The Old Testament Woman


It might be good to give examples of women mentioned in Scripture who functioned in a variety of ways as called by God.

Some of the women mentioned in the Old Testament are:


Scripture describes her as a prophetess in Exodus 15:20

“Then Miriam the Prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand and all the women followed her with tambourines and dancing.”

Furthermore, she was considered a leader beside her brothers Moses and Aaron in Micah 6:4.

“I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you and Aaron and Miriam.”

Another example is Deborah whose story we can read in Judges 4-5.

She was a Judge over the nation of Israel and a Prophetess as we can read in Judges 4:4

“Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”

Under her guidance the land had peace for forty years.

A further example is Hulda. We read her story in II Kings 22:11-20.

We will read II Kings 22:14a

“Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Hulda….”

She had an established Prophetic ministry which was recognised by the king, the priest and other leading figures in the nation. Her message re-established God’s Covenant with the nation.[1]


Just as God called women under the Old Covenant to function in ways that He had chosen, likewise in the New Testament we have examples of women who were chosen and called by God to fulfil His purpose here on earth. These women did not call themselves to the positions they functioned in. No, they were chosen and called by God as He determined. Furthermore, they were equipped by Him to fulfil their task and because their gifts were recognised by other New Testament believers they were not prevented from fulfilling their calling but were encouraged to be faithful in the things God called them to do.

The New Testament Woman as Co-Worker

Women functioned as Paul’s Co-Workers. We have a list of his Co-Workers in Romans 16: 3-15, some of whom were male Co-Workers and others were female Co-Workers such as Priscilla (Romans 16:3), Mary (Romans 16:6), Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis (Romans 16:12).

Furthermore, Paul mentioned two female Co-Workers and one male Co-Worker in Philippians 4:2-3

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellows, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”

We may not have details of the activities of these men and women but we can be certain that their work would have involved the preaching of the Gospel, very likely at great cost to themselves.

Paul in I Corinthians 16:15-16 told the Church in Corinth how to behave towards those who laboured with him in the Gospel:

“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labours at it.”

Here Paul was saying to the Church in Corinth that he desired for the whole Church, including the leadership of the Church, to submit themselves to those who laboured with him in the Gospel. He did not say that they were to submit themselves to just anybody who passed through. No, he specified the group of people he desired them to submit to: the ones who laboured with him in the Gospel and as we have already seen this group of Co-Workers consisted of both men and women.[1]

The New Testament Woman as Teacher

The New Testament mentions women Teachers, one of whom was Priscilla.

Priscilla and her husband Aquila were tent makers by profession. They were originally from Rome but had gone to Corinth where they met Paul. They later on travelled with Paul to Ephesus where they met Apollos according to Acts 18:24-26

“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.

He began to speak boldly in the synagogue . When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”

From the above passage we learn that both Priscilla and Aquila functioned as Teachers in the Body of Christ. One of their students was a man named Apollos who, no doubt because of Priscilla’s and Aquila’s influence on his life as Teachers, eventually became a Fellow-Worker with Paul.

Interestingly, Priscilla is mentioned before her husband, possibly indicating that she was the more important Teacher of the two.

The New Testament Woman as Prophet

The New Testament mentions women who prophesied [2] as in Acts 21:8-9

“Leaving the next day we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.”

Even though we do not have specific details of the prophecies spoken by these women we can be certain that they would have fulfilled the requirements outlined by Paul in I Corinthians 14:29-31. Therefore, these prophecies would have included instruction as well as encouragement.[3]

The New Testament Woman as Apostle

It is true that Jesus did not include women in his group of Twelve, the “Apostles of the Lamb”. However the New Testament mentions another group of Apostles who had never seen Christ but were involved with the Apostles in pioneering missionary efforts.

Examples are: Barnabas as in Acts 14:14

“But when the Apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowds, shouting.”

Epaphroditus as in Philippians 2:25

“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, Fellow-Worker and Fellow-Soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.”

And a couple named Andronicus and Junia(s). Their names are mentioned in Romans 16:7

“Greet Andronicus and Junia(s), my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.”

These two people functioned as Apostles. Some translators have translated the name “Junia” into “Junias“. However this is not a correct translation for the name should be translated as “Junia” which is a female name.

This means that we know at least one woman who functioned as an Apostle in the Early Church. [4]

The New Testament Woman as Deacon

The New Testament mentions women as deacons as for instance in Romans 16:1-2

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant in the Church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.”

The Greek word used to describe here Phoebe’s function is the word “diakonos” and may be translated as servant, attendant, minister or deacon.

This word has been used many times in the New Testament to describe the ministry of, for instance, Apollos as in I Corinthians 3:5

“What is after all Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task.”

Paul as in Ephesians 3:7

“I became a servant of this Gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power.”

Timothy as in I Thessalonians 3:2

“We sent Timothy who is our brother and Fellow-Worker in spreading the Gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you in your faith.“

Tychicus as in Ephesians 6:21

“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.”

Epaphras as in Colossians 1:7

“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.”

Likewise Phoebe functioned as a female Deacon in her local Church.[5]

Furthermore, Paul praised her for the help she had been to many people, including himself. The word “help” here is the Greek word “prostatis” which means a Patroness, a woman who protects, a woman set over others.

Paul used this term in I Timothy 5:17 when referring to the leading, guiding role of Elders

“The Elders who direct the affairs of the Church are well worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.“

Since he used the same term for Phoebe it would indicate that she too had a leading, a guiding, a protective function in her Church.[6]

The New Testament Woman as Elder

The New Testament may well mention women elders. The Greek word for male Elders is “presbutero”. This word has at times been translated as “older men”.

