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12 apostles

Jesus and his disciples (A scene from the movie Son of God.)

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Introduction: A Flawed Argument

An argument often brought up in discussions about women in church leadership is that Jesus’ twelve apostles[1] were all male, and, because there were no females among the Twelve, this means that women cannot be church leaders.

This argument is usually countered with the fact that, as well as no women, there were also no Gentiles among the Twelve. So, if we genuinely want to use the Twelve as a paradigm of people suitable for church leadership, we should restrict leadership to Jewish men.

I find neither of these arguments useful in discussions on church leadership because they miss a critical point: Jesus’ earthly ministry and the choosing of the Twelve occurred before the church was in existence.

Jesus’ ministry occurred at a vital juncture between the Old Testament and the New Covenant—between “Israel only” and the inclusive, universal Church. The New Covenant had not yet been inaugurated when the Twelve were called, and so, at that time and at that place (Israel), Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his first disciples.

The Old Testament, Israel, and Patriarchy

There are a few reasons why Jesus chose twelve Jewish men to be his chief disciples. Jesus’ teaching ministry was directed primarily to the Jewish people within Israel (Matt. 15:24), and for Jesus to be recognised as a rabbi he needed to have at least ten male disciples. With twelve Jewish male disciples, Jesus’ status as a rabbi was never questioned, even by his critics.[2]

Furthermore, there is an obvious symbolism with the number twelve. Jesus himself makes a connection between the twelve disciples and the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29–30; cf. Rev. 21:12–14).

William G. Witt comments on this symbolism.

Jesus chose male apostles for the same reason he chose twelve apostles and Jewish apostles. Insofar as Jesus’ followers represent the new Israel, Jesus’ twelve apostles typologically represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and, specifically the twelve patriarchs (sons of Jacob/Isaac) from who the nation of Israel descended…. The twelve had to be free Jewish males, and not slaves, women or Gentiles, in order to fufill the symbolic function of their typological role.[3]

When Judas Iscariot died, his place was filled to keep the number of the apostles at twelve, but once the New Covenant had been inaugurated, and when the church age began with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and as more and more Gentiles joined the church, the significance of the Twelve was no longer relevant. The New Testament shows no evidence of any attempt to replace James after his early death (Acts 12:1–2) in order to keep the number of apostles at twelve.

Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be one of the original Twelve, presumably knowing that Judas would later betray him (John 6:64, 70–71). Since Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve, this makes the argument untenable that Jesus intended these men to be some sort of precedent or paradigm for church leadership. The fact that one of the Twelve never became a church leader is an important point to consider. In fact, Jesus never refers to the Twelve as “leaders.” But there are still other factors to consider regarding the argument that the all-male Twelve means that women cannot be church leaders.

The Twelve assisted with Jesus’ healing and teaching ministry to the Israelites (Matt. 10:5–6 cf. 15:24). It is inconceivable that the Jewish people would have accepted this kind of ministry from Gentiles, and, due to the poor status of women, there may have been considerable difficulties for Jewish men to accept healing and instruction from women. Jesus began his earthly ministry while the Old Covenant was still operative and also while the repercussions of the Fall, which included the rule of men over women, were still in full effect (cf. Gen. 3:16b).

Nevertheless, while there were no women among the Twelve, there may have been Jewish women among the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:1ff). Many women accompanied Jesus and the Twelve on missionary trips and supported the men from their own resources (Luke 8:1–3). Many women were among the most faithful of Jesus’ followers and so some (or all?) of these women may have been among the Seventy-Two.[4]

The New Covenant, the Church, and the Holy Spirit

Once Jesus had fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament with his death and resurrection, the old rules and restrictions became obsolete. Jesus commissioned his disciples to make more disciples from every nation (Matt. 28:19 cf. Acts 9:36). These other disciples included Gentiles and they included women.[5]

With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a new covenant was ratified and a new era began. And at the dawn of that era, Peter proclaimed that ministry was not restricted according to gender or age.

“And in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh (i.e. all people).
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your youth will see visions, and your seniors will dream dreams.
And indeed on my male servants/slaves and on my female servants/slaves
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Acts 2:17–18

In the church age, the Holy Spirit equips both men and women for ministry. In fact, in every New Testament passage that speaks about spiritual gifts and ministry abilities, even leadership and teaching ministries, there is no gender distinction implied or stated. The Holy Spirit gives his gifts as he determines without any apparent regard for gender (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4).

Jesus had treated women with a degree of dignity, intelligence, camaraderie, and genuine brotherly love that was uncommon in those times. But true equality within the community of Jesus’ followers had to wait for Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out for the first time on all believers regardless of gender.

Witnesses, Apostles, Pastors, or Priests?

The twelve apostles were all male. These men were witnesses—witnesses of Jesus’ ministry, his miracles and his death and resurrection. “Witnesses” is a word that comes up frequently for the ministry of the Twelve. (For example: Luke 24:48; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 2:32; 4:20, 33ff; 5:32). The fact that women were not considered as credible witnesses in the first century is probably a significant reason why women were not among the Twelve.[6]

As well as being witnesses, the men were itinerant missionaries (i.e. apostles). Except for John who settled in Ephesus in later life, it is possible that none of the Twelve functioned as local pastors or local church leaders. So the argument that women cannot be pastors of churches because the twelve apostles were all male is illogical. Being a pastor and being an apostle are not the same thing.

Having said that, we do have the example of a New Testament woman who was an apostle—Junia (Rom. 16:7). Moreover, the New Testament gives us several examples of women who functioned in various leadership ministries in the early church, including being pastors and leaders of house churches.[7]

Some denominations teach that the apostles functioned as priests and that subsequent church leaders also function as priests. Under the New Covenant, however, there is only one priest—Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Mediator. There is no need for any other mediator between God and his people (1 Tim. 2:5). The New Testament never refers to apostles or any other church leaders as priests.[8]

All Christians are agents of Jesus Christ by virtue of his Holy Spirit who lives within us, and we are all members of a royal priesthood. As members of this priesthood, we are called to collectively, and sometimes individually, proclaim the gospel to those who have not heard.[9]


The fact that the Twelve were all men cannot be used to bar women from leadership ministries for several reasons. Jesus called the Twelve before the New Covenant had been inaugurated and before the Holy Spirit had come on all believers. He chose the Twelve to help with his ministry to Israel within a certain cultural context. The fact that Judas was one of the Twelve means that Jesus must have chosen at least one (or some?) of the Twelve for reasons other than church leadership.

The “male apostle” argument cannot be taken to mean that women cannot be pastors or evangelists, etc. It might be taken to mean that women cannot be apostles; however, the example of Junia as an apostle makes even this argument untenable. Moreover, Jesus never stated that only men could be leaders. Jesus’ only instructions about church leadership are that those who lead in the Christian community should be servants not rulers.[10] The fact that Jesus’ twelve apostles were all male is not a valid premise to exclude godly and gifted women from any kind of ministry function or role in the Church.


[1] The Twelve are referred to as “apostles” (Greek: apostoloi) only a few times in the Gospels: once in Matthew, once in Mark (twice in the Textus Receptus), five times in Luke, never in John.

Many scholars [e.g. W. Schmithals (1969:98–110)] in fact argue that Jesus did not at any time call the twelve ‘apostles’ during his lifetime. . . . Did Luke introduce the title ‘apostle’ in his role as editor of the historical sources he used, or was it already there?
Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians (Collins Dove, 1989), 155, 157.

The word “apostles” is used many times in Acts, but it sometimes includes, or refers to, more than the Twelve (e.g., Acts 14:14).

