Women and Church Leadership: New Testament Perspectives
I. Texts that state or assume the leadership of women.
1 Corinthians 11:4-6 - Women prophets
"4Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his
head, 5but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors
her head--it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6For if a woman will
not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful
for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil."- RSV
This passage assumes that women pray and prophesy.
Although prayer can be private,
prophecy cannot. Prophecy is a public speaking out of words that come to the speaker
from the Holy Spirit.
Corinth had many followers of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine.
Ancient carvings show
that female worshipers would let their hair down and dance ecstatically to please the god.
Male worshipers of Greek and Roman gods would put togas over their head.
In light of
this, it seems that Paul is asking the Corinthian Christians to worship in a manner
opposite to the pagan worshipers.
Acts 18:24-28 - A woman teaches a man
"24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.
He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He
had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor
and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of
John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and
Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him
the way of God more accurately. 27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia,
the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome
him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.
28For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the
Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."
Here Priscilla, a woman, teaches a prominent man, Apollos.
Also, in Acts, the dominant
figure in a situation is mentioned first (cf. 13:2 "Barnabas and Saul" and 13:13 "Paul and
That would indicate that Priscilla is better known than her husband,
This contradicts the interpretation of the passage in 1Timothy that assumes that
the prohibition against women teaching is a universal prohibition in all circumstances.
Romans 16:1-12 - Women are "ministers" and "apostles"
"1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a
minister of the church at Cenchrae
2that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her
in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many
and of myself as well. 3Greet
Prisca and Aquila