The Religious A priori

Women And Christianity

Neither Male Nor Female:

Forbidden to Teach?

page 6

1 Tim.2:11

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.


Three major Female NT Teachers

As we saw on the previous page there were, at one point, three major female teachers at Ephesus:Phoebe, Junia, and Prcilla.There were probably others as Well. These three stand out and we know the most about them, although that is no not much.

(1) Phoebe

Most people observe that Pheoebe is called a "Deconess" and they assume she was a Deacon, but Helmutt Koster argues that she was much more.

Helmutt Koster

Romans 16 is a letter of recommendation, the earliest letter of recommendation for a Christian minister, and it's written for a woman, Phoebe, who is, in the beginning of the chapter, said to have been a deacon, not a deaconess -- but a deacon in the sense of a preacher, a minister, because Paul uses the same word for himself. He calls himself, in a number of instances, a deacon of the new covenant in 2 Corinthians. It's the male form not even the female form that is used in Greek here. The other word that is used for Phoebe is a Greek word "prostatis." Now if you go into the general dictionary of Greek, it will say "prostatis" has two meanings: "1. president, and 2. patron." Now an Old and New Testament dictionary which is no longer in print said "prostatis" means "1. president, 2. patron, 3. helper," in parenthesis, "(only in Romans 16:1)." And that's the translation that has existed for a long time. I think it has now disappeared from The New Revised Standard Version. So, Paul writes this as a recommendation for Phoebe who is probably the president of the Christian community in Cenchreae and a deacon that is a preacher -- not a helper and a deaconess. (That's the old translation.)

Now here is one of the major textual critics in the world telling us that Phoebe was a teachers. This is is not like Bushnell telling us that, good thoug hshe was. We couldn't get a more qualified opinion from any living scholar.

(2) Junia

Koster, Ibid.

And this letter has one other very interesting information about women, namely it contains greetings to Junia and Andronicus, who both have been "well-respected apostles before me." Now Junia is a woman. I showed you the inscription for Junia for the woman.1 And there's an old debate that this should read, "Junias," which is a male name, with an "s" at the end, and that's because it was unthinkable that a woman was an apostle. Now early in this century a very famous German scholar, Hans Lietzmann, who was a superb philologian, made an investigation into all surviving names of antiquity and came to the conclusion that the name Junias did not exist -- that the name Junianus existed and that the name Junias is possible as a short form for the name Junianus, but there was no evidence that it was ever used. So he says philologically you cannot bring evidence that this was a man Junias rather than a woman Junia, but he says that since it's not thinkable that a woman was an apostle, we have to read the male name Junias. And later commentaries say we have to read the male name Junias, because Hans Lietzmann has brought the philological evidence. Well,... he has done the evidence. He has done the opposite! So, no question -- scholars agree today that indeed Romans 16 contains reference to a female apostle named Junia, whom Paul recognized as an apostle before him.

D.E.H. Whiteley also argued in Theology of St. Paul (London:Oxford) 1965. that the textual evidence favors the reading of a female. There is textual evidence that a scribe tried to correct the name and made it Junias. There is also a possibility that a scribe slipped up and tried to aboid copying Julia, since there is a Julia mentioned also in the text. Her name could have been Julia, and a scribe corrected it to Junias since a woman aposlte was unthinkable. But the fact of the matter is, Junia was a name, and Junias wasn't.

book review in Christianity Today about an whle book defending the idea of Junia as a female Apostle.


In an article on gender bias of the Textus Receptus (sorry KJV fans--its a bad batch of Mas) blantant changes were made to downplay the role of women. Some of those affected Priscilla.

