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Women in the Pauline Mission

June 6, 2000

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This is taken from 'The Gospel to the Nations' edited by Peter Bolt and Mark Thompson. Copyright (c) Andreas J. Kostenberger 2000. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

Paul has been called everything from misogynist to misunderstood with regard to his stance on women in the ministry of the church, and a thorough re-examination of the role women played in the apostle's mission is needed to clear up some confusion. This is especially important since we are not dealing merely with the mission of one important individual, Paul. Ultimately, Paul's mission is missio Dei, the mission of God, and the mission of the Holy Spirit through Paul. Called and converted by the risen Christ, led by the Spirit, Paul's mission arguably transcends the man and his historical-cultural context. If this is true, it also and especially applies to the role women played in the Pauline mission, and it is here that we can ill afford not to listen and learn from the apostle; for today's churches are in dire need of an authoritative, definitive word on how women (and men) ought to function in the church.

Recent discussions of the role of women in relation to Paul have been plagued by at least three deficiencies.1 First, primacy has frequently been given, not to Paul's own writings, but to contemporary concerns, and Pauline texts have been used to validate the interpreter's own preconceived notions on this issue. Proper hermeneutical procedure, however, demands that Paul's voice be heard first and foremost rather than being drowned out in the clamour of contemporary voices and concerns. Primacy must once again be given to Paul.

Second, studies on women in relation to Paul have frequently focused on Paul's teaching but not on his practice (that is, how women actually functioned in churches under Paul's jurisdiction) or, less frequently, vice versa.2 A comprehensive, balanced apprehension of Paul's stance toward women's roles must take account of both: how women should function in the church according to Pauline teaching (didactic passages on women's roles) and how they actually did function in the Pauline churches and mission in keeping with the apostle's instructions (narrative passages and references to specific women in Paul's writings).3 The present essay will start with the latter question in order not to prejudge doctrinal issues and to safeguard a truly inductive approach toward the descriptive passages as much as possible. After this, the treatment of didactic passages in Paul will provide a framework from which to evaluate the first set of references.

The third problem besetting studies of women in relation to Paul is that women are regularly treated in isolation from men. The reason for this may be that the motivation underlying many such discussions is to magnify the contributions made by women to the life of the early church. However, if women are studied in isolation from men, imbalance and loss of perspective are the inevitable result. Women in the Pauline mission should therefore be studied in relation to men.4

In investigating descriptive passages in Paul's writings that show how women functioned in the Pauline churches and mission, this discussion will proceed in chronological order of writing. After this, Paul's explicit teaching on women's roles will be surveyed. Because I have previously written on the Pauline teaching on the role of women, this essay will summarize my findings on the didactic passages, and give more detailed attention to providing a thorough treatment of the descriptive references.

Women in the Pauline churches and mission

Data from Paul's letters5

A chronological survey of named women in the Pauline corpus yields the following list:6


Names of women

Information provided


none mentioned

1 Thess.

none mentioned

2 Thess.

none mentioned

1 Cor. (2)

Chloe (1:11)

some ‘from Chloe'

Priscilla (16:19)

church at her house

2 Cor.

none mentioned

Rom. (11)

Phoebe (16:1)

‘our sister', servant/deacon (diakonos) of church in Cenchrea, benefactress/patroness (prostatis)

Priscilla (16:3)

fellow-worker (synergos; with Aquila), church at their house

Mary (16:6)

‘worked very hard for you'

Junia (?) (16:7)

‘outstanding among the apostles' (apostolois; with Andronicus)

Tryphena and Tryphosa (16:12)

‘women who work hard in the Lord'

Persis (16:12)

‘another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord'

mother of Rufus (16:13)

‘who has been a mother to me, too'

Julia (16:15)


sister of Nereus (16:15)


Olympas (16:15)



none mentioned

Phil. (2)

Euodia and Syntyche (4:2)

co-workers (?), ‘contended at my side in the cause of the gospel'

Col. (1)

Nympha (4:15)

church at her house


Apphia (2)

‘our sister' (cf. Rom. 16:1); church at her house (with Philemon)

1 Tim.

none mentioned


none mentioned

2 Tim. (2)

Priscilla (4:19)


Claudia (4:21)


Nineteen passages in Paul's writings refer to a total of seventeen women.7 Two things are worth observing. First, references to women in Paul's writings are unevenly distributed, with almost two-thirds occurring in Romans 16. Without this chapter, our knowledge of the ways in which women functioned in the early church would be rather minimal, at least as far as the biblical record is concerned. Second, references to women in Paul's remaining letters are either entirely absent or very sporadic. The only women mentioned outside of Romans 16 are Chloe and Priscilla (1 Cor.), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil.), Nympha (Col.), Apphia (Philem.), and Claudia and Priscilla (2 Tim.). Since the references to Chloe and to Euodia and Syntyche are somewhat incidental, and virtually no information is given concerning the other women mentioned outside of Romans 16 (Nympha, Apphia, Claudia), Priscilla alone remains as a woman regarding whom more extensive information is available. We will return to this issue shortly.

Before proceeding with a detailed study of each of the women mentioned in Paul's letters, it may be helpful to compare the references to women in Paul's letters with those to men. Including multiple references, the picture is as follows:

Pauline book

References to women

References to men






1 Thess.




2 Thess.




1 Cor.




2 Cor.
























1 Tim.








2 Tim.








Of the persons mentioned in relation to the Pauline mission in the apostle's writings, 82% are men and 18% are women. Once multiple references are eliminated, the Pauline epistles identify about fifty-five men by name as associated with Paul in mission, compared with seventeen women. Of course, this quantitative statistic says nothing about the status of these persons in the early church. Nevertheless, the conclusion can be drawn that, set in perspective, references to women in Paul's letters are rather sparse (especially outside of Rom. 16). This shows that the major weight of responsibility borne for the Pauline mission rested on men, a fact that is frequently obscured in studies on the subject which give exclusive consideration to women.8

Discussion of references to women in Paul's letters

Before delving into the references to women in Paul's letters, it will be helpful to address two issues that pertain to the following discussion in general. These issues are, first, the fragmentary and frequently inconclusive nature of the available data, and secondly, the frequent yet fallacious hermeneutical procedure of drawing simplistic conclusions from a designation applied to a given person involved in the Pauline mission (such as ‘coworker') in the assigning of that person's overall status (e.g. of ‘leader'). Regarding the first issue, it must frankly be acknowledged that the information provided by Paul regarding women is frequently (if not regularly) inadequate to form firm conclusions regarding the precise nature of their ministry. This is certainly true of Chloe, Junia, Euodia and Syntyche, and a series of other women whose names appear in lists of greetings with virtually no further identification. The following discussion will seek to exercise restraint in creatively filling in these gaps and focus primarily on explicit textual and contextual cues. A survey of the relevant literature indicates that interpreters committed to women's full participation in the church's ministry, including leadership roles, tend to fill in gaps in ways that magnify the contributions of these women in the greatest way possible.9 The purpose of this procedure is readily apparent: once a certain woman (and all women mentioned in Scripture) have been elevated to the status of prototypical, paradigmatic ‘authoritative leaders' in the early church, they can be made models for contemporary egalitarian ministry in the church. But responsible scholarship must distinguish between explicit statements and gaps, and between firm conclusions from explicit data and mere inferences.

