In my previous post, we looked at what ministerial efforts women were involved in within the story of the Old Testament and today we turn our focus to the New Testament. Can you think of the names of any of the women involved in ministries in the gospels or epistles? How about Mary? Even the mention of Mary among protestants is likely to cause some measure of agitation but have we fully considered her ministry?
Mary was an enormously influential woman, called by God to be the mother of the Messiah. Not only does she bring Jesus into the world but she demonstrates in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56) a depth of spiritual maturity that certainly contributes to the development of her sons Jesus and James. Her parental role is largely hidden in the gospels but the men who developed under her tutelage reflect a deeply committed mother who placed God first in their lives.
Junia is another woman who stands out. We encounter her very briefly in Romans 16:7 where she is mentioned by Paul as one who is outstanding among the apostles. Though we are noting her gender it is more important to recognize her in the same way that the Apostle does. She is noted for the outstanding nature of her intelligence, giftedness, and her calling. Often, in our modern church, we are willing to allow the WKSPs to overwhelm what we can discern as a clear calling from God. Where does this doctrine come from?
In Acts we encounter a pair of of bible teachers named Priscilla and Aquila, husband and wife, as Paul meets them sojourning in Corinth after being driven from Rome (Acts 18:2). They are mentioned numerous times but are noted as theology and scripture teachers of Apollos (18:26.) What is of note (aside from her calling to and mastery of the role of teacher) is her positional prominence in nearly every mention of the couple’s names. While it was not unheard of to mention a woman’s name first in the context of a couple, it was done in cases where there was a special recognition of the woman as is the case here.
Finally, let us not overlook Phoebe the Deacon we encounter in Romans 16:1. She is not belittled by the modern title deaconess as something less than practicing a fully recognized ministry within the church. She is active in ministry such that Paul recognizes the need to mention her in conjunction with her important contributions to the church. She is not mentioned as having been silent.
The New Testament (from which the WKSP passages derive) shows us women that were influential, that were the source for stories about Jesus, they were church planters, teachers, benefactors and interpreters of Paul’s letters. We have to ask then, why the WKSPs? How does the insistence on the silence of women fit into the theme of Oneness restored by Christ? We’ll broach this in the next post.