Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

biblical gender roles for women, duties of wives, Bible women

This article is available in Dutch here.

Some Christians have a narrow view of what godly women can be and can do. They believe their view is based on what the Bible shows us about women. They have even named their view “Biblical Womanhood.” These Christians seem to think that godly women are limited to being wives and mothers and homemakers. Or, at the very least, they think that these are the primary and most important roles for women. Is this what the Bible really shows us?

The following list is of roles and activities of Bible women, roles other than that of wife and mother. I am not making any recommendations or judgements one way or the other about these roles and activities. All I hope to show is that they are “biblical” and that many Bible women were not as restricted or as passive as we are sometimes led to believe. It is important to note that all these women are spoken about positively in the Bible, no matter what we might think of them or their actions.

(1) Disobey those in authority and jeopardise your own safety by rescuing young children from danger: Shiphrah and Puah (Exod. 1:15-22), Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter (Exod. 2:5-10), Mephibosheth’s nurse (2 Sam. 4:4), Jehosheba who rescued her nephew Joash (2 Kings 11:1-3). (More on the six women who protected Moses here.)

(2) Stay single and help your brothers lead Israel: Miriam (Micah 6:4). (More on Miriam here.)

(3) Perform sacred duties for the Israelites in a sacred space: The women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting (Exod. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22). (More on these women here.)

(4) Think and act quickly to save your husband from imminent death: Zipporah (Exod. 4:24-26), Michal (1 Sam. 19:11-17), and Abigail (1 Sam. 25:1ff).  (More about Abigail here.)

(5) Dress like a prostitute and have sex with your father-in-law so that you can have legitimate children . . . and be praised for it: Tamar, an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Gen. ch. 38, esp. Gen. 38:26; Ruth 4:12; Matt. 1:3). (More about Tamar here.)

(6) Commit treason against your own people in order to help Israel, and cut a shrewd deal to rescue your family: Rahab (Josh. 2:1ff; 6:22-25). (More about Rahab here.)

(7) Petition for your legal rights of inheritance, and have your story told on three separate occasions in the Old Testament: Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milka and Noah, AKA Zelophehad’s daughters (Num. chs. 26-27; Num. ch. 36; Josh. 17:3; cf. 1 Chron. 7:15). (Bronwen Speedie’s article on these women is here.)

(8) Do a great job in leading and judging Israel and speaking for God, which includes giving orders to Barak, the general of the army: Deborah (Judg. chapters 4-5). (More about Deborah here.)

(9) Kill the generals of enemy armies by driving a tent peg through their skull or by decapitating them: Jael (Judg. 4:17-22; 5:24-27) and Judith (Judith 13:6-10). (More about Jael here; more about Judith here.)

(10) Mortally wound the leader of an army that is attacking your city by being a crack shot with a millstone: A woman of Thebez (Judg. 9:53; 2 Sam. 11:21).

(11) Be more spiritually astute than your husband: Samson’s mother (Judg. 13:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:28ff), possibly Jael (Judg. 4:17-24), the woman of Shunem (2 Kings 4:8-37), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff; cf. Luke 1:18ff). Abigail and Jael went against what their husbands wanted and are praised in the Bible for their heroic actions. (More about Samson’s mother here; more on Abigail here; more on Jael here; and Elizabeth here.)

(12) Be a spokesperson and successfully negotiate with a military general for the deliverance of your town, as well as being a living repository of oral lore: The wise woman of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Sam. 20:14-24).

(13) Make the first move in securing a husband for yourself by going to him at night and uncovering his “feet”: Ruth (Ruth 3:7). (Link to an external article on Ruth.)

(14) Be a prophet and a royal adviser: Huldah (2 Chron. 34:19-33; 2 Kings 22:8-20; 23:1-25). Several female prophets are mentioned in Bible: Miriam (Exod. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36-38), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9). (More about Huldah here; more on female prophets here; more about Philip’s daughters here.)