The second issue pertains to a fallacious form of argument that is employed with great frequency. It runs as follows: if person A is called X in one passage, and the same designation X is used for another person (person B; in the present case, a woman) in a different passage, it follows that persons A and B have exactly the same ministry. But the logic of this kind of argument is demonstrably flawed: if the sky can said to be grey, and a cat is grey, does it follow that the sky and the cat are the same in every respect? Of course not.10 One shared characteristic among two objects or persons, whether being grey or being Paul's co-workers, does not establish equality between these persons or objects in every respect. To argue thus is to commit the fallacy of focusing exclusively on a certain degree of semantic overlap between two terms while ignoring other aspects of a word's range of meaning that come into play by way of context in one instance but not necessarily in another. Thus the mere fact that both Timothy on the one hand and Euodia and Syntyche on the other are called ‘co-workers' of Paul does not necessarily imply that all had identical ministries. All that can be said is that Timothy, Euodia and Syntyche can be called ‘co-workers' of Paul in a meaningful sense. But their ministries may very well differ.11 The strongest piece of evidence for this distinction is the fact that the New Testament calls certain men ‘co-workers' of God.12 But it stands to reason that no human being can be a ‘co-worker' on equal terms with God. Thus it is possible to link two people by the term ‘coworker' without necessarily implying total equality (or equal authority) between those two persons. Sometimes, the word may refer to lateral ‘colleagues'; at other times, there may be genuine collaboration, but not on equal terms. Even in the case of Timothy, who is called a ‘co-worker' of Paul, it would be naïve to assume that Paul and Timothy were on an equal footing. Paul frequently takes authority in sending Timothy as his emissary (e.g. Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:2); not once does Timothy send Paul. But Paul can still call Timothy his ‘co-worker'. The conclusion is obvious: when the term ‘co-worker' (or another term potentially conveying the notion of leadership or authority) is applied to a woman in Paul's writings, we cannot necessarily assume on the basis of this designation that this woman functioned as an equal partner of Paul in his mission. This must be established on further contextual and other grounds. Schreiner says it well: ‘All church leaders would be fellow-workers and laborers, but not all fellow-workers and laborers are necessarily church leaders.'13

With these preliminary caveats in place, the study of the seventeen women mentioned in Paul's writings may proceed, following the chronological order in which they are mentioned.


The first woman referred to in Paul's correspondence is a woman named Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11). In the introduction to 1 Corinthians, Paul says that he had been informed ‘by some from Chloe' (hypo tōn Chloēs) that there were divisions in the Corinthian church. These people are more likely slaves or freedmen than family members, since in the latter case a father's name would have been used, even if he were deceased.14 Moreover, in light of the fact that Paul mentions Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus as the Corinthian church's official representatives (16:15-17),15 it is probable that those ‘from Chloe' were people with whom Paul had more informal contact. Perhaps while on business in Corinth, they had become acquainted with the divisions plaguing the Corinthian church and mentioned this to Paul (upon their return?) in Ephesus.16 The scarcity of evidence does not allow any firm conclusions. All that can be said is that Chloe was presumably a well-to-do (Christian?) woman, perhaps resident in Ephesus or Corinth.


A second reference in the same letter is to Priscilla (1 Cor. 16:19) in connection with her husband Aquila (who is mentioned first here) and the church meeting at their house. Paul, apparently writing from Ephesus (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8), passes on Aquila's and Priscilla's greetings from there to Corinth, where he had first met this couple (cf. Acts 18:2-3). Priscilla, together with her husband Aquila, is mentioned again in Romans 16:3, where both are called Paul's ‘fellow-workers in Christ Jesus' who risked their lives for him.18 Apparently, Priscilla and Aquila had returned to Rome by that time (cf. Acts 18:2). The final reference to Priscilla and Aquila is found in 2 Timothy 4:19, where Paul sends greetings to the couple (back in Ephesus?) from his Roman prison.

In four of the six instances where she is mentioned in the New Testament, Priscilla's name appears before that of her husband (Acts 18:18-19, 26; Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19).19 Scholars have speculated that the reason for this is that Priscilla was converted before her husband, perhaps having led Aquila to faith in Christ, or that she played an even more prominent part in the life and work of the church than her husband.20 Alternatively, it has been conjectured that ‘Prisca was the more dominant of the two or of higher social status, and she may either have provided the financial resources for the business or have been the brains behind it'.21 But none of this is explicitly stated in the text.

According to Acts 18:26, the couple invited Apollos to their home and explained to him ‘the way of God more adequately'. Some have concluded from this that Priscilla serves as a paradigm for a woman teacher or preacher. But this claim is unwarranted. All that can be said is that Priscilla, together with and in the presence of her husband, and in the context of their home, helped to provide corrective instruction to a man, Apollos.22 Moreover, the genre of the book of Acts is historical narrative, so that care must be taken not to exaggerate the alleged normative character of Priscilla's practice for all women (even though there is no indication that Luke is critical of what Priscilla did).23

Nevertheless, according to the book of Acts and Paul's epistles, Priscilla and Aquila were among Paul's most strategic allies in his Gentile mission (cf. kai pasai hai ekklēsiai tōn ethnōn; Rom. 16:4), playing important roles in such major centres as Ephesus, Corinth and Rome.24 Together they hosted house churches in their home wherever they went, instructed others such as Apollos, and even ‘risked their necks' for Paul (Rom. 16:4).25


Paul's epistle to the Romans contains references to several women.26 It should be noted that the concluding chapter of Romans includes an unusually large list of people, probably because Paul had not planted or even visited the church before and thus wanted to establish that he knew, either personally or through other means, a significant number of individuals who were now members of the Roman congregation in order to solicit the church's support for his mission to Spain (Rom. 15:24).27

The first woman mentioned is Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), ‘our sister' (that is, a fellow-Christian) and ‘a servant (diakonos) of the church in Cenchrea'.28 Paul commends Phoebe to the Roman church, using the technical epistolary expression for introducing a friend to other acquaintances (synistēmi de hymin).29 He asks the believers in Rome to give this woman any help she might need, again using the usual expression in a letter of recommendation, 'in whatever affair she may need [you or your help]' (parastēte autē en hō an hymōn chrēzē pragmati).30 The reason for Paul's request is that the woman so commended ‘has been a great help (prostatis) to many people, including me', which may refer to the hospitality extended to Paul when he visited Cenchrea at the occasion of his three-month stay in Corinth (cf. Acts 20:2-3).31 In the present instance, Phoebe may have been the bearer of Paul's letter to Rome, which would explain why Paul mentions her first in his list of greetings in the concluding chapter of Romans.32

The designation diakonos may be a generic reference to this woman's ministry as a ‘servant' (cf. e.g. 2 Cor. 3:6; 11:23; Eph. 6:21; Col. 1:7; 4:7). More likely, in light of ‘the official-sounding nature of the phrase by which Paul identifies her' (a diakonos of the church at Cenchrea);33 the use of the masculine term diakonos;34 and perhaps also because of the conjoined term prostatis,35 Phoebe served as a deaconess (cf. esp. 1 Tim. 3:11).36 Deacons were set apart for ‘the practical service of the needy' in the early church (cf. Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).37 They were to be of proven Christian character but, unlike overseers, not required to be able to teach (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2 with 1 Tim. 3:8-10,12-13) or to participate in the governing of the church (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12; 5:17). Neuer maintains that the office of deaconess ‘certainly did not involve public proclamation of the word, teaching, or leading the church. Perhaps it involved serving the congregation, by bringing material help to the needy (Rom 16:2), in serving women, the sick, and strangers.'38

As a wealthy woman, a ‘benefactress' or ‘patroness' (prostatis, the feminine form of prostatēs), Phoebe would have used her financial means to come ‘to the aid of others, especially foreigners, by providing housing and financial aid and by representing their interests before local authorities'.39 This would have been a needed ministry in a busy seaport such as Cenchrea. ‘Phoebe, then, was probably a woman of high social standing and some wealth, who put her status, resources, and time at the services of traveling Christians, like Paul, who needed help and support.'40 However, this does not mean, as is alleged with some frequency, that patronesses were leaders of houses.41 Moreover, to call her ‘president', or even ‘leader' of the church at Cenchrea, goes beyond the evidence, as does the claim that ‘Phoebe held a position of considerable responsibility, prominence, and authority in her congregation'.42


A controversial reference is that to Junia in Romans 16:7, who, together with Andronicus, is called ‘notorious among the apostoloi (episēmoi en tois apostolois). 43 The accusative Iounian could derive either from the nominative Iounia (accusative accented as Iounían), in which case the person referred to would be a woman, or Iounias (accusative accented as Iounian), a male name.44 The name is a Latin one transcribed into Greek.45 It is taken by some to be a shortened form of Junianus, Junianius, or Junilius.46 But ‘If Iounias is indeed a shortened form of the common name Iounianus, why then does the name Iunias never occur?'47 Indeed, ‘(1) the female Latin name Junia occurs more than 250 times in Greek and Latin inscriptions found in Rome alone, whereas the male name Junias is unattested anywhere; and (2) when Greek manuscripts began to be accented, scribes wrote the feminine Iounían ("Junia")'.48 In 1977, B. Brooten could state that ‘we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed … all of the philological evidence points to the feminine Junia'.49 In the past twenty years, no-one has been able to refute these claims, and no further evidence has come to light.50 In view of these arguments, and the complete lack of evidence for the existence of a male name ‘Junias', it must be concluded that, until evidence to the contrary is forthcoming, the person referred to in Romans 16:7 is a woman named Junia.

