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Portrayal of women in the Bible

Introduction: Ephesians 4:11 Ministries

For most of the Church’s history, in most Christian denominations and movements, women have been denied the privilege of serving as leaders. A very small number of New Testament verses are frequently cited as the reasons women cannot be leaders (1 Cor. 14:34–35, 1 Tim. 2:11–12; 1 Tim. 3:2).[1] There are, however, more than a few women mentioned in the New Testament who did function as church leaders. Even though these women are mentioned briefly, they do serve as valid biblical precedents which call into question the widespread and persistent belief that the Bible teaches that church leaders can only be men.

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul lists several kinds of ministers that Jesus Christ has given to the church:

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11–12 (CEB) (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28–31).[2]

In this article, I use Paul’s list as a reference point and show that there was at least one woman in the New Testament who fulfilled one of each of these ministerial leadership roles.

Women as Apostles

Paul begins his list in Ephesians 4:11 with apostles. Apostles were people sent initially by Jesus (Mark 6:7; Gal. 1:1), and later by the church (Acts 13:1–3), to pioneer a new work that facilitated the spread of the gospel. In the New Testament, several people, apart from the Twelve, are mentioned as being apostles.[3] One of these is a woman named Junia.

Junia and Andronicus (who may have been husband and wife) were members of the church in Rome. Perhaps they were founding members of the church there. Paul speaks warmly about them in Romans 16:7, mentioning that they are his relatives or fellow Jews, and that they had become Christians before he did. Andronicus and Junia had suffered persecution because of their faith and at some point had been fellow prisoners with Paul. Paul also states that Andronicus and Junia were “outstanding among the apostles.” This is a wonderful commendation coming from someone who was himself an outstanding apostle.[4]

Unfortunately, Junia’s impact as a precedent for female church leadership has been slight because many people have failed to realise that she was a woman. The feminine name “Junia” was not uncommon in antiquity, whereas the masculine name “Junias” is unheard of.[5] Nevertheless, in the 13th century, Aegidius (Giles) of Rome took her name to be masculine. After him, others also believed Junia to have been a man. This is despite the fact that several early church fathers, such as Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome, referred to her as being both female and an apostle.[6]

Junia was one of the first female apostles, but many more apostolic women, throughout the church’s history, have pioneered new works that have facilitated the spread of the gospel.

I have more about Junia here.

Women as Prophets

Second on Paul’s list of ministers are prophets. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the function of prophecy became more widespread than previously. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from the prophet Joel and said,

And it will be in the last days,” says God, “that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your youth will see visions and your seniors will dream dreams. Even on both my male servants and on my female servants, in those days, I will pour out my Spirit and they will prophesy. Acts 2:17–18.

Prophets were people who spoke for God. Their speech was inspired by the Holy Spirit and it may or may not have included foretelling. In the early church, prophets provided guidance (Acts 13:3–4; 16:6), instruction (1 Cor. 14:31), strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). Paul considered the ability to prophesy as being the most desirable of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), and he regarded the ministry of prophets as important and influential. Paul lists prophesying and prophets before teaching and teachers in the lists of ministry gifts in Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:28–30, and Ephesians 4:11.

In Acts 21:9 we are told that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Some argue that Philip’s daughters are not explicitly called “prophets” or “prophetesses” in the Greek text of Acts 21:9 (cf. Agabus who is clearly called a “prophet” in the next verse, Acts 21:10). However, this does not mean that the women were not recognised as prophets. The participle of “prophesy” is used to describe the women in the Greek text of Acts 21:9. The participle is often used in the New Testament to give a more immediate sense of an action. “Prophesying” is what characterised the ongoing ministry of these women. Thus they were prophets.

Philip’s four daughters are barely mentioned in the New Testament, but they are mentioned several times in other early church writings. The fourth-century church historian Eusebius mentions Philip’s daughters and their fame several times.[7] He regarded their ministry as the benchmark for prophetic ministry in the early church. Quoting Miltiades, Eusebius compared them with other notable male and female prophets: Agabus (Acts 11:27–28; 21:10), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:22, 27, 32), the prophetess Ammia of the church in Philadelphia, and Quadratus of Athens.[8] By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected female prophets in the early church, as was Ammia.

I have more about Philip’s daughters here.
And more about prophetesses in the Bible here.

Women as Evangelists

Third on the Ephesians 4:11 list are the evangelists. Evangelists were men and women who preached the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[9] Euodia and Syntyche of Philippi were coworkers of Paul.[10] Paul wrote that these women “struggled together with me in the gospel (en tō evaggeliō )” (Phil. 4:2-3). This is similar to what Paul says about Timothy in the same letter: “he served with me in the gospel (eis to evaggelion) (Phil. 2:22 cf. 1 Thess. 3:2). Like Timothy, Euodia and Syntyche were involved in gospel work. This may well have involved ministering as evangelists.

I have more about Euodia and Syntyche here.

Another female minister esteemed by Paul was Phoebe. In Romans 16:1–2 Paul described Phoebe as both a diakonos and a prostatis. Kevin Giles writes,

The meaning of the last term has been much debated. In either its masculine or feminine form it means literally ‘one who stands before.’ This meaning is never lost whether it be translated leader, president, protector or patron … Its verbal form is proistanai (cf. Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17), a term used of male church leaders elsewhere in the New Testament.[11]

The term diakonos is one of Paul’s favourite words for a minister. He typically used it to refer to a minister (or, an agent with a sacred commission). However, in this one instance where it is referring to a woman, the King James Version and some other English translations have translated diakonos as “servant.”[12] Phoebe was a minister or deacon, and a leader or patron, in the church at Cenchreae. Sadly, this fact is rarely acknowledged in most older English translations of Romans 16:1–2.

In several surviving early church documents, we read that one role of some deacons in apostolic and post-apostolic churches was to make journeys where they acted as agents, envoys, and letter carriers. And some deacons were involved in preaching and teaching.[13] We know that Phoebe travelled to Rome as Paul’s envoy, but a later writer perhaps indicates she travelled to other places too. Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–460 AD) wrote that “[Paul] opened the world to her and in every land and sea she is celebrated. For not only do the Romans and Greeks know her, but even all the barbarians …”[14] Phoebe may have travelled widely and proclaimed the gospel in foreign lands as an evangelist.

I have more about Phoebe and roles of deacons here.

Women as Pastors and Teachers

Fourth on the list of ministers in Ephesians 4:11 are the pastor-teachers. The terms “pastors” and “teachers” are joined grammatically in the Greek of this verse and they may reflect two aspects of the one role or be two different words for the same ministry. (There is little evidence of ministers being referred to as “pastors” in the very early church, but there is ample evidence of ministers being called “teachers”.) [More about the Greek grammar of Ephesians 4:11 is in a comment here.]

While the exact function of a pastor is not specified in the New Testament it would have involved spiritual leadership. There are several women in the New Testament who functioned as pastor-teachers. Priscilla, another close friend and coworker of Paul, was one of them. Together with her husband Aquila, she taught the already learned and eloquent Apollos, who was himself a teacher, “the way of God” (i.e. theology) more accurately (Acts 18:24–26).

Priscilla’s name appears first in four of the six mentions of this couple in the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.[15] This may indicate that Priscilla’s ministry was more prominent than her husband’s.[16] Some suggest that her name being first indicates that she had a higher social status than her husband’s. “It is well known that the early church attracted an unusual number of high-status women …”[17] Some of these women, who lived in relatively spacious homes, hosted a congregation that met in their home.[18] As a prominent member of the congregation, the host would have functioned as a leader employing a ministry gift, perhaps the pastor-teacher gift. Priscilla and Aquila were active in ministry and hosted a church in their home at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19) and later at Rome (Rom 16:3–5) where they ministered as pastor-teachers.

I have more about Priscilla here.

Kevin Giles writes:

Prisca [Priscilla] is not the only woman associated with house church leadership. A surprising number of women are mentioned in this role… In Acts we see Mark’s mother providing a home for the Christians to assemble (Acts 12:12) and at Philippi we hear of believers meeting in the home of Lydia (Acts 16:14–15, 40). Writing to the Colossians, Paul greets “Nympha and the church in her house” (Col. 4:15). Perhaps Chloe is also the host of a home-church (1 Cor. 1:11), as may have been some of the other women Paul greets in the last chapter of Romans.[19]

The “chosen lady”, who John addresses in his second letter, was a woman who was a house-church leader. In the Greek of 2 John, it is clear that at times John is addressing a single person (the lady), and that at other times he is referring to plural persons (her followers or her congregation). John refers to his followers, and hers, similarly, as “children” (2 John 1:1, 4, 13 cf. 3 John 1:4). Furthermore, the word “lady” (kuria) used in 2 John 1 & 5, is the female equivalent of “lord” (kurios). This lady was a woman with an elevated social position. Numerous ancient papyrus letters, as well as ancient Greek literature, show that kuria was a respectful way to address a woman.[20] The “chosen lady” was a person. The “chosen lady” was not a church (i.e. congregation) as some have suggested. And as a house-church leader, she probably functioned as a pastor also.

I have more about the “chosen lady” here.


Stanley Grenz notes that the gospel “radically altered the position of women, elevating them to a partnership with men unparalleled in first-century society.”[21] This is seen in the New Testament. The following list is of first-century women ministers and church leaders mentioned in the New Testament: Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3–5, etc.), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1–2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), possibly Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2–3), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (Phlm. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1), “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), and probably Lydia (Acts 16:40), etc.