[2] “To the present day among orthodox Jews the quorum for a synagogue congregation is ten free men; unless ten such males are present the service cannot begin.” F.F. Bruce “Women in the Church: A Biblical Survey,” Christian Brethren Review 33 (1982), 7-14, 10. (Source) It is unclear when, in the history of Judaism, the regulation about a quorum came into effect or was universally acknowledged.

[3] Lucy Peppiatt includes this quotation in her book, Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 24. William Witt’s 2020 book Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination, published by Baylor University Press.

[4] Richard Bauckham writes,

… if we read on from Luke 8:1–3 in the company of Joanna and the other women, it will not be possible to read Luke 10:1–20 where Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples to participate actively in his own mission of preaching and healing, without assuming that women are included among these disciples.
Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of Named Women in the Gospels (London: T. & T. Clark, 2002), 200.

[5] Tabitha (Dorcas) is a woman specifically identified as a “disciple” (Acts 9:36ff). However, Jesus had discipled other women too. Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, the posture and position of a disciple, listening to his teaching (Luke 10:42 cf. 11:27–28). And Mary Magdalene called Jesus, “Rabboni,” my master-teacher (John 20:16). See also Matthew 26:46–50. (More on Jesus’ female disciples here.)

[6] Josephus, writing in the late first century, expresses sentiments that were common at the time.

But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex. Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.
Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15, §219

[7] New Testament women who were involved in ministry include Priscilla (with her husband Aquila) (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3–5, etc), Lydia (Acts 16:40), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (with Philemon and Archippus) (Philem. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1) and “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1–2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2–3), plus others. These New Testament women had significant Christian ministries which may have included house church leadership. Just as there have been good and bad male leaders, there were good and bad female leaders. Sadly, the church in Thyatira was being corrupted by the teachings and false prophecies of a wicked and immoral female leader (Rev. 2:20–24). A woman in the church at Ephesus was also teaching unsound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3–4; cf. 2:11–15). [More in 1 Timothy 2:11–15 here.]

[8] There is no real evidence that Peter was the first leader or the first bishop of the church at Rome, or that the ministry of being a “priest” is passed on from minister to minister (known as apostolic succession). Peter makes no mention, or hint, about apostolic succession in his letters, nor does he ever state that he was the first bishop of Rome.

[9] Paul refers to his ministry as “priestly” once, but he says this in the context of proclaiming Christ to the Gentiles—to those who do not know him (Rom. 15:16 cf. 15:20). Christians should rely primarily on God, and not a person, for their forgiveness, comfort, and guidance, etc. I do not believe that church leaders and other Christians are called to represent Christ to people who already know him.

[10] Kevin Giles makes this point in his study guide Better Together, and adds that this rule is stated seven times in the Gospels: Matthew 20:26–28; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43–45; Luke 9:48; 22:27. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrated this rule in John 13:4–20. Better Together (Acorn Press, 2010), 8.

Postscript: 11th of February 2020
The Twelve as Representative of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

Sean McDowell quotes James Dunn and Craig Keener about the role of the Twelve as representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

[W]e should remember the purpose for which Jesus called 12 apostles. James Dunn notes: “The only obvious way to interpret the significance of Jesus’ choice of twelve disciples was that he saw them as representing (the twelve tribes of ) Israel, at least in God’s eschatological intent.” [James D.G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 2:206.] This same reasoning lies behind the emphasis in early Christianity upon “the Twelve,” as seen in passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:5 and Revelation 21:14. The calling of the 12 disciples was a prophetic sign that God was sovereignly initiating a new era for Israel.

Craig Keener writes: Although these witnesses were foundational (cf. similarly Eph 2:20), from the standpoint of Luke’s theology, such choices did not exalt the individuals chosen as individuals (hence the emphasis on their backgrounds, e.g., Luke 5:8; 22:34; Acts 8:3); rather, these choices highlighted God’s sovereign plan to fulfill the mission effectively … apart from Jesus, all the protagonists would be like David, who passed from the scene after fulfilling God’s purpose in his generation (Acts 13:36). [Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), 1:662.] This may help explain why the Gospels pay so little attention to some of the apostles. The importance of the Twelve is found less in the individuals who composed the group than in the theological transformation their existence signified.
Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2015), 10.

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

59 thoughts on “The Twelve Apostles were All Male

  1. I am egal so you know I agree with the major conclusion you reach.

    However, I do not agree with the way you got there, altho it is commonly taught. One needs to do their best to seek the full counsel of Scripture, hence my comment.

    While I think there are a few problematical statements you make, I will only address the largest claim, which is “Once Jesus had fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament with his death and resurrection, the old rules and restrictions became obsolete.”

    If this is true, no one told Peter and Paul, see Acts 21:18-26 where Peter encourages Paul to pay for Nazirite vows of others, which includes animal sacrifices at the still standing temple, to show that he does live in observance of Torah (v. 24). From where I sit, Acts is not a theological treatise like Hebrews that contains complex argumentation, it is much more straightforward in what it teaches, my point is that I do not see how to avoid the implications of the Acts 21 text.

    1. those men in those days were very involved in jewish ritual and law having been raised in it and daily practicing them but . how many of us today are told to pay our nazarite vows or do any of the other many jewish laws and practices?

  2. Don, is it possible that Acts is showing us that Torah observance is still useful as a public relations tool, but showing us no more than that?

    Marg, that is interesting about a rabbi needing ten followers. And how it turned out that Jesus sort of needed at least one “spare.” *yikes*

  3. Hi Verity3,

    I do not see that. It certainly IS a PR tool for other Jews, but I do not think that Paul did it only for that reason. The text says to me that it was more than that.

  4. Don, I struggle with knowing what Old Testament instructions still apply for the Church. I think the apostles did too. If I can word things better, let me know. I welcome other criticisms … I want to learn. What are the other problematic statements?

    This is how I see it: When Jesus died on the cross, the temple curtain was torn in two and the light of the Great Menorah was soon extinguished. To me, this shows that any temple services and sacrifices made after this were mostly futile. However, perhaps because people are so slow to accept and understand change, it was another 40 years before the Temple was completely destroyed making temple services and sacrifices impossible. (Did God give people forty years to get used to the idea that the temple era was being fazed out?) In the meantime, the apostles (who were Jewish) and other Jewish Christians still observed many of the Jewish festivals and temple services.

    I think understanding the Jewish roots of Christianity is extremely helpful, but as a Gentile Christian, I don’t see that many of the Old Testament religious or civic laws apply except as basic principles. (Does that make sense?)

  5. Verity, I’ve wondered about the spare too. 😉 However, the Twelve Apostles are symbolic of the Twelve Patriarchs.

    It’s interesting that Judas rarely comes up in discussions on this subject. It’s hard to rationalize Judas as one of the Twelve. He wasn’t one of the Eleven who received the Great Commission.

  6. Marg,

    I am learning also and certainly do not think I know all the answers and do not want to come off that way either. All of us see thru a glass darkly in trying our best to understand Scripture, since none of it was originally written to us, altho it was written for us.

    One thing I am doing is learning to read Scripture as a progressive continuous revelation, which means it is less discontinuous than I had thought before. For example, the Greek word ekklesia means assembly or congregation, yet is often translated as church, and since the word church does not show up in the OT, it can appear to be discontinuous. But the LXX used the word ekklesia for a word in the OT, going all the way back to Jacob’s clan going to Egypt, so this is a more continuous reading, so I now prefer simply assembly or congregation. So to a first approximation, I see the NT sitting on the OT as a 2nd story of a building sits on the first, it is simply inconceivable to think that one can understand the NT without understanding at some level the OT. But there are many challenges in understanding the OT, let alone the NT, but my take is I need all the help I can get.

