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She laughed when told that she would bear a son, but that same laugh turned into amazement and triumph when Isaac was born.

The Roles for Women

For I have borne him a son in his old age. God said so and it happened. This is the power of God. Sarah also demonstrated faith and obedience while believing God's promises. She left her comfortable and familiar surroundings to launch her journey with God. Sarah became a mother of nations and kings came from her. The five daughters of Zelophehad — Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah — came to Moses with a concern over how the Promised Land was to be divided in relation to their family.

Referenced in the Book of Numbers, these young women stood fearless and firm and as result reformed the culture of their day. Because they spoke up they reversed precedent and claimed possession of their father's inheritance. Du rot the ruling regarding the daughters of Zelophehad, women were included in the list of eligible heirs of property. Yet, God moves so mightily in her story and uses it to encourage millions.

At the beginning of the book, Ruth is living in her home in Moab; a place and people that the Israelites frowned upon. On top of that, she had lost her husband and was living with her widowed mother-in-law. She also lost her husband without a child, some believing she may have been barren.

Ruth showed remarkable faith for such a young believer. She had the faith to believe that God was who He said He was and faith to believe that God would provide for her and Naomi. Her bravery, faith and obedience can encourage us to be better followers of Christ. Ruth was able to overcome her past by giving her life over to the living God. By turning from her idolatrous way of life she was able to be used mightily of the Lord as the great grandmother of King David.

Priscilla ministered the Gospel together with her husband Aquila. The Bible describes her as an effective mentor, when she and her husband take Apollos aside and explain to him the way of God more accurately. The two were a Spirit-filled couple with a godly marriage that resulted in a powerful ministry of the Lord. Paul mentions to the church in Rome that the couple risked their lives for him.


The two welcomed Paul into their hearts and home, to live with them and work with them, making tents. Paul established them in the doctrines of the faith, and they in turn, taught others such as Apollos. Priscilla is never mentioned apart from her husband.

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While they were equal as persons according to their marriage, their functions were different. In marriage, they were one. Mary Magdalene was delivered from a life of demonic oppression and experienced the resurrected power of Christ. As a result she was one of the first to announce the risen Christ. Many popular depictions of Mary Magdalene don't do her story justice or speak her truth as a true disciple of Christ. Though she has been reinterpreted over and over again, she remains a potent and mysterious figure. When Mary and the other women, along with the twelve joined Jesus, they were taking a serious risk.

Jesus was spurred into action after the arrest of John the Baptist. Much of John the Baptist's ministry took place on the east bank of the Jordan in Herod's territory of Parea. When John was imprisoned, Jesus took up his ministry in Herod's territory of Galilee which was viewed by Herod, not only as a challenge but also a threat. Despite the risk, Mary Magdalene was committed to Jesus' ministry.

Hannah is one of the most inspiring women in the Bible and also one of the most identifiable women in Scripture for a number of reasons. We recognize her for her sorrow. She wanted a child so badly but was barren. She prayed to God that she would be granted a son and in turn, promised to dedicate his life to the service of God.

She left her son to be raised in the Temple, while still staying connected to him, providing counsel and wisdom to him throughout his life. She is also recognized in the Bible for her sacrifice. Her son later grew up to be one of the most influential and Godly figures in the Bible. One of the most inspiring things about Hannah is the fact that she never gave up hope that God would hear her prayer. Hannah's fervent prayer and vow teaches us that consistent faithfulness and persistent prayer get God's attention. She believed God for a son and He multiplied her faith by giving her many children.

Jesus loved women and treated them with great respect and dignity. This can be seen throughout the New Testament.

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  • For example, Jewish women were barred from public speaking. The oral law prohibited women from reading the Torah out loud. Synagogue worship was segregated, with women never allowed to be heard. And imagine how stunned this woman was that the Messiah was trying to reach out to her and offer her living water for her thirst soul. The woman at the well became one of the first mass evangelists for Jesus Christ.

