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

Paul and Women, in a Nutshell

Paul and Women, in a Nutshell

This article is available in Spanish here.

Paul was not a misogynist. He did not hate or mistrust women. Far from it!

Paul valued Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche as his co-workers in gospel ministry. Paul and Priscilla were close friends, having worked together for a few years.

Paul refers to Junia as his relative (or fellow Jew), his fellow prisoner, and as outstanding among the apostles.

He commends Phoebe to the church at Rome as our sister, as a patroness of many, and as minister or deacon of the church at Cenchrea. He also entrusted his letter to the Romans to Phoebe as his envoy to take to Rome.

He acknowledges positively the ministry labours of Mary of Rome, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis. He loved Persis.

He warmly mentions no less than ten women in Romans chapter 16. Paul had met some of these women when his and their journeys had intersected. Other women in Romans 16, such as Julia, hosted house churches in Rome. (In Romans 16:15, is Olympas, a masculine name, really meant to be Olympa, a feminine name? )

He took seriously a report from Chloe of Corinth‘s people.

He passed on greetings from Claudia of Rome, and sent greetings to Apphia of Colossae.

He recognised the house church of Nympha in Laodicea, and asked that his greetings be passed on to her and her church.

He accepted the hospitality of Lydia in Philippi and held meetings of the fledgling Philippian congregation in her home.

He respected the faith of Lois and Eunice.

Paul valued the ministry of women and even compared his own apostolic ministry to that of a breastfeeding woman.

At least eighteen women are mentioned in the Pauline letters; sixteen are identified by name. Some of these women, Paul mentions along with a male relative, others are mentioned independently of men.

Here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the eighteen women in Paul’s letters, plus Lydia.

Apphia (Phm. 1:2), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Claudia (2 Tim. 4:21), Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5); Euodia (Php. 4:2-3), Julia (Rom. 16:15), Junia (Rom. 16:7 NIV), Lois (2 Tim. 1:5), Mary (Rom. 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom. 16:15), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Persis (Rom. 16:12), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2 NIV), Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19 cf Acts 18:1-3, 18-19, 26), Rufus’ mother (Rom. 16:13), Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3), Tryphena (Rom. 16:12), Tryphosa (Rom. 16:12).  Lydia is mentioned in Acts 16:13-15, 40.

I believe that if these verses were the starting point and focus in discussions on women in ministry, more so than 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12, the church and the world would be in a much better state. (My articles on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 here, and on 1 Timothy 2:12 here.)

In a Nutshell Series

 

More articles in the In a Nutshell series here.

Image credit: Mosaic of Paul presenting St Praxedes (who was martyred in 165) to Christ – Basilica Santa Prassede, Rome. © Sr Anne Flanagan (Source)

Posted October 6th, 2014 . Categories/Tags: Bible Women, Equality and Gender Issues, Women in Ministry, , ,

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

38 comments on “Paul and Women, in a Nutshell

  1. Corey says:

    Is this Paul’s “binder full of women”?

  2. Carl Gilmore says:

    Wait wait wait – are you saying that the ways in which we read and interpret the Bible have as much to say about us as they do about the writers and writings? #brilliant

  3. Sandra says:

    Very informative and insightful . Thanks for putting it together

  4. Rachel says:

    This is a great list and should definitely be taken into consideration when discussing the role of women in ministry. As a woman who is in ministry and preaches, it’s so important that people look at the full extent of Paul’s teaching and not just the couple of verses which they consider to back their theology on this issue. Thanks for providing a good summary of where else to look.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Yes, I just don’t get the obsession with 1 Timothy 2:12, especially as we don’t really know what one of the words in the verse means, and as the overall consensus of the Bible is that it’s fine for a godly woman to teach or lead men.

  5. JoMae says:

    “I believe that if these verses were the starting point and focus in discussions on women in ministry, more so than 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12, the church and the world would be in a much better state.”

    Thanks, Marg. I so appreciate your insights! And these women with the lessons they offer us should be taught to all – not just in women’s Bible Studies!!

    • Marg says:

      I agree. 🙂

      I dislike the mentality that Bible women are role models for women, and Bible men are role models for men.