    Given that gentiles have made up 95+% of the population, once the Way started to include gentiles, it was inevitable that it would become gentilized, that is, the vast majority of members would be gentiles. However, gentiles simply would not have been educated in the OT like the original disciples were, when Torah learning began at a young age as well as aspects of Jewish culture that might have been obvious to the original readers but are not at all obvious to us today.

    As I see it, some decades ago, it was a revolution in scholarship to figure out implications of the fact that Jesus was Jewish. And now a similar thing is happening at a deeper level, figuring out the implications of Jesus/Yeshua being a Torah-observant Jew, along with Peter, Paul, etc. This is something that has been “cloaked” due to the gentilization of the church since the 2nd century. It goes beyond even what is called the New Perspective on Paul, I would call it a new perspective on the NT, but it is trying to read the NT as best we can as the original readers would have.

  7. Jesus and Peter and Paul were Torah observing Jews. I agree that this fact needs to be more readily acknowledged by Christians.

    In fact, Jesus also observed Jewish customs that were not prescribed in the Torah, including religious rituals (e.g. the three cups at Passover). And he even used these extra-biblical customs to make a point (e.g. coming into Jerusalem on the same day that the Passover lambs entered Jerusalem.) So understanding the Jewishness of the New Testament is important.

    I still believe that OT laws have been superceded and abolished by the New Covenant and that Christians are not obligated to keep any OT law or Jewish custom that is not reiterated in the NT as an instruction.

    Hebrews 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

  8. Yes, I agree that the next step after seeing that Jesus was a Torah-observing Jew is seeing that he also kept many of the traditions of the Jews that are extra-Biblical. In other words, he was thoroughly Jewish in his time. This also makes his diffs more stark when he disagreed with others on a few of those traditions when they negated Scripture. Theologically, his closest exegetes were some Pharisees, but one might not guess this without knowing the cultural context.

    In your second paragraph you are making 2 claims. The latter one (reworded as I would reword it) is that no follower of Jesus needs to obey anything in the Mosaic covenants if they do not wish to do so and I agree with this. I do this because of the way I understand Rom 7:1-6 as applying to Jews and gentiles are simply not in the Mosaic covenants. Of course, the Acts 15 stipulations would apply for them, but those are minor.

    On your former claim I agree that this is a pervasive teaching and if true would basically invalidate the rationale of being a Messianic Jew. So at the very least I encourage you to investigate why MJs do not think this is the case.

  9. For example, here is how MJs understand the new covenant. It is first defined in Jer.31:31-34. The difference between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant is where it is written (and NOT in what it contains), the former is on parchment and stone and the latter is on one’s heart (or insides); the contrast is that for the former there is no provision to keep it, one just knows when one breaks it; but in the latter one wants to keep it.

  10. One of my friends is a Messianic Jew who is very active in Bible teaching. (He’s director of Ariel Ministries Australia.) I’ve heard him state that the Old Covenant with its rules, regulations and rituals are obsolete. He asserts this much more strongly that I am comfortable doing. The reason I am saying this is because there is diversity of thought on this subject even among MJs. Still thinking . . .

  11. MJs are not monolithic, just like prots are not either.

    Arnold Fructenbaum is the (Jewish) founder of Ariel and there is no question he knows a lot of Jewish context to Scripture (a lot more than me) but he is also a Dispensationalist. And the way he does it is literally to impose an interpretive grid on the Bible where the various Dispensations start and end as determined by covenants. In other words, the very first thing one needs to do when using this method is to determine WHICH dispensation a specific part of Scripture is in, they make it easy by literally carving the Bible text up as they see it so each fits into a dispensation, IIRC one demarcation line is in a specific verse of Acts 2.

    I did try taking a class from them, but I was seen as disruptive as Ariel is non-egal and I am egal, plus I am not a Dispensationalist; so after getting my questions and posts removed because they pointed out things that did not follow Ariel’s party line, I gave up. In other words, the info flow was strictly intended to be one way only and forever. I do want to point out that he has a lot of good insights.

    In any case ALL Dispensationalists (as far as I know) would say as he does, as the dispensations create discontinuities by their very definition, as in God acts one way in dispensation A and then acts in a different way in dispensation B. Since I am not one of them, I should not be seen as an authority on what they believe, but this is how it appears to me as an outsider.

  12. “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” – 1 Corinthians 11:3-10

    “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15

    I know Protestant Christians like to interpret these verses differently but, what they have neglected is that the most knowledgeable leaders and scholars of the church have sat down throughout the ages and have concluded that the verses MEAN what they say. No woman can be in any level of authority over man in the Church of Christ. It is not a matter of hate or argument or even male pride. God, since the begin, has made it so. Who are women that they dare stand before the God of Heaven and Earth and reject this. As the verse says, “Woman is the glory of man.” not the glory of God. God requests women to be humble and to not get ahead of themselves for a reason. After all, doesn’t God know what he created inside out? He has a reason for everything. But women really just want to push barriers and elevate themselves on a pedestal. If women did the opposite, they would be fulfilling God’s will for them. If you don’t believe me, look at Saint Mary! Don’t keep flapping your lips and just look! She was a humble woman, SHE NEVER thought of herself as high or important. “My soul magnifies the LORD and my spirit rejoice in God my saviour, for He has regarded the lowly state of his humble maidservant.” That sentence shows the women of today how arrogant they have become. Because Mary humbled herself, did what her role was on this earth and praised the LORD humbly, she received a reward! The SON OF GOD! She later became exalted above all the angels, saints and men! That is proof of how God intended women to be and what the reward for obedience and humility and sacrifice is. That is why women should not think highly of themselves and question God. What are you to question the God of Heaven?!

    1. These are amongst the hardest scriptures to interpret. And of course, they mean what they say. I noticed that you have taken 1 Corinthians 11:16 out of context.

      Here is how I see it. I think these verses prove that the people in Corinth at that time understood “the man is the head of the woman”, to mean that if man preceded woman and woman was created for man, then doesn’t that stand to reason that man has authority over woman? He is her source, therefore he is also her authority. WRONG!!

      I think Paul, in verses 5-10, is merely describing and clarifying how the Corintians understood the doctrine of “male headship” not agreeing with it or endorsing it. I say this because he backpedals in verses 11-12, and corrects this erroneous thinking. He correctly points out that while Eve was formed from Adam’s rib, every other man after that was born of a woman. So man and woman are not independent of each other. He continues to say that the churches of God have no other practice than to require the woman to have hair.

      I think Paul used the word “head” to mean source of, since verse 3 is in chronological order and not chain of command order. He was correcting the authoritative interpretion.

    2. 3 women preaching the message of Christ.

      One is deep in the jungle mission field surrounded by natives as she tells them about jesus—

      One is standing on a street corner handing out tracts as men and women walk by.

      One is delivering a message put on her heart in a church on Sunday morning.

      Two of them will be lauded, praised and called courageous and truly following God. And one will be called names, told she is rebellious and disobedient, going against God. Same message, both genders are listening to her message ––all 3 have a call on their life…the only difference is location.

  13. Hi Orthodox Deacon,

    I completely agree that the verses mean what they say, more precisely these verses mean what they say in the Greek. (English translations do not always adequately convey the meaning and intent of Paul.) My views on 1 Cor 11:2-16 are similar to that of Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom, Saint Basil, Athanasius, Eusebius, and Ambrosiaster. All these knowledgeable early church theologians and writers who knew Greek believed that “point of origin”, and not authority, is the meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

    More on this here:
    And here:
    And here:

    I have no desire to have authority over a man and I make that quite clear in several articles on this website. In fact, I have no desire to have authority over any capable adult person, male or female. The authorisation of the Holy Spirit to function as a minister is very different to having authority over another person.

