Thrust Statement: Both men and women are to give testimony to the Mystery of God’s administration of grace.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23-24

Mystery of His Will

            Has God limited the proclamation of His mystery to the male species? The Christian community, as a whole, limits the participation of women in the Christian community. Did God intend that both men and women take part in the sharing of the mystery that had been hidden from ages past? The mystery, as defined by Paul, is Christ in us, the hope of glory. One cannot help but wonder why God would decrease His work force by at least fifty percent in the proclamation of the Good News. In view of the fact that this study is about the role women are to play in the Great Commission, which is the sharing of the “Mystery” of God, which is Christ,  one should briefly reread Ephesians 1:9 concerning the “mystery of His will” in which He will “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:10). In essence, one can say that the “mystery of His will” is that the Gospel (justification through faith in His Son) is available to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. In Jesus, God revealed that His love, His concern, His grace, and His mercy were for all humanity, not just Jews. Prior to the coming of Jesus, humanity lived in a divided world. A part of the “mystery of His will” centered on demolishing the wall of hostility that separated Jew from Gentile. Jesus came into the world to wipe out division between the Jew and the Gentile (2:11-22) through His own body upon the Tree (2:16).

The prepositional phrase “in Christ” captures the very core of unity. “In Christ” occurs eighty-six times in the Pauline epistles. Paul, fourteen times in the Book of Ephesians, uses this phrase to capture the foundation of this phenomenon of unity created by God.[1] This phrase is a dynamic unity of celestial (heavenly) and terrestrial (earthly) dimensions. Paul expresses this truth with great clarity:

And he b made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). [2]

            If one understands the “mystery of God’s administration of grace,” this awareness should assist one in seeking to bring about unity within the Christian community, a community that is shattered into many sectarian camps. A consciousness of the mystery of salvation puts everyone on equal footing—Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  The heart of this unity is that there is “one body” (2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 4:25). Since there is only “one body,” one can say that this truth (“one body”) is the means whereby Christ brings unity to all the warring factions (various divisions) within the Christian community; this “one body” brings unity to all the various races (every nation); this “one body” also establishes equality between men and women. Paul grabs hold of these various issues as he seeks unity among the hostile forces at work to disrupt the plan of God for the salvation of all peoples. Listen to Paul as he writes to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

A proper concept of the phrase “in Christ” should bring about harmony among God’s people. Christians are alienated into countless argumentative cliques over dogma; many Christians are not speaking to one another over the race issue—blacks and whites; Christians are at odds over the role of women in the Christian community.  Christians are on bad terms over the proper procedure concerning the so-called five acts of worship to be performed on Sunday morning during a so-called worship service. Since the Jew and Gentile as well as the slave and free are no longer problems for the church, perhaps, a few comments are in order to set the stage for the dismantling of other long-held tradition concerning the role of women in ministry and the dismantling of another long-held traditions about each distinctive group within the Churches of Christ as embodying the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Many Christians still fight like cats-and-dogs over the least infraction of their cherished beliefs, which destroys the unity of the “one body” for which our Lord prayed (John 17).

As one reflects upon the mystery of salvation (a salvation provided by God), one is immediately confronted with the role that women play within the Christian community created by God. Is she or is she not to preach the Gospel? Can she give testimony to the world concerning the coming of Jesus into the world as Savior? Can she give her testimony about salvation in the assembly? Can she teach in the presence of men? These are questions that this study will briefly address. Since this study is about the role women plan in the scheme of redemption, it is appropriate to discuss who can proclaim the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:17). Is the Great Commission limited to the Eleven in Mark, Luke, and John? Or does the Great Commission include all the disciples of Jesus—both men and women?

