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There is only one verse in the entire Bible which appears to prohibit a woman from teaching a man and exercising some kind of authority or control over him.

One verse.

On the other hand there are many Bible verses which show that godly women did teach men and exercise authority. In this post I briefly mention 15 such women. These women are 15 reasons why I support women in church leadership.[1]

(1) Deborah

Deborah was an excellent and versatile leader. She was a matriarch, a prophetess, a judge, and a military leader (Judges 4-5). Deborah’s prophetic insight was accurate and she showed decisive leadership in military matters. Her words have been preserved in Scripture and thus have the authority of Scripture. More about Deborah here and here.

(2) Sheerah

Sheerah built, or founded, three towns (1 Chron. 7:24). This meant that she was a wealthy, powerful and influential woman who must have exercised leadership and authority. One of the towns she built even bears her name: Uzzen Sheerah. More about Sheerah and two other lesser known Bible women here.

(3) Huldah

When Josiah, King of Judah, wanted to learn more about how to worship God, he sent a delegation to a woman – to the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:8-20; 23:1-25; 2 Chron. 34:19-33).  “Not only did she deliver an authoritative message to King Josiah concerning all Judah, but she also validated the authority of the newly rediscovered “Book of the Law of the LORD”.” John Dickson, Hearing Her Voice, 2012-12-25, Kindle Edition (Kindle Locations 145-149)

(4) The Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah

Wise women were living repositories of oral lore and tradition. The Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah was clearly a person of influence. Through her wise use of authority and peaceful persuasion she rescued her town from being destroyed by the commander of King David’s army. (See 2 Samuel 20:14ff esp v22).

(5) King Lemuel’s Mother

King Lemuel’s mother taught her son, a grown man and a king. Her words were considered inspired and are preserved in Scripture. Her wise words continue to teach grown men and kings (Prov. 31:1ff).  More about this woman here.

(6) Anna

Anna’s life was devoted to God. She spent all her time in the Temple at Jerusalem, praying and fasting. And she spoke to all, presumably men and well as women, who were interested in the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).  More about Anna, and other Bible women who taught, here.

(7) Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was a close disciples of Jesus. She was the first person to see Jesus alive, and she was the first person entrusted with the amazing message of the resurrection. Jesus himself charged Mary to tell the male disciples that he was alive (John 20:17-18). More about Mary Magdalene here.

(8) Lydia

Lydia is the only Philippian Christian named in Acts 16 and she seems to have been especially involved in the birthing of the Philippian church. Lydia was most likely one of the leaders of the fledgling church, and she must have been one of the people who preserved Paul’s apostolic teaching in the critical early days once Paul and Silas had moved on (Acts 16:13-15, 40).  More about Lydia here, here, and here.

(9-10) Euodia and Syntyche

These two women were ministers in the Church at Philippi (Phil. 4:2-3). Paul speaks well of them and describes their ministry by using some of the same terms he had previously applied to Timothy and Epaphroditus in the same letter. More about Euodia and Syntyche here and here.   

(11) Priscilla

Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, led a church that met in their home in various cities: Ephesus, Rome, and Corinth (1 Cor. 16:19 cf. Acts 18:1-3, 18-19; Rom. 16:3-4; 2 Tim. 4:19a). On one occasion Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, an educated, up and coming preacher; they taught him about the doctrine of Christian baptism (Acts 18:24-26). More about Priscilla here.

(12) Phoebe 

Phoebe is described by Paul as a sister, a minister or deacon, and a patron or leader. Phoebe was probably the person entrusted with taking Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom. 16:1-2). Paul obviously held Phoebe, and many other women ministers, in high regard. More about Phoebe here, and other New Testament women, here.

(13) Junia

Junia and her partner Andronicus were active in ministry. In Romans 16:7, Paul states a few of their credentials: They were fellow Jews, they had suffered for their faith and been in prison with Paul, they had been Christians longer than him, and they were outstanding among the apostles. More about Junia here.

(14) Nympha

Nympha hosted a church in Laodicea that met in her home (Col. 4:15 NIV). No one else in her church are sent greetings in the closing verses of Colossians. This indicates that she was the church’s leader as well as its host. More on Nympha, and the mistranslation of her name (and Junia’s name), here.

(15) The Chosen Lady

This woman was a Christian leader of a house church. John wrote a letter to her which is included in the canon of the New Testament (2 John 1ff).  More about this real woman here.

Other New Testament women who could be included in this list are Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Jerusalem, Martha and Mary of Bethany, Philip’s daughters, Chloe of Corinth, Claudia of Rome, Apphia, Persis, Mary of Rome, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Julia, etc.

These women show us that any verses which might be interpreted as restricting women from some ministries do not represent the whole counsel of scripture on the issue of women in ministry and leadership. Women leaders and ministers were not regarded as aberrations in Bible times and they should not be regarded as aberrations now.


Endnotes

[1] This post is based on, and adapted from, an idea of Rachel Held Evans.

Image: “Fractio Panis” (Breaking Bread), a second or third century fresco in the Greek Chapel of the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome. The fresco depicts seven people at a table sharing the Eucharist. Dorothy Irvin suggests that all the figures are women. Dorothy Irvin, “The Ministry of Women in the Early Church: The Archaeological Evidence,” Duke Divinity School Review 45.2. (1980), 76-86.


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