Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church | CBE International

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Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church

The setting of the NT is the first-century Roman Empire, an ancient world alien to modern societies. Not too long ago, our understanding of women in this ancient world was especially limited. It was presumed first-century women were housebound with few freedoms and rights, and that good women lived quiet lives in anonymity under the authority of husbands or fathers. This scenario was indeed the case for many women, but not for all women. If we read the NT carefully we can see this for ourselves.

In the NT, we see that women were active in public spaces. Some were artisans like Priscilla, or in business like Lydia. Some women were independently wealthy like Phoebe, and some were even of royal birth with the privileges and power that came with nobility. There was not one place or one role for women as though all women were the same. In fact, only two roles were out of bounds for women, being a Roman soldier or an imperial official.1 Women filled many places and many different roles in society and in the church.

In this article, I look at the social dynamic of class, a dynamic that typically trumped gender.2 I also look at what the NT says about particular women who were wealthy. My hope is that this discussion will present a broader, more authentic view, beyond limited stereotypes, of the place and participation of certain women in the first-century church.

While this article narrowly focuses on wealthy women, who made up a small but significant part of the early church, I want to emphasise that wealth is not, and was not, a prerequisite for ministry. Jesus and Paul welcomed the poor and marginalised as both members and ministers in the Jesus movement.

Patriarchy and Class

Patriarchy3 was a prevailing dynamic of Roman society, but it was not the only dynamic at work. As well as being patriarchal, Roman society was utterly class-conscious. The two dynamics are not the same, even though there is some overlap. Class distinctions were observed and reinforced daily. For instance, where someone sat in the theatre was determined by class. And where someone sat at a dinner party, if fortunate enough to be invited, was determined by class and even by relative status, or precedence, within one’s class.4

In the highly stratified Roman world, women came from every class. Some women, including Christian women, were free-born Roman citizens and were independently wealthy householders. Some even came from families of the senatorial or equestrian ranks, the two upper classes of Roman society, or from equally high-status families in the provinces.5 The wealth of individuals and families in the upper classes was vast. And with wealth came power. Men and women who were commoners could be affluent, but their level of prosperity was usually not on the same level as that of senators and equestrians.

The number of high-status people was small compared with the rest of the population, possibly only one percent.6 Yet, from the very beginning, the church attracted high-status women.7 By the second and third centuries, the number of young noblewomen converting to Christianity would create a real problemnoblemen were not converting in nearly the same numbers. As a result, a number of women of noble rank could not find Christian husbands of the same rank.8 It was illegal for high-status Roman women to marry outside their rank. If they did, they could forfeit their noble status, their power, and even their wealth. Around AD 200, church leaders such as Tertullian and Callistus addressed this problem.9 Church leaders wanted noble Christian women to maintain their rank because the women could then use their wealth and influence to benefit the church, which they frequently did. Unlike the stereotypes, these were women who controlled their own finances.

Prominent Greek Women: Women of Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens (Acts 17)

What about the stereotype that ancient women were mostly housebound? It is true that in the Greek world of previous centuries, many women, especially high-status women, had led cloistered, hidden lives. Yet the relative levels of restriction or freedom varied greatly whether a Greek woman lived, for example, in Athens or Sparta or Macedonia. In the first century AD, high-status women living in Roman cities, such as Corinth and Philippi (which were Roman colonies), and of course Rome itself, had more freedoms and more legal rights than their Greek sisters of preceding centuries. They also had more freedoms than women living in cities, such as Athens, that were still predominately influenced by Greek customs.

Nevertheless, even some first-century Greek women were making their presence felt in society. Again, we only need to look at the NT to see that this was the case.

In Acts 17, quite a few noblewomen (literally “women of the first families”) in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica became believers (Acts 17:4). It was no small thing for a Greco-Roman woman to convert to Christianity, as wives were expected to worship the gods of their husbands. Moreover, religious activities of the household and community were interwoven with the rhythms and activities of daily life. Despite the difficulties, many “honourable Greek women” became believers in the Macedonian city of Berea also (Acts 17:12). The Greek word for “honourable” (euschēmōn) in Acts 17:12 does not simply mean “respectable,” in that the women had good manners and high morals; it means “of high standing” or even “noble.”10

Further on in Acts 17, an Athenian woman named Damaris is mentioned alongside a man named Dionysius. Dionysius was a council member of the Areopagus (the supreme judicial court of the Athenians, named for the hill on which it met) and therefore from the upper classes. Damaris, Dionysius, and others with them, became believers. The fact that Damaris is named alongside Dionysius seems to indicate they are both from the upper classes but the nameless Athenians are not.

