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The Ministry of Women according to the New Testament CHAPTER THREE: from 'Women and Ministry in the New Testament' by Elisabeth M. Tetlow

The Ministry of Women according to the New Testament


from Women and Ministry in the New Testament,by Elisabeth M. Tetlow, Paulist Press, 1980.
Republised on our website with the necessary permissions

This chapter will consider the New Testament evidence concerning the ministry of women in the time of Jesus and in the first century Church. The New Testament is a collection of writings of many different authors. Each New Testament writer or redactor was an historical human person with his own theological attitudes and ideas. Each was to some extent a product of the experience, both Christian and cultural, of a different historical community. All of the New Testament writers were men of the first century. Each had his own theological and cultural attitudes toward the position and role of women in the Church and in secular society. Each came out of a unique experience of the role of women in his own community.

There will be two major sections in this chapter. The first will consider the ministry of women during the historical lifetime of Jesus as it is presented by the four evangelists writing in the second half of the first century. It will discuss the information about the discipleship and ministerial role of women which is found in each of the gospels. In order to comprehend the differences among the four gospels it will be necessary to consider the theological attitude of each evangelist on the subject of the position and role of women. The second section of the chapter will discuss the various ministries exercised by women in the early Church during the New Testament period as these are portrayed in Acts and the epistles.


The disciples of Jesus, according to the gospels, were those persons who heard and responded to his call to follow him. The earliest evangelist, Mark, portrayed Jesus teaching about the nature of discipleship: “If anyone would come after me, let that person deny self, take up the cross and follow me.”(1) The technical expression denoting discipleship in the gospels was the “following” of Jesus. All four gospels portrayed women as well as men following Jesus during his historical lifetime.

In the gospels the majority of disciples named were men. To be properly understood, this fact must be considered in the light of the contemporary cultural and religious situation. First of all the gospels were written by men who were the products of a culture which strongly emphasized the superior importance of men and the subordinate role of women.

Secondly, those writing within a Jewish milieu were affected by the dictum in rabbinic Judaism in the intertestamental period that women were not permitted to study Torah with a rabbi. Since the gospel did present Jesus as a rabbi at least during the earlier part of his ministry, it would have been quite difficult for a Jewish evangelist to portray women as rabbinic disciples receiving instruction from their teacher on an equal basis with men disciples. Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospels, pointed out most clearly the real distinction between discipleship of Jesus and rabbinic discipleship.(2) In the radical newness of Jesus’ servant mode of discipleship women also could learn from him, follow him, serve and be his disciples.

During the period of the itinerant Galilean ministry there may also have been a problem with contemporary social convention. In the first century it was not socially acceptable for women to wander about the countryside following a male teacher and camping in the open in proximity to a group of men. Yet on the other hand, it was precisely this practice of Jesus of teaching in the open and not just in the synagogue that enabled women to be his disciples. If he had confined his teaching to synagogue and Temple, women would have been barred altogether from listening to him. The evangelists seem to have attempted to resolve the problem by acknowledging the presence of women who followed Jesus, but at the same time keeping these women in the background as much as possible.

In spite of these cultural and religious reasons to the contrary, the evangelists did portray women following Jesus throughout his historical lifetime. Each of the evangelists represents a different theological position, conditioned by his own time, place and situation. Therefore it is necessary to examine what each of the different gospel traditions had to say about the discipleship of women and to evaluate this in the light of each individual evangelist’s own theological attitude toward women.

a. Mark. The first gospel to have been written was that of Mark. This gospel presents one of the earliest and most reliable traditions about the life and ministry of Jesus within the framework and theological understanding of the Markan evangelist, Matthew and Luke drew upon the Markan tradition as the primary source for their gospels, adding some material from other sources as well as their own theological reflection.

There are references to the presence of women during the ministry of Jesus throughout the Markan gospel, from the beginning of the Galilean ministry to the crucifixion. The first mention of women is in Mark 1:29-31. In context this pericope stands between the narrative of the call of the first four disciples and that of the call of Levi.(3) There is a series of four stories about healings between the two call narratives. The second such story is about the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus healed her by touch without fear of contracting ritual impurity through touching a woman. After she was healed, she “served” them. By the time of the evangelist the word “serve” (dia-konein) was a technical term for the ministry of Christians.(4) The tradition behind this passage is, according to Vincent Taylor, early, probably handed down from Peter himself.(5)

Mark 3:31-35 describes a scene in which the mother and brothers or Jesus come and ask for him. Jesus thereupon teaches that his real mother and brothers and sisters are those who do the will of God, who are disciples of Jesus whose own ministry was to do the will of his Father.(6) It is striking that the evangelist explicitly mentioned “sisters.” Elsewhere in the New Testament “brothers” is sometimes used generically to denote both men and women. In the first part of the scene in this passage only “mother and brothers” were mentioned.(7) It is extremely unlikely that the evangelist would have added the reference to women among the disciples unless it were strongly rooted in the tradition and also known to the Christian community for which he was writing.

Mark 6:3 mentions the presence of Jesus’ sisters in Nazareth. This verse and the one described above have been understood to mean that Mary and the brothers of Jesus were no longer in Nazareth,(8) but were following Jesus. This should be considered in conjunction with other passages which refer to the discipleship of Mary.

Between the two scenes of the story of the healing of a twelve year old girl, Mark inserted the story of the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage.(9) This was not explicitly a story about discipleship, but it did portray a woman talking with Jesus face to face. She was presented by the evangelist as a paradigm of understanding and of faith, in contrast to the inner circle of men disciples who throughout the gospel are presented as lacking in understanding and belief. Both faith and understanding of who Jesus is are important characteristics of true discipleship in the gospel of Mark.

The story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 portrays a hellenistic gentile woman holding her own in a discussion with Jesus. Jesus recognized the validity of her argument and on that basis granted her request for the healing of her daughter. Taylor finds many details of this story quite primitive, and considers that it was based on an early and reliable tradition.(10) This woman also is presented as an example of faith, of understanding and belief that Jesus through his lordship was able to heal even at a distance and even those who were not members of the people of Israel. Although both a woman and a gentile, the Syrophoenician woman showed greater understanding than the inner circle of disciples.

Mark 10:28-30 described Jesus’ teaching on the rewards that will come to those who leave everything and follow him. Two types of reward are distinguished: those which will come in this life, which are fellowship with the true family of disciples and persecutions, and those of the age to come which will be eternal life. In the community of Jesus’ disciples on earth there will be “brothers and sisters and mothers and children.” It presumes that both women and men serve Jesus and each other on an equal basis.(11) This passage also implies that women and men will participate equally in the kingdom of God.

Mark 12:41-43 portrays Jesus presenting a poor widow to the disciples as a paradigm of generosity and total giving of all one’s possessions. Elsewhere in Mark it was precisely the demand for total renunciation of possessions which had been shown to be an obstacle to discipleship for some, especially the rich.(12) The story of the poor widow is immediately preceded by a teaching of Jesus in which he was said to have criticized the scribes for exploiting helpless women while at the same time engaging in ostentatious religious practices. Such men would in the long run be condemned.

The passion narrative is the oldest and most reliable section of the gospels. Mark 14:3-9 presents the story of the anointing of Jesus by an unnamed woman. In the johannine version of the story the woman is said to have been Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whose discipleship will be discussed below. It is possible to conjecture at this point that the woman was a disciple since she knew who and where Jesus was, in the house of Simon the leper at Bethany, and she understood that Jesus was approaching a critical moment in his life for which she was helping to prepare him through her anointing. In the Old Testament, anointing had been the function of elders, prophets and priests,(13) all of which, although different, were important forms of religious office.

In the Markan passage the disciples reproached the woman for wasting such expensive ointment, since it might have been sold and its price given to the poor. This note may also be taken to support the notion of the woman’s discipleship, since during the ministry of Jesus the disciples pooled their resources and therefrom gave alms to the poor. If she were a disciple, her money would have been available to the community for alms distribution.

The action of this woman did serve as a witness to Jesus’ true identity and to his destiny of suffering, which throughout the gospel of Mark had been a major theme, coupled with the disciples’ lack of understanding of precisely these points. The evangelist also added the statement in verse 9 connecting the woman’s act of witness here with the later proclamation of the gospel to the whole world by the Church. Thus the evangelist implicitly presented the role of the woman in terms of the ministry of witness of the disciple or apostle of Jesus.

The last two verses of the crucifixion narrative in Mark 15:40-41 describe the women who were present. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and Salome are mentioned by name. These women are characterized through the use of two verbs, both of which were technical terms in the vocabulary of discipleship and ministry in the New Testament: they “followed” (akolouthein) Jesus and “served” (diakonein) him. This was equivalent to calling the women “disciples” and “ministers.” Further on, in verse 41b, reference was made to “many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.” The verb “to come up with” (synanabainein) also denoted a formal accompanying of Jesus. It is used again in Acts 13:31 where it served to connect those who had come up with Jesus to the witnessing of his resurrection appearances and the commission to ministry:

“And for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his wit- nesses to the people.”

As will be demonstrated later in the section dealing with apostleship, this was equivalent to calling these persons “apostles.” In Mark 15 it served to underscore the discipleship of the women.

The crucifixion is the first of three final scenes of the tableau of Jesus’ life. In all of these scenes women are named as prominent witnesses. The other two scenes are the burial and the resurrection. In the Markan burial scene, Mary of Magdala and Mary of James are mentioned by name. The only other character in the scene was Joseph of Arimathea who was the agent of burial. The witnesses of the burial were the women. This scene reinforced the portrayal of the fidelity of the women disciples in accompanying Jesus to the very end, as opposed to the men disciples who were not mentioned by Mark as present either at the crucifixion or at the tomb.

The original gospel of Mark ended with the story of the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-8). It was only the women who came to the tomb. Mary of Magdala, Mary of James, and Salome are mentioned by name. It was these women who were the first to see that the tomb was empty. It was they who were addressed by the angelic figure who told them that Jesus was risen and commissioned them to go and bear witness of the resurrection to the other disciples and to Peter. It is not clear in the original ending of Mark whether the women carried out their mission. Mark makes note of their fear and hesitancy. The other three gospels as well as the secondary ending of Mark do portray the women, or at least Mary of Magdala, as fulfilling the commission and bearing witness of the resurrection to the other disciples.(14)

Thus the gospel of Mark does indicate that women were among the disciples of Jesus. It also demonstrates several times that, because of their faith, understanding and fidelity, the discipleship of the women was paradigmatic for the men, who exhibited a lack of all three qualities which were essential for true discipleship. This was the theological interpretation of the evangelist, but it was based upon data from the earliest stratum of tradition about the life and ministry of Jesus.

b. Matthew. Matthew was composed in a Jewish-Christian milieu for the purpose of demonstrating to the Jews of the pharisaic-rabbinic tradition that Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The author showed great familiarity with the Old Testament, which he cited more than any other evangelist, and with the modes of thought and methods of argument of rabbinic Judaism. Matthew was written later than Mark and was dependent upon the latter, although the author also used other sources. Matthew reproduced most of the references to women which were found in Mark, although with some editorial alterations. He did not add any other references to women from his other sources, whether as disciples or as characters in parables or miracle stories. This stands in strong contrast to Luke who added a great amount of material about women beyond that contained in the Markan tradition.

