Female apostles?

Female symbol

I have several friends who are women who function apostolically. They run regional events; they coordinate different groups across a region; they plant churches and train others to plant churches; they strategize and extend the Kingdom. They are extremely effective in what they do, and I love to learn from them.

Some people question the validity of women functioning in such roles in the church. According to Romans 16:7, Junia was a female apostle. Over the centuries, people have tried to turn her into a man–Junias. In the contemporary literature of the day, there are more than 250 references to women named Junia. There isn't a single one to a man named Junias!

Let's encourage women to function in their gifting, including as apostles. 

 

28 thoughts on “Female apostles?”

  1. Amen! I’ve always followed the duck theory: if it walks and quacks like a duck it must be a duck.
    interesting…Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2…is called a “prostativ”….the word is the same word used in describing elders as “overseeing” or as some texts have it (badly) those who “rule well” (e.g. I Tim). In many English versions when it come to Phoebe it is translated “helper” (NIV: she has been a great help to many including me…(Paul)…However, in texts where it applies to men it gets translated “oversee” or “rule”.
    It’s “I commend Phoebe to you, a servant (diaconos; often translated ‘deacon” for men) …she has been an “overseer” to many including myself.
    I agree with you sister…and I encourage women to function in their gifting.
    (Sometimes this conversation gets silly…in the average church…how much “church’ would take place if it was up to most men in most churches anyway!?!)

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  2. I know there is a big question about this in the church. For myself I have never been faced with it being an issue, but were I female I think it may be more of an issue.
    May I ask a few questions for proponents as yourself to respond to?
    1. Jesus chose twelve men to act as the original twelve apostles. Shouldn’t he have chosen six men and six women?
    2. The obvious log in my eye would be Paul’s comments for women to remain silent in the church. Should they?
    3. The scripture, specifically the New Testament, is full of women interacting both on the street and in the church. Are any of them performing the duties of an apostle?
    4. Both qualifications of Elders and Deacons in the New Testament refer to men in the church. So where are the women elders and women deacons?
    5. The 11 apostles who were left after Judas’ departure chose a new disciple to be apostle alongside themselves. Why did they select a man?
    My wife Kay is the most wonderful servant of God any man ever witnessed. She is musical, a public school teacher, highly respected inside and outside the church. She runs a youth band called Momentum and the youth clamor to become a member of her band. They are awesome.
    She is also a minister at the public school (they call her Mrs. Dickey and give her a check each month). I laugh at folks who say God is no longer in public school, nothing could be more absurd. There is salt and light at her school and she’s not the only one.
    On Sunday mornings and through the week, she’s preparing to teach her Cool Church kids and her co-worker Judy is her best friend. Not once, has Kay whined about not being chosen as an Elder. I have but she hasn’t.
    I don’t think Kay has ever had an inkling to become an apostle. God sent her to the public schools years ago and she’s okay with that. God called her to use her giftings in music both instrumentally and vocally, now she’s stepped aside to train others, the younger generation. Blows me away, what a powerful volunteer she is. (no paycheck for that, but she is bountifully rewarded as all of those kids call her YOM. That stands for “your other mother”.
    Then there is Cool Church with 30 to 50 kids depending on what time of the year it is. She has great fellowship with her friend Judy, blessing and teaching these children. Honestly I am truly jealous at this Godly relationship. Kay and Judy get more hugs up and down the halls, and at the beginning and end of classes than anyone would believe. You would not believe how many older youth they incorporate in skits and bible dramas to the younger ones. They love being involved.(no paycheck here either, but rewards are a plenty)
    Honestly I don’t know why I responded, because I have no answers to the theolgically posed question of women as apostles. So there are two cents toward a dollar of discussion I hope there are more comments.
    PS I left this institutional church three years ago. I had nothing better for Kay so I never made a demand on her or my youngest son to leave. My son is off to college now Kay is thriving, but she does so in her position of serving in her giftings. It’s humbling to watch. I made one demand of my wife, to stop tithing to the institution and do all her giving in service. We still give but not as duty, rather motivated by the Spirit, as needs surface in folks lives. This brought some peace, mmm hmmm.