The Role of Women and Church Division

One of the most controversial issues within the Christian community is the proper role of women within the Christian gatherings—to speak or not to speak in the assembly. Many Christians still cite 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 without consulting the context of these two famous passages.[3] The traditional view contradicts other clear passages. Since the Word of God does not contradict itself, then one must seek to understand the two controversial texts, as cited above, in light of their context. Whatever these passages are teaching, one knows that the traditional interpretation is not correct. The Kroegers correctly point out: “It is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture to find the current meaning. We must consider all that the Bible has to say about the activities of women committed to God’s will.”[4] Many cite these two pericopes without reference to the context.[5] The role of women in the church has driven a wedge into the body of Christ. Do Christians have a right to keep alive the denunciation of women in ministry in the same way that the church employed the Scriptures to justify slavery in the nineteenth century?

In the first century church, Christians maintained diversified viewpoints. Yet, their differences were not to divide the body of Christ. Whether one employs the expression churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) or the expression churches of the Gentiles (16:4), as found in Romans 16, still there is just “one body” (Ephesians 4:4).[6] There was not “one body” for the meat eaters and “another body” for the non-meat eaters (Romans 14:1-4).[7] There was not “one body” for the Sabbath keepers and “another body” for the non-Sabbath keepers (14:5-8).  There was not “one body” for the blacks and “another body” for the whites (Revelation 7:9-10). There was not “one body” for the Jews and “another body” for the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-18). There was not “one body” for the males and “another body” for the females (Galatians 3:26-29). The prophet Joel (835 BC) wrote about the Messianic Age in which he stated that God’s Spirit would be poured out on “all people,” which includes females as well as males:

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28-29).

            “Both men and women” were active in the ministry of Jesus as well as in the ministry of the apostles. In spite of what Joel wrote, still many churches will not allow women to speak in their assemblies or pray in their assemblies or request songs in their assemblies. In fact, some Christians will not allow women to give thanks for food in the presence of men, even in the home. Also, some advance the notion that women should not conduct private Bible studies on the off chance a man might drop in. Recently, I read two essays in which the writers (both males) took the position that women could not write about Christianity and place their essays on the Internet.[8] Why? According to these two preachers, the writer (female) of the essay would violate 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.[9] Yet, in chapter eleven of First Corinthians, Paul spoke of women praying and prophesying in the assembly (11:5). Whatever 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is saying, it cannot contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5.[10] Luke begins his Book of Acts with the apostles as well as the women praying together, along with the brothers of Jesus. Luke writes:

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk  a from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:12-14).

            Yes, even in the presence of the apostles and the brothers of Jesus, one discovers that the women—even the mother of Jesus—were praying.  Also, Luke records that Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (21:9). Where did they prophesy? Did they prophecy out in the cornfield to a bunch of corn stalks? Or did they prophesy to both men and women? Earlier, in his history of the Christian movement, Luke mentions the wife (Priscilla) of Aquila who participated in teaching Apollos “the way of God more adequately (28:26).[11] Priscilla is also listed in the “hall of fame” in Romans 16 (verse 3)—eleven women are named in this chapter. Of the four names associated with the church of Philippi, three were women—Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3) and Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) and one a man (Clement—Philippians 4:3). Euodia and Syntyche contended (labored) with Paul at his side “in the Gospel” (4:3). Even at Thyatira (one of the seven churches of Asia Minor), the church had a woman teaching (Revelation 2:18-29). Listen to what Jesus said about this woman who calls herself a prophetess:

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) (2:20-24).

            God did not condemn her (Jezebel) for teaching, but rather, He condemned her for what she was teaching—“sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (2:20). Jezebel was teaching Gnostic philosophy. She had in essence become a Gnostic leader. Once more, God gave “her time to repent of her immorality, but she was unwilling.” If it had been wrong for her to teach, one wonders why God did not say something about that. This testimony is also inferred evidence that women did take a public role in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, otherwise she would not have been accepted as a public figure within the Christian community.