(15) Build towns: Sheerah (1 Chron. 7:24). Help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem: The daughters of Shallum (Neh. 3:12). (More about Sheerah here.)

(16) Be a regnant queen: The Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1ff) and Candace (Acts 8:27). (More queens mentioned in the Bible, here; more about the queen of Sheba here; more about Candace here.)

(17) Become the queen of one of the most powerful men in the world, then risk your life by devising and implementing a successful scheme to rescue the Jews, and then authorise a new religious holiday: Queen Esther (Esther 9:29-31, etc). (More about Esther here.)

(18) Give away your and your son’s last meagre meal to a prophet, even though there’s a severe famine, because that’s what God has personally directed you to do: The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24; cf. Luke 4:35-36)

(19) Give your mistress vital information that will result in her husband, yet another army general, being healed of leprosy: The young slave girl taken captive from Israel (2 Kings 5:2ff).

(20) Be involved in agriculture or industry: Achsah and various other women (Gen. 29:9; Exod. 2:16; Josh. 15:17-19; Ruth 2:8; Acts 16:14; 18:3). (More about working women in the Bible here.)

(21) Lead public, formal displays of celebration or mourning: Miriam (Exod. 15:19-21), Jephthah’s daughter (Judg. 11:34), the wailing women in Jeremiah (Jer. 9:17-20), among others. (More about celebrating and wailing women here.)

(22) Say prophetic prayers and praises that have the authority of holy scripture: Miriam (Exod. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judg. 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Mary (Luke 1:46ff), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff).

(23) Be devoted to praying for the kingdom of God: Anna (Luke 2:37-38), and the women in the upper room (Acts 1:14).

(24) Teach theology and inspired messages: King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1ff), Anna (Luke 2:37-38), Priscilla (Acts 18:26), Lois and Eunice. (More about Bible women who taught here.)

(25) Forget about cooking and serving (the less necessary things) and sit at Jesus’ feet with the other disciples learning about the Kingdom of God (the better, more necessary thing): Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42; see also John 12:3). (More about Mary of Bethany here.)

(26) Have theological discussions with Jesus about worship and the resurrection, etc: The Samaritan woman, the first indigenous Samaritan evangelist (John 4:19-25, 39), and Martha (John 11:20-27). (More on the Samaritan woman here; more on Martha here.)

(27) Travel with Jesus and support his ministry from your own resources: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, etc, (Luke 8:1-3: cf. Matt. 27:55-56). (More on the many Galilean women who travelled with Jesus here; more on Mary Magdalene here; more on Joanna here)

(28) Be an eyewitness of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and tell others about it: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and other Marys, etc. (More on this here and here.)

(29) Be a co-worker of Paul and labourer in the gospel: Euodia, Syntyche, Junia, Phoebe, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, etc. (More on the women associated with Paul here and here.)

(30) Host and lead a house church: Lydia (Acts 16:40), Nympha (Col 4:15), Priscilla with Aquila (1 Cor. 16:19), and the Chosen Lady (2 John 1:1, 5). (More about these women here.)

Our culture and customs in western society today are vastly different from the culture and customs of the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman world of Old and New Testament times. Differences in culture are factors that must be considered when trying to extract biblical principles from the text for application today. Not everything that was done in the Bible has a universal, timeless, or useful application.

What is a timeless principle is that both men and women should be taking their lead from Jesus. We should be emulating his character, and displaying and using the fruit and gifts of his Holy Spirit, in order to actively bless our families, and the church, and further God’s kingdom. Moreover, we should be doing this in a broad variety of ways. We should be careful that we don’t limit and stifle people or promote passivity.

Nevertheless, I am not a biblical woman. I am a follower and servant of Jesus Christ, and I am being conformed more and more into his image. Bible women are not my primary role models—Jesus is.

What are some other roles and activities of biblical women that can be added to this list?

© 7th of September 2013, Margaret Mowczko

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67 thoughts on “25+ Biblical Roles for Biblical Women

  1. Have your story of one daring and costly act for Jesus be told forever every time the gospel is preached. (Matthew 26:6-13)

    1. and Judas Iscariot (the CFO, who betrayed Jesus Messiah for profit) complained about her “wasting” money versus “giving it to the poor”!

