0 - 100 AD

from a perspective of women in the Church



before Christ
0-100 AD


Jesus Christ established the principle of complete equality between men and women.


He left the implementation of the principle to the later Church.

Though he appointed twelve men to be the first apostles, he did not thereby exclude women from having a full part in all the ministries of the Church.

In fact, there were women among his close disciples, among whom Mary Magdalene enjoyed a special place.

From Paul's letters we get an idea of the church order that began to be adopted in many christian communities.

In the early Church, apostles and bishops entrusted various tasks to women. Women deacons ministered from at least 54 AD when Paul's Letter to the Romans was written.



Jesus Christ and women
28 - 30 AD

Jesus did not tackle male dominance directly.
But he established a new priesthood that includes a radical openness to women.

Women were present at the Last Supper


Jesus Christ:


On the Last Supper:


On appointing only men among the twelve apostles:

‘The Scriptural Argument in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, R. Bieringer, Bijdragen 62 (2001) pp. 129 - 142;

“The twelve apostles were men - -”, I. Raming, Orientierung 56 (1992) pp. 143-146.

‘Did Christ conform to social myth?’, J. Wijngaards, DCROWP 1986, pp. 36-46.

‘The Ministry of Women according to the New Testament’, E. M. Tetlow, WMNT 1980, ch. 3.

‘The Role of Women According to Jesus and the Early Church’, R. J. Karris, WPFD 1978, pp. 47-57.

‘The Biblical Evidence’, Ch. Evans, YWP 1978, pp. 16-29.

‘The Twelve’, E. Schüssler Fiorenza, WP 1977, pp. 114-121.

‘Did Jesus Exclude Women from Priesthood?’, S. M. Schneiders, WP 1977, pp.227-233.

‘Pro and Con: The Ordination of Women in the New Testament’, R. H. Fuller, TNTO 1976, pp. 1-11.

‘Christ, Revelation, and the Ordination of Women’, A. A. Vogel, TNTO 1976, pp. 42-51.

‘The Authority of Scripture’, P. Lakeland, CWBP 1975, pp. 31-46.

‘Women and Ministry’, E. Carroll, Theological Studies 36 (1975) pp. 660 - 687.

‘Holy Scripture’, H. van der Meer, WPCC 1973, pp. 10-45.



Paul endorsed the fundamental equality in Christ of women and men.
Women took part in the Church's apostolate.
Paul asked women to wear a veil in the assembly to forestall cultural clashes.



Women in the Early Apostolic Church
30 - 80 AD


On Specific Pauline texts:

Women Deacons 0 - 100

The ordination of women deacons in the early Church


Phoebe is the first woman deacon known to us. Paul mentions her in his letter to the Romans which was written around 54 AD.

Liturgical tradition in the Byzantine Church celebrated two more first-century women, also mentioned in Paul's letter.

50-60 AD
Deacon of the church at Cenchreae. Romans 16,1-3
1st century
Deacon in Constantinople. Romans 16:12.
1st century
Romans 16:12.

Fathers of the Church 0 - 100

St Ignatius' letters reveal common beliefs concerning women. They also confirm that women had ministries in the communities.

1st century
Syria. He refers to deaconesses in his writings.


This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

See our Documented Appeal to Pope Francis to Request the Re-instatement of the Ordained Diaconate for Women.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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