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Introduction to the bible

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compose and submit a 620-word (i.e., roughly 2-page) reflection/response to what you’ve read in the article. Strong responses will both briefly summarize key points from the reading and also critically reflect on and evaluate the author’s ideas and assertions. What did you find to be helpful or illuminating? What did you find to be troubling or confusing? What questions did the reading raise in your own thinking? Make clear and specific points while demonstrating engagement with the reading for best results.

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14 W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT WOMEN AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT Loveday Alexander Key Words: APOSTLE, DIAKONOS, HOUSEHOLD, LEADERSHIP, MINISTRY, PATRON, PAUL, PROPHET, STEWARD, TEACHER, WOMEN Far from being a utopian and impractical ideal, Paul's statement that 'in Christ there is no male and female' was intended to have an impact on the day-to-day life of the church. We can see evidence of its impact in the practice of the Pauline churches, where women exercised a variety of roles that we would associate with church leadership in the fields of stewardship, prophecy, and the ministry of the word. But the Pauline letters also display a progressive accommodation of the radical ideal to societal norms, culminoting in the blanket prohibition of women's leadership in 1 Timothy. 'As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.‫׳‬ (Gal. 3:27-28) This famous text from Galatians is one of the boldest statements in the New Testament, offering a radical deconstruction of the basic divisions that structured ancient society—the divisions of race, class and gender. Being baptized into Christ, Paul implies, means entering a new world where these divisions have no meaning: ‫׳‬in Christ Jesus' all are ‫׳‬one'. All human beings are on the same footing. But what does this 'one-ness' actually mean? What difference did it make in the day-to-day experience of Christians in the early church? Historian Ramsay MacMullen asked that question in 1986, and concluded: not very much. Texts like this, he said, may express a radical ideal, but if we look at the actual practice of the Christian churches, their prophetic impact is muted by a creeping conformity to the norms of ancient society.1Indeed, some historians—and some commentators—have questioned whether they were ever meant to make a difference in the real world. Perhaps we should assign them a purely 'spiritual' meaning? Or at most, so the argument goes, this is a baptismal formula which sets out the entry qualifications for the church: unlike some other ancient societies, this is a club in which all are welcome, regardless of race, class, or gender. Beyond that entry point, normal restrictions apply. The problem with this argument is that it is so obviously false. Of the three divisions encompassed by the formula, the one that really interested W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 15 Paul is the one between Jew and Greek. Paul spends much of his time and energy arguing that the privileged position he inherited as a Jew does not give him any privileged status in the life of the church. This is the underlying argument of Galatians and Romans; arguably it is the insight that underpins Paul's whole theology of grace. It affects the way he looks back on his own spiritual journey (cf. Phil. 3), and gives him the programme for his whole life's work (Gal. 1:13-2:10; Rom. 15:15-29). And it is quite clear that Paul believes that the abolition of the distinction between Jew and Gentile should make a difference, not only in heaven or in the sight of God (important though that is), but also in the real, ongoing social life of the church here and now. This is the argument that underlies Paul's dispute with Peter in Galatians 2:1114. Whatever 'in Christ' means, it must be visibly reflected in the ongoing life of the church. The same argument underlies the famous passage in Philippians 2:5, well conveyed in the NEB translation: 'Let your bearing towards one another arise out of [be an accurate reflection of, show the impact of] your life in Christ.' Whatever is true in Christ must also be true among yourselves, in the visible, day-to-day life of the church. Women's Roles in the Pauline Churches: The Evidence of Practice So what happened to the other two pairs of abolished opposites? What impact did they have on the life of the Pauline churches? Can we find evidence that the ideal statement 'there is no male and female' had any impact on the day-to-day life of the church? How do the Pauline churches measure up to the ideal, both in precept and in practice? In particular, what impact does it have on the leadership structures of the church? We can see some evidence of radical thinking on gender in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. This passage envisages non-marriage as a genuine alternative lifestyle for men and women. Marriage—for both men and women—means a commitment to 'pleasing' your spouse, and your attention is 'divided' between 'the things of the Lord' and 'the things of the world'. Only the unmarried (men or women) are free to devote themselves to 'pleasing the Lord'. This was in itself a pretty radical stance within the gender expectations of ancient society, and foreshadows the later decision of Christian women like Perpetua to renounce marriage as a kind of selling-out to the norms of pagan society. But if a woman took this path, what kinds of 'ministry' would be open to her? How would she be able to 'please the Lord'? Was her devotion restricted to personal or practical holiness, or would she be allowed to exercise 'leadership'? The discussion is complicated by the fact that we have a very fuzzy picture of how leadership worked in the Pauline churches. 