The transmission of the several references [Textus Receptus] to Priscilla and Aquila in Acts xvii reveals some interesting features that Harnack pointed out at the close of the last century. The author of Acts seems never to have mentioned Aquila without Priscilla, and always (except inthe first instance, ver. 2) places the wife's name first. In both respects one or more witnesses (again of the 'Western' variety) depart from the original. Sometimes it is by reversing the names (as D in ver. 26) [Act 18:26], or by continuing the narrative with references only to 'him' rather than 'them (D in ver 2), or by mentioning only Aquila's name (old Lat h in ver. 7, and syr h mg in ver. 21) To these may be added a similar example in Col. iv. 15, [Col 4:15] where the 'Western' codex Claromontanus and other witnesses replace 'Nympha and the church in her house' with 'Nymphas . . . his house'.

*in FN:1 For further discussion see Ben Witherington, 'The Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the "Western" Text in Acts', Journal of Biblical Literature, ciii (1984), pp. 82-84, and Richard I. Pervo, 'Social and Religious Aspects of the Western Text', The Living Text, Essays in Honor of Ernest W. Saunders, ed. by D.E. Groh and R. Jewett (Langham, 1985), pp. 235-40.

In the Pauline CircleF.F. Bruce reveals that Priscilla was a patrician name, while Aquilla was a slave name. It is possible that Aquilla had ben his wife's slave at one time, or more likely that she married him after he was freed. Be that as it may, the probablity is that she had the education. Paul greets her as "Prisca," demenutive. He never speaks of Aquilla in such warm terms.He always mentions Priscilla first. The likelihood is that when the text tell us "they exlpianed the way of God more accurately to him," meaning Apollos, what it really means is that she did most of the teaching. Even if they did equal amounts of teching, it is obvious that she taught.

It is ludicrous to think that Paul would ban all women from teaching, given the large number of "hard workers" he names among that generation of Christian women, and givne that he doubs both Andronickas and Juna "outstanding among the Apostles." There are also two important examples of female teachers in the Old Testament.

In addition to these three, there are examples of prophetesses in the early chruch, who would also have had a teaching function.

New Advent Catholic Encyclopeida

Article on Philip

According to the Dialogue of Caius, directed against a Montanist named Proclus, the latter declared that "there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, at Hieropolis in Asia where their and their father's grave is still situated." The Acts (xxi, 8-9) does indeed mention four prophetesses, the daughters of the deacon and "Evangelist" Philip, as then living in Caesarea with their father, and Eusebius who gives the above-mentioned excerpts (Hist. Eccl., III, xxxii), refers Proclus' statement to these latter.

The presence of prophetesses was highly regarded by the early the early chruch, since these women's graves are vinerated, and Eusebius tells us that in debate with the monantianists these women were used as proof that the Orthodox chruch has the prophetic seal of approval.These four daughters of Philip also had another function as teahers. It is not certian that they taught the word as authorative teachers,but very likely. In addition to this they also kept the files of chruch history and functioned as one of the major links the testimony to the Appostolic authority.

F.F. Bruce, an Evangelical Scholar and highly respected in most circles, tells us: "Eusebius tells us on the authority of Papias and other early writers that at a late date Philip's four prophetic daughters were famed in the church for authorities in the history of its earliest days." (The New Testament Documents, p.43)

In addition to this, the early chruch understood the prophetic function in containing a teaching aspect.

Karen King
New Testament Studies
Harvard From Jesus to Christ

As prophets, women's roles would have included not only ecstatic public speech, but preaching, teaching, leading prayer, and perhaps even performing the eucharist meal. (A later first century work, called the Didache, assumes that this duty fell regularly to Christian prophets.)

Paul makes the assumption in 1 Cor. 11 that women will be prophesying in chruch and taking part in leadership.

Two OT Female Teachers

(1) Prophetess Hulda

(II Kings 22:14 and II Chr 34:22)

Emil G. Hirsch,
Rabbi, Sinai Congregation; Professor of Rabbinical Literature and Philosophy, University of Chicago; Chicago, Ill.

The Old Testament prophetess Huldah was the wife of Shallum. He was a man of dignity and from an eminent family, being the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (royal garments). Huldah reportedly lived in Jerusalem in the college (KJV) or school district. According to McClintock and Strong, "There is no ground to conclude that any school or college of the prophets is to be understood."1 The name of the section was Mishneh, meaning second part or district and was a suburb between the inner and outer walls of the city.

