Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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In the first few decades of the life of the church, a significant number of women were involved in various ministries. Some women cared for churches that met in their own homes, or they ministered in local congregations in other ways. Some women were missionaries and travelled to spread the gospel, or they supported missionaries through patronage and hospitality.

More than a dozen of these ministering women are mentioned by name in the New Testament, but a few, such as Philip’s prophesying daughters, are unnamed. In this article, I suggest that Peter passes on greetings from an unnamed female minister as he closes his first letter.

The Grammar of “She”

In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter sends greetings to the elect who are scattered in Asia Minor (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1). He sends these greetings from the people who are with him in “Babylon.”[1]

1 Peter 5:13 is usually translated as,

“She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you, and so does Mark, my son.”

The one-letter Greek word (ἡ), traditionally translated as “she who” in 1 Peter 5:13, is not a personal pronoun. It is a feminine definite article equivalent to “the.” However, the Greek article does occasionally act as a relative pronoun, and with the feminine gender it can have the sense of “she who”

Less often 1 Peter 5:13 is translated as,

The church in Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you, and so does Mark, my son.” (Italics added)

The feminine definite article can sometimes stand for an unstated (elided) feminine noun.[2] The CEB, HCSB, KJV, NET, NLT, NRSV and a few other English Bibles, include the word “church” in their translations of this verse because they think “church” (which is a feminine noun in Greek) is the subject implied by the definite article .

But I propose a third way.

Unlike how other translators have understood the Greek of 1 Peter 5:13a, I suggest the article is not acting as a relative pronoun or standing for an unstated noun. I propose instead that it is acting as a definite article (“the”) and that it belongs with the feminine adjective suneklektē[3] (“co-elect”) which is functioning as a noun (a substantive). This is not an uncommon Greek construction. (See footnotes.)

With this understanding, 1 Peter 5:13 can be translated as,

The co-elect woman in Babylon greets you, and so does Mark, my son.”[4]

In my interpretation and translation there is no missing (elided) noun in the Greek, but “woman” needs to be added in English translations so that English readers understand that the gender of “the co-elect” person is female.

What is ”she”?


Most translators, past and present, have chosen to translate the Greek article  as “she who” in 1 Peter 5:13. And the common view is that the article refers to a church, a Christian community, from where Peter is writing his letter.

Some early Greek texts of 1 Peter 5:13 even include the word for “church.” The Codex Sinaiticus has the Greek word for “church,” ekklēsia, a noun that agrees grammatically with the gender of the feminine article . A few early Latin and Syriac translations also have a word that means “church.” But the word “church” (ekklēsia) doesn’t occur at all in most Greek texts of First Peter.

Fellowship of Believers

Another suggestion is that the definite article stands for the Greek word for “brotherhood” (adelphotēs), a grammatically feminine collective noun that refers to a group of fellow believers. Adelphotēs occurs a few verses earlier, in 1 Peter 5:9, and it occurs in 1 Peter 2:17. (This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, only in First Peter.)

The inclusion of ekklēsia (“church”) or of adelphotēs (“brotherhood”) in interpretations of 1 Peter 5:13 requires guesswork, especially as there is no New Testament verse where a definite article obviously stands for either of these words. None that I could find, at least. And I looked.

On the other hand, there are several instances in the New Testament where the feminine definite article with a feminine adjective, such as we have in 1 Peter 5:13, clearly refers to women or girls.[5]

A Woman

My suggestion is that the feminine article with the feminine adjective suneklektē (“co-elect”) in 1 Peter 5:13 refers to a woman, “the co-elect.” In 1 Peter 1:1, the apostle addresses Christians (not churches) in Asia Minor who he refers to as “elect” or “elect ones” (eklektois).[6] So it makes sense that “the co-elect” in Babylon also refers to a Christian (not a church).[7]

Furthermore, the way “the co-elect” is paired with Mark in 1 Peter 5:13 (“and/ also Mark my son”), makes it sound like both are individuals.[8] If so, who might this “co-elect” woman have been? I offer the following speculative ideas.

Who was “she”?

Peter’s Wife

Peter’s wife is the most common suggestion from people who entertain the idea that “she” might have been an actual person.[9] From the beginning of the Christian movement, there were male-female missionary couples.[10] And Paul tells us that the apostle Peter (Cephas) went on missionary journeys with his wife (1 Cor. 9:5).

