or women seek to be deacon/servants and are chosen by church to serve ONLY AT ONE LOCAL CHURCH. Check book of acts and epistles all through this is the pattern. Overseers/bishops are only men just like scripture says. women can be deaconess just like scripture says.It all reads easy and makes perfect sense once you understand what I just wrote. The local church is the household of God it is self governing and autonomous that is why only Men are the “leaders” because the family structure is the kingdom structure[leading is not ruling but giving of yourself like Jesus] Elder is same as overseer, even Paul was not an elder/overseer because he wasn’t married and therefore didn’t qualify to be leader of a local church.Peter did qualify and is called elder, John is also called elder. People can be 4 fold ministers AND elders but being an Apostle Prophet Evan. or Pastor/Teacher DOES NOT make you an appointed overseer or deacon of a local church. Also one man NEVER RULES a local church. A group of elders with EQUAL AUTHORITY leads a church [check it in bible, we really err by appointing one man over a church or a board of directors] Please deeply search everything I wrote in THE BIBLE, Don’t listen to mans leadership philosophies, Jesus and Paul gave us the Info let’s get it right!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Marg says:

    Thanks for your comment Zeb. I agree with much of what you’ve written, but not all of it. I think it’s interesting that you think that Paul, as an unmarried man, would not have qualified as an overseer/elder. Using your interpretation of Paul’s qualifications for overseers in 1 Timothy 3:1-6, that means Jesus would not have qualified either.

  23. zeb says:

    To Marg…really God gave us a government model for the church that is beautiful and natural. Overseers=very hard,lots of responsibility, true leaders, not fame seeking ego men. Deacons/servants= hard working well,…servants to the body. The church should be family structured not hierarchical. Just like the tribes of the world, elders lead with wisdom seeking wellness and servants serve. Imagine if we would have taken the true structure to the world not an empire model. Jesus does not qualify to be an overseer of a local church because he is the head of the body. Just like Jesus does not qualify to be the dad in my earthly family . We do not preach ourselves as Lord [the leader the boss] but Jesus as Lord and ourselves as slaves for you sake. God definitely chooses women to be Ephesian 4:11 gifts to the church. Just realize God chooses those positions [ and they are recognized and accepted by various churches by their fruit] but we seek to be leaders of local churches [1 tim] We need to get rid of little boys trying to be the boss/lord, sole leader, building empires and get back to the strong family models where wise elders lead and we serve one another in love.

  24. Marg says:

    Zeb, I really do agree with much of this comment also. 🙂

    Going back to your first comment: From early church writings we see that apostles and prophets (and probably evangelists) had travelling ministries, and that elders/overseers cared for local congregations. We see that elders/overseers were somewhat like modern-day senior pastors who, among other things, taught. (Being able to teach is the only qualification in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 that is not a moral qualification.) And we see that deacons were involved in various other ministries in the church community. Some of these ministries included pastoring. That is to say, some elders and deacons functioned as pastors.

    I believe that Chloe, Nympha, Euodia and Syntyche, the Chosen Lady and other women were house church leaders. That is, these women were elders and pastors of small local congregations. (Almost all early churches met as house churches in the first 200 years.)

    Zeb, I have been studying Greek for several years now, and my everyday New Testament is the Greek New Testament (USB). The one-woman-man qualification in 1 Tim 3:2 is a moral qualification. It is a Greek idiom that was used in ancient times to mean “married only once”. I have written about this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/
    You may be interested in this also: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/women-pastors-in-the-new-testament/

    I think it is unwise to prohibit godly men who are obvious leaders, men who have similarities to Paul and Jesus, just because they are single. (I did not mean to use Paul and Jesus as actual, literal examples in my previous comment.) I also think it is unwise to prohibit godly and capable women from being elders/overseers because of a faulty understanding of the one-woman-man idiom.

