Women In Ministry?
What Can We Learn From The Early Church?
It’s no secret that there is a significant debate surrounding the topic of women in ministry and their role in leadership in the church.
Some Complementarians go so far as to say that women should never exercise authority over men and therefore should not even become police officers.
Yep pretty wild.
But rather than jumping into the Complementarian/Egalitarian debate, I want to look at some testimonies from the early church concerning the remarkable impact that women made.
Here are three extraordinary examples of Women in Ministry from the early church.
Marcella – The Judge of Scripture
The early Church Father Jerome, one of the great Doctors of the church, speaks about Marcella in amazingly glowing terms.
And because my name was then especially steamed in the study of the Scriptures, she never came without asking something about scripture, nor did she immediately except my explanation is satisfactory, but she proposed questions from the opposite viewpoint, Not for the sake of being contentious, but so that by asking, she might learn solutions for points she perceived could be raised in objection. What virtue I found in her what cleverness, what holiness, purity… I will say only this, that whatever in us was gathered by a long study and by lengthy meditation was almost changed into nature; this she tasted, this she learned, this she possessed. Thus after my departure, if an argument arose about some evidence from Scripture, the question was pursued with her as the judge.
Paula of Rome – Left her wealth behind to build monasteries and translates the Bible into Latin for Jerome.
After her death, Jerome writes concerning Paula:
.. from the time of my youth, I have learned the Hebrew language to some extent, through much effort and sweat, and I study it indefatigably so that if I do not forsake it, it will not forsake me. When Paula wanted to learn it, she pursued the project to the point that she chanted the Psalms in Hebrew, and her diction echo no trace of the distinctive character of the Latin language.
Macrina – The teacher of Bishops and Theologians
Basil the Great accredits his grandmother as being his teacher of faith and theology.
The teaching about God that I received as a boy from my Blessed mother and my grandmother Macrina, I have ever held with increasing conviction. On my coming to the mature years of reason, I did not shift my opinions from one to another, but carried out the principles handed on to me by my parents. Just as the seed when it grows it’s tiny at first and then grows bigger but always preserves its identity, not changed and kind of gradually perfected in growth, so I consider that the same doctor and has in my case growing through a development. What I hold now has not replaced what I held at the beginning.
These three women are just a small sampling of the remarkable women who made significant contributions to the early church
Women in ministry is a modern category
In this post, I drew the quotes from Christopher Hall’s excellent book Reading Scripture with The Church Fathers. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, click the link. (This is an affiliate link)
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