      1. I believe that Jesus loves men and women equally because he died for our sins….

        1. Absolutely, Dania. 😀

          You’d think this simple and profound truth would be enough to convince people to treat men and women with equity, but sadly this is untrue. Many Christians pigeon-hole people and tell them what ministries they can and can’t be involved in, simply on the basis of their sex. I recently received an email where the person said women can’t be involved in any ministry. I have no idea how anyone who reads the Bible can hold such a view.

          1. God, to some degree, pigeon-holed men and women at the creation. Eve could do something, that Adam could not do. Likewise Adam could do something that Eve could not do. That did not make one any better than the other. They were valuable in their own roles. Later, God told Adam to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife. That order was not given to Eve. Adam was to care for his wife. That gave her a special place that only a loving sacrificial attitude could fulfill. Different roles do not subjugate, They are needed. One scripture in the New Testament goes back to creation to show that God intended men and women to remain in the “pigeon-hole” He placed them in.
            ” 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 Tim. 2:13-15). This pronounces a difference that continued from the creation and fall to the time of the inspired writing to Timothy. Another important treatise on Godly pronouncements concerning men and women is in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 5. This is about their relationship to each other other. They have their own special responsibilities, and those responsibilities are not only to each other, but to God, their creator who purposed them to be so.

          2. Hi Jo,

            What could Adam do that Eve couldn’t do at creation? What could Eve do that Adam couldn’t do at creation? What does Genesis 2 actually say about this? In Genesis 1:26-28 men and women are given the same status, the same authority and the same purpose at creation. More about gender in Genesis here.

            Genesis 2:24 is a comment in response to Adam’s (the man’s) statement in verse 23 about the similarity of man and woman. But verse 24 does not specifically refer to Adam as he had no parents to leave. And there’s no reason to think that God doesn’t want women to leave their parents and cleave to their husbands just because the narrator only mentions man leaving and cleaving.

            1 Timothy 2:13-14 are correct summary statements of Genesis 2 and Genesis 3, but these verses don’t say that men and women, in general, are pigeon-holed. In fact, verses 13-14 say nothing whatsoever about the responsibilities or roles of men and women. And they say nothing about ministry. Rather these verses correct a faulty doctrine being taught in the Ephesian church. More about 1 Timothy 2:13f here..

            An article that looks specifically at the context of “she will be saved through childbearing if they continue . . .” is here.

            An article looking at Paul’s teaching on the relationship of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 (a relationship of love, yielding and unity) is here.

            Not all men are the same, and not all women are the same. We all have different roles and responsibilities, and these change as we go through life and handle different situations. But we all are to use the talents and abilities God has given to us, and we all are to humbly love and serve one another.

            Where we seem to agree is that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, mutual submission, but not subjugation or subjection, is the preferred dynamic in the community of God’s people and in marriage.

        2. How exciting to read this incredible article! I am reading through the Bible and have noted each of these women as I’m reading! I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to read more about them! Thank you! I sent you a question on FB Messenger. I hope you received it! THANK YOU for your great work!

    2. Yes, this a crucial addition. I’m surprised she didn’t actually revise the article to add it. Anointing the King and High Priest, done by a woman.

  2. Proverbs 31 woman was a successful business woman.

    1. She was also a retailer! She considered a piece of land and bought it. 🙂

    2. Yes! I was going to add that, but you beat me to it.

  3. Dorcas made clothes for the poor.

  4. Thanks Harriet and Brittany.

  5. This is wonderful! 🙂 Whenever people try to press “traditional biblical women’s roles” on me, I always bring up women like Deborah, Jael, Abigail, and Rahab. Thank you for compiling this list!

  6. Yes, the proponents of “Biblical Womanhood” seem to focus on a few “wifely submission” verses and they downplay the significance, or avoid altogether, the many verses about real-life biblical women.

