The Bible and the Ministry of Women, Part 2

Jesus and the Ministry of Women

What does Women in Ministry have to say in response to the fact that Jesus did not ordain any women among the twelve apostles? The authors offer two sets of arguments. First, "within the social restraints of his day, Paul and the early church (like Jesus) did not act precipitously." 15Or as another writer states: "Custom here may have been so entrenched that Jesus simply stopped short of fully implementing a principle that He made explicit and emphatic [i.e., the inclusion of "women, Samaritans, and Gentiles"]. . . . However, at this time this may have been an ideal awaiting its time of actualization." 16

Second, they argue that if opponents to women's ordination insist that Jesus' example of ordaining no women apostles should be followed, by the same logic, Gentiles should also be excluded from the category of apostles, since Christ never ordained a Gentile. "While Jesus treated women and Gentiles in a way that was revolutionary for His day," argues one writer, "yet He did not ordain as one of His disciples either a Gentile or a woman. But this pattern was no more normative for the future roles of women in church leadership than for future roles of Gentiles." 17

These arguments are flawed. First, it would appear that our Women in Ministry authors are simply echoing the commonly accepted paradigm that women were second-class, unjustly oppressed people in the rabbinic writings (and some argue, by implications, the Old Testament). But as other thoughtful scholars have pointed out, "such a position can be argued, citing various chauvinistic rabbinic sources, but it does not appear that all rabbinic data fit this paradigm, and it is even more questionable if the O[ld] T[estament], as a whole, can be portrayed as anti-women. More work needs to be done on this." 18

But even if we assume that the "entrenched custom" of those days was oppressively anti-women, there is still no valid justification to assume that Christ acquiesced to the injustice of women. Thus, with respect to the argument that the "entrenched custom" of those times would not have permitted Christ and the early church to have acted "precipitously," we must point out that such a view, in effect, charges our Lord Jesus Christ with insensitivity or false accommodation to the "injustice" women suffered in His day. How could this be, when Scripture teaches that Jesus never yielded to sin (Hebrews 4:15)? "Sin" surely includes the sin of gender injustice. The Gospels tell us that Jesus never hesitated to correct His culture when issues of right and wrong were at stake. His treatment of women also contrasted sharply with that of the rabbis of His day. One knowledgeable scholar perceptively writes: 

We can contrast Jesus with the rabbis as seen in the Talmud and Midrash. Jesus does not behave the same way. Women come to Him and He helps them directly. He heals them (Mark 5:25-34). On occasion He touches them (Mathew 8:14, 15). He talks to them individually, regularly in private and sometimes in public (John 11:17-44). On one occasion He even talks to a woman when both of them were unaccompanied (John 4:7-24). He teaches women along with the men (Luke 10:38-42). When He teaches, He speaks of women and uses womanly tasks as illustrations. On occasion, He makes use of two parables to illustrate the same point, one drawn from the activities of men, the other from the activities of women (Luke 15:3-10). He never shows disrespect to women, nor does He ever speak about women in a disparaging way. He relates in a brotherly fashion to women whom He knows. He has some women traveling with Him to serve Him (Luke 8:1-3). Finally, He calls women "daughters of Abraham" (Luke 13:16), explicitly according them a spiritual status like that accorded to men. One might add that after His resurrection Jesus appears to women first and lets them carry the news to the men (John 20:11-19; Matthew 28:9, 10). 19

On why Christ never ordained a Gentile, the Bible provides an answer. He chose twelve Jewish apostles because in God's divine wisdom, the church began among the Jews, and it was all Jewish at the beginning ("salvation is of the Jews," John 4:22; cf. Romans 3:1, 2; Acts 1:8). Seventh-day Adventists understand that the 70 weeks determined for the Jews (Daniel 9:24-27) still had several years to run. There were no Gentile leaders in the church in Christ's day, but there were many qualified, spiritual women. The New Testament actually does report some Gentile apostles (2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1—Silas [or Silvanus], and Timothy), but not one female apostle (we'll look at Junia later). Thus, those who attempt to present a "Gentile" argument to counter the absence of women apostles among Christ's followers apparently fail to understand Christ's prophetic priority of beginning His mission with the house of Israel (cf. Matthew 10:5, 6). 