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  3. Jim at Listeningpostministries: (Sometimes this conversation gets silly…in the average church…how much “church’ would take place if it was up to most men in most churches anyway!?!)
    Exactly. This is true for more than one reason I think. Men in institutional churches rarely will become Sunday School teachers. I think the premise is wrong, it’s seen as a low estate and somewhat beneath them.
    However in an organic or simple church setting the playing field is more level. Men and women alike are encouraged to participate in meetings. There may not even be any separate meetings for children or youth.
    Felicity, I saw your FB comment that you had a series of 20 posts on your blog about women in ministry. So, I have a little homework to do. Cheers.

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  4. Bruce, I’m responding to most of your questions in the next post since I’d like them to be a little more public. I think that most apostles these days are to be found in the marketplace since there’s no room for them in the typical church. Who knows: maybe you are married to someone with apostolic gifting!

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  5. Just a couple thoughts to throw out — sometimes in these kinds of discussions we get confused over function vs. office. A woman can certainly function as an apostle and do apostolic work, as Felicity pointed out, or elder work or teaching (the five-fold ministries?), as do many men. But does that mean she serves in that office of a church or network? Does she need the title? Or does the functioning automatically mean she has earned the office. Many men in this country are elders in their church but don’t function biblically as elders, after all. Just throwing stuff out there. I don’t have the answers.
    And on Bruce Dickey’s point #2 — Mark Driscoll has an interesting take that perhaps partially addresses your question. Women aren’t barred from teaching. We’re all supposed to teach, as Matt 28:19-20 says. But women, per 1 Tim. 2:12, aren’t to teach AND HAVE AUTHORITY over men. It’s the combination of the two that’s important. Even if you insert the word “or” instead of “and” it still implies that the teaching is related to speaking from a position of authority. Then there’s 1 Corinthians 14, which is another matter. Heat but little light, I’m afraid.

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  6. Dan, a question: Biblically, is there such a thing as an “office” in the church–ie positional leadership or authority? As far as I can see, where the King James uses the work “office,” for example in 1 Tim 3, the word simply is not there in the Greek.
    Good point, Steve!

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  7. FELICITY
    Hello. Personally, I have no problem with females serving in any capacity. Could you clarify what Matthew Henry & others mean by:
    “They were of note among the apostles, not so much perhaps because they were persons of estate and quality in the world as because they were eminent for knowledge, and gifts, and graces, which made them famous among the apostles, who were competent judges of those things, and were endued with a spirit of discerning not only the sincerity, but the eminency, of Christians.”
    Thanks. All the best.

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  8. Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 16, in Philip Schaff, ed, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. II. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1956, p. 555.

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  9. Hi Felicity,
    I’m glad to see men supporting the idea of Junia being a woman. This is a breath of fresh air compared to the male dominated Evangelicalism I grew up in.
    John Chrysostom, not normally one to promote women, wrote: “O how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!”
    Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 16, in Philip Schaff, ed, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. II. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1956, p. 555.

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  10. “Dan, a question: Biblically, is there such a thing as an “office” in the church–ie positional leadership or authority? As far as I can see, where the King James uses the work “office,” for example in 1 Tim 3, the word simply is not there in the Greek.”
    Agreed. The emphasis of the Greek in 1 Tim 3:1 is on the task or the work. But we tend to think in terms of office, hence the debate about whether a woman should serve in an official capacity for the institution as we in the West currently practice it. In a simple church setting, the work one does is what’s important and there’s little need for titles. The other important point were led to, I suppose, is whether a woman who does the work of an apostle, teacher, pastor, evangelist, prophetess — but especially an apostle, since it probably requires lots of traveling — deserves our financial support so she can practice her gift unencumbered.