Many of the Markan stories about women are greatly abbreviated in Matthew. This reluctance to note the presence of women around Jesus, the great rabbi, was consistent with Matthew’s method of arguing from within the traditions of rabbinic Judaism, which at that time totally excluded women from rabbinic schooling. It was also consistent with the influence of the Old Testament which warned of the contaminating effect of women which could render a man ritually impure.

Matthew 8:14-15 presents the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in barest outline. It did preserve from the tradition the fact that Jesus touched the woman and that she “served.” Yet it changed the object of her service from the plural “them,” denoting the whole community, to the singular, Jesus.

The story of the woman with the hemorrhage is likewise greatly shortened. In Matthew 9:20-23 the active role of the woman in speaking intelligently with Jesus is omitted, as is also mention of her understanding of Jesus’ identity and his power to heal. The reference to her faith in the final saying of Jesus has, however, been retained. The story of the Syrophoenician woman is retold in Matthew 15:21-28. In this version the woman is called a “Canaanite” which, to the Jewish mind schooled in the Old Testament, would sound derogatory. The Markan note that she was Syrophoenician and Greek, which connoted a higher level of education and culture, was omitted. The woman’s initial part in the dialogue is reduced by Matthew to a single phrase, although the final interchange with Jesus is preserved almost intact. Matthew also added a reference to the greatness of her faith, possibly to justify his inclusion of a story about a gentile woman.

The Markan saying about disciples receiving new brothers and sisters and mothers while following Jesus is omitted, even though the preceding and the subsequent phrases of its context are preserved.(15) The Matthean passion narrative recounts the story of the anointing at Bethany but in somewhat abbreviated form.(16) The crucifixion narrative mentions the presence of Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. It also notes the presence of many other women “who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.”(17) Thus Matthew has preserved the Markan tradition of the women disciples. He has applied the verbs “follow” and “serve” to all of the women, thus expanding and confirming their discipleship. Mark had used these technical terms only of the three women whom he named, designating them as disciples, whereas the other women were less clearly disciples in the technical sense. This is one of the few instances where Matthew went beyond the Markan tradition in his portrayal of the role of women.

The Matthean burial account notes the presence of Mary of Magdala and “the other Mary” as witnesses. Matthew continues to follow the Markan tradition in presenting Mary of Magdala and an other Mary as witnesses of the empty tomb and recipients of an angelic commission. Yet Matthew tempers the women’s fear with joy and portrays them “running” to tell the other disciples of the resurrection. Then, in a scene which is unique to Matthew, there is an initial resurrection appearance of Jesus to the women on the road. The response of the women is recognition and worship. Then Jesus is portrayed as formally commissioning them to go and tell the men disciples.(18) It is extremely unlikely that Matthew would have invented the story of an initial appearance of Jesus to women. In fact, given his consistent mode of dealing with stories about women elsewhere in his gospel, he would have been more likely to have omitted it. Thus for such a story to have been retained in Matthew’s gospel it must have been based upon irrefutable tradition which was known to Matthew’s community. This same tradition is also found in the secondary ending of Mark and in the johannine resurrection narrative.

Of all the gospels, Matthew gives the most prominent role to the Twelve. Many times at various points in the gospel narrative he mentions the special mission of the Twelve.(19) For Matthew’s argument the nation of Israel was of very great importance, and Israel, according to Jewish law, was constituted only by its male members. Thus it was consistent for the evangelist to emphasize both the male constituents of Israel and to attempt to minimize the presence and role of women among the disciples of Jesus and in the early Christian community. For those who stood within the tradition of contemporary rabbinic Judaism, women could play no official role in religious affairs. And the mere presence of women could render the men ritually impure. Therefore the logical conclusion was to avoid as much as possible any mention of women. Within such a milieu it is remarkable that women were in fact mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. This attests to the strength of the tradition of the discipleship of women and the fact of women being the primary witnesses of the resurrection and recipients of the risen Jesus’ commission to ministry. It also attests to the probable situation that women did play a ministerial role in the late first-century community of the evangelist. Thus Matthew was unable to ignore the presence of women disciples of Jesus when he wrote his gospel.

c. The Writings of Luke. The theological perspectives of the third evangelist also determined his presentation of the Markan tradition and of his material from other sources. According to Hans Conzelmann, the history of salvation was, for Luke, divided into three eras.(20) The first was the period of Israel, from Moses and the prophets through John the Baptist. The second was the period of the historical ministry of Jesus, beginning with the temptation narrative in Luke 4 and continuing through the ascension. The third period was that of the Church, which would last from the time of Pentecost until the parousia. It was within this third age that Luke himself wrote his gospel for Christians who were also living within this time.

In studying the discipleship of women within the Lukan corpus, it becomes evident that the status and role of women are greatest in the period of Israel, much less during the ministry of Jesus and quite restricted in the period of the Church. The reason for this lay in Luke’s theology and in his own position toward women. It would seem that women had an important and active role in Luke’s own late first-century community. This was such that he could not ignore the importance of women altogether, but, reacting negatively to their present active role, he could, through the theology of his gospel, attempt to argue for the restriction of women’s role in the Church of his day.(21)

In the infancy narratives of Luke 1-2, which are distinct from the rest of the gospel, the evangelist presents three parallel tableaux of the annunciation, birth and naming of John the Baptist and of Jesus. In the John the Baptist scenes, the dominant character is Elizabeth. In the Jesus scenes the dominant character is Mary. The two women are brought together in an intermediary episode portraying the visitation.

The role of Elizabeth is less than that of Mary’s. She is paired with Zechariah who, unlike Joseph, played an active role. It was Zechariah who, according to Luke, received the annunciation of John’s birth and who proclaimed the final hymn of praise and thanksgiving in response to it. Yet during the heart of the scene it was Elizabeth who was the dominant character, while Zechariah was unable to speak at all. It was Elizabeth who carried her child in faith and who, contrary to Jewish custom, bestowed upon him his name.

In the scene of the visitation the two women characters, Mary and Elizabeth, meet face to face. Mary is shown to be a paradigm of the person of faith, although this is still the faith of Israel. Her faith is proclaimed through Elizabeth’s recognition: “blessed is she who believed.”(22) The climax of the scene is Mary’s proclamation of the magnificat. Both characters in this scene are women of faith. Through her own faith Elizabeth recognized and bore witness to the faith of Mary. And Mary in faith bore witness to the saving actions of God.(23)

On the other side of the diptych Mary herself received the annunciation of Jesus’ birth in obedience of faith. When he was born she kept all her thoughts in her heart. In so doing she is again portrayed as an example of obedient faith. But even this faith in the incarnation of the redeemer is, for Luke, still the faith of Israel. Christian faith will be the post-resurrectional faith of the Church.

In the final scene depicting the infancy of Jesus, he was presented in the Temple as his mother was purified after childbirth. Two new characters are introduced in this scene: Simeon and Anna. Simeon is the dominant figure. He is mentioned first and the text of his two prophetic utterances is given. The character and actions of Anna are described in the third person, but she herself does not speak according to the Lukan narrative. The character of Anna bears a striking resemblance to the Christian widows of the late first century. Luke notes her age, which was eighty-four, that she worshiped in the Temple with prayer and fasting day and night, and that she had been married only once, remaining celibate after the death of her husband. In 1 Timothy 5 the qualifications listed for enrollment as a Christian widow are that the person be more than sixty years old and married only once, spend night and day in prayer and supplication, and be known for good deeds and service of the Church.(24) Thus in his composition of the character of Anna, Luke actually may have been writing about Christian widows who were active in the Church in his own time.

The following scene, which concludes the infancy narrative, describes the visit to the Temple when Jesus was twelve years old. The picture of Mary in this scene is complex. Mary is more prominent than Joseph. In 2:48 she speaks for both parents. Yet her question betrays her lack of understanding. On the one hand, Luke repeats the saying from the birth scene that she kept all these things in her heart. This seems to point to her faith and understanding. Yet in the preceding verse (2:50) it is noted that neither parent understood Jesus’ saying that he had been in his Father’s house. It is possible that Luke was pointing out that their faith, and the faith of Israel, were incomplete.

Thus for Luke, in the period of Israel, it was possible for women to be examples of faith, and to exercise a ministry of proclamation of the word. It must be kept in mind that these women bore witness to the faith of Israel, not to Christian faith. Luke did not make a connection between the role of women before the time of Jesus and their role within the Christian economy. According to Conzelmann, in Luke’s understanding of salvation history, the ministries of the earlier periods could not be repeated and could not serve as models for the period of the Church.(25)

Toward the end of his section of the Galilean ministry of Jesus Luke first explicitly mentions the presence of women among the disciples. He mentions by name Mary of Magdala, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna. He also noted that there were many others.(26) However, Luke characteristically qualified every mention of women by a reference to some negative aspect of their character. Here he noted that these women had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, especially Mary of Magdala from whom seven demons had been cast out. This is a literary device used throughout the gospel of Luke to present women as both weak and sinful. Luke also describes the role of the woman as providing for Jesus and the Twelve materially. This is likewise a Lukan device, found in a number of passages, to restrict the ministry of women to one of providing financial aid, omitting any reference to women exercising a ministry of proclamation. This passage is found only in the gospel of Luke.

In this same chapter the Lukan version of the saying of Jesus about his true relations omits any reference to “sisters” although this had appeared in both the Markan and Matthean versions. “Sisters” in this context meant members of the Christian community, not siblings of Jesus. In Luke, the disciples, or hearers of the word do not replace the mother and brothers of Jesus as his true family. Rather his mother and brothers are part of the true family of disciples because they hear the word and do it.(27) Thus although Luke in this passage is attempting to omit the presence of women in general among the disciples, he cannot avoid affirming the presence of at least one woman, Mary. This is confirmed by his mention of Mary among the disciples again in Acts 1:14.

One exception to the general restriction of the role of women in the third gospel is the story of the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage in Luke 8:43-48. Luke alone gave the woman a role of proclaiming what had taken place to the people. She understood what had happened and was able to explain it to the people. In a final blessing Jesus is portrayed as commending her for her faith. Yet her faith was also not Christian faith in the complete sense for it was pre-resurrectional.