Biblical Data: Prophetess; wife of Shallum, the keeper of the wardrobe in the time of King Josiah. She dwelt in the second quarter of Jerusalem. It seems that Huldah enjoyed great consideration as a prophetess, for when Hilkiah found the scroll of the Law he, with his four companions, took it to her. On that occasion she prophesied that God would bring evil upon Jerusalem and upon its inhabitants. The king, however, was told that he would die in peace before the evil days came (II Kings xxii. 14-20; II Chron. xxxiv. 22-28).E. G. H. M. Sel.

In Rabbinical Literature: Huldah and Deborah were the only professed prophetesses, although other pious women had occasional prophetic revelations. Both had unattractive names, "Huldah" signifying "weasel," and "Deborah" signifying "bee" or "wasp." Huldah said to the messengers of King Josiah, "Tell the man that sent you to me," etc. (II Kings xxii. 15), indicating by her unceremonious language that for her Josiah was like any other man. The king addressed her, and not Jeremiah, because he thought that women are more easily stirred to pity than men, and that therefore the prophetess would be more likely than Jeremiah to intercede with God in his behalf (Meg. 14a, b; comp. Seder 'Olam R. xxi.). Huldah was a relative of Jeremiah, both being descendants of Rahab by her marriage with Joshua (Sifre, Num. 78; Meg. 14a, b). While Jeremiah admonished and preached repentance to the men, she did the same to the women (Pesi?. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 129]). Huldah was not only a prophetess, but taught publicly in the school (Targ. to II Kings xxii. 14), according to some teaching especially the oral doctrine. It is doubtful whether "the Gate of Huldah" in the Second Temple (Mid. i. 3) has any connection with the prophetess Huldah; it may have meant "Cat's Gate"; some scholars, however, associate the gate with Huldah's schoolhouse (Rashi to Kings l.c.).E. C. L.

Huldah is mentioned by the great first century historian Josephus. He basically retells the Biblical story:Works of Josephus, Volume III (Antiquities of the Jews Books IX-XVII). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974, pp. 60-62.

Hulda is very honored in the Rabbinical tradition

congreation Ohave Shalam Mordechai Torczyner

linked from

Chuldah was one of the seven female prophets who had their writings recorded in Tanach [there were 48 males who had the same honor]. The Midrash also lists her in a list of 23 outstanding Jewish women. There is a Midrash which records a set of dwellings in the Garden of Eden, and it places her in the 4th dwelling, with the righteous women.

There were three leading prophets in her generation - Yirmiyah, Tzefaniah, and Chuldah. Yirmiyah prophesied in the marketplaces, Tzefaniah in the buildings where people congregated, and Chuldah prophesied to the women.

Tells further Hulda sotries form Rabbinical lore. It seems that Shallum,her husband died. The people loved him so that they placed his body in the grave with the prophet Elisha, and he was raised from the dead. This story is told, but without the name, in 11 Kings, but Rabbinical lore connected the two. After Shallum was restored to her, Hulda was so invigerated that they had a son, Chanaemel, who became a great prophet in his own right.

Whatever the historical reality of these stories, Hulda must have been a formidable figure to inspire such retellings of her life.

(2) Judge Deborah

From the Women in Judaism series

Leah Kohn

Women in Judasism Project

Deborah As Prophetess,Judge and Mother

The text of Judges (4:5) relates that Devorah prophesies and leads her nation from her seated place under a date palm:

"...a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth...She would sit under the date palm of Devorah, between Ramah and Beth-el on Mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel would go up to her for judgement."

The date palm is a metaphor for Devorah's generation. In the same way the life giving sap of a date palm is limited to its trunk (whereas in other trees it extends through the leaves), Devorah's generation has limited access to the life force of Torah, because it has but a few Torah scholars. To continue the metaphor, the date palm's minimal shade represents the relative absence of spiritual and physical protection without Torah.