The church as a whole has been very slow to embrace the New Testament ideal of equality and mutuality among people regardless of race and gender (Gal. 3:28). This is shown by the fact that the slave trade and slavery were only outlawed in the “Christian” nations of Great Britain and the United States of America in 1833 and 1865 respectively,[22] and by the fact that racial discrimination has only been declared both immoral and illegal in recent history. I am convinced that discrimination against church leaders on the basis of gender will also become a thing of the past, and that future generations will look at our present difficulties and debate on this subject with incredulity.

It would be wonderful if the Church as a whole would recognise that, according to the New Testament, women did function as ministers and leaders—as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers—and that they were respected and valued in these roles by such people as the apostle Paul. In short, it is biblical for a woman to be a church leader. Moreover, if we deny gifted women the opportunity to exercise their ministries, we reject some of the very people Jesus has appointed and given to his church. The church’s mission can only be enhanced and made more effective when gifted men and women minister together using their complementary skills and abilities. Men and women should be united in the cause of the gospel and in building up the body of Christ, as well as in equipping the people of God to reach the lost (Eph. 4:11–12).


[1] 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 is discussed here. 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is discussed here. 1 Timothy 3:2 and the phrase “husband of one wife” is discussed here. A three-part series which looks at these verses and Paul’s theology of ministry is here.

[2] In the Greek, there is no hint that Ephesians 4:11, or any other verse which speaks of spiritual gifts, including those of leadership and teaching, applies more to men than to women. On the contrary, every New Testament verse that speaks of spiritual gifts, manifestations, or ministries is completely free of any gender preference or gender bias in the Greek. (Verses which mention spiritual ministry gift: Acts 2:17–18; Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:7–11 & 27–28; 1 Cor. 14:26–33 & 39–40; Eph. 4:11–12; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:4; 1 Pet. 4:9–11.) More about Paul’s theology of ministry is here.

[3] These apostles include Paul, Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Cor. 1:12), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7). Jesus is also called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. I’ve written about apostles in the New Testament with a more complete list of the New Testament apostles, including scripture citations, here.

[4] In his Homilies on the Book of Romans, fourth-century church father Chrysostom preached favourably about Junia, and using Paul’s words, he acknowledged her as an outstanding female apostle. He recognised that several New Testament women were ministers. I’ve written about Chrysostom’s praise for these women, here.

[5] The masculinised name “Junias” does not appear in any early Latin or Greek inscription. The feminine name “Junia” however is found about 250 times. James D.G. Dunn  writes,

Lampe 139-40, 147 indicates over 250 examples of “Junia,” none of Junias, as was taken for granted by the patristic commentators, and indeed up to the Middle Ages. The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity. . . We may firmly conclude, however, that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity was a woman and wife.
James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16 (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B) (Dallas: Word, 1988), 894.

[6] “The earliest commentator on Romans 16:7 Origen of Alexandria (c.185–254/55) took the name Junia to be feminine, as did Jerome (340/50–419/20), Hatto of Vercelli (924–961), Theophylact (c.1050–c.1108), and Peter Abelard (1079–1142). In fact no commentator on the text until Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine.”
Bernadette Brooten, “Junia … Outstanding among the Apostles (Romans 16:7)”, Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Catholic Declaration, Arlene and Leonard Swidler (eds) (Paulist Press, 1979), 141–144, 141.
I have a list of early and medieval theologians who understood that Junia was a woman, here.

[7] For example, Eusebius, History of the Church 3.37.1

[8] Eusebius, History of the Church 5.17.3

[9] Based on how the word is used in the New Testament, C.H. Dodd explains that the content of preaching (kerugma) was primarily concerned with the lordship and resurrection of Christ. Dodd defines preaching (kerugma) as “the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world”. The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (Harper and Row, 1964), 261. The proclamation of Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord”, may be regarded as an example of New Testament preaching (John 20:17–18). More about “preaching” words in the New Testament, here.

[10] “Coworker” is Paul’s favourite ministry title. E.E. Ellis writes: “The designations most often given to Paul’s fellow workers are in descending order of frequency as follows: coworker (synergos), brother (adelphos) [or sister (adelphē) as in the cases of Phoebe and Apphia], minister (diakonos) and apostle (apostolos).”
E.E. Ellis, “Paul and his Coworkers”, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald Hawthorne and Ralph Martin (eds) (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 183.

[11] Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Sydney: Collins Dove Publishers, 1992), 35.

[12] “All important modern translations of the Bible now restore the original language used by Paul . . . but somehow the illusions fostered by the King James falsifications remain common wisdom. Nevertheless, there is virtual consensus among historians of the early church as well as Biblical scholars that women held positions of honour and authority within early Christianity …”
Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997), 109.

[13] E.E. Ellis, writing specifically about Paul’s coworkers, states that diakonos “refers to workers with special activities in preaching and teaching.” Ellis, “Paul and his Coworkers,” 185.
John N. Collins notes that a third of the 150 occurrences of diakonos and its cognates in the New Testament, in the Apostolic Fathers, and in the Apologists “relate to the preaching of the word of God.” Collins, Diakonia: Reinterpreting the Ancient Sources (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 63.

[14] Theodoret’s commentary on Romans 16:1–2:

Cenchreae is a large village of Corinth.  It is worth admiring the strength of the preaching. In a short time not only the cities, but also the villages were filled with such piety. Such was the significance of the church at Cenchreae that it had a female deacon [i.e. minister], honorable and well known. Such was the wealth of her accomplishments that she was praised by the apostolic tongue… I think what [Paul] calls patronage (prostasia) is hospitality (philoxenia) and protection (kēdemonia). Praise is heaped upon her. It seems that she received him in her house for a little time, for it is clear that he stayed in Corinth. He opened the world to her and in every land and sea she is celebrated.  For not only do the Romans and Greeks know her, but even all the barbarians.
Quoted by Kevin Madison and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005), 16.

Did Theodoret mean that Phoebe herself travelled, and so was known in every land and sea? Or was it only her reputation that travelled? Perhaps she went to Spain with Paul. More on Phoebe’s involvement with Paul’s mission to Spain, here.

[15] Priscilla’s name appears first in Acts 18:18 and 26, Romans 16:3 and 2 Timothy 4:19. In Paul’s list of greetings to members of the church at Rome given in the last chapter of Romans, a list that includes 28 individuals, Priscilla is listed first (Rom. 16:3–5). First! This seems to indicate that Priscilla was a leader in the church in Rome.

[16] Luke, the author of Acts, was careful in which order he placed names. This is seen in the shared ministry of Paul and Barnabas; whoever of the two was the most prominent in ministry or the most recognised in any given situation, his name appears first.

[17] Stark, Rise of Christianity, 107.

[18] M. Mowczko, The First Century Church and the Ministry of Women (08.10.14)

[19] Giles, Patterns of Ministry, 34–35

[20] M. Mowczko, Kuria “Lady” in Papyrus Letters (23.08.13)

[21] Stanley J. Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press, 1995), 78.

[22] Advocates of slavery often used scripture to support their position. Slavery was abolished throughout most of the British Empire when the Slavery Abolition Act came into force in 1833. The United States abolished slavery in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to its Constitution.

© Margaret Mowczko 22.08.2008, revised 22.08.2015.

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81 thoughts on “Women Church Leaders in the New Testament

  1. Thanks Marg, that was fantastic. I’m looking forward to the article on 1 Tim 2:12 🙂

  2. I was just interested in what it is you feel that the Woman’s role is in a Family. Does the bible not speak of the husband as the leader? I believe that both man and woman have different roles (NOT capabilities) within the church and household. However different they’re roles are, God views them as EQUALLY important.

  3. Hi Lucy,

    I have another (older) article simply entitled “Submission” which concentrates more on the husband and wife relationship. This may answer some of your questions.

    I firmly believe that God’s ideal is that men and women lead together whether that is in the home, in the work-place or in church ministry.

    Before the fall, God said that men AND women were to rule over his creation together. See Genesis 1:27-28. The concept of a man “ruling” his wife came as a consequence of sin: Genesis 3:16d! But Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences.

    I don’t believe that leadership is only confined to males. Some men are lousy at leadership and some women are fantastic at it.

    We all have different talents and capabilities, different strengths and weaknesses and each marriage is unique. How each marriage works is something that each couple should work out together. Ultimately, for a Christian couple, Jesus is the ruler and leader of the marriage.

    There is sooooo much more that I could say about this, but this will have to do for now.

    Have a look at my article “Leading Together in the Home”.

    1. Thank you for writing about women in the church. I can’t believe the controversy that arose in my church after me challenging the pastor’s idea that only men can be leaders in the church!

      1. Hi Jen,

        I can imagine. Some people have a very poor understanding of how the Christian community (i.e. the church) operated in the first few decades after Pentecost. Women ministers, and even leaders, were not rare in the church.

  4. Jesus did deal with sin but that does not mean that Christians are immune from God’s Judgement on earth Today (we still experience painful child birth!) I think what you are saying could perhaps relate more to our life in heaven. Some males may be lousy leaders but some of our bosses (Ephesians 6:5-9) and governing authorities (Romans 13:1-9) are also lousy but God still requests that we must obey and serve as if serving the Lord because this is the will of God.

  5. Hi Lucy,

    I’m not thinking of heaven; I’m thinking of now. While the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom is in the future, as Christians, the Kingdom is within us already (luke 17:21). We should be living as Kingdom people now. I actually do believe that Christians are immune from God’s punitive Judgement – completely immune. See 1 John 4:16-18

    We do live in an imperfect, “fallen” world and some of its consequences are inescapable, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing about pain and injustice and oppression. As God’s representatives we should be challenging these things and modelling a better way – a way of mutual regard, respect, submission and servanthood.