The domestic story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 is found only in the third gospel. The entire tenth chapter of Luke discusses the theme of discipleship. It is not denied that Mary and Martha are disciples. The focus is on the actual roles of each of these women. The role of Mary is one of listening and learning. The role of Martha is that of serving the men. Thus Luke was portraying the role of serving or ministry for women as subordinate to the role of listening. Luke did go beyond contemporary rabbinic Judaism in permitting a woman to learn Torah. By her listening Mary was a disciple in the Jewish sense. But Luke did not permit either of the women a role of proclamation. It is possible that Martha represents the women ministers who were active in Luke’s own church. Thus in his composition of this scene the evangelist was attempting to limit and subordinate the ministerial role of such women by appealing to the example of Jesus. These two women characters are portrayed quite differently in the fourth gospel.

Another brief pericope which is unique to Luke is 11:27-28. Here an unnamed woman raised her voice above the crowd in an attempt at proclaiming the beatitude of Jesus’ physical mother. But Luke then presented Jesus as correcting her mistake. As in the pericope on the true family of Jesus, it is the disciples who believe and keep the word of God who are truly blessed. This has been understood as reaffirming the discipleship of Mary.(28)

In the other gospels, the story of the anointing of Jesus stood in a climactic position immediately before the last supper. Luke placed it within the Galilean ministry. He reproduced the basic story from the Markan tradition, but added the detail that the woman was a sinner. He mentioned this bit of information five times within the story, noting also that her sins were many.(29)

Luke retained the story of the poor widow, which Matthew had omitted. According to the Markan tradition she was an example of generosity characteristic of true Christian service. It is possible that Luke’s reason for retaining the story was connected with the role of widows in his own church whom he may have been trying to influence through his writings. The one role of women which Luke could affirm without qualification was that of giving alms.

In the passion narrative Luke alone notes the presence of women along the way of the cross. He portrayed Jesus as addressing them in a brief apocalyptic discourse. The role of the women was one of listening, and also of wailing and lamenting.

Luke added the presence of men in his account of the crucifixion. Luke 24:49 states that “all who had known him and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.” With the use of the word “all” Luke seems to be implying that the Eleven and perhaps other male disciples were present. At the same time Luke minimized the Markan tradition of the women by not mentioning any of the women by name, as the other three gospels did. Luke did, however, use the verb “follow” (synakolouthein) of the women which implied their discipleship.(30) In the burial account Luke likewise omitted the names of specific women, but did acknowledge that women were there.

In the resurrection narrative Luke began his account of the empty tomb without mentioning the women by name, although he added the names of Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James at the end. He affirmed that the women did report the empty tomb to the other disciples, but noted that the men did not believe them. Luke is the only one of the four gospels to omit an account of an initial resurrection appearance to women and a personal commissioning of women by the risen Jesus. What Luke reported instead was a story of an appearance to two persons on the road to Emmaus, in which the report of the women about the empty tomb was confirmed, and reference was made to an earlier appearance to Simon.(31) Finally, Luke presented the risen Jesus appearing to the company of the Eleven “and those who were with them” in Jerusalem. According to Acts 1:14 this group assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem did include the women, but Luke avoided any explicit mention of them in his resurrection narrative. If the women were indeed present then they too received the commission to proclamation and witness.(32) But Luke preferred to leave the point in ambiguity, just as throughout his gospel he made reference to “people,” the “crowd,” or the “multitude” accompanying Jesus. Such a group presumably included women, but Luke never made explicit mention of their presence unless the tradition made it unavoidable.

Another interesting phenomenon in the gospel of Luke is the pairing of healing stories and parables about men and women. Often these were traditions which were unique to Luke or else a single story or parable from the common tradition was expanded by the addition of a second story or parable about a woman. There are parallel healing stories about the centurion and the widow of Nain in Luke 7, and about sabbath healings of a crippled woman and a man with dropsy in Luke 13-14. There are also parallel parables of the kingdom about the mustard seed of the man and the leaven of the woman in Luke 13, of the man’s lost sheep and the woman’s lost coin in 15, and of the widow before the judge and the men in the Temple in 18, It has been suggested that this use of parallel stories about men and women reflected the catechetical situation in Luke’s own church in the latter pan of the first century, where women had a formative role in the catechetical mission and therefore had need of stories about women that they could use in their catechesis.(33)

Luke’s attitude toward women is reaffirmed in the book of Acts, the second part of Luke’s two-part work. There Luke frequently mentioned the presence of women among the baptized.(34) Yet he avoided mention of women active in the official ministry of the Church. Implicitly Luke allowed for the possibility of the presence of women at Pentecost. He had noted their presence in the upper room with the Eleven immediately before Pentecost and made no mention of the women leaving.(35) The sermon of Peter served to interpret the event of Pentecost for the people. Luke had Peter cite a passage from Joel which mentioned the pouring out of the Spirit upon “sons and daughters," “menservants and maidservants.”(36) Luke’s inclusion of this quotation suggests that women were in fact present at Pentecost and that this was well known to his readers. Pentecost was the event of the birth of the Church, the beginning of the third and final era in Luke’s theology of history. It was also the event of the empowering of the members of the Christian community for mission. Thus it is of great theological importance whether women were present at this event as a basis for their full participation in the subsequent mission of the church. It is also significant that Luke never again mentions Mary after Acts 1:14. He gave her no role during the period of the Church. This may have been a result of his theological position on the role of women in the Church. It may also simply have been due to lack of historical information.(37)

In the period of the Church men were for Luke far more important than women. The dominant characters in Acts are all men, and chief among them are Peter and Paul. Luke presented the full text of many speeches and sermons of these men. The actual words of these sermons may reflect more Lukan composition than what was actually said on the occasion. Most of the sermons attributed to Peter and Paul in Acts begin with the phrases “men of Israel” or “men, brothers.”(38) Likewise the speech of Stephen before his martyrdom began with the words “men, brothers and fathers.”(39) The use of such language reflected Luke’s own attitude toward women.

In Acts as in the third gospel Luke focused on the passive role of women. Women believed, prayed and were the objects of healing.(40) Sometimes Luke introduced women characters into a dramatic scene to demonstrate the superiority of a male apostle, such as Peter.(41) Luke also emphasized the sinfulness of one married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, in contrast to the righteous authority of Peter.(42) He mentioned the women of high standing in Antioch of Pisidia who, together with the men of the city, incited the persecution of Paul and of the Christian community.(43) Roman women, however, were mentioned by Luke without criticism. The wives of corrupt Roman officials were probably open to a great deal of criticism, but Luke in his effort to justify Christianity to a Roman audience, never hinted at any censure of Roman women.(44)

The primary role of Christian women according to Acts was to provide material support for the male apostles or a place of worship

for the Christian community.(45) Only three times in Acts did Luke mention women who were prominent in the ministry of the Church. In the first instance, the hellenist leader Philip had four daughters who prophesied.(46) The fact that Luke mentioned these women at all was probably because they were well known in the Church. The way in which he described them tended to minimize their importance. He avoided the official title of “prophet,” using a verbal reference to their prophetic activity instead. He also noted that they were unmarried. The tone of this verse is that of a late first-century man who was uncomfortable with any reference to women holding ecclesiastical office and who, if he was unable to deny the reality of these historical women, at least was able to interject his opinion that only celibate women should be permitted in ministry.

The second reference in Acts to a woman in ministry was to the | married couple, Priscilla and Aquila. The description of their activity also seems to have been minimized in Acts in contrast to other references to them in Paul’s- letters.46B Acts mentioned only that Paul sought them out and stayed at their house, and that later they accompanied Paul as far as Ephesus.(47) Acts 18:26 stands as a striking exception to the previous low-key presentation of the couple. There it is noted that they instructed the missionary apostle Apollos, since they understood Christian teaching more accurately than he. Thus in this one verse Luke permits a glimpse of a woman exercising a ministry of word, even to the point of being the teacher of a prominent male missionary apostle. It may also be significant that two times out of the three that the names of the couple are mentioned, that of Priscilla is mentioned first. This was contrary to the normal usage of the time and may indicate that she was considered more important in the Church’s ministry than her husband.

The third woman prominent in the ministerial life of the Church was Tabitha (or Dorcas in Greek). Acts 9:36 explicitly states that she was a disciple. This is the only occurrence of the feminine form of the word “disciple” in the New Testament.47B It is striking that the context does not call other characters disciples, such as Aeneas in the preceding healing story or the two men who were sent to fetch Peter. Only Tabitha and the men who seemed to hold authority in her community were called disciples.

The precise ministry of Tabitha is unclear. It was stated that she had done many good works and acts of mercy. In verse 39 it is mentioned that she had been with the widows making clothes. Because of the number of her own ministerial works it is probable that she herself was not a widow but was engaged rather in helping them. The scant evidence of the role of widows at this time would indicate that it was more passive, that they were more the recipients than the givers of aid and service. At any rate the presence of the widows at the deathbed and the sending for Peter to come from Lydda to Jaffa indicated that Tabitha was considered both important and beloved by her community. It is noteworthy that the only person to be raised from the dead by an apostle was a woman. There is little Lukan editing in this passage which simply presents the story as it was found in tradition.(48)

Elisabeth S. Fiorenza may be quite correct in her suggestion (49) that the role of women in the church of Luke may have been far greater than what was revealed in Acts and that both in the third gospel and in Acts, the Lukan redactor was intentionally seeking to minimize the discipleship and apostolic activity of women, even to the extent of altering the tradition he had received. Luke-Acts seems to reflect a situation in the Church similar to that found in the pastoral epistles near the end of the first century. Women had long been free to exercise a major and influential role in the ministry of the Church. But by this time the men were becoming weary of this situation and were seeking to keep women quiet within the community and to restrict their role to a passive one, although they were still eager to benefit materially from the resources of well-to-do women. In the light of this understanding of the theological position of Luke toward women, it is possible to comprehend more exactly the minimal evidence of the discipleship of women in the third gospel and to understand it in the light of the Lukan redaction and composition. Even a writer with such a restrictive attitude toward the role of women as Luke was unable to obliterate the record of the historical discipleship and official ecclesiastical ministry of women from the tradition.

d. John. The fourth gospel is not dependent upon the synoptic gospels or upon their traditions. It drew upon comparably reliable and primitive traditions of its own. It included accurate historical information about Jesus and his times not found in any other gospel. Like the other gospels, however, its presentation of the history of Jesus is colored by its theological concern with the deeper meaning of that history. This concern dominates the literary structure of the gospel.(50)

The gospel of John, after a prologue, begins with an introductory section in which John the Baptist and two pairs of disciples, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael, prophetically bear witness to the identity of Jesus. The call narratives of these disciples are exemplaric, showing the nature of discipleship as following Jesus and seeing, believing and witnessing to who Jesus is. John made no attempt to present stories of the call of each member of the Twelve. For John discipleship was the important category, not the Twelve, an institution which by the time of his redaction of the gospel had disappeared from the Church.