    She was able to confront her past truthfully and transform into a motivating mouthpiece for the Lord. The quintessential worshiper and intimate follower of Christ, Mary of Bethany is described in the Bible as "seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word" Luke Mary was the sister of Martha, and her brother was Lazarus from whom Jesus raised from the dead. We see Mary three different times in the Bible, beginning with the incident in her home of her sister, Martha referenced in Luke , where Jesus, and presumably the disciples who traveled with Him, were being entertained.

    This is probably her most recognized feature. Jesus further said that choosing the better thing, learning of the Lord, would not be taken away from Mary. Her priority in life was Christ, the knowledge of Him, and the nearness to Him has chosen what will last through eternity. Esther is an inspiring story about a remarkable woman who was willing to risk her life to save her people.

    She was a woman of principle who was willing to put the lives of others ahead of even her own life. She was an outstanding example of serving others even under the most stressful circumstances. Most of the time our lives may be pretty routine, but all of us have a few defining moments when we may be called on to put godly principle above personal benefit.


    He can never divo rce her as long as he lives. Widows are to be married to their husband's brother. If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, the widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

    Menstruating women were viewed as unclean and must avoid physical contact. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.

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    Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. However, the Bible also permitted the buying of slaves. Male slaves go free after six years, female slaves do not. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. There are many examples of women in the Old Testament who are victims of violence and who are not in control of their own fate.

    However, such a process of 'reading between the lines' is problematic as it is very easy to read too much into the text. Christians today may be tempted to see their own values reflected in Jesus' action. One of the things you need to do when you study feminist hermeneutics is to consider to what extent you think that the different interpretations of the text are justified.

    The gospels describe Jesus' life and ministry. However, they were actually written later than some of the other material in the New Testament i. This means that although they reflect Jesus' own teaching they may also have been shaped by the later Christian views. Some feminists like Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Elaine Pagels believe that women like Mary Magdalene may have been marginalised by the authors and may actually have played a more significant role in Jesus' ministry.

    These theologians argue that the gospels - as they stand - hint at Jesus' egalitarian of women, but they do not fully reflect the more radical elements of it. Healing of the crippled woman Luke here. Jesus healed women as well as men so at the very least, we can say that he did show compassion to them. He healed a woman who had been unable to stand up straight for eighteen years and in doing so prompted a discussion about whether or not he should heal people on the Sabbath. He also healed the haemorrhaging woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. This is perhaps a bit more significant because according to Jewish law Leviticus 15 she would have been ritually unclean and she would have been barred from touching another people or even going out in society.

    By touching him she would have made him ritually unclean. Consequently, healing her involved more of a challenge to the social laws affecting woman than other forms of healing might. Luke recounts that she came forward 'she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him '. Jesus responded with compassion and said ' daughter your faith has made you well, go in peace.

    Woman caught in adultery John here. Another example of Jesus treating women in a positive way was his forgiveness of the adulterous woman who - according to Jewish law - should have been stoned for adultery as should the man she committed adultery with, but apparently only the woman was brought before Jesus. He forgave her and showed compassion. Again, this could be compared to the compassion he showed for men for their sins such as his forgiveness of Zacchaeus the tax collector. According to Deuteronomy, a man could divorce his wife if he 'if he found some indecency in her'.

    The only time a man could not divorce his wife was if he had raped her and been forced to marry her as 'soiled goods' she would have had no value for anyone else or if he had wrongly accused her of not being a virgin when they married. Women, could not divorce their husbands. In Matthew's gospel Jesus said that a man could only divorce his wife if she were guilty of sexual immorality. This could be said to offer a degree of protection for women. They could only be divorced if they were at fault, not at the whim of the man. However, Jesus did not go as far as permitting a woman to divorce her husband.

    Another story which implies that perhaps Jesus did have a more radical attitude towards women is found in the story of his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. There are several interesting elements to the story:. Tell her then to help me. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her. More interesting, and probably more significant, is Jesus' friendship with Mary and Martha sisters of Lazarus who Jesus' raised from the dead.