    I fully don’t understand why there needs to be a “boss” in a healthy, Christian marriage. In more complex organisations there needs to be a leader to stop things turning into chaos, but if its only two people, why does there need to be a boss? Did you get a chance to read my article on submission? I am all for submission!!!

    I think this emphasis on male leadership is out of proportion with the teaching of the whole Bible. There were MANY amazing, wise and courageous women leaders in Biblical times. [I think I’ll post their names soon.]

    And Abigail actually went against her husband’s wishes and was commended for it. (Something that really confused me for ages when I was a girl!)

    We give women pain-killers in labour if they want it, and some don’t. If you would like your husband to be the boss, that’s cool. In my marriage there is no boss and we are very happy. We work things out together.

    BTW My labour was completely pain free with Michael.

    1. Over a decade after you initially posted this, I have thoughts…

      We live in a fallen world. It is very interesting to me that when we discuss the consequences of the fall there is a tendency to insist that women are stuck with the consequences of the fall (husbands who rule over them) and it is sinful to resist. I’ve even seen people claim that women shouldn’t receive pain killers during child-birth because that is just her lot and we aren’t supposed to try to make it better.

      But in the verses prior, Adam is told that he will struggle to farm. Weeds and thistles and stones will make life difficult. And we never, ever see anyone claim (as they should to be consistent) that men are not allowed to use tools to reduce the work of farming. So the portion of the curse that is supposedly aimed at men (its not like women don’t face weeds, but I digress) does not have anyone arguing theologically that men should till the ground with their bare hands. Even groups like the Amish who believe electricity is wrong still allow for 19th century inventions to make their lives easier.

      Why is the curse on women perpetual but the curse on men something we should strive to overcome?

      1. Hi ES, I don’t read that Eve and Adam were cursed. Only the serpent (Gen. 3:14) and the ground (Gen. 3:17) are plainly cursed in Genesis 3 (cf. Gen. 5:29). God continued to help the couple even though he banished them from Eden (Gen. 3:21, 4:11). And the curse on the ground seems to have been lifted after the flood (Gen. 8:21).

        The reason why women have suffered more than men is because people have faulty ideas about God’s nature and they have had wrong ideas about women and girls. God is loving and merciful, and women are not men’s lowly assistants that can be exploited.

        I like this article on why the earth and humanity aren’t cursed. https://withmeagrepowers.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/lifting-the-curse-on-the-ground-genesis-3/

  6. Does the bible not speak of the husband as the leader?
    No, the bible never speaks of the husband as the leader of the household. It only speaks of the husband being the head of the wife, and head does not mean leader. Many believe that the husband is spiritually responsible for the wife, which is never correct theologically. The husband for example cannot possibly be the head of his children. Many are led to believe (I used to be one of them) that wives must submit to the husband 24/7, but what if the husband is an abuser? Would God really decree that all wives submit to their husbands 24/7? Functional inequality is inequality in essence. To believe that wives are functionally unequal to their husbands, or sisters are functionally unequal to their brothers is sexism, no matter how you define it. The word “role ” is gender neutral until it has been unfairly used by christians to describe unequal treatment of men and women in Christ, and all of a sudden, gender based “role” becomes acceptable. Roles are changeable, not locked by gender, e.g. children becomes parents, students become teachers, and no-one is locked into a forever subordinate “role” based on an inaccurate interpretation of certain texts.

  7. Cont’d from last comment: Men and women have different biological roles, but not unequal ministry roles. Not all men are gifted as pastors, just as not all women are gifted as pastors. But let those called by God, men or women, be free to serve without being restricted by their gender.

  8. Hi Marg,

    Why do we always discuss women in the NT in isolation from men? This disturbs me. For example, only 19 passages refer to a total of 17 women in Paul’s epistles. This works out to be only 18% of the people involved in Paul’s mission. Two thirds of those women, are found in chapter 16 of Romans in the greetings with very little information gleaned. Let me mention a few comments.

    Junia- ‘episemoi en tois apostolos’ could be inclusive. That is, Junia and Andronicus were among the circle of apostles. It could also though be exclusive, meaning that the two were simply ‘well known among the apostles’ and were not apostles themselves.
    I lean on the former yet what do we mean by ‘apostle’. Does that one reference decisively imply that the early church applied no restrictions on women? There are 4 types of ‘apostle’ in the NT; 1) the twelve (Matt 10:12) 2) the term is used for someone like Paul who had seen the Lord and been commissioned (1 Cor 1:1), 3) it could mean a person sent out to perform a certain task or convey a particular message (1 Cor 8:23. Phi 2:25) or 4) it may refer to an itinerant missionary (Acts 14:4, referring to Barnabas)

    So what category does Junia fall into?

    It is highgly unlikely that these two otherwise unknown people are said to stand out among the twelve (1) or Peter, James or Paul (2). The sense ‘messenger’ appears more likely (3), yet the phrase ‘outstanding among the apostles’ seems a little awkward applied to thsi cate. The meaning ‘travelling missionary’ is therefore the most likely especially in light of 1 Cor 9:5 (also Acts 14:4,1, 1 Cor 12:28, 1 Thess 2:7). In this case they were outstanding among the missionaries.

    More to come.

    1. Hi Mark,

      “Why do we always discuss women in the NT in isolation from men?” Your question is a little vague. In fact most people discuss men in isolation from women, while others do not distinguish between men and women at all when discussing Christianity, etc. I have written about Paul and John in my Bible study notes. I have also written about Timothy and Epaphroditus here.

      I choose to discuss women because, for centuries, women have been ignored, and dogma has been formulated that did not take into account women ministers. I don’t dispute your maths; most NT ministers were undoubtedly men. I just want to highlight the women that many people know nothing about.

      I have written more about Junia here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/junia/

      I don’t for one moment believe that Junia and Andronicus were counted among the Twelve. Andronicus and Junia are not well known to us, but so are some of the Twelve. Next to nothing is known about Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot. This does not mean that Matthias and some of the other Twelve had insignificant apostolic ministries.

      Apostle (which is derived from a Greek word) is practically identical in meaning to missionary (which is derived from a Latin word.) The apostles mentioned in the New Testament were missionaries. Both men and women continue to be missionaries, pioneering new Christians ministries and taking the gospel message into new territory.

  9. “By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected prophets and leaders in the early church”

    Here is the text

    Act 21:8 “On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
    Act 21:9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”

    Look at the information we have, and look at your claim…hardly compatible. This is what Kostenberger saids in regards to this sort of hermeneutic…”the frequent, yet fallicious hermeneutical procedure of drawing simplistic conclusions from a designation applied to a given person…”

    1. When I say “By all accounts” I include the extra-biblical accounts of Eusebius, who also quoted Papias. And I include the observations of E. Earle Ellis. I am not pretending that Papias (who was alive in the first century and knew some people mentioned in the Bible) is a biblical author.

      My hermeneutic principles are fine and I stand by my statement that, “By all accounts, Philip’s daughters were highly respected prophets and leaders in the early church.” This is a true.

      I have more information on Philip’s daughters here.

  10. Evangelists

    “Euodia and Syntyche were women who were warmly regarded and respected as fellow-workers by Paul. He said that they “contended at my side for the cause of the gospel.”

    First, they are not identified as ‘evangelists’.

    Second, the same verb ‘synathleo’ (contended) is also used in Phil 1:27, the only other NT use of the verb. There in 1:27, it refers to the whole congregation which suggests that these two women had participated as part of the Church in supporting Paul. To have ‘contended’ with Paul is a broad designation and does not therefore mean they fulfilled the same role as Paul.

    Third, internal evidence in Phil shows that the church supported Paul financially (1:5, 4:10; cf, 2 Cor 8-9, Rom 15:25-29) thus it is likely these two women participated in this.

    Fourth, Paul singles out these two women to stop arguing which is highly embarrassing for a letter that is to be read out.

    Therefore to claim that these two women were evangelists or even ‘leaders’ is overblown.

    1. In reply to your third comment: Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche contended together with him for the cause of the gospel, i.e. the euangelion. They were involved in gospel work – evangelistic work. The fact that Paul personally addresses Euodia and Syntyche personally reinforces the idea that these women had considerable influence in the Philippian church.

      It is not at all unusual for two people in a congregation to have different views. However Paul does not actually say or even imply that these women were arguing. Nor does Paul reveal any sense of embarrassment in Php 4:2-3. You are reading these things into the text. Paul actually speaks very well of these women.

      Furthermore, if you look at the preceding verses in Philippians, Paul was encouraging mature people to have the same view as himself – of reaching out for the goal spiritual perfection (Philippians 3:14-15). It could well be that Paul is carrying on this thought, and using very similar language, is simply saying, “I encourage Euodia and I encourage Syntyche to have the same thinking in the Lord . . . ” (Php 4:2).

      It is true that Paul regarded the financial support of his ministry as true partnership koinonia with him in ministry, and that the Philippians (and Macedonians in general) were generous givers. However it is difficult to reconcile the word sunathleo with giving. Sunathleo is not used in Php 1:27 in the context of giving, but rather in the context of standing firm and striving together in unity. Euodia and Syntyche may not have fulfilled the same role as Paul (who was an apostle), but they certainly worked together with Paul in evangelistic work, and he clearly valued their ministry.

      It could be that Euodia, Syntyche and Clement were leaders in the Philippian church; they were certainly ministers of some sort. More about these women here.

      Apart from Philip (Acts 21:8), no one is mentioned as being an evangelist, even though many people, including Timothy (2 Tim 4:5), were involved in evangelistic work. [The word “evangelist” is only used 3 times in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:11 contains the word also.]

