Where are the good female preachers? Female preachers have been prevalent throughout history and one only needs to look at the right historical resources to read about their activity.1 However, women proclaiming the Good News to God’s people can also be found in our Bibles. One such woman is Anna from the tribe of Asher.
In the earliest days of Jesus’ life as a human being, God sent the prophet Anna (whose name means “God’s grace”). A devout woman having been widowed after seven years of marriage, Anna lived and served in the temple where she fasted and prayed day and night. The verb used for Anna’s service is latruo in Luke 2:37. This word is used more than 80% of the time in the New Testament to denote worship, and sometimes even priestly work. She may have held some sort of official position.2 Now advanced in years (84 years or older), Anna was to witness and proclaim the hope of her exiled tribe which waited eagerly for the Messiah to redeem Israel.
Anna met baby Jesus when his parents brought him to be the temple for purification and to be presented to the Lord, according to the law of Moses. Before he died, another prophet, Simeon, was also sent by the Spirit to give a blessing to the Messiah. Anna arrived in this same hour. Being one of two led by God to recognize Jesus at this early stage, she gave thanks and continually spoke to those who had been “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38b).
It is no accident that God had a woman preach the good news of the Messiah to God’s people after Jesus was born and had several women preach his resurrection (Matt 28:7–8, John 20:17–18, Luke 24:9–11). Today, many would like to limit what constitutes “preaching,” and thereby explain passages where women speak the words of or about God to the people of God. Does preaching only occur in a church building? Does preaching only occur at official gatherings? Is it only behind a pulpit? With these stipulations, messages from women to the people of God concerning God, his deeds and desire for our lives become relegated to times of “sharing.” Anna’s location was at the temple, and she proclaimed the good news to those who were waiting for their Messiah. “This wasn’t a quiet word behind the scenes, but was a public proclamation in the central place of worship. In fact, it was a defining moment in Christian history.”3 Anna, a devout widow from among the exiled tribes is not to be pitied, but honored and emulated.
Read about Anna of the tribe of Asher in Luke 2:36–38.
In honor of Women’s History Month, read about more historical women at www.cbeinternational.org/whm.
1. See Holy Boldness: Women Preachers’ Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self by Susie C. Stanley or Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters: A Historical and Biographical Guide eds., Marion Ann Taylor and Agnes Choi.
2. Joe E. Lunceford, Biblical Women Submissive?, 94.
3. Cunningham, Hamilton and Rogers, Why Not a Woman?, 57.