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This article, as well as a number of others, were written when  Mary facilitated a series of Bible Studies for the Women's Ministry in her local church.  The women wanted to know what the Bible says about women's roles, not what books say.  After each study, she offered her notes on an e-mail listserv for the pastors and elders wives of her denomination.  She had about 200 requests for the set of seven studies from all around the world.  Some were e-mailing and asking questions too.  This kept her very busy.  About March 1998, Mary decided to put the studies on the web, so anyone could download them which saved her much energy and time. She's been told that the studies have been translated into French in Canada, translated and used in India, South America and Europe and used in sermons all over the USA. These  lessons  are  a resource for  personal devotions,  small  groups,  Christian education, women's ministries,  retreats,  men's prayer breakfasts,   ministry   leaders,  lectionaries, sermons, and newsletters.   Mary is the former  Operations Manager for Christians for Biblical Equality.

 Did Paul Really Teach About Women, What We Were Told that He Taught?

Notes by Mary Seltzer

After Jesus ascended up into the heaven, the apostles and those with him went back to Jerusalem to await "the promise of the Father" Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4. "These all (about 120) continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the WOMEN..." Acts 1:14.

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:1-4.  Notice:

1. They were all together, about 120, men as well as women.

2. Cloven tongues like fire "sat upon each of them" women as well as men.

3. All the women as well as all the men were filled with the Holy Spirit.

4. The women as well as the men began to "speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 69 says this word "utterance" was not a word of everyday speech, but one "belonging to dignified and elevated discourse" and was used "not only of prophets but also of wise men and philosophers."  This was the same kind of discourse that Paul used before King Agrippa, Acts 26:25.

So on the day of Pentecost men as well as women spoke with "dignified and elevated discourse."

Acts 2:16-18: Then, Peter stood up and said, "this is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel;

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. . ."

"And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit: and they shall prophesy."

Peter points to this prophecy in Joel as being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. It was not fulfilled unless the "daughters" and "handmaidens" prophesied---spoke unto men (anthropos - women and men) edification, exhortation, and comfort." I Cor. 14:3.

In I Cor. 12:7 we read, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man (Gr. hekastos--each) to profit withal." (for the common good)

Why did the Holy Spirit on Pentecost give women the gift of tongues if it weren't "to profit withal?" We can assume that the women exercised their gifts in private and the men exercised theirs in public, but the Bible does not say so; the evidence is to the contrary.

Did these women who received a double portion--the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy use these gifts after Pentecost? Or, were they used only on that occasion? Did they cease with the going down of the sun?

Jesus said to the apostles "and them that were with them" Luke 24:33, "it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things." Luke 24:46-48.

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8.

In both Luke and Acts, the promised outpouring of the Spirit, which both men and women received, was in conjunction with the commission to proclaim the gospel "unto all nations." This commission is given in all four of the gospels.

"But God raised him from the dead; And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people." Acts 13:30-31.

Among those who "came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem" (Mark 15:41) who saw Him "after He rose from the dead," were "Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James the less, and Salome," and "many other women."

Were these women now made "His witnesses unto the people?"

In Acts 10:40-41, Peter preached in Cornelius' house, "Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God. . . ."

So were the women who "came up with Him out of Galilee," to whom Christ first appeared after the Resurrection, and who were "anointed with power from on high," in that "upper room," among the "witnesses chosen before of God."

In I. Cor. 14:22, the apostle Paul says prophesying is for them which believe; and, in verse 4, prophesying edifies the church. Also, I. Cor. 14:22 says that tongues are for a sign to them that believe not.

So these women on Pentecost were empowered to proclaim the Gospel, not only to the church but also to unbelievers. And not only to their kindred and race but to "the uttermost parts of the earth."

Years later, while Paul was on his last recorded journey to Jerusalem, he tarried "many days" at the house of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8). "And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." Acts 21:9.

If there were four women prophets in a single home, should we just assume that throughout the extended church there were not any other women prophets?

Since there were women prophets in the early church, were there women evangelists?

Acts 8:1:  On the day of Stephen's death there arose "a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."  v. 4:  "They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word."