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  11. Ross, thanks for the reference to Chrysostom.
    Dan, if a woman is doing the work of an apostle, and if (as I believe is true) the Scriptures indicate that a traveling apostle may be worthy of support, then why would one not support a woman?

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  12. Achmed, I’m not a great student of Matthew Henry, but as a Presbyterian minister, I suspect he was colored in his writing by the traditional church of his day. I’m not sure which part of that statement you have questions about, but I suspect being of note among the apostles had more to do with suffering and persecution than numbers and shekels. The word, “eminency” is one I have questions about too, although maybe as an old-fashioned work, the word doesn’t have the same connotations now. But gifts and graces are probably true.
    Does anyone else have a comment on this?

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  13. “Dan, if a woman is doing the work of an apostle, and if (as I believe is true) the Scriptures indicate that a traveling apostle may be worthy of support, then why would one not support a woman?”
    Good question. I hope you don’t think I’m arguing that they shouldn’t be supported. I’m just raising questions and contrasting — or trying to reconcile — what Christians generally practice and what Scripture says. I guess the sticking point for me is the “having authority over men” statement. And another question is whether Junia is an Apostle (capital A) or a sent one or messenger (lower case) on mission from her local church. Is Phoebe a Deacon (office) or deacon (servant)?

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  14. Dan,
    Jon Zens has done more work on this passage than anyone I know. Check out his thoughts at http://bit.ly/fG7SCC.
    I don’t think anyone should be Apostle with a capital A. Paul frequently referred to himself as “Paul, an apostle, a slave of Jesus.” He never called himself, “the Apostle, Paul.” There is no sense of “office” in the New Testament, which should be our guide rather than church history. So Phoebe was a deacon or servant.

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  15. Paul’s word in I Tim. 2:12 does not argue for the opposite. One cannot assume that simply because a woman is to not have authority over men that men therefore are to have authority over women. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus. I assume that includes men and women.
    Also, as I recall, the word Paul uses: “I do not PERMIT a woman to teach or have authority over a man…” can also be translated as “order”. I do not ORDER a woman to teach or have authority over a man. ”
    However, I am writing “on the fly” and need to double check that…

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  16. Thanks for the link Felicity.
    There are offices, though, aren’t there? And that’s how many Christians think of these words, as offices. Paul gives qualifications for Elder and Deacon after all and Paul does talk about people who falsely represent themselves as Apostles. So is Phoebe a Deacon or “just” a servant? Is Junia an Apostle or “just” a messenger, like someone delivering a telegram? I’m not enough of a Greek expert to know.
    A lot of our trouble today is how the Word is translated. Translators use so many words that carry so much ecclesiological baggage. Why the word baptism, for instance. Why not just say dunk or immerse? If our translations didn;t use words like apostle or deacon we’d probably come a long way toward having a correct view.

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  17. Hi Dan
    I guess I would seriously question whether there were offices as we would use the term in the New Testament. I think there were people who functioned in certain ways. Making that official, ie creating offices, came a century or so later.
    I’m not enough of a Greek expert to know either, but when you look at what Jesus said about leadership, for example, Matt 23:8-9, “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father,” you have to seriously question many of the church’s traditional leadership practices.
    I agree with you about language. I’d love to remove the word “church” for instance.