  7. I love the last one you added! #26 all the way!

  8. How about urging your upright, suffering husband to curse God and die – Job 2:9?

    1. Job’s wife, unlike Job’s friends, acknowledges that he is innocent and not deserving of his troubles. Her remark causes him to think through his theology and it marks a shift in the story.

      After her remark and his response, Job is silent for seven days. Was he thinking about his wife’s words in his deep distress? His theology of suffering seems to develop and “when he finally speaks in Chapter 3, his words sound distinctly like those of his wife.”
      Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, The Women’s Bible Commentary: Expanded Edition with Apocrypha (Westminster: John Knox, 1998), 141.

      In chapter 3, Job does not curse God, but he does curse the day he was born and lament his birth. Elsewhere, he wishes God would take his life. At times Job expresses anger against God.

      Here’s an excellent article about Job’s wife:
      https://thestonescall.com/2018/09/29/re-visioning-the-narrative-letting-her-story-be-told/

      Here are two excerpts:

      “Traditionally her one statement has been negatively interpreted, where scholars have suggested that she shows no empathy to Job’s plight, but rather is encouraging him to curse God and ultimately invite his own death. But when we take a closer look Job’s wife and carefully examine what Scripture does reveal about her, there is the potential to derive a different interpretation of her, her story, her contributions to her Job’s theological transformation, and to the narrative as a whole.”

      “For although her presence is only inferred in the prologue we can safely assume she suffered every loss that Job had suffered – the sudden loss of their 10 children, their estate, livelihood, and reputation in the community. And in addition, she had to watch her husband suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually. She witnessed his sudden, dramatic fall from being an esteemed elder sitting at the gates to the city, ruling and ensuring justice, to where he was broken on the dung heap, now rejected, minimized and isolated by their community.”

      We can also assume that Job’s did not leave Job despite the extreme losses and difficulties and the diseases of her husband (cf. Job 19:17).

      “Job had but one wife, and very probably she is the same that after all this bore him ten children more; since we never read of her death, nor of his having any other wife, and [she] might be a good woman for anything that appears to the contrary; and Job himself seems to intimate the same, though she was in the dark about this providence, and under a sore temptation on that account; and therefore says to her husband: dost thou still retain thine integrity?” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

      Furthermore, the Hebrew word in her statement usually translated as “curse” usually means “bless.”
      The Hebrew word is barak.
      See here: https://biblehub.com/text/job/2-9.htm
      This word occurs 330 times in the Hebrew Bible.
      See here: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_1288.htm
      However, it occasionally is used with the meaning “curse” especially in parting greetings (1 Kings 21:10,13; Job 1:5,11; Job 2:5,9; Psalm 10:3). Job’s wife seems to be suggesting a parting greeting.

      However, she may also be saying “bless” ironically. Her statement is important for the development of the story and understanding Job’s thoughts.

  9. Marg…love your comments.

  10. great list. A long time ago I did a search on how many women were praised for being wives and bearing children, in the OT and the NT. I was surprised at the difference between the OT and the NT. After Jesus was born there was little to no emphasis on women striving to bear children, or praised for bearing children. Occasionally in the OT, but most of the time in the NT, we don’t even know if the women mentioned were married or had children. Go figure!!! 🙂

  11. Kate: How could I have left her out? I love Martha and Mary and see a little bit of myself in both of them . . . a tiny bit.

    Nadine: Thanks. 🙂

    TL: For sure. Having children and raising “godly seed” (Mal. 2:15 (NRSV)) seems to have been very important before Jesus – the ultimate “seed” – was born. In the New Testament, ministry seems more important than motherhood.

    1. Hello! I know I’m like 5 years late to this discussion, but I wanted to add this anyway
      Thanks for this list, it’s great!
      Before I start I want to say that I’m a working wife and mom. I am blessed to bring my kids to work with me. More importantly than anything else I consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As such I truly believe that people are watching and our behavior as women who profess the gospel can do a good deal of help or harm, depending on how we’re conducting ourselves.