In this tribulation, "all except the apostles," women as well as men, fled from the city, and "they that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." The Greek word here translated "PREACHING" is "euaggelizo" to announce good news (evangelize) especially- the gospel. A bearer of these glad tidings was an "euaggelistes," a preacher of the gospel--evangelist.

Paul told Timothy, II. Tim 4:5 "Do the work of an evangelist" (euaggelistes), Acts 21:18 Philip was an evangelist (euaggelistes), Eph 4:8,11 ". . .and gave gifts unto men, (anthropos- women and men), . . . and he gave {some} apostles; and some (Greek `ho' -includes the feminine) prophets; and some (`ho' -includes the feminine) evangelists (euaggelistes); and some (`ho' -includes the feminine), pastors and teachers;.

Paul, then called Saul of Tarsus, was one of the most violent of the persecutors of the church. In Acts 26:10, Paul says,". . .and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them." In Acts 8:3, we learn that some of these saints were women, "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."

There is hardly any doubt that among these propagandists of the Gospel there were many women, because Saul had women as well as men bound and brought to Jerusalem from other places. Acts 9:2.

This severe persecution of the church began a missionary movement. "The progress of the missionary movement was itself dependent to a large extent upon the conversion of influential women in strategic locations. The first convert to the gospel on European soil was a businesswoman named Lydia who offered her home as the headquarters for the establishment of the gospel, (Acts 16:13-15) and as the place of meeting for the fledgling church at Philippi with herself as one of its leaders (v. 40). As Paul and Silas pressed on with their mission, they discovered that the conversion of some prominent women along with male proselytes became the basis for the establishment of the church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4). The same phenomenon took place in Berea where "many Greek women of high social standing and many men" became converts and formed the core of a new church in Gentile territory (17:10-12). And when the gospel reached Athens, the world capital of learning and of the arts, several converts joined Paul. Two of them are identified by name, obviously because their renown would have elicited recognition from the original readers of the Book of Acts. The man was Dionysius and the woman Damaris (17:34).

"Although they are incidental to the chronicles of the church, such references remind us that it was thanks to the involvement of women converts that the Christian movement spread as successfully as it did during the early stages of its outreach." Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, professor emeritus of Wheaton College and co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family, Copyright 1985, pp 196-197.

Concerning Lydia, Acts 16:13-15, my Study Bible for Women NT, NRSV has a note p. 264, "On the Sabbath, Paul seeks out a local Jewish service and finds several women. Since ten men are required for a synagogue service and none is mentioned, the women have a 'place of prayer' instead. So evidentially the Church at Philippi was begun with women. Ten years later Paul exhorts Euodia and Syntyche of the Philipian Church and notes that these women "labored with me in the gospel" (Phil 4:2,3). In verse 3, Clement (a male) as well as these two women are referred to by the same title "fellow laborers," sunergos. Both Clement, as well as Euodia and Syntyche, are equal in role and function.

II. Corinthians 8:23 is an interesting verse. Titus is called "my partner and fellowhelper (sunergos)" and his lesser companions are apostles! Paul also calls the women, Priscilla (Rom. 16:3) and Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) fellow helpers (sunergos).

Might there be some interchangeability between the terms "apostles" and "fellowhelpers" (sunergos)?

Dr. Robb C. Palmer, Pastor, Evangelical Free Fellowship, Muncy, PA, "From a Pastor's Notebook" Priscilla Papers, Winter, 1997, p. 23 says,

"And if sunergos means fellow laborer (as it does) then there is no inequality between the nature of the ministry of the man and the nature of the ministry of the woman. How can it be concluded otherwise?"

"This all goes to say that Paul, in referring to the ministries of the men and women in his circle, never once refers to the ministry of men in a different manner (or with a different title) than the ministry of women. He does not use two different terms, which would connote a different nature of ministry of the two individuals. Quite the contrary, what the men do and who they are in kingdom service (and what they mean to Paul) is also defined as sunergos. This, then, implies that the women were ministering alongside the men in fully equal terms, manners and ministries! This is in keeping with Galatians 3:28 and Acts 2:17."