    Furthermore, I cannot find in the Bible that it says that fathers, and not father and mothers, should be the leaders of the house. The Bible never says that men only should be the leaders of the home. I have written about this also. http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/ and:
    http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/leading-together-in-the-home/

    But I think we agree on most things. 🙂

  25. phyllis says:

    I have just come across your posts on women in leadership as evidenced in the New Testament. Thank you for the scholarship and the time invested. What is shocking to me is what seems like the ramped-up efforts these days (via the new patriarchal/complementarianism movements) to limit women’s freedom in the church. Perhaps the most shocking is the Quiverfull movement. The TLC Duggar family program has certainly spotlighted this sect and I think has alerted many as to this relatively new wrinkle on the cult scene. One thing that always strikes me is this: if, as some patriarchalists teach (by implication), women are to continue to suffer the consequences of Eve’s curse (husband lording it over her, etc.), why don’t we ever hear how the church is to also mandate/enforce the continuation of Adam’s curse? But of course, a rhetorical question…
    blessings,
    Phyllis

  26. Marg says:

    Hi Phyllis,

    In Australia we don’t have have a quiverful movement. This seems to be an American thing. Even homeschooling is uncommon and seen as unusual. Also, most Australians have never heard of the Duggars and hopefully never will.

    Christian patriarchy is different in Australia. The most vocal hierarchical complementarians here are the Sydney Anglicans. But they are mild compared with complementarians in other countries. For instance, women do speak, and can read the Scriptures aloud, in their services. But in some Sydney Anglican churches women cannot preach the “Sunday sermon”.

    So glad to be living in Australia! But we still have a way to before true equality and a casteless Christianity is the norm in our churches.

    I love your writing style. 🙂

  27. Thank you. I just started my blog in March. I enjoy writing for publishers, but there are so many restrictions. It’s a pleasure to just write to write, whatever the word count, whatever the topic.

    I have been on your site before, but forgot you are in Australia! It’s easy to become “homeland-centric.” So glad to hear things aren’t quite as bad for Christian women “down there.” It must be somewhat shocking to learn that here in “progressive America” the situation is actually worse. I spent twelve years of my teaching career teaching in an alt ed facility serving homeschooling families and began to become familiar with some of the extremes of the patriarchy movement. I knew it was something I wanted to write about. So, it’s great to be able to reference some of the work of those of you who have been doing the more scholarly writing.
    blessings,
    Phyllis

  28. Julie says:

    I have a question… the author Paul, of Timothy, is the same Paul who denied Jesus 3 times, as the roosters crowed, when asked if he knew Jesus by both men and women? Now Hear me out here…(this is, after all, part of the context and something to consider )

    (…This story in the New Testament about Paul nearly always makes me think he preferred people’s praise over Gods, since this is mentioned previously that it is better to live by God than by Men’s praise, those who die living righteously by God will be praised, those who die living in Men’s praise not so much). This disciple, though, of course, is the Paul who started the Catholic church later… (Yay!)

    So, in short, this story about Paul denying Jesus in the NT makes me think he may be influenced by cultural wants of the people around him… he may flex to that in this passage too, also, as far as I know, Jesus never said anything like the phrase Paul wrote in Timothy, which is used and referred to frequently in the arguments against women in leadership. Most importantly, Paul writes “I” (meaning Paul’s opinion) not “He the Father” or “Jesus (He) says,” so this makes me think this could be Paul’s specific opinion. Considering that there are only two places that are pointed to the most by the dissenting opinion, passages in Timothy and Corinthians, 2 books, in light of the fact there are 66 books in the Bible, including Jesus’s own examples of life, action, and words in the NT, this makes me think that is not a lot. Actually very few… You’d think there would be more than that, right, especially on a subject as important as this? Considering this context, I’m cautious with these phrases used against women in church leadership, especially, since Paul wrote —-> “I” <— believe this and not "He" or "the Father" or "the Son."

    That was my 2 cents on the subject and it's context. I appreciate and support your blog post, thank you for what you do! God Bless and good health!

