Women Preachers? Where’s that in the Bible?!

I have three daughters. When they get a little older and start drawing the attention of young men, I will give them this piece of timeless advice: Don’t just listen to what he says; watch what he does. A man may say anything, but his actions will always reveal his heart.

This is good to remember when we come to scriptures regarding women in the Bible. For instance, did Paul really believe that women must not teach and that women should remain silent in church?

Many people think he did, and this has given rise to three lies that are harming the church: Women must remain silent, women can’t teach, and women can’t lead.

What did Jesus think? And what about the other apostles? What were their views on women in ministry?

We can debate the meaning of specific scriptures, and we’ll get to 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 in coming posts. Or we can look at what woman did in the Bible.

Were there women in the Bible who taught, spoke in church, and led men? There were plenty!

  • Who were the first two people to recognize the undeserved favor of God revealed in Christ Jesus and get their words recorded in the Bible (which meant they taught the men who wrote it)? Mary and her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1). Mary became the first preacher of new covenant grace when she declared, “All generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:48-49).
  • Who was the first to proclaim the good news of Christ’s resurrection? Mary Magdalene, and notice that she was sent by Jesus to instruct the men (John 20:17).
  • Who was the first to evangelize a Gentile town? The woman at the well (John 4:28). Which means a woman understood the Great Commission before Peter or any of the apostles.
  • Can women prophesy? Sure, just ask Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, and Philip’s four daughters.
  • Who led the church at Ephesus? Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila. Paul called Priscilla a “fellow worker in Christ” (Rom 16:3). In other words, he considered her his equal, a colleague in Christ. Priscilla also explained the gospel to Apollos (Acts 18:26). So much for women not being able to teach men.
  • Which female apostle did Paul endorse? Junia (Rom 16:7). Paul said she and Andronicus were “outstanding among the apostles.” (Note: Some Bible translators are so bothered by a female apostle that they have turned Junia into Junias and made her a man.)
  • Which two women contended for the gospel at Paul’s side? Euodia and Syntyche (Php 4:2-3). These two ladies are famous for disagreeing; they ought to be famous for preaching alongside Paul.
  • Which women led? Miriam, along with Moses and Aaron, was one of the three leaders of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt (Mic 6:4). Deborah, the prophetess, was a judge of Israel and basically in charge of the army (Judges 5-6). If women could lead under the misogynistic old covenant, they can surely lead under the new, and they did (see Junia, Priscilla, etc.).

If the women listed above had believed the nonsense taught about women in ministry today, none of them would’ve made it into the Bible.

What about Phoebe?

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church… for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. (Rom 16:1-2)

Ah, good ol’ reliable Phoebe. She gives insecure men a comforting picture of women in leadership. “She’s a deacon, nothing more, and if that’s good enough for Phoebe it ought to be good enough for any woman.”

I confess that as a pastor I spoke about Phoebe the helper far more than I spoke of Junia the apostle or Priscilla the pastor. I was comfortable with Phoebe, but Junia worried me (was she really an apostle? was she a he?), and Priscilla-with-the-pants made me uneasy. (Why was her name always listed before her husband’s?)

Thank God I’ve been freed from my insecurities!

Look again at what Paul says of Phoebe. He calls her a helper, but that is a limp translation of his words. It gives us the impression that Phoebe waited on tables or kept the babies quiet while the men preached.

What Paul really said is that Phoebe is a “succourer of many.” The word is derived from prostatis which means a female guardian, protectress, or patroness. Phoebe was literally “a woman set over others.” She was not a waiter but a patron, a leader, a bona fide mother in the church.

(And if you think being a mother is somehow an inferior form of leadership, you haven’t read how Paul described himself in 1 Thessalonians 2:7.)

In the coming articles we will look at the difference between what Paul wrote and what people think Paul wrote about women in the church. But before we consider what Paul said, it is helpful look at what Paul did.

And what Paul did was encourage women to speak and prophesy and lead.

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16 Comments on Women Preachers? Where’s that in the Bible?!

  1. Leonard Lister // March 15, 2019 at 4:11 pm // Reply

    Women never taught from the Word of God but they taught how women should be and act or gave messages from God but never taught. Paul spoke what God gave him not his opinions. Even when the women ministered to Jesus, they were not teaching him anything but serving him.

    • I encourage you to read the above article. It lists several examples from scripture of women preaching, teaching, prophesying, and otherwise proclaiming the good news. There is NOTHING in the new covenant that says women can’t teach and plenty of evidence they did. As for what Paul said on the subject, I encourage you to click the links in the article.

    • Free in Jesus // March 16, 2019 at 4:23 am // Reply

      Even when the women ministered to Jesus they were not teaching him? Umm I don’t think the men were teaching Jesus either. 😳 Not really a valid reason. There are many scriptures where women help authority such as Debra lead in the armies of Israel to victory instead of the king. Some more prophets.