In regards to Galatians to 3:28, some are concerned that women are going outside the home to work and that children are not being trained and cared for as they should be. George Barna has found that there are as many divorces and abortions in the Christian community as in the non-Christian community. So it could be that Christian parents, as a whole, are not planning as they should for the care of their children. Definitely, if there are children, the gifts and talents of the parents must be used for their own children too. An excellent, very readable book, that shows how one missionary family solved this problem is Women at the Crossroads, by Kari Torjesen Malcolm, InterVarsity Press, 1982. Kari Torjesen Malcolm also wrote Building Your Family To Last, InterVarsity Press, 1987. Kari was the daughter of Norwegian missionaries to an undeveloped area of China. As a teenager, Kari was placed in a concentration camp during World War II.

In Acts 18, Paul meets a woman of outstanding abilities and character. We read: "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla. . .and he came unto them; and because he was of the same trade, he abode with them." (v. 1-3). "And he dwelt there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." (v. 11).

"After this, yet many days took his leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. . .and they came to Ephesus and he left them there: (vs. 11,18,19). "Now a certain Jew names Apollos. . .a learned man came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures; (vs.24). "And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue." But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, "they took him unto them and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." (v. 26). The Bible Status of Women by Lee Anna Starr, copyright 1926, printed 1955, page 187 says that in v. 26 in the Greek the pronouns "they" and "them" and the verb "expounded" are plurals, "and that the name of  Priscilla precedes that of her husband, indicating that she was the chief actor." The King James Version translated Aquila first, however, the NIV, NRSV, and NLT translated it according to the original Greek.

Something To Think About: Christianity Today magazine, October 5, 1979, issue carried an article "Does Male Dominance Tarnish Our Translations?" Quoting from this article, "Translators naturally tend to read and interpret the Bible from the framework in which they have lived and thought. Meanwhile, Christians now trying to work through the actual teachings of the Bible on the strategically important issue of men-women relationships are thrown off course by translations that may reflect more of the translator's interpretations and biases than the actual words of the Bible." ". . .the Bible is uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit--but the translators are not."

This is why many female biblical scholars are calling for more women to study Hebrew and Greek--to learn for themselves what the scriptures do say.

Priscilla is mentioned in Acts 18:2, Romans 16:3, I Corinthians 6:19, II. Timothy 4:19, and Acts 18:24-26. The NRSV in Romans 16:4 says that Priscilla and Aquila "risked their necks for my life." There is hardly any doubt that Priscilla was a leader. And, verse 5, the church was meeting in Priscilla and Aquila's house.

Churches frequently met in homes of women. One such church met in Mary's (the mother of John Mark) house. Nympha in the town of Laodicea had a "church in her house." (Col. 4:15). I. Cor. 16:19 mentions again the church in Aquila and Priscilla's home. Apphia, whom Paul called "our sister," evidently was a leader in a house church in the City of Colossae (Philemon 2). There was preaching and teaching in these house churches. (Acts 5:42). The rules of the synagogue were not operative in the house churches. Women had freedom in the early church; they were encouraged by Jesus and Paul and also by the fact that there were no formally established buildings for their worship.

Other women are greeted in Romans 16. Study Bible for Women, NT, NRSV, p. 321 says, "At least eleven women are mentioned as leaders in the Roman church, and there are eight whose work is particularly singled out for commendation. . .In the early centuries of the church, women continued to play a major role in the leadership at Rome."

Phoebe is mentioned as a diakonos (deacon) from Cenchrae, a community adjacent to Corinth. She is the only deacon (diakonos) mentioned in the New Testament as serving in a specific local church. Paul uses diakonos 21 times in his writings. However, the term "diakonos" is also used of secular rulers in Romans 13:4.

Phoebe is called a "prostatis" in verse 2. Patricia Gundry in her book Woman be Free copyright 1977, pp. 101-102 says, "This word prostatis occurs only once in the New Testament, so we have no other biblical usage with which to compare it. From classical Greek writings on through patristic writings it is used in its masculine form as chief, the leader of a party, one who stands before and protects, champion, defender, ruler, leader, supporter. The word is rare in its feminine form for obvious reasons: women did not often hold positions of power in Greek culture. Thayers Greek Lexicon gives the primary meaning for this word as 'a woman set over others.'"

When one starts studying women in the New Testament, it certainly is amazing just how much material about women there really is! 

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