Andronicus and Junia are identified as Paul's syngeneis, which could mean ‘"fellow-countrymen" [that is, Jews; cf. Rom. 9:3], and not "relations" [that is, relatives]'.51 In this case it is unclear, however, why Paul, in chapter 16, calls (except for Andronicus and Junia) only Herodion (v. 11), Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (v. 21) Jews, but not Aquila and Priscilla (v. 3), Mary (v. 6), or Rufus and his mother (v. 13).52 It is therefore more likely that syngeneis mou means ‘my friends' or ‘my close associates' as an expression indicating collaboration in ministry, equivalent to the expression agapēton mou in Romans 16:5, 8-9.53 This would explain why even Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, who are commonly suspected not to have been Jews, can be called syngeneis mou by Paul. Andronicus and Junia are further called his ‘fellow-prisoners' (synaichmalōtoi), a designation elsewhere applied only to Epaphras (Philem. 23) and Aristarchus (Col. 4:10). Nothing is known about the specifics of this imprisonment; it is usually assumed that Paul refers to a literal imprisonment, which appears probable, though a figurative use of the term cannot be ruled out.54

Moreover, Andronicus and Junia are identified as episēmoi en tois apostolois, ‘notorious among the apostolois.55 Most commentators see the reference as inclusive, that is, as including Andronicus and Junia among the circle of apostoloi, whatever meaning is assigned to this term (see below). However, it is possible that the reference is exclusive, that is, Andronicus and Junia are said to be ‘notorious' (i.e. well known) among the circle of apostoloi (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6: epistēmō en tois ethnesin, ‘a spectacle among the Gentiles'). If so, Andronicus and Junia could be church workers or Christians whose ministry is not further specified and who are identified as well known among the apostolic circle (with apostoloi perhaps having a more narrow compass).

Alternatively (and perhaps more likely),56 ‘among' may be used in an inclusive sense, in which case this couple would be included among the apostoloi, whichever sense the latter term has. In this case, if Junia is indeed a woman, and if she is called ‘notorious among the apostoloi', does the presence of a woman apostolos in the New Testament imply, then, that the early church placed no restrictions on the ministry of women?57 This depends largely on the question of whether ‘apostle' is here used in a narrow or broad sense. Four types of use can be discerned in the writings of the New Testament. First, apostolos may refer to the Twelve (e.g. Matt. 10:2). Second, the term is used for someone like Paul who had seen the Lord and was commissioned by him to a special ministry (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1). Third, the expression may denote an emissary sent out to perform a certain task or convey a particular message (1 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25). And fourth, apostolos may refer to an itinerant missionary (e.g. Acts 14:4, 14, of Barnabas).58

To which of these does the context in Romans 16:7 point in the case of Andronicus and Junia? At the outset, it is highly unlikely that these otherwise unknown figures are said here to stand out among noted apostles such as the Twelve (an impossibility) or Peter, James, or even Paul.59 The sense ‘messenger, emissary' (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23: apostoloi ekklēsiōn; Phil. 2:25: hymōn apostolos) appears more likely.60 However, the designation ‘outstanding among the messengers' seems a bit awkward, for the role of messenger tends to be rather inconspicuous, and this description is like designating a person as an ‘extraordinary usher'. The meaning ‘travelling missionary' is therefore most likely, especially in light of 1 Cor. 9:5 (cf. Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Thess. 2:7; Eph. 4:11).61 In this case, Andronicus and Junia would be identified as ‘outstanding among (itinerant) missionaries' (an important office in the early church as well as today), perhaps in part because they were converted before Paul (Rom. 16:7), which means that they must have become believers during the very early days of the church.

If this is the case, Andronicus and Junia were a distinguished senior missionary couple, and the designation apostolos, applied to both of them jointly, does not imply that Junia by herself occupied an authoritative leadership position in a local church or in the early Christian movement.62 Indeed, if Junia is mentioned in the present passage in tandem with Andronicus (who is unquestionably male) because she is his wife (note that other husband and wife pairs in Rom. 16 include Priscilla and Aquila in v. 3 and probably Philologus and Julia in v. 15),63 they would have exercised their travelling ministry jointly rather than independently, similar to Priscilla and Aquila or the pattern mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:5, so that even in this function Junia should not be elevated to ‘apostle' in isolation from (her husband?) Andronicus.64

Other women referred to in Romans 16

Several other women referred to in Romans are said to have ‘worked (very) hard' (ekopiasen) for other believers (Mary; Rom. 16:6) or ‘in the Lord' (Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis; Rom. 16:12). No further information is available for Mary, a common Jewish name in that day. The root underlying the names Tryphena and Tryphosa means ‘soft' or ‘delicate', and it is possible that Paul was aware of the irony of attributing hard work to two women thus called. Tryphena and Tryphosa may have been (twin) sisters, since it was common to assign children names from the same Greek root;65 or these two women were grouped together because of the similarity of their names.66 Persis means ‘Persian woman' and was a typical Greek slave name.67 In the case of each of these women, the reference to their hard work may simply pertain to a variety of good works which were to be the hallmark of a godly woman (cf. 1 Tim. 2:10), even though this is not stated explicitly.68

Also in Romans, mention is made of Julia (16:15), the (unnamed) sister of Nereus (16:15), and Olympas (16:15). In context, these probably refer to the wife (or, less likely, sister; Julia) and children (Nereus and his sister) of Philologus, who is mentioned first, together with another member of their family or particular house church (Olympas) and others (similarly, v. 14).69 Because these are common names for slaves and freedmen, it is frequently suggested that they were slaves of the imperial household in Rome.70 The list of names in Paul's letter to the Romans also includes the (unnamed) mother of Rufus (16:13) ‘who has been a mother to me, too'. The Rufus mentioned here may be the person referred to in Mark 15:21, where Simon of Cyrene is identified as ‘the father of Alexander and Rufus'; but this identification, while plausible, is less than certain. Paul adds that this woman was eklecton en kyriō, ‘chosen in (by) the Lord'.

Euodia and Syntyche

The final group of references is found in the prison epistles. In Philippians, Paul makes mention of two women named Euodia and Syntyche, who had contended at his side in the cause of the gospel but who now needed to work out their differences with the help of an arbitrator (Phil. 4:2). The surprising fact that Paul chooses to identify both women by name may indicate that their disagreement threatened the unity of the entire church. Otherwise, it is hard to explain why Paul would embarrass these women by referring to them by name in a letter to be read aloud to the public assembly. Indeed, the book of Acts indicates that (‘prominent') women played a significant part in the newly founded churches in Macedonia (16:14-15, 40; 17:4, 12).

Paul mentions that Euodia and Syntyche had contended (the verb is synathleō) at his side in the cause of the gospel (4:3).71 The fact that the same expression is used in 1:27 (the only other New Testament occurrence of this term) with reference to the entire congregation at Philippi suggests that these two women had participated in Paul's own struggle for the advance of the gospel as had the Philippian church as a whole (cf. 1:30).72 To have contended together with Paul in (the proclamation of) the gospel and to be called his ‘co-worker' is a fairly broad designation and does not necessarily imply that Euodia and Syntyche had the same kind of ministry as Paul.73 Internal evidence suggests that the nature of the Philippians' ‘partnership in the gospel' with Paul (Phil. 1:5) centred significantly around their financial support of his ministry (Phil. 4:10-19; cf. 2 Cor. 8 – 9; Rom. 15:25-29) and their willingness to suffer with him for the sake of the gospel (Phil. 1:30).74

In particular, the verbal parallel with 1:27 (synathleō) indicates that Paul is thinking of Euodia and Syntyche in the same way as he thought of the community as a whole, that is, as believers who bore courageous testimony to their faith and who shared sacrificially of their financial resources in order to advance the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The claim that Euodia and Syntyche were ‘important leaders', ‘two influential church leaders', ‘two women church leaders', or the like, is therefore overblown.75

Other women referred to in the prison epistles and the pastorals

In the closing sections of Colossians, Paul includes in his greetings a reference to Nympha and the church meeting at her house (Col. 4:15).76 No further information is available. In his letter to Philemon, Paul refers to ‘our sister' Apphia (Philem. 2), a designation elsewhere in Paul's writings used only with reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Apphia, not a recipient of the letter but merely included in the introductory salutation,77 has been identified as Philemon's wife from early times.78 If this is correct, it would explain Paul's mention of her immediately after Philemon, since as Philemon's wife Apphia would wish to know about the situation surrounding the runaway slave Onesimus as well.

