The APOSTLES of Christ -(PART 9)- Women Disciples and Lady Patriarchs of the Early Christian Church
"Strength and honor are her clothing. . . She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. . ." (Proverbs 31:25-26)
Without strong Christian Women, what would the men alone have done?
A JOYFUL DAY of TRUE LOVE (Feb 14th-Valentine's Day) to ALL THE LADIES of the CHURCH out there! Many women of the church have faithfully dedicated their lives to serving the ministry and the Lord, thus their first true love. Also worth mentioning, to ALL the other ladies, if you do not have a good "mortal" man in your life at the present moment, just REMEMBER, that JESUS LOVES YOU and ALWAYS WILL!
Godly Women in Scripture
There are many woman listed in the Holy Scripture that present an excellent example of godliness and righteous virtue in their faith. These woman should be held with the highest esteem and used as role models for all Christian women to aspire in. Nothing illustrates the role of women in the Old Testament more than her place in the religious life of Israel. Her spirituality is sometimes superior to her male counterpart (as seen in Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, Jochebed, Miriam and others). There are also many Old Testament women specifically mentioned, which some of its books are equally dedicated (Ruth and Esther). Women also had a role in the ritual life of the Hebrews. Women (as well as men) were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year and offer the Passover sacrifice. They would also do so on special occasions in their lives such as giving a "todah" ("thanksgiving") offering after childbirth. Hence, they participated in many of the major public religious roles that non-levitical men could.
Maybe above all, is the Old Testament’s designation of "prophetess" as in the cases of: Huldah, Miriam, Deborah, and Anna the wife of Isaiah, as well in the New Testament as noted with Philip the Evangelist’s daughters (Acts 21:8-9). So it is interesting that, although the Hebrew Levite priesthood was closed to women, the other offices of royalty and prophecy were quite frequently held by very capable women.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." (Joel 2:28-29 KJV)
We will not however be featuring these women here as this topic is best suited for another article. The following will reflect more on the women in the New testament and the roles that they played in the ministry of Jesus Christ and foundation of the early Christian church as foretold by the elder prophets.
Women in Christianity
Jesus is the one who opened the door to a "oneness" of men and women in joining His discipleship of all believers (Mathew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 2:1-10; Revelation 3:7-13). Jesus Christ's work as an egalitarian priest teaches us that both men and women can contibute equally and vitallly to His ministry. Jesus wanted to stress that concentration on the Kingdom of God outranked any worldly activity. It was characteristic of Him to illustrate this point, as it is noted that He in fact did, in instances concerning Mary and Martha of Bethany for example. Orthodox Jewish teachers would never have done this. Jesus often addressed His teaching to women and used women as illustrations of great spiritual truths.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33 NKJ)
Both Jesus and His earliest followers understood and taught that ALL people have an integral role in the ministry and the establishment of the Kingdom of the Lord. The New Testament Gospels acknowledge that women were among Jesus' earliest followers. Jewish women disciples, including Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Joanna (Junia), and Susanna, had accompanied Jesus during His ministry and often supported Him and the Apostles out of their private means (Luke 8:1–3).
In contrast to current attitudes, Jesus was never exploitative of women. He is the one man who dared to talk openly with the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus breached every standard of his culture in doing this. When Jesus encountered woman of a more questionable nature; even while being exposed for everything that they were, such as women with multiple marriages or a sordid lifestyle, he was never threatening to them and never humiliated them either. Jesus would simply lift these woman up out of their predicament and gently cover them with the love and righteousness of their Heavenly Father. Jesus elevated and affirmed every woman who came to Him (Doug Clark. "Jesus and Women" -Enrichment Journal. Web: 15 Nov. 2009).
By the time Paul and the other Apostles began to expand Christ's ministry beyond Judea, their missionary functions had already grown to include women in important key roles, not only in the homeland of Israel, but throughout the different cities of Asia Minor, Greece and eventually in all of the Roman Empire and beyond. The Epistles (letters) of Paul, dated to the middle of the first century C.E., included his casual greetings to ministry figures but also offer fascinating and solid information about the many Jewish and Gentile women who were prominent in the early church's movement. These letters therefore provide detailed clues about the type of activities in which women generally engaged in the ministry during the foundation of the Christian church.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:28-29 NKJ)
Although some of the details from these gospel stories may be questioned, in general they reflect the prominent historical roles that women played in ministry as disciples. It should be noted that there were predominantly women disciples at the foot of the cross (most of the men were hiding), women were reported to be the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ, and later, women disciples are also important messengers and hosts of the Christian church. Unfortunately, many men of this time and some of the apostles, did not respect them or value them as equals. At least the Apostle Paul wrote in the above verse, reminding them (and us) that there is "neither male nor female", because Jesus Christ unites us all for the glory of God.