      BTW One of my main ministries is sharing the gospel every week with mostly non-churched school children. Does that make me an evangelist? Many women in the Early Church were instrumental in spreading the gospel, and were even devoted to evangelism.

    2. Here is an that looks at Paul’s language in Philippians 4:2 and at whether the women were arguing.

  11. Pastor- teacher,

    Here your analysis is typical. No where does the Bible instruct that Priscila was a pastor-teacher. Kostenberger saids…

    “all that can be said is that Priscilla, together with and in the presence of her husband, and in the context of their home, helped to provide corrective instruction to a man, Apollos”

    All your quotes of Giles etc are historical revisionism with no substatial facts from the Bible. This is not a hermeneutic that takes the doctrine of Bible innerancy seriously (especially Giles). It brings one’s own agenda into the text and postulates and guesses beyond what the scripture teaches.

    For example, here is what you say…
    “As a prominent member of the congregation, the host would have functioned as a leader employing a ministry gift – most probably the pastor-teacher gift.”

    and i ask, where does the Bible confirm this? You provide proof in footnote 21…

    “It is currently estimated that there are approximately 50,000 house churches in China. 80% of these are run by women.”

    And i respond…there are plenty of western churches ordaining homosexuals…doesnt’t make it right. Nor does the fact that women now run house churches, prove your point. Honestly, it shows simple manipulation of Biblical evidence- this saddens me.

    1. Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone, man or woman, named as a pastor-teacher. That does not mean that there are no people in the New Testament who were pastor-teachers. I think the chosen lady in 2 John also was a pastor-teacher.

      The Greek does not specify that Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos in their home. The verb proslambanō in Acts 18:26 is the same verb in Mark 8:32 where Peter took Jesus aside. This verb is used in a variety of ways and can mean: “to take to oneself, assume, take as a companion or associate … to take food … to receive kindly or hospitably, admit to one’s own society and friendship …” (Perschbacher 1990:354)

      Priscilla and Aquila might have invited Apollos into their home. They hosted and undoubtedly led a house church from their home in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) and later in Rome (1 Cor 16:19). If they did invite Apollos into their home maybe their teaching on baptism was part of a church meeting.

      Furthermore Priscilla and Aquila did not just help to provide corrective instruction to Apollos. (This sounds rather lame). Priscilla and Aquila explained to Apollos the Way of God more accurately, including the doctrine of Christian baptism. This is especially significant as Apollos was himself an eloquent and educated man. I have written more about Priscilla here.

      I hardly think that footnote 21 can be thought of as proof! It is just a bit of extra, and I think interesting, information. The Catholic church actually have even more impressive numbers than what I have quoted.

      I have not manipulated Biblical evidence. I have provided extra evidence and information. But I have not misquoted what the Bible says.

      So, just what is your problem with women being church leaders?

  12. Final point,

    The passages on men/women roles are rooted in creation (1 Tim 2:13-14, 1 Cor 11:2-10, Eph 5:22ff). All these passages refer to scripture pre-fall, thus before sin. Therefore biblical manhood and womanhood is rooted in God’s good creation. Egals are messing with God’s creation plans.

    Slavery on the other hand was never instituted by God, nor supported in such a way. It is a red-herring to argue this way. One could equally argue the egal= homosexual argument.

    Ironically, the whole feminist movement has pushed women away from the value and beauty of raising children, which in effect is damaging both children and women. I fear that future generations will suffer more because of the current situation. Why are devaluing the role of mother and wife, both of which are God’s ordained plans. I fear our generation will be judged severely for the manipulation of the text that keeps occuring. Egals need to re-think the damage they are doing to Biblical authority, the church, the home and society.

    1. In reply to your fifth comment: I VERY much value my roles of being a wife and a mother. I agree that there are dangers in devaluing these roles! I advocate that mothers (or in some cases, fathers) stay at home with their children when the children are young. Parenthood is a huge responsibility and a joy!

      Having said that, the role of motherhood is not mentioned until after the fall. Not that I think that motherhood is negative, far from it.

      I just don’t think that you can say that motherhood, or in fact any role, is stated or implied in the creation accounts, apart from the role stated in Genesis 1:26-28: both men and women were commissioned by God to rule over his creation. I have more on the created order here.

      I am concerned that you mention 1 Corinthians 11:2-10, but not the verses after. Verses 2-10 are the first half of a chiasm, the following verses (1 Corinthians 11:11-16) should not be left out of any reading of this passage. More on this here. And the only roles mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:2-10 are those of praying and prophesying, something that both men and women were doing in Corinthian assemblies, and Paul does not silence them.

      Also, being submissive is a role. All Christians are to be submissive–cooperative, deferential and loyal–towards one another (Eph 5:21-22). And Paul does not mention creation in Ephesians 5.

      I only bring up slavery because it is so clearly not part of God’s ideal plan for humanity, and yet it took the Christian church ages to realise this. Similarly, I do not believe that emphasising unilateral submission or restricting roles of women to be part of God’s ideal plan for humanity.

      Thanks for your comments, Mark. 🙂

    2. I know these are ancient posts…

      But Mark, Marg has countered all your view points, what is your response?

      Yes nowhere in Bible does it say Priscilla and Nympha are pastors, but they most probably are! Just use common sense. There are so many of them in the NT! If they are all running some insignificant roles, or bakery ministry, or widow ministry, things that don’t have much to do with Paul, then why did Paul get so many female women ministry friends? Sadly in today’s America, if any good faith bona fide evangelical pastor were to write a letter to another, he wouldn’t be able to mention so many women ministry leaders as Paul did…because we don’t have this many.

      You referred to the creation order. I believe the creation order only applies to a husband and his wife, not all women and all men. But I believe generally men were created more for the leading roles (this is a creation reality thing, not an order thing). And for many natural and practical reasons most women are not fit for the leading role. However, I oppose the absolute ban on women leaders. An absolute ban is not scriptural.

      Btw, do you actually tell the women participants of your church to totally be quiet from 10:30 am Sunday morning to 12:15 pm ish? Do you tell them it is shameful for them to make any sound once they step into the church door? If you don’t, then you are not obeying the Scripture you thought you believe in. Then you really are not so different with the feminists that you oppose. To be honest, I have not known of any person or church in the world today that have totally applied 1 Cor 14:34-35. So let no one boasts that they got this issue right.

      Either way, I wanted to see your response to Marg’s correction on your previous arguments but I didn’t see any. But in turn you started to mention feminist movement, women leaving their home, etc., which are totally unrelated to what we are talking about here.

      I would say the only good argument for preferring men over women in taking church leadership is that, once Nympha or Lydia’s home churches grew bigger, and there were enough qualified men to take leadership positions, then I agree for many reasons and in many cases men are more suitable than women to lead. But, I would say in the current time, we are (or soon will be) going back to the early church’s urgent and crisis like situation, where faithful and capable believers were scarce to find. In this case, both man and woman, who are faithful and gifted, should rise up.

  13. Thank you so much for such concise and strong information you send, in relation to women’s role in leadership. I have benefited much from it and hope you will send related materials that you think are helpful to enhance my knowledge on this area.


    yours in Christ,

  14. Hi Abera,

    I’m glad that you found this article useful. If you search this site and look at the “related articles” (at the bottom of most posts) you will find many articles with related material.

    If you have any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.


  15. I have just come across your posts on women in leadership as evidenced in the New Testament. Thank you for the scholarship and the time invested. What is shocking to me is what seems like the ramped-up efforts these days (via the new patriarchal/complementarianism movements) to limit women’s freedom in the church. Perhaps the most shocking is the Quiverfull movement. The TLC Duggar family program has certainly spotlighted this sect and I think has alerted many as to this relatively new wrinkle on the cult scene. One thing that always strikes me is this: if, as some patriarchalists teach (by implication), women are to continue to suffer the consequences of Eve’s curse (husband lording it over her, etc.), why don’t we ever hear how the church is to also mandate/enforce the continuation of Adam’s curse? But of course, a rhetorical question…

  16. Hi Phyllis,

    In Australia we don’t have have a quiverful movement. This seems to be an American thing. Even homeschooling is uncommon and seen as unusual. Also, most Australians have never heard of the Duggars and hopefully never will.

    Christian patriarchy is different in Australia. The most vocal hierarchical complementarians here are the Sydney Anglicans. But they are mild compared with complementarians in other countries. For instance, women do speak, and can read the Scriptures aloud, in their services. But in some Sydney Anglican churches women cannot preach the “Sunday sermon”.

    So glad to be living in Australia! But we still have a way to before true equality and a casteless Christianity is the norm in our churches.

    I love your writing style. 🙂

  17. Thank you. I just started my blog in March. I enjoy writing for publishers, but there are so many restrictions. It’s a pleasure to just write to write, whatever the word count, whatever the topic.

    I have been on your site before, but forgot you are in Australia! It’s easy to become “homeland-centric.” So glad to hear things aren’t quite as bad for Christian women “down there.” It must be somewhat shocking to learn that here in “progressive America” the situation is actually worse. I spent twelve years of my teaching career teaching in an alt ed facility serving homeschooling families and began to become familiar with some of the extremes of the patriarchy movement. I knew it was something I wanted to write about. So, it’s great to be able to reference some of the work of those of you who have been doing the more scholarly writing.

  18. I have a question… the author Paul, of Timothy, is the same Paul who denied Jesus 3 times, as the roosters crowed, when asked if he knew Jesus by both men and women? Now Hear me out here…(this is, after all, part of the context and something to consider )

    (…This story in the New Testament about Paul nearly always makes me think he preferred people’s praise over Gods, since this is mentioned previously that it is better to live by God than by Men’s praise, those who die living righteously by God will be praised, those who die living in Men’s praise not so much). This disciple, though, of course, is the Paul who started the Catholic church later… (Yay!)

