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

The Twelve Apostles were All Male

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An argument often brought up in discussions about women in church leadership is that Jesus’ twelve apostles[1] were all male, and, because there were no females among the Twelve, this means that women cannot be church leaders.

This argument is usually countered with the fact that, as well as no women, there were also no Gentiles among the Twelve. So, if we genuinely want to use the Twelve as a paradigm of people suitable for church leadership, we should restrict leadership to Jewish men.

I find neither of these arguments useful in discussions on church leadership because they miss a critical point: Jesus’ earthly ministry and the choosing of the Twelve occurred before the church was in existence.

Jesus’ ministry occurred at a vital juncture between the Old Testament and the New Covenant—between “Israel only” and the inclusive, universal Church. The New Covenant had not yet been inaugurated when the Twelve were called, and so, at that time and at that place (Israel), Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his first disciples.

The Old Testament, Israel, and Patriarchy

There are a few reasons why Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his chief disciples. Jesus’ healing and teaching ministry was directed primarily to the Jewish people within Israel (Matt. 15:24), and for Jesus to be recognised as a rabbi he needed to have at least ten male disciples. With twelve Jewish male disciples, Jesus’ status as a rabbi was never questioned, even by his critics.[2]

There is an obvious symbolism with the number twelve. Jesus himself makes a connection between the twelve disciples and the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29-30); he may have chosen twelve as a way of showing that his message, his ministry, and his New Covenant was for all of Israel. When Judas Iscariot died, his place was filled to keep the number of the apostles at twelve, but once the New Covenant had been inaugurated, and when the church age began with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and as more and more Gentiles joined the church, the significance of the Twelve was no longer relevant. The New Testament shows no evidence of any attempt to replace James after his early death (Acts 12:1-2) in order to keep the number of apostles at twelve.

Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be one of the original Twelve, presumably knowing that Judas would later betray him (John 6:64, 70-71). Since Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve, this makes the argument untenable that Jesus intended these men to be some sort of precedent or paradigm for church leadership. The fact that one of the Twelve never became a church leader is an important point to consider. But there are still other factors to consider regarding the argument that the all-male Twelve means that women cannot be church leaders.

The Twelve assisted with Jesus’ healing and teaching ministry to the Israelites (Matt. 10:5-6 cf. 15:24). It is inconceivable that the Jewish people would have accepted this kind of ministry from Gentiles, and, due to the poor status of women, there may have been considerable difficulties for Jewish people to accept healing and instruction from women. Jesus began his earthly ministry while the Old Covenant was still operative and while the repercussions of the Fall, which included the rule of men over women, were still in effect (cf. Gen. 3:16b).

Nevertheless, while there were no women among the Twelve, there may have been Jewish women among the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:1ff). Many women accompanied Jesus and the Twelve on missionary trips and supported the men from their own resources (Luke 8:1-3). Many women were among the most faithful of Jesus’ followers and so some (or all?) of these women may have been among the Seventy-Two.[3]

The Twelve Apostles were all Male

Jesus and his disciples, a scene from the movie Son of God.

The New Covenant, the Church, and the Holy Spirit

Once Jesus had fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament with his death and resurrection, the old rules and restrictions became obsolete. Jesus commissioned his disciples to make more disciples from every nation (Matt. 28:19 cf. Acts 9:36). These other disciples included Gentiles and they included women.[4]

Gilbert Bilezikian has pointed out that:

The great paradigm shift from old to new covenant did not occur at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry but at its end (1 Cor. 11:25). History turned upon itself with the death and resurrection of Christ and with the subsequent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. The first utterance made immediately after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit concerned a radical change in ministry roles. With the apostles at his side, Peter formally proclaimed that, because of the new era inaugurated by the coming of the Spirit, ministries that had been previously restricted were now universally accessible to all believers without distinctions of gender, age, or class.

Jesus treated women with a degree of dignity, intelligence, camaraderie, and genuine brotherly love that was uncommon in those times. True equality within the community of Jesus’ followers would have to wait for Pentecost, however, when the Holy Spirit was poured out for the first time on all believers regardless of gender.

Apostles, Pastors, or Priests?