The first half of the fourth gospel is a “Book of Signs.”(51) It is structured around seven miraculous signs of Jesus’ glory. The first and last of these included women. The first sign is the story of the wedding at Cana. The mother of Jesus was present, invited separately from Jesus, probably because she was acquainted with the family of the bride or groom. John presented Jesus dissociating himself from her personal request and addressing her as “woman” rather then “mother.” This will be characteristic of the role of Mary later in the gospel. She is important in John because she is Jesus’ disciple, not because she is his mother.(52) The verse which immediately follows the Cana scene (2:12) shows Mary accompanying Jesus and the other disciples to Capernaum.

Toward the end of the gospel and framing the johannine portrait of the historical life of Jesus, John again presented Mary in the role of disciple in the scene of the crucifixion.(53) According to Raymond Brown,(54) the figures in John who are most symbolic of Christian discipleship are Mary and the “beloved disciple.” Neither one is called by his or her proper name in the fourth gospel. The two are brought together in the scene at the cross. Mary is given the role of mother to the beloved disciple, thus becoming part of Jesus’ true family through her discipleship. At the same time the evangelist showed the beloved disciple becoming Jesus’ true brother through his discipleship. Mary and the beloved disciple stand together in the scene as disciples and as equals.

The second woman to appear in the Book of Signs is the Samaritan woman in John 4. The preceding chapters have shown a movement to ever more adequate belief in Jesus, from the Jews to Nicode-mus to the Samaritan woman.(55) The Samaritan woman comes to the threshold of understanding that Jesus is the messiah.(56) But unlike the women presented in the third gospel, her role does not end with believing. She is portrayed as proclaiming and bearing witness to Jesus.(57) According to the fourth evangelist, the people “believed through her word.”(58) This phrase recurs in Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in the last supper discourse. “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word.”(59) Thus the disciple for John is the person who brings others to belief in Jesus through the witness of the word.

Brown has suggested that the missionary function of the Samaritan woman is underscored by the use of the technical verb “I send you” (apostellein) immediately before the affirmation of the fruitfulness of her witness in the following verse.(60) This woman disciple has prepared the harvest which the apostles will later reap. Thus the fourth evangelist seems to be suggesting that women may have played a role in the Samaritan mission and in the founding of churches. The reaction of the male disciples to Jesus’ self-manifestation to the Samaritan woman and to her role of witnessing is portrayed by the evangelist as one of “shock.” This reaction seems to be more to the fact that she was a woman than to the fact that she was a Samaritan.(61)

The final sign at the close of the Book of Signs is the scene of the raising of Lazarus. In this series of tableaux in John 11-12, the primary characters are women, Mary and Martha. Lazarus himself is completely passive, first ill, then dead. Discipleship for the fourth evangelist meant following Jesus and this involved understanding and believing who he is. There has been dramatic progression in seeing, understanding and believing throughout the Book of Signs. The climax of this progression is the confession of Martha in 11:27: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” The importance of her confession is illustrated by the fact that the final climactic verse of the gospel (20:31) states that the purpose for which the entire gospel was written was to help the reader to believe “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." The context in which the confession of Martha was made was an important discourse of Jesus in which he revealed himself as the source of life.(62)

In the fourth gospel the confession of Martha takes the place of that of Peter at Caesarea Philippi in the synoptics.(63) In the synoptic gospels the confession scene serves to underscore the primacy of Peter in apostolic authority. The gospel of John begins and ends with the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.(64) The solemn confession of Martha that Jesus is Messiah and Son of God is the climactic midpoint of the gospel. In this scene the most important role of discipleship according to johannine theology, that of proclamation of Jesus’ true identity, is given to a woman. Since the fourth gospel was written on two levels, that of the time of the historical Jesus and that of the time of the johannine community, Martha is thus also portrayed by the evangelist as a focal point of apostolic authority in the johannine community.

The disciple par excellence, according to many commentators, in the fourth gospel where discipleship is such an important category, is called only “the beloved disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” His identity has always been a mystery to interpreters, who agree only in presuming that he was a man. Some have identified him with John the evangelist, others with Lazarus, who was the only man named in the gospel as an object of Jesus’ love.(65) Yet two verses later, the evangelist stated that Jesus “loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus.” Lazarus here was mentioned last. It was unusual in literature of the time for women to be mentioned before a man. This verse would imply that the women, or at least Martha, was better known to the evangelist. In the introduction to the section Lazarus is identified by his relationship to Mary and Martha.(66)

After Martha’s confession the first thing she did was to go and call her sister Mary to come to Jesus. This action reflects the literary structure of the call narratives in John 1, where, after Andrew believed, he immediately went and called Simon Peter to come to Jesus, In the second call scene, when Jesus called Philip, his first act as a disciple was to call Nathanael to come to Jesus. In the fourth gospel literary structure is a theological tool of the evangelist. Here it serves to affirm the discipleship of Martha.

The final tableau in the drama at Bethany (12:1-8) begins with a reference to Martha serving at a meal. Brown has suggested that this passage reflects the usage of the verb “serve” (diakonein) in the time of the evangelist, when it denoted an official ministry of the Church.(67) The scene suggests eucharistic overtones since the context was set on Sunday, the day of eucharistic celebration in the johannine community.(68) It is noteworthy that the ministers at the meal were both women.

The scene concluded with the story of the anointing of Jesus. John placed the action immediately before the last supper and named the agent as Mary of Bethany. In the passage the evangelist contrasted the faithful service of Mary with the dishonesty of Judas. Her act is presented as a sign of her understanding of the nature of the hour which Jesus was approaching. When the disciple Judas criticized Mary’s ministry Jesus defended it and admonished him to “let her alone” (12:7). Thus Mary is portrayed by the fourth evangelist as more truly a disciple than Judas, although the latter was one of the Twelve.

The Book of Signs concludes with the anointing of the feet of Jesus by Mary, the true disciple, contrasted with Judas, the thief and betrayer. In the following chapter (13) the Book of Glory opens with the scene in which Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Here too the faithful ministry of Jesus is contrasted with the infidelity of Judas. Thus the ministry of Mary is shown to be authentic because it parallels the ministry of Jesus. This becomes explicit in 13:12-17. Jesus is portrayed explaining the nature of ministry and using the image of servant:

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (13:14-15, RSV).

The importance of the example of Mary, who anticipated and fulfilled the authentic mode of ministry of the true disciple of Jesus, is highlighted by its structural position, bridging the two halves of the gospel.

An equally important woman disciple in the fourth gospel was Mary of Magdala. She was named as present at the crucifixion, along with the mother of Jesus, her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas.(69) In the resurrection narrative, Mary of Magdala is the chief character. The other women are not mentioned, not because they were not present, but because it is a characteristic literary device in the fourth gospel to drop unessential characters in order to heighten dramatic tension within scenes.(70)

In John 20 the belief of Mary of Magdala is strikingly contrasted with Peter’s lack of belief. According to John it was Peter and the beloved disciple who entered the empty tomb first. Peter saw the linen cloths, but did not believe. The beloved disciple saw and believed. Both had come to the tomb because of Mary of Magdala’s testimony that it was empty.(71) But then the men went back home.

It was to Mary of Magdala that the risen Jesus first appeared.(72) When he called her by name, “Mary,” she recognized who he was. In an earlier discourse in John 10 the fourth evangelist presented Jesus speaking about himself in the image of the good shepherd and of his disciples as sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.”(73) In the fourth gospel Jesus’ “own” is a technical term for his disciples.(74) In the good shepherd passage the shepherd’s “own” recognize him because he calls them by name. In the resurrection narrative it was when Jesus called Mary by name that she recognized him.(75) After the good shepherd called his own by name, he led them forth.(76) In the resurrection narrative after Mary recognized the risen Jesus, he commissioned her to go and bear witness to the other disciples.

It is significant that the fourth evangelist included Mary of Magdala among Jesus’ “own” since it was his own who were, according to John 13:1, present at the last supper. In the last supper discourses John presented Jesus comparing his disciples to women in labor.(77) The company who were present at the last supper were called both Jesus’ “own” and “little children.”(78) The latter expression is characteristic in the johannine epistles where it denotes those men and women who believe in Jesus. The word itself, teknia, in Greek is neuter, meaning “children” without reference to their sex.(79) The climax of the last supper scene in John 13:35 gives a typical johannine description of discipleship: “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”(80) In John 21:5 which was added by a later redactor but within the johannine tradition, the disciples recognize Jesus in his final resurrection appearance when he addressed them as “children.”(81)

According to the fourth gospel there were women among Jesus’ own, his disciples. It is therefore possible that women were present when the disciples received the risen Jesus’ solemn commission to ministry and the gift of his Holy Spirit:

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.. . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.(82)

The fourth gospel placed the least emphasis on the Twelve among the gospels and the greatest emphasis upon discipleship. It is not surprising that it also gave women the most prominent role as disciples. The characters which appear in the fourth gospel are symbolic. Their number is fewer than those in the synoptic gospels, but their role in instructing the johannine community in the faith of Christianity is much greater. That five major characters in the fourth gospel are women is in itself highly significant. That women were given the role played by Peter in the synoptics at the two most important moments in his movement from discipleship to apostleship, the confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi and the reception of the primary appearance and commission of the risen Jesus, points to the great importance of women both in johannine tradition and in the contemporary life of the johannine church. It is clear that for the fourth evangelist there were women disciples during the historical ministry of Jesus, just as there were women ministers in the Christian community where he lived and served. It raises the question whether some women may have actually been among the historical leaders of the johannine community. Raymond Brown summarized the portrait of discipleship in the fourth gospel: “A woman and a man stood at the foot of the Cross as models of Jesus’ ‘own,’ his true family of disciples.”(83)

Conclusion: The Discipleship of Women in the Fourth Gospels

Women disciples of Jesus are found in all four gospels. The shape and extent of the role of these women were qualified by each individual evangelist according to his own theological biases. Matthew tended to minimize the role of women from a rabbinic standpoint, whereas Luke did the same from a Greek standpoint. Matthew and Luke gave the most prominent position to the Twelve, all of whom were male, and the least important role to the women.(84) The fourth gospel, which gave the least amount of emphasis to the Twelve, gave the most prominent role to the women. The connection between these two different emphases may be significant. By the time the evangelists were writing most of the Twelve were already dead and the role of the Twelve as an institution in the Church had long ceased. Therefore the mention of the Twelve by an evangelist reflects his own theological preoccupations and ecclesial experience as much or more than it did the actual historical role of the Twelve during the lifetime of Jesus. Similarly the evangelists’ portrait of women reflected their own time and theological attitudes. For this reason it is possible to find information about the ministerial roles of women in the churches in the latter half of the first century in the four evangelists’ portrayal of the discipleship of women in the time of Jesus. In this area it would be especially useful to have more information concerning the provenance of the various gospel traditions. Hopefully in the future scholars will investigate more fully the social situations of the various Christian communities which produced these gospel traditions to establish in greater detail the position and role of women within these communities.