    So, in short, this story about Paul denying Jesus in the NT makes me think he may be influenced by cultural wants of the people around him… he may flex to that in this passage too, also, as far as I know, Jesus never said anything like the phrase Paul wrote in Timothy, which is used and referred to frequently in the arguments against women in leadership. Most importantly, Paul writes “I” (meaning Paul’s opinion) not “He the Father” or “Jesus (He) says,” so this makes me think this could be Paul’s specific opinion. Considering that there are only two places that are pointed to the most by the dissenting opinion, passages in Timothy and Corinthians, 2 books, in light of the fact there are 66 books in the Bible, including Jesus’s own examples of life, action, and words in the NT, this makes me think that is not a lot. Actually very few… You’d think there would be more than that, right, especially on a subject as important as this? Considering this context, I’m cautious with these phrases used against women in church leadership, especially, since Paul wrote —-> “I” <— believe this and not "He" or "the Father" or "the Son."

    That was my 2 cents on the subject and it's context. I appreciate and support your blog post, thank you for what you do! God Bless and good health!

  19. Thanks for your comment, Julie. However, it was Peter who denied Jesus three times, not Paul. Paul was not one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples.

    And neither Paul nor Peter started the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church started later even though they claim that Peter was Rome’s first bishop (or something similar.)

    I agree that there is really only one, or possibly two, short passages in the entire Bible that seem to disqualify women from a speaking ministry, yet other verses indicate that Paul had no problem with women who prophesied and prayed aloud in church meetings.

    Paul loved and valued women and several women were his colleagues in ministry. I have a great respect for Paul and consider his letters as having Scriptural authority.

    I have several articles about “Paul and Women” here.

  20. Thank you very much!! All these explanations are very useful for my study. I want to know about women’s leadership, and I find here what I need.

  21. I’m so glad to hear that this information is useful for you, Myriam.

  22. “The head of man is Christ,the head of women is man,the head of Christ is God” the word of God says plainly. Eve sin? To want to be over man and smart as God. Don’t be a women as such as her. Be the true daughter of Wisdom if you teach your women to be quiet, modest and submissive to their men’s authorities, as the bible commands. The order of creation and Nature. Peace and harmony will be the reward. And truth will prevail.

    1. Robert,

      Your comment is not directly related to the article, which is about ministry. If you read any of my other posts you will discover that I have no intention of having authority over a man, or any other capable adult for that matter.

      I discuss 1 Corinthians 11:3 in this article if you are interested: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/

      The word does not plainly say that Eve wanted to be over the man. In fact, it doesn’t mention anything like this whatsoever.

      1. Thanks for your reply. Means a lot. Subject of women leaders in church service was my aim to comment on. Though the bible commands not for women to lead over,or teach men,it commands for women to teach women, children, and shows many examples that women did take leader roles of men,hesitantly because of the lack of men to step up to their role in cowardness. Debra being my favorite. Preist,overseers, pastors always biblically taught to be men. In today’s culture of equality, we except role less theology.and families paid the price.I believe,the men most at fault. I love and respect women dearly.co dependant to them.long to protect them. After ‘re reading my comment, I see that it appears I was accusing you. I meant no disrespect.I meant it in general to everyone. I don’t know you or any of who you are in Christ. I will follow up on the info you sent me of your insights and writings to better know you more. Wisdom in proverbs is a women. I’m eager to give all to know her more. Please forgive me.

        1. Hi Robert,

          I appreciate your heart, and I hear your respect for women, but I disagree with some of your statements.

          In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says he is not permitting a woman to teach or authentein (“have authority over”?) a man. Paul uses the singular “woman” and “man”, not the plural “women” and “men”, so I think we should too when quoting or speaking about the verse.

          I agree that there are numerous Bible verse where women exercised some kind of leadership or some kind of teaching ministry, but there is no indication that they did this because there was a lack of men. In Deborah’s case the Bible states there were male leaders, princes, and warriors (Judges 4:6, 14-20; Judges 5:2,9,13, 15). Nevertheless, Deborah was God’s appointed leader of Israel.

          In Israel, there was a place for prophetic women leaders. Before the Babylonian exile, the role of many prophets was usually more influential than the role of the priests. The priests were responsible for seeing to the regular sacrifices and rituals within the Tabernacle and Temple, but the prophets and prophetesses spoke to the nation, to other important individuals, or (before the monarchy) they were the leaders themselves (e.g. the prophets Moses, Samuel, Deborah).

          During the days of Israel’s monarchy, prophets and prophetesses such as Huldah, advised kings. Abigail advised David and prophesied to him just before he became king. David accepted her prophecy and her words are recorded in scripture. Her speech is one of the longest speeches of a woman recorded in the Old Testament.

          Other godly women have had their words recorded in scripture where they have the authority of scripture and continue to teach men and women. The inspired songs, prayers, praises and teachings of Miriam (Exo 15:20-21), Deborah (Judges 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam 25:28-31), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov 31:1-9), Mary (Luke 1:46ff) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff) are considered prophetic and are included in Scripture.

          Men such as Barak, King David, King Josiah’s all-male delegation (which included the high priest), King Lemuel, and Apollos respected and accepted teaching of women. I think we need to be careful not to let one verse (1 Timothy 2:12) override what numerous other verses show us about godly women and ministry. And we should be careful not to misquote or misunderstand 1 Timothy 2:12.

          The very early churches often met in homes and their meetings were very different to most church meetings today. Some of these church communities, which were usually small, met in homes which were owned by women such as Nympha, Lydia, and Priscilla with her husband Aquila. There is no reason to think that women did not minister in these meetings (1 Cor 11:5; 14:26). There is also no reason to think that these women did not function as overseers or pastors. Interestingly, no man or woman, other than Jesus, is called a priest, overseer or pastor in the New Testament.

          Rather than looking at what has always been taught, or at today’s culture, we should be looking more carefully at what the scriptures say.

          Paul’s favourite term for a minister of the gospel was “co-worker”. He used this word more frequently than any other ministry title or term. He used it for men and for women such as Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche. I have more about the first-century church and the ministry of women here: https://margmowczko.com/the-first-century-church-and-the-ministry-of-women/

          And the Bible never commands women to teach only women and children about God. The Bible makes no gender distinctions about teaching theology.

  23. One thing I don’t understand is why does having a church in your home mean you are a leader in that church? What if you were a new believer and just happened to have the biggest home? My understanding is that the early churches were not led by one person but by a group of elders. So if these women were leaders, would they have been one elder among others? I agree with your understanding of women in the church. I believe women can and should be free to do whatever God calls them to do.

    1. Hi Ashley,

      That is an excellent question. When I use the word “leader” I don’t mean senior pastor; I use it to mean anyone with an influential Ephesians 4:11 ministry. The church in Caesarea, for example, had Philip the evangelist and his four prophesying daughters who all exercised their ministries, plus (presumably) others.

      Having said that the contents of 2 John, the verses about Priscilla and Nympha do indicate that they were people recognised as having a responsibility for the church that met in their homes.

      I agree that ministry was shared in the very early church. The idea of a single bishop/overseer emerged at the end of the first century. The responsibility of overseers and elders at that stage may have been for the several house churches in a city.

    2. I thought about this too, what if they just offered the facility? Well in that case who is the real leader/pastor? Paul should definitely mention that guy too, and call it that guy’s church. And if Nympha is really spiritually insignificant, if I were Paul I would simply say “greet the church that meets at Nympha’s house”. Also in my own experience with the many bible study groups I have been to, in most cases the person that opens their home is also the one that teaches.

  24. A good look at this is the various women leaders of the Celtic churches from the 5th to 12th centuries. Hild, Ita, Brigid, etc. all of them were leaders, teachers, soul friends, and more of both men and women in their monasteries and communities. It wasn’t until after the Roman view won out at Whitby did the view that women could no longer lead slowly start to change in those churches.

  25. This is wonderful, thank you!

  26. What do you have to say about Isaiah 3:12?

    1. This is a great question. I started answering it, but my response got too long.

      I plan on giving my answer tomorrow (Australian time) in the form of a new post/article. I’ll give you the link then.

  27. Interesting discussions,
    a few thoughts from someone who has been on both sides of this issue. Marg, I notice that you reference extra Biblical sources to support your points, but when others do so, you discredit their use as, well, outside of scripture, even when they were early church documents. So I think for intellectual integrity, you need to either not use those in your side of the debate, or you need to honestly consider them when others bring them to bear.
    Also, and I have never really heard a good rebuttal to this: if Jesus sets right the fall by establishing women in leadership alongside men, why were all 12 Apostles men? He certainly did not cave to societal taboos regarding women such as hanging out with prostitutes, defending women caught in sin etc. And He certainly overturned much of the Jewish ceremonial tradition. So, Why, in your opinion, did Jesus not institute official female leadership among his immediate followers. I know there were women who were disciples, but why no apostles?
    Thanks for this article and the thoughtfulness involved.

    1. Hi Corey,

      I do sometimes use extra-biblical material as supporting information. But I don’t give these sources the same credence as the New Testament, not even close, especially as writers, such as Tertullian and Jerome, can say quite different things about women depending on the point being made at any particular time.

      Most church fathers say some terrible things about women, so it is surprising when they actually say something affirming about women ministers. I don’t wish to misrepresent the church fathers, however; and I certainly don’t want it to appear that I mostly agree with them. The church fathers and I are not in broad agreement.

