Women in the Earliest Church, Part 5

This is the final part of our survey of the contributions of women to the growth of Christianity in the early-to-mid first century. To this point in the discussion, all of the women (save one) were identified in the New Testament Acts of the Apostles. Having exhausted that source, we now move on to Paul’s letters in which he acknowledges and praises many women with which he worked or came into contact during his missionary journeys.

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the members of the church he had founded in Philippi, he addresses a disagreement involving two of its women members: Euodia (yoo-OH-dee-uh) and Syntyche (sin-TICK-ee). What the argument was about is left unstated. Paul wrote, “I entreat Eudoia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2-3). Paul certainly knows the issues at hand. He even entreats a fellow Christian convert for assistance: “And I ask you also, Syzyngus, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel.” The women in question were not just members of the little congregation in this mining town made up largely of legionary veterans; they were missionaries and likely church leaders who had worked with Paul to spread his message in Macedonia. Some scholars have speculated that one of the two women may have been the “Lydia” whom Paul first converted in Philippi according to Acts 16:14 (see part 4 in this series). As we saw earlier, Lydia can mean simply “a woman from Lydia.” It is also unclear whether the disagreement is between the two women or between them and Paul. Notice that Paul does not name a male counterpart for either of them. This could mean that these women were widows or unmarried sisters. While the evidence will not allow us to say much more than this, it is yet another reminder that women were prominent, active members of the early Christian missionary movement.

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My forthcoming book, The Upper Room and Tomb of David: The History, Art and Archaeology of the Cenacle on Mount Zion, can now be pre-ordered from McFarland. The title appears on page seven in their new spring/summer catalog which can be found here: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/catalogs-spring-2016-new-titles/.