If Jesus had wanted to demonstrate that women had full access to all leadership roles in the church, He could easily have chosen and ordained six men and their wives as apostles, since the wives of apostles frequently accompanied their husbands (1 Corinthians 9:5). But He did not. Christ could have chosen and ordained at least one of the women who were actively involved in His ministry, traveling to the places He was teaching, and supporting Him and His disciples with their own money (see Luke 8:1-3). But He did not. He could have ordained His Own mother, since she already had Heaven's certification as "highly favored" (Luke 1:28, 30). But He did not. He could have chosen and ordained Mary, just as He commissioned her to bear witness to His resurrection (Mark 16:9, 10; John 20:11-18). But He did not. Christ could have ordained the Samaritan woman as an apostle, since she defied several "cultural" stigmas (a woman five times divorced, living unlawfully with a man, and a Samaritan) to become a powerful and successful evangelist (John 4). But He did not. Instead, after spending all night in prayer (Luke 6:12), Christ appointed twelve men as His apostles (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19). Why? 

Was it because He did not want to act "precipitously" in light of the "restraints of His day"? Was it because He lacked the courage to stand against gender injustice entrenched in His culture? Or was it because women were not capable or qualified? No. Jesus did not ordain even one woman as an apostle because He understood the headship principle He Himself had instituted at Creation, and He submitted to its authority. 

The Apostolic Church and Women 

One author in Women in Ministry writes: "While women may not have immediately received full and equal partnership with men in the ministry of the church, evidence of women in leadership roles in the early church is sufficient to demonstrate that they were not barred from positions of influence, leadership, and even headship over men." 20

Here is a paradox. How may women not "immediately" have "received full and equal partnership with men in the ministry" and yet at the same time exercise "leadership and even headship over men"? It can be only one or the other. Either they served as leaders (elders-pastors) or they did not. By inserting the word "immediately" without telling us how much time elapsed before women allegedly received the "equal partnership," is the writer attempting to marry Biblical faith with feminist egalitarianism? The New Testament shows that women were actively involved in soulwinning ministry but never served in the headship roles of elder or pastor. 

Contrary to the suggestion that women could not "immediately" receive "full and equal partnership with men in the ministry," the New Testament writers note the active role of women in Gospel ministry. We read about the significant contributions of Mary, Martha, Joanna, Susanna (Luke 8:2, 3; Acts 1:14), Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Lydia, Phoebe, Lois, Eunice, Priscilla, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Euodia, Syntyche, and Junia (Acts 16:14, 15; 18:26; 21:8, 9; Romans 16:1-4, 6, 7, 12; Philippians 4:3). Yet these women were not ordained to the role of apostle, elder, or pastor, not because of any "social restraints" against which the early believers chose not to act "precipitously," but because the New Testament church understood that the Creation arrangement of headship precluded women from exercising the leadership function of apostle, elder, or pastor in the worshipping community. 

Women Leaders of the New Testament Church? 

The above section shows some of the inconsistencies in Women in Ministry . On one hand, the authors argue that social restraints precluded women from "equal partnership with men in ministry." Yet they proceed to argue that New Testament evidence suggests that some women actually exercised "positions of influence, leadership, and even headship over men." As evidence, an impressive roster of women is listed: Phoebe, Junia, and women at Philippi —Euodia and Syntyche, etc. 21

One of the greatest weaknesses of the book is that while it helpfully provides an inventory of prominent women in the Bible (and in Seventh-day Adventist history), showing that women indeed functioned in spheres of genuine, significant responsibility in soulwinning ministry, Women in Ministry proves the exact opposite of what it sets out to demonstrate. Despite the significant ministry of these New Testament women, not one of them is ever described as apostle, elder, or bishop, whether ordained or nonordained (we'll look at Junia and Phoebe shortly). 

How could the apostle Paul, having established his normative doctrine of headship (God's creational arrangement of functional role distinctions within the partnership of spiritual equals) proceed to violate it in his actual practice? Whenever in doubt, we should supplement our study of the descriptive components of the practice in Bible times (which mention women and the significant roles they played) with an analysis of the prescriptive teaching of Paul that formed the foundation of what he and the early church practiced. Otherwise, we may give the impression that Paul was merely operating with reference to culture rather than being guided by transcultural norms. But as passages such as Ephesians 5:21-24, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 11 show, Paul did in fact establish general parameters (which he already found in the Old Testament Creation accounts) for women's roles in the church. 22

In short, not only Paul's practice, but also the principles underlying the patterns of established churches should be part of the investigation. Paul's norms regarding women's roles in the church are foundational; questionable inferences about what may have been the case are not. 

Junia: A "Female Apostle"?