      I quote from church father affirmingly, on one hand, and disagree with them, on the other, depending on whether their statements match with what I believe the scriptures say. Whether you agree with my judgement on this is another issue.

      As for the Twelve, I can’t think of a single verse where Jesus tells the Twelve they are to be “leaders”. Rather, eleven of them were to be witnesses and disciples-makers of all nations (not just of fellow Jews). Did Jesus call Judas Iscariot (one of the Twelve) to be a leader? Peter and John did have leadership roles, but to say that Jesus called the Twelve as a way of establishing some kind of leadership structure, let alone a paradigm of male-only leadership for all time, is problematic.

      I’ve written about Jesus’s and the unique position of the Twelve here. Also, calling the Twelve, or Eleven, “apostles” may be a late development. More on this in endnote 1 here.

      1. Marg,
        Thanks for your response. My point about extra Biblical material is that you seem to credit it for your interpretations and to support your understanding such as “By all accounts . . . ” I include the extra-biblical accounts of Eusebius, who also quoted Papias, and I include the observations of E. Earle Ellis.”
        and discredit it because it is not in the Bible when it disagrees with you “Importantly, the Didache and the Didascalia are not part of the Bible. ”
        I think you need to give more substance to why you credit some sources as more legitimate than others besides the fact that you agree with them.
        As for the Apostles, I do believe Jesus said to them that “All authority” has been given to them. To say that they were disciples only and did not become teachers, leaders, evangelists all wrapped up in an Apostolic ministry is not historically accurate.
        It is obvious that it was 11 and one traitor, who was replaced. But you have not answered the question. If Jesus really wanted to establish leadership in this was for women, why did he not have a co-ed team? I know that beyond the 12 there were many women who were followers, disciples, who were loyal to the core, so why are these 12 still set apart and only male?
        Over my back and forth on this issue over the years, this has been a very compelling argument.

        1. The statement with “by all accounts” is perfectly valid and factual. I haven’t come across any account that discredits the four women or their ministry in any way. But I don’t give the extra-biblical accounts the same weight as the biblical texts.

          The Didache is a useful document for understanding life in some very early Christian communities. (There was a variety of ways churches organised ministry and the eucharist, etc.) I don’t discredit the Didache, in fact I quote from it and acknowledge that in some communities, in fact, only men could be leaders. Nevertheless, I also state that the New Testament makes no such statements about only men being leaders. I think I have explained my use of the Didache fairly, considering it’s a short article.

          There are many ancient documents and there are works written by modern scholars that, I believe, do not agree 100% with the message of the New Testament and the ideals that Jesus and Paul wrote about. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use them when they shed light on the situation of the early church. Eusebius’ Church History and the Didache are valuable documents which shed a lot of light on the goings-on in the early church. Are you suggesting I shouldn’t use any material other than the Bible itself? Or only material I agree with 100%?

          My use of extra-biblical material in the article is fair and reasonable.

          1. Ah, I thought you might have seen me use the Didache in another article. I don’t consider the Didache as a clarifier of scripture, not at all, in fact; but it does reveal customs of some (Syrian?) Christian communities in the first, possibly second, century.

            I mention a few reasons why Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his first disciples and witnesses in an article here.

            Some women were “authorities” in the very early church (after Jesus), women such as Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha of Bethany. Considering their close relationships and their history with Jesus, their words and their ministry would have been taken very seriously. Luke certainly took the testimony of women seriously and included several accounts of women in his gospel.

            Some women were “authorities” in churches and missions founded by Paul, women such as Priscilla and Lydia who were both personally taught by Paul and, in Lydia’s case, baptised by Paul. I suspect that Lydia was the first person to care for the fledgling church at Philippi which met in her home. If not Lydia, who? Other New Testament women also cared for (i.e. “pastored” or “supervised”) congregations which met in their homes.

            In the early church, the testimony of witnesses was highly valued and seen as authoritative (cf. Acts 13:30-31). These testimonies formed oral traditions that would later be written down and included in the four Gospels.

            Papias, writing in early second century, preferred the “living word” (i.e., “the oral tradition”) to the written Gospels. He mentions several men’s names but also uses the phrase “any other of the Lord’s disciples” when he says, “For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.” Papias also mentions the testimony of the daughters of Philip the apostle. (Source)

            There is no doubt that most leaders or “authorities” in the very early church were men, but some were women.

          2. Corey,

            I’ve thought about your suggestion that I have used early historical accounts of Philip’s daughters and the Didache inconsistenty. I’ve come to the conclusion that, in fact, I use them very consistently.

            I regard Eusebius (for example) and the author(s) of the Didache as accurately conveying information as they saw it. And, as such, they provide valuable, historical information.

            In comparison, the apocryphal acts of the various apostles are mostly fiction, and I suspect Epiphanius and Tertullian use their rhetoric so forcibly that they exaggerate their own opinions.

            While Eusebius and the author(s) of the Didache represent their views honestly, their writings are not holy scripture, and I think they get some things wrong. I use neither sources to clarify scripture. I use them as valuable historical documents.

      2. Your article and the ensuing discussion here in the comments has been very interesting and illuminating. While I feel that a strong case has been made for the involvement of women in the early Christian communities, I am less convinced that we can be so certain they were ‘leaders’ – being an integral part of the Christian community does not necessarily entail being a leader. Please understand, I’m not saying they weren’t; I’m saying that it’s not actually a detail that is in Scripture. I was quite surprised, therefore, to see that you’ve actually made the same point here about the Twelve: “as for the Twelve, I can’t think of a single verse where Jesus tells the Twelve they are to be ‘leaders.'” I would agree with you but how do we then also argue that women were leaders when likewise no explicit reference is made? What even would such a reference or term be?

        1. Hi Claudette, Perhaps I should have defined “leader.” However, I think it’s reasonably clear in the article, that I regard the function of ministering as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor-teacher as involving leadership.

          The Twelve were leading figures, prominent people of influence, that is, they were leaders in the apostolic church. And the women I’ve mentioned in the article were leading figures, prominent people of influence, leaders in their communities.

          In this article, I chose to highlight the leadership angle of the women because this is often overlooked and downplayed. The opposite has happened regarding the Twelve (and some other male figures in the New Testament).

          It seems many people, such as Corey who I responded to in the comments above, have a flawed idea of the role of the Twelve that focuses unduly on an authoritative leadership position tied to their male sex. However, Jesus didn’t teach about male authoritative leadership positions. He didn’t tell the Twelve to be leaders and have authority over others. He told them to be witnesses and servants. And he told Peter to feed his sheep. I’ve written about this here: https://margmowczko.com/apostles-in-the-new-testament-church/

          One problem I see is that some Christians have long forgotten that Christian ministry is service; however, I don’t bring this up in this particular article. The women in this article and the Twelve were ministers who served God’s people. And the authority they had to function in certain ministries came from their calling and from the Holy Spirit, not from titles or positions. Importantly, their authorisation to serve/minister didn’t involve having authority over fellow Jesus-followers.

          To be clear, I don’t say the Twelve weren’t leaders. I’ve written why the Twelve were all men here: https://margmowczko.com/the-twelve-apostles-were-all-male/

          1. Hi Marg, and thank you for your reply.

            “… their authorisation to serve/minister didn’t involve having authority over fellow Jesus-followers.” Quite. But it then seems paradoxical to insist that anyone, male or female, in the early church was a leader because it implies a hierarchy in which some positions did have more authority than others. And your definition of leaders as “prominent people of influence” does sound as though leaders have some degree of authority over others.

            But is ministry service to others, serving the community in diverse ways, places and times; or is it only that which occurs within a formal hierarchical church structure, in which some can rise to the top and lead? The distinction becomes important when claims are made that women are excluded from “leadership roles”, as though this were synonymous with exclusion from service to others altogether. Because it isn’t and I don’t think any complementarian would disagree that women had (and have) an essential and fundamental ministerial role alongside men.

            I guess my question is about the motivation behind using the term “leader”. If ministry is a multi-faceted, mutually edifying service to others in humility and love, why is it so important to establish that some people were leaders? Are some forms of ministry inherently more worthwhile or important than others? What constituted a “church leader” – were they providing resources (a place to gather, money, catering?), were they playing a cultic role, were they ‘leading by example’? It seems important to drill down to what “leadership” really means here because it will clarify what it is that egalitarians think complementarian women are being excluded from. This would allow us to bring a specific question to Scripture. Because everything else you’ve set out here sounds like something we all actually agree on.

          2. Hi Claudette, Leading is one of the ministries listed in Romans 12:6-8, and an organisation of a sizeable group of people usually needs leaders.

            I think there are lots of ways to minister as a leader, and I’m not sure it does help to give a specific or narrow definition of “leader.” I actually don’t want to do this. I think many people in the church already have a too narrow view of church leadership. (I think most of us have an unhealthy idea of church leadership overall. But that’s a different topic.)

            The general idea of “leader” is enough for this article. I believe the four ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11 were done by people exercising some kind of leadership. But there are many, many more ways of serving the body of Christ and the broader community that involve leadership, even if only sometimes.

            Do we have to make ministry, including the ministry of leading, about levels of authority? Does a person authorised and gifted by the Holy Spirit to help widows (e.g., Tabitha) have more or less authority than a person authorised to hold prayer meetings in her house (e.g., Mary of Jerusalem), or more or less authority than someone who corrects the doctrine of a visiting teacher (e.g., Priscilla and Aquila), or someone who cares for a house church (e.g., Nympha), or someone with a healing or prophetic or pastoral ministry?

            I had a particular purpose in mind when I wrote this article, and I think I achieved it.