Inasmuch as the date palm exemplifies the shortcomings of the Jewish people in Devorah's day, it is also a symbol of their strength. Specifically, the concentration of sap in the date palm trunk typifies the Jews of Devorah's era, who are said to be united towards God with one and the same heart. This attribute seems to contradict their deficits. How can both extremes be true of the same generation?

Devorah herself understands the reality behind this seeming contradiction. As judge, she inherits a somewhat disconnected generation, with a potential for spiritual greatness. She then empowers them with Torah knowledge, with her own exemplary righteousness and - most significantly - by believing in them. Devorah's faith in the Jewish people comes from what may be considered her maternal love. In the same way parents want the best for their children, Devorah holds such hopes for the Jews. And in the same manner a mother understands how to foster a child's own sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, Devorah inspires in the Jews a renewed sense of their value as God's chosen people.

In sum, Devorah exhibits a woman's ability to instill rather than impose, to invigorate rather than force, and to cultivate rather than command.

As judge, Devorah brings a feminine sensibility to a male dominated office. She refers to herself as a "mother of Israel," and her commitment to nurturing the Jews with subtlety and patience bespeaks this title. Devorah's leadership style is profoundly generous - focused as it is on her populace, rather than on herself. This style, together with her appreciation and knowledge of Torah, and her prophetic gift, marks Devorah as an agent of national rejuvenation.

Conservatives often put a spin on the Deborah story to cover up the fact that God empowered a woman to be strong and to lead her people in battle.They will pint out that Barak was cowardly,and thus the lesson of Deborah is that God will only appoint a woman when men are unwilling to act. Jewish sources interpirt Barak's actions in a more positive light; either that he wanted to be sure Deborah really spoke for God, or that he was humble and was deflecting the glory away from hiself. Rabbinical and Jewish lore identifies Barak himself with Lapidoth. Thus Deborah and Barak are seen as married in the Jewish trdition.

None of the texts discussing these women actually say "she was a teacher." Yet, there are no men who are actually described as "just a teacher" apart from other leadership functions. Teaching was a function of leadership. Paul mentions those Elders who also teach (1 Tim 4). Church "offices" we not formalized structures at the time of Paul's writting. When tells Titus "choose certain people" he is making an ad hoc discision about how to structure a chruch. Otherwise why tell him? Why hand down to Timothy qualifications for Elder and Deacon if these were fomalized offices? Wouldn't Timothy know the procedures already? Church structure in the first century grew ad hoc, and teaching requirements required on the job training and grew out of the general fucntion of leadership. It is clear that these women, the three New Testament manes and the two of the Old, were all in positions of leadership. For the NT, Phoebe, Junia and Priscilla there would have been occasions to teach all the time.

Phoebe was "preisdent" (leader) of the chruch at Chenchria, the port city of Corinth, and was invovled in important legal work as the "Patron" of the chruch. That she would have been forbidden to teach is absurd. Moreover, Paul describes her in the same terms of which he describes himself, Deacon, meaning "preacher," "minister." So teaching would clearly come with that job.

Junia was not only an Apostle, but "outstanding" among the Apostles. She went to prsion for her faith. She was clealry preaching, and that would ential teaching. That Paul would silence her is absurd.

Priscilla is always mentioned before her husband, she had the education, and clearly was highly regarded by Pual. She is known to have taught Apollos, and it is cleary she probably took the lead in so doing. All of these women were in cleadership, and it is a safe bet they were all teachers. Paul's injunction about authority a priori doesn't apply to them. They all had authority, Paul clearly approved of it, he said Junia was outstanding as an Apostle. Would he then say "O but you can't be an Apostle to the men, only to the women?" It is absurd to think that Paul would silence any of these women. This al goes to show taht God empowers women and raises up Godly women for service in the Kingdom and the Gospel.

Next:Who is Doing the Work?

Gnostic "Feminist" Teachers of Ephesus
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The Religious A priori