The Ministries of Women in the Early Church

Women Apostles

After the resurrection of Jesus many of his disciples who had remained faithful and had seen the risen Lord were henceforth called “apostles,” which means “persons sent on a mission.” In the pauline letters there were two criteria for apostleship: having seen the risen Jesus and having been commissioned by him.(85) The Lukan writings added a third criterion: having accompanied Jesus during his historical lifetime.(86)

The four gospels witness to the fulfillment of all three criteria by women. Women are not explicitly called “apostles” in the gospels, although they are in the pauline letters, but it must be kept in mind that “apostle” was a post-resurrection term and therefore not properly applicable to any characters in the gospels which conclude with the narrative of the resurrection.87) The gospels do clearly show that women met all of the criteria which were later established by the early Church to determine who should be officially considered an apostle.

Even Luke, despite the restriction of the role of women in his writings, does attest to the fulfillment of his own third criterion by the women. He mentioned the presence of Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna by name during the itinerant preaching ministry of Jesus. He also noted the presence of “many other” women.(88) It was these women and the Twelve whom Luke portrayed accompanying Jesus during his ministry. In the passion narrative, Luke again mentioned the presence of the women who had been with Jesus in Galilee, who faithfully continued to follow Jesus at the crucifixion.(89) The women disciples met Luke’s criterion for apostleship, whereas Paul did not, since he had not accompanied Jesus during his lifetime.

The first pauline criterion of apostleship was that the person had seen the risen Jesus. The gospel resurrection narratives distinguish between the empty tomb stories and the resurrection appearances as such. All four gospels attest to the presence of women at the empty tomb. But this was secondary in importance to the actual witness of an appearance of the risen Jesus. The gospels of Matthew, John and the secondary ending of Mark attest that not only did the risen Jesus appear to women, but that he made his very first resurrection appearance to the women. Mary of Magdala is named in all three traditions. Matthew added another woman, also named Mary. Scripture scholars are in accord that the report of this initial appearance to one or more women must be historically accurate, since it would be utterly unlikely for an evangelist, writing within the mi-sogynistic culture of the late first century, to have invented it.(90)

The second pauline criterion was the personal reception of a commission to ministry from the risen Jesus himself. The three gospels which describe an initial resurrection appearance to women include within the scene either an explicit commission to go and bear witness of the resurrection or ascension to the other disciples, or presuppose such a commission by noting that the women immediately did go and bear witness to the other disciples.(91) The gospels of Matthew, Luke and John also present the women bearing witness to the other disciples of the empty tomb.(92) Thus women are portrayed by the gospels as the first preachers of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus to the Christian community.

A further dimension of apostleship which was presupposed but not explicitly listed as a criterion was the reception of the Holy Spirit. According to Luke, the core group of the early Church, gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem awaiting the manifestation of the Spirit at Pentecost, consisted of three subgroups: the Eleven, who reconstituted their number to twelve in anticipation of Pentecost, the women witnesses of the resurrection appearances, and the mother and brothers of Jesus.(93)

The Pentecost account itself began with the note that they “were all together in one place.” It is more reasonable to assume that this group included all those mentioned in the earlier verse than to suggest that, despite the use of the word “all,” the women had somehow been excluded. A further confirmation of the presence of the women at Pentecost was the citation of the prophecy of Joel within the sermon of Peter. The text of such sermons is determined by the Lukan redactor. The Lukan framework of the entire Pentecost narrative is certainly male-oriented. Luke employed the word “men” seven times in the petrine speeches of Acts 1-2, a usage which had no possible Aramaic antecedent.(94) In the light of this generally restrictive Lukan attitude toward women, it is all the more remarkable that the Joel prophecy was chosen in this context. Joel had described the outpouring of the Spirit on men and women, “sons and daughters,” “menservants and maidservants.”(95)

The fact that Mary of Magdala was mentioned by name in all four resurrection narratives suggests that she was recognized as the leader among the group of women witnesses. Of all the women who appear in the gospels, the tradition of Mary of Magdala’s apostleship is the strongest and most difficult to refute. There is no question that she was presented by the evangelists as meeting the two pauline and the additional Lukan criteria for apostleship.

The fourth gospel heightened the drama of the first scene of its resurrection narrative through the contrast between the characters of Mary of Magdala and Peter. Peter entered the empty tomb first, but did not believe and went back home. Mary of Magdala then looked into the tomb and saw the angels. The angels’ address to Mary is repeated to her by Jesus. When he called her by name, she recognized him and believed. According to johannine theology this doubly confirmed her discipleship: it portrayed her as one of Jesus’ own and as believing, both of which were essential for the true disciple. Then she was given the apostolic commission by the risen Jesus.(96) She is portrayed in the following verse as fulfilling this mission by pronouncing the standard formula of the apostolic proclamation of the resurrection: “I have seen the Lord.”(97) Thus Mary of Magdala was the first apostle.

ccording to Paul, primacy of witness to the risen Jesus, which he personally attributed to Peter, was connected with primacy of authority within the apostolic Church. However both John and Matthew present independent traditions that a woman, Mary of Magdala, held this primacy. In the early second century, when the leadership role of women was retained only in the heterodox gnostic churches, the final redactor of the fourth gospel added chapter 21 in which Peter, who had been unfaithful to his discipleship through his betrayal of Jesus, was rehabilitated as disciple and commissioned as apostle to the pastoral care of the Church.(98)

The parallel roles of Mary of Magdala and Peter are found also in early apochryphal literature. The gnostic gospel of Thomas, the gospel according to Mary and the Pistis Sophia presented the leadership role of Mary of Magdala in the early Christian community as equal to that of Peter.98B Later tradition called her the “apostle to the apostles,” affirming her role as sent by Jesus to bear witness to the other disciples, thus bringing them also to faith in the resurrection.(99) Thus there is a strong fourfold gospel tradition which presents at least one woman, Mary of Magdala, as having fulfilled all the criteria of apostleship and as having exercised her apostleship at the very least in her critically important mission to the other disciples. Although her name predominates there are traditions of other women who also met the criteria of apostleship. Therefore it is evident from the texts of the New Testament that there were women apostles in the earliest days of the Christian Church. And it is no longer possible to argue that women cannot theologically serve in the ministry of the Church because all the apostles were men.(100)

There were also women missionary apostles, at least in the pau-line churches. One woman, Junia, is explicitly called an “apostle” by Paul. In Romans 16:7 he referred to Andronicus and Junia, who had become Christian before him, as “outstanding among the apostles.” Until the thirteenth century most commentators understood Junia as the name of a woman.(101) The feminine name is common in Greek.(102) In the thirteenth century a man, Aegidius of Rome, substituted the variant reading “juliam” which is also a feminine name, and pronounced this person to be a man (vir). Other commentators followed suit. Martin Luther understood the name as “junias” which is masculine, but unattested in hellenistic Greek.(103) The influence of his position may be seen in the fact that most English translations today simply repeat this masculine form, Junias. Contemporary biblical scholars have attempted to give support to this interpretation by conjecturing that Junias was an abbreviation of a more common masculine name such as Junianus, Junianius or Junilius.(104) It is more prudent to follow the conservative commentator M.-J. Lagrange and retain the feminine Junia, which is the form which is in the New Testament text and which is attested as a common name in contemporary hellenistic Greek.(105)

On the evidence of the New Testament text and the interpretation of the early Fathers it is possible to assert that the apostle Junia was, in fact, a woman. Over the centuries male commentators have sought to obscure this fact, since it would threaten the presupposition that the official ministry of the Church was from the beginning reserved to men.

Junia herself was an official minister of great importance in the primitive diaspora church. Paul himself acknowledged and respected her authority. It is possible that she, like Paul, had personally founded churches, since this was the primary role of the missionary apostle. For Paul the authenticity of Christian apostleship was confirmed by two factors: fruitfulness and suffering.(106) Romans 16:7 explicitly affirms that Junia and Andronicus had suffered, and implies also that their apostolate had been fruitful.(107) It is possible that Junia and Andronicus were married to each other and like that other great Christian pair Prisca and Aquila functioned as an apostolic missionary couple.(108)

Elsewhere in his letters Paul mentioned “apostles of the churches” who, like the Jewish sheluhim, were official emissaries of the churches of Macedonia and Philippi.(109) Paul had high praise for such apostles as the “glory of Christ.”(110) Elisabeth S. Fiorenza(111) has suggested that Phoebe, mentioned in Romans 16:1, may have exercised a similar role. Paul called her a “diakonos.” Later in the century this word denoted the office of deacon. In this early period it may still have retained its more general meaning of “minister” while at the same time being in the process of developing in the direction of denoting an ecclesiastical office. According to Fiorenza Paul used the terms “diakonos” and “apostolos” interchangeably.(112) Paul spoke very highly of Phoebe. She was being sent as the official emissary of the church of Cenchraeae to the church of Rome. It was customary for Paul to give the apostles of the churches his official recommendation, as he did for Phoebe in this passage.

Thus it has been demonstrated that there were women among both the Judean and the diaspora apostles in the early Church according to the evidence of the New Testament. The apostolate of the early Church was inclusive. It was not restricted only to men. The institution of the Twelve was, on the other hand, definitely restricted to men. But it has been shown above that the institutions of the apostolate and of the Twelve were not identical in the New Testament. The role of the Twelve was eschatological and symbolic, not ministerial.

The ministry of the Church was first embodied in the office of apostle, not in the institution of the Twelve. It was from the apostles that the functions of ministry were handed down. According to the evidence of the New Testament there were both men and women apostles in the primitive Church. There is no evidence in the New Testament writings on apostleship to support the exclusion of women from the succession of apostolic ministry in the later Church.

Women Prophets

Paul listed prophecy second in importance after his own ministry of apostleship in his lists of charismatic ministries in the Church.(113) In his theology of the charisms, Paul described prophecy

as second only to love as most important among the gifts of the Holy Spirit.(114) Prophecy in the early Church was a ministry of word, of proclamation for the building up of the Christian community.(115) It was a charismatic ministry and one which was specifically ecclesial.(116) Prophecy was closely associated with teaching. It was also a liturgical ministry.(117) Prophets and teachers presided at eucharistic worship.(118) They were also recognized as leaders of the community. Prophets and teachers made official decisions and commissioned other Christians for special missions.(119)

Women functioned as prophets in the early Church. The daughters of Philip were recognized as prophetic leaders in spite of Luke’s characteristic avoidance of portraying women as exercising any ministry of word.(120) Paul himself, in the context of a passage in which he was attempting to restrict the liturgical role of women in the church of Corinth, admitted that women had the right to function as prophets in the Christian assembly.(121) There is also mention of a woman in Revelation 2:20 who was a leader of the church of Thyatira.(122) It is stated that she was called prophet and that she taught, although her teaching had deviated from orthodoxy.