Much is made in Women in Ministry about Junia being a "female apostle." 23This claim is based on the apostle Paul/s description of Andronicus and Junia as "my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles , who also were in Christ before me" (Romans 16:7, KJV, emphasis mine). 

There are two problems in this text. First, does the name Junia have a feminine ending (proving Junia was a woman), or does it have a masculine ending (proving Junia was a man)? This is a grammatical problem arising from the Greek language. In Romans 16:7, the ending for the name of Junia in the Greek is -an, which would be the direct object (accusative) form both for men's names that end in -as (like Elias, Zacharias, Silas, Thomas, or Cephas) or women's names that end in -a (like Martha, Joanna, or Lydia). Therefore it is impossible to tell from the Greek ending alone whether the person described by the apostle Paul is Juni as (male) or Juni (female). This explains the varied opinions among the church fathers. For example, whereas Origen (died a.d. 252) referred to the person as Junias, a man, Chrysostom (died a.d. 407) referred to this person as Junia, a woman. Church historian Epiphanius (died a.d. 403) sees the person as a man. Thus, grammatically and historically, both genders are possible. 

But let's assume that the person Paul refers to is a woman by the name Junia. Does Romans 16:7 require us to believe that Junia was a female apostle? This is the second problem confronting interpreters. The answer hinges on how one understands the phrase translated "among the apostles" ( en tois apostolois ). In the Greek the phrase is ambiguous. Does it mean that Andronicus and Junia were numbered among the apostles (as the NIV has it, "They are outstanding among the apostles"), or does it mean that their reputation was well known by the apostles (as the KJV puts it, they are "of note among the apostles")? 

How do we resolve a problem in which the Greek allows both interpretations? This is where one's hermeneutical principles of interpretation are revealed. The historic Adventist approach is to (1) interpret an obscure passage by a plain passage in Scripture, and (2) look for any applicable precedents in Scripture, noting that one Scripture will never contradict another. 

On the basis of this "time-honored" Adventist approach, one should recognize five relevant facts: (1) Paul's doctrine of headship was established on the Creation order (1 Timothy 2; 1 Corinthians 11; Ephesians 5). (2) Jesus Himself ordained only males as apostles, pointing back to the Old Testament patriarchs as foundations of the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). (3) Every known apostle in the New Testament was a male—Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14, 4), Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6, 9), Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6), Titus (a Greek—2 Corinthians 8:23), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25). (4) While women played significant roles in the early church's soulwinning ministry, none of them is known to have served as apostle, elder, or bishop. (5) The apostle Paul, who worked closely with these active women, taught that the headship function of elder or overseer could be held by only a person who, among other things, was the "husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). 

The above considerations lead me to the conclusion that the ambiguous phrase "among the apostles" ( en tois apostolois ) should be understood as "of note among the apostles" in the sense that Junia was well known by the apostles, not that she was numbered among them. No New Testament evidence supports the idea that the woman Junia mentioned in Romans 16:7 was an apostle, nor is there any New Testament evidence that the man Andronicus mentioned in the same text was an apostle. The most plausible and Biblically consistent understanding is that both Andronicus and Junia were well known and appreciated by the apostles as Christian converts prior to Paul's own conversion. 24

Unlike the interpretation in Women in Ministry 25 this interpretation does not violate clear and plain Biblical teaching on headship, the example of Jesus Christ in appointing only males as apostles, and the fact that all the known apostles mentioned in the New Testament are males. 

My conclusion is that Junia, even if a woman, could not have been an apostle. Any assertion that Junia was a "female apostle" is speculative and arguably false. 

Phoebe: A "Female Minister"? 

In Romans 16:1, 2, the apostle Paul writes: "I commend unto you Ph[o]ebe our sister, which is a servant [ diakonos ] of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also" (KJV). 

Based on the above description of Phoebe as a diakonos ("servant," KJV, NIV, NASB; or "deaconess," RSV), one of the authors of Women in Ministry claims that Phoebe functioned "as Paul's emissary, as did Titus and Timothy," and that her designation as diakonos "does not imply the modern 'deaconess'but rather the same position as that of the church leaders designated in 1 Timothy 3:8-10." 26 Another author maintains that Phoebe is an example of New Testament "women in church leadership-headship roles." 27

These writers do not offer any Biblical proof for their assertions. They build their cases on the "able" studies provided by another Women in Ministry writer who concludes that Phoebe was a "female minister," and that "if there could be one female minister there could as well be many." 28