  2. Can a woman be a prophetess? Yes. Can a woman teach? Yes. Can a woman preach? Yes. Can a woman show a man something from the Bible? Yes. Can a woman be a leader over a man or men in church or pastor? NO.

    Are women to be leaders over men? NO. So that is the point. Paul did teach that a man must rule his household and the woman/wife must be in submission to him as final authority. She is not even to question him. She must more than ‘shut up’, she must not speak a single contrary word in the first place. Otherwise she rebukes God himself who is represented by the man. Even when the man is wrong, she must submit in reverence as one that can do no better. She is not to mutter in complaint or manipulate him with feelings. If she thinks she is a woman of God her whole aspect must be one of total submission or she becomes a subtle manipulator and the devil’s weapon.

    Also even in the church she is to be in utter submission to male authority. She is not to be given equal authority. Otherwise that is the evil of feminism. That would be like a man wanting to be able to get pregnant. It’s not her place to rule.

    Just look in the Scripture for the qualifications of leadership in the church. A pastor must be the A MAN with one wife. Why did Paul say that women are to be silent in the churches? Because they are not made to rule. But they are made to help men to rule. 1 Corinthians 14:34…

    • What a perfect description of old covenant misogyny. And leadership! For a grace-based look at Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14, please see this article.

      • dovelike // April 25, 2019 at 5:32 pm //

        Hi Paul, it seems part of my comment is missing where I quote the Scriptures when I posted it…

      • Normally I don’t post long comments quoting scripture, but I made an exception because I think you are new here. I respond to your comment in the article I linked. Cutting long comments into parts is also a surefire way to get comments deleted. Please check out our comment policy. Thanks.

    • Sara Hughes // April 25, 2019 at 10:32 am // Reply

      I’m not sure how your two comments work together. Prophesying, teaching and speaking often have components of ‘telling the truth’ in love and grace that might mean not complete agreement with what a husband or men in the church are doing. Did I misunderstand what you meant by speak, teach and prophesy?
      Deborah told Barak that because of how he was going about leading Israel, the victory would go to a woman. Does that make her a tool of Satan for calling out his reluctance and lack of courage?
      It almost sounds like you don’t want to hear a woman disagree with a man? Am I hearing you right?

      • 1. A woman can speak, teach and prophesy but she is not to govern in any way over the church.
        2. How many Deborah’s are in the Bible? She was used because there was no one else, and people came to her, not that she set herself up as judge or ruler in any way.

    • dovelike, Paul has two more articles on women teaching: 1. Are women permitted to teach? 1 Tim 2:12. 2. Should women be silent in the church? If you type, women, into the search area at the bottom right hand side of this page it will open all relevant articles. They are excellent teachings. Paul, when I clicked on the link you used in reply to dovelike, it said the page was not available. I tried it three times.

      • Oops. I fixed it. Thanks Leanne.

      • dovelike // April 28, 2019 at 7:41 pm //

        Hi Leanne, I already know the truth about this topic on women from the Holy Bible. And not all my answers from the Holy Scripture have been posted. Please note that being not the owner of this site, I am not able to reply fully.

  3. I don’t know…im still confuse about woman preachers.just like my bible have 66 books I did some searching come to find out there’s 73 or 76 books these Books were never added to the bible.??

  4. Felma HUDSON // November 15, 2019 at 5:34 pm // Reply

    John 20:17 Jesus said to Mary ” but go to my brethren And SAY unto them, I ascend unto my Father.
    Jesus didn’t say go and PREACH. There is nowhere in the Bible were a women was a preacher or any Prophets ordained a woman to preach. You should revisit and read Revelation 2:20, 1 Corinthian 15:34-36,

  5. Jenny L Beauchamp // November 16, 2019 at 10:00 am // Reply

    When I speak spiritual things, it is not I but, He who is in me – Christ Himself. Read Galatians 3:26-29 and ask yourself, when a believer gives you a word of prophesy, a word of wisdom, a teaching, a word of wisdom, an exhortation, etc., do you want it to be spiritual? THERE IS NO GENDER IN THE SPIRIT!!! If we can understand that “good” preaching, teaching, prophesy, exhortation is all from Christ Who indwells us (INCLUDING FEMALES IN THE FLESH), then we will not care what the gender of the vessel is, nor the social or financial class of the person, etc. Because we have the same Spirit, we can identify with spiritual anything and everything, regardless of the vessel (yes, even a donkey). Crazy, controlling men are so afraid that they cannot see past their egos…. that controlling spirit is from the pits of hell ! Please be encouraged to get on your knees and ask Jesus to teach you! You are truly missing out! No flesh will glory in His presence! Not male or female! Christ is Other…..He is Holy!

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