The Twelve Apostles were all male, but most of these men did not function as local pastors or local church leaders. Most were apostles—itinerant missionaries with a leadership function. The argument that women cannot be pastors of churches because the twelve apostles were all male is illogical. Being a pastor and being an apostle are not the same thing.

Having said that, we do have the example of a New Testament woman who was an apostle—Junia (Rom. 16:7). Moreover, the New Testament gives us several examples of women who functioned in various leadership ministries in the early church, including being pastors and leaders of house churches.[5]

Some denominations teach that the apostles functioned as priests, and that subsequent church leaders also function as priests. Under the New Covenant, however, there is only one priest—Jesus Christ our High Priest and Mediator. There is no need for any other mediator between God and his people (1 Tim. 2:5). The New Testament never refers to apostles or any other church leaders as priests.[6]

All Christians are agents of Jesus Christ by virtue of his Holy Spirit who lives within us, and we are all members of a royal priesthood. As members of this priesthood we are called to collectively, and individually, proclaim the gospel to those who have not heard.[7]


The fact that the Twelve Apostles were all male cannot be used to bar women from leadership ministries for several reasons. Jesus called the Twelve before the New Covenant had been inaugurated and before the Holy Spirit had come on all believers. He chose the Twelve to help with his ministry to Israel within a certain cultural context. The fact that Judas was one of the Twelve means that Jesus must have chosen at least one (or some?) of the Twelve for reasons other than church leadership. The “male apostle” argument cannot be taken to mean that woman cannot be pastors or evangelists, etc. It might be taken to mean that women cannot be apostles; however, the example of Junia as an apostle makes even this argument untenable. Moreover Jesus never stated that only men could be leaders. Jesus’ only instructions about church leadership are that those who lead in the Christian community should be servants not rulers.[8] The fact that Jesus’ twelve apostles were all male is not a valid premise to exclude godly and gifted women from any kind of ministry function or role in the Church.


[1] The Twelve are only infrequently referred to as apostles in the gospels: “only once in Matthew and Mark, not at all in John, and five times in Luke . . . Many scholars [e.g. W. Schmithals (1969:98-110)] in fact argue that Jesus did not at any time call the twelve ‘apostles’ during his lifetime.” Kevin Giles poses the question, “Did Luke introduce the title ‘apostle’ in his role as editor of the historical sources he used, or was it already there?”  Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Collins Dove, 1989) 155 & 157.

[2] “To the present day among orthodox Jews the quorum for a synagogue congregation is ten free men; unless ten such males are present the service cannot begin.” F.F. Bruce “Women in the Church: A Biblical Survey,” Christian Brethren Review 33 (1982): 7-14, 10. (Source) It is unclear when, in the history of Judaism, the regulation about a quorum came into effect.

[3] Richard Bauckham writes,

“. . . if we read on from Luke 8:1-3 in the company of Joanna and the other women, it will not be possible to read Luke 10:1-20 where Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples to participate actively in his own mission of preaching and healing, without assuming that women are included among these disciples.”
Gospel Women: Studies of Named Women in the Gospels (London: T. & T. Clark, 2002) 200.

[4] Tabitha (Dorcas) is a woman specifically identified as a “disciple” (Acts 9:36ff); however Jesus had previously discipled women. Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet – the posture and position of a disciple – listening to his teaching.  Jesus said that “few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 cf. 11:27-28).

[5] New Testament women who were involved in ministry include Priscilla (with her husband Aquila) (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc), Lydia (Acts 16:40), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (with Philemon and Archippus) (Phlm. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1) and “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3), plus others. These New Testament women had significant Christian ministries which may have included house church leadership. Just as there have been good and bad male leaders, there were good and bad female leaders. Sadly, the church in Thyatira was being corrupted by the teachings and false prophecies of a wicked and immoral female leader (Rev. 2:20-24), as was the church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3-4; cf. 2:12). [My series on 1 Timothy 2:12 in Context here.]

[6] There is no real evidence that Peter was the first leader (bishop) of the church at Rome, or that the ministry of being a “priest” is passed on from minister to minister (known as apostolic succession.) Peter makes no mention, or hint, about apostolic succession in his letters, nor does he ever state that he was the first bishop of Rome.