    God requests that all people be humble, not just women. Was Deborah humble? Or Miriam? Or Anna who spoke to all who were waiting for the redemption (or deliverance) of Jerusalem? Or Priscilla who taught Apollos about Christian baptism? Or Phoebe, Nympha, or Lydia? I imagine that they were.

    Mary is just one example of a woman who God used for his purposes. God used other women in other ways, some as leaders. https://margmowczko.com/the-propriety-of-women-with-authority/ God has not called me to be the mother of the Messiah.

    1 Timothy 2:12 does not represent the whole counsel of God in his word on what women can or cannot do. Having said that, I think it is wrong for any person, man or woman to usurp authority. I have written more about 1 Tim 2:12 here:

    Furthermore, the belief in equality for men and women in marriage and in ministry has nothing to do with women putting themselves on pedestals. Do men put themselves on a pedestal when they are called to minister? Some may, but this is not what Jesus wants. Neither men nor women should think more highly of themselves than they ought. Many of my brothers are keen to see their sisters regarded and treated as equals. You will notice that every person I have quoted in the article is a man.

    Also, both men and women were originally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28) and all of us who are contemplating the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18). Woman may be the glory of man, but we also bear God’s image and glory just like our brothers. More on 1 Corinthians 11:7 here:

    You have misjudged my motives and my heart, and a few lines of your comment seem rude. I presume that you are a Christian, as such, I would appreciate it if you speak to me with civility, respect, and perhaps even with love (1 Tim 5:1-2).

    1. An excellent reply, thank you Marg.

  14. It seems clear to me that a man who comes onto someone else’s blog to scold and accuse her, is the one thinking more highly of himself than he ought.

    1. Good point!

  15. One more thought,

    Jesus is not only an awesome Savior, but also an awesome Gentleman! The apostles faced a lot of violence and were ultimately martyred (quite horribly, in fact.)

    He never would have subjected women to that type of violence. These men were imprisoned, beaten, crucified, etc. A woman apostle would have also been raped……

    1. All of Jesus disciples, both men and women, faced equal peril until the Edict of Milan was enacted in 313 which granted religious freedom to Christians. Before this time, many men and women were martyred for their faith.

      The New Testament mentions dangers and persecutions for men and women alike.

      ~ When Paul (or Saul as he was then known) was persecuting Christians he looked for both men and women (Acts 9:1-2).
      ~ Later, Priscilla and Aquila put their lives in danger for Paul’s sake (Romans 16:3-4).
      ~ Andronicus and Junia (a woman) were apostles who spent time in prison with Paul, presumably for their faith (Romans 16:7). Prisons were horrible, miserable places in ancient times, and prisoners were routinely beaten before they were put in jail.
      ~ The Christians in Asia Minor, both men and women, were being poorly treated by their pagan neighbours so Peter wrote to encourage them. Peter tells them, in his letter, not to be surprised by their ordeal. I have written about this here.

      Documents from the early church period also record that many women, as well as men, were persecuted, tortured and murdered.

      Pliny, the governor of Pontus and Bithynia in Asia Minor tells how he tortured two slave women who were known as Christian ministers.
      Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96-97. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html
      I write about Pliny and the two women he tortured here: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/was-phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-in-cenchrea-part-1/

      And, yes, there are reports of women disciples being raped as part of their torture.

      You might be interested in this article about female martyrs: https://margmowczko.com/church-history/female-martyrs-early-church/

      These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There is absolutely no indication in Scripture or in history that women are exempt from persecution or even execution because of their Christian faith.

      In some parts of the world, men and women continue to be persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, raped, and murdered for their Christian faith. I know of a couple of Christian women, Asia Bibi and Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag who are currently in prison in Pakistan and the Sudan and have been sentenced to death.

      Jesus continues to call both men and women to be his disciples, and he does not promise an easy road. Rather he warns of hardships and persecution. Discipleship can be costly.

      1. Thanks. I agree with you. But I don’t believe Jesus would have directly placed a woman in danger by choosing her to be an apostle. He wouldn’t be acting as a true “head”. At the same time, he didn’t stop them from freely choosing to be disciples and spreading the word and placing themselves in danger. I certainly could be wrong, but I just don’t see Him doing that. He would have wanted to protect women.

        1. Hi Anna,

          I don’t think that Jesus directly placed a man in danger either.

          Many women were at the same places, at the same times, as the male disciples. Many women were at the cross, for instance. And while the men were hiding after the crucifixion, the women ventured out to see where Jesus’ body was laid, and to visit the tomb early on Sunday morning.

          The idea of chivalry, that men especially protect women in a gallant way, is absent in the biblical text, and mostly absent in Greco-Roman writing. The idea that Jesus was a “gentlemen” doesn’t resonate with me. It also doesn’t fit with his time and culture or the actual events in his life and ministry. But that’s not to say that Jesus was “ungentlemanly”.

          The Old and New Testaments (and the writings between the Testaments) show that many women were brave and endangered their lives to rescue others, and, in the intertestamental writings, by not renouncing practices of Judaism.

          Jesus doesn’t have one set of commands and principles for male disciples and another set of commands and principles for female disciples. Plenty of female apostles and disciples have been persecuted and killed for their faith.

          1. Hi,

            Thanks for the interesting exchange. I think we need to agree to disagree on this one. And that’s OK!!

            Women are definitely brave.
            But Jesus had to select people he new were going to suffer horribly for the faith. Women are the weaker vessel, physically only, and specifially placing women in any dangerous situation is not honoring to women. The Bible does treat men and women differently.
            Women are never asked to die for men. Husbands are required to die for wives and honor us because we are weaker physically and less aggressive. This does seem a little chivalrous to me. Jesus saved Mary M from being stoned, she nutured him at the cross. Men should empower women, nuture them, die for them, etc.
            In return, women should “hupotasso”to men. I believe this means we are to support, yield in love, cooperate, help, and be loyal to which forms a mutual submission type of dynamic in the marriage.

            So many Bible verses/teachings are unclear. This is my biggest frustration. I feel there are a lot of passages where we just don’t have the entire context of what is going on. The 1 Corinthians verses about veiling women are the worst for me. If you take them at face value, they are completely illogical. And if we have to do “Gymnastics” to make sense of them, then, what’s the point?

            So, it’s always great to hear what others think.

            I am on this journey sincerely trying to figure out what God really thinks. But it is difficult.

            Thanks again!!

  16. One way to understand ezer is as a strong rescuer.

  17. Hi Anna, I am happy to agree to disagree. 🙂

    I am on a journey too, and I am still looking for answers and trying to listen for what God really thinks about certain issues and situations.

    Just one minor point, Jesus did not save Mary Magdalene from being stoned. He saved an unnamed woman caught in adultery. Jesus told this woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, accompanied Jesus throughout Galilee and all the way to Jerusalem for his crucifixion.

    More on Mary Magdalene here: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/mary-the-magdalene/

    1. reply to Anna—

      Most of what we believe we learned early on from sermons and sunday school—. it is hard to let go of those tradtional teachings when we learn something new —it is sometimes hard to change what we thought was right but change is a part of growth.

      I have been reading Marg’s articles and found lots of things I thought was truth has been misapplied, and most- actually all of it–pertains to women in the body Of Christ.

      Did you know the underground church in Iran is led by women. Why didn’t God call a man to do that dangerous job of bringing Christ to that part of the world?

      Why did God call a black woman (Sojourner Truth and 2 quaker women) to preach against slavery in the American south?

      Corrie Ten Boom made it through the nazi concentration camps alive to bring the message of Christ to the world.

      And Joni Eareckson, wheel chair bound, teaches so many deep truths of following Christ yet she is in pain every day.

      Yet we have been led to believe it is a sin to question and learn, especially if we are women. I am so glad that is changing.