Deaconesses trace their roots from the time of Jesus Christ through the 13th century in Eastern Orthodox churches, although the office may not have been in existence throughout all the European churches. The female diaconate in the Byzantine Church of the early and middle Byzantine periods was recognized as one of the major orders of clergy. Evidence from the early 2nd century, within a letter from Pliny of Bithynia to the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.), attests to the role of the deaconesses. Pliny refers to "two maid-servants" as deaconesses whom he tortures to find out more about the Christians. This reinforces the existence of the office of the deaconesses in parts of the eastern Roman Empire at this time.
In addition, within the Didascalia of the Apostles, a Christian treatise belonging to the genre of the Church Orders such as the Didache (a previous work possibly dating to the Council of Jerusalem), a further mention of female deacons is found. Within this book, there are claims that Mary Magdalene was indeed a deaconess who served Jesus Christ. The word "diakonein" translated as minister, is used in the New Testament to describe Mary Magdalene, Joanna (Junia), Susanna and the other women that provided for Jesus, as a ministry-related service group. This is the first document that specifically discusses the role of the deacons and the deaconesses in the 3rd century, in the region of Syria. In it the author asks the bishop to take the deacons and deaconesses as "workers for justice", denoting their prominent place in the church hierarchy. Later in the fourth century, the deaconesses were mentioned in the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) which implies their official hierarchal consecrated status.
The "Other" Twelve Disciples
Apphia - is the wife of the Philemon, who were both avid disciples for Christ living in the city of Colossae, Phrygia; having been previously converted and baptised by Paul the Apostle. Paul addressed an epistle in the New Testament to her husband Philemon by the same name. Apphia and her husband devoted themselves fully to the service of the Lord, caring for the poor and sick, while converting their home into an house of prayer where believers could gather together and attended church services locally in Colossae; "and to our beloved Apphia, ...and to the church in thy house" (Phil 1:1-3). As Apphia is mentioned along with her husband in this epistle (as was Paul's practice for addressing evangelistic and ministry couples), it can be understood that she played an equal and vital role in their ministry efforts as well.
Chloe - was a prominent woman of Corinth and was involved in the foundation of the church there. She appears as the head of a household of an extended family and possibly an early place of gathering and worship for believers. (1 Corinthians 1:11) She and her household inform the Apostle Paul about of the divisions in the congregation of Corinth and the contentions between them. Paul recounts in his first Epistle to the Corinthians about the splintering of the church, that there be "no divisions among them" and that sectarianism is sin.
Claudia - is greeted by the Apostle Paul in his second epistle to Timothy in the same breath as with other disciples from the Church of Rome (2 Timothy 4:21). The company included in this context indicates that she would likewise be considered one of the Roman disciples.
Julia - is mentioned by the Aposlte Paul as being the wife of Philologus, being numbered among the Roman disciples from Greece (Romans 16:15). Tradition holds that this ministry couple are also known as assisting the Apostle Andrew, who later consecrates her husband as the Bishop of Sinope, a city in the region of the Black Sea.
Junia (Joanna) - was an early Christian missionary mentioned by the Apostle Paul, along with her husband: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me: they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." (Romans 16:7) According to that verse, one of the pair was a relative of the Apostle Paul (believed to be Andronicus), and they were particularly well-known among the Apostles. Being related to Paul, it would not be unusual that they were from the same region (Tarsus). They are also credited by church fathers as having been part of the original "Seventy" Disciples and that they had been followers of Jesus well before the conversion of Saul (Paul) in his "road to Damascus" encounter.
It is also important to note the fact that this couple was an "evangelistic and missionary team" consisting of both a man and a woman, which contrary to common belief, the disciples of Christ were NOT limited to just being men and that woman frequently played an important role in discipleship and ministry for the church. Also of note is the fact that the Apostle Paul refers to them as "prominent among the apostles", indicating a comparable status and endorsing the couple on the basis of his own knowledge and involvement with them as "apostles" alongside with Silas, Timothy, and others granted that same title in the early Church. This would also suggest that Junia and her husband were evangelists and church-planters like Paul and the other apostles.