In the bestowal of the Spirit upon the Church, there was no distinction of sex. Acts 2:1-4 seems to include the women mentioned in Acts 1:12-14. If so, this accounts for Peter’s citation of Joel 2 in order to give validity to the unusual circumstances on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). The women disciples of Jesus had prepared the way for what happened on the Day of Pentecost. The right and duty of women to co-operate with men in carrying out the Great Commission cannot be questioned. All Christians are ministers of God. All believers, according to Paul, are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17—6:2). If the traditional view concerning women is correct, one wonders why God would disenfranchise approximately three fourth, or at least one half, of His disciples from proclaiming the Good News about God’s Way of salvation “in” and “through” Jesus. Since all Christians are to rejoice in the how of salvation, it is appropriate to briefly discuss those who have been disenfranchised from telling the how of salvation in any public manner, especially to men. This brief detour of the how and why of salvation focuses on an examination of Luke 24 to illustrate that the women were told to be witnesses as well as the men concerning the how of salvation.

Women Included in the Great Commission

Luke 24

            Acts 1 and 2 are a continuation of Luke 24. If one wishes to understand chapters one and two of Acts, one needs to reread carefully Luke 24. Just a casual reading reveals that the women were included in the “you are witnesses of these things” (24:48). On the morning of the resurrection, Luke informs Theophilus (see Acts 1:1) that the “women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb (Luke 24:1). Upon their arrival, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away (24:2). While wondering about this event, Luke says, “In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground” (24:5). Two men stood by these women in clothing that “gleamed like lightning” (24:4). These two individuals reminded these women that Jesus had foretold this event about the resurrection to them while He was in Galilee (24:6-8).

Luke gives the names of some of these women, but not all: “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles” (24:10). After talking with the two men, they returned to the city to tell the “Eleven” and “all the others” (24:9) that Jesus was raised. Luke reports to Theophilus that after the women met with the apostles, and the others, that on the same day, two of those present left and headed for a “village called Emmaus,” about seven miles from Jerusalem (24:13). Luke informs Theophilus that Jesus suddenly appeared to these two men as they were discussing the events that had just transpired in Jerusalem about the crucifixion (24:13-32). During the course of the conversation, these two disciples related to the stranger (Jesus) what had been reported to them by the women who had gone earlier to the tomb (24:22-24).

Following this encounter with Jesus, Luke reports: “They got up and returned once more to Jerusalem. For a second time, one observes the gathering of possibly the one hundred and twenty mentioned in Acts 1.There they found the Eleven and those with them assembled together” (24:33), which included the women. Yet again, Jesus appears in their presence (24:36) as he had previously appeared before the women at the resurrection and the two men with whom Jesus had talked with on the way to Emmaus. Just as Jesus had earlier unfolded the Scriptures to these men, Jesus again, unfolds the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning His sufferings and death and resurrection (24:45-47). After this revelation of the Messianic prophecies concerning Himself, He says to the Eleven and to the others, “You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (24:48-49).

This promise—outpouring of the Holy Spirit—is generally limited to the Twelve on the Day of Pentecost. But this promise was to be poured out on both men and women, not just the apostles. According to Joel, the promise of the Father was to be poured out on both men and women. Luke corroborates the fulfillment of Joel’s Messianic prophecy (Acts 2).  Individuals who wish to reach certain doctrinal conclusions by assimilating their presuppositions and their attitudes toward women sterilize this truth—both men and women were present and were to receive the Holy Spirit (Joel 2). Proper biblical hermeneutics demand that every interpreter look at the context. One’s failure to appreciate the context will lead one to give undue acquiescence to an excessively biased point of view. According to the context of Luke 24, the women were also present among those in attendance with the Eleven. The context of Luke 24 reveals that the women, along with the men, were to be “witnesses of these things” and “clothed with power upon high” (24:48-49). The Great Commission was not/is not limited to the male species.