  18. The 12 apostles of Jesus were all 1st century Jewish men, so another possible reason such were chosen is that they already knew Tanakh, the Scripture of the time, what we call the OT. Jewish women, on the other hand, were only taught the parts of Scripture that applied to them. That is, Jesus’s mission was about 3.5 years, so selecting people that were already qualified in some ways to be teachers of others makes sense, as the women would first need to learn more than men to get up to the same level of education. After all, one needs to learn before they can teach. Once they were at the same level of knowledge, then the previous limitations would not necessarily apply (and I think they do not).

    1. Good points, Don.

  19. I am pretty sure that the Apostle Paul specifically stated that Junia (a woman) was “outstanding among the apostles” and that she had been in prison with him. (See Romans 16:7.) This would contradict the assertion that a woman “can’t be an apostle.”

    1. Yes, Paul described Andronicus and Junia as among (ἐν) the apostles/missionaries. (I mention her twice in the article.)

      More on Junia here:

      In this article, I discuss why the inclusive sense of “well-known among the apostles” makes better sense of what Paul is saying in Romans 16:7 than “well-known to the apostles”: https://margmowczko.com/is-junia-well-known-to-the-apostles/

  20. I’ve just come across a book called “Shall Women Preach?” It was written by Louisa Woosley and published in 1891. The author was the first woman ordained in any Presbyterian Church. Many of Louisa’s arguments in her book are familiar–I use some of them myself–but there is one I haven’t heard before.

    She argues that if women cannot be ordained as ministers because the Twelve were all men, then, by the same logic, women should not be present at Communion services because, as far as we know, only men were present at the Last Supper. But churches do allow women to be present and partake of Communion, but many of these same churches do not allow women to be ordained ministers.

    Lousia Woosely was recognised as a legitimate member of the Cumberland Presbyterian clergy and served in a variety of church offices for over 50 years.

    More about Louisa here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Woosley
    Her book can be read online here: https://archive.org/stream/shallwomanpreach00woos#page/n7/mode/2up

    1. Ha, I love Louisa’s argument about the Last Supper. Good for her for pointing out another double standard. I looked up Louisa since I have never heard of her…she experienced opposition because of her gender (not surprised). And thanks again, Marg, for your article. You help me fall in love with Jesus more and more. Jesus really was / is the most revolutionary person to walk this earth. The more I learn, the more I’m in awe of what Jesus did.

  21. I think the reason the disciples were all male is related to the fact that, as believers, what we seek (and wait for) is “the adoption of sons,” which happens by having Christ (the Son) formed in us. This has nothing at all to do with our physical gender. Whether male or female (according to the flesh, by which Paul said we are to know no man), those who are led by the spirit of God are called “sons of God.” n this way, I believe the disciples serves as types or figures for those who have been “born again.”

    We need to keep this in mind, whenever the topic of men vs women or husbands vs wives comes up in scripture, that Paul used those relationships (and Adam and Eve) to teach us spiritual truths about “Christ and the church.” And when it comes to “Christ and the Church,” all believers make up “the Woman,” typified by Eve, who Paul said “shall be saved in childbearing, if THEY continue in faith.”

    We need to remember and take note of the fact that Jesus likened his disciples (all male) to “a woman” whose hour has come to be “delivered of the child.” And Paul (also male, according to the flesh) spoke of his own “travail,” which led to him “putting away childish things” when he “became a man.” This is something he said he went through “again” with those under his charge, who he referred to as “my little children,” So if we think that Paul is talking about literal men and women when he says things like “I suffer not A WOMAN to teach, nor to usurp authority over THE MAN, but to be in silence,” we really might want to pause a moment and think about how Paul used “the man” and “the woman” in his letters and just exactly who it is that “travails” in birth (the woman). Such goes hand in hand with how Paul refers to those who were spiritually immature as “children” and “babes.”

    This is not unique to Paul or the New Testament. Isaiah also uses the terms “babes” and “children” and “women” in Isaiah 3 to speak of those who would come to rule over Israel, leading them into error. Jeremiah says “a woman shall compass a man” and “Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?” Other OT prophets also use this terminology.

    It is “all flesh” that is commanded to be silent before the Lord. (Zec 2:13) And those who have not yet been “delivered of the child” are, as Paul put it, “yet carnal.” And those who are still in need of one to teach them should not be teaching others. But we tend to want to judge things according to the flesh, which prevents us from comparing spiritual things with spiritual so that we can hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

    This addresses more than just why all of the disciples were male, of course, as it should also inform us concerning the topic of the role of “women” in the church, especially when the views held by some members of the church have Paul contradicting himself by asserting that Paul made distinctions between believers based on gender, despite saying that this is not how we are to know one another.

    I don’t know if you have addressed 1 Tim 2:11-15, directly, but I did see your blog post on women church leaders. This response would be applicable to that topic as well. I look forward to reading some more. Thanks!

    1. Hi Christine,

      It’s an interesting idea that the disciples were male because of the language of “sons” in New Testament letters. Though “adoption as sons” may not the best translation of the Greek word huiothesia.

      Many English translations (e.g., NRSV, CEB, KJV, CSB) translate huiothesia simply as “adoption” or “adoption of/as children” in Romans 8:15; 8:23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. The NIV, ESV, and NASB, however, include the words “sonship” or “sons” in some or all of these verses. I don’t have a problem with the words “sonship” or “sons” provided it is understood that redeemed women are every bit as included as redeemed men.

      The aim of our walk with God is indeed to be conformed to Jesus, and while Jesus is a male, both women and men are called to become like our Lord.

      I’m currently writing an article on Ephesians 4:13 which is poorly translated in the ESV. Their translation of Eph 4:13, which includes the word “manhood” almost reminds me of a few first and second century Christian texts which show that some Christians believed women had to become male to be fully saved, as though being a saved male is the pinnacle of redemption.

      In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, Simon Peter is recorded as (supposedly) saying that Mary Magdalene should leave the group of disciples because she is a woman and “not worthy of life.” To this, Jesus (supposedly) responds with, “Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Saying 114 cf Saying 22.

      In the diary of Perpetua, she writes about a vision where she becomes male.

      But this is not what Paul teaches. In Christ, there is neither male and female: our biological sex has no bearing on salvation with all the benefits that come with it (Gal. 3:26-28). Our equal status in Christ also affects our status within the Christian community.

      I don’t think for a minute that the editors and translators of the ESV actually think women need to be male in order to be redeemed and included in the Christian community, but I do think they are holding back on the full inclusion of women, simply on the basis of sex. Like Simon Peter, too many women are being asked to leave, or they are excluded from, the inner groups in some communities because, in some people’s thinking, their femaleness somehow disqualifies them and renders them as unworthy from certain ministries.

      Anyway, I’m still inclined to believe that the Twelve were primarily chosen to be Jesus’ witnesses. The word “witnesses” comes up quite a lot in the context of the Twelve, and even in Paul’s ministry as an apostle.

      I’m puzzled about why you would say “men vs women or husbands vs wives.” This is not how I see men and women; we are no opposites or in competition. Men and women are different, but we share many, many things in common. And Paul rarely uses the relationship between men and women to teach spiritual truths about Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:22-33, he uses the example of Christ and the church to teach about marriage. But most of Paul’s instructions about men and women are much more pragmatic and are addressing local problems in some churches. In real life, the spiritual ideal is sometimes compromised.

      Also, I do not think “Paul is talking about literal men and women” in 1 Timothy 2:12 as you put it, but a real (or literal) man and a real (or literal) woman in the Ephesian church: He was talking about literal men in 1 Timothy 2:8, and literal women in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, and in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 he narrows his focus to a literal man and woman, probably husband and wife.

