Questions, Insights, & Responses

shared from and with users

#30 - Were women really "irrelevant" in the early Christian church?

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #30: "If women are to be priests, it must be the Will of God. Why now? Women were irrelevant in antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, after Trent, after Vatican I. There is nothing in the teachings of the [Apostolic] Fathers to warrant such a change in the life of the Church."

Response #30: We really need to wake up and look more closely at the period even earlier than "the teachings of the [Apostolic] Fathers." We need to keep in mind that Paul publicly recognized women as fellow apostles, as preaching deacons (not just deaconesses), and as church presidents. See for more details.

We also need to get past the belief that Paul actually wrote or even agreed that, "As in all the churches of God's people, the women should keep quiet in the meetings. They are not allowed to speak; as the Jewish Law says, they must not be in charge. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is a disgraceful thing for a woman to speak in a church meeting." This is not the Paul of history! There is a very strong case to be made that this was added to Paul's genuine letter at least 50 years after Paul's martyrdom. See for more details.

In [the Ordination of Women forum], there seems to be almost endless theologizing, which is fine in itself. But an honest, meaningful discussion needs to be measured against the historical facts. Unfortunately much of the debate has avoided -- or at least keeps drifting away from -- the real historical facts. Let's cut to the chase: Regardless of what later Christian's wrote about it, the facts are in the New Testament writings that women played very active roles in the early church of Paul's day. (Again, see for more details.)

Happy Thanksgiving -- every day! Regardless of our differences, we all can be very grateful to God for each and every one of us. We may not know how to speak/write to each other as we should or even pray to God as we should, but thanks and praise to God, that:

[See also:]

  1., which includes a response to the following question: "The Scriptures were accepted as the inspired Word of God at a pretty early date. To argue that a portion of the text was inserted later undermines the reliability of Scripture. Don't get me wrong, I am a dedicated supporter of OW [Ordination of Women], but this line of argument is going to convince very few."
  2., which includes a response to the following question: "Should it be considered heresy today to reexamine decisions, practices, and traditions that were established by church leaders in the very early centuries -- decisions, practices, and traditions that have disallowed the full participation of women in church?" The response explores how even the venerable Peter needed to be corrected at times, both before and after Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer