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There is only one verse in the entire Bible that prohibits a woman from teaching and from exercising some kind of control over a man.

One verse.

On the other hand, there are many Bible verses that show godly women who did teach and who exercised an authority that was beneficial for a particular person, or for a community, or for an entire nation. In this post, I briefly mention 15 such women. These women are 15 reasons why I believe God has no problem whatsoever with gifted and capable women who teach and lead his people. They 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). She must have been a wealthy and influential woman who exercised leadership and authority in achieving this. 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 and obey God, he sent a delegation of some of his most important men to a woman, to the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:8-20; 23:1-25; 2 Chron. 34:19-33). As well as speaking in the name of the LORD, Huldah authenticated the newly rediscovered book of the law as being holy scripture. More on Huldah here.

(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 the spokesperson of her city and a person of influence. Through her wise use of authority and peaceful persuasion, she rescued her city 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 as 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 faithful disciple 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 his brothers 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 his team had moved on (Acts 16:13-15, 40). More about Lydia 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. Chrysostom believed that these women were the leaders of the Philippian church. 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 Ephesus and later in Rome (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 teacher and apostle; they taught him about the doctrine of Christian baptism (Acts 18:24-26). Priscilla’s name is first in a list of 28 Roman Christians. First! More about Priscilla here.

(12) Phoebe 

Phoebe is described by Paul as “our 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.

(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 and here.

(14) Nympha

Nympha hosted a church in Laodicea that met in her home (Col. 4:15 NIV). No other individual in her church is sent greetings in the closing verses of Colossians. This indicates she was the church’s leader as well as its host. More on Nympha here.

(15) The Chosen Lady

This woman was a Christian leader of a house church in Asia Minor. 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, Mary and Martha 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. Women leaders and ministers were not regarded as aberrations in Bible times and they should not be regarded as aberrations now.


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


Fractio Panis (“Breaking Bread”) is a second or third-century fresco in the Greek Chapel of the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome. The fresco depicts seven people, perhaps all women, sharing a funerary banquet, though some have suggested they are sharing the Eucharist (e.g., 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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