Richard J. Bauckham (Prof. New Testament Studies-University St. Andrews) and Ben Witherington III (Asbury Theological Seminary-Cambridge University Press) both conclude that the woman "Joanna" (Luke 8:3) is also the same person as the Christian woman "Junia" that is mentioned by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans above (even though she is listed as "wife of Chuza"). This is because the variant form of the name in Latin, "Joanna" (or "Johanna"), did not originate until the Middle Ages and is a result of that later translation (not originating from the time of Christ). No other explanation or mention is found for "Chuza" otherwise, but it was not uncommon back then for a woman to become widowed at an early age and then be taken on by another caregiver family or have a new husband. "Junia" is further explained as being her name given in the Greek "Hellenized" variation, which from evidence is found to be common with other names in scripture, especially where multiple cultures existed in one region. "Joanna" (Junia) therefore, was one of the women associated with the ministry of Jesus from Nazareth, often considered to be one of the disciples and frequently worked with the Twelve Apostles along with Mary Magdelene. In scripture, Joanna is also one of the women recorded in the Gospel of Luke who went to prepare Jesus' body in Luke's account of the Resurrection, and who later helped tell the apostles and other disciples about the empty tomb and words of the angels, "two men... in shining garments" (Luke 24:1-12).
In the Eastern Orthodox church, the couple is noted as preaching the Gospel throughout that whole region of Pannonia (Roman province north of Macedonia by the Danube River) and are successful in bringing many people to Christ. The tradition also holds that "they had been imbued with the Holy Spirit as to performing miracles, by which they drove out demons and healed many of sickness and disease" ("The Prologue from Ochrid", by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic). In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Andronicus is recorded as being martyred and Junia is believed to have later died of natural causes at an elderly age, both being venerated as saints by the church.
Lydia of Thyatira - She (and her family) are recorded as the first converts to Christianity in Europe. Lydia was from the city of Thyatira (originally "Pelopia" by the Ancient Greeks) in Asia Minor (modern Turkish city of Akhisar) on the border between the provinces of Lydia and Mysia. Her name, "Lydia", meaning "the Lydian woman", confirms that she was likewise from the province of Lydia in Asia Minor. The woman Lydia and her family are evidently well-to-do agents and "sellers of purple (purple-dye and dyed goods) from the city of Thyatira", which was southeast of Pergamum and approximately 40 miles inland, across the Aegean Sea from Athens. They would have therefore traveled the towns fringing the Aegean Sea performing their trade and probably had lodgings in each of these locations, thus their encounter with the apostles in Philippi.
The Apostle Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, had just received his dream to continue on with their missionary work into Macedonia, "therefore, sailing from Troas... and from there to Philippi" (Acts 16:11-12). The apostles stayed in Philippi and preached the gospel, where later, "on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' So she persuaded us." (Acts 16:13-15) They stayed with Lydia's household and preached the gospel until the later arrest of Paul and Silas, which concluded in their miraculous prison escape (Acts 16:25-34), where the apostles spent the night with the jailer, converting and baptizing his family. The next day, as Paul claimed rights under his Roman citizenship, he refused to leave when appraoched by the officers and magistrates again. "So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed" (Acts 16:40), whereas Paul and Silas finally decide to part company with Lydia and her family, going to Thessalonica, but leaving Timothy with her household in Philippi to continue the ministry.
Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala) - is the most well-known and popularized woman in the New Testament, having a unique relationship with Jesus Chrsit and being an important part of His ministry. Her newest popularity has stemmed in part from the recognition that Mary Magdalene has suffered from what is now referred to as a historical defamation of character, not actually having been the repentant "prostitute" that was the original proposed belief by earlier church historians and religious leaders. She has been depicted in art as a weeping sinner wiping Jesus' feet with her hair and other such references, but modern New Testament scholarship has attempted to show that this depiction has misidentified Mary Magdalene and is not true. Part of the reason for the confusion is that the name Mary occurs numerous times in the New Testament and is a common name found in scripture. There are several people named Mary specifically in the Gospels and there are also several unnamed women who seem to share characteristics with Mary Magdalene.
According to the gospels (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9), there is testimony that is disputed as to its actual meaning, where Jesus cleansed Mary Magdalene of "seven demons." Some leading Christians of the early Roman Catholic church, including St. Bede and St. Gregory, interpret this to signify that she was "full of all vices." Some more contemporary scholars however, contend that this concept means a healing from illness, but either interpretation still represents a forgiveness of sins with the beginning of her repentance and conversion into the ministry of Christ. The Eastern Orthodox Church maintains that Mary Magdalene had been a virtuous woman all her life up to the time that the seven demons were sent to trouble her.
