Women of the Early Church
Women in the book of Acts
- Mary and the women in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14)
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
- Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10 NASB)
- Queen Candace of the Ethiopians (Acts 8:27)
also called Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42)
Dorcas was a female disciple (mathe-tria) abounding with deeds of kindness and charity. Peter raised her from the dead.
- Mary, the mother of Mark and sister of Barnabas (Acts 12:12 and Col 4:10)
Mary's home was a common meeting place for the disciples in Jerusalem.
And when he had considered [the thing], he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. - Acts 12:12
a young girl in the house of Mary (Acts 12:13-16)
An angel had rescued Peter from prison. The believers were at Mary's house praying for Peter when he arrived at the gate and Rhoda recognized his voice. No one in the house believed her when she excitedly told them that Peter stood before the gate.
- Lydia, a businesswoman
and Paul's first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14-15, 40)
Lydia was a merchant (seller of purple) from Thyatira in Lydia of Asia, but she maintained residence in Philippi. The Lord opened her heart so that she and her household believed. She was apparently a woman of sizeable financial means because she was able to provide a home to Paul and his companions. She may have been instrumental in introducing the gospel to her home city of Thyatira. There is no record of Paul visiting Thyatira; however the book of Revelations refers to a church in Thyatira (Rev 1:11 and Rev 2:18-24) ergo someone delivered the gospel to Thyatira.
- The girl with a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-18)
- Chief women of Thessalonica believe (Acts 17:4)
- Honorable Greek women of Berea believe (Acts 17:12)
- Damaris, a believer (Acts 17:34)
- Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3, 18-19, 26)
- Phillip's four Daughters (Acts 21:9) (see female prophets)
- Drusilla and Bernice, Herod's daughters (Acts 24:24, Acts 25:13, 23, 26:30)
Female believers greeted by Paul in Romans 16
- Phebe (Romans 16:1-2, subscript at verse 27)
- Priscilla (Rom 16:3-5)
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. - Romans 16:6
Mary was clearly a very common name during the first century. As such, there is no proof that this Mary in Rome is the same as some other Mary in scripture. Nonetheless, this particular Mary is honored by Paul for her much labour in the service of the Gospel.
- Junia, a feminine noun meaning youthful
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. - (Romans 16:7)
It is quite possible that Andronicus and Junia were a married couple and related to Paul.
- Tryphena, a feminine noun meaning luxurious (Rom 16:12)
- Tryphosa , a feminine noun meaning luxuriating (Rom 16:12)
- Persis, a beloved female christian at Rome who laboured much in the Lord (Rom 16:12)
Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. - Romans 16:12
- Rufus' mother
Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. - Romans 16:13
- Julia (Rom 16:15)
- Nereus' sister (Rom 16:15)
Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. - Romans 16:15
Women throughout the Epistles
- Priscilla, also called Prisca (1 Cor 16:19, 2 Tim 4:19)
- Chloe, a feminine name meaning green herb (1 Cor 1:11)
- Nympha (Colossians 4:15)
- Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5, Acts 16:1, 2 Tim 3:15)
- Apphia (Philemon 1:2)
- Euodia & Syntyche, Paul's fellowlabourers (Philippians 4:2-3)
Elect Lady (2
The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; - 2 John 1:1
This is the Apostle John, whom most scholars believe was in his nineties by this time, writing to a notable Christian woman and her children. Some scholars believe this woman to be a metaphor for the church, but there isn't consensus on that or what church this would be referencing.
If this is talking about a particular woman and her children, she is a notable woman whom everyone who loves God loves and respects. -Andrew Wommack's Living Commentary
Priscilla, nicknamed Prisca, was one part of a dynamic first century missionary duo. In fact, Prisca and her husband, Aquila, are mentioned throughout the New Testament and they are never mentioned apart from each other. In Acts 18:18, Romans 16:3, and 2 Timothy 4:19, Priscilla's name is mentioned first. Naming the wife before the husband is a very unusual practice for first century Greek writings and indicates that Priscilla was probably the more prominent of the two.
Priscilla and Aquilla were Jews living in Rome. The Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome, so they came to live in Corinth were they first meet the Apostle Paul. As was the Apostle Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla were tentmakers by trade. They must have developed a great camaraderie with Paul because he lived and worked with them during his 18 month stay in Corinth (Acts 18:11).
They left Corinth with Paul and traveled to Ephesus. Paul left Ephesus for Jerusalem, but Priscilla and Aquilla stayed behind in Ephesus where they soon encounter a Jew named Apollos. Apollos was a powerful speaker who was eloquent and mighty in the scripture, but he only knew the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquilla heard Apollos preach "they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." This suggests that both Aquilla and Priscilla were capable teachers well grounded in the scripture and Christian doctrine.
Paul greets or sends greetings from Priscilla and Aquila in several of his epistles. In Romans 16, Paul is incredibly generous in his praise of Priscilla and Aquila saying that they "laid down their own necks" for him and that "all the churches of the Gentiles" give thanks for them. 1 Corinthians 16:19 shows that Aquila and Priscilla had a church that met in their house.
Biblical references to Priscilla and Aquila
- Acts 18:1-3: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
- Acts 18:18,19: And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.
- Acts 18:26: And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto [them], and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
- Romans 16:3-4: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
- 1 Corinthians 16:19: The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
- 2 Timothy 4:19: Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. - Romans 16:1-2
A "deaconess of the church at Cenchrea," the port of Corinth. She was probably the bearer of Paul's epistle to the Romans. Paul commended her to the Christians at Rome; "for she hath been," says he, "a succourer of many, and of myself also."-Easton's Illustrated Dictionary
The Greek word that was translated "servant" here is the word "diakonos." This came from the root word "diako" meaning "to run errands." It specified an attendant, i.e. a waiter (at table or in other menial duties). "Diakonos" was specifically a Christian teacher and pastor (technically a deacon or deaconess) [W.E. Vine].
This word was used a total of 28 times in the New Testament. It was translated "deacons" three times (Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:8,12), "ministers" six times (1Co 3:5; 2Co 3:6; 2Co 6:4; 2Co 11:15, 23), "minister" fourteen times (Mt 20:26; Mr 10:43; Ro 13:4; Ro 15:8; Ga 2:17; Eph 3:7; Eph 6:21; Col 1:7, 23, 25; Col 4:7; 1Th 3:2; 1Ti 4:6), "servant" four times (Mt 23:11; Mr 9:35; Joh 12:26; Ro 16:1), and "servants" three times (Mt 22:13; John 2:5, 9).
So, it can be said that the dominant use of this word in the New Testament is to specify a minister or deacon. However, out of the six other times this word was translated "servant" or "servants," it was definitely designating a person who performs menial tasks as a slave. Therefore, it can not be stated emphatically from this verse that Phebe was or was not a deaconess or female minister.
History does supply us with information that there were female ministers in the churches of Bithynia (see note 5 at Ac 16:7) as early as A.D. 100. Pliny wrote the emperor Trajan concerning the Christians and reported that he had examined "two old women who were called ministers" (Davis Dictionary of the Bible). -Andrew Wommack's Living Commentary
Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Sapphira is not a woman of the Bible to be admired as a Christian heroine. The ultimate fate of her and her husband makes for a cautionary tale. As such, we can still gleam several insights. Sapphira possessed spiritual autonomy. She was not judged based on her husband's actions, but possessed the free will to make her own conscious decision to tempt the Holy Spirit.