      I want to respectfully point this verse out,
      “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬
      I believe having a full view of all Scripture is so important as we shape our ideas on what’s Biblical, godly, and Christ like. Reading 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 1 Peter 3 starting in verse 1 is a good idea. I’m not advocating women being abused or second rate, but I do think God created us differently and we do have different roles to play in the world and in our families. I think Paul’s letters addressing the subject are vitally important in our world today with feminist movements and gender questioning. There is no doubt as Christ like women we should maintain a different view than the world in many areas, this one included. I hope these Scriptures bless you!

      Sincerely,
      Meghann

      1. Hi Meghann,

        I’m glad you read 1 Timothy 2:12 within the context of verses 9-15. It’s crucial to read verses in their immediate context. It’s also crucial to read any verse or passage within the context of its entire book, or letter, and recognise the themes, issues, and concerns of the author.

        I think it’s very important to understand Paul’s reason for writing to Timothy. It’s also important to acknowledge the switch from plural “men” and “women” in 1 Timothy 2:8-10, and the singular “man” and “woman” in verses 11-15.

        I’ve written several articles about 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here: https://margmowczko.com/category/equality-and-gender-issues/1-timothy-212/

        You may be interested in my article on 1 Timothy 2:15 here: https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

        I’ve also written on 1 Peter 3:1ff here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/1-peter-3/

        I don’t believe there is just one role for women, any more than there is just one role for men. God has blessed us all with various gifts and talents, that we are to use. The Bible shows that women were involved in all kinds of activities without any hint of censure. Having children is just one of many things most, but not all women can do with the life God has given us. Following Jesus and obeying God and his word cannot compromise who we are as women, wherever that path may lead.

        1. Another one to add: Rizpah! One who guarded her sons’ graves, fighting off wild beasts at night for months, pleaded with David for a proper burial, and only after David concedes does rain break the drought.

          1. Yes, thanks for this! Rizpah was a remarkable woman. I started writing an article about her and other women who helped David directly and indirectly, but must have got side-tracked. I’ll look for it and see if it’s worth posting

  12. This is a fantastic list. I’m bookmarking it so I can read those passages and be inspired whenever I don’t feel “biblical” enough. What I loved (and you mentioned this in your comments) is that they all had a profound, positive influence on society and the Church without necessarily fit into our western, Conservative expectations. Thank you for taking the time to put this list together and your encouragement to be followers of Jesus in our womanhood over “biblical”

  13. Thanks, Osheta. It was my pleasure. 🙂

  14. Thank you for this! I needed this reminder today.

  15. Some new suggestions for the list:

    From April via Twitter:
    “For the Samaritan woman I’d also add her role as an evangelist.”
    April’s post on the Samaritan woman is here.

    (I’ve now added that the Samaritan woman was the first indigenous Samaritan evangelist into the original list.)

    From Ann via a personal message:
    “I would add Rebekah to this list as well. Rebekah was willing to ‘take a curse’ for her deception so that she could facilitate God’s purposes in ensuring that Israel (Jacob) received his father’s blessing. I believe the apostle Paul affirms her actions in Romans 9:3-4 as he adopts Rebekah’s words as his own: ‘For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel (namely, Jacob.)’ Just 7 verses later, Paul refers to the twins as ‘Rebekah’s children’. Rebekah, Paul, and Jesus are the only ones in the Bible (that I know of) willing to ‘take the curse’ for Israel.”

    I think this is very interesting and worth thinking about. Anne has written about Rebekah here.

  16. Here’s another biblical woman and her biblical role

    Give away your, and your son’s, last meagre meal to the prophet Elijah – even though there’s a severe famine – because that’s what God has personally directed you to do. Take care of Elijah and have your flour and oil never run out, and then have your only son be brought back to life by the prophet: The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24 cf Luke 4:35-36)

  17. God gave me a brain so it stands to reason He wants me to have it, and He wants me to use it.

  18. I agree, Nicola. 🙂

  19. Jehosheba! She rescued her nephew Joash when her step-mother Althaliah ordered that all the king’s heirs be murdered. She smuggled him out of the palace and hid him in the Temple of the Lord for six years when Althalia ruled the land. In doing this, she saved the royal line of the Messiah! (2 Kings 11) Women of valor!