'Leadership' itself is not a word that Paul uses. Nevertheless, if we probe beneath the surface we 16 W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT can find clear traces of a leadership structure that functioned at both local and trans-local levels. Alongside the apostolic leadership exercised by Paul himself, there are people in the local churches exercising a variety of functions that we would associate with local church leaders. And it is abundantly clear that some of these were women. Paul's list of congregational ministries in 1 Corinthians 12 (cf. Rom. 12:3-8) reveals the rich variety of 'gifts of the Spirit' that characterized the life of the Pauline churches. Ritva H. Williams offers a helpful grid for classifying leadership in the early church under three categories: stewards, prophets, and keepers of the word.2Where did women fit into this pattern? Stewards: Women as Hosts and Patrons The image of the leader as 'steward' (oikonomos) reflects the social context of the early churches, meeting in private houses and dependent on the hospitality of those with sufficient space to host a house-church. In the nature of things, the host of a house-church would have been expected to preside at the community meal, and would naturally assume a leadership role.3 Some of these hosts may have had considerable space at their disposal: cf. the Corinthian Gaius, whom Paul describes in Romans 16:23 as 'host to me and to the whole church'—presumably a house large enough to accommodate a gathering of several house-churches. But we should not assume that all hosts were wealthy. Priscilla and Aquila, who hosted house-churches across the Mediterranean in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome, were travelling artisans who shared Paul's trade of 'tent-making', and may well have hosted a house-church in the back room of a rented workshop.4 There is clear evidence in Paul's letters that women and men act together in offering the household gifts of hospitality and financial support: cf. Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Acts 18:1-4,24-28); Philemon and Apphia (Philem. 1-2). Women are also cited as hosts in their own right: cf. Mary (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15,40), Nympha (Col. 4:15)—and possibly Rufus' mother (Rom. 16:13), whom Paul describes as 'his mother and mine'.5Chloe, whose 'people' (almost certainly trusted slaves travelling on their mistress's business) bring reports about the Corinthian church to Paul (1 Cor. 1:11), may have been a house-church leader. One of the important functions of the ancient household was patronage—using the household's resources responsibly to offer an umbrella of advocacy and support both to dependent family members (including former slaves) and to the less well off. Cheerfulness in giving (2 Cor. 9:7) was always seen as a mark of Christian spirituality (Rom. 12:8). Paul's commitment to 'remembering the poor' is attested in Galatians 2:10, and the book of Acts gives concrete examples of the churches' charitable activities in Acts 6 W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 17 (where women are the recipients of aid) and in Acts 9, where Tabitha (Dorcas) is a type for women as leaders in the social outreach of the church, a form of ministry later associated with the 'widows'.6 There is ample evidence too for women acting as financial benefactors to local churches and synagogues. Luke traces this phenomenon back to the life of Christ, when a group of wealthy women including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna travelled about with Jesus and supported him out of their means (Luke 8:1-3).7Acts 5:1-11 gives an example from the early days of the Jerusalem church, where Sapphira is actively associated with her husband in a donation to the apostles: Sapphira is clearly an equal partner both in the ownership of the property and in the deception. A rather different kind of patronage is exercised by Phoebe, whom Paul describes in Romans 16:1-2 as a diakonos of the church in Cenchreae (the port of Corinth) and 'prostatis (benefactor/patron) of many including myself'.8 Though prostatis is sometimes translated 'leader', it makes more sense here to understand Phoebe as Paul's local benefactor or patron, able to offer the protection and advocacy he needed as a non-citizen migrant worker in Corinth. When Phoebe travelled to Rome as Paul's emissary and letter-carrier, she in turn would need the prostasia of local patrons in the Roman church.9 Prophets: Women and Prophetic Leadership Prophecy figures high in Paul's lists of the spiritual gifts needed to nourish and energize the church (1 Cor. 12:10,28; Rom. 12:6; Eph. 4:11), second only to the apostles. According to 1 Corinthians 11:5, women are both allowed and expected to pray and prophesy in the assembly of the church. This is not just a matter of private spirituality: both of these are public and audible ministries, and the Corinthian church seems to have allowed