Another misconception coming from the argument about "which Mary is which", is the infamous scene depicted by many artists of "Mary Magdalene" anointing the feet of Jesus with oil. This has commonly been confused with the character of "Mary of Bethany" and the implication of her being a prostitute, which are not the same person as now understood by many contemporary theologians. At different times in history, Mary Magdalene has been confused or misidentified with almost every woman in the four Gospels, except Mary the mother of Jesus. The idea that this Mary was "the woman who was a sinner," or that she was unchaste, is altogether groundless.
Likewise it also is argued that Mary Magdalene was not poor but a woman of means and had came from a good family in Magdala, as she is included in the statement: "and many others who provided for Him from their substance" (Luke 8:2-3); thus showing that these people had contributed to Christ's ministry financially. There is no biblical information to indicate whether this was her home or her birthplace. The historian Josephus mentions a wealthy Galilean town that was destroyed by the Romans in the Jewish War, which is thought by some historians to be associated with Magdala.
Mary Magdalene was a devoted follower of Jesus, entering into the close circle of those taught by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. She became even more prominent during the last days of Christ's ministry, accompanying Jesus during his travels and following him to the end. Mary Magdalene is the only person named by any of the canonical gospels as a witness to all three majot events in the ministry of Jesus: His crucifixion, His burial, and the discovery of His empty tomb (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25). Mary Magdalene is the leader of the group of women disciples who are present at the cross, when the male disciples (except John "the Beloved") have fled. In all four gospels, Mary Magdalene is one of the first persons to see the Resurrected Christ (John 20:16; Mark 16:9).
Mary Magdalene is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles." In apocryphal texts, she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early Christian movement, who was loved by Jesus more than the other disciples (King, Karen L. "Women In Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries"). Several of the Gnostic texts, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, depict Mary Magdalene as a special disciple of Jesus who had a much deeper understanding of his teachings and she is asked (by Christ) to impart this knowledge to the other disciples. From the late 20th century through to today, we have seen a restoration of the New Testament figure Mary Magdalene of as an important patron of women's preaching and ministry.
Mary of Bethany - This is the "other" Mary mentioned in the gospels, who is often confused with Mary Magdalene. She is the sister of Martha and Lazarus (whom Jesus raised from the dead) that lived in Bethany, whoose family was well known to Jesus. "Mary of Bethany" had been considered and taught by Roman Catholic tradition as being the same person as Mary Magdalene, and thus the historic confusion with the two. The reason for this mix up is based in the varying accounts of a "Mary" in the different gospels.
The first instance is mentioned in the infamous scene of a woman ("Mary"?) anointing the feet of Jesus with oil, while he is the dinner guest of Simon (the Pharisee). In this account, the woman is the character that is implied as: "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner", who is then forgiven by Jesus. (Luke 7:36-50) This woman had been associated with Mary Magdalene and the implication of her being a prostitute.
In the Gospel of John, Mary of Bethany appears in connection with two incidents: the anointing of Jesus and the illness of her brother Lazarus with the subsequent raising of him from the dead (John 11:1-2; 11:38-44). "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick." In the other gospel accounts there are variances in the anointing of Jesus; they are dining with Simon (the leper) along with the Apostles, where an unnamed woman pours oil on the head of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9), but the event is likewise placed in Bethany. In spite of the variations, the other similarities lead many scholars to conclude that this person is the same as "Mary of Bethany" in all of these cases and is now the more contemporary understanding.
Mary Magdalene, who is also mentioned as being "healed of evil spirits and infirmities" (Luke 8:2) had been associated with the woman of questionable character (in Luke 7), which is then by default speculated as being the "Mary" in the other gospel accounts listed above. A sermon by Pope Gregory the Great on September 21, 591 A.D. reinforced this conclusion, where he seemed to combine all of these incidents. It is no wonder that this could have possibly been confused and it is also believed that the reasoning behind this combining of the two names as the same person, was not necessarily done to specifically implicate Mary Magdalene, but more so to show the mercy and forgiveness of Christ in relation to someone who would typically not be considered as "worthy" otherwise.
Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897) relates that this family of Bethany belonged to the wealthier class of the people, which would help explain how Mary of Bethany could afford to possess quantities of such an expensive perfume. Mary of Bethany is considered as one of the, "others who provided for Him from their substance." (Luke 8:3) Also of note, is that for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus, and for him to allow her to do so, was itself controversial for the time. In doing so, as one commentator notes: "Mary took the place of a disciple by sitting at the feet of the teacher. It was unusual for a woman in first-century Judaism to be accepted by a teacher as a disciple."
On another occasion, when Jesus comes through Bethany; "Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word." (Luke 10:38-40)Martha complains that Mary is not helping her while she is preparing a meal for them but Jesus instead praises Mary for listening: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)
In the account of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus meets with the sisters after Lazarus has passed away, but pays special attention to the grievances of Mary who has a closer relationship with Him (John 11:28-44). With all of these things observed, it is apparent that Mary of Bethany held a role more according to the discipleship of Christ with her devout attentiveness towards Him, than did the other members of her family. This Mary is not however one of the women by the same name that were present at the crucifixion of Jesus or the tomb (Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Zebedee’s sons).
Phoebe of Cenchrea - was servant of the church in Cenchrea near Corinth, Greece as noted by the Aposlte Paul when writing to the Church of Rome: "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also." (Romans 16:1-2) In this verse, Phoebe is seen to be acting as Paul's envoy and is indicated as being a patron of Paul and the other disciples, meaning that she would have been also contributing financially to their missions. Phoebe likewise being referred to as a "sister" of the apostles (a unique instance used by Paul in this case) is not just a generalized reference and she is considered by early church tradition to have been a Deaconess. Phoebe was also found to be especially influential in the early Church seen in Jerusalem from a 4th century inscription: "Here lies the slave and bride of Christ, Sophia, deacon, the second Phoebe, who fell asleep in Christ." ("Women in the First Two Generations of Christianity" -Alexandria: E.J. Dwyer, 1996) She is therefore noted as one of the first women of the expanded Christian church to have held in this position.
Priscilla (Prisca) - is described several times in the New Testament along with her husband Aquila. She was originally a woman of Jewish heritage who lived in Rome. There she met Aquila, a Jewish Christian originally from Pontus in Asia Minor. According to church tradition, the couple left Rome when the Emperor Claudius (in 49 A.D.) started to persecute and expell Jews from Itlay, and thus they moved to Corinth, Greece where the couple met the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:1-3). Priscilla and Aquila are among the earliest known Christian converts outside of Judea and the couple would soon become known as some of the earliest ecclesiastic teachers in Christian theology. It is also important to note that Priscilla's name is mostly recorded ahead of her husband's name in the Holy Scripture, therefore indicating that she was an integral part of this missionary team, not merely a supportive wife and companion.
Priscilla and Aquila are described as: "by occupation they were tentmakers", and Paul, already having experience in this trade (Acts 18:3), is said to have worked and lived with them at their home in Corinth becoming very close friends, where he stayed for the next 18 months (Acts 18:18). During this time, Priscilla and Aquila worked closely together with Paul in the ministry of Jesus Christ and were instrumental in helping to found of the Church of Corinth, along with Silas and Timothy who had also come from Macedonia to help (Acts 18:5).
When Paul finally went to leave Corinth, the couple accompanied him to Ephesus (Acts 18:19). While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila helped to set up a home with the disciple Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 4:19) that served as the hospitality headquarters for the church and Christian community there. Here, Paul wrote his first letter to the Church of Corinth, where he mentions the couple (I Corinthians 16:19): "Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house."
Priscilla and Aquila are described as continuing to provide a presence that strengthened the early church. They were instrumental in establishing Ephesus as a mainstream center for Christianity in Asia Minor. Priscilla and Aquila are also mentioned as helping to correct the preachings of the evangelist Apollos, one of the early founders of the church in Ephesus but having left Judea prior to the death and Resurrection of Christ. The Book of Acts states: "This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately." (Acts 18:24-28) Priscilla and Aquila therefore helped Apollos correctly learn the rest of the doctrine pertaining to the New Covenant, where he later left to minister at their former home in Corinth.
When problems eventually arose in Corinth creating a splinter of factions between the followers of Paul, Apollos and of Cephas (Peter), Priscilla and Aquila returned to Greece and helped Apollos there (1 Corinthians 1:10-12). They remained again in Corinth for a few years working to stabilize the Church on behalf of their good friend Paul the Apostle, where he continued writing to the church in his Epistles to the Corinthians.