One Hundred and Twenty: Men and Women

Acts One

One should read the first two chapters of Acts in conjunction with the last chapter of Luke in order to follow the continuity of Luke’s comments in Acts 1 and 2. Luke 24 concludes his Gospel with two outstanding statements—(1) “witness of these things” and (2) “clothed with power upon high.” Just a casual reading of the Gospel accounts reveals a revolutionary doctrine of liberation for women—a liberation from degradation and inferiority. As stated above, in Acts 1, Luke records the presence of the Eleven in an upper room, along with “the women and Mary the mother of Jesus,” which also included the brothers of Jesus (1:12-14). This number totaled one hundred and twenty (1:15). The significant fact is, as stated above, that the women prayed alongside of the apostles and the others: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (1:14).  This Scripture runs contrary to the practice of many Christians today. Not only did the women pray in this gathering of the one hundred and twenty, but they also took part in casting lots in the choosing of Mathias (1:22-26). There is no indication, from the context, that this selection process (casting lots) was limited only to the men.

Yet again, some repetition is necessary for one to follow the logical sequence of events in order to show conclusively that the women were present in the events that transpired following the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:36-49). Hopefully, repetition may be pardoned here, for the minds of many Christians are so leavened by the traditions of the church Fathers that vital truths are difficult to see. Since truth is so often the projection of the particular views of the powerful, it is necessary to go back to the Scriptures and reread with freshness.  In other words, the traditions of the church make it difficult, if not impossible, to read the Bible afresh.

Once more, one cannot read this unit of Scripture (23:47-49) without a consciousness of two things: (1) the witnesses included women, and (2) the women who followed Jesus from Galilee were witnesses. Pay attention to Luke, as cited above, as he writes: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it” (23:55). The phrase “from Galilee” flashes like neon lights along side the mention of “women.” Why? Were they to witness concerning Jesus? As Luke continues his scenario, he sets forth the prominence of the women’s role following the resurrection. Remember, following the burial of Jesus, the women took spices to the tomb (24:1).

They found the stone rolled away and entered the tomb (24:2). Whereupon, they were frightened, and Luke says, “the women bowed down” (24:5). The two men questioned them about why they were looking for the living among the dead (24:5). Again, one observes the use of the word Galilee in the course of the conversation by the two men: “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee” (24:6). It was not just the apostles that Jesus told about His impending death while in Galilee—women were included. The expressions from Galilee and in Galilee are important in trying to ascertain whether or not women were included in the command to witness to others about the how of salvation.

            Can one in his or her wildest imagination edit out the women from “those with them”? The women play a major role in this section of Scripture (see also Acts 1:12-15). Jesus appears to His disciples. Should one limit the word disciple only to the male species? Surely not! There is no evidence to uphold that the word disciple refers only to males. Suddenly Jesus stood among them (both men and women). Still there was unbelief on the part of the disciples. He told them to look at His hands and His feet in order to prove that He was not a ghost, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones (24:37-41). After that, He opened their minds so they could understand what the prophets had earlier spoken of (24:47). He then informed those present (both men and women) that they were to be “witnesses of all these things” (24:48). At that time, Jesus let them know that He would send the promise of His Father upon each of them (24:40). But they were instructed to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed with this power from on high (24:49). Did the Eleven and the other disciples, which included women, understand that they were all to wait in Jerusalem for this outpouring of God’s Spirit upon both men and women? Yes! As stated above, the first chapter of Acts reveals that there were one hundred and twenty who were gathered in Jerusalem waiting for the events to transpire (Acts 1:15). 

Once more, if the women were not included, one wonders why Peter did not say so. In fact, he cited the prophet Joel to show that Joel had previously foretold the phenomenon that they were now witnessing:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men (ou|toi Joutoi) are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “17 ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ a ” (Joel 2:14-21).

 In Acts 2:1, Luke writes: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”  On the Day of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit is generally limited to the Twelve among many interpreters of the Word, but, according to Peter, the outpouring of the Spirit was upon the one hundred and twenty:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues a as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).

Women Who Followed Jesus From Galilee

Acts 13:31

            In just a casual reading of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, one does not, under normal circumstances, catch a glimpse of the importance of this phrase in analyzing the role of women in the proclamation of God’s Good News. The phrase “from Galilee” plays a significant role in one’s interpretation of the role of women in Christian ministry. For example, an angel of God uses this phrase “in Galilee” in calling attention to their (the women) travels with Jesus (Luke 24:6). Another example is found in the Book of Mark. As Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth, Mark gives an insightful note concerning the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee. Luke specifically mentions three women at the crucifixion by name, but he does not stop there. He also says that in addition to these three there were “many other women.” What is significant about all of this is what Mark says about where these women came from:  

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there (Mark 15:40-41).