[7] Paul refers to his ministry as “priestly” once, but he says this in the context of proclaiming Christ to the Gentiles—to those who do not know him (Rom. 15:16; cf. 15:20). Christians should rely primarily on God, and not a person, for their forgiveness, comfort, and guidance, etc. I do not believe that church leaders and other Christians are called to represent Christ to people who already know him.

[8] Kevin Giles makes this point in his excellent study guide Better Together, and adds that this rule is stated seven times in the gospels: Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43-45; Luke 9:48; 22:27. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrated this rule in John 13:4-20. Better Together (Acorn Press, 2010) 8.

Further Reading:

Why Jesus Chose Male Apostles from Community 101, p74-80, by Gilbert Bilezikian.
Why Were All the Apostle Men?   by Joseph Tkach.

Related Articles

Apostles in the New Testament Church
Old Testament Priests and New Testament Ministers
Is it only men who can represent Jesus?
Paul’s Qualification for Church Leaders
Are Women Pastors Mentioned in the New Testament?
Kevin Giles on the apostolic ministry of gospel women
Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel
Jesus had many female followers – many!

Posted May 2nd, 2012 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, , , , , , , , ,

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

44 comments on “The Twelve Apostles were All Male

  1. Don Johnson says:

    I am egal so you know I agree with the major conclusion you reach.

    However, I do not agree with the way you got there, altho it is commonly taught. One needs to do their best to seek the full counsel of Scripture, hence my comment.

    While I think there are a few problematical statements you make, I will only address the largest claim, which is “Once Jesus had fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament with his death and resurrection, the old rules and restrictions became obsolete.”

    If this is true, no one told Peter and Paul, see Acts 21:18-26 where Peter encourages Paul to pay for Nazirite vows of others, which includes animal sacrifices at the still standing temple, to show that he does live in observance of Torah (v. 24). From where I sit, Acts is not a theological treatise like Hebrews that contains complex argumentation, it is much more straightforward in what it teaches, my point is that I do not see how to avoid the implications of the Acts 21 text.

  2. Verity3 says:

    Don, is it possible that Acts is showing us that Torah observance is still useful as a public relations tool, but showing us no more than that?

    Marg, that is interesting about a rabbi needing ten followers. And how it turned out that Jesus sort of needed at least one “spare.” *yikes*

  3. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Verity3,

    I do not see that. It certainly IS a PR tool for other Jews, but I do not think that Paul did it only for that reason. The text says to me that it was more than that.

  4. Marg says:

    Don, I struggle with knowing what Old Testament instructions still apply for the Church. I think the apostles did too. If I can word things better, let me know. I welcome other criticisms … I want to learn. What are the other problematical statements?

    This is how I see it: When Jesus died on the cross, the Temple curtain was torn in two and the light of the Great Menorah was extinguished. To me this shows that any Temple services and sacrifices made after this were mostly futile. However – perhaps because people are so slow to accept and understand change – it was another 40 years before the Temple was completely destroyed making Temple services and sacrifices impossible. (Did God give people forty years to get used to the idea that the Temple era was being fazed out?) In the meantime, the Apostles (who were Jewish) and other Jewish Christians probably still observed many of the Old Testament festivals and Temple services.

    I think understanding the Jewish roots of Christianity is extremely helpful, but as a Gentile Christian, I don’t see that many of the Old Testament religious or civic laws apply except as basic principles. (Does that make sense?)

  5. Marg says:

    Verity, I’ve wondered about the spare too. 😉 Although many people see the Twelve Apostles as symbolic of the Twelve Patriarchs.

    It’s interesting that Judas rarely comes up in discussions on this subject. It’s hard to rationalize Judas as one of the Twelve. He wasn’t one of the Eleven who received the Great Commission.

  6. Don Johnson says:


    I am learning also and certainly do not think I know all the answers and do not want to come off that way either. All of us see thru a glass darkly in trying our best to understand Scripture, since none of it was originally written to us, altho it was written for us.

