Paul was not a misogynist. He did not hate or mistrust women. Far from it!
He refers to Junia as a fellow Jew, his fellow prisoner, and as outstanding among the apostles.
Paul commends Phoebe to the church at Rome as our sister, as minister or deacon of the church at Cenchrea, and as a patron of many. He also entrusted to Phoebe his letter to the Romans.
He acknowledges positively the ministry labours of Mary of Rome, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis. He loved Persis.
He warmly mentions no less than ten women in Romans chapter 16. Paul had met some of these women when his and their journeys had intersected. Other women in Romans 16, such as Julia, hosted house churches in Rome.
He took seriously a report from Chloe of Corinth‘s people.
He passed on greetings from Claudia of Rome and sent greetings to Apphia of Colossae.
He recognised the house church of Nympha in Laodicea and asked that greetings be passed on to her and her church.
He accepted the hospitality of Lydia in Philippi and held meetings of the fledgeling Philippian congregation in her home.
He respected the faith and teaching of Lois and Eunice.
Paul valued the ministry of women and even compared his own apostolic ministry to that of a breastfeeding woman.
At least eighteen women are mentioned in Paul’s letters; sixteen are identified by name. Paul mentions some of these women along with a male relative, but most are mentioned independently of a man.
Moreover, Paul used his favourite ministry terms, coworker, deacon/minister (diakonos), and apostle, for both male and female ministry colleagues.
Here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the eighteen women in Paul’s letters, plus Lydia.
Apphia (Phlm. 1:2), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Claudia (2 Tim. 4:21), Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5); Euodia (Php. 4:2–3), Julia (Rom. 16:15), Junia (Rom. 16:7 NIV), Lois (2 Tim. 1:5), Mary (Rom. 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom. 16:15), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Persis (Rom. 16:12), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2 NIV), Priscilla (Rom. 16:3–5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19 cf. Acts 18:1–3, 18–19, 26), Rufus’ mother (Rom. 16:13), Syntyche (Phil. 4:2–3), Tryphena (Rom. 16:12), Tryphosa (Rom. 16:12). Lydia is mentioned in Acts 16:13–15, 40.
I believe that if these verses were the starting point and focus in discussions on women in ministry, more so than 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 and 1 Timothy 2:12, the church and the world would be in a much better state. (My articles on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 here, and on 1 Timothy 2:12 here.)
© Margaret Mowczko 2014
All Rights Reserved
Mosaic of Paul presenting St Praxedes (who was martyred in 165) to Christ, in the Basilica Santa Prassede, Rome. Used with permission. © Sr Anne Flanagan (Source)