      I’ve written about women being included as “sons of God” here:

      I’ve written about Galatians 3:28 and our identity in Christ and in the church here:

      I’ve written about Isaiah 3:12 here:

      About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here:

      And specifically about 1 Timothy 2:15 (“and she will be saved through childbearing”) here:

      1. HI again,

        I don’t see anything wrong with translating uihothesia as “the adoption of sons,” as long as we understand that Paul is not speaking of “adoption” in the same sense that we think of adoption today. Unfortunately, though, that is exactly how many believers see it. They see God as their Father only because he “adopted” them into His family. They see Jesus Christ as His only “real Son,” if you will. I simply see it as the one who is already “a child” of God receiving the placement (tithēmi), or designation, of “a son” (uihos), which comes as a result of having Christ formed in them. It speaks to spiritual maturity. So, it is not just that this is “the language of the NT” that makes me believe this was why the disciples were all male. I simply believe that the disciples, who were chosen to be Christ’s witnesses (I agree), also serves as “types” for “the sons of God,” who can be male or female. They are those who are able to stand “in Christ’s stead,” as Paul put it.

        When it comes to male and female, I was not suggesting that we are in opposition or competition. Yet that is exactly how some believers see it. Though they say they are “equal,” the lead/head always goes to the “man” or “husband.” From top down the hierarchy is God, Christ, Men, Women. Yet, if we pay close attention, that is not how Paul ordered his words when he spoke of headship. So, I’m simply saying that this is not how I understand Paul’s words in either case. And in light of how I understand Paul’s words (as well as Jesus’ words concerning his disciples, and the words of several of the OT Prophets), I believe you are incorrect when you assert that Paul is speaking about a literal man and a literal women, probably a married couple, in those passages in 1 Tim 2. I’m also not sure why you suggest that Paul was using Christ and the church to teach about marriage in Ephesians, when it reads the opposite to me. Paul writes about the marriage relation and ends with: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless….”

        Thanks for the reply. I will check out the other links you provided.

        1. Hi Christine,

          Yes, if we pay close attention to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:3 there is not a neat top-down order of hierarchy: Jesus Christ is at both ends of this verse.

          Christ-every man, man-woman, God-Christ.

          Nevertheless, I do think that social status is one of the concerns behind Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, as is creation.
          I’ve written about social status here: https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

          I like what David deSilva says about “head” in 1 Cor 11:3:
          “However, one chooses to translate kephalē (“head”) here, the firstness indicated by the term is difficult to avoid.”
          David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 231.

          In the ancient world it was rare and unusual for a family to legally adopt daughters, assuming it happened at all. Rather a family without a son sometimes adopted a young man, not a baby, to be the heir. This is the context of the NT adoption verses. Men and women are adopted to be heirs of the kingdom.

          It is sad that many Christians do not understand this. It seems we need better Bible teachers who understand both the ancient language and ancient context of the New Testament. The Twelve are never singled out as being adopted, they are no more or less heirs of the kingdom than we are. Though, according to Revelation, they will get thrones.

          This sentence sounds like it’s saying two contradictory things: “Paul writes about the marriage relation and ends with: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless….” Ephesians 5:22-33 is not the most straightforward piece of writing, especially as it is written as a chiasm. I suspect we are in agreement here, but are expressing it differently. Paul is teaching about Christ and the Church, and he is giving this as a model for marriage. (Jesus doesn’t need a model to follow.)

  22. These are great considerations to keep in mind with this argument. However, I commonly hear people who use this argument say that Jesus went against the cultural and religious norms of His day, so cultural considerations are not relevant (such as the fact women were not considered witnesses and that people would not have been accepting of women’s healing and instruction). I think the argument is that Jesus would have gone against those norms if it had been right to do so, like how He went against the Pharisees and money changers in the temple . I was wondering what your thoughts are on this view? Either way, I am glad Jesus went against cultural norms and associated with women, and that He considered women important.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      Jesus lived as a first-century Jewish man. He followed most of the customs of the day and, as far as we can tell, he kept the Law. (I’m happy to be corrected on this.)

      I don’t think casting out the money-changers is an example of being counter-cultural. Rather it is an example of righteous anger. There are examples of other first-century Jewish men acting defiantly, usually against corruption among the religious elite or against the Romans.

      Jesus did relate to women in ways that were extraordinary, and no one can quite figure out how numerous women were able to follow him around Galilee without causing a scandal. But Jesus needed at least ten men to be considered a rabbi (if that regulation was in place in the first century), and he needed men to be witnesses (this is an important point!), and he needed twelve men as symbols for the twelve patriarchs/tribes of Israel. Women could not fill these roles no matter how counter-cultural Jesus may or may not have been. But women, as well as other men, were among Jesus’ disciples.

  23. Hi Marg,

    Whilst I believe women to be of equal value to God as children of God, I do not believe that women are called to be in authority over men at all. All the said “authority” of women over men is evil in the eyes of God and is feminism. The reason being that it goes against the nature of woman to be in authority over man. It is like a man being effeminate.

    There are no women apostles mentioned in the Bible. There are not even any present day apostles. The apostles are those that established the church in the beginning. They were all men. There is a verse in Scripture used to say that a woman may have been an apostle. But reading from the Authorized Bible:

    Romans 16:7 “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen…” KINSMEN! See the word “men” in the true translation! Also it goes on to say that these are of “note among the apostles.” Even if you miss “kinsmen” it still doesn’t prove these were even apostles. It does not say that these were “notable apostles.” It says that these are of note AMONG the apostles. So that can mean that they were of good reputation among the apostles or that the apostles themselves thought them remarkable or noteworthy. I am not saying that most certainly this is the meaning. But why would Paul say that they are of note among the apostles? All apostles are noteworthy. How can a person be an apostle and not be noteworthy? So this is the way I understand this verse and this is what I believe. I don’t even believe that Paul was calling these “kinsMEN” apostles. But there is no way anyone can argue that there were female apostles just based on a verse like this.

    Again, there are no female elders or pastors. Elders or pastors are older men in the Lord. There are also no female teachers, except that a woman can teach younger women or their own children. There are not even any female deacons. There are no female evangelists mentioned either. Why would God call a woman to the office of an evangelist where she must travel around when her life is better spent bearing children and managing the house, while the man goes to the “work.” What then is left in regard to the five ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians? The most important office in the present day in the church is that of a prophet. And a woman can be a prophetess. What then is the difference? A prophet is not one who speaks from himself or who holds “authority” over others. When a prophet speaks he speaks from God, it is not merely the man or woman speaking.

    Feminism is evil and is at its worst today. Women are not designed to be in authority over men. It is abominable to God. Just as a man being effeminate is abominable to God.

    1. Hello Richard,

      None of your remarks relates directly to the article above. Nevertheless, I will respond to some of your statements.

      I agree that no Christian woman should have authority over another capable, adult brother in Christ. I also believe that women should not have authority over another capable, adult sister in Christ. The authorisation to minister, which ultimately comes from God, is not an authority over another brother or sister. Jesus warned about this “over” type of authority, but much of the church has ignored his message. (More on this here and here.)

      Thankfully, I don’t have to rely on English translations–I read Greek–and I haven’t missed “kinsmen” in a few English translations. The Greek word used in Romans 16:7 that is translated as “kinsmen” in the KJV, ESV, NASB, etc, is suggeneis. The same Greek word is used when it says that Elizabeth was a relative of Mary (Luke 1:36; cf. Luke 1:58). “Kinsmen” is an old-fashioned word that means “relative.” (The KJV often uses “men/man” words to refer to both men and women, for example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 Timothy 2:4-5).

      However, Paul uses the word suggeneis in his letter to the Romans for fellow Jews. Andronicus and Junia were fellow Jews of the apostle Paul. You can see all the occurrences of suggeneis in the New Testament for yourself here.