  29. Marg says:

    Thanks for your comment, Julie. However, it was Peter who denied Jesus three times, not Paul. Paul was not one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples.

    And neither Paul nor Peter started the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church started later even though they claim that Peter was Rome’s first bishop (or something similar.)

    I agree that there is really only one, or possibly two, short passages in the entire Bible that seem to disqualify women from a speaking ministry, yet other verses indicate that Paul had no problem with women who prophesied and prayed aloud in church meetings.

    Paul loved and valued women and several women were his colleagues in ministry. I have a great respect for Paul and consider his letters as having Scriptural authority.

    I have several articles about “Paul and Women” here.

  30. Myriam says:

    Thank you very much!! All these explanations are very useful for my study. I want to know about women’s leadership, and I find here what I need.

  31. Marg says:

    I’m so glad to hear that this information is useful for you, Myriam.

  32. […] There were women of influence in the Bible.  Women like Lydia, Phoebe, Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, Junia, Phillip’s 4 prophetess daughters, Euodia, Syntyche, Priscilla, Nympha, and Apphia.  For a more in depth look into these women, there is a well written article called New Testament Women Church Leaders. […]

  33. Robert Roberts says:

    “The head of man is Christ,the head of women is man,the head of Christ is God” the word of God says plainly. Eve sin? To want to be over man and smart as God. Don’t be a women as such as her. Be the true daughter of Wisdom if you teach your women to be quiet, modest and submissive to their men’s authorities, as the bible commands. The order of creation and Nature. Peace and harmony will be the reward. And truth will prevail.

    • Marg says:

      Robert,

      Your comment is not directly related to the article, which is about ministry. If you read any of my other posts you will discover that I have no intention of having authority over a man, or any other capable adult for that matter.

      I discuss 1 Corinthians 11:3 in this article if you are interested: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/

      The word does not plainly say that Eve wanted to be over the man. In fact, it doesn’t mention anything like this whatsoever.

      • Thanks for your reply. Means a lot. Subject of women leaders in church service was my aim to comment on. Though the bible commands not for women to lead over,or teach men,it commands for women to teach women, children, and shows many examples that women did take leader roles of men,hesitantly because of the lack of men to step up to their role in cowardness. Debra being my favorite. Preist,overseers, pastors always biblically taught to be men. In today’s culture of equality, we except role less theology.and families paid the price.I believe,the men most at fault. I love and respect women dearly.co dependant to them.long to protect them. After ‘re reading my comment, I see that it appears I was accusing you. I meant no disrespect.I meant it in general to everyone. I don’t know you or any of who you are in Christ. I will follow up on the info you sent me of your insights and writings to better know you more. Wisdom in proverbs is a women. I’m eager to give all to know her more. Please forgive me.

        • Marg says:

          Hi Robert,

          I appreciate your heart, and I hear your respect for women, but I disagree with some of your statements.

          In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says he is not permitting a woman to teach or authentein (“have authority over”?) a man. Paul uses the singular “woman” and “man”, not the plural “women” and “men”, so I think we should too when quoting or speaking about the verse.

          I agree that there are numerous Bible verse where women exercised some kind of authority or some kind of teaching ministry, but there is no indication that they did this because there was a lack of men. In Deborah’s case the Bible states there were male leaders, princes, and warriors (Judges 4:6, 14-20; Judges 5:2,9,13, 15). Nevertheless Deborah was God’s appointed leader of Israel.

          In Israel there was a place for prophetic women leaders. Before the Babylonian exile, the role of many prophets was usually more influential than the role of the priests. The priests were responsible for seeing to the regular sacrifices and rituals within the Tabernacle and Temple, but the prophets and prophetesses spoke to the nation, to other important individuals, or (before the monarchy) they were the leaders themselves (e.g. the prophets Moses, Samuel, Deborah).