Luke, the author of Acts, was writing under the benefaction of a high-status person, Theophilus, and probably wanted to highlight prominent, high-status people who were converting to Christianity. These would be people Theophilus could identify with, and they would have lent respectability to the new movement. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the number of elite women and men becoming Christians was small compared with lower class men and women who were active in church life and ministry.

A Wealthy Jewish Convert: Lydia of Philippi (Acts 16)

Some of the high-status Greek women who were becoming believers and joining the church had previously converted to Judaism. For a few decades, most converts to Christianity were Jewish or inclined toward Judaism in some regard. This may have been the case for the Thessalonian Greek women mentioned in Acts 17:1–4. It was certainly the case for Lydia in Philippi who is described in Acts 16:14 as a “God-worshipper,” a term indicating “not merely a devout person of any sort but a Gentile who worships the biblical God.”11

Lydia is also described as a businesswoman who dealt with costly cloth dyed with Tyrian purple. Because Lydia was a businesswoman she cannot have been of the highest class, as these people typically did not engage in business. Men and women in the most elite class were like dukes and duchesses who lived exclusively from the wealth of their agricultural estates.12 But members of the equestrian rank, or the provincial equivalent, could engage in business. Because Lydia dealt with a luxury item, which could only be used by the upper classes,13 and because she would have required a great deal of capital to run her business, she may have belonged to a class equivalent to the equestrian class. It is more likely, however, that she was a relatively wealthy commoner.14

Lydia had a home in Philippi that was large enough to accommodate Paul and his companions, and she had the freedom to invite them into her home without first asking a male guardian. When she and the household that is identified with her had been baptised, she said to Paul, “Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house” (Acts 16:15 CEB). Paul accepted her hospitality. Lydia opened her home to Paul and his fellow travellers and to gatherings of the first church at Philippi (Acts 16:40).15

Philippi was a Roman colony situated in Macedonia. Macedonia was one place where women had relative freedoms even when the Greeks ruled.16

If Macedonia produced perhaps the most competent group of men the world had yet seen, the women were in all respects the men’s counterparts; they played a large part in affairs, received envoys and obtained concessions for them from their husbands, built temples, founded cities, engaged mercenaries, commanded armies, held fortresses, and acted on occasion as regents or even co-rulers.17

Some of the leading women of Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi, all Macedonian cities, joined the church where their wealth, clout, and protection could be used to benefit other members of their churches.

A Powerful Jewish Princess: Bernice (Acts chapters 25–26)

As well as prominent Greek and Jewish women who became Christians, the NT mentions other powerful women who did not become Christians. Such women were among the celebrities of their day and had some influence on the politics and moral tone of society, especially politics and morality regarding women.

Two women of the highest class are mentioned in Acts. Drusilla, a Jewish princess, is mentioned in Acts 24:24. Drusilla was a daughter of Herod Agrippa I, hence a great granddaughter of Herod the Great.18 She was also the wife of Felix, the Roman governor of Judea between AD 56 and 60. Bernice, or Bereniceanother Jewish princess, is mentioned in Acts 25:13, 23ff. and Acts 26:30–31. She was also a daughter of Herod Agrippa I. In Acts, she appears as the consort of her brother Agrippa II when they both hear Paul defend himself in Caesarea.

Bernice became one of the most powerful women of her day. When she was sixteen, she married her uncle, Herod V, king of Chalcis and brother of Herodias.19 Bernice secured the title queen after her husbands death when she was just twenty years old.20 Rome then gave her brother Herod Agrippa II the kingdom of Chalcis, which he ruled together with Bernice.21 Because they spent so much time together, rumours of incest circulated. To quell the rumours, Bernice married. She chose to marry the king of Cilicia, but the marriage was not a success, so she returned to live with her brother.22

Bernice was in Jerusalem in AD 66 as the Jewish revolt was beginning. She saw the brutality of Roman soldiers towards the Jews, and she sent frequent messages (via men of the equestrian rank) to the governor of Judea, Gessius Florus, concerning this. She even approached his tribunal seat in an attempt to diplomatically reason with him, but the governor did not listen (Josephus, J.W. 2.309–314). Bernice and her brother then tried to quiet the Jewish uprising themselves, with only temporary success (Josephus, J.W. 2.402–406).