However, a careful study of the evidence presented by the book's leading proponent of the "female minister" theory indicates that it involves a convoluted handling of the Biblical data and that it contradicts Ellen White's understanding. The following points capture the essential thrust of the arguments in Women in Ministry 

(1) The term diakonos, used for Phoebe in Romans 16:1, comes from the same root word ( diakonein ) used for the appointive ministry of the seven men in Acts 6. 29

(2) But this office of diakonos assigned to the seven men of Acts 6 is not that of deacons as "has often been assumed," even in Ellen G. White's book The Acts of the Apostles 30

(3) Instead, the kind of work for which the seven men of Acts were appointed is the same as "elder," the only appointive ministry originally known in the apostolic church. 31

(4) Only later did the one appointive ministry of diakonos (now redefined by the author to mean "elder" or "minister") divide into two levels of "elder" and "deacon." 32 The alleged later "distinction between deacon and elder/bishop is hardened in the Pastoral Epistles, especially in 1 Timothy 3:1-13." 33

(5) Phoebe occupied "the same position as the deacons of 1 Timothy 3," which our author claims was originally the same office as that of elder, or possibly that of apostle. 34

(6) Therefore, the designation of Phoebe as diakonos in Romans 16:1 "proves incontrovertibly that the early church had female diakonia "—i.e., female ministers. And "if there could be one female minister [Phoebe] there could as well be many." 35

In responding to this interpretation, we will briefly discuss the meaning of the term diakonos . We will note how Ellen G. White understood the function of the seven men of Acts 6 and what bearing it has on the "female minister" theory. 

Meaning of "Diakonos." In the New Testament the term diakonos, like the related terms diakonia and diakoneo, has both a broad and a narrow meaning. In its broad sense it conveys the idea of a ministry or service carried out on behalf of the church. Thus, services like preparation of a meal (Luke 10:40), serving a meal (Luke 22:27), providing financial and material support (Luke 8:1-3), the employment of any spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:5; 1 Peter 4:10), doing the work of a deacon by taking care of the needy (Acts 6:1-4), and providing spiritual oversight and leadership for the churches by serving as an elder (1 Timothy 4:6) or apostle (Acts 1:25) are all termed ministry ( diakonia ). Because in this broad usage anything a person does to advance the work of the church is a ministry, the one who labors in this manner is a minister or servant ( diakonos ) of the Lord. 36

In its narrow and technical usage, diakonos refers to the office of a deacon that among other things can be occupied by only one who is a "husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1). This deacon office, first occupied by the seven men of Acts 6, involved ministering to the poor, needy, and sick. But "although deacons were to care for the temporal affairs of the church, they were also to be actively involved in evangelistic work (Acts 6:8; 8:5-13, 26-40)." 37

Whether we apply the broad meaning or the narrow one, calling Phoebe a diakonos does not prove she was an apostle or a female minister. 38 Indeed, Paul explains why he calls her a deacon—because she is a "succorer [helper] of many" (Romans 16:2). As for the seven deacons, they certainly were not apostles; they were elected specifically to do work the apostles felt unable to do at that time. Until recently, Seventh-day Adventists have upheld the view that Romans 16:1, 2 refers to Phoebe's valuable ministry of care and hospitality for church members. To change from this well-established view surely needs better evidence than what Women in Ministry provides. 39

Ellen G. White presents Phoebe not as a "female minister," but rather as an example of how we should "care for the interests of our brethren and sisters." Referring to Romans 16:1, 2, she states, "Ph[o]ebe entertained the apostle, and she was in a marked manner an entertainer of strangers who needed care. Her example should be followed by the churches of today" ( Testimonies for the Church , vol. 6, pp. 343, 344). 

Ellen White on the Seven Men of Acts 6. The "female minister" theory proposal in Women in Ministry can only be sustained by proving that the seven men of Acts 6 were elders and not deacons. The leading proponent of this theory is wrong when he argues that because the title of chapter 9 ("The Seven Deacons") in Ellen White's The Acts of the Apostles may be the work of editors, it therefore does not show that she believed the seven men of Acts 6 were deacons. 40

During her lifetime, all editorial work on her books was submitted to Ellen G. White for approval before a book was published. We can safely conclude that she approved the chapter heading in The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9. Also, contrary to what Women in Ministry says, in that very chapter (p. 91) Mrs. White does indeed refer to the seven men as deacons (not ministers or elders). Furthermore, elsewhere in the book she describes Philip as "one of the seven deacons" (p. 106); she also refers to Stephen as "the foremost of the seven deacons" ( Lift Him Up , p. 104). To claim that Acts 6 is describing seven elders and not seven deacons is to interpret the Bible differently from the way Ellen White interprets it. And to assert, as our author does, that Mrs. White describes these men only as officers and not deacons in the text is simply wrong. 