Once more, the geographical name “Galilee” plays a major role in understanding the role of women in Christian ministry. Matthew, too, gives information about these women who came from Galilee:

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Matthew 27:55-56).

Again, this information about women following Jesus from Galilee is extremely important. Not only did Mark and Matthew call attention to this devotion among the women, but Luke also details this same information. Listen to Luke as he writes: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it” (Luke 23:55). In the reading of Mark and Matthew, one name stands out in BOLD—Mary Magdalene. Following Luke’s statement about the women from Galilee, he then proceeds to list the names of some of these women:

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense (24:9-11).

            This information from Mark, Matthew, and Luke, along with the full context, leads one to realize that the Great Commission was not given only to the Eleven, but to all those present—both men and women. If one wishes to understand the ones to whom this commission was given, one must read and reread the entire context for contextual understanding. An understanding of the full text sheds light on the role women were/are to play in the proclamation of God’s Good News to a lost and dying world. The women who discovered the empty tomb returned to tell the apostles what had transpired (Luke 24:9). Yet, the apostle refused to believe, as Luke says, “nonsense” (24:11).

Once more, repetition is necessary in order to drive home the point that women did share in ministry in the early church and to keep continuity in the analysis of Luke 24 with reference to the women’s presence with the apostles and others. On this same day, Luke records two of His disciples on the road going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem (24:13).[12] On this road, Jesus suddenly appeared to these two men and struck up a conversation. In the course of the conversation, these men related what the women had said about the empty tomb and that Jesus was alive (24:22-24). It was then that Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith (24:25). Jesus then explained to them what the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms had said about Him (24:27).

            After Jesus went to their home and broke bread and gave to them, Luke says that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus (24:30-31). As one seeks to unravel the part that the women played in this part of God’s announcement of the resurrected Christ, one should always be conscious that this background is necessary in order to follow the logical sequence of what is about to follow. Following this episode with Jesus, Luke writes: “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together” (24:33).  They found not only “the Eleven,” but also “those with them.” These two men related their stories, and while they were speaking, the Lord Jesus “stood among them” (24:36). He showed them his hands and His feet (24:39). A conversation erupted between Jesus and His disciples; it was at this point that Luke writes:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (24:45-49).

Both men and women were present! Jesus informed His disciples—both men and women—that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all nations. Jesus did not limit this commission just to the male species, but rather he issued this statement to all the disciples present—“You are witnesses” (24:33). Also, in verse 48, Jesus says, “You are witnesses of these things.” All the disciples—both men and women—were to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promise from on high. Luke gives the fulfillment of this “promise from on high” in Acts 2.

            While they were assembled, the one hundred and twenty cast lots for the selection of one to take the place of Judas (1:23-26). Luke writes: “Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. The very next verse reads: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place” (2:1). On this occasion Luke reports:

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues a as the Spirit enabled them (2:2-4).

As stated above, sometimes repetition is necessary in order to uproot long-held traditions. There are three laws of learning that everyone should commit to memory: REPETITION, REPETITION, and REPETITION. If this event did not occur upon both men and women (one hundred and twenty), one still wonders why Peter cited the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:14-21) about “your sons and daughters will prophesy. . . . Even on my servants, both men and women” (2:17, 18). If the women were totally silent on the Day of Pentecost, why did Peter cite this prophecy about women?

Daughters and women stand out in this prophecy. Why did he stress “both men and women”?  One’s awareness of this prophecy calls to mind the words of Paul as he preached Jesus in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-52).  What is remarkable about this pericope is found in his discourse about the witnesses (13:31). After relating to his hearers about Jesus’ crucifixion and entombment and resurrection, Paul says: “And for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people” (13:31).