women the freedom to lay aside the veil, the traditional symbol of subjection to men, while exercising this ministry (1 Cor. 11:5,10). Paul argues against this—but on the grounds that the veil is [a symbol of] their exousia, authority. So women do have spiritual authority 'in the Lord'. For other women prophets, cf. Philip's four unmarried daughters who 'had the gift of prophecy' (Acts 21:9); or the false prophet nicknamed 'Jezebel' in Revelation 2:20. Paul's list of charismatic gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 also includes the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues, and there is no reason to exelude women from these. The prophetic role of women was culturally sanetioned and continued to be important in the early church through to the Montanist controversy of the late second century. Its gradual marginalization may be linked to the general marginalization of charismatic leadership in the developing church. 18 W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT Keepers o f the Word: Women and the Ministry o f the Word The third component of leadership in the early church is the ministry of the word: evangelism, teaching, and pastoral direction. The apostles played a key role as 'keepers of the word', linking the scattered local congregations with the apostolic memory of Jesus (as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and 15:3-7). Paul envisions the apostolic task in twofold terms: preaching the word ('labouring in the Gospel'), and encouragement, paraklesis, building up the believers 'in Christ', affirming them in their new identity. But these fundamental pastoral tasks are also shared with local leaders, like the local leadership team in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:12-13) or the household of Stephanas in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:15-18).10Their tasks include 'labouring among you' (kopiontes), patronage/leadership (proistamenoi), and moral and pastoral exhortation (nouthetountes). Do we have evidence for women exercising this kind of leadership? The role of women as 'keepers of the word', repositories and transmitters of social memory, is widely accepted across many ancient cultures. This makes it somewhat surprising that the orthodox Christian tradition limits this role to the male apostles (though non-canonical traditions assign a more prominent role to Mary Magdalene). We tend to assume that the travelling and evangelistic ministry of the apostles was largely exercised by males, if only for practical reasons. However, Paul lets slip the surprising information that Peter and all the other apostles (and the Lord's brothers) travelled 'with a sister as wife'—or 'with a wife as sister'—and expected the churches to provide hospitality for them (1 Cor. 9:5): which implies that some women at least in these early days were regarded as part of the apostolic team. Paul himself preferred the celibate option (1 Cor. 7:7), and does not mention women among his travelling companions. It is worth noting, though, that Paul's team did at one point include the runaway slave Onesimus, an equally problematic associate. In the letter Paul sent to his master Philemon, Paul describes Onesimus (in a pun on his name) as 'useful both to me and to you', and goes on to say '1 wish I could keep him with me, so that on your behalf he might minister (diakone) to me in the bonds of the Gospel' (Philem. 11,13). The letter falls precisely at the point where radical kingdom ideal meets social norms, and illustrates the delicacy of Paul's position. Slaves were a form of property, and Paul was legally obliged to send Onesimus back to his master—but the letter contains a powerful coded plea for Philemon to find a way to match Onesimus' legal status as a slave with his spiritual status as a beloved brother 'both in the flesh and in the Lord' (Philem. 16). There is in fact compelling evidence in the New Testament that women did exercise pastoral and evangelistic leadership in the early church. Romans W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 19 16 contains a long list of named individuals whom Paul singles out for personal greetings. Of the 27 individuals greeted, 10 are women—an astonishingly high proportion—and many of these are assigned specific roles in church leadership.11We may note three designations. First, a possible woman apostle. Junia is listed with Andronicus as 'prom¡nent among the apostles', (Rom. 16:7). Paul's accolade (which is high praise however you look at it) could mean either that Junia was 'highly regarded by the apostles' or (as many scholars have argued) that she was 'distinguished as an apostle'.12Secondly, women named as co-workers (sunergoi): Prisca (elsewhere called Priscilla) is named as a 'co-worker' (Rom. 16:3); cf. also Euodia and Syntyche in Philippi, named as co-workers in Philippians 4:23; and perhaps Apphia, named alongside her husband as house-church leaders (Philem. 