Peter’s wife is never named in the Gospels, but she knew Jesus from an early stage of his ministry; Jesus sometimes stayed in her family’s home (e.g., Mark 1:29–31). Though she is not named, it seems from Paul’s letter that the Corinthians knew of her as Peter’s ministry partner (1 Cor. 9:5).[11]

Mary of Jerusalem

It is also possible that “the co-elect” refers to a female minister who is the host of the church where Peter is staying. Providing a home base for a congregation was a vital ministry in the first two centuries of the church. Perhaps “the co-elect” is a woman like Mary of Jerusalem. As well as being the mother of a minister (John Mark), and the aunt of a minister (Barnabas) (cf. Col 4:10), she was involved in ministry herself.

Mary held church meetings in her own home in Jerusalem in the 40s. Acts 12 records that despite the serious threat of persecution—Herod Agrippa had killed James and imprisoned Peter—she held a prayer meeting. She must have held regular church meetings, or regularly cared for church members, as it’s to her home that Peter chooses to go as soon as he is miraculously released from prison (Acts 12:1–19). Perhaps she, or a woman like her, later hosted a church in “Babylon” and hosted itinerant ministers such as Peter.

(I’ve included the example of Mary of Jerusalem to highlight the ministry of courageous women who were closely associated with Peter and who he would have regarded as “co-elect.”)

An Anonymous Disciple of Jesus

Peter was well acquainted with many sisters-in-the-Lord. Jesus had female followers who included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Salome, and many others. Peter knew these women well as they had travelled with Jesus and the male disciples throughout Galilee.

These Galilean women even followed their Lord to Jerusalem where he was crucified, and women were the first to learn that Jesus had been raised from death. It was Mary Magdalene who told Peter and the others, “I have seen the Lord.” Any one of these women, and others besides, may have been Peter’s female “co-elect.”

A Female Minister in Rome

“Babylon” may refer to Rome. In Paul’s list of greetings to twenty-eight Romans (Rom. 16:3–16), he mentions nine Christian women. Two of these women are unnamed. Judging from the greetings, there was a considerable number of women involved in important ministries in Rome. In fact, there are more women described as ministers on the list than men, with Priscilla at the very top of the list. Perhaps “the co-elect” woman is one of the women on Paul’s list or a woman who followed in their footsteps.


The elect in 1 Peter 1:1 are not churches, and “she,” or “the co-elect,” in 1 Peter 5:13 is not explicitly called a church. It is plausible that, like Mark, “she” is an individual, a woman known for her role in the apostolic church: a woman like Peter’s wife, John Mark’s mother, a female disciple of Jesus, or one of the Roman women mentioned in Romans 16:3–16. Yet no translation of 1 Peter 5:13 that I’ve seen includes the word “woman.” Why is that?

There is no reason to reject the idea that “she,” or “the co-elect,” was a real woman. Neither the grammar nor the context of 1 Peter 5:13 rules out this credible possibility, nor does the fact that she is unnamed. Most commentators, past and present, acknowledge the possibility that “she” is a woman but then shy away from this interpretation.

The plainer meaning in the Greek of this verse is that Peter is passing on greetings from a woman who he describes as “the co-elect.” But who “she” is, remains a mystery.


[1] Karen Jobes notes the near-consensus among scholars that “Babylon” refers to Rome and she provides the names of several scholars who hold this position.

There is virtually unanimous agreement among modern interpreters that the referent of “Babylon” is actually Rome (Achtemeier 1996: 354; W. Barclay 1976: 278; Best 1971: 178; Clowney 1988: 224; Cranfield 1958: 123; J. H. Elliott 2000: 883–86; Goppelt 1993: 374–75; Grudem 1988: 201; Kelly 1969: 218; Kistemaker 1987: 209; Michaels 1988: 311; Perkins 1995: 81; Reicke 1964: 134; Selwyn 1958: 243).
Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 321–323.

Ben Witherington agrees and cites several primary sources in early Christian and Jewish writings.

“Babylon” was the Jewish code name for Rome, as is perfectly clear from many references (2 Bar. 11:1–2; 67:7; 2 Esd. 3:1-28; Sib. Or. 5:143, 157–160; cf. Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:2–24). It is a term Peter could expect a Jewish audience to understand without further explanation.”
Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1–2 Peter (Downers Grover: InterVarsity, 2007), 248.