  20. Thanks for this, Bethany. She is definitely a woman of valour!

    2 Kings 11:1-3; 12:1 NIV: When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land. . . . In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba.

  21. This is such a wonderfully eye-opening list. It’s incredible how most of the women that are mentioned by name in the Bible are so cool. 😉 I do have a question though. What led you to include Judith in the list when her book is not in the Bible? I would like to know your thoughts on this.

  22. Hi Adrienne, Judith is not mentioned in any of the modern Protestant Bibles, but the book that bears her name is in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament.)

    Greek Orthodox Christians regard the Septuagint as inspired, and the first English translations of the Bible, including the first few editions of the King James Bible, contained the apocryphal books of the Septuagint. Moreover, the Septuagint was the Old Testament that Paul and other New Testament people were familiar with.

    I personally do not consider that the Septuagint, or the book of Judith, are especially inspired, but they still have some value for modern Christians. They have a place in our history.

  23. Thank you for your article Marg and the great conversations! I’m preparing to begin facilitating Bibliodramas, these authentic roles of women in the Bible are spurring me on!

  24. Thankyou for your articles Marg – thoroughly blessed by them. A small point re Priscilla in (21) – the reference should read Acts not Luke. Also, surely ‘the Shunammite’ (cf. 2 Kings 4:8-37,8:1-6,Heb 11:35) deserves a guersney in your list?

    1. I agree about the “prominent woman” in Shunem, as she’s described in 2 Kings 4:8. She was the protagonist while her husband seems passive in the passages you cite.

      Thanks for spotting the typo. I’ve corrected it now.

  25. Thank you for blessing us all with this article, as it has helped me in working through what my role is as a godly woman. May God bless you as a result.

  26. You mentioned Priscilla as hosting a home church, but I would add “instruct a man in theology, including correcting his misuderstandings” to her job description. Also, she was a missionary with Paul and her husband. The fact her name is listed first defied first century convention and indicates that she played a key role.
    She was also a businesswoman, as she and her husband ran a tentmaking business together.
    Acts 18, esp. verse 26: “He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
    Love this list!

    1. Hi Keri,

      Thanks for your comment. There were many women in this list of 25 biblical roles, and I only write a few words about them to keep the post short. I’ve written about Priscilla elsewhere on this site, including this article: Did Priscilla teach Apollos?

  27. I am a woman who needs to be with other women of God.

  28. lovely comments. pls am doing a research on Career Women but I need biblical roles of women as a model for them.
    The idea is DAT a woman is both a home maker and an Influence to her society career wise.

    1. Hi Obara, My article on “Working Women in the New Testament” may be useful to you. Here is the link: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/new-testament-working-women/

      I have another article called “Beauty, Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry” which may be useful also: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/beauty-marriage-motherhood-and-ministry/

  29. Thank you for the article well done. A little deeper insight on the Jesus, Mary and Martha narrative. Many scholars recognize Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus with the other students or disciples was a dramatic paradigm shift. Martha then is probably surprised and not a little embarrassed and appeals to Jesus to have Mary put in her culturally confined space, the kitchen. Jesus response is critical, it’s an emancipation for all made in the Imago Dei men and women.

    “Martha you are worried, anxious about so many things but Mary has chosen what is best and it won’t be taken from her.”

    Archimedes quoted by Pappus of Alexandria in Synogogue vIII said “Give me somewhere to stand, and I shall shake the world”

    The Church needs to repent and submit to women their God-designed place to stand and they’ll shake the world.

    1. I also think Martha was embarrassed by her sister’s behaviour, and also a little put out that she has to do all the serving herself.

