The relationship between Paul the Apostle and women is an important element in the theological debate about Christianity and women because Paul was the first writer to give ecclesiastical directives about the role of women in the Church. However, there are arguments that some of these writings are post-Pauline interpolation.
By the time Paul began his missionary movement, women were important agents within the different cities. Letters generally accepted as Paul’s are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. His casual greetings to acquaintances offer solid information about many Jewish and Gentile women who were prominent in the movement. His letters provide vivid clues about the kind of activities in which women engaged more generally.
In several of his letters (epistles), Paul sends greetings to a number of people and specifically mentions the following as being important in ministry:
• Priscilla (Prisca) and her husband Aquila. She and her husband are mentioned seven times in the New Testament as being missionary partners with the Apostle Paul.
• Mary and “the beloved Persis” are commended for their hard work.
• He greets Julia, and Nereus’ sister, who worked and traveled as missionaries in pairs with their husbands or brothers.
• He commends to their hospitality, Phoebe, a leader from the church at Cenchreae, a port city near Corinth
• Junia is also mentioned. According to Bart Ehrman, Paul praises Junia as a prominent apostle who had been imprisoned for her labor.
• Chloe, was a prominent woman of Corinth. It was from “Chloe’s people” that Paul, then at Ephesus learned of the divisions in the congregation of Corinth.
• In Philippians he expresses appreciation for Euodia and Syntyche his fellow-workers in the gospel.
According to Karen King, these biblical reports seem to provide credible evidence of women apostles active in the earliest work of spreading the Christian gospel.
In Galatians 3:28, Paul wrote that there is “neither male nor female” for all are one in Christ.
The discussion of head coverings for women in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 clearly implies and assumes that women, as well as men, engage in prayer and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). The participation in prophecy is the “highest” gift in the Church because it is the means of edification, encourage-ment, and comfort in the Church (1 Corinthians 14:3). Such edification is the purpose of the Church’s life together and constitutes, under the Holy Spirit, the exercise of authority and teaching in the Church. Thus, Paul concludes the first part of his discussion on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2–10) by stating that women ought to have authority on their heads. First Corinthians 11:10 is rarely translated accurately in English (most often one finds “a sign of authority” or “veil”), but Paul asserts that women have authority, using his normal word, which always means the active exercise of authority (and never the passive reception of it).
Galatians 3:28, like Acts 2, has been cited for hundreds of years as a basis for women in ministry. Detractors of women in ministry often argue that Galatians 3:28 refers only to the spiritual reality of equal access to God through faith in Christ Jesus. The text does refer to this, but it clearly encompasses other realities as well. There are three traditional pairings, and they reflect the three basic social divides of hostility within the first century AD in the Roman Empire. Paul’s declaration would have had no less actual social impact than an American preacher’s statement in the 1950s that “in Christ Jesus there is neither Black nor White” would have had.
• Odell-Scott, D.W. “Editorial dilemma: the interpolation of 1 Cor 14:34–35 in the western manuscripts of D, G and 88.” Web: 15 Jul 2010.
• • Ingrid Maisch (1998). Mary Magdalene: the image of a woman through the centuries. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-2471-5.
• • Margaret MacDonald, “Reading Real Women Through Undisputed Letters of Paul” in Women and Christian Origins, ed. by Ross Sheppard Kraemer and Mary Rose D’Angelo (Oxford: University Press, 1999), p. 204
• • Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (1994). In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. The Crossroad Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8245-1357-3.
• • Leonhard O.S.F., Barbara. “St. Paul and Women: A Mixed Record”, St. Anthony Messenger, Franciscan Media
• Frontline: from jesus to christ – the first christians: paul’s mission and letters. PBS. Retrieved on 2011-02-13.