      I clearly remember, as a young girl, reading about Gideon and David, etc, and trying to imagine what they were going through. I’d look for the principles that I could embrace of how God worked in them and through them even though they were grown men and leaders and I was a little girl.

      These examples of men and women in the Bible are primarily about God, so I can’t see that whether they are male or female has much to do with it.

  6. Veronica says:

    Very insightful article. I find it interesting that if you ask the average Christian what Paul had to say about women, they’ll quote Ephesians 5:22-33. In my opinion this verse has been over used over the years to keep women from celebrating the true role God has given us within the church. It’s nice to see that Paul, though believed to have authored Ephesians 5:22-33, also acknowledged the work of women in building the church.

  7. Great resource. Thanks.

  8. Dylan says:

    Anytime you have to make this type of defense, it probably means there is fire behind the smoke. It’s like places that say they value diversity, it probably means they had issues with that in the past.

  9. Spencer says:

    This is very handy and it’s useful to look at all the things that women are encouraged to do in the Bible, not only what they “can’t”

    However, your main point confuses me. If I were to ask: ‘what does the Bible teach about women and their roles in church?’ You think the first thing we should observe is that Paul lists 10 women by name in Romans? Paul wrote those names to tell the church that women should be teachers and elders in the church? I disagree that these types of verses should be our ‘starting point.’

    Instead we should turn to passages where Paul himself was trying to answer the question: ‘what roles should women have in church?’ I don’t turn to these passages because I’m a man who hates women’s rights, I turn to these passages because those are the ones that teach on these issues.

    With all of that said I think it is important to focus on all of the amazing things women are encouraged to do in scripture. They shouldn’t be restricted to hosting luncheons and cooking meals. Women ought to be, just like men, getting into the nitty gritty Bible studies and wrestling with hard-core doctrines. They should be encouraged to seek and use all of the gifts of the spirit that are available to men, and then, like men, use those gifts in whatever way the bible teaches. There aren’t any gifts of the spirit that are gender specific (I.e. Help for women and teaching for men), but men AND women are to use their gifts in whatever way God has indicated.

    Have I been fair? I don’t have a power struggle against women, and to be honest, my wife is the one who first introduced me to the idea that Paul may have been a complementarian. Should we really start with where Paul doesn’t seem to have women’s roles in mind, or should we start with where Paul speaks directly to these issues?

    • Marg says:

      Hi Spencer, I’m not sure what you see as my main point. My objective was simply to acknowledge every woman who Paul mentions in his letters, plus Lydia, and note how he speaks of them and interacts with them. If there is a main point it is that Paul trusted women and valued their ministry. I think this point is reasonably clear and not at all confused.

  10. Dave says:

    I think our starting point should be John 4…and Jesus’ treatment of this woman! He goes beyond culture, beyond gender!

    • Marg says:

      Jesus treatment of women and his concern for them as whole human beings was remarkable, and certainly went way beyond the culture of that time. Perhaps I should do a post called “Jesus and Women, in a Nutshell”?

  11. John says:

    Incredible….that’s how people need to see how women were used in ministry and how the apostle Paul was not a male chauvinist. I like how you displayed the women who Paul mentions, Marg, so that way we all can see that Paul was not silencing women to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. I see the mistake is that many people pick out a verse instead of reading an entire chapter or book in the Bible. It’s like how the teachers say in school….. “Go back and read the entire story to get an understanding”.

    • Marg says:

      Thanks John. 🙂

      Exactly! We need to read the whole story.

      • Kevin Kidd says:

        Great article!

        A friend of mine turned me on to this post knowing that I had taught a series “Empowering Women” at the church I pastor. It was one of my favorite series I’ve done, as I know there is so much misguided teaching on women within Christian circles.

        In reference to some of the posts above, a great place to start is…at the beginning…Genesis.

        Consider, for example that Eve was created as an equal to Adam, from his side…not the head, nor the foot. Then, also consider that the passage of Eve being ruled over by Adam, was a consequence of the Fall, something Jesus addressed on the cross by becoming a curse. He came to restore.

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