      The Greek word apostoloi which also occurs in Romans 16:7 is often translated as “apostles” in English translations of the New Testament; it means “missionaries.” I have little doubt that Andronicus and Junia were well-known missionaries. In New Testament times some missionaries were, apparently, better known than others, and Andronicus and Junia were outstanding.

      I doubt that Paul is referring to the Twelve Apostles when he wrote Romans 16:7 (around 56-58 AD). By this time a few may have died (e.g., Acts 12:12) and others of the Twelve were scattered on their own mission trips. There are still missionaries, both men and women, today.

      The New Testament actually mentions female presbuterai (“elders”) and diakonoi, as well as women who were involved in gospel ministry. I mention some of these women here. On the other hand, no individual other than Jesus is identified as a pastor in the NT. See here.

      Some women ministers did indeed travel. Priscilla and Phoebe, for example, travelled for ministry, as did the women mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:5. Not all women had the freedoms that some Roman, Macedonian, and Anatolian women had. So female missionaries were needed to bring the gospel to women who lived more secluded lives. Female ministers they were also needed to baptise women converts. We have letters that survive from the first few centuries of Christianity which show that other Christian women travelled too.

      Furthermore, there are documents which show that there were women who taught or explained Christian doctrine. Priscilla, of course, is a good example of this, as is a woman named Grapte mentioned in First Clement.

      Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Nympha, Euodia, Syntyche, Mary of Rome, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis and other women mentioned in the New Testament were not feminists, but they were ministers. Paul was also not a feminist, but he valued and approved of these women and he commended their ministries. And so do I.

      One final point, the apostle Paul, who wrote his letters in Greek, never used a Greek word that means “office” to refer to ministry. The ministries in Ephesians 4:11 are not offices but functions. And nowhere in the New Testament does it plainly state that any of the ministry functions that Paul lists in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, or Ephesians 4:11 are off-limits to women.

      1. Hi Marg,

        Saying “none” of my remarks relates directly to the message above didn’t make sense to me. However, I’ll just have to maintain my stance in the truth regarding all that I wrote. To begin with, I don’t believe anyone can speak of the truths of God or with any authority outside of the Authorized King James Bible. It is the perfect translation. So when I read it I believe every word. I hold no one to speak truth or to have authority outside of the Scripture. People that claim they have a better understanding than those who translated it are only being ignorant. So unless they quote directly from it, it means nothing to me. For then it’s not the Word of God but their own thinking.

        When speaking of “authority” I don’t mean ruling others in the sense of pushing them around. The only word of authority is the Word of God in a person’s mouth. If a person rejects the Word of God, they are rejecting what God is speaking. It really doesn’t matter what they think. If I for example, go to someone and tell them the Word of God, and they reject the gospel and me, they are rejecting God.

        I don’t wish to argue but just to point out one thing concerning having authority.

        1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine

        1 Timothy 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

        Hebrews 13:17 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with
        grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

        Hebrews 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.

        See these verses speak of ruling. These are elders. “Pastor” and “elder” or “overseer” are all synonymous. These are all definitely men. The qualification for an elder or pastor is that he must be the husband of one wife etc. So then an elder or pastor “ruling” is not a woman. This is just to point out one thing. Does this mean that a person should just obey the elder no matter what? Not if he is opposing the Word of God. A sheep cannot follow the example of a false shepherd. In that case he is not to be listened to, because it’s the Word that has to be honoured above all. A true elder however is not likely to know and do less that those who have not been in the faith for very long.

        1. Hi Richard,
          ~ The article on this page is about the argument that because the Twelve apostles were male, that means women can’t be pastors, etc. But few of your remarks are about how the argument either works or fails.
          You’ve not responded to the points in my article. And you’ve also not interacted with any of the comments I made in my previous comment to you except for where I said, “None of your remarks relates directly to the article above.” Perhaps you’re not actually interested in, or listening, to my words, so I’ll just leave this one more reply to you.

          ~ As for the King James Bible, I believe the actual words Paul (and other authors of the Bible) penned have far more authority than any translation. These words of the actual authors of the Bible are the words I read and heed. I take their words literally.
          And what about the majority of people in the world who can’t speak English? Are they denied a “perfect translation” of the Word of God? Your idea sounds prejudiced and discriminatory of people in non-English speaking countries and situations. God is much bigger than that! God loves the world, not just English speakers. His Word is for everyone.

          ~ There is no Greek word that means “over” in the verses you cited, including the three verses in the letter to Hebrews about (literally) “those leading you,” except for the phrase in Hebrews 13:17 where it says that “they watch over your lives/souls.”

          ~ Jesus told the Twelve to preach (i.e. proclaim) that the kingdom was at hand (Matt. 10:7; Mark 3:14). He authorised them to cast out demons and cure diseases (Matt. 10:1, 8; Mark 3:15). He told them to make other disciples from all nations by teaching and baptising (Matt. 28:18-20). He told them they would be his witnesses (e.g., Acts 1:8). He did not tell them to be rulers.
          Jesus never used words like lead or govern when speaking to the Twelve, let alone rule.

          The authority to minister is an authorisation to function in a certain gifting or ministry role. Christian ministers are not rulers but servants, something the church, and apparently you, have totally misunderstood. And Jesus is the shepherd we are to follow.

          ~ I do not believe the roles of overseers, of pastors and of elders were identical in the first century (or today), but if they were, I wonder how you can say that women weren’t overseers and pastors as “elder women” are mentioned in your preferred translation of the New Testament.

          ~ Nowhere in the New Testament does it say women can’t be overseers, pastors, or elders, etc. And Paul never hints in Romans 12:6-8 CSB, 1 Corinthians 14:26 CSB, Ephesians 4:11 CSB, Colossians 3:16 CSB, etc, that some of these ministries are only for men.

          ~ I understand that you need to stand by what you believe, and I have no desire to change your mind. That is not my job. But I am dismayed that you think, out of all the millions of people in the world, God somehow favours English-speakers and has only given them a “perfect translation.” That is a disappointing and small view.

          Anyway, I have other people who are writing to me with questions and who are interested in my words. You’ve had your say and I won’t spend any more time approving, listening to, or responding to your ideas.

  24. Some people have had a problem with the way I refer to former covenants and to Israel. I do not disparage these covenants or Israel; they are God’s covenants and God’s people. Also, I do recognise that Israel welcomed Gentiles under certain conditions, but this inclusivity is limited and is nothing like what is offered under the New Covenant.

    I include the following to be clearer.

    ~ The Mosaic Covenant was made between God and Israel, primarily for Israel. Other people could be included, but only by joining Israel. And there are several laws that differentiate between Israelites and Gentiles (e.g., Exod. 21:2ff).

    ~ The Tabernacle and Temple, as well as the Ark of the Covenant, were located among the Israelites. God did not give other nations a house or a chest where his Presence dwelt.

    ~ The original scriptures were written by Israelites, mostly about Israelites, and primarily for Israelites. The Hebrew Bible is all about the people who belonged, racially, to Israel with some exceptions.

    ~ The original scriptures were even written in the language of the Israelites: Hebrew with a bit of Aramaic. (God didn’t also organise for original scriptures to be written in Swahili or a Celtic language, for example.)

    ~ The New Covenant, on the other hand, applies to all people regardless of race or ethnicity (Gal. 3:28). There are no bits that apply more to one group than to another.

    ~ All nations have been blessed by Abraham’s seed, Jesus: “For God so love the world that he sent his one and only Son …”.

    ~ God’s Holy Spirit, his “presence,” has been poured out on all flesh, Jew and Gentile.

    ~ The New Testament was written in Koine (“common”) Greek, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire.