Finally, Paul's second letter to Timothy makes mention of a woman named Claudia (4:21). Again, no further information is available.


All of Paul's travel companions were male.79 This follows the precedent established by Jesus.80 None of the women mentioned in relation to the Pauline mission serves as pastor-teacher or elder. Phoebe apparently functioned as a deaconess and is also called benefactress. If Junia was a woman (which is highly probable), she probably served as an itinerant missionary or, less likely, as a messenger, together with her presumed husband, Andronicus. Priscilla, together with her husband Aquila, had a church meeting in her house, as did Nympha and Apphia (with Philemon). Priscilla is also shown to have had a (leading?) part in instructing Apollos in her home, again together with her husband.

The positions of Euodia and Syntyche in the Philippian church were apparently significant enough to threaten the unity of the entire congregation. These two women were (in all probability) counted among Paul's coworkers and had contended at his side for the gospel (even though it is unclear precisely which form this partnership had taken). Rufus's mother had been like a mother to Paul, at least on one memorable occasion. Other women had worked very hard for other believers in the Lord (Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis). Too little is known about Chloe to ascertain her position in relation to the Corinthian church. Julia (possibly the wife of Philologus), the sister of Nereus (Julia's daughter?), and Claudia are mentioned without specific information about the nature of their ministry.

Overall, the listed data indicate that the influence of women was to a significant extent informal and frequently centred around their home. There are instances of women exercising hospitality, including hosting a house church; devoting themselves to a variety of good works; having a part in raising their children in the faith; and, if wealthy, helping others financially, be it with or without a formal position in the church. Some were engaged in missionary work together with their husbands. What is more, when reading passages such as the sixteenth chapter of Romans, one gets the impression that women were thoroughly integrated in the Pauline churches, having a vital part in the mission and life of the early Christian community and fulfilling roles of significant, albeit not ultimate, responsibility within the church.81 This included ‘missionary work, carrying letters, serving in charitable tasks as deaconesses, providing aid or shelter for traveling apostles, etc.'.82 In the exercise of their respective roles, they functioned fully within the parameters of their Graeco-Roman surroundings.83 The roles exercised by them also conformed to the pattern characteristic of the ministry of Jesus. In the ministries of both Jesus and Paul, men bore the ultimate responsibility for the ongoing mission, with women actively supporting and contributing to that mission.

This concludes the survey of women named in the Pauline epistles in relation to their described function in the Pauline mission. We may now turn to a discussion of Paul's explicit teaching regarding the role of women in the church.

Pauline teaching on women in the church

The literature on Paul's teaching regarding women is vast indeed, and the issue continues to be hotly debated in the contemporary church and scholarship. Moreover, the New Testament teaching on women is frequently treated as a test case in hermeneutics.84 Since I have treated the subject in several publications elsewhere, I will limit myself here to a brief summary of the general contours of Paul's teaching on the subject.85 We begin with a few programmatic comments.


Several recent studies give short shrift to explicit Pauline teaching on the present subject.86 Descriptive references are absolutized, while didactic passages such as 1 Timothy 2:9-15 are marginalized as ‘difficult' or limited in application. However, the problem with this procedure is that it leaves the interpreter without a proper framework for evaluating the descriptive passages discussed above. There exists, of course, the opposite danger of filtering descriptive passages through a pre-established doctrinal grid derived from didactic passages in Paul's writings.87 The ideal to strive for is a balanced analysis of both descriptive and didactic passages in Paul, with enough tentativeness in the process to allow for the findings of the analysis of descriptive passages to inform the study of didactic passages and vice versa. Of course, inerrantist interpreters will expect Pauline teaching on women's roles, correctly interpreted, and the way women actually functioned in the Pauline mission and churches, to be found in harmony.88 Thus, if one starts with an investigation of descriptive passages and ends up with the notion that no clear parameters for women's ministry are evident from these texts, one should be prepared to revisit this issue once Paul's didactic passages have been studied, if such parameters emerge from those texts.89 But in many instances, this dialectic never takes place.90

In fact, didactic passages in Paul deserve to be given full weight, even priority, in the matter. For it would be unreasonable for one to expect to be able to glean a full prescriptive pattern for women's roles in ministry according to Paul from incidental references alone. Moreover, the possibility remains, at least in theory, that descriptive passages depict women functioning in roles not permitted by Paul. Normativity must therefore be established rather than assumed. For these reasons descriptive references should be used primarily to illustrate and provide background for Paul's specific teaching on women's roles in the church. Indeed, as will be seen below, Paul indicates certain parameters within which women were (and are) to function in the church, and there is nothing in the descriptive portions of Paul's letters that actually conflicts with Paul's explicit teaching on the subject. But further discussion of this has to await the conclusion of this essay. We must first provide a brief synthesis of Pauline teaching on the roles of women in the church.

Discussion of didactic passages in Paul regarding women

The major thrust of Pauline teaching on women's roles may be characterized as follows. Paul infers from the creation account in Genesis that God has assigned to the man the ultimate responsibility for the family (cf. Eph. 5:21-33 in conjunction with 1 Cor. 11:3, 7-8).91 The man's role as ‘head' is not a function of the fall; the fall merely led to the man's abuse of his God-given authority in relation to his wife.92 But even in the church age, Paul affirms that the wife is to submit to her husband, who in turn is exhorted to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19).

The marriage relationship restored in Christ thus does not lead to a completely ‘egalitarian' relationship. Rather, the creation ideal, which included the man's bearing of ultimate responsibility for the married couple (viz. the term ‘helper' applied to the woman in Gen. 2:18, esp. in relation to the Pauline statements in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 and 1 Tim. 2:13),93 is again made possible and freed from the distortions introduced by sin. It is not authority that is sin, but its abuse.94 And submission does not imply inferiority, since even Christ chose to submit to the Father with whom he is united as equal in the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3).95 Paul does not claim to be innovative in this regard; he consistently takes his cue from the foundational narrative of humanity in Genesis 1 – 3.96

What does constitute a Pauline innovation, however, is Paul's extension of the biblical teaching regarding marriage to the roles of men and women in the church. Since the church is God's ‘household' (e.g. 1 Tim. 3:15), it follows that the church, as a ‘family of families', functions according to the pattern established for the family and the household in the beginning.97 And, as argued above, according to this pattern the man has been given ultimate responsibility. Thus, as in the family, so in the church, the man bears ultimate responsibility (cf. the qualification of ‘faithful husband' [not ‘wife'] for an overseer in 1 Tim. 3:2, esp. in conjunction with 1 Tim. 2:12).

Conversely, Paul does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12).98 Why? Because of the man's priority in creation (1 Tim. 2:13) and the woman's ‘priority' at the fall, where the creation pattern was reversed (serpent-woman-man-God rather than God-man-woman-serpent; 1 Tim. 2:14). Nevertheless, women have a significant role in managing the household, including childrearing and support of their husband (1 Tim. 2:15),99 as well as ministry to other women (Titus 2:3-5), children, and a variety of good works.

Regarding the faith, there is no difference between men and women: women, like men, become believers through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:28).100 As Peter wrote, both are ‘fellow-heirs' of grace (1 Pet. 3:7). But equality in worth and dignity does not mean equality in function or role. This seems to be the clear implication from Paul's teaching on the role of women and men in the church.