The History of the Appointive Ministry. Is there a Biblical basis on which to speculate that the original appointive ministry in the New Testament church was that of elder, and that this office was later divided into two levels (elders and deacons) so that in the Pastoral Epistles the distinction between the two was "hardened"? 

As Women in Ministry notes, the first leaders of the church were the twelve apostles specially chosen by Christ Himself (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). Like the twelve patriarchs or the leaders of the tribes of Israel , these twelve male apostles constituted the original ministry. We find that to them was entrusted the responsibility of general spiritual leadership of the churches, serving as overseers ( episkope, "office," a cognate of episkopos [bishop or elder], is applied to the apostolate in Acts 1:20) and ministering to believers'needs ( diakonia, "ministry," is their work in Acts 1:25; cf. the cognate diakonos, "deacon," "one who ministers"). 

But as the Gospel work prospered, it was practically impossible for the apostles alone to perform all the functions of spiritual leadership and at the same time minister to members'physical needs. Led by the Holy Spirit, the original ministry of the twelve apostles was expanded to include chosen deacons ( diakonos ) and elders ( presbyteros ) or bishops/overseers ( episkopos ). 41

Were the offices of elders and deacons really one office originally, later split into those two? Women in Ministry offers slim evidence for this, which we will merely comment on here. 42(1) According to the leading proponent of the "female minister" theory, "The kind of work for which the seven were appointed in Acts 6 is said to be done by the elders in Acts 11:30." But the Bible text does not say this. It records only that the relief money for Judea was delivered to the elders, not that the elders personally conducted the distribution, as the seven did in Acts 6. As the representatives of the believers, the elders would be the appropriate ones to receive the gifts from the distant churches, regardless of who did the actual distribution. (2) The argument that the elders'method of appointment "resembles somewhat" the method for the seven appointed in Acts 6 is a weak basis for claiming that they were the same. Such partial resemblance does not indicate that the offices were identical. (3) Finally, our author argues that because Acts 15 mentions only the offices of apostle and elder in Jerusalem , the office of deacon was not in place by the time of the Jerusalem Council. But this is an argument from silence regarding deacons. The kinds of decisions spoken of in Acts 15 may well have been considered the responsibility of the apostles and elders, and not the deacons, to make. 

The three points above, together with the denial that Acts 6 instituted the office of deacon, are the bases upon which our Women in Ministry scholar constructs his theoretical history of the appointive ministry. But as we have shown, it does not follow from these points that "we must conclude" that the church had only one office of elder at the early stage and that this one office was later split into two (elder and deacon). The New Testament writers and Ellen G. White affirm that the apostles instituted the office of deacon at a very early stage in the history of the Christian church. And each of the deacons mentioned in Acts 6 was a male. 

Inasmuch as the New Testament offices of apostles, elders, and deacons were a continuation and extension of the headship and leadership roles instituted at Creation (and exercised by male priests in the Old Testament, and male apostles at the time of Christ), the spiritual qualification for these offices included gender specifications ("the husband of one wife," 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6). Though our author claims that this gender specification actually was generic, 43 such a claim overlooks the fact that in two passages in Acts where qualifications are set forth, one for apostle (Acts 1:21) and the other for the office of deacon under consideration (Acts 6:3), the text uses the Greek word aner, a male, instead of the generic anthropos, a person. The term anthropos could have been used here without grammatical difficulty if a person of either gender had been intended. 

In light of the above facts from Scripture, the speculations about Phoebe in Women in Ministry cannot be sustained. Contrary to the authors'claims, Phoebe, being a "sister," could not have occupied "the same position as that of the church leaders designated in 1 Timothy 3:8-10." Neither could she have been an example of New Testament "women in church leadership-headship roles." 

