Female leadership in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
Quotations on, and introduction to, this topic
"...Paul mentioned 40 names in his letters...and talked about the big missionary enterprise of which there are dozens
of people or participants... Of those 40 people, 16 are women. That's a considerable proportion of women involved in the
Pauline missionary effort." Helmut Koestler 1|
"...it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include:
the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice
of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently
held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church." Pope Paul VI
||The evolution of Romans 16:7:|
"Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my
fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ
before me." (King James Version) Note: Junia, one of the early apostles, is referred
to as female here as in the original Greek.
"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are
men of note among the apostles and they were in Christ before me." (Revised
Standard Version). The translators' minds recoil at the thought of a male
apostle, so they change Junia's name to a non-existent male form. They added the
word "men" to the original Greek to emphasize what they believed to be Junia's maleness.
"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who were in prison with me; they
are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before I was" (New
Revised Standard Version). Junia still is given a nonexistent male name,
but the translators no longer emphasize Junia's maleness.
As of 2017, the Bible Gateway web site lists 59 translations of the Bible, of which 44 translate her name from the original Greek correctly as Junia, implying that Junia was female. These include KJ21, BRG, CSB, CEB, CJB, ERV, EHV, ESV, ESVUK, EXB, GNV, GW, GNT, HCSB, ISV, JUB, KJV, AKJV, LEB, MEV, MOUNCE, NOG, NABRE, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NIVUK, NKJV, NLT, NMB, NRSV, NRSVA, NRSVACE, NRSVCE, NTE, OJB, TPT, RSV, RSVCE, TLV, WEB, WE, and WYC. Full names of the translations can be found on the Bible Gateway web site.
As in so many religious beliefs, we see a major division between conservative and liberal
Christians concerning female ordination:
Many conservative Christian denominations allow only men to be
ordained. A major support for this decision is Paul's statement in 1 Timothy
2:11-15 in which the author did "not permit a woman to teach or to have
authority over a man; she must be silent." Further, 1 Timothy 3:2
specifies that overseers and deacons must be men. Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:34b-35 states
that women must be silent and in submission when in church. If they want to clarify some
theological point, they should wait and approach their husband at home. Any of these
statements would totally preclude women becoming ministers or pastors. Much of their
opposition to equal treatment of women is derived from their concept of the inerrancy of
the official canon of the Bible and of the b iblical doctrine of the
Headship of Man. Most conservative Christians believe that such books as Timothy and
Titus were written by Paul prior to his death circa 65 CE.|
||Many liberal theologians note that:
In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), women's roles were highly
rarely held positions of power; they were often considered as property
by their "owners" -- their fathers and husbands.
Jesus violated 1st century customs in Palestine by generally treating men and women as
equals. Of the dozen or so individuals who made up Jesus' inner circle, about half were
Paul appears to have also treated women in the early Christian movement as
co-workers, and as deserving of positions of authority, including the ministry.
An equally valid translation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is "I do not
permit a wife to teach or to have authority over her husband..."
Through the use of Biblical criticism,
liberal theologians have dated the books 1 Timothy and Titus to 100 to 150 CE. That is
perhaps a half century after Paul's death. 1 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1 declare that Paul was their author. Religious liberals
consider the books to be clearly pseudonymous (written
under an assumed name). The true author is unknown. Some theologians theorize that the
books might have been written partly to counteract Paul's acceptance of women as equals,
and to justify the church's gradual slide into a male-dominated institution.
Liberals would argue that the policies of Jesus and Paul in the area of gender equality
are a higher moral standard than the oppression of women which is expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures and in some of
the pseudonymous epistles. They believe that the present North American secular standard
should be followed with respect to female ordination. They would prefer to abandon the
restrictions on women that were implemented within Christendom, starting in the late 1st
Until the early years of the 20th century, very few Christian faith groups allowed
women to be ordained. Since then, most of the liberal denominations have accepted female ministers and pastors.
Mainline denominations followed. Very conservative denominations generally do not. The historical trend appears obvious - it may be
just a matter of time before almost all denominations will remove their gender barrier, and finally match the rest of society. If they don't then they will have difficulty attracting new members and keeping old members.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Dr. Helmut Koester, "The role of women in the Christian churches of Paul's day."
This is a series of excerpts from his speech titled "St. Paul: His Mission to the
Greek Cities & His Competitors," given to the Foundation for Biblical
Research, Charlestown, NH, on 1997-SEP-13. It is available at: http://www.bibletexts.com/
Pope Paul VI, "Response to the Letter of His Grace the Most
Reverend Dr. F. D. Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the
Ordination of Women to the Priesthood," 1975-NOV-30: AAS 68
(1976), Page 599.
"Aquilla and Priscilla, Companions of the Apostle Paul," at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2011-SEP-05
Author: Bruce A. Robinson