          During the days of Israel’s monarchy, prophets and prophetesses such as Huldah, advised kings. Abigail advised David and prophesied to him just before he became king. David accepted her prophecy and her words are recorded in scripture. Her speech is one of the longest speeches of a woman recorded in the Old Testament.

          Other godly women have had their words recorded in scripture where they have the authority of scripture and continue to teach men and women. The inspired songs, prayers, praises and teachings of Miriam (Exo 15:20-21), Deborah (Judges 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam 25:28-31), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov 31:1-9), Mary (Luke 1:46ff) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff) are considered prophetic and are included in Scripture.

          Men such as Barak, King David, King Josiah’s all-male delegation (which included the high priest), King Lemuel, and Apollos respected and accepted teaching of women. I think we need to be careful not to let one verse (1 Timothy 2:12) overide what numerous other verses show us about godly women and ministry. And we should be careful not to misquote or misunderstand 1 Timothy 2:12.

          The very early churches often met in homes and their meetings were very different to church meetings today. Some of these church communities, which were usually small, met in homes which were owned by women such as Nympha, Lydia, and Priscilla with her husband Aquila. There is no reason to think that women did not minister in these meetings (1 Cor 11:5; 14:26). There is also no reason to think that these women did not function as overseers or pastors. Interestingly, no man or woman, other than Jesus, is called a priest, overseer or pastor in the New Testament.

          Rather than looking at what has always been taught, or at today’s culture, we should be looking more carefully at what the scriptures say.

          Paul’s favourite term for a minister of the gospel was “co-worker”. He used this word more frequently than any other ministry title or term. He used it for men and for women such as Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche. I have more about the first century church and the ministry of women here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-first-century-church-and-the-ministry-of-women/

  34. Ashley H. says:

    One thing I don’t understand is why does having a church in your home mean you are a leader in that church? What if you were a new believer and just happened to have the biggest home? My understanding is that the early churches were not led by one person but by a group of elders. So if these women were leaders, would they have been one elder among others? I agree with your understanding of women in the church. I believe women can and should be free to do whatever God calls them to do.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Ashley,

      That is an excellent question. When I use the word “leader” I don’t mean senior pastor; I use it to mean anyone with an influential and authoritative Ephesians 4:11 ministry. The church in Caesarea, for example, had Philip the evangelist and his four prophesying daughters who all exercised their ministries, plus (presumably) others.

      Having said that the contents of 2 John, the verses about Priscilla and Nympha do indicate that they were people recognised as having a responsibility for the church that met in their homes.

      I agree that ministry was shared in the very early church. The idea of a single bishop/overseer emerged at the end of the first century. The responsibility of overseers and elders at that stage may have been for the several house churches in a city.

  35. A good look at this is the various women leaders of the Celtic churches from the 5th to 12th centuries. Hild, Ita, Brigid, etc. all of them were leaders, teachers, soul friends, and more of both men and women in their monasteries and communities. It wasn’t until after the Roman view won out at Whitby did the view that women could no longer lead slowly start to change in those churches.

  36. […] Women Church Leaders in the New Testament […]

  37. […] Women Church Leaders in the New Testament […]

  38. […] Women Church Leaders in the New […]

  39. Sam says:

    This is wonderful, thank you!

  40. […] otras traducciones al inglés se han traducido injustamente diakonos como “siervo.” [12] Phoebe era un ministro o diácono, y un líder o patrón, en el iglesia en Cencrea. Lamentablemente, este hecho rara vez se reconoce en la mayoría de las traducciones al inglés de […]

  41. […] Women Women Church Leaders in the New Testament […]

  42. Question says:

    What do you have to say about Isaiah 3:12?

  43. […] otras traducciones al inglés se han traducido injustamente diákonos como “siervo.” [ 12] Phoebe era un ministro o diácono, y un líder o patrón, en el iglesia de Cencrea. […]

  44. […] Women Church Leaders in the New Testament […]

  45. […] addition, Sheri also sent me an article citing examples from the Bible where women were in positions of power within the church. According […]

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