Phoebe's Commendation: A Ministerial Credential? The authors of Women in Ministry argue that Paul's commendation of Phoebe (as "a servant of the church") and his request on her behalf ("receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints") imply that Phoebe functioned "as Paul's emissary, as did Titus and Timothy," 44 or that this commendation is a kind of ministerial credential for Phoebe. Writes the leading proponent of the "female minister" theory: 

Paul requests that she [Phoebe] be given the same kind of reception as his other representatives, the same kind of support and respect that Paul enjoins for Titus and the other apostoloi [apostles] (Titus in 2 Corinthians 8:24; Timothy in 1 Corinthians 16:10). Such a letter of commendation was the only kind of credential that the early church could offer. If there could be one female minister there could as well be many. 45

The argument suffers from at least two serious interpretive fallacies. First, it disregards the context, namely Paul's commendations of and personal greetings to several individuals in Romans 16. Second, it is an instance of a procedure known technically as "illegitimate totality transfer," which supposes that the meaning of a word (e.g. diakonos ) or expression (e.g., Paul's commendation) in a given context is much broader than the context allows. In this way the sense of a word (e.g., diakonos ) or expression (commendation or request) and its reference (particular individuals, e.g., Phoebe, Titus, Timothy) are linked in an unwarranted fashion, giving the impression that the given word or expression means the same thing in any conceivable context. 

Context really is the key for understanding the meaning of a word. While diakonos was indeed a church office, the most common meaning of the word was servant. When the apostles call themselves diakonos, the translation as minister misses the point—they were specifying that, like Christ, they led by serving . They were not identifying themselves as deacons or ministers. Any reference to the office of deacon can be determined only from the context . The Bible's stated fact of Phoebe's devoted service to the church, making herself the servant of all, does not mean that she held the office of deacon. The context does not suggest that Paul is talking about a church office. 

A fair reading of the New Testament shows all church office names were derived from common functions. Serving, then, did not make one a deacon; being elderly did not make one an elder; being sent ( apostolos ) did not make one an apostle like the Twelve; and being an aggelos (messenger) did not make one an angel, though the Greek words are the same. The context is crucial to a proper understanding of a word's meaning. 

In light of our discussion in the preceding pages, the assertion that Phoebe functioned as "Paul's emissary, as did Titus and Timothy" and that Paul's letter was a "kind of credential" for one of many "female ministers" can be dismissed as a convoluted interpretation. On the contrary, when Paul commended Phoebe as "a servant [ diakonos ] of the church . . . [and] succorer of many, and of myself also" (Romans 16:1-2), he was speaking of her valuable personal ministry to members of the church as well as to himself. 

We must conclude that Phoebe was not a female minister. Hence there is no basis for the statement, "If there could be one female minister there could as well be many." From the evidence given us in the New Testament, there weren't any 46


This article has examined some of the areas in which Seventh-day Adventists should carefully examine the assertions Women in Ministry makes regarding women serving as priests in the Old Testament and as apostles and ministers in the New. The scholars of the pro-ordination volume tried very hard to explain away the lack of Biblical precedence for ordaining women as elders or pastors. Their bold effort of attempting to come up with their flashing new light about women priests, women apostles, and women ministers may be innovative. But the assumptions underlying the theories are incorrect, and therefore so are its conclusions about ordaining women as elders and pastors today. 



15. Richard M. Davidson, "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," WIM , pp. 281, 282. 

16. Jo Ann Davidson, "Women in Scripture," WIM , p. 176. Davidson is citing Evelyn and Frank Stagg's response to her questions: "Why did Jesus select twelve male apostles? . . . Why only Jewish men?" 

17. Richard M. Davidson, "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," WIM , p. 294, n. 111. 

18. See Richard Hove, Equality in Christ? Galatians 3:28 and the Gender Dispute (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1999), pp. 104, 105, n. 35, where he cites rabbinic texts that speak quite positively about women. 

19. Stephen Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1980), pp. 241, 242. 

20. Richard M. Davidson, "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," WIM , p. 282. 

21. Ibid. Richard Davidson points to the work of Jo Ann Davidson and Robert M. Johnston for support. 

22. For a detailed critique of Richard M. Davidson's chapter in Women in Ministry , refer to Samuele Bacchiocchi's "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," in Prove All Things , pp. 65-110. 

23. Robert M. Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church ," WIM , p. 47; cf. Richard M. Davidson, "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," WIM , pp. 282, 294, n. 113; Jo Ann Davidson, "Women in Scripture," WIM , p. 177; Vyhmeister, "Epilogue," WIM , p. 434. 

24. We can only refer to them as apostles in the general usage of the word apostolos, meaning a "sent one." In this sense, both Andronicus and Junia could be conceived of as missionaries—dedicated individuals engaged in the soulwinning ministry of the early church. 