It is neither possible nor necessary here to discuss all the instances where issues pertaining to women are addressed in Paul's letters, such as his teaching on caring for widows (1 Tim. 5) or singleness (1 Cor. 7), or even the puzzling passage on head-coverings (1 Cor. 11:2-16), since these issues are at best of marginal significance for women's roles in the Pauline mission. We conclude with some pertinent observations tying together our study of descriptive and didactic passages on women in Paul's letters and the book of Acts.


Paul's teaching on the role of women and the way in which women actually functioned in the Pauline churches are consistent.101 Paul taught that women were not to serve as pastor-teachers or elders, and there is no evidence in Paul's epistles or Acts that women functioned in such roles in the churches established by Paul. Where the principle of the man's bearing of ultimate responsibility for God's household was not jeopardized, Paul allowed women to serve without further limitation. Thus in 1 Timothy 3:11, he lays down qualifications for deaconesses, and in Romans 16:1 we learn that Phoebe apparently functioned in such a role.102 Women also supported the Pauline mission by exercising numerous other ministries.

The pattern of women's roles in the Pauline mission and churches also coheres with that found in the mission of Jesus. Jesus, too, chose only men for his Twelve; but he ministered to women and was supported by women in a variety of ways. Above all, both Jesus and Paul sought to integrate women fully in the community of believers, treating them with dignity and appreciation for their contribution. But they did so demonstrably and precisely without removing all parameters for women's ministry.103 Frequently, this is not so much explicitly argued as assumed, for Jesus' and Paul's contemporaries generally were not likely to challenge a pattern of ministry that assigned ultimate responsibility for the community of believers to men. Men, not women, were generally regarded as heads of households, and elders in Jewish synagogues, to give but one example, were regularly men rather than women.

What are the implications of these observations for the practice of the contemporary church? While this has not been the primary focus of the present essay, I would be amiss if I failed to acknowledge the significance of the findings of this investigation for contemporary church practice. While it is not the purpose of the book of Acts or Paul's letters to legislate for every conceivable circumstance, I do find several principles that have abiding significance for the role of women in the church. Negatively, women are not permitted to serve in positions of ultimate responsibility over the entire church, such as pastor-teacher or elder. Positively, women may serve in roles of hospitality, missionary work, benevolence of various kinds, private teaching in conjunction with their husbands, ministry to younger women, responsibility for raising children together with their husbands, and other significant ministries.

As in Old and New Testament times, what is to determine women's roles is not the dictates of contemporary culture but the designs of God. God's plan is consistent from the time of creation to the age of the church, and from his pattern for the family to that for God's ‘household'. As the present essay has shown, women made a vital contribution to the Pauline mission; they continue to make an important contribution today.

It is not easy to write on a subject that continues to divide the church. May the present essay help to shed light on this important issue. I conclude with a pertinent observation by E. E. Ellis: ‘Paul and his colleagues are not called "teacher" or "leader" although some of them do teach and lead. For they have one teacher, the Messiah, and they are all brothers. Probably in response to their Lord's command, they eschew titles of eminence. With reference to their task they are the workers, the servants, the special messengers, with reference to one another they are the brothers.'104 We would do well to emulate the example of Paul and the early church. For we who are ‘in Christ' are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and together strive to fulfill the mission entrusted to the church today, seeking to hasten the coming of our Lord whom we will soon see face to face.105


1. On these and other hermeneutical issues, see my ‘Gender passages'.

2. At the risk of oversimplification it may be said that interpreters advocating limitations on the ministry of women in Scripture tend to focus on the Pauline teaching on women's roles while egalitarian scholars favour descriptive


3. For a helpful general treatment along these lines see Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries'.

4. See Ellis, ‘Paul' and ‘Coworkers', especially the helpful chart on p. 438 = p. 184 respectively. See also Ollrog, Paulus.

5. The only woman mentioned in the book of Acts in relation to Paul's ministry is Priscilla (18:2-3, 18-19, 26). When Kroeger, ‘Women', p. 1216, claims that ‘No fewer than eleven women are specifically named [in the book of Acts], and five are involved in church-related ministries', she discusses only the involvement of ‘Mary the mother of Jesus and her female associates' in 1:14 and Dorcas in 9:36-41. On women's roles in Acts see also Keener, ‘Woman', pp. 1206-1207.

6. The order of writing is judged to be: Gal., 1 and 2 Thess., 1 and 2 Cor., Rom., the prison epistles (Eph., Phil., Col., Philem.), and the pastoral epistles (1 Tim., Titus, 2 Tim.). Here, all thirteen are considered as part of the Pauline corpus, and references in them to people and places are taken seriously. Regarding the Pauline authorship of the pastorals, see my ‘Ascertaining', pp. 107-108, n. 1. Unnamed women will be considered only if some identifying mark is provided, e.g. ‘the mother of Rufus' (Rom. 16:13). The reference to Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5) will not be included in the present study, because these two women had no direct involvement in the Pauline mission. Named women in ancient times, such as Hagar or Sarah, likewise fall outside the scope of the present investigation.

7. The only multiple reference pertains to Priscilla (three times). Cotter, ‘Women's roles', p. 350, n. 2, lists only thirteen women, not mentioning Persis (an oversight?), Junia (considered to be male?), Nympha (Colossians deutero-Pauline? oversight?), and Claudia (pastorals deutero-Pauline?).

8. E.g. Cotter, ‘Women's roles'; Witherington, Women. A notable exception is Richardson, ‘From apostles'.

9. See e.g. Schüssler Fiorenza, ‘Missionaries'.

10. For the semantic fallacy of confusing sense and reference, cf. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, pp. 63-64.

11. Cf. Ellis, ‘Paul', p. 440: ‘Co-workers may be described as equal to one another, as are Paul and Apollos in I Cor. iii. 8f., but this is not implicit in the term.' Contra e.g. Grenz, Women, p. 85: ‘the terms Paul uses in this text [Rom. 16] suggest the participation of women in all dimensions of the ministry'.

12. Timothy is called ‘co-worker of God' in 1 Thess. 3:2 (synergon tou theou). The same designation is applied to Paul and his associates in 1 Cor. 3:9 (theou gar esmen synergoi). Cf. Ellis, ‘Paul', p. 440, who further points out that Philo, with reference to the plagues on Egypt, can call the insects God's synergoi (Philo, de vita Mosis, 1.110). Ellis provides further examples on p. 440, n. 3.

13. Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries', p. 219.

14. Fee, First Corinthians, p. 54, n. 32, referring to Theissen, Social Setting, p. 57. See further Theissen's comments on pp. 93-94.

15. Cotter, ‘Women's roles', pp. 351-352, fails to address this piece of evidence. She thinks Chloe was a wealthy member of the church at Corinth, primarily because she believes that the vague reference indicates that Chloe was well known in the community.

16. For a similar view, see Fee, First Corinthians, p. 54, n. 34, referring to Ramsay, ‘Historical commentary', pp. 103-105.

17. The diminutive ‘Prisca' is used in Acts, while ‘Priscilla' occurs in the epistles.

18. The term ‘fellow-workers' (synergoi; used elsewhere in Rom. 16:9, 21; 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1 Thess. 3:2; Philem. 24) denotes work in ministry, with the particular kind of ministry not specified. Cf. Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 920. Witherington, Women, p. 111, claims on the basis of 1 Cor. 16:16-18 and 1 Thess. 5:12 that the term ‘co-worker' implies ‘a leadership function involving some form of authoritative speech', whether ‘teaching, preaching, or both'. But his argument is fallacious, for even if it were said in certain contexts that certain synergoi were in positions of ‘authority' or ‘leadership' (notoriously slippery terms), it is illegitimate to conclude that this necessarily applies to everyone designated Paul's ‘co-worker' in his letters. To argue thus is to confuse meaning and reference. See above.

19. Aquila is mentioned first in Acts 18:2 and 1 Cor. 16:19.

20. Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 784.

21. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 892.

22. The wording chosen by Keener, ‘Man', p. 589, that ‘Luke portrays her [Priscilla] as a fellow-minister with her husband, joining him in instructing another minister, Apollos (Acts 18:26)', is misleading, because it generally suggests an ordained minister in modern parlance, which (as far as we know) neither of those people was. See already the heading in Keener, Paul, p. 240: ‘Priscilla, a woman minister'.