    ~ “New Covenant” is biblical language. (See here.) Furthermore, Paul refers to the “Old Covenant” in 2 Corinthians 3:14, and the author of Hebrews talks of a better covenant (e.g., Heb. 8:6).

    ~ And then there is the new creation.

    Galatians 6:15-16 perhaps summarises the situation:
    “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule and upon the Israel of God.”

  25. Oh, this is so good! Thank you Marg for turning on the light and making this so clear!

  26. Great! I’m hoping for an article about how women’s menstrual cycles, and their often unpredictableness, kept women from serving fully in the temple and how that isn’t an issue anymore.

    1. Hi Amber, Here’s one: https://margmowczko.com/old-testament-priests-new-testament-ministers/

      It includes this line, “The Old Testament priesthood qualifications were ancestral and physical. New Covenant ministry qualifications are spiritual and moral.”

  27. I think one of your arguments could be developed further. The twelve apostles were the ‘sent’ ones, (literal translation of the word), sent into the world to witness of the resurrection and establish the church among Jews and gentiles. They were basically missionaries (and not necessarily church leaders as you mention). Today and throughout church history, countless women have answered the missionary call. Even the staunchest complementarians have no issue with sending out women, even single women, as missionaries. World wide, there are roughly twice as many female missionaries as there are male missionaries, and the single females are disproportionately represented in pioneer roles (because more of the men are in organizational leadership roles).
    If apostleship is a male ministry, and Jesus chose twelve men as representatives to signal that women cannot fulfill an apostolic role, then we have no business sending women out as missionaries. But we do. And they build up the church and have built the church through the centuries.

    1. Hi Anna,

      Being an apostolos (“emissary”) was almost always a male role in the secular ancient world. This is one reason Paul, and later Chrysostom, say that Andronicus and Junia were apostoloi in a slightly roundabout way. In his Gospel, John also indicates that women functioned as apostoloi. However, the focus of this article is to explain why the Twelve were all men.

      I have other articles about Junia, including one where I mention the etymology of apostolos and women missionaries, here: https://margmowczko.com/junia-and-the-esv/
      In this short article I mention the apostolic women in John’s Gospel:

  28. I totally agree that women are equal. But it’s not to do with the New Covenant in Jesus blood which replaced sheep and goats. Women and Gentiles were always equal in God’s sight. Caleb was a Gentile and represented the tribe of Judah, fully accepted. Deborah and Huldah both had the spirit and proclaimed God’s words. The 12 apostles were merely different symbols to the women. They are the foundation of New Jerusalem in Revelation with the 12 sons of Jacob as gates…Rev 21:14 .. Just one of the symbols that make up New Jerusalem which is actually called the Bride. Just as men make up part of the symbol women do also. It was Mary Magdalene that Jesus chose to reveal Himself to in the tomb… a symbol of the most holy place with the angels keeping watch at either end of the place where His body had lain…. There are so many exciting symbols using women.

    1. Hi Robin, I don’t think men and women are equal because of the New Covenant or Jesus’ blood either. Rather men and women are equal in the New Covenant community of God’s people (whether people acknowledge this or not). And the New Covenant is all about Jesus.

      Under previous regulations, women didn’t have the same access as men in the temple.
      In the New Covenant, we all have the same access to God (e.g., Hebrews 10:19-22).
      In the New Covenant, our access to God’s presence, whether we are male or female, is solely based on Jesus’s righteousness and his redemptive sacrifice. But this doesn’t mean that women weren’t equal with men before. Rather, they weren’t treated as equal or given the same opportunities as men and boys.

      The covenant symbol for belonging to God’s people Israel was circumcision, for males only.
      The New Covenant symbol is water baptism which is for all believers, male and female.

      The qualifications for the priesthood in the Hebrew Bible were ancestral and physical, and the priesthood was restricted to a small group of men.
      In the New Covenant, we are all part of a royal priesthood, and the qualifications for ministry are spiritual and moral. Women are not excluded.

      Right from the beginning, women have always been equal with men in God’s sight (e.g., Gen. 3:26ff). Unfortunately, they have not always been equal with men within the community of his people, especially in the tabernacle and temple which is where God’s presence was in a special way.

  29. I can think of at least one other reason for women not being appointed as apostles as often as men in some cultures: safety. Some cultures would not look kindly upon women teaching and traveling without the oversight and endorsement of authoritative men — and might even attack the women. There is also the possibility of slander and vile persecution (demeaning, accusations of prostitution, followed by assault and possibly rape ). These risks still exist today. :'(

    I am slowly reading some translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls and am horrified by some of the views regarding women. :'( I can imagine their religious rage being hurled at a women who dared to minister or preach the Gospel.

    1. A considerable number of women of the early church, starting in the first century, were a lot tougher and a lot braver than some give them credit for.

      Also, many Christian missionaries travelled in male-female pairs or groups that included men and women: https://margmowczko.com/believing-wives-female-co-workers-of-the-apostles/

      Chrysostom wrote, “For the women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the apostles their labours for the gospel’s sake. In this way they went travelling with them, and also performed all other ministries.” (Homily 31 on Romans; PG 60, 669)

  30. I am wondering how you look on Acts 1 in relation to the New Covenant and the apostles. The beginning of Acts 1 has Christ speaking only to these 11 men before he was taken up and the second half of the chapter tells of the choosing of a new apostle only from among the men who were present. Thank you for any light you can shed on this subject. I have recently found your blog and I love your scholarly approach to understanding the Bible. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kristy, Acts 1:1-11 specifies that Jesus appeared to the apostles and gave them instructions because they would be “official” witnesses (cf. Acts 1:8), but it doesn’t say Jesus only spoke to the Twelve. No verse in this passage says that Jesus met with them alone.

      Further, when the apostles are identified by name in Acts 1:13, we are told that they were not alone in the very next verse, Acts 1:14. Some of these other people, which included women, may well have been with the Twelve all along just as they had throughout most of Jesus’s ministry (e.g., Luke 8:1-3).

      Jesus’s brothers were new members of the group of believers, but they also may have been with Jesus during the time described in Acts 1:1-11, between the resurrection and ascension. It’s during that time that they probably became believers.

      I’m sure that women like Jesus’s mother and Mary Magdalene spent a lot of time with Jesus and the Twelve between the resurrection and ascension. Morevoer, according to John’s Gospel, it was Mary M who told the others about Jesus’s ascension; she was not just the herald of his resurrection, she was also the herald of Jesus’s impending ascension (John 20:17).

      Considering the close relationships they had with Jesus, I can’t imagine that Jesus’s mother and Mary M would have missed out on seeing Jesus’s ascension. I’ve written about Mary M and the ascension here: https://margmowczko.com/mary-magdalene-ascension-cling/

      And even though the Twelve had a special symbolic role as Jesus’s witnesses, women also were witnesses. Paul may be referring to a larger groups of witnesses in Acts 13:29-31:

      When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

      We know that many women had traveled with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:55).

      All this to say, I’m sure the women were with the male apostles between the resurrection and ascension just as they often were before the resurrection.

      Regarding the New Covenant, as I say in the article, “With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a new covenant was ratified and a new era began.” We have no evidence that after Pentecost members of the Twelve were replaced when one was lost (e.g., Acts 12:2).

      1. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your insight.

  31. […] The first category of apostolic ministry is that of the Twelve.[4] These twelve men held a unique position in the primitive church, especially among the followers of Jesus in Israel. Apart from Judas Iscariot, the apostles in this group were not replaced when they died. […]

  32. […] One of the main roles of the Twelve was to be Jesus’s witnesses. The Last Supper and the teachings Jesus gave during the meal were a significant part of his life and ministry. So it makes sense that the Gospel writers would make the point that the Twelve were present at this key event. […]

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