25. Robert M. Johnston lays the foundation for the speculative interpretation that Junia was a "female apostle." While acknowledging that the phrase in Romans 16:7 ("among the apostles") is ambiguous, Johnston believes that it is "more probable" to take it to mean that Junia was "numbered among the apostles." He gives the following interesting reasons: "(1) It is the most natural way to take the Greek; (2) Ancient commentaries, when not ambiguous, such as that of Chrysostom, understood it that way . . . ; (3) Paul, who was always anxious to defend his apostleship, would not have spoken of the apostolic opinion in such a way as to seem not to include himself; (4) The first option [i.e., Junia being "well known by the apostles"] is not usually taken when the person in question is thought to be a man named Junias" (Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," pp. 54, 55, n. 11). Readers should understand that the above weak reasons are the sole basis for the belief by the authors of Women in Ministry that Junia was a "female apostle." 

26. Jo Ann Davidson, "Women in Scripture," WIM , p. 177. 

27. Richard M. Davidson, "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," WIM , p. 282; cf. Vyhmeister, "Epilogue," WIM , p. 434. 

28. Robert M. Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , p. 51. Jo Ann Davidson points readers to Robert Johnston's work in Women in Ministry , where the latter "studies this significant detail" about Phoebe's role as a diakonos (Jo Ann Davidson, p. 185, n. 78). Similarly, Richard M. Davidson writes: "Examples of women in church leadership/headship roles have been ably presented in Robert Johnston's and Jo Ann Davidson's chapters (3 and 9). Deacons included the woman Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and probably the women referred to in 1 Timothy 3:11" (Richard M. Davidson, WIM , p. 282). 

29. Robert M. Johnston argues that the appointive ministry "could be called either diakonos (suggested by diakonein in Acts 6:2), a word describing function, or presbyteros , a word describing dignity" (Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , p. 49). 

30. Johnston is aware that the office of the seven men in Acts 6 is referred to as "deacon" in the chapter heading of Ellen G. White's The Acts of the Apostles (chapter 9 of that book is titled "The Seven Deacons," pp. 87-96). But he counters: "It is to be noted, however, that the chapter titles are mostly the work of the editors. The term 'deacon' does not occur in the text itself. Mrs. White simply calls them 'officers' (p. 89)." See Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , pp. 49, 57, n. 19. Note, however, that in The Acts of the Apostles , pp. 91, 106, Ellen G. White does refer to the seven as "deacons." 

31. Johnston argues that "at least in the earliest period, what can be said of 'deacon' also applies to 'elder.' Both were ministries which in the beginning were one, and they likely remained one in many places for several decades. Even in the Pastoral Epistles, Timothy is called diakonos (which the RSV translates 'minister') in 1 Timothy 4:6, though he had a charismatic gift that was somehow associated with prophetic designation and the laying on of hands (1:18, 4:14)" (Johnston, WIM , p. 51). 

32. Johnston concludes: "To begin with there was only one appointive ministry that could be called either diakonos (suggested by diakonein in Acts 6:2), a word describing function, or presbyteros [elder], a word describing dignity. Only later did this one ministry divide into two levels, and the two terms came to be used to designate the two levels of ministry" (Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , p. 49). Explaining the basis of his conclusion, Johnston writes: "The kind of work for which the seven were appointed in Acts 6 is said to be done by the elders in Acts 11:30. Their method of appointment in the churches, reported in 14:23, resembles somewhat that of Acts 6. In Acts 15 we hear of only two offices in Jerusalem, those of apostle and elder. We must conclude that the church at this early stage knew of only one appointive ministry, which Luke designated 'elder'" (ibid., p. 49). 

33. Ibid., p. 50. 

34. Ibid., p. 51. Our author reasons this way: "Paul requests that she [Phoebe] be given the same kind of reception as his other representatives, the same kind of support and respect that Paul enjoins for Titus and the other apostoloi [apostles] (Titus in 2 Corinthians 8:24; Timothy in 1 Corinthians 16:10). Such a letter of commendation was the only kind of credential that the early church could offer. If there could be one female minister there could as well be many" (Johnston, p. 51; cf. ibid., p. 49). 

35. Ibid., pp. 50, 51. Believing that he has "proved" that Phoebe was a "female minister" and speculating that there "could as well be many" female ministers, this scholar transforms his speculations into the following assertion of certainty: "That there were women in the appointive ministry implies something about that ministry that logically should have remained true even after it began to be differentiated into two and then three levels, just as the qualities of a piece of clay remain the same even when it is divided in two. But at some unknown point in history it ceased to be true, and women were squeezed out, at least from certain levels" (Johnston, WIM , p. 52). 