Furthermore, “Instead of Βαβυλῶνι a few minuscules (4mg 1518 2138) read Ῥώμῃ.” Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition, (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 1994), 628.
Rome makes the best sense, but it is not impossible that Peter, “she,” and Mark are somewhere in the Neo-Persian province of Babylonia. History tells us that Christianity came to Mesopotamia sometime in the first century (cf. Acts 2:5–9ff). Josephus writes that the Jews living in Babylonia left in around AD 65 because of persecution from the Babylonians (Antiquities 18.8). So if Peter, the “apostle to the Jews” (Gal. 2:8), is writing from Babylonia, it would have been before the Jewish population left. However, the broader context of the letter suggests 1 Peter was written after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70.

[2] The NET Bible translates 1 Peter 5:13 as “The church in Babylon, chosen together with you …” But in a note it says the definite article “could refer to some individual woman (‘she who is in Babylon’) since the Greek article … is feminine.” (Source: NET Bible)

[3] Suneklektē is eklektē (an adjective that means chosen or elect) with a sun prefix that means “with” or “together with”: “co-elect.” The implication is that “she” is co-elect with Peter or co-elect with Peter’s audience in Asia Minor, or both. It doesn’t need to be spelt out as most English translations have done: “She in Babylon, chosen together with you.” Rather, hē en Babulōni suneklektē can simply be translated as “The co-elect [woman] in Babylon.”

[4] Greg Forbes translates it similarly as “the fellow elect (feminine) in Babylon.” However, he believes this phrase has a collective sense and refers to a group of believers, not one woman. Forbes, 1 Peter (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament; Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2014), 185.
A. J. Mason translated the phrase as “the co-elect one [fem. sing.] in Babylon” and mentions Peter’s wife before deciding “it seems therefore much more natural to suppose that the salutation is from this church of ‘Babylon’ to her sister churches in the provinces of Asia Minor.” Mason, “1 Peter,” in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (London: Cassel and Company, 1905) (Online source: Bible Hub)

[5] Here is a small sample of a feminine definite article with a feminine adjective in a phrase that refers to women or girls. I’ve provided a literal translation; the words in square brackets are not in the Greek but the sense is understood from the context and feminine gender of the words. (Note that hai is a plural feminine definite article; in 1 Peter 5:13 is a singular feminine definite article.)

Matthew 25:10 hai hetoimoi: “the prepared [virgins]”
Luke 23:29a hai steirai: “the barren [women]”
Luke 24:10 hai loipoi: “the other [women]”

In Mark 5:32 the feminine article tēn is used for the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. The definite article is often translated in this verse as “who” or “she who” but it can also be translated as “the one” with the understanding that “she,” or “the one,” is female. However, the NASB, and several other English translations accurately translate the definite article as “the woman”: “And He looked around to see ‘the woman’ (tēn) who had done this.”

[6] Eklektois (“to elect ones”) in 1 Peter 1:1 is masculine plural so it cannot be alluding to the Greek word for “church” which is grammatically feminine. Rather, “to elect ones” refers to chosen men and women. (Suneklektē “co-elect one” in 1 Peter 5:13 is feminine singular.)

[7] Peter uses the word “elect” three more times in 1 Peter; all three occurrences are in the passage about living stones (see 1 Pet. 2:4, 6, 9).
The lady (ekelektē kuria) and her sister (tēs adelphēs sou tēs eklektēs) in 2 John 1, 5 and 13 are both described as “elect, chosen, choice,” as is Rufus in Romans 16:13. I am as convinced as is reasonably possible that all three are individuals. (I explain why the chosen lady is a woman and not a congregation here.)
Paul sometimes sends greeting from individuals at the end of his letters. In two of his letters, he also sends greetings from churches (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:19). In both these greetings, the plural ekklēsiai (“churches”) is used.