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  18. As to “Permit”….I do know that the word can be translated “instruct”. “I do not INSTRUCT women to have authority over men…” And I do know I have seen that it can be ORDER although I don’t seem to have that reference at hand. (So, maybe I couldn’t stand it up in a court of law! 🙂 But I do know I have seen that…)
    That’s a very difficult text. For one thing the word translated “have authority” is a much stronger word than we take it. However, it is also a word that appears only in this one place in the New Testament (so we don’t have any comparative texts in the NT for it). Neither this word nor its noun form appears in the Septuagint. The only other place it appears is in the Apocrypha and then in a noun form. (Wisdom of Solomon 12:6) There it is translated “murderer” and refers to certain horrific accusations against the Canaanites. “they are murderers of their own helpless babies.”
    So, it’s a very strong word and connotes someone who has “absolute and unequivocal power over another.” (I assume a murderer in the act of murdering someone has such power, at least in that moment.)
    So, Paul is not simply addressing women having the upper hand on men or somehow teaching them from a one up position. He is addressing a perverse practice wherein some women seem to be seizing absolute & unequivocal domination over men..even a destructive, ‘murderous’ power over men. That is, they were exercising absolute power over men without regard even to the welfare of the men.
    From my study it appears that some teachers of error had infiltrated this church and were teaching women to seize that kind of power or suggesting that such a thing was okay or even desirable. (The text tells us that there were teachers among them who were teaching error. e.g. I Tim.1:19-20; 2 Tim 2:17-18, etc. ) Paul is writing against a perversity in this congregation IMHO.
    Incidentally, the word about being quiet doesn’t mean something like “keep your mouth shut” (although in this case that might not have been bad counsel!)…it means something more along the lines of a “quiet, humble attitude’. In other texts, he enjoins this same spirit for ALL Christians and not just women. (e.g. I Thess 4:11)
    Seizing power, dominating is specifically prohibited by Jesus. his numerous teachings on such things make that clear. He clearly sees that as the way the pagans live. So, the idea that some advance that while women are not to have authority over men men are to have authority over women does not hold water, especially given the nature of the authority he is addressing in I Tim 2:12. No one in the body of Christ is to exercise that kind of authority over others. It is inherently demeaning, disrespectful and disregarding of the value of one’s neighbor whether male or female.

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  19. Jim, thank you. This is very helpful! I hadn’t come across the reference in the apocrypha before. If the discussion on women goes on, I’d like to use your comments as a blog post if that’s okay with you.

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  20. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx201.htm
    I’m no bible scholar, but I have myself at times strained at a gnat and accidently swallowed a camel. It was quite painful but I lived and am okay, praise God. Could I add a sixth question to my initial post?
    Junia/Junias, kinfolk of Paul, no doubt about that, it’s plain.
    6. Would we want to establish a bible doctrine on the evidence contained in a single verse, even if it is on shaky ground and could go either way?
    Junias/Junia — This particular individual known to Paul is also mentioned only here in all of the New Testament writings. “The sum of our knowledge consists in what is here said” (Moses E. Lard, A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p. 455). The major debate with regard to this second person mentioned in Rom. 16:7 is over whether this individual is a man or a woman. Scholarship is very much divided on this issue, and the debate has often been extremely heated, primarily because of the implications if this is indeed a female. “As the name occurs in the accusative case, it may be either Junias, a masculine name contracted from Junianus, or Junia, a common feminine name” (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 665). “It is impossible, as this name occurs in the accusative case, to determine whether it is masculine or feminine” (ibid, p. 57). “The name may be masculine, ‘Junias,’ a contraction of Junianus, or feminine, ‘Junia.’ It is the accusative form that is given” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1165).
    I might add, that this commentary has much more to say, but for brevity and to stay on point, the link will take you to the balance, he argues both directions and well, take a look….. bd

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  21. Certainly, Felicity.
    As the father of a daughter and 2 granddaughters, I would much rather stand before God and justify why I opened doors of ministry for half the human race than to justify why I closed them.
    For the life of me I cannot understand why the issue is even an issue, especially in a culture where the church is losing ground all of the time to an ever secularizing culture.
    It makes me wonder what is really behind objections…
    I love what you are doing here.

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  22. I should add that much of what I wrote earlier is from an important essay by Scott Bartchy “Power, Submission, and Sexual Identity Among the Early Christians” in a book called Essays in New Testament Christianity…It’s one of the finest essays I’ve read on the topic.

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  23. Continue to do what ever God has ordained from God. do not worry about what people say or think if you do good people are going to talk if you do bad people is going to talk, but remeber God is your judge not man so therefore it does not matter what people say or think God Bless you.

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