    One thing I am doing is learning to read Scripture as a progressive continuous revelation, which means it is less discontinuous than I had thought before. For example, the Greek word ekklesia means assembly or congregation, yet is often translated as church, and since the word church does not show up in the OT, it can appear to be discontinuous. But the LXX used the word ekklesia for a word in the OT, going all the way back to Jacob’s clan going to Egypt, so this is a more continuous reading, so I now prefer simply assembly or congregation. So to a first approximation, I see the NT sitting on the OT as a 2nd story of a building sits on the first, it is simply inconceivable to think that one can understand the NT without understanding at some level the OT. But there are many challenges in understanding the OT, let alone the NT, but my take is I need all the help I can get.

    Given that gentiles have made up 95+% of the population, once the Way started to include gentiles, it was inevitable that it would become gentilized, that is, the vast majority of members would be gentiles. However, gentiles simply would not have been educated in the OT like the original disciples were, when Torah learning began at a young age as well as aspects of Jewish culture that might have been obvious to the original readers but are not at all obvious to us today.

    As I see it, some decades ago, it was a revolution in scholarship to figure out implications of the fact that Jesus was Jewish. And now a similar thing is happening at a deeper level, figuring out the implications of Jesus/Yeshua being a Torah-observant Jew, along with Peter, Paul, etc. This is something that has been “cloaked” due to the gentilization of the church since the 2nd century. It goes beyond even what is called the New Perspective on Paul, I would call it a new perspective on the NT, but it is trying to read the NT as best we can as the original readers would have.

  7. Marg says:

    Jesus and Peter and Paul were Torah observing Jews. I agree that this fact needs to be more readily acknowledged by Christians.

    In fact, Jesus also observed Jewish customs that were not prescribed in the Torah, including religious rituals (e.g. the three cups at Passover). And he even used these extra-biblical customs to make a point (e.g. coming into Jerusalem on the same day that the Passover lambs entered Jerusalem.) So understanding the Jewishness of the New Testament is important.

    I still believe that OT laws have been superceded and abolished by the New Covenant and that Christians are not obligated to keep any OT law or Jewish custom that is not reiterated in the NT as an instruction.

  8. Don Johnson says:

    Yes, I agree that the next step after seeing that Jesus was a Torah-observing Jew is seeing that he also kept many of the traditions of the Jews that are extra-Biblical. In other words, he was thoroughly Jewish in his time. This also makes his diffs more stark when he disagreed with others on a few of those traditions when they negated Scripture. Theologically, his closest exegetes were some Pharisees, but one might not guess this without knowing the cultural context.

    In your second paragraph you are making 2 claims. The latter one (reworded as I would reword it) is that no follower of Jesus needs to obey anything in the Mosaic covenants if they do not wish to do so and I agree with this. I do this because of the way I understand Rom 7:1-6 as applying to Jews and gentiles are simply not in the Mosaic covenants. Of course, the Acts 15 stipulations would apply for them, but those are minor.

    On your former claim I agree that this is a pervasive teaching and if true would basically invalidate the rationale of being a Messianic Jew. So at the very least I encourage you to investigate why MJs do not think this is the case.

  9. Don Johnson says:

    For example, here is how MJs understand the new covenant. It is first defined in Jer.31:31-34. The difference between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant is where it is written (and NOT in what it contains), the former is on parchment and stone and the latter is on one’s heart (or insides); the contrast is that for the former there is no provision to keep it, one just knows when one breaks it; but in the latter one wants to keep it.

  10. Marg says:

    One of my friends is a Messianic Jew who is very active in Bible teaching. (He’s director of Ariel Ministries Australia.) I’ve heard him state that the Old Covenant with its rules, regulations and rituals are obsolete. He asserts this much more strongly that I am comfortable doing. The reason I am saying this is because there is diversity of thought on this subject even among MJs. Still thinking . . .

  11. Don Johnson says:

    MJs are not monolithic, just like prots are not either.