      I like what Forbes and Harrower say in their book Raised from Obscurity about this incident in Luke 10:38-42: “The first priority for a female disciple is to listen to the teaching of Jesus. For Jesus, women in God’s kingdom are no longer solely defined by socially regulated roles.”

  30. Great list. Thank you for your work. I look forward to sharing much of this with my daughters.

  31. Liam (12 years old) shares: Here is another one! DON”T LEAVE in times of hardship but demonstrate courage and loyalty (John 19-25).

    AND

    Brooke (10 years old) shares: BE AN APOSTLE! Mary Magdalene did not leave Jesus and when he was resurrected Jesus told her to GO AND TELL! (John 20:11-18).

    1. Love these examples, Brooke and Liam! 😀

  32. Seeing all of these various, wonderful biblical roles of women other than marriage and motherhood is nothing less than life affirming for me. I pray that these other roles will be taught and valued more by the church so that woman can purposefully decide whether motherhood and marriage are the right, and not the only or preferred, biblical roles for them to fulfill. As a woman without children, I’ve always felt like I had to make it seem like it was an accident that I never had kids instead of a deliberate decision. Based on this article, I can start becoming stronger in the other biblical roles for women instead of wasting my ‘Christian energy’ subconsciously regretting not fulfilling the role of mother and wife. Thank you Marg!

    1. There are lots of inspiring women in the Bible who God used in a variety of ways!

      Have you read my article Beauty, Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry? It’s about the way women are valued differently in the New Testament, compared with the Old Testament. It seems to me that too many churches have an Old Testament view of women rather than a New Covenant view of women.

  33. I feel like Elizabeth should be in #10 as well. Her husband challenged the angel’s news, but she knew what her baby leaping in the womb meant.

    1. Ooh! That’s great. I’ll add it now.

  34. There is current research that points to Pricilla as the writer of Hebrews. Also supported by a professor at Wheaton. How great is that!

    1. Yes, Adolf von Harnack and Ruth Hoppin (and others) each suggest that Priscilla may have been the author of the book of Hebrews. An interesting article about this subject is here.

  35. Just thought I should mention in the comments that proverbs 31 is a PROPHECY and metaphor, it’s really talking about what the true Israel (the lost tribes) should be doing and that ultimately it should be to serve her husband – GOD.

    I wanted to add that because I know that there is a common misconception about that particular chapter (many people I know – including myself – have been taught that proverbs 31 is teaching how to be a wife of God, however this is wrong and means it then holds women up to very high standards – she is up all night, she has servants, she travels far to help people – this is not a realistic or biblical view on how women as wives should act or behave).

    I’m saying this in effort to help people (especially women) who may be wrestling with this, not to criticise is any way.

    1. Hi Ella,

      Many believe Proverbs 31:10ff is the advice of a mother telling her son, possibly king Lemuel, what to look for in a wife.

      The Proverbs 31 woman is neither a real, or realistic, figure. Here we are in agreement.

  36. I am so thankful to find this thread and plan to really sit down and look at this. My heart is burdened today because I reached out to my almost 21 year old daughter about a photo she posted on social media. I in no way judged her or ridiculed her, I wanted her to consider the appropriateness of it being viewed by the world where was what she wanted to project. I was met with an assault on how marginalized she felt, and she is from a generation who own their own bodies. She could do with it whatever she chose. I am divorced from her father and we are east and west…she has gravitated that direction for the freedom she has found to live void of any direction. My heart is so heavy for this generation. The devil comes to seek I’ll and destroy and he does this thru deceiving.

    I am ex fully combat soldier, a pilot, and empowered woman but I firmly believe you can own this without sacrificing your class, dignity, or Christian walk. I found you thru searching for answers. The verses I’ve read in the OT don’t even make sense to me that this is how God made us to live. Who would come to this faith with that? I wouldn’t. I’m searching for answers about why God would make us to be so inferior and downtrodden…unempowered and basically worthless. I find that hard to believe so I am thankful to find this thread and information on how we are supposed to live in we love and follow Christ. How do we resolve the OT verses with the NT examples?