[8] Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215) believed that “she who is in Babylon” was a real person. He conflates her with the “elect lady” in 2 John. Furthermore, he believed eklektē was not a word describing her but it was her name, equivalent to “Electa.” He implies that her name indicates her election or selection by the church. He wrote, “The second Epistle of John, which is written to Virgins, is very simple. It was written to a Babylonian lady, by name Electa, and indicates the election (or, selection) of (or, by) the holy Church.” (Fragments IV, Comments on 2 John)
It survives in Latin: Secunda Joannis Epistola, quae ad virgines scripta est, simplicissima est. Scripta vero est as quamdam Babyloniam Electam nomine, significat autem electionem Ecclesiae sanctae. (Fragments IV, Comments on 2 John, PG 9: 737–738) (I’ve written about the elect lady in 2 John here.)

[9] While we can’t rule it out, I doubt that “she” is Peter’s wife. “She” is identified by her place, “Babylon,” and not by any relationship with Peter. And if “she” was his wife, he could have easily said she so, especially as he warmly identifies his missionary partner Mark as his “son” in the same verse. Furthermore, there is a tradition of Peter’s wife being martyred before him. See footnote 11.

[10] Priscilla and Aquila, and Andronicus and Junia, are two prominent missionary couples based in Rome and mentioned by Paul in Romans 16. More on male-female ministry couples and 1 Corinthians 9:5 here.

[11] Clement of Alexandria (writing about those “who never prefer the pleasant to the useful”) mentions a tradition concerning the martyrdom Peter’s wife, but we are still not given her name:

They say, accordingly, that the blessed Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call and conveyance home, and called very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, ‘Remember the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed and their perfect disposition towards those dearest to them. (Stromata 7.11)

© Margaret Mowczo 2020
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Further Reading

Judith K. Applegate, “The Co-Elect Woman of 1 Peter,” New Testament Studies 38 (1992): 587–604. (Google Books)

Explore more

Believing wives and female coworkers of the apostles (1 Cor. 9:5)
The Elder and the Lady: A look at the language of Second John
Jesus had many female followers—many!
A list of the 29 people in Romans 16:1–16
The First-Century Church and the Ministry of Women
The ‘Shame’ of the Unnamed Women of the Old Testament

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

28 thoughts on “Who is “she” who is in Babylon? (1 Peter 5:13)

  1. Pinned Comment: July 19, 2022

    Someone (without a working knowledge of Greek) stated that my suggested translation, “the co-elect woman in Babylon,” was unique, suspect, and unsupported by scholars. He further stated with an unwarranted degree of confidence that no one takes this verse as mentioning a woman. So I compiled the following quotations gleaned from Bible Hub because it is an easily accessible, free resource that he could check for himself.

    In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers the phrase is translated almost identically to my translation: “the co-elect one [feminine singular] in Babylon.” The author notes the possibility that “the co-elect one” is a woman but decides to go with it referring to a church. (I’ve also mentioned this in a footnote in my article.)

    Here’s what it says in Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments:

    “The Greek is ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτή hē en Babulōni suneklektē and might refer to a church, or to a female. Wall, Mill, and some others, suppose that the reference is to a Christian woman, perhaps the wife of Peter himself. Compare 2 John 1:1.”

    The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges suggests the phrase refers to a church, but also acknowledges the following:

    “On the other there is the fact (1) that there is no parallel use of the adjective without the noun in this sense in any other passage of the New Testament;
    (2) that in 2 John 1:1, which presents the nearest parallel, it is almost certain that the “elect lady,” or the “elect Kyria,” or the “lady Eclecta” is a person and not a Church; and
    (3) that if a salutation was sent from “Marcus my son” to the Churches of Asia, there is nothing surprising in a like salutation being sent from another individual disciple.
    … the question who the person was remains open to conjecture. It may have been St Peter’s wife who was, as we learn from 1 Corinthians 9:5, the companion of his labours, and in this case there would be a special appropriateness in her sending her greeting in an Epistle which had dwelt so fully on the duties of the female members of the Church (1 Peter 3:1-6). It may have been some conspicuous member of the Church of Babylon otherwise unknown to us.”

    The commentator on 1 Peter in The Pulpit Commentary believes the phrase to refer to a woman. After a brief discussion he concludes,

    On the whole, it seems most probable to us that by “the co-elect” (whether we supply “together with you” or “with me”) is meant a Christian woman known at least by name to the Churches of Asia Minor, and therefore very possibly St. Peter’s wife, who, St. Paul tells us, was his companion in travel.