23. Contra Witherington, Women, p. 156, who claims that ‘By including this story [Priscilla and Aquila instructing Apollos], Luke reveals the new roles women ought to be assuming in his view in the Christian community', and that ‘By the very fact that Luke portrays women performing these various roles, he shows how the Gospel liberates and creates new possibilities for women'. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Witherington's analysis is significantly influenced by contemporary agendas while flowing less from an accurate historical apprehension of the ‘first horizon' of Scripture.

24. Cf. Witherington, Women, p. 114.

25. Kroeger, ‘Women', p. 1218, in a section of considerable length, seeks to revive the suggestion made by von Harnack that Priscilla and Aquila might be the authors of the epistle to the Hebrews, complete with the conspiracy theory that ‘if Priscilla were perceived as the primary author, there might be a tendency to suppress this fact'. But this relies on the unconvincing argument that the use of a masculine singular to refer to the writer at Heb. 11:32 (diēgoumenon) ‘may [merely] indicate male input (!) [rather than male authorship]'.

26. For an analysis of Rom. 16 in light of ancient inscriptional evidence, see esp. Lampe, Die stadtrömischen Christen, pp. 135-153.

27. Cf. Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 734. For a decisive refutation of the view taken by some that Rom. 16 is not an integral part of Romans, see Cranfield, Romans 1, pp. 5-11. Among the most extensive arguments against the ‘Ephesian hypothesis' concerning Rom. 16 are Ollrog, ‘Die Abfassungsverhältnisse', pp. 221-244, esp. p. 234 (see also Ollrog's comments on Paul's intentions in writing Rom. 16 on pp. 239-242); and Lampe, Die stadtrömischen Christen, pp. 124-135.

28. The term ekklēsia, as in vv. 4, 5, 16 and 23, probably refers to a local congregation, presumably a house church.

29. Keener, ‘Man', p. 589, noting that twice as many women as men are commended in Rom. 16, speculates that this ‘may indicate his [Paul's] sensitivity to the opposition women undoubtedly faced for their ministry in some quarters'. Paul may well commend Phoebe, in this instance, for a variety of reasons other than this.

30. Cf. Fitzmyer, Romans, pp. 728, 731.

31. Ibid., p. 731.

32. Ibid., p. 729.

33. So Clark, Man, p. 119.

34. Schreiner, Romans, p. 787.

35. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, pp. 888-889, is probably correct in suggesting that Phoebe's two roles, diakonos and prostasis, should be seen as linked. He is followed by France, Women, p. 88.

36. See esp. Clark, Man, pp. 119-123.

37. Cf. Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 781; Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 913; Neuer, Man, p. 121. See also the comments by Theissen, Social Setting, pp. 88-89. Contra Bruce, Acts, p. 122, who in his discussion of Acts 6 suggests that ‘it might be better to render it [the term diakonos] by the more general term "minister"', and is followed by Keener, Paul, p. 239; and esp. Ellis, ‘Paul', p. 442 (following Georgi, Opponents, pp. 27-32), who claims that ‘the diakonoi appear to be a special class of co-workers, those who are active in preaching and teaching. They appear in Paul's circle not only as itinerant workers but also as workers in local congregations, such as Phoebe (Rom. xvi. I).' Ellis reiterates this claim in ‘Coworkers', p. 185: ‘It [the term diakonos] is probably best rendered "minister" since it refers to workers with special activities in preaching and teaching.' But Ellis fails to address the absence of the requirement ‘able to teach' for deacons in 1 Tim. 3:8-13, and the rather general nature of the majority of NT references to diakonos just cited. See also the following discussion and note.

38. Neuer, Man, p. 121. Contra Arichea, ‘Phoebe?', p. 409, who contends, without adducing evidence, that diakonos in Rom. 16:1 describes ‘a person with special functions in the pastoral and administrative life of the church; and such functions would most probably include pastoral care, teaching, and even missionary work'.

39. So Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 916. The term prostatis often refers to the function of ‘protection', such as in Appius, BC 1.11. Cf. also Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 783, who comments that the choice of the expression prostatis ‘implies that Phoebe was possessed of some social position, wealth and independence'; and Theissen, Social Setting. Witherington, Women, p. 115, argues, on the strength of the use of proïstamenos in Rom. 12:8, that Phoebe may have held the formal position of ‘a person in charge of the charitable work of the church', but this is pure conjecture.

40. Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 916.

41. Cf. e.g. Keener, Paul, p. 240, and the critique in the following note.

42. Cf. Schulz, ‘A case', pp. 124-127; the list of commentators given in Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 731; and Keener, Paul, p. 239. Schulz, in seeking to make his case for ‘president' Phoebe in Rom. 16:2, (1) inappropriately links the verb form proïstēmi with the noun prostatis; (2) inappropriately equates the meaning of the feminine prostatis with the masculine prostatēs (cf. Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries', pp. 219-220; the same flaw can be detected in Keener, Paul, p. 240, whose evidence for his suggested meaning of the term prostatis consists of an article on prostatēs and two references in Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius likewise featuring prostatēs [p. 252, n. 26]); (3) unduly minimizes the possible connection between prostatis and the verb paristēmi (which means ‘to help') in the same verse (cf. Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries', p. 219); (4) unduly suggests that prostatis must mean ‘leader' or ‘president' here because it is linked with diakonos (which, whether it is used here as a technical term or not, bears the original meaning ‘servant' and was in any case not equivalent to the function of overseer in the early church); and (5) adduces tenuous background information regarding the role of priestesses in (goddess) worship in Greek religion. Moreover, it is puzzling how Schulz can claim that ‘prostatis may be the closest NT word we have to "president"': why not terms such as episkopos (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7)?

43. Regarding the latter phrase, see further the comments below.

44. Both UBS 3 and 4 as well as Nestle-Aland 25th and 26th print the masculine accentuation. Note that a few textual witnesses (esp. Þ46 [c. AD 200]) read Ioulian, which Metzger regards as a ‘clerical error' (cf. Rom. 16:15). Cf. Metzger, Textual Commentary (1975 ed.), p. 539.

45. So Cervin, ‘Note', pp. 464-470.

46. So BAGD, p. 380: ‘Iounias, a, ho, Junias (not found elsewh., prob. short form of the common Junianus; cf. Bl.-D. §125.2; Rob. 172) … The possibility, fr. a purely lexical point of view, that this is a woman's name Iounia, as, "Junia" … deserves consideration (but s. Ltzm., Hdb. ad loc.).' However, the assertion by Lietzmann, Die Briefe, p. 73: ‘Iounian muss wegen der folgenden Aussagen einen Mann bezeichnen, also Iounias = Junianus', is sheer dogmatism. Bl.-D. §125, 2 cite as a possible parallel the shortening of Silouanos (Paul and 1 Pet. 5:12) to Silas (Acts) or Sileas; Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)', p. 49, adds the shortening of Antipas for Antipatros (Rev. 2:13), of Klōpas or Kleopas for Kleopatros (John 19:25; Luke 24:18), and of Loukas for the Latin Lucius or Lucanus (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24). See also MM, p. 306, who comment that ‘Iounias is probably a contracted form of Iounianus, which is common in the inscrr., e.g. CIL III. 4020'.

47. Cervin, ‘Note', p. 466. Similarly, Schulz, ‘Romans 16:7', p. 109: ‘The Junias theory is an argument from silence.'

48. Metzger, Textual Commentary (1994 ed.), p. 475. For a survey of patristic exegesis, see esp. Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)?', pp. 54-63, who discusses in particular the references in Chrysostom, Theodoret and Origen.

49. Brooten, ‘Junia', pp. 142-143.

50. Reference should be made to Brooten's claim (‘Junia', p. 144, n. 4) that Migne's edition of the text of the earliest commentator on Rom. 16:7, Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-253/54), has Junia emended to Junias, but that the MSS themselves have Junia or Julia. To date, I have not been able to obtain these MSS to verify Brooten's claim. But see Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)?', p. 59 n. 51, who points out that the name Junia is found in a commentary written by Hraban of Fulda in c. AD 820, which the latter claims to have taken verbatim from Origen's (Rufinus's) commentary (is this the basis for Brooten's claim?). In his extensive discussion (pp. 58-60), Fàbrega also notes that Origen's Romans commentary, written in AD 244, has been preserved only in a Latin version written by Rufinus in AD 404. In this version, Rufinus frequently condenses Origen's comments or even replaces them with his own. Also, Rufinus's interpretation is based not on the Greek, but the Latin, text of the Roman epistle. With reference to the work of E. von der Goltz and O. Bauernfeind, Fàbrega concludes that it is likely that Origen himself did not comment at all on the list of names in Rom. 16. The implication of this is that Origen should in future discussions of the issue be excluded as evidence for a patristic interpretation of Iounian as male (or, of course, female, for that matter).