When the Roman Emperor Claudius finally died (around 54 A.D.) and the expulsion of the Jews was lifted from Rome, Priscilla and Aquila are known to have temporarily returned to Italy. When Paul writes to the Church of Rome, he greets his old friends with recognition and gratitude (Romans 16:3-4). Later, the couple are mentioned as having again returned to Ephesus along with the Apostle Timothy, after Paul had become a prisoner in Rome (as "Prisca" - 2 Timothy 4:19). It is noted by church fathers that Priscilla's husband Aquila was ordained as one of the first bishops of Asia Minor, along with Nicetas. The couple are reported by tradition as preaching the gospel fervently, working to abolish paganism and establishing several new churches in the region. Tradition holds that Aquila was martyred for the sake of Christ by an insurection of pagans along with his wife Priscilla. They are traditionally venerated as saints by both the Western and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Priscilla and Aquila have been called the most famous couple in the New Testament since they were so obviously active in the the affairs of the early Christian church. Another item of importance about their appearances in scripture is that it provides historians an accurate chronological reference for the Apostle Paul's ministry. The synergistic relationship of Priscilla and her husband in the ministry are excellent examples of how couples can work together as teachers and preachers of the gospel. What they have shown in their leadership as laypeople should be held as an inspiration to members of church communities today.
Susanna - is the name of one of the women associated with the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. She is among the women listed in the Gospel of Luke as being one of the "Myrrh bearers" (the women that provided oil and fragrances for the Lord). "Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities - Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance." (Luke 8:1-3 NKJ) Many theologians have noted here that these women, "provided for Him from their substance"; which is now being better understood that they were women of means, possibly from wealthy families, that were able to afford such things and help to support the ministry of Christ both in material sustenance and other financial contributions.
Tabitha (Dorcas) - is the woman from Joppa (Phoenicia) mentioned in the Book of Acts; "At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas." (Acts 9:36) The name "Dorcas" is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Tabitha, meaning "gazelle", as one species of gazelle is now known as the "Dorcas Gazelle".
It is noted in this account that when she died, "all the widows were weeping - showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them" (Acts 9:39), indicating that Tabitha was possibly also a widow or was at least involved in the charity of making garments for those in need (Acts 9:36). Being one of the few women mentioned in the New Testament may also indicate her importance in the early church. Apparently she had become sick and later died, where some of the disciples that were present heard that the Apostle Peter was in the neaby town of Lydda and sent for him (Acts 9:38-39). It is important to note that Peter took the trouble and immediately came at their request from a neighbouring city, which would imply that Tabitha enjoyed a respected position in her life amongst the disciples. Likewise, she is also actually named as a "disciple" in the first verse of this account that clearly indicates her status in the early church, which is somewhat more unique than what is generally accepted today. This may also indicate that Tabitha was a ecclesiastic leader of the church, or at least in the community of Joppa.
On Peter's arrival, he "knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, 'Tabitha, arise.' And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up." (Acts 9:40-42) Over the next several days, the news of this miracle spread and resulted in many people throughout Joppa being converted to Christianity by Peter and the disciples. This however, is the only mention of Tabitha (or "Dorcas") in scripture and nothing more is known about the remainder of her "new" life thereafter.
Other Lady Disciples of Mention
Euodia - is called Paul's "fellow-worker in the gospel" (Philippians 4:2–3).
Mary of Rome - a Roman disciple "who labored much for us" (Romans 16:6).
Syntyche - is called Paul's "fellow-worker in the gospel" (Philippians 4:2–3).
Tryphena of Rome - "who have labored in the Lord", is greeted by Paul in (Romans 16:12).
Tryphosa of Rome - mentioned together with Tryphena; possibly her sister (Romans 16:12).
"By this they will know that you are My disciples. . .” (John 13:35)
Second Century Deference and Dissimilation
It is not difficult to see why the church fathers would have had the tendency to suppress the roles of women in the early Christian church. They were not only intimidated by them but with the apparent superior conduct that the women were displaying in ministry, it must have been quite embarrassing to the men of the early Church hierarchy. Biblical writers and translators would have most certainly omitted much of the text in the New Testament if it had it not been so historically authentic. This only proves to affirm the exceptionally close relationship that women enjoyed with Jesus throughout His ministry. It has been reflected in the leading roles that women have always played in Christian worship. Initially however, as the Christian church grew and became more of a "political" device and likewise more theologically male-dominated, these progressive practices would begin to change.