  28. Isiah 3:12 Youths oppress my people, women rule over them.
    In the well run world men of wisdom rule the children (judicial principle), women oppress the children (legistative movement), but when the world turns upside down women rule and children oppress and the men are slaves. Women are unfit to rule because they lack the delibrative authority and so yield to the nonsense legislative movement of thier wayward children creating a world of progressive political correctness- eg Angela Merkel overturns our traditions and Mark Zuckerberg sets out agenda. But how could the women, knowing nothing, be so unfaitful? But imagining that the bible is old fashioned, and the life of the Ancients was antideluvian, and we moderns know more than them about human nature, when in truth we are utterly ignorant and wicked.

    1. Does the Hebrew of Isaiah 3:12 say something like “Youths oppress my people, women rule over them”? The Bible Paul used doesn’t say this in Isaiah 3:12.

      I am in no way saying that women, or men, should rule over their fellow brothers or sisters in Christ. This kind of leadership is the opposite of what Jesus wanted in the community of his followers.

  29. 1 Timothy 2: 11-14 couldn’t be clearer. A woman should not teach a man in spiritual matters nor have spiritual authority over him.

    It is important to note a couple of things from this passage:

    a – Paul’s reason for this stance is that “Adam was created first” (v.13), so this is not a matter of any human hierarchy or human culture that developed over time. Paul is saying that this is God’s established hierarchy right from the formation of Adam, ie even before the fall.

    b – Paul isn’t writing to a particular Church with a particular culture, about a specific situation. He is writing to Timothy about general guidelines for church leadership and structure of the church as a whole. That is the wider context of the book of 1 Timothy.

    I have studied apologists for both sides of this argument, one thing always stands out to me:

    – Those against women in ministry have several clear Scriptures to back up their stance.

    – Those for women in ministry tend to rely heavily on “convictions” and “feelings”.

    The few people who do try to cite Scripture in defence of women in ministry, either do so out of context – eg Galatians 3:28 – which is about equality in salvation. We are all equal heirs under the same promise (v29). This has nothing to do with church leadership, or spiritual authority. Paul can’t possibly intend it to mean that either, because then it would directly contradict 1 Timothy 2, and eg 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-23 – which makes it clear a husband is spiritual head of the family/household.

    Or else they provide brief one-off citations as supposed examples of women in church leadership.

    To deal with each of your examples in turn:

    Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9) – states that they were prophetesses, not church leaders. Never mentioned again.

    Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc.) – states that she was a co-worker in Christ, not a church leader.

    Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2) – states that she was a deacon (Greek: diakonos = servant, helper), we have no idea what that role actually involved. Never mentioned again.

    Junia (Rom. 16:7) – states that she (also possibly Junius = “he”) was an apostle (Greek: apostolos = message carrier, ambassador), we have no idea what her/his role actually involved. We are all apostles in bearing the gospel to others.

    Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11) – refers to her household. No mention of her role or that she was a leader. Never mentioned again.

    Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) – co-workers in Christ, who clearly have fallen out with each other over something. No mention of their roles. Never mentioned again.

    Nympha (Col. 4:15) – hosted church meetings in her house. Doesn’t state that she led those meetings, she could have merely provided the venue. Never mentioned again.

    Apphia (Phlm. 2) – referred to as “our sister” only. Never mentioned again.

    “the chosen lady” (2 John 1), “the chosen sister” (2 John 13) – is merely referred to as a chosen sister in Christ, and who is the original recipient of this letter.

    Lydia (Acts 16:40) – trader in cloth (v.14), a businesswoman perhaps, worshiper of God (v.14). No reference she led a church.


    Here is a key point for you to ponder on. Let’s say you were correct in your interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 et al. That would mean that all of the Church leaders from every denomination throughout Church history for over 1900 years, who have never allowed Church leaders in any capacity to be female, were all spiritually misguided. That is essentially what you are saying. They will have studied the same passages of scripture that you have, prayed about it, debated it and sought the Spirit’s guidance on it. And they all reached a completely different conclusion to you under the inspiration of the Spirit. For over 1900 years.

    It is only since Western culture has spiritually fallen by the wayside, and we have been overtaken by secular and humanist values since around the 1960s, that Churches have started to follow secular society and are now trying to re-interpret the Bible about the role of women in ministry.

    I urge you to seriously and prayerfully consider this key point.

    To repeat: The Church for 1900 years guided by the Spirit had one sole interpretation on women in ministry. The change in the interpretation has only come about when society has fallen away from biblical values, and become much more secular and humanist in its outlook – and the church is now trying to move towards that position to try and be relevant to secular society. I know which of those two convictions I would trust a great deal more.

    To clarify, I don’t judge you. You are free to believe what you want, it is between you and God – you will account to Him alone for your actions. I am merely warning you that there is a very real danger you are in grave error in your interpretation. It states throughout scripture that in the last days even the elect might be led astray. It is my belief that is precisely what we are witnessing.

    Please understand that if you do reply, I will not read it – as I don’t believe it is appropriate for you to teach me in spiritual matters.

    1. Actually, 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as you seem to indicate.

      And you have misunderstood why Paul gave summary statements of Genesis 2 and 3 in 1 Timothy 2:13-14.

      Nevertheless, I believe 1 Timothy 2:12 means exactly what it says. Paul is telling Timothy that he is not allowing a woman/wife to teach or to bully a man/husband . . .

      Anyway, almost everyone I’ve quoted from in this article is a man, so I wouldn’t let it bother you that you’ve read this article.

      Are you aware that most of the names the Twelve are seldom mentioned in the Gospels and are never mentioned in Acts? The men are “never mentioned again.”

      So CE, do you skip over the words, teachings, and prophecies of Miriam (Exo. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judg. 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:28-31), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1–9), Mary (Luke 1:46ff) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff)?

      Thankfully, many sensible men in the Bible listened to the advice of godly women, and they benefitted from it.

    2. You won’t listen to God’s wisdom from women, nor read Marg’s response? You’re really missing out on God’s blessings.

    3. This reminds me of people who are atheist who argue about God. If God doesn’t exist why/what are you arguing? If she shouldn’t be teaching why are you reading and addressing her points. I hope you accidentally learn something new. More importantly, I hope your heart is changed even though you are “nice” about misogyny. Let’s stop propping up things that flow from the curse calling it the Kingdom of God.

    4. WOW! The arrogance is astounding!!!

      1. Yes, he speaks, presumably so that I will listen. But he cautions that if I speak, he will not listen in case he learns something from a woman. Clearly, he does not have the wisdom of King Lemuel or of David or of the many other men who have heeded the words of sensible and godly women.

        It reminds me of what Origen has said, “Men should not sit and listen to a woman . . . even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since it came from the mouth of a woman.”
        Fragments on 1 Corinthians

        These misguided men forget that God gives women words to speak. Jesus told Mary Magdalene to speak to the disciples and deliver an amazing message. Sadly the disciples seem to have had a similar attitude as we see here. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit continues to give women words to speak (Acts 2:17-18).

        We will not be silenced by men and women who have a skewed view of the value of women because of a misunderstanding and a faulty interpretation of one Bible verse. If anything, these dumb comments spur us on.

  30. I wonder why these women mentioned in Scripture weren’t mentioned very often. Was it patriarchy? Was it the context of the day? Your response appears to remain steadfast in that dated mode. Paul, when writing to the Galatians, spoke of we are all one in Christ. It would then be strange that Paul would change his mind when writing to Timothy about the Ephesians unless it was very specific to that audience, if Paul actually wrote that letter in the first place.

    What may be true is that you and Marg have different interpretations of Scripture, but one is prepared to listen and debate.


    A Deacon in the Methodist Church

    1. The fact that so many women are mentioned at all is wonderful. (Most of the Twelve Apostles are never mentioned again by name after Acts 1.)

      Priscilla is mentioned quite a few times. I love that in Paul’s list of greetings to members of the church at Rome given in the last chapter of Romans, a list which includes 26 named individuals, Priscilla is listed first (Rom. 16:3-5). First! This seems to indicate that Priscilla was a leader in the church at Rome.

      And Philip’s Prophesying Daughters were famous in the early church. Several early church documents mention them.

  31. Enjoyed this article, especially as a guy who was raised with a complementarian worldview. I appreciate your perspective!

  32. Marg ….. God bless you and your family

  33. I wonder why some make such a BIG deal out of a few scriptures like those dealing with women and totally ignore others like what Jesus actually told us to do very clearly. For example in the Great Commission and making His name Great. IF you read Mt. 28:18-20 there is no limits on who or who can’t do this. But you look at the Church and very few are doing this except you look at the field and women outnumber men 7 to 1. I love what my husband says “I would rather have to apologize to Jesus for not keeping a women “in her place,” than for standing in the way of gifted women who are making disciples and planting churches.” R.Wood

    1. And seriously, what is the worst that can happen if a woman is leading? Israel was blessed and the nation flourished when Deborah was leading.

  34. Grace and peace. I have been a pastor and scholar of the Scriptures built for his articles on the important subject of “Biblical Equality.” I have translated into Portuguese (I live in Brazil) an article about the opinion of Some Scholars on Women in Ministry. Now I am reading other articles on your site and every moment I appreciate your erudition, clarity and commitment to the Scriptures to expose this important theme. If you allow me to continue translating and posting your articles on my blog and facebook for the enrichment of the readers. Without doubt, I will mention the author.

    1. Hello Ivan,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am genuinely glad that you like my articles. At this time, however, I do not want you to post any of my (whole) articles on your website. But I will think about your request.