    1. Hi Paige,

      God has not created women as inferior. He does not want us to be downtrodden. Disempowering people is the devil’s work, not God’s. As you say, it is the devil who destroys.

      I recently posted an article about “gender roles” in the Old Testament (here), and I will post one very soon about what Jesus says about “gender roles” and then one on what Paul says about “gender roles”. These posts will hopefully explain why there is a difference between the Old and New Testaments regarding women.

      Hope and peace
      Marg

  37. Hi Marg… just a few thoughts to think about… can you consider adding women as intercessors? Anna, the prophetess in the temple who prayed and fasted for years, and also the women in the upper room b4 Pentecost, as there were women there with the disciples… Acts 1:14; the parable of the “persistent widow” as an example for continual prayer in Luke 18:1-8 and I Timothy 5:5

    I’m sure there are other examples… most of the women’s lives you shared indicate a life of prayer, even though prayer might not be specifically mentioned in their stories… several women “cried” out to the Lord in desperation in their situations… Hannah is one well known example, but this is more supplication than intercession… Other women you mentioned responded with prayers of praise that are recorded in scripture like Miriam, Deborah, Mary & Elizabeth…

    other aspects to add:
    the “many” women courageously at the cross
    the women who came back to anoint Jesus’ body (Matt 27:55, 61; Mark 15:40-41,47, 16:1; Luke 23:49,55-56,24:1; John 19:25-27)
    the women were the first to share the message (aka apostles) that Jesus was risen from the dead
    (Matt 28:1-11; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1,10,11-18).
    (Brooke & Liam suggested some of these aspects as well in their comment)

    1. Thanks, Bev. These are very good ideas. Love them!

      I’ve added a line about praying for the kingdom (23). So Anna is now mentioned three times in the list (14, 22 & 23).

      I’ve previously mentioned the many Galilean women (27), but I’ve added line 28 which specifically refers to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

      I’ve tried to keep the statements in 23 and 28 short and in-keeping with the tone of the article, so they’re not exactly what you might have had in mind.

      There are even more women I’d like to add. I love Jamie’s suggestion for Rizpah, for example. But I’m trying to keep the list short and pithy.

  38. I know you mentioned Mary as prophetic, but I’d also add, “Birth the one and only Savior of the world”! 🙂 Also, Lois and Eunice.

    1. Thanks, Christina.

      I had thought about adding Mary as the mother of the Messiah and Saviour of the world, but it’s not a role that others can imitate or aspire to. But I definitely need to add Lois and Eunice to “(24) Teach theology and inspired messages: King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1ff), Anna (Luke 2:37-38), and Priscilla (Acts 18:26).”

      I have this article on Lois and Eunice: Lois and Eunice’s Faith and Family

  39. Thank you Marg, for your careful and articulate work! Wow! My biblical thinking is being challenged. I was directed to your work last night and have been reading through your work today.

    I’ve held a “mildly complementarian” view throughout my life …seeing Eldership as Male only. I’ve worked well with many very talented and capable women in almost every other capacity of church life, including sharing the pulpit.

    Has the church been guilty of an injustice by withholding Eldership from women? In moving to an egalitarian view, would you suggest that confession and repentance is necessary …the church, myself as a pastor, our Board of Elders?

    1. Hi Terry, I think most of us, myself included, have held to patriarchal views simply because that’s what we’ve been taught and that’s what we’ve seen demonstrated. Patriarchy has been the legacy of the church, and for most of us, we simply didn’t know any better. Sadly, in some instances, these views have been laced with malice and genuine misogyny.

      An acknowledgement of our ignorance and the way it has stifled the voices and ministries of women, and of the pain it’s caused, is a great place to start. And repentance may help bring healing to some.

      The real challenge is to actively promote a church culture where women and girls are given encouragement and opportunities to develop and use their abilities in the same measure as men and boys. Actions speak louder than words.

      I wish you well.

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