Theologian Robert Cramer agrees that the "pseudo-Pauline" epistles were written as a tactic to institute the marginalization of women, especially in the church and in marriage:
Since it is now widely concluded that many of the the Pastoral Epistles were written around 115 A.D., these words were written most likely about 50 years after Paul's martyrdom. Considering the similarity between (1 Corinthians 14:35) and (1 Timothy 2:11–12), conclusions that I and others continue to draw are:
- That Paul wrote the bulk of what was in 1 Corinthians but that he did not write 1 Timothy.
- That around 115 A.D., the writer of 1 Timothy or a group associated with him added the (1 Corinthians 14:33–36) pericope to the body of letters that later became 1 Corinthians.
Elaine Pagels maintains that the majority of the Christian churches in the second century went with the majority of the middle class society in opposing the trend toward equality for women. By the year 200, the majority of Christian communities endorsed as canonical the "pseudo-Pauline" letter to Timothy. That letter, according to Pagels, stresses and exaggerates the antifeminist element in Paul's views: "Let a woman learn in silence in all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent." (1 Tim. 2:11) She believes the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians, which order women to "be subject in everything to their husbands," do not express what she says were Paul's very favorable attitudes toward women, but also were "pseudo-Pauline" forgeries.
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber." (2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJ)
These and other flagrant manipulations by Christian church leaders should be considered as nothing less than heretical and blasphemous actions taken on their part to manipulate the Holy Scriptures (the "Word of God") and the intended teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ!
"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." (Mark 7:6-9 KJV)
Biblical Truths about Men and Women
In the Beginning, God created. . .
Both man and woman were created in God’s image and originally had a direct relationship with God. They shared jointly in having dominion over the created order, all of its creatures and likewise the responsibilities of caring for and rearing their children (Genesis 1:26-28). The Bible teaches that woman and man were created for full and equal partnership. The word "helper" ("'ezer") used to designate woman (Genesis 2:18) refers to God in most instances of Old Testament usage (i.e.: 1 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 121:1-2) and as such the word conveys no implication whatsoever of female subordination or inferiority. Also in Genesis (2:18), the word translated as "comparable" or suitable" ("kenegdo") denotes equality and adequacy. Scripture continues that; "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh", and it is likewise noted that the forming of woman from man demonstrates the fundamental unity and equality of human beings (Genesis 2:21-24).
"The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved." (Matthew Henry 1662-1714)
The Bible teaches that man and woman were co-participants in the fall from paradise in the Garden at Eden, that one was no less culpable than the other (Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). This messed up the original divine plan for human beings. It was therefore not a part of the original created order and thus is the curse we now live under (Genesis 3). "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Scripture therefore shows us that the rulership of man over woman likewise resulted from this fall; and, it should also be noted that this is a prediction for the effects of the fall from grace, rather than a prescription for what God’s ideal order actually is (or should be).
Since the corruption of God's plan from the time of Genesis, the Bible also teaches us that this is the reason why He sent His Son in the flesh, Jesus Christ, in order to redeem women as well as men. Through faith in Christ we all become children of God, one in Christ, and heirs to the blessings of salvation without reference to racial, social, or gender distinctions (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26-28).
The Church Community
The Holy Scripture teaches us that at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came on men and women alike. Without distinction, the Holy Spirit indwells both in women and men, as His sovereignly distributes these gifts without preference to gender (Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:7,11,14:31).
The Holy Scripture teaches that both women and men are called to develop their spiritual gifts and to use them as stewards for the grace and glorification of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Both men and women are divinely gifted and empowered to minister to the whole Body of Christ, under His authority (Acts 1:14,18:26,21:9; Romans 16:1-7,12-13,15; Philippians 4:2-3; Colossians 4:15; and see the Gosoels of Mark 15:40-41,16:1-7; Luke 8:1-3; John 20:17-18; likewise compare also with Old Testament examples: Judges 4:4-14,5:7; 2 Chronicles 34:22-28; Proverbs 31:30-31; Micah 6:4).
The Holy Scripture teaches that, in the economy of the New Testament, women as well as men exercise the prophetic, priestly and royal functions (Acts 2:17-18,21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 1:6,5:10). Therefore, the few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women must not be interpreted simplistically and in contradiction to the rest of Scripture, but their interpretation must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their total context, as well as their possible origin as "pseudo-Pauline" (1 Corinthians 11:2-16,14:33-36; 1 Timothy 2:9-15).