    A few commentators believe that “the co-elect one” is Peter’s wife (e.g., Bengel, Mayerhoff, Jachmann.)

    Vincent’s Word Studies summarises the situation well:

    “There is, however, a difference of opinion as to the meaning of this feminine article. Some suppose a reference to Peter’s own wife; others, to some prominent Christian woman in the church. Compare 2 John 1:1. The majority of interpreters, however, refer it to the church.”

    My suggested translation is neither unique nor novel. It makes good sense to me, and others, that “the co-elect in Babylon” is a woman. The majority of scholars, however, prefer her to be a church, but this preference is not based on the actual text or on inside knowledge of Peter’s companions in Babylon.

    1. Whoever made that comment hasn’t studied Greek. It is extremely common, especially in secular Koine, to put an article at the front of a phrase/sentence and then have a noun or adjective point back to it. A lot of times the put two articles and have two words point back. It certainly could be a pronoun. Generally the pronoun is ὁ, ἡ is kind of rare, but that’s because most literature is male focused. I would tend to agree that it was just making the adjective articular to stress the feminine aspect. If it was church it really doesn’t make sense to call a church co-elect. It would be like Peter saying he wasn’t actually part of the Church.

      1. Thanks, Seth.

        It was part of a very frustrating conversation on Facebook that a friend asked me to contribute to. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered.

        It’s very sad that people with no working knowledge of Greek whatsoever, and who don’t even understand how the entries in Strong’s works, will confidently criticise someone who has devoted years of study to Greek.

  2. Hi Marg, I do think it is not helpful when the scripture were written to include the word Church. It would be interesting to know what was first written in Paul’s letters. The word ekklesia springs to mind. I know some versions do put this, sadly my NKJ is translated church. To know who was who can be hard to work out at times but it sounds like you cracked it, and of course Paul wrote in a way that many will misunderstand. The Bereans checked out everything to see if what written was true, so we know everything had to line up with the Old Testament Regarding women, I think they played a huge part in the church at that time. Of course believers are known as the Bride of Christ, this includes men and women.

    1. Marg – Thank you for this explanation of the many women who were involved in spreading Christ’s word during the time that He walked the earth & also after His death & resurrection. I am keeping this information to further explore & understand. Too often, the only position that is offered with regard to woman’s place in Christian ministry, is the one about Paul’s comments in Corinth that women should remain silent. That is singled out & misunderstood so often, & none of Paul’s other comments about women’s roles in ministry in the early days of Christianity are considered. It’s high time that women are accepted as equals to men, as we were & are all created in the image of God with God-given gifts to do His work in whatever form we are able to accomplish.

      1. Hello Iris,

        Eminent scholar Wayne Meeks has observed that the number of women ministers in the Pauline movement is “nearly equal to that of men.” (First Urban Christians, 81) If we look at the number of women mentioned in the New Testament as ministering in Rome, in Philippi, and in the Lycus Valley, this seems about right.

        The further we move away from Jerusalem, the more we see women being mentioned in the New Testament. Though even in Jerusalem we have John Mark’s mother, and in Caesarea we have Philip’s daughters, and in Joppa there is Tabitha. These women weren’t just ministering at the margins. They were prominent women in their communities.

    2. Hi Leslie,

      Here are Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:13 with a literal translation.

      Aspazetai hymas: “she greets you”
      (It’s not unusual for verbs to be at the beginning of Greek sentences.)

      hē en Babylōni syneklektē: “the co-elect in Babylon”
      (A typical Greek ‘sandwich’ construction)

      kai Markos: “and/also Mark”

      ho huios mou: “the son of me”
      (In English it’s simpler to say, “my son”).

      Paul sometimes sends greeting from individuals at the end of his letters. In two of his letters, he also sends greetings from churches (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:19). In both these greetings, the plural ekklēsiai (“churches”) is used.

  3. I like your possible reading. I hope commentaries start to acknowledge it better.

    It seems to me there is some kind of unwritten rule that when a phrase is ambiguous, the best guess of the translator(s) should be used, rather than giving the reader an indication that an ambiguity exists and then list some possibilities. This is unfortunate as I think there are some plausible situations where the author was being deliberately ambiguous as a wordplay, so picking any one of the possibilities is not what I think the author even meant!