    Arnold Fructenbaum is the (Jewish) founder of Ariel and there is no question he knows a lot of Jewish context to Scripture (a lot more than me) but he is also a Dispensationalist. And the way he does it is literally to impose an interpretive grid on the Bible where the various Dispensations start and end as determined by covenants. In other words, the very first thing one needs to do when using this method is to determine WHICH dispensation a specific part of Scripture is in, they make it easy by literally carving the Bible text up as they see it so each fits into a dispensation, IIRC one demarcation line is in a specific verse of Acts 2.

    I did try taking a class from them, but I was seen as disruptive as Ariel is non-egal and I am egal, plus I am not a Dispensationalist; so after getting my questions and posts removed because they pointed out things that did not follow Ariel’s party line, I gave up. In other words, the info flow was strictly intended to be one way only and forever. I do want to point out that he has a lot of good insights.

    In any case ALL Dispensationalists (as far as I know) would say as he does, as the dispensations create discontinuities by their very definition, as in God acts one way in dispensation A and then acts in a different way in dispensation B. Since I am not one of them, I should not be seen as an authority on what they believe, but this is how it appears to me as an outsider.

  12. OrthodoxDeacon says:

    “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” – 1 Corinthians 11:3-10

    “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15

    I know Protestant Christians like to interpret these verses differently but, what they have neglected is that the most knowledgeable leaders and scholars of the church have sat down throughout the ages and have concluded that the verses MEAN what they say. No woman can be in any level of authority over man in the Church of Christ. It is not a matter of hate or argument or even male pride. God, since the begin, has made it so. Who are women that they dare stand before the God of Heaven and Earth and reject this. As the verse says, “Woman is the glory of man.” not the glory of God. God requests women to be humble and to not get ahead of themselves for a reason. After all, doesn’t God know what he created inside out? He has a reason for everything. But women really just want to push barriers and elevate themselves on a pedestal. If women did the opposite, they would be fulfilling God’s will for them. If you don’t believe me, look at Saint Mary! Don’t keep flapping your lips and just look! She was a humble woman, SHE NEVER thought of herself as high or important. “My soul magnifies the LORD and my spirit rejoice in God my saviour, for He has regarded the lowly state of his humble maidservant.” That sentence shows the women of today how arrogant they have become. Because Mary humbled herself, did what her role was on this earth and praised the LORD humbly, she received a reward! The SON OF GOD! She later became exalted above all the angels, saints and men! That is proof of how God intended women to be and what the reward for obedience and humility and sacrifice is. That is why women should not think highly of themselves and question God. What are you to question the God of Heaven?!

    • Anna says:

      These are amongst the hardest scriptures to interpret. And of course, they mean what they say. I noticed that you have taken 1 Corinthians 11:16 out of context.

      Here is how I see it. I think these verses prove that the people in Corinth at that time understood “the man is the head of the woman”, to mean that if man preceded woman and woman was created for man, then doesn’t that stand to reason that man has authority over woman? He is her source, therefore he is also her authority. WRONG!!

      I think Paul, in verses 5-10, is merely describing and clarifying how the Corintians understood the doctrine of “male headship” not agreeing with it or endorsing it. I say this because he backpedals in verses 11-12, and corrects this erroneous thinking. He correctly points out that while Eve was formed from Adam’s rib, every other man after that was born of a woman. So man and woman are not independent of each other. He continues to say that the churches of God have no other practice than to require the woman to have hair.

      I think Paul used the word “head” to mean source of, since verse 3 is in chronological order and not chain of command order. He was correcting the authoritative interpretion.

  13. Marg says:

    Hi Orthodox Deacon,

    I completely agree that the verses mean what they say, more precisely these verses mean what they say in the Greek. (English translations do not always adequately convey the meaning and intent of Paul.) My views on 1 Cor 11:2-16 are similar to that of Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom, Saint Basil, Athanasius, Eusebius, and Ambrosiaster. All these knowledgeable early church theologians and writers believed that source, and not authority, is the meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:3. More on this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/ And here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

    I have no desire to have authority over a man and I make that quite clear in several articles on this website. Moreover, I have no desire to have authority over any capable adult person, male or female. The authorisation of the Holy Spirit to function as a minister is very different to having authority over another person.