The Holy Scripture defines the function of leadership as the empowerment of others for service rather than as the exercise of power over them (Matthew 20:25-28,23:8; Mark 10:42-45; John 13:13-17; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2-3).
In the church, spiritual gifts of both women and men are to be recognized and developed, then used in serving and for teaching the ministry at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship. In so doing, the church will honor God as the source of all its spiritual gifts. The church will also fulfill God's mandate of stewardship without any considerable loss to God's kingdom which results when many of the church's members are excluded from positions of responsibility.
In the church, public recognition is to be given to both women and men who exercise ministries of service and leadership. In so doing, the church will model the unity and harmony that should characterize the community of Christian believers. In a world fractured by discrimination and segregation, the church will dissociate itself from worldly practices or pagan devices, that are designed to make women feel inferior for being female. It will therefore help prevent their departure from the church and their rejection of the Christian faith, while empowering them to fulfill their destined purpose as ordained by the Lord God.
Other Great HubPages on WOMEN in the CHURCH
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- Status of Women in Old and New Testaments - by RevLady
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Read More about the APOSTLES of JESUS CHRIST in this Article Series:
- (QUIZ) Can You Name the First (13) Apostles of Jesus Christ? The APOSTLES (PART 1)
Just a quick test of your memory - Can you name the original 12 Apostles and the one who followed after (the 13th Apostle)?
- APOSTLES (PART 2) - The First Anointed Ones
The first "anointed ones". Those persons that were called by God and the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus Christ as the "Messiah" and pronounce His arrival, including the "fishers of men" and "the Rock".
- APOSTLES (PART 3) - The Original Disciples of Christ
The original disciples that became the first 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, who helped to establish the hierarchy of the early Christian Church. This will also include the demise of the "fallen Apostle" and his replacement (the 13th Apostle).
- APOSTLES (PART 4) - The "Seventy" Disciples - The Seven Deacons & The Evangelists
Being fully imbued with the Holy Spirit, the Lord decided to consecrate more discilpes to prepare the way for Him. The "Seventy" Disciples were then personally chosen by Jesus and sent out two by two, to saturate Judea with the gospel and go "into ev
- APOSTLES (PART 5) - The "Seventy" Disciples - The Apostleship and Ecclesiastes
The original Disciples became the Apostleship of the first ecclesiastic council. As their ranks grew organizationally the numbers of the discipleship likewise increased. The ministry also grew to include the evangelism of Gentiles in foreign lands.
- APOSTLES (PART 6) - The Apostolic Conference and the Jerusalem Council
The Council of Jerusalem (or Apostolic Conference) is an early Christian council that was held in Jerusalem around the year 50 A.D. One of the most significant steps in the unification of the early Christian church and solved early doctrinal issues.
- APOSTLES (PART 7) - Elders of the Disciples & Early Patriarchs of the Church - (A - H)
Alphabetical Listing (A-H) - (Part One) The ranks of these disciples are the more prominent patriarchs of the early church. These people and the elect others who followed, would establish the ecclesiastic hierarchy for the future Christian Church.
- APOSTLES (PART 8) - Elders of the Disciples & Early Patriarchs of the Church - (I - Z)
Alphabetical Listing (I-Z) - (Part Two) These disciples and the elect others that followed, became the patriarchs and elders of the early church. They would establish the foundation of the ecclesiastic hierarchy for the future of Christian Church.
- APOSTLES (PART 9) - Women Disciples and Lady Patriarchs of the Christian Church
- (COMING) APOSTLES (PART 10) - The "Beloved Disciple" - Who was the un-named Disciple that “Jesus loved” best in the Gospel? Was it Lazarus, or John the brother of James, or someone else altogether? This topic has been questioned by scholars over the ages and the general consensus agreed to by most theologians is...
- (COMING) APOSTLES (PART 11) - The "Apostle to the Gentiles" and the Early Christian Church - The Apostle Paul becomes instrumental in spreading Christianity to the Gentiles, but the Romans fights back. Eventually, the new "Holy Roman Empire" would rise and dominate the scene of Christianity, setting the standard for the future of the church.
- (COMING) APOSTLES (PART 12) - The HOLY ROMAN Empire and Orthodox Religion - The Apostle Paul becomes instrumental in spreading Christianity to the Gentiles, but the Romans fights back. Eventually, the new "Holy Roman Empire" would rise and dominate the scene of Christianity, setting the standard for the future of the church.
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