Thus in the first century Church women were accepted as prophets. As such they would have exercised a role of proclamation of the word and presidence at liturgical celebrations. The functions of the office of prophet were absorbed by the office of bishop in the second century. Those prophets who remained independent found themselves outside the domain of orthodoxy which was controlled by the bishop. As heresies were suppressed, in many of which women prophets had played an important role,(123) and as the office of bishop became more powerful, the office of prophet disappeared from the Church. Yet through the ages, men and women have exercised a prophetic ministry within the Church, although without official approbation or recognized office. Many such men and women eventually came to be called saints.

Women Presiders at Eucharistic Worship

The early history of eucharistic worship in the Church has remained clouded in obscurity. The New Testament recounts the story of the last supper in the gospel passion narratives. The synoptic gospels present the account of the blessing and sharing of the bread and cup by Jesus which tradition has called the “institution of the eucharist.” The synoptic narratives do not, with the exception of a disputed verse in Luke added by a later editor,(124) include the injunction to “do this in memory of me.” This command is found for certain only in the pauline version of the institution narrative in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. The latter passage is an early pre-pauline liturgical formula which was used in eucharistic worship in the Church before the time of Paul’s writing. Since at that time the eucharist had become a rite of the Church, the injunction to continue the practice of the rite had become an essential part of the liturgy. The gospels, although written later, did not include it in the last supper narratives. In the synoptic accounts Jesus was portrayed as sharing his body and blood with his disciples as a symbol of the new covenant which would the next day be sealed by his death on the cross. The fourth gospel mentioned the supper(125) but omitted the institution narrative altogether. Who was present at the last supper? It is not possible to know the precise names of all who were present. But it is significant to note that all four gospels mention the presence of the “disciples,” a general term which included many more persons than just the Twelve, and which included some women.(126) In the preceding and subsequent scenes of the preparation for the meal and Gethsemane the persons accompanying Jesus are uniformly called the “disciples.”(127) It is only in the pericopes concerning Judas that the Twelve are mentioned.(128) This is the only mention of the Twelve in the entire Passion Narrative. It may have been embedded in a special Judas source or have been retained as a relevant detail noting that Judas was a member of the Twelve. Thus the evidence indicates that a greater number of disciples than just the Twelve were present at the last supper. The fourth gospel described those present as Jesus’ “own,” a term which, as was demonstrated above, denoted the disciples and included at least one woman, Mary of Magdala.

The last supper narratives in Mark, Matthew and John are immediately preceded by the account of the anointing of Jesus by a woman at Bethany. The conjunction of the two narratives suggests that they were connected in the tradition. The faith, generosity and understanding of the woman stood in stark contrast to the deceit and betrayal of Judas. The two stories were actually interwoven in John 12:4-6. The woman was presented as the true disciple of Jesus. Judas, though one of the Twelve, was shown to be a false disciple.

In the Markan and Matthean accounts the woman anointed the head of Jesus as a sign of his messianic identity. The johannine scene is even more dramatic. There(129) Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair. In the following chapter the johannine version of the last supper omitted the institution narrative and substituted the scene of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and wiping them with a piece of his own clothing. There it was explicitly stated that the disciples were commanded to do as Jesus did.(130) Then Jesus taught the disciples that the true nature of his identity is that of servant.(131) As Jesus their Lord was a servant and washed their feet, so therefore his true disciples would likewise be servants and wash each other’s feet, as Mary of Bethany had just done.

Thus the gospel accounts of the last supper do not contain any commission to ministry as such except the command in John to be servants as Jesus was servant. There is no question of “ordination” in the last supper scenes. This interpretation was read back into scripture by later sacramental theologians. The solemn commission to ministry in the gospels was given after the resurrection, because it was dependent upon faith in the risen Jesus. It was confirmed and empowered through the event of Pentecost, the moment at which the Church was born.(132)

Within a decade or two of the resurrection some form of the practice of eucharistic worship did exist in the Church. That it was known to and practiced by Paul is evident from his recounting the institution formula in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Acts 27:35 may describe a scene in which Paul presided at a eucharistic celebration on a ship at sea. These texts suggest that presiding at eucharistic worship could be a function of an apostle. Acts 13:1-2 mentions prophets and teachers as the leaders of worship. That prophets and teachers, were the ordinary ministers of the eucharist, is confirmed by the Didache.(133) By the turn of the second century this function began to pass to the bishops and deacons.(134) In the New Testament period as such the only definite references to presiders at eucharistic worship are to missionary apostles, prophets and teachers. There were women missionary apostles and women prophets. There were most likely also women teachers.(135) Thus it is quite possible that women were among the first Christian ministers of the eucharist. There is no evidence to exclude the possibility of women presiding at eucharistic worship until the close of the New Testament period.(136)

Women Fellow Workers

In many of his letters Paul wrote of other ministers of the gospel whom he called “fellow workers.” It is doubtful whether this title referred to any specific office in the Church. It designated those who, like Paul, served the Christian community through ministry. Paul called such persons both “my fellow workers” and “our fellow workers” and also “God’s fellow workers.”(137) There were women among those whom he addressed as his own fellow workers: Prisca, Euodia and Syntyche.(138) There were also men: Aquila, Timothy, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, Epaphroditus and Justus."(139) Those addressed as “our fellow workers” were men: Urbanus, Philemon and Titus. Those named as God’s fellow workers were also men: Apollos, Paul himself, and possibly also Timothy.

There is no evidence for distinguishing different types of fellow workers.(140) The use of the term “God’s” fellow worker in 1 Corinthians was probably necessitated by Paul’s inclusion of himself. It would have been redundant to use his more usual designation of “my” or “our” when referring to himself. If the variant reading of 1 Thessalonians 3:2 is accepted, then Timothy would be called both “God’s” and “my” fellow worker Although women were explicitly named only as “my” fellow workers, it must be noted that one of “God’s” fellow workers, Apollos, had himself been instructed by a woman (141)

The term “fellow worker” (synergos) in the pauline letters may not designate an ecclesiastical office. It is questionable whether at this time formal offices yet existed in the Church. But it did denote persons who were prominent in the ministry of the pauline churches. “Whenever the term was used by Paul, he named those who were his fellow workers by name, expecting his readers to know who they were.

Paul’s own primary category for understanding his own ministry was apostleship. By this he meant bearing authentic witness tothe gospel of Jesus through proclamation and suffering. It is possible that Paul intended to associate those whom he called “fellow workers” with his own ministry of apostleship. Certainly there is evidence that at least some of the persons called fellow workers, Timothy, Titus, Prisca and Aquila, accompanied Paul in his itinerant ministry as missionary apostle.

The important point was that the fellow workers shared with Paul in the ministry of the Church, the ministry of service to the churches. What precise forms or categories shaped their understanding of ministry in this early period are not known, probably because they were still in the stage of flexibility and development. The fellow workers of Paul did, however, possess authority.(142) Whatever the ministry of the apostolic fellow worker actually was, there is solid evidence in the New Testament that this ministry was exercised by both women and men.(143)

Women Preachers and Evangelists

At least one, if not the primary, function of the fellow workers of Paul was evangelization and proclamation of the gospel The women Euodia and Syntyche worked side by side with Paul “in the gospel.”(144) Prisca, another fellow worker, instructed Apollos in the correct doctrine for preaching.(145) These women participated in the work of evangelization alongside their brothers.(146)

In the letter to the Romans,(147) Paul named four women, Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis, all of whom he called “hard workers” in the Lord. The usage of the verb kopian (“to work hard”) in the pauline letters approached a technical denotation of preaching and evangelism.(148) Paul frequently associated this verb with his own work of preaching and evangelism.(149) Later on the pastoral epistles described presbyters as “hard workers in preaching and teaching.”(150) Paul himself acknowledged “hard working” as a ministry of leadership which commanded authority in the Christian community. In 1 Corinthians 16:16 Paul urged the Christians of Corinth to be subject to those in the ministry of service and to the “hard workers and fellow workers.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 Paul encouraged the showing of respect, esteem and love to the ‘’hard workers."

Whether “hard working” was ever a formal office in the Church is not known for certain. Yet it did designate a form of ministry in the time of Paul and this ministry involved the functions of preaching and evangelization. This ministry was definitely exercised by women, four of whom were prominent enough to have been mentioned by name in Romans.

By the end of the first century, the pastoral epistles seem to indicate that the ministry of preaching and teaching was in the process of being absorbed by the office of presbyter.(151) As the first century office of presbyter merged with the office of bishop, and as the latter was in subsequent centuries reinterpreted through the Old Testament model of levitical high priesthood, women come to be excluded from both offices and from the function of preaching in the Church, a ministry which they had been free to exercise during the New Testament period at least in the pauline churches.

Women Deacons

The diaconate developed gradually into an ecclesiastical office. In the earliest Church the term diakonia denoted Christian ministry in general. Later it came to denote a specific ministry in the Church. But it was only in the second century, after the establishment of the monarchical episcopacy, that it came to mean a hierarchical office, subordinate to the office of bishop. The direction of this development is foreshadowed in the pastoral epistles at the close of the New Testament period, but the full development of a hierarchy of office was post-biblical.

In the gospels it is frequently mentioned that women “served” (diakonein).(152) Jesus is portrayed as accepting and affirming their ministry of service. In the synoptic gospels women are shown primarily serving Jesus himself. Only these women remained faithful to their service at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Then it was these same ministering women who were chosen to be the witnesses of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance and who were commissioned to continue their ministry by bearing witness of the resurrection to other disciples.

As the diaconate developed into an office in the Church, the New Testament indicates that women did serve as deacons. In Romans 16:1 it is stated that Phoebe was a deacon of the church of Cenchraeae. The Greek word diakos is used, which is masculine, not the feminine form diakonissa, which was used in patristic literature to denote the later office of deaconess. Paul commended Phoebe to the church of Rome to which she was being sent as an official messenger. Paul acknowledged that she had been “a helper of many and of myself as well.”(153) On the basis of the text of Romans 16:1 it is possible to affirm that insofar as the office of deacon had developed in the Church at this time, it was exercised by women as well as men.

Toward the end of the first century, there appeared in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 the most detailed passage in the New Testament on the office of deacon. Verse 11 listed the qualifications for women. In the past commentators often explained this away by saying that women were merely the wives of deacons,(154) or else that they were only admitted to the inferior office of deaconess. However there is no evidence in the text of 1 Timothy to support either of the above interpretations. The office of deaconess appeared only later, in the patristic period, when women were being excluded from official ministry in the Church. A simpler and more conservative understanding of 1 Timothy 3:11 is that there were, in fact, women deacons in the Church in the first century.(155) Both women and men exercised the same office of deacon, and on an equal basis. This interpretation is supported by a reference in a letter of Pliny the Younger, written around the beginning of the second century, to Christian women who served and who were called ministers or deacons.(156)

Raymond Brown has suggested(157) that the reference in John 12:2 to the service of Martha may reflect the time and church order of the evangelist who was writing in the 90’s when the office of deacon had been officially established in the Church and was exercised by women in his community. Luke 10:40 also associated the word diakonia with the ministry of Martha. If this hypothesis is correct, it could apply to other references to women “serving” in the gospels, such as Peter’s mother-in-law, and Mary of Magdala and the women disciples from Galilee.(158) It may, however, refer to the general ministry of these women. Whether the use of diakonein in the gospels connoted diaconal or apostolic ministry is impossible to decide without further evidence.