    1. I do wonder why commentators acknowledge that the grammar does make it sound like “she” is a woman, but then they go with “church.”

      I think Peter’s readers knew exactly who she was, just like they knew who Mark was. I believe she was a woman who was well-known enough that she didn’t need to be named.

      Not naming a woman could be a sign of respect in some sub-cultures within the Roman Empire. Though I can’t quite put my finger on why some prominent women are named and other prominent women are not named in the NT, my best guess is that higher-status women from conservative Jewish, and perhaps conservative Greek, backgrounds are less likely to be named.

      1. Perhaps Peter wanted to respect and protect her anonymity. That is at least a plausible explanation.

        1. Yes, anonymity is another possibility. Letters could be intercepted and read by the “wrong” people.
          I’ve written about this in another article.

          Letters in the ancient world, even private letters from one individual to another, were not as private as we might think. Firstly, most people, rich and poor, used a secretary to write their letters. Then, secondly, they were delivered by a letter carrier.

          Cicero once complained about letter carriers to his friend Atticus. He wrote, “There are so few who can carry a letter of any substance without lightening the weight by perusal” (Att. 1.13.1). And Cicero was a person who had more opportunity than the average person of finding and using reliable carriers than people further down the social ladder. Unlike Cicero, the average person in the Roman world could not use the state-run postal system which was primarily used for government and military purposes.
          From here: https://margmowczko.com/anonymous-man-woman-1-timothy-2/

  4. Hi Marg I trust you and family are keeping safe in these difficult days.

    I’m reading a fantastic book by Nicolas Blincoe called Bethlehem tracing the history of palestine/israel from the stone age. After the time of Jesus the pilgrim trail started to open up and among them many women who came to make huge impacts on Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Christianity. Many of them were wealthy high ranking women, who found the desert fathers and groups especially attractive after the excesses of Rome.

    327 CE Empress Helena mother of Constantine visited and among other things built a temple over the site of Jesus’ birth where people could gather to worship

    383 Egeria came to Bethlehem and stayed to document Christian practice, she suggested the Christian population was small at that time

    385 Roman Heiress Paula and her daughter Eustochium came extensively rebuilding Bethlehem and building a church and monastery where they lived and died

    Melania Spanish born roman noblewomen lived among egyptian desert communities building guesthouses and pro-monastery’s

    4th century Roman heiress Poimenia built the church of the ascension on the mount of olives

    I’m sure there are many more but wondered if you had come across these non biblical women in your studies

    It’s a fascinating book as it weaves through the history of the land without the complications of theology and demoninalism. Interestingly it’s a modern book published 2017 so it’s able to embrace the current Palestinian/Israeli situation in modern time


    1. Thanks, Alan. I have read about Helena, Egeria, and Paula and Eustochium. There were some formidable women in the early church. They were usually women of high rank with considerable wealth, who had the luxury of not being tied to the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood, and so they devoted themselves to the church.

      I briefly mention Paula and Eustochium in this short article about their friend Marcella. https://margmowczko.com/marcella-of-rome-academic-ascetic-and-almsgiver/

  5. Hi Marg

    Thanks for your response, I looked at the Marcella article, so interesting and informative. These women were powerhouses for their belief

  6. Decades of Bible Study and reading and I hear this for the first time in Morning Prayer today. Thanks for your in-depth commentary. So many say “some interpret this as Peter’s wife” but finding those some was a little tricky. What good work you do. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Rick,
      Most commentaries I looked at of 1 Peter mention the idea of “she” being Peter’s wife. Nevertheless, commentators typically prefer the idea that “she” is a church.

  7. Hi Marg,

    Thanks for your post! I just finished reading 1 Peter and thought the “she” in this verse was odd, though all the commentaries I consulted overlooked it.

    Wondering if the co-elect woman could be Junia. Richard Bauckham has made quite a convincing case for her identity as Joanna in the gospels, and we know from Romans that she ministered there with Paul. Being a female disciple of Christ, witness to the resurrection, co-worker of Paul, and Roman minister may make her a solid candidate (but maybe I just love Junia).

    1. Hi Alyssa, it’s nice to meet you.

      I’m personally not convinced Junia and Joanna are one and the same, despite Bauckham’s and Witherington’s arguments. But who knows?