The female version of this word is “presbuteras” which has usually been translated as “older women” but can be translated as “female Elders”.[7]

One example is Titus 2:1-3

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled and sound in faith, in love and endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live. Not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

Here the text could very easily read:

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Teach the male Elders to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled and sound in faith, in love and endurance.

Likewise, teach the female Elders to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or to be addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

These women were very likely female Elders who functioned as Teachers.

The New Testament Woman as Overseer or Pastor

The New Testament uses the term “Elder”, Overseer” or “Pastor”, “Shepherd” to describe the same function as in I Peter 5:1-2:

”To the Elders among you, I appeal as a Fellow-Elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and who will also share in the glory to be revealed.  Be Shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care as Overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money but eager to serve.”

The term Pastor is not commonly found in the New Testament though we have one example in Ephesians 4:11

“It was He (Christ) who gave some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists and some to be Pastors and Teachers.”

In I Timothy 3:1-2 ,Paul wrote down instructions for Overseers and Deacons. In I Timothy 3:1 he stated:

“Here is a trustworthy saying, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer he desires a noble task.”

The Greek word for “anyone” is “tis” and can be applied to either a male or a female person. Paul thereby implied that men and women could be overseers. [8]

In I Timothy 3:2-7 Paul has given the qualifications for overseers. These qualifications are most likely specifically for male overseers.

In I Timothy 3:8-10 and verse 12 Paul has given the qualifications for deacons. These qualifications were most likely specifically for male deacons.

In I Timothy 3:11 Paul turned his attention to women.[9]

“In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”[10]

Translators have interpreted this verse to deal with wives, marriage partners. We know from the original text that Paul did indeed address women and not men in this verse. Furthermore, the original text indicates that these women were not the marriage partners of the Overseers or Deacons but were women who themselves functioned as Overseers or Deacons.

Therefore, a correct reading of the text is:

“In the same way, women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”

Paul did not specifically mention that these women were to be the wife of one husband. This was because in Paul’s days men were allowed more than one wife at the same time while women were only allowed one husband.

Paul did not mention here either that these women were to manage their household well but he mentioned that in I Timothy 5:14

“So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”

One example of a woman Overseer can be found in II John. John wrote in II John:1

“To the chosen lady and her children…”

The Letter ends with the words in II John:13

“The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.”

It is clear from the contents of this letter that the Apostle John wrote this Letter to a female Overseer who had spiritual children advising her on things she needed to be aware of. He mentioned the children of a chosen sister at the close of the Letter, undoubtedly referring to spiritual children of another female Overseer.[11]

Paul mentioned a number of women in whose homes the church met. This expression very likely indicates that these women were Overseers or Pastors of House Churches.

One example is Nympha as described in Colossians 4:15

“Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and the Church in her house.“

In some Bible translations the name “Nympha” has been translated into “Nymphas” and the words “in her house” have been translated “in his house”. This is not a correct translation for the name should be translated as “Nympha” which is a female name and consequently the Church met “in her house”.[12]

Another example is Chloe as described in I Corinthians 1:11

“My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.” [13]

A third example is Priscilla who together with her husband pastored a church at their home as described in Romans 16:3-5

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my Fellow-Workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the Churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the Church that meets at their house.” [14]


We have abundant evidence that God never called women to be silent. On the contrary, He called them to function as Prophets, as Apostles, as Evangelists, as Pastors, as Teachers, as Deacons or as Elders.

We have seen that men have not always been in agreement with God on this issue. Nevertheless, men and women are called to walk in obedience to His design and to work together according to their God-given gifts. This is to be done in perfect harmony as equals in being and in function for the sake of God’s Kingdom and for His glory.



1. J. Lee Grady. 10 Lies the Church tells women. (Lake Mary, Florida 32746:Charisma House, 2000), p. 37-38.


1. Richard and Catherine Kroeger. Women elders… Called by God? (Louisville, Kentucky 40202-1396:

    The Office of Women’s Advocacy, 2001), p.15.

2. Craig S. Keener. Paul, women & wives. Marriage and women’s ministry in the Letters of Paul. (Peabody,

    Massachusetts 01961-3473: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1992), pp. 243 -246.

3. John Temple Bristow. What Paul really said about women. An Apostle’s liberating views on equality in

    marriage, leadership and love (New York, NJ 10022: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988), p. 58.

4. Craig S. Keener. Paul, women & Wives. Marriage and women’s ministry in the

    Letters of Paul. (Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3473: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1992), pp. 241-242.

5. ibid., pp.238 - 239

6. Charles Trombley. Who said women can’t teach? (South Plainfield, NJ 07080 Bridge Publishing, Inc., 1985),

    pp. 194-195.

7. Richard and Catherine Kroeger. Women Elders….. Called by God? (Louisville, Kentucky 40202-1396: The

    Office of Women’s Advocacy, 2001), pp. 202-22.

8. Charles Trombley. Who said women can’t teach? (South Plainfield, NJ 07080; Bridge Publishing Inc, 1985)


9. ibid., p. 198.

10. Richard and Catherine Kroeger. Women Elders…Called by God? (Louisville, Kentucky 40202-1396: The

     Office of Woman’s Advocacy, 2001), p.16.

11. Charles Trombley, Who said women can’t teach? (South Plainfield, NJ 07080: Bridge Publishing, Inc., 1985),

      pp. 198-199.

12. Dee Alei. From bondage to blessing. The redemption, restoration and release of God’s women. (Tonbridge,

      Kent TN11 0ZS, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 2002), pp 110-111.

13. Charles Trombley, Who said women can’t teach? (South Plainfield, NJ 07080 Bridge Publishing, Inc.,

      1985), p.189.

14. ibid., p. 190.