When war did break out in 67, Bernice sided with the Romans, possibly because she saw them as becoming the victors. Furthermore, she became a powerful supporter of the Roman general Vespasian and even became his patron. Tacitus writes, “Queen Bernice too, who was then in the prime of youth and beauty, and who had charmed even the old Vespasian by the splendour of her presents, promoted his cause with equal zeal” (History 2.81.2). His cause was to become emperor, and he was successful. Around AD 68, Bernice became the lover and consort of Vespasians son Titus who was eleven years younger than her. Titus was the general whose troops destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. Probably due to anti-Jewish sentiments in Rome, however, Titus sent Bernice away around the time he became emperor.

Women such as Bernice, Drusilla, and Herodias were powerful wealthy women of the highest class. They were accustomed to getting their way, and each had a staff of servants and slaves, as well as dependent clients, who did their bidding. These noblewomen were not Christians, but their example may well have influenced and emboldened other women, including Jews and Christians, in some way.23

We know that some wealthy Jewish women in Asia Minor were benefactors of synagogues and were prominent in their communities. Inscriptions in Asia Minor reveal that a few of these women were referred to with leadership titles such as “ruler of the synagogue.”24 It is debated if these titles were honorary or whether women did run at least some synagogues in antiquity. Whatever the case, these women were not invisible or powerless.

Women of Aristocratic Households: Junia, Julia, and Claudia?

We have seen that some women from the finest families in Macedonia joined the church, even if the Jewish princesses did not. Are there any Christian women from Roman senatorial families mentioned in the NT?

Three of the most powerful aristocratic families in Rome were the Junian, Julian, and Claudian families.25 The women in these families were frequently named Junia, Julia, and Claudia, respectively. Interestingly, in the NT, there is a Junia, a Julia, and a Claudia, and they each lived in Rome. Were these women from aristocratic families?

There was a custom of freed slaves taking on the family name of their master or mistress, and this may have been the case for Junia who is mentioned in Rom 16:7. Her husband’s name, “Andronicus,” was a common slave name, so they may both have been freed slaves of the imperial household.26 This is likely the situation for Julia and her husband Philologus who are mentioned in Rom 16:15.27 Both Junia and Julia and their husbands28 were probably attached to aristocratic households but were not themselves of the upper classes. It is possible that several names in Rom 16 are of Christians who belonged to Caesars household.29

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul passed on greetings from the Christians in Caesar’s household (Phil 4:22). A few Christians would even gain positions of power within the imperial household. For example, Emperor Commodus, who ruled from 180–192, had a Christian concubine named Marcia.30 Through her influence, many Christians who had been enslaved and sent to the tin mines in Sardinia were freed. One of these slaves, Callistus, became bishop of Rome.

In 2 Timothy, greetings are sent from a Roman woman named Claudia. Identifying Claudia is difficult, for it was a common name, but because of the names mentioned with hers in 2 Tim 4:21, especially Pudens and Linus, there have been some suggestions regarding who this woman was. One suggestion is that she was Claudia Rufina, whose husband was a Roman senator named Pudens. This theory puts Claudia Rufina in the highest class. Another suggestion is that she was the mother of Linus who became bishop of the church in Rome in AD 67. Still another suggestion is that she was the daughter of Caratacus, a British chieftain who was captured and then freed by Emperor Claudius. Whatever her real identity and social status, Claudia, and the other individuals mentioned with her in 2 Tim 4:21, were each prominent in the church at Rome.

Some Christian women mentioned in the NT were of noble birth. But many other NT women, while they appear to be independent householders and relatively wealthy, did not belong to one of the upper classes. Roman laws first introduced in the late first century BC had made it possible for some women to retain their own wealth and not transfer it to their husbands’ families. This meant that if a woman from a wealthy family outlived her husband and father, she could become wealthy in her own right. The average age of first-time Roman brides was fourteen and the average of first-time husbands was twenty-four (though husbands could be considerably older). Thus it was not unusual for a wife to outlive her husband, provided she survived childbirth. It seems from the biblical texts that Lydia in Philippi, Nympha in Laodicea (Col 4:15), the “chosen lady” in Asia Minor (2 John 1),31 and others acted independently and thus may have been relatively wealthy widows. These women hosted and cared for congregations in their own homes.

A Patron of Many: Phoebe of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1–2)

Another woman who acted independently of a husband or father is Phoebe of Cenchrea. In Rom 16:1–2, Paul identifies this woman with three pieces of information