    God requests that all people be humble, not just women. Was Deborah humble? Or Miriam? Or Anna who spoke to all who were waiting for the redemption (or deliverance) of Jerusalem? Or Priscilla who taught Apollos about Christian baptism? Or Phoebe, Nympha, or Lydia? I imagine that they were. Mary is just one example of a woman who God used for his purposes. God used other women in other ways, some as leaders. http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-propriety-of-women-with-authority/ God has not called me to be the mother of the Messiah.

    1 Timothy 2:12 does not represent the whole counsel of God in his word on what women can or cannot do. Having said that, I think it is wrong for any person, man or woman to usurp authority. I have written more about 1 Tim 2:12 here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/questions-about-how-to-implement-1-timothy-212/ And here: http://newlife.id.au/tag/1-timothy-212-in-context/

    Furthermore, the belief in equality for men and women in marriage and in ministry has nothing to do with women putting themselves on pedestals. Do men put themselves on a pedestal when they are called to minister? I sure hope not. Neither men nor women should think more highly of themselves than they ought. Many of my brothers are keen to see their sisters regarded and treated as equals. You will notice that every person I have quoted in the article is a man.

    Also, both men and women were originally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28) and all of us who are contemplating the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18). Woman may be the glory of man, but we also bear God’s image and glory just like our brothers.

    You have misjudged my motives and my heart, and a few lines of your comment seem rude. I presume that you are a Christian, as such I would appreciate it if you speak to me with civility, respect, and perhaps even with love.

  14. Kristen says:

    It seems clear to me that a man who comes onto someone else’s blog to scold and accuse her, is the one thinking more highly of himself than he ought.

  15. Anna says:

    One more thought,

    Jesus is not only an awesome Savior, but also an awesome Gentleman! The apostles faced a lot of violence and were ultimately martyred (quite horribly, in fact.)

    He never would have subjected women to that type of violence. These men were imprisoned, beaten, crucified, etc. A woman apostle would have also been raped……

    • Marg says:

      All of Jesus disciples, both men and women, faced equal peril until the Edict of Milan was enacted in 313 which granted religious freedom to Christians. Before this time, many men and women were martyred for their faith.

      The New Testament mentions dangers and persecutions for men and women alike.

      ~ When Paul (or Saul as he was then known) was persecuting Christians he looked for both men and women (Acts 9:1-2).
      ~ Later, Priscilla and Aquila put their lives in danger for Paul’s sake (Romans 16:3-4).
      ~ Andronicus and Junia (a woman) were apostles who spent time in prison with Paul, presumably for their faith (Romans 16:7). Prisons were horrible, miserable places in ancient times, and prisoners were routinely beaten before they were put in jail.
      ~ The Christians in Asia Minor, both men and women, were being poorly treated by their pagan neighbours so Peter wrote to encourage them. Peter tells them, in his letter, not to be surprised by their ordeal. I have written about this here.

      Documents from the early church period also record that many women, as well as men, were persecuted, tortured and murdered.

      Pliny, the governor of Pontus and Bithynia in Asia Minor tells how he tortured two slave women who were known as Christian ministers.
      Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96-97. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html
      I write about Pliny and the two women he tortured here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/was-phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-in-cenchrea-part-1/

      And, yes, there are reports of women disciples being raped as part of their torture.

      You might be interested in this article about female martyrs: http://newlife.id.au/church-history/female-martyrs-early-church/

      These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There is absolutely no indication in Scripture or in history that women are exempt from persecution or even execution because of their Christian faith.

      In some parts of the world, men and women continue to be persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, raped, and murdered for their Christian faith. I know of a couple of Christian women, Asia Bibi and Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag who are currently in prison in Pakistan and the Sudan and have been sentenced to death.

      Jesus continues to call both men and women to be his disciples, and he does not promise an easy road. Rather he warns of hardships and persecution. Discipleship can be costly.

      • anna says:

        Thanks. I agree with you. But I don’t believe Jesus would have directly placed a woman in danger by choosing her to be an apostle. He wouldn’t be acting as a true “head”. At the same time, he didn’t stop them from freely choosing to be disciples and spreading the word and placing themselves in danger. I certainly could be wrong, but I just don’t see Him doing that. He would have wanted to protect women.