51. So Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 788, referring to Sanday & Headlam, Romans, p. 423. Contra Ellis, ‘Coworkers', p. 186, who seeks to make a case that syngeneis in Paul's writings regularly refers to the apostle's literal relatives. Consequently, Ellis conjectures that Andronicus and Junia ‘were very likely Jerusalem relatives who were missionaries from that church to Rome'.

52. Cf. Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)?', p. 49.

53. Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)?', p. 50; following Michaelis, ‘syngenēs ktl', TDNT 7, pp. 741-742.

54. Cf. Meeks, Urban Christians, p. 57: ‘Andronicus and Junia(s) (Rom. 16:7) have also moved from the East, where they were imprisoned with Paul somewhere, sometime, to Rome …' Possibly Paul does not mean to indicate that Andronicus and Junia were imprisoned with him at the same time or in the same place but simply that they too had been imprisoned for the faith at some point. Cf. Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 739. For an argument for a figurative use of this expression, see esp. Kittel, ‘aichmalētos', in TDNT 1, pp. 196-197.

55. This is the almost unanimous view of commentators, including Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 894; Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 789, referring also to Schnackenburg, ‘Apostles', pp. 287-303; and Cervin, ‘Note', p. 470, who also notes the Vulgate rendering, ‘qui sunt nobiles in [i.e. among] apostolis'. The term episēmos is used elsewhere in the NT only in Matt. 27:16 (referring to the ‘notorious' prisoner Barabbas) and occurs eight times in the LXX (Gen. 30:42; Est. 5:4; 1 Macc. 11:37; 14:48; 2 Macc. 15:36; 3 Macc. 6:1; Pss. 2:6; 17:30), generally to denote that which is distinguished or conspicuous as over against that which is insignificant, nondescript or otherwise unnoticed.

56. For this inclusive sense, see Lucian, Merc. Cond. 28.5: ‘he will be conspicuous among the claques' (episēmos esē en tois epainousi [2nd cent. AD]); Eusebius, Praep. Evang. 10.14: ‘This man became most distinguished among the Greeks' (ho anēr episēmotatos en tois Hellēsi; 4th cent. AD]); Concilium Ephesenum ‘a man prominent among the ekklēsiastikoi (an3r aei en tois ekklēsiastikois [5th cent. AD]).

57. The ideological stake in this question is helpfully acknowledged by Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 923. Keener, ‘Man', p. 589, may have a point when he comments that the proposal that Iounian in Rom. 16:7 represents a shortened form of Iounianus or the like ‘rests on the assumption that a woman could not be an apostle, rather than on any evidence inherent in the text itself'. Similarly, France, Women, pp. 86-87. See also Brooten, ‘Junia'; and more recently, Grenz, Women, p. 211.

58. Cf. Witherington, Women, p. 115, referring to Barrett, Signs, pp. 23ff.; and Schnackenburg, ‘Apostles', pp. 293-294.

59. So rightly Ellis, ‘Coworkers', p. 186. Contra Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 894, who exceeds the evidence when he ‘firmly' concludes ‘that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity [viz. Eph. 2:20] was a woman and a wife'.

60. This view is adopted by Piper & Grudem, ‘Overview', p. 81, who ascribe to Andronicus and Junias (sic) ‘some kind of itinerant ministry', citing as parallels Phil. 2:25 and 2 Cor. 8:23.

61. Cf. Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 789, followed by Witherington, Women, p. 115; Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 924; Ellis, ‘Coworkers', p. 186; France, Women, p. 87; and Lampe, Die stadtrömischen Christen, p. 137. Fàbrega, ‘Junia(s)?', p. 53, also cites the German commentators Lietzmann, Schmithals, Schnackenburg and Wilkens as holding this view.

62. Contra Grenz, Women, p. 96, who claims that ‘the weight of evidence favors interpreting Junia as an authoritative apostle'.

63. This is called by some the consensus view of ancient commentators until the twelfth or thirteenth century (e.g. Lohfink, p. 328; for a list of references, see Fitzmyer, Romans, pp. 737-738). But this is inaccurate, since accented ninth-century minuscule MSS (e.g. 33) already bear the masculine form Iounian and never the feminine form Iounían (cf. Lampe, ‘Iunia/Iunias', p. 132, n. 1; Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 738). Keener, Paul, p. 242, appropriately comments that ‘If Junia is a woman apostle travelling with Andronicus, a male apostle, certain scandal would result if they were not brother and sister or husband and wife. Since most apostles, unlike Paul, were married (1 Cor. 9:5), the early church was probably right when it understood them as a husband-wife apostolic team' (this does not imply endorsement of Keener's use of the terms ‘apostles' and ‘apostolic' in this statement). See further Jeremias, ‘Paarweise Sendung', p. 139, who calls Andronicus and Junias a ‘Sendbotenpaar der Urgemeinde' in keeping with the Jewish pattern, emulated by both Jesus and Paul, of sending out messengers in pairs.

64. Cf. Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 923, who calls Andronicus and Junia ‘this husband and wife ministry team'. Similarly, Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 894: ‘The most natural way to read the two names within the phrase is as husband and wife'. Perriman, Women, p. 70, n. 29, cites Clement of Alexandria, who wrote that the apostles took their wives with them as ‘fellow ministers' through whom ‘the Lord's teaching penetrated into the women's quarters without scandal' (Stromateis 3.6.53). Note also Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 739: ‘They could be considered paired messengers of the gospel, even if husband and wife.'

65. Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 925, n. 54.

66. Cf. Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 793.

67. Ibid.; Lampe, Die stadtrömischen Christen, p. 145.

68. Cf. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 894, who points out that kopiaō is a general term that does not denote leadership per se. But see von Harnack, ‘Kopos', pp. 1-10, esp. p. 5, who contends that kopiaō was used by Paul to refer to missionary service as well as to service in the church: ‘the Christian who works on behalf of others performs "hard labour"' (my translation); and Lampe, Die stadtrömischen Christen, p. 137, who calls the term a ‘terminus technicus der Missionssprache'.

69. Cranfield, Romans 2, p. 795; Fitzmyer, Romans, p. 742.

70. See e.g. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16, p. 898.

71. See further IPol. 6:1: ‘Labour with one another, struggle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, rise up together as God's stewards and assessors and servants' (synkopiate allēlois, synathleite, syntrechete, synkoimasthe, synegeiresthe hos theou oikonomoi kai paredroi kai hypēretai), advice which is addressed to the entire Christian community.

72. O'Brien, Philippians, pp. 481-482. The suggestion by Cotter, ‘Women's roles', p. 353, that Euodia and Syntyche ‘belonged to a team of men and women evangelizers' is unduly specific and thus exceeds the evidence.

73. See already the preliminary observations made above. Note also the early variant kai tōn synergōn mou kai tōn loipōn (‘and my co-workers, and the others'; Codex Sinaiticus, Þ16), which, if original, would suggest that the women and Clement are not included in the category of ‘co-workers'. Cf. Silva, Philippians, p. 223.

74. This is argued persuasively by Malinowski, ‘Brave women', pp. 60-64.

75. The references are to Furnish, Moral Teaching, p. 105; Koester, ‘Philippians', p. 666; and Scroggs, ‘Women', p. 966.

76. There is some uncertainty whether this refers to a man or a woman, but on balance a female reference seems to be preferred. Cf. O'Brien, Colossians, p. 256; Perriman, Women, pp. 71-72. On house churches, see also references to Philemon (Philem. 2; see further next note), Lydia (Acts 16:15, 40), Gaius (Rom. 16:23), and Aquila and Priscilla (1 Cor. 16:19; Rom. 16:5).