1-2). And then women described as having 'laboured among you' (kopiao): Mary (Rom. 16:6); Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom. 16:12); Persis (Rom. 16:12). Paul uses the same verb of his own evangelistic labours as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 4:11), and of the pastoral leadership of the local leadership teams in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:12) and Corinth (1 Cor. 16:15). In 1 Timothy 5:17 it covers the preaching and teaching of the elders. It has been plausibly suggested that the different individuals singled out here are all leaders of the different house-churches that made up the church in Rome.13Certainly these passages indicate how Paul endorses and encourages local leaders (male and female alike) across the Mediterranean world. The primary evidence of the Pauline letters is supported by the narrative of Acts, which shows Priscilla exercising a teaching ministry (Acts 18:26). It is of course at this local leadership level that we find the roles of diakonos, presbyteros, and episkopos, which were to solidify at a later stage into the catholic three-fold order or bishop, priest and deacon. Philippians is the first of Paul's letters to single out 'the episkopoi and diakonoi’ in the opening greeting.14 There is no reason a priori to exclude women (like those mentioned in Phil. 4:2-4) from these roles (cf. Rom. 16:2). Even the later texts that seek to restrict women to a specifically 'women's ministry' (especially in 1 Timothy) allow us to envisage an active leadership role for women alongside their male colleagues as diakonoi and 'widows' (1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9-10). Women's Roles in the Pauline churches: The Evidence of Precept There is then abundant evidence for women playing a recognised and respected role in the variegated leadership of the Pauline churches in their earliest phases. This leadership is exercised across all three categories: stewardship, prophecy, and the ministry of the word. But this is not the whole story. Even in the uncontested letters, Paul shows some unease over the freedom exercised by women—and this unease seems to crystallize around the 20 W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT ministry of the word. Thus in 1 Corinthians 11:2-17, women are explicitly permitted to pray and prophesy—but must cover their heads 'as a sign of authority'. In 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36, women are exhorted to be silent 'as in all the churches [assemblies] of the saints ... for they are not permitted to speak (or: talk, lalein), but should be subordinate, as the law also says'. Given what Paul has just said in chapter 11, this is a rather surprising statement. Some textual evidence suggests these verses may be an interpolation; if authentic, they must be compatible with 11:5, where women are allowed to 'speak' (lalein) in prayer and prophecy. Lalein here may be used in its alternative sense of gossiping or chattering. But even if it is an interpolation, it is an early one that indicates a degree of unease about women exercising a ministry of the word. This discomfort later solidifies into the blanket prohibition expressed in 1 Timothy 2:12: '1 permit no woman to teach or to have authority [authentein] over a man; she is to keep silent' (NRSV). But it is clear that this text (which is unique in the NT: the other Pastoral Epistles make no mention of women) places very clear restrictions on the teaching ministry of women. In both cases, restrictions on women's leadership are linked with the traditional discourse of male headship in marriage (1 Cor. 11:3-12; 1 Tim. 2:1115). These passages offer a distinctive Christian twist on the traditional Stoic 'household codes' reinforcing hierarchy and enjoining the obedience of slaves, children and women within the household.15This household ethic did not originate in the church: it was the default code of Greco-Roman society, trenchantly formulated by Aristotle three centuries before Christ (Aristotle, Politics 1259a37-bl7). Paul's treatment of this theme in 1 Corinthians ll: 3 f f offers a rather desperate series of supporting arguments from scripture (w.79), 'because of the angels' (v.10), from nature (vv.14-15) and from custom (v.16)—followed by the surprising admission that 'in the Lord' the hierarchies are reversed (vv.11-12), an admission that implicitly deconstructs all the others. Here again Paul seems to be caught between the values and ethos of the surrounding culture and the radical challenge offered to those values by the new thing that was happening 'in Christ'. It looks very much as if Paul was concerned not to rock the boat: he retains the traditional dress code for women, while treating men and women as equal partners in marriage and allowing women freedom to exercise their God-given ministry within the church. Given the entrenched strength of the cultural ethos, it is in many ways remarkable that Paul was able to move as far as he did in accepting women as friends, colleagues and fellow-workers 'in the Lord'. W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 21 Making Sense of the Evidence How do we make sense of this apparently contradictory evidence? For the historian, it is not too difficult to see a radical ideal gradually being smothered by cultural conformity. This conformity reflects not simply a failure of nerve but (as we can see already in Paul, and more explicitly in 1 Peter) the very real anxieties of church leaders over the church's precarious position in Roman society—an anxiety that was to intensify in the following centuries of persecution. In that sense, Ramsay MacMullen was right: it would take centuries for the radical ideals of early Christianity to make much headway over entrenched societal norms. For the church today, the issue is rather different. The Bible does not give a simple answer to the question of women's leadership. It gives contradictory answers, depending