        • Marg says:

          Hi Anna,

          I don’t think that Jesus directly placed a man in danger either.

          Many women were at the same places, at the same times, as the male disciples. Many women were at the cross, for instance. And while the men were hiding after the crucifixion, the women ventured out to see where Jesus’ body was laid, and to visit the tomb early on Sunday morning.

          The idea of chivalry, that men especially protect women in a gallant way, is absent in the biblical text, and mostly absent in Greco-Roman writing. The idea that Jesus was a “gentlemen” doesn’t resonate with me. It also doesn’t fit with his time and culture or the actual events in his life and ministry. But that’s not to say that Jesus was “ungentlemanly”.

          The Old and New Testaments (and the writings between the Testaments) show that many women were brave and endangered their lives to rescue others, and, in the intertestamental writings, by not renouncing practices of Judaism.

          Jesus doesn’t have one set of commands and principles for male disciples and another set of commands and principles for female disciples. Plenty of female apostles and disciples have been persecuted and killed for their faith.

          • Anna says:


            Thanks for the interesting exchange. I think we need to agree to disagree on this one. And that’s OK!!

            Women are definitely brave.
            But Jesus had to select people he new were going to suffer horribly for the faith. Women are the weaker vessel, physically only, and specifially placing women in any dangerous situation is not honoring to women. The Bible does treat men and women differently.
            Women are never asked to die for men. Husbands are required to die for wives and honor us because we are weaker physically and less aggressive. This does seem a little chivalrous to me. Jesus saved Mary M from being stoned, she nutured him at the cross. Men should empower women, nuture them, die for them, etc.
            In return, women should “hupotasso”to men. I believe this means we are to support, yield in love, cooperate, help, and be loyal to which forms a mutual submission type of dynamic in the marriage.

            So many Bible verses/teachings are unclear. This is my biggest frustration. I feel there are a lot of passages where we just don’t have the entire context of what is going on. The 1 Corinthians verses about veiling women are the worst for me. If you take them at face value, they are completely illogical. And if we have to do “Gymnastics” to make sense of them, then, what’s the point?

            So, it’s always great to hear what others think.

            I am on this journey sincerely trying to figure out what God really thinks. But it is difficult.

            Thanks again!!

  16. Don says:

    One way to understand ezer is as a strong rescuer.

  17. Marg says:

    Hi Anna, I am happy to agree to disagree. 🙂

    I am on a journey too, and I am still looking for answers and trying to listen for what God really thinks about certain issues and situations.

    Just one minor point, Jesus did not save Mary Magdalene from being stoned. Jesus told the unnamed woman caught in adultery ““Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” Mary Magdalene, on the other hand accompanied Jesus throughout Galilee and all the way to Jerusalem for his crucifixion.

    More on Mary Magdalene here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/mary-the-magdalene/

  18. Lindiswa says:

    Shaloom Marg Im so pleased to find a person like you who is so matured in the word of God,I don’t know maybe is it possible to communicate with you.I just need someone like you.

  19. Emanuel Busby says:

    They not apostles, they were around the apostles, well known of them, a women can’t be an apostle

    • Marg says:

      Hello Emanuel,

      Where in the Bible does it say that women can’t be apostles?

      None of the New Testament verses which mention the ministry of being apostle imply that this ministry is restricted to men (e.g. Ephesian 4:11).

      Can women be missionaries? The word “missionary”, derived from Latin, and the word “apostle”, derived from Greek, mean exactly the same thing: “a person sent on a mission.”

  20. Donald Johnson says:

    The 12 apostles of Jesus were all 1st century Jewish men, so another possible reason such were chosen is that they already knew Tanakh, the Scripture of the time, what we call the OT. Jewish women, on the other hand, were only taught the parts of Scripture that applied to them. That is, Jesus’s mission was about 3.5 years, so selecting people that were already qualified in some ways to be teachers of others makes sense, as the women would first need to learn more than men to get up to the same level of education. After all, one needs to learn before they can teach. Once they were at the same level of knowledge, then the previous limitations would not necessarily apply (and I think they do not).

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