According to Paul, whoever traveled with Jesus from Galilee are “now” witnesses of these events. Did women travel with Jesus “from Galilee”? As noted above, Mark, as he concludes his Gospel, calls attention to many women who had traveled with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem (Mark 15:40-41); Matthew also beckons notice to several women who traveled with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 27-55-56); Luke, too, summons awareness to women who had traveled with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem (Luke 23:55). Earlier, Luke records the number of several women by name who traveled with Jesus “from one town and village to another” (8:1-3).

Did Paul exclude the women as witnesses in Acts 13:31? If so, there is nothing in the context to indicate that God disenfranchised the women from witnessing concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Were the women witnesses of the resurrection? Did Jesus refer to women as witnesses when the disciples were gathered together after the resurrection (see Luke 24)? Did Jesus promise His Spirit upon both men and women in the Great commission (see Luke 24)? Again, two things stand out in Acts 13:31—“Those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem” and “They are now witnesses to our people.” Earlier, Luke, in the conclusion of his Gospel, speaks of the women as witnesses of the crucifixion and their having followed Jesus from Galilee:

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things (Luke 23:47-49).



[1] Ephesians 1:1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13; 3:6, 11, 21; 4:32

[2]All Scripture citations are from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), unless stated otherwise.

[3] For a thorough investigation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, see Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992); also see Sharon Hodgin Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and The Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Light of The Religious and Cultural Milieu of The First Century (New York: University Press of America, 1991).

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Since this essay is not designed to analyze the role of women in the church, this paper will only call attention to the more positive elements that many Christians overlook. In a forthcoming essay, I will do an analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in order to assist Christians in a proper understanding of these two most controversial texts.

[6] The expression churches of Christ is no more the name of the church than the expression churches of the Gentiles.

[7] Even though some of the Christians were right and others were wrong, still this misunderstanding was not sufficient to disrupt the unity of the body of Christ.

[8] Greg Gay, “The Internet – 4,” Old Paths Advocate 74, no. 1 (January 2000): 3-5.  Greg writes:

 

Is a woman posting a message on a web page publicly speaking? The posting of messages on a site for the purpose of discussing the meaning of scriptures (sic) results in the blurring of men and women’s roles in teaching. Each media must be carefully examined so we do not violate Biblical principles. A woman posting an opinion about a passage of scripture (sic) on a web site that any and all can access appears to be doing public speaking to me” (pp. 4, 5).

 

[9]   See also Alan Bonifay, WWW.Parents/Leaders Beware, Old Paths Advocate 74, no 4 (April 2000): 3-5, where he warns about private Bible studies and women posting essays on the Internet. He writes:

 

Just how many people that might entail is open to some discussion but it is certainly less than fifty – in fact, it is probably considerably less than twenty. What that means is that when wives and daughters contribute comments to a web page forum potentially open to hundreds, if not thousands, of contributors from all over the world they are violating 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (p. 4).

 

[10] Look for a forthcoming essay in which I will deal with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in context as well as 1 Timothy 2:9-15. The traditional interpretations of these two Scripture citations contradict clear passages that allow women to participate in Christian ministry, even in the assembly. It appears, so it seems to me, that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 relates to what the Judaizers were saying, not Paul. I could not find one statement in the Old Testament where women were told to keep silent or could not take a position of leadership. The “law” relates to the traditions of the Jews, not to the Old Testament Scriptures. Also, one must interpret 1 Timothy in its context along with 2 Timothy and Titus if one expects to understand what Paul had reference to.

a That is, about 3 | 4 mile (about 1,100 meters)

[11] Priscilla is mentioned, along with her husband, seven times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2, 18, 19, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 4:19). Out of the seven listings, Priscilla’s name occurs first in five of the seven listings.

            a Joel 2:28-32

 a Or languages; also in verse 11

[12] Some repetition is necessary in order to keep continuity in the development of the role women played in the proclamation of the Good News.

 a Or languages; also in verse 11