The New Testament information about the diaconate as an office, its establishment and its functions, is minimal. The texts which do make explicit reference to it indicate that both men and women served as deacons in the early Church, especially in the pauline churches.

The radical equality of the sexes in Christ was theologically underscored by Paul in the baptismal catechesis of Galatians 3:28. Yet such an official public role for women was contrary to social custom in contemporary Judaism and in Graeco-Roman society. It is probable that the pressure of the mores of the contemporary cultural milieu contributed to the early demise of the practice of women exercising the office of deacon in the Church and the substitution of the inferior, but socially more acceptable, office of deaconess. The ministry of the deaconess was generally limited to women. She was not permitted to serve the Christian community as a whole. It is also possible that the introduction of the exclusively male office of the levitical priest as a model for Christian ministry in the second century and the subsequent eclipse of the office of deacon by that of priest were also causal factors in the exclusion of women from the ecclesiastical office of deacon which they had been free to exercise in the New Testament period.(159)

Women as Apostolic Wives: Married Ministry in the Early Church

In general attitudes which are positive or negative toward the position and role of women in church and society are also often correspondingly positive or negative concerning the value of marriage. In the New Testament Christian thinkers began to grapple with the question of the value of marriage. In Judaism marriage had been the norm, enjoined by law upon every righteous Jewish man. Marriage also continued to be the norm for most Christians during the first century, especially for those exercising official ministries in the Church.

Two important figures in the early history of ministry in the Church were Prisca and Aquila. They were mentioned in Acts, in two of the major pauline letters and in the pastoral epistles. Although the latter were written much later in time, the ministry of the couple was still remembered in the Church.(160)

Prisca and Aquila were Paul’s fellow workers in Christ.(161) They had proved the authenticity of their ministry through suffering persecution.(162) They were the recognized leaders of the church which met in their house.(163)

Like Paul they were tentmakers by profession, and they used their trade to support themselves and other Christians.(164) Yet they were not bound to house or job. They exercised the freedom of apostolic missionaries, accompanying Paul on journeys and traveling to minister to other Christian communities.(165)

Prisca and Aquila were not uneducated. They exercised a ministry of the word for which they had been trained. Even Apollos, who was himself described as “eloquent,” “well versed in the scriptures,” “instructed in the way,” and who spoke and taught well about Christianity, even to being accepted as a preacher in the synagogue, was corrected and reinstructed by Prisca and Aquila whose theological learning was greater and more accurate.(166) The New Testament bears witness that a women, Prisca, ministered to the man, Apollos.

Junia and Andronicus are also mentioned as a couple. Within contemporary social mores this would be unlikely unless they were either married to each other, or brother and sister.(167) They too had proved the authenticity of their ministry through suffering for the Lord. Paul addressed them with respect, calling them “outstanding among the apostles.” All that is known of their ministry is that they were apostles, which involved proclamation of the word, and that they suffered.

Many of the apostles were married and were accompanied by their wives in this apostolic ministry. According to Paul this was the custom. “Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”(168) Thus in the diaspora churches in the middle of the first century, married ministry was the norm. Celibacy was an exception which required justification.(169) Thus it is possible that the women also exercised a shared ministry with their husbands in their role as apostolic wives.

The New Testament explicitly states that the apostles, bishops and deacons of the early Church were, as a rule, married.(170) It did not make either marriage or celibacy a condition for holding ecclesiastical office. It did, however, emphasize the importance of moral character within marriage and in all areas of life, as well as faith, knowledge of sound doctrine and the ability to teach it to the people, as important qualities for those in ministry.(171)


In the New Testament there were not ministries of men and ministries of women. There were only ministries of Jesus in which both men and women served. Jesus himself ministered to God’s people as servant. He called his followers to do the same.

The form of ministry which is most authentically Christian is that which is most totally conformed to the nature of Jesus’ own ministry. The ministry of Jesus was that of service, service to all human persons, regardless of class, sex or merit, service of atoning, self-offering love. In general Christian ministry in the New Testament is portrayed as ministry of service. Apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors and deacons—all served the people of God, each with his or her own gifts, for the building up of the Christian community in love

There is nothing inherent in the character of Christian ministry as it is presented in the writings of the New Testament which would give reason for the exclusion of women. On the contrary, the New Testament portrays Jesus treating women as equal human persons. It also portrays women and men serving side by side in the various ministries of the early Church.

The later exclusion of women from the official ministry of the Church raises serious questions about the authenticity of such a practice. According to the evidence of the New Testament, the exclusion of women from ecclesiastical ministry is neither in accord with the teaching or practice of Jesus nor with that of the first century Church.

The New Testament presents the call of Jesus as universally inclusive. Both the call of Jesus to discipleship and the call to ministerial service in the early Church were universal. They were not restricted by sex, marital status, social class, race or nationality. Authentic Christian ministry in the Church ought to be conformed to the norm of sacred scripture and to its teaching about the nature of ministry.


1. Mk 8:34.

2. Mt 23:8-12.

3. Mk 1:16-20,2:13-14.

4. Cf. Mk 9:35, 10:43,45, 15:41.

5. Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (London: Macmillan, 1966), p. 178.

6. A variant reading added “sisters” in the first part of the verse, which strengthens the case that “sisters” in the second part is genuine. The editor would have been attempting to make the first part an exact parallel to the second.

7. M.-J. Lagrange, Evangile selon saint Marc (Paris: Gabalda, 1929), p. 78.

8. K. L. Schmidt, Der Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu (Berlin: Trowitzsch, 1919), p. 154.

9. Mk 5:24-34.

10. Taylor, op. cit., p. 347.

11. The omission of “fathers” may reflect Jesus’ prohibition in Mt 23:9 against calling anyone “father” except God.

12. Cf. Mk 10:17-25.

13. 1 Sm 10:1, 2 Sm 5:3, 1 Kg 1:34, 39, 45.

14. Mk 16:9-11 shows the disciples refusing to believe Mary’s witness, possibly because she was a woman, or possibly because throughout this gospel they have been portrayed as slow to understand and believe.

15. Mt 19:29.

16. Mt 26:6-13.

17. Mt 27:55-56.

18. “My brethren.” Mt 28:9-10.

19. Mt 10:1, 11:1, 19:28, 28:16. All but the first are not paralleled in the other synoptic gospels.

20. Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 16-17. Cf. Lk 16:16.

21. This is the position of Elisabeth S. Fiorenza, unpublished address to the General Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, San Francisco, August 24, 1978.

22. Lk 1:45. cf. R. E. Brown, K. P. Donfried, J. A. Fitzmyer, J. Reumann, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia/New York: Fortress/Paulist, 1978), 136.

23. Brown, et.al., Mary, 142 interpret this scene as presenting Mary proclaiming the gospel “by anticipation.” It must be kept in mind, however, that for Luke this is still the faith of Israel.

24. 1 Tm 5:9, 11, 14 (age and marital status), 5:5 (prayer), 5:10 (service). Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1977), p. 467.

25. Conzelmann, op. cit., 215. Brown, et al., Mary, 126, 143, 163 find a continuity in the discipleship of Mary through her faith and through a connection with the theme of God’s poor (the anawim). It should be noted that even if Luke presented her as a disciple in the periods of Israel and Jesus, she is not mentioned in the period of the Church.

26. Lk 8:2-3.

27. Brown, “Roles,” p. 697. Brown, et. al., Mary, 168.

28. Brown, et. al., Mary, 172.

29. Lk 7:36-50.

30. Walter Bauer (William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds.), A Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), p. 791.

31. Lk 24:22-24, 34.

32. Lk 24:47-48.

33. Constance F. Parvey, “The Theology and Leadership of Women in the New Testament,” in Rosemary R. Ruether (ed.), Religion and Sexism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974), pp. 139-140. E. S. Fiorenza, CBA Address.

34. Ac 5:14, 8:3, 12, 9:2, 17:12, 22:4.

35. Ac 1:14. Most scholars assume that they remained together through the Pentecost event. Cf. Brown, et al., Mary, 176-177.

36. Ac 2:17-18, Joel 2:28-32.

37. Brown, et. al., Mary, 175, 284.

38. Ac 2:22, 29, 3:12, 17, 13:16, 26.

39. Ac 7:2.

40. Believing: the mother of Timothy in Ac 16:1, Damaris in Ac 17:34. Praying: Ac 21: 5. Objects of healings: Ac 9:36-40.

41. Ac 12:12-17.

42. Ac 5:1-11.

43. Ac 13:50.

44. Ac 24:24, 25:13, 23, 26:30.

45. Ac 12:12, 16:15,40.

46. Ac 21:9.

46B. 1 Cor 16:19, Rm 16:3. Cf. 2 Tm 4:19.

47. Ac 18:1-3, 18-19.

47B. The word was used of Mary of Magdala in the Gospel of Peter 12:50.

48. Haenchen, op. cit., p. 341.

49. Fiorenza, CBA Address.

50. Cf. Brown, John I, xli-li.

51. Jn2-12.

52. This is in accord with the synoptic gospels, which also portray Mary as playing no role as Jesus’ mother in his ministry. Cf. Brown, “Roles,” p. 697. Cf. Mk 3:31-35 pars.

53. Jn 19:25-27.

54. Brown, “Roles,” pp. 698-699.

55. Ibid., p. 691.

56. Jn 4:25-26, 29.

57. Jn 4:28-29.

58. Jn 4:39.

59. Jn 17:20 (RSV).

60. Jn 4:38-39. Brown, “Roles,” pp. 691-692.

61. Brown. John I, 173.

62. Jn 11:25-26.

63. Brown, “Roles,” p. 693. Especially Mt 16:16, the climatic midpoint of Mt.

64. Jn 1:49, 20:31 Cf. Jn 1:20.

65. Jn 11:3.

66. Jn 11:1. Brown, “Roles,” p. 694, n. 19.

67. Brown, “Roles,” p. 690.

68. Brown. John I, 447.

69. Jn 19:25.

70. Brown, John, II, 984 notes the possibility that the plural “we” in this verse might denote a trace of the presence of others in his source.

71. Jn 20:2- However, at this point Mary of Magdala did not understand the significance of the empty tomb or believe in the resurrection.