      You may, however, post an excerpt from any article along with a link to the article on my website, so your readers can read the whole article. This is what my friend Orlando does. See here: http://orladorei.blogspot.com/

      Orlando is translating my articles and I am very happy with his work. Links to Portugues translations are here: https://margmowczko.com/portugues/ Feel free to share links to these articles on Facebook.

      Warmest wishes.

    2. I see that you have already posted one of my articles on your website without permission. (I am the copyright owner of most of my articles.)

      But I can’t see that you’ve linked back to my article or to my website. In fact, I can’t see that you mention my website at all. At the very least, please include a link to my Portuguese page. https://margmowczko.com/portugues/

  35. Marg, I’m encouraged by your love for truth and showing God’s value and character towards women. This topic has divided the church and is continuing to divide. One question I hear a lot, “WHY DID JESUS ONLY CHOSE MEN?” Can you give your thoughts on that question?

    1. I think there are a few reasons why Jesus chose twelve men to be his special disciples.

      The Twelve are most often associated with being witnesses of Jesus, of his ministry, death and resurrection. (For example, Luke 24:48; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 2:32; 4:20, 33ff; 5:32; 13:30-31.) Women, sadly, were not considered to be credible witnesses in the first century. This is one reason why women were not included among the Twelve.

      I discuss a few reasons here: https://margmowczko.com/the-twelve-apostles-were-all-male/

  36. I believe there is a key factor missing in this discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

    It is fact that the above verses were not written in the original text that Apostle Paul wrote. Those verses were actually found written in the margin on the side of a manuscript and no scholar can authenticate that Apostle Paul actually wrote them. That is why in some manuscripts of 1 Corinthians 14, the verses about women remaining silent come after verse 40 rather than verses 34 and 35. (See https://bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-corinthians-1434-35 – there are many other articles validating this fact.).

    Also, if you look at the text of the original manuscript in context of the surrounding scriptures to these verses, it is about the prophets speaking in order (verses 29-33), then these verses 34 and 35 are mentioned about women remaining silent, and immediately in verse 36, Apostle Paul resumes writing about the prophets again. It doesn’t flow – as if it was an afterthought. That may be why some translations list the verses at the end after verse 40.

    In addition, if we want to stay within the letter of the law, this verse is not addressing unmarried women. They specifically state these women should ask their husbands at home. What about the unmarried ones?

    The most interesting question to pose is, why would Apostle Paul reference “the law” in verse 34 as validation about women remaining silent when he preached in his other Epistles we are no longer under the law, but under grace and there is no gender in God’s eyes? Which law is he referring to? There isn’t one within the 613 of the Mosaic laws or the Ten Commandments. Also, the Corinthian people were Gentiles and not Jews. Therefore, if it were a country/city law, that doesn’t appear to fit either, because during Paul’s time, Corinthia worshipped a female god (Aphrodite) and had many women leaders.

    The questions to ask oneself is – Do you believe Apostle Paul actually wrote those verses and who is it that seeks to put people in bondage (especially mentally)? When we are in a box, it can inhibit the Holy Spirit from working through us. Women are very sensitive to things of the Spirit.

    1. Hi SR,

      Since this is a blog post and not a book, I do have to limit my word count. But I discuss 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in several other blog posts here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/1-corinthians-1434-35/

      I discuss different ways of understanding “law” (Greek: nomos) in 1 Corinthians 14:34 in a section here: https://margmowczko.com/interpretations-applications-1-cor-14_34-35/

      In her 2016 book, Paul and Gender, Cynthia Long Westfall states that nomos is used in 1 Corinthians 14:34 with “its most common meaning ‘rule, principle, norm.’” According to this understanding, talkative women were to be quiet and behave according to the cultural norms of the day. This is how I am inclined to take nomos in 1 Cor. 14:34 too.

      The idea that verses 34-35 started off as a margin note is a credible theory, but it is not fact. There is no actual surviving Greek manuscript that has these verses in a margin and not in the body of the text. I discuss the interpolation theory here: https://margmowczko.com/interpretations-applications-1-cor-14_34-35/

  37. That’s great to hear, It is my pleasure and a true blessing to interact with the readers of this blog! I love hearing about all the ways God is at work in hearts! thanks for sharing this very useful blog!

    1. The Lord loves all his people and neither is a man loved more than the woman in God’s eyes, but God appoints the man as the leader in the home and the pastor of a church, not the woman. If women have a hard time with this, then they have an issue with God. There cannot be two leaders in the home, that would be chaos. That does not mean that a woman cannot handle certain affairs better than a man, be it finances, she could be academically smarter, but that doesn’t qualify that woman to be the leader in the home. It is the man’s humility to admit that his wife is better in certain areas than he is, and the woman, again in humility, knows she is more adept at certain things, but the man is to love his wife and respect and receive with joy his wife’s God-given ability, and she is to love him and realize, yes I am better at certain things that normally a man does, yet still understand the relationship as God intended with the man as the leader in the home. The opposite could be true as well, the man may be smarter, have a more distinguished degree, whatever, but is he better in God’s eyes than his wife? No, and he ought to love his wife just as if he did not have any of those accolades, again it is humility because as God tells us: Psa 103:13  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. Psa 103:14  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 

      There are many women who are great speakers and eloquent, and could probably preach better than pastors, but God is very clear in His word, they cannot hold the office of a pastor, I don’t care how gifted they are, they are not called to preach or to teach men who have been born again. A woman who shares the gospel with a lost soul is not teaching a man, she is doing what each of us are commanded to do, share the love of Jesus Christ with them so they too can be born again and know real joy.

      I saw a comment about there being more women now who act as leaders and that is to the shame of men who are letting the woman assume the responsibility that God put on men. i see that more and more, but it will never be justified in God’s eyes. Did Saul not think he was doing a marvelous thing when he disobeyed God, what did Samuel say: it is better to obey than sacrifice.

      When young, I used to see the Pope being worshipped by thousands of people and them kissing him and bowing to him as if he were Christ himself, and my thinking as a young teenager was, surely all those people can’t be wrong. Well guess what, they are wrong.

      So to all those women who think it is ok, I have a warning for you:

      Matthew 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
      Matthew 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 

      Thank you Marg for letting me share my thoughts.

      1. Hi Ira,

        Why can’t there be two leaders in a home? Surely “two heads are better than one.” Why not lead with your spouse and share responsibilities? Isn’t this how most households are run?

        And how much leadership is actually required for the day to day running of the average house today? Not much.

        In my home, there are four adults, two married couples as well as three small children. Neither one of the adults is “the” leader. But we all take responsibility for various aspects of our lives together. And there is harmony in our home and no chaos.

        It is a dim view of people if we think that a small group, or even a couple, of capable adults will descend into chaos if there is no leader.

        But more importantly, there is no Bible verse that states that the man is the leader of the home or house, unless we choose to obey Xerxes’ edict in Esther 1:22. But as a follower of Jesus, I don’t take my cues for living from a pagan king who had his nose out of joint because his wife didn’t comply with unseemly demand. If you want to comply with his edict, that’s up to you, but don’t judge people who choose to not to have a leader in their home and choose to manage things together under God’s reign.

        I don’t know why you chose to quote from Matthew 7, but here’s another quotation from Matthew 7, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matt. 7:1).

        You made this statement, “God is very clear in His word, they cannot hold the office of a pastor.” Actually, there is no New Testament verse that says this or says that God appoints only men to be pastors. You’ve confused your interpretation for fact. Here are articles that look at what the Bible actually says about whether women were pastorselders/presbytersbishops/overseers, or deacons or whether they preached in New Testament times.

        I understand if you think only men should be leaders in the home and in the church. I’m sure you’ve thought about this and this is how you interpret scripture. But I see in scripture that were women did function as ministers and leaders in the church, and that Paul commended them. And none of this has anything to do with working iniquity. “Women pastors” are not on any of the several lists of sins in the New Testament!

        After having studied the Bible closely for years, I honestly believe that in the majority of situations, God doesn’t care in the slightest if a pastor is male or female. In fact, I believe that, just as the ideal in the family is to have both a mother and a father, churches benefit when they are ministered to and led by both women and men working together side by side.

        Paul’s only problem was with women and men who were rowdy, or not appropriately dressed, or spreading wrong doctrine. Paul tells these people, both women and men, to settle down, be quiet, dress appropriately, and learn. See 1 Corinthians 11:4-5; 14:26-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Paul does not tell gifted and well-behaved women or men to be quiet.

        I’ll end this comment with a verse from Paul, “Finally, Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (Rom. 14:4).

  38. Please could you help me understand why some churches justify ‘eldership’ as a male only role in the church whilst saying they allow women to function in all the Ephesians 4 ministries? Is eldership actually a leadership role we should recognise alongside the Ephesians 4 ministries?

    1. Q. “Is eldership a leadership role we should recognise alongside the Ephesian 4 ministries?”

      A. Not quite.

      To be an elder, you had to be an older person. Being an elder in a first century church was a social position of seniority that might be expressed in different ways, but the elders probably mostly provided counsel.

      Some people who functioned as apostles, prophets, etc, would probably have been elders, but not all. And some elders may have done none of these ministries.

      The three biggest impediments in modern evangelical thinking in accepting that some women were elders in New Testament churches are:
      1. not understanding the role of elders in first-century churches,
      2. not understanding how many first-century churches operated, and
      3. the “husband of one wife” idiom which is a qualification for elders given in Titus 1:6 (and 1 Tim. 3:2, etc).

      I’ve written about the “husband of one wife” idiom and how the early church understood it here:
      https://margmowczko.com/pauls-theology-1-timothy-3-2-priscilla/ Check the footnotes and postscripts too.

  39. […] New Testament Women Church Leaders […]

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