on whether you assign more importance to practice or precept. It also—and this is important— shows how the Gospel mandate is conditioned by culture even within the Bible itself. But Paul's honesty in wrestling with the contextual issues does give us, I believe, a way to perceive the underlying theological principles that need to govern our own practice. In Galatians 6:15-16 Paul returns to the radical ideal: 'Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule (kanon).' The radical ideal of Galatians 3.28 functions as a 'canon', a hermeneutical key to unlock the apparent contradictions of precept and practice. It is the same principle that underpins Paul's whole understanding of the Gospel in Philippians 2:5: whatever the cost, and however hard it is to stand out against societal norms, what is true 'in Christ' must also be true 'among yourselves', in the visible, day-to-day life of the church. With grateful acknowledgements to Richard Bauckham fo r sharing with me his notes on 'Women and episcopacy'. However, all responsibility fo r the arguments and opinions expressed here is my own. Notes: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Ramsay MacMullen, 'W hat Difference Did Christianity Make?', Historia 35 (1986), pp.32243. Ritva H. Williams, Stewards, Prophets, Keepers o f the Word: Leadership in the Early Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006). Harry O. Maier, The Social Setting o f the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings o f Hermas, Clement and Ignatius (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002). On house-churches and artisan workshops, see Peter Oakes, Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul's Letter a t Ground Level (London: SPCK, 2009). On the women in Acts, see Ivoni Richter Reimer, Women in the Acts o f the Apostles: A Feminist Liberation Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995). Bonnie Thurston, The Widows: A Woman's Ministry in the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989). Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies o f the nam ed Women in the Gospels (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2002). 22 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. W O M E N AS LEADERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT The related verb is used of church leadership in Rom. 12:8; 1 Thess. 5:12 (and eventually of eucharistie presidency in Justin A p o l.l. 65). Caroline Whelan, ‫׳‬Arnica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church‫׳‬, JSNT49 (1993), pp. 67-85. The ‫׳‬household' (oikia) of Stephanas may have included w om en, though none are named. The two names associated with Stephanas in this leadership team , Achaicus and Fortunatus, are typical slave names. Discounting the names Aristobulus and Narcissus (who are probably household owners, not church members), and counting Rufus' mother and Nereus' sister. Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005). Peter Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians a t Rome in the First Two Centuries (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), pp.359ff. It is widely accepted that presbyteros ('elder') and episkopos ('overseer') are interchangeable titles at this stage. David Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Code in I Peter (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1981). Loveday Alexander is Emeritus Professor o f Biblical Studies at Sheffield University and Canon-Theologian at Chester Cathedral. She has published widely on the social world o f the New Testament. Copyright and Use: As an ATLAS user, you may print, download, or send articles for individual use according to fair use as defined by U.S. and international copyright law and as otherwise authorized under your respective ATLAS subscriber agreement. No content may be copied or emailed to multiple sites or publicly posted without the copyright holder(sV express written permission. Any use, decompiling, reproduction, or distribution of this journal in excess of fair use provisions may be a violation of copyright law. This journal is made available to you through the ATLAS collection with permission from the copyright holder( s). 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Explanation & Answer


Reading Response - Outline
I. In the article, "Women as Leaders in the New Testament" Alexander Loveday argues that
Paul's statement that, in Christ, there was no male and female brought a significant
impact in the life of the early Cristian church
II. According to Loveday, women served as stewards in the church– a position that involved
hosting and supporting house churches
III. Indeed, Loveday is right in this argument. He backs up his proposition with sufficient
evidence which shows that women were critical benefactors of the early church
IV. Loveday also argues that part from the stewardship, women also participated in prophetic
leadership positions.
V. The evidence that Loveday provides for this argument is indeed valid. For instance, he
refers to the book of Acts 21:9, which gives an account of Philip's four daughters had
the gift of prophecy.
VI. Finally, Loveday argues that women also served as keepers of the word

I agree with Loveday that indeed Paul's statement contributed to the involvement of
women in the early church


I find this article very helpful in vi...

Awesome! Perfect study aid.


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