72. Jn 20:11-18.

73. Jn 10:14 (RSV).

74. Cf. Jn 13: 1.

75. Jn 20:l6.

76. Jn 10:3.

77. Jn 16:19-22.

78. Jn 13:1, 33.

79. Bauer, op. cit., p. 815.

80. Jn 13:35 (RSV). Cf. 1 Jn 3:10, 4:4, 7-8, 11-12. I Jn connects the two concepts.

81. The Greek word here is, however, paidia. This is also neuter and denotes children of both sexes. Cf. Bauer, op. cit., p. 609, Brown, John 11, 1070. In 1 Jn 2:12-14 the two are interchangeable and distinct from neaniskos which means “young man.” In the vocabulary of the late first century the word teknon could denote a disciple or spiritual child, as in 1 Tm 1:2, 18, 2Tm l:2.

82. Jn 20:2l-22 (RSV).

83. Brown, “Roles,” p. 699.

84. Lk used the term “apostles” to denote the Twelve

85. 1 Cor 15:3-9, Gal 1:11-17.

86. Ac 1:21-

87. The word “apostle” appears anachronistically in the Gospels. cf. Mk 6:30, Mt. 10:2, Lk 6:13, 9:10, 11:49, 17:5, 22:14, 24:10. Note that it appears most frequently in Lk. Lk used the term to denote the Twelve. This usage derived from a later stage of tradition and was influenced by the theology of the redactor. Cf. Fiorenza, “Twelve,” p. 115

88. Lk 8:1-3.

89. Lk 23:49, 55.

90. Mk 16:9-11, Mt 28:9-10, Lk 24:10, Jn 20:11-18. Cf. standard commentaries on these passages.

91. Jn 20:17, Mt 28:10, Mk 16:10.

92. Mt 28:8, Lk 24:10, Jn 20:2.

93. Ac 1:14. Cf. Fiorenza, “Apostleship,” p. 136.

94. F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), p. 76. Bruce also cites G. M. Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua (New York: Ktav, 1971, reprint of 1929 ed.), p. 22.

95. Ac 2:17-18, Joel 2:28-32.

96. Jn 20:17.

97. Jn 20:18 (RSV). Brown, “Roles,” p. 692.

98. 1 Cor 15:2-9, Mt 28:9-10, Jn 20:11-18. Raymond E. Brown, The Community of the Beloved Disciple (New York: Paulist, 1979), 161-162, 189.

98B. Fiorenza, “Apostleship,” p. 140, n. 6.

99. Rabanus Maurus, PL 112, 1474b (cited by Brown, “Roles,” p. 693, n. 14), Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones in Cant. 75, 8, PL 183, 1148 (cited by E. S. Fiorenza, “Feminist Theology as a Critical Theology of Liberation,” Theological Studies 36 (1975), p. 625), Hippolytus, Comm. in Cant. (cited by Jean Danielou, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (London: Faith Press, 1961), p. 16).

100. The 1976 Vatican Declaration maintained that the practice of Jesus and the apostles was normative for the Church today (18). However, it then went on to interpret this practice in terms of the exclusion of women from the apostolate in the first century (19). It based this assumption more upon ecclesiastical tradition than upon critical biblical scholarship. Such methodology would be contrary to the teaching of Divino afflante Spiritu (the encyclical of Pius XII, issued in 1943, which encouraged the critical study of the Bible by Catholic scholars).

101. Bernadette Brooten, “ ‘Junia .. . Outstanding Among the Apostles (Romans 16:7),’” in Swidler, Women Priests, p. 141. She cites Origen, Chry-sostom, Jerome, Hatto, Theophylact, and Abelard.

102. For example, a first century A. D. inscription (cited in Lefkowitz-Fant, op. cit., 113; Corinth, A.D. 43): “The deme of Patareia has decreed: Whereas Junia Theodora, a Roman resident in Corinth, a woman held in highest honor ... who copiously supplied from her own means many of our citizens with generosity, and received them in her home and in particular never ceased acting on behalf of our citizens in regard to any favor asked— the majority of citizens have gathered in assembly to offer testimony on her behalf. Our people in gratitude agreed to vote: to commend Junia and to offer testimony of her generosity to our native city and of her good will, to testify that she increased her good will toward the city, because she knew that our people also would not cease in their good will and gratitude toward her and would do everything for the excellence and the glory she deserved. For this reason (with good fortune), it was decreed to commend her for all that she had done." There is no reason to connect this Junia with the one mentioned in Rm.

103. Brooten, art. cit., p. 142, cites M.-J. Lagrange, Epitre aux Romains (Paris: Gabalda, 1950), p. 366.

104. Brooten, art. cit., p. 142.

105. Lagrange, Romains, p. 366.

106. 1 Cor 4:8-13, 2 Cor 11-12. Cf. 1 Cor 9:15-18.

107. Fiorenza, “Apostleship,” p. 135.

108. Lagrange, Romains, p. 366. Cited by Elisabeth S. Fiorenza, “Women Apostles: The Testament of Scripture,” A. M. Gardiner (ed.), Women and Catholic Priesthood: An Expanded Vision (New York: Paulist, 1976), pp. 96, 101, n.9.

109. 2 Cor 8:23 (Macedonia), Phl 2:25 (Philippi).

110. 2 Cor 8:23.

111. Fiorenza, “Apostleship,” p. 137.

112. 2 Cor 11:13-15.

113. 1 Cor 12:28, Rm 12:6, Eph 4:11.

114. I Cor 14:1. Cf. 1 Cor 13:2.

115. 1 Cor 14:3.

116. 1 Cor 14:4.

117. Ac 13:1-2, Did 10:7, 15:1-2.

118. Did 15:1-2, Ac 13:1-2.

119. Ac 13:3.

120. Ac 21:9.

121. 1 Cor 11:5.

122. G. B. Caird, A Commentary of the Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 43.

123. For example, in Montanism. Cf. G. Friedrich, TDNT VI, pp. 860-861 for references.

124. Lk 22:19b. Cf. Carroll Stuhlmueller, JBC II, p. 157, for comment on the textual problem.

125. Jn 13:2.

126. Mk 14:12, 13, 14, 16, 32, Mt 26:1, 17, 18, 19, 26, 35, 36, Lk 22:11, 39, Jn 13:5,22,23,35, 18:1.

127. Lk used the term “apostles” in 22:14.

128. Mk 14:10 pars., 14:17 par., 14:20.

129. Jn 12:3.

130. Jn 13:14-15.

131. Jn 13:16.

132. In one sense ministerial office as such did not exist before Pentecost insofar as before that time the Church as such also did not exist.

133. Did 10:7, 15:1-2.

134. Did 15:1-2, Ignatius of Antioch, Smryn VIII 1-2. Cf. Phil IV 1.

135. Prisca was reported to have taught the missionary apostle Apollos.Cf. Ac 18:26

136. 1 Cor 14:34-35 is considered an interpolation by a later editor, perhaps coming out of the same school which produced the pastoral epistles. Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1976), pp. 6-7, lists the various bases for this understanding: the variant position of the verses in some MSS, the broken continuity between vv. 33 and 36, unpauline vocabulary and syntax in the vv., content on the role of women which contradicts the views expressed elsewhere by Paul. Cf- C. K. Barrett, A Commentary of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 330, Johannes Weiss, Der erste Korinther-brief (Gottingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910). Meeks, art. cit., p. 201, states that “Paul nowhere denies women the right to engage in charismatic leadership of worship."

137. Rm 16:9, 21, Phm 24, Phl 2:25, 4:3, Col 4:11 (“my fellow workers”), Rm 16:9, Phm 1, Cf. 2 Cor 8:23 (“our fellow workers”), 1 Cor 3:9, variant reading of 1 Th 3:2 (“God’s fellow workers”).

138. Prisca in Rm 16:3, Euodia and Syntyche in Phl 4:3.

139. Aquila in Rm 16;3, Timothy in Rm 16:21, Mark, Aristarchus, De-mas and Luke in Phlm 24, Epaphroditus in Phl 2:25, Aristarchus, Mark and Justus in Col 4:10-11.

140. Reference removed at the author's request.

141. Ac 18:26.

142. Cf. 1 Cor 16:16.

143. Cf. Rm 16:3, Phl 4:3, (Name removed at the author's request), art. cit., Vatican Declaration 16.

144. Phil 4:2-3. 145. Ac 18:26.

146. Danielou, op. cit., p. 8, Gryson, op. cit., p. 5. Ignatius, Phil V, 2, indicates that prophets had the function of preaching. Thus it is possible that the women prophets also exercised the function of preaching.

147. Rm 16:6, 12.

148. Gryson, op. cit., p. 5, states that kopian denotes evangelization. Danielou, op. cit,, p. 8 uses it of evangelization and apostolic ministry. Meeks, art. cit, p. 198, understood it as “teaching.” In some instances Paul used this verb for his own work of tentmaking (1 Cor 4:12, 1 Th 2:9). This does not preclude the technical theological usage of the verb elsewhere.

149. 1 Cor 15:10-11, Gal 4:11, Phl 2:16, Col 1:28-29. Cf. 2 Cor 10:15-16

150. 1 Tm 5:17.

151. l Tm 5:17.

152. Mk 1:31 pars. (Peter’s mother-in-law), Lk 10:40 (Martha), Jn 12-2 (Martha), Mk 15:41 par. (the women at the cross).

153. Rm 16:2 (RSV). Prostatis denotes many different forms of active service, not merely financial support. Cf. Oepke, TDNT 1, p. 787, as opposed to Gryson, op. cit., p. 4.

154. The primary meaning of the word gyne in hellenistic Greek was “woman” (not “wife”).

155. Lemaire, art. cit, p. 45; Gryson, op. cit., p. 8 states that their official function in the Church was analogous to that of the male deacons.

156. Pliny the Younger, Epistle 96. In the Latin text the “women who served” were called ancillae, and they were named ministrae, which is equivalent to the Greek diakonoi. The passage is cited by Danielou, op. cit., p. 15 and Oepke, TDNT 1, p. 789.

157. Brown, “Roles,” p. 690. He notes that Martha made the fourth gospel equivalent of the synoptic petrine confession (Mt 16:16 pars.) in Jn 11:27.

158. Mk 1:31 pars., 15:41 par., Mt 27:55, Cf. Lk 8:3.

159. The development began with 1 Clem 40-44 and Ignatius of Anti-och, Eph IV, 1, Magn III, 1-2, VII, 1-2, Trail II, 1-3, III, 1-2, VII, 2, Smyrn VI11, 1-2, IX, 1.

160. 2 Tm 4:19.

161. Rm 16:3.

162. Rm 16:4.

163. Rm 36:5.

164. Ac 18:3.

165. Ac 18:18-19.

166. Ac 18:24-26. Meeks, art. cit., p. 198, conjectures that the couple may have presided over catechetical schools in Ephesus, Corinth and Rome.

167. Rm 16:7. Lagrange, Romains, p. 366. assumed that they were married.

168. 1 Cor 9:5 (RSV)

169. 1 Cor 7:25-35.

170. 1 Cor 9:5 (apostles), 1 Tm 3:6 (bishops), 3:12 (deacons).

171. 1 Tm 3:2-13.

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