Who are Your Faith Mentors?
And though their stories have been shadowed or obscured in the historic ecclesiastical fog of male privilege, the truth is that there have always been women worthy of emulating in the church. Today, these are women whose stories can and should mentor us as models of faithfulness.
Last week, I came across this article, entitled “5 Women of the Early Church You Should Know.” Read it and allow your faith to be inspired by the examples of these women. Here are the first few paragraphs:
Christianity bore a unique position in Roman society by seeing women as equal to men in worth. Today, we are seeing a backlash to what many perceive to be the Christian position of patriarchy. Some have decided that because Christianity won’t get with the times, than it’s time to throw the “baby out with the bathwater”. However, there are many others, like myself, who look at Christian history and see a long tradition of women put in positions of honor equal to men. Paul himself says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus demonstrated that while men and women may have different roles in their service to God, neither one is more valuable than the other.
A prime example of this is Mary, the Mother of God, also known as the Theotokos, or God-bearer in the Eastern tradition. Mary is a model example for all Christians and if you look at her role from a historical perspective, that is absolutely shocking. Think about how it would have seemed for a patriarchal society to encounter Christianity in the early centuries and to find out that they have icons, feasts and a highly honored place for a woman in this budding religion.
I’d like to highlight five other women in early church history who are honored as saints and considered models for our own lives.
Priscilla (1st century)
Priscilla is often mentioned with her husband, Aquila in several places within the New Testament. Her role as a leader along with her husband was instrumental in building the early church. Aquila and her both were missionaries who lived and worked with Paul on his journeys. She’s also noted with her husband for instructing Apollos, an important evangelist in the Church.
It’s important to note the radical nature of her marriage to Aquila. She was not considered his property or even mentioned secondarily by other men, but she had direct influence and access to Paul and other apostles, as friends. This already tells us a lot about the structure of Christian marriage and relationships in the 1st century.
Phoebe (1st century)
In Romans, Paul refers to Phoebe as a “presiding officer” over many. She’s also mentioned as a “deacon” (diakonos) and a “helper or protector of many” (prostatis). She’s the only woman in the New Testament that is called out specifically in this fashion. Little is known about her exact duties, but it’s clear that she was considered a leader and authority figure of some note. Some scholars even contend that she could be called the equivalent of a pastor or minister in part because of the terms Paul uses for her title.
What we do know is that Phoebe shepherded a lot of new Christians into the faith and was responsible for building the church in the region of Cenchreae and has been canonized as a saint in both the eastern and western traditions.
Want a bit more? Check out this category of posts here.