36. Cf. Matthew 20:26; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; John 12:26; Romans 13:4; 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Colossians 1:23, 25; 4:7. 

37. Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . : A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Silver Spring, Md.: Ministerial Association, 1988), p. 148. 

38. The question confronting Bible students is this: Since in the Greek, the word diakonos can be either male or female in gender, depending on the context, when Paul referred to Phoebe as diakonos, was he using this term in the broad and general sense to suggest Phoebe's activity of caring for the needy of the church (she was a "succorer of many" [Romans 16:2])? Or was the apostle using the term diakonos in the narrow and technical sense to suggest that Phoebe held the male office of deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13), the same position held by the seven men of Acts 6? 

39. Because she is described as a "sister" (Romans 16:1), she could not have served in the male office of a "deacon" without contradicting the gender requirement in 1 Timothy 3:12 (a deacon must be the "husband of one wife"). Her ministry as "succorer" (KJV) or "helper" (RSV) (i.e., her "great help to many people" [NIV]), however, parallels what we designate today as the position of "deaconess." By describing Phoebe as a diakonos, Paul was simply speaking of her valuable ministry to church members as well as to himself. One respected scholar has captured the Adventist understanding: "Though the word for 'servant' [ diakonos ] is the same as is used for [the office of] deacon . . . it is also used to denote the person performing any type of ministry. If Phoebe ministered to the saints, as is evident from [Romans 16] verse 2, then she would be a servant of the church and there is neither need nor warrant to suppose that she occupied or exercised what amounted to an ecclesiastical office comparable to that of the diaconate. The services performed were similar to those devolving upon deacons. Their ministry is one of mercy to the poor, the sick, and the desolate. This is an area in which women likewise exercise their functions and graces. But there is no more warrant to posit an office than in the case of the widows who, prior to their becoming the charge of the church, must have borne the features mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:9, 10." See John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans , 2 vols., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), vol. 2, p. 226. Even if (for the sake of argument) we assume that the term diakonos in Romans 16:1 reflects its narrow and technical usage (i.e., to the male office of "deacon") and not its broad and general usage (i.e., the work of "ministry" on behalf of the church), the office of deacon is not the same as that of a "church leader"—either as elder or apostle, as is the case with Titus and Timothy. The authors of Women in Ministry who seek to discover an example of "women in church leadership/headship roles" in Romans 16:1 require the use of very powerful egalitarian lenses. 

40. Johnston, "Ministry in the New Testament," WIM , p. 57, n. 19. 

41. According to the Bible, (1) those who are permitted to perform the oversight-leadership functions of the ministerial office are elders or pastors; and (2) the New Testament makes no essential distinction between the two offices. The Greek terms for elder or presbyter ( presbyteros ) and overseer or bishop ( episkopos ) are used interchangeably in the New Testament (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-3). The same qualifications are required for both (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Both perform the same work of shepherding the flock (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:12). Thus, we may conclude that since presbyters (elders) and bishops (overseers) are known by the same names and are required to possess the same qualifications, and since they do actually discharge the same oversight duties, the two terms refer to the same office of shepherding the flock. The book of 1 Peter brings all the terms together: pastor (shepherd), elder (presbyter), and bishop (overseer). "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd ( poimen, pastor) and Bishop ( episkopos, overseer) of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25). "The elders ( presbyteros ) which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder . . . : Feed ( poimano , to tend as a shepherd) the flock of God, taking the oversight ( episkopeo ) thereof. . . . And when the Chief Shepherd ( archipoimen ) shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:1-4). The elders are commissioned to stand as overseers, functioning as pastors/shepherds to the flock. 

42. Johnston, "Ministry in the New Testament," WIM , p. 49. 

43. Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , pp. 50, 51. 

44. Jo Ann Davidson, "Women in Scripture," WIM , p. 177. 

45. Johnston, "Shapes of Ministry in the New Testament and Early Church," WIM , p. 51. 

46. Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . , p. 150, n. 10 correctly observes that because in New Testament times the term diakonos had a broad meaning, "'it was still employed to describe all who served the church in any capacity. Paul, though an apostle, frequently described himself (see 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23) and Timothy . . . (see 1 Timothy 4:6), as diakonoi (plural of diakonos ).' ( Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary , rev. ed., vol. 7, p. 300). In these instances it has been translated as 'ministers' or 'servants' instead of 'deacons.'" See also P. Gerard Damsteegt's detailed critique of the "female ministry" hypothesis in Prove All Things , pp. 129-153. 

"The Bible and the Ministry of Women" Part 1