      Also, if Joanna was around 20 years old when she travelled and ministered with Jesus, or older, she was most likely dead by the time Peter wrote his letter. (I believe 1 Peter was written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.)

      Since Junia is an apostle, a missionary who travels around, I’m not sure she is the best candidate for the co-elect woman. Prisca, on the other hand, is the first Roman Christian who Paul greets in Romans 16, and she is based in Rome at this time. Prisca is a more obvious candidate, but there is probably a new bunch of prominent women in the church at Rome by the time Peter wrote his letter.

  8. Hi Marg I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for the detail you have included. I wondered if you had any thoughts about the rest of the sentence. It seems accepted that Peter was with this lady at the time of writing but I can’t see how the language suggests this. Maybe I’m just being slow, or maybe the translation is confusing, but if they were together in Babylon would the sentence not have been something like- she who is here in Babylon? I have always assumed that Peter was somewhere else and was passing on a greeting, maybe one that he had received in a letter from the woman in Babylon. Have I missed something?

    1. Hi Mandy,

      If you look at the end of some of the other New Testament letters, you’ll see that the letter writer often sends greeting from those who are with him. This was a common custom in ancient letter writing.

      See Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 16:19-20; Philippians 4:21-22; Colossians 4:10-14; 2 Timothy 4:21; Philemon 1:23-24; 2 John 1:13; 3 John 1:15.

      I’m as sure as I can be that “she” and Mark, as well as Sylvanus, are with Peter (1 Peter 5:12-13).

  9. Is it possible that it could have been Mary, Jesus’ mother? She is certainly one of “ the elect”, though perhaps not in the same sense.

    1. Hi Joann, Some suggest Mary is the “elect lady” in 2 John 1:1,5, which is more likely as there is a strong tradition Mary lived her last years in Ephesus. There’s no tradition Mary was ever in Babylon or Rome. However, it is more much likely Mary was dead by the time 1 Peter and 2 John were written.

      “Elect” is used 23 times in New Testament. It sometimes refers to all the faithful, but a few times it refers to individuals. All faithful followers of Jesus ar the elect. https://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_1588.htm

  10. How does 1 Peter 5:13 “church” (KJV) become the word “woman” (another version)?

    1. David, There is no Greek word that means “church” in the older, major Greek texts of 1 Peter 5:13. And it’s not in Stephanus’s 1550 Greek text or Theodore Beza’s Greek 1598 text which were used by the translators of the KJV.

      The addition of “church” in 1 Peter 5:13 in the KJV is the interpretation of the KJV translators. But they may have borrowed the idea of previous English translations of this verse. The Bishops’ Bible (1568), for example, has “The Churche that is at Babylon elected together with you.”

      The KJV translators seem to have been so sure of their interpretation that they don’t even have a margin note on it. https://en.literaturabautista.com/exhaustive-listing-marginal-notes-1611-edition-king-james-bible

      As I explain the article, the Greek simply has a feminine article ἡ, which can mean “she” or “the woman,” followed by ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτὴ which means “co-elect in Babylon.”

  11. Thank you for this. Especially significant to me is the sequence of the greetings. I understand that some writers add names and groups in whatever order they come to mind, almost as addendums. This series of greetings seems to make much more sense as individuals.

    It has been a blessing to read and refreshed. Serving as a prison chaplain, at times there is push back saying that a woman should not serve in this capacity. I appreciate that now I have your research as well as the other historical names mentioned by other commentators on your page as supports for doing what God has ordained. (Of course, we never forget that it is God Who does the calling, and others who must catch up and see what He’s already active in creating!)

    1. I can imagine that you face many challenges in your calling, Anna.
      I’m glad my work lessens some of the difficulties.
      God bless your ministry, Anna!

  12. […] “She who is in Babylon” mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 is also described as “elect.” Clement of Alexandria presumed that “she who is in Babylon” was one and the same as the “chosen lady” in 2 John. [See footnote 14 for a discussion on this.] In his notes about 2 John, Clement wrote: “The second Epistle of John, which is written to Virgins, is very simple. It was written to a Babylonian lady, by name Electa . . .” […]

  13. […] I have more about the chosen lady in 2 John, here.
    A Christian Lady Teacher in Egypt in the 300s AD
    I have more women church leaders in the New Testament, here.
    An article on the “co-elect” woman in Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13) is here. […]

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