77. The reference to the church meeting in ‘your' (sou) house is singular and refers to Philemon alone; cf. O'Brien, Colossians, p. 273. Contra Cotter, ‘Women's roles', p. 351, who claims that Apphia is one of ‘the main leaders of that otherwise faceless assembly', citing as evidence only that this is the view of Schüssler Fiorenza, Memory, p. 177.

78. Cf. Lohse, Colossians, p. 190 (followed by O'Brien, Colossians, p. 273): ‘Since her [Apphia's] name follows immediately after Philemon's, one can assume that she is his wife', referring also to Theodoret: ‘Paul … adds the name of the wife … to that of the husband' (Paulus … marito … jungit uxorem).

79. Hadorn, ‘Die Gefährten', p. 73.

80. Luke 8:1-3 is no real exception, for the thrust of this passage is not that women were among those who were part of Jesus' regular travel companions but that some women who had benefited from his ministry supported him and the Twelve in their itinerant work. See Bock, Luke 1:1 – 9:50, p. 713, who notes, with reference to Talbert, Reading Luke, pp. 92-93, and Witherington, ‘Road', pp. 243-248, that it was unusual for women to travel with a rabbi in Jesus' day.

81. Cf. Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries', p. 222: ‘it is clear that Biblical writers consistently ascribe ultimate responsibility to men for the leadership of the church'. Ellis, ‘Coworkers', p. 187, may overstate his case when he maintains that a ‘remarkable number of women are mentioned as Paul's associates, both in Acts and in his letters. Some are called ministers (diakonoi) or coworkers (synergoi) or missionaries (apostoloi), several of whom were engaged in ministries of teaching and preaching (Rom. 16:1, 3, 7; Phil. 4:2-3; cf. Acts 18:26)' (emphasis added). See the discussion of diakonos as ‘minister' and the treatment of Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, and Euodia and Syntyche, above.

82. Witherington, Women, p. 116.

83. The primary focus of the present essay is the study of the relevant biblical passages rather than extensive exploration of the ancient cultural background. For a helpful survey, see e.g. Witherington, Women, pp. 5-23. Cf. also Cotter, ‘Women's roles', whose study is, however, marred by her ambiguous use of the terms ‘authority' and ‘leadership' and by her one-sided focus on descriptive Pauline passages at the exclusion of didactic portions (for a fuller critique, see my review in CBMW News, p. 14).

84. Cf. most recently France, Women. See also Köstenberger, ‘Gender passages', pp. 259-283.

85. See esp. Köstenberger, Schreiner & Baldwin, Women; Köstenberger, ‘Syntactical background'; idem, ‘Gender passages'; idem, ‘Crux'; idem, ‘Ascertaining roles'.

86. Cf. e.g. Grenz, Women (see my review).

87. Examples of this are the insistence of complementarian scholars such as Grudem and Piper that Junia(s) is a man, despite the fact that there is virtually no evidence to support such a claim, or the refusal by certain conservative interpreters to entertain seriously the possibility that Phoebe indeed functioned as a deaconess merely because their preconceived doctrinal commitments preclude such a possibility. On the first issue, cf. Piper & Grudem, ‘Overview', pp. 79-81; and most recently Grudem, ‘Willow Creek', p. 5, where the only two pieces of evidence cited are a debatable reference in Origen (see n. 50 above) and a probably unreliable piece of information from Epiphanius (as Grudem himself points out in a damaging concession, Epiphanius also identified the obvious feminine name ‘Prisca' in Rom. 16:3 as a masculine name; p. 479, n. 19). Also, it is methodologically fallacious for Grudem and Piper completely to rule out from consideration relevant evidence from Latin literature (except for the dubious Origen reference) as well as inscriptional evidence. This selective appraisal of the evidence is all the more remarkable as Grudem himself appropriately excoriates egalitarian scholars such as Kroeger for refusing to concede that kephal3 regularly denotes ‘head' with the connotation of authority while maintaining, with evidence that evaporates when checked out, that it means ‘source'. See Grudem's devastating critique of Kroeger, ‘Head', at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (21 November 1997) and his article ‘The meaning'.

88. Contra France, Women, p. 89, who concludes his survey of women in the Pauline churches with the comment that ‘This material, together with the evidence we have cited from other Pauline letters and from Acts, is in such striking contrast with the refusal in 1 Timothy 2.11-12 to allow a woman to teach or to have authority, and with the concept of "submission", that it raises sharply the hermeneutical question of where within the varied and apparently conflicting testimony of the New Testament it is right to start to construct our biblical understanding of women's ministry'. France's solution to this ‘dilemma' is to follow Bruce, Galatians, p. 190, in distinguishing between ‘basic principles' such as Galatians 3:28 and ‘less basic' texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (ibid., p. 94). But this procedure is not only highly subjective (as France himself admits, ibid.; what criteria?) but also establishes a ‘canon within a canon' (also conceded by France, ibid.) that accentuates preferred texts while marginalizing (or altogether ignoring) unwelcome texts. For a critique, see Köstenberger, ‘Gender passages', pp. 273-279.

89. Keener, ‘Appendix A', in Paul, p. 237, acknowledges the tension he feels when he writes, ‘The biggest problem with interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as excluding women from teaching roles in the church is that Paul clearly commended women for such roles.' But Keener is apparently not prepared to take 1 Tim. 2:11-15 at face value and revisit the narrative sections of Paul's writings to see whether it was appropriate for him to read these as indicating ‘that Paul clearly commended women for such roles [of teaching in the church]' in the first place.

90. Cf. e.g. Witherington, Women; Cotter, ‘Women's roles'.

91. On Eph. 5:21-33, esp. v. 32, see Köstenberger, ‘Mystery'.

92. Ortlund, ‘Male-female equality'.

93. I am aware of the discussion surrounding the Hebrew term for ‘helper' in Gen. 2:18, but remain unconvinced that the expression, in context as well as understood by later Christian interpreters such as the apostle Paul, refers to nothing but the woman's position as equal to the man without connotations of functional subordination. Cf. esp. Ortlund, ‘Male-female equality'; and Köstenberger, ‘Gender passages', p. 271, n. 45.

94. This seems to be missed by Grenz, Women, pp. 216-218, who writes: ‘the complementarians' more hierarchical understanding of church structure tends to undermine their good intention to maintain a servant focus. It is difficult to see pastors primarily as servants of God's people when ordination appears to endow a privileged few with power and status' (p. 218).

95. Cf. Cottrell, ‘Christ', pp. 7-8.

96. See Köstenberger, ‘Gender passages', pp. 267-271.

97. Cf. Poythress, ‘Church', pp. 233-247.

98. Witherington, Women, pp. 121-122, did not have the benefit of the evidence presented in Köstenberger et al., Women in the Church, particularly Köstenberger, ‘Complex sentence structure'. He correctly points out that in a (unique) passage by Chrysostom (c. AD 390) the crucial word authentein apparently means ‘act the despot' or the like; but he fails to consider that the sentence structure of 1 Tim. 2:12 requires authentein to have a positive connotation. Thus Paul is shown not merely to correct a local abuse in the Ephesian church but to set abiding parameters for the ministry of women in the church: they are ‘not to teach or have authority over a man'.

99. For a recent interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:15, see Köstenberger, ‘Ascertaining roles'.

100. On the interpretation of Gal. 3:28 in the context of recent discussions of women's roles, see Köstenberger, ‘Gender passages', pp. 273-279.

101. Cf. Moo, Epistle to Romans, p. 927.

102. See Schreiner, ‘Valuable ministries', pp. 213-214 and 219-220.

103. See esp. Neuer, Man, p. 122: ‘His [Paul's] attitude is in complete agreement with that of Jesus, who in his teaching and actions recognised the differences between men and women. Jesus and Paul agree that creation and redemption do not conflict with each other; rather they constitute an inseparable unity, since both nature and grace are the work of God. For this reason Jesus and Paul do not abrogate the created order of the sexes in the kingdom of God, or the church, but expressly acknowledge it.'

104. Ellis, ‘Paul', p. 451.

105. It is highly fitting that a treatment of women in the Pauline mission be included in this volume and it is both a pleasure and a privilege to present this essay to P. T. O'Brien, a scholarly statesman and Christian gentleman of the highest order.

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