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    The story in which Jesus said that Mary has 'chosen the better part' for sitting at his feet and listening to his teaching rather than helping her sister with the domestic tasks has been taken as evidence for his support of women who rebel against the conventional expectations about women's roles. It has even been suggested that 'to sit at the feet of Jesus visited Mary and Martha more than once and taught in their house. They felt able to summon him when their brother Lazarus was dangerously ill and reproached Jesus for being too slow when he arrived after Lazarus had died.

    In John's gospel Jesus again dined with Mary and Martha. Mary anointed Jesus with an expensive ointment. The gospels present Mary and Martha as consistent followers of Jesus which shows that although he did not have female disciples he did have close female friends. Mary and Martha are not the only women who followed Jesus.

    Luke tells us the names of some of the women who followed Jesus. The fact that women followed him suggests that they found his message appealing which might indirectly support the idea that there was something egalitarian in it. Thus one could argue that Jesus had to moderate his own egalitarian views to the expectations of his day.

    However, we must be careful not to impose our own values onto Jesus. These female followers of Jesus are mentioned again after Jesus' death when they went to the tomb to anoint his body. Arriving at the tomb they found it empty and an angel appeared telling them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen. Consequently, the women are the first witnesses to the resurrection. In John's gospel the first person to actually see the risen Jesus was Mary Magdalene who was outside the tomb crying.

    She did not recognise him at first until he called her by name and she responds with the term 'rabouni' meaning 'teacher'.

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    • In those first few centuries Christianity was made up of lots of different individual church groups and the position of women may have been different from one community to the next. There is certainly evidence that women were very involved in the early Church. Paul mentioned several by name in his letter to the Romans.

      His letter to the Corinthian church instructed women in how they should pray and prophesy. However, it is very difficult to be certain exactly what these actions involved. There are also very traditional passages in the New Testament that remind women to obey their husbands and an infamous passage in 1 Timothy tells women that they should learn in silence and in full submission. Both those against and those in favour of female ordination can quote from the New Testament to support their case.

      To many Christians, this statement is a clear reflection of the idea of equality. Divisions such as race, religion, social class and gender are unimportant in the new world order brought by Christ. They would argue that it reflects the egalitarian ideals of the early Christian community even if these ideals were not necessarily always reflected in practice. Those who interpret this statement as an egalitarian claim might use it to support female ordination and to reject the traditional notion that God created man and women each with a distinctly different purpose.

      However, historical interpretations of the passage generally read it as a statement about salvation and unity rather than social order. They would say that the point of the passage is that salvation is open to everyone. It is not an invitation to overthrow the social order.

      Paul described Phoebe using the greek work ' diakonos ' which means 'servant'. This is the route of the word 'deacon' which became an official role within the Early Church by the time the letter 1 Timothy was written. The issue is that we don't know whether or not Paul was using it in this sense to mean that Phoebe had a specific designated role or whether he just means that she was helping in a more informal way. Even if she did have a specially designated role we don't know what it would have meant to be a deacon at this stage.

      Some of the other names listed in Romans 16 may also be women. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet also the church in their house. Paul was an apostle and church founder, so were Prisca and Aquila doing the same thing? The fact that they 'risked their necks' might imply that they shared this dangerous task. However, Acts 18 they are described as 'tent makers' which was also Paul's trade. As usual there are different possible interpretations and annoyingly unanswerable questions.

      Women in the Bible

      We can say with reasonable certainty that. Some scholars have made much of the fact that in the majority of occasions when Prisca and Aquilla are mentioned Prisca is named first. Whilst many people would challenge these claims on the grounds that there is not really enough evidence!

      Other passages in Paul's letters indicate that women could pray and prophesy in the Early Church. This is supported by the writer of Acts who refers to the evangelist Philip who 'had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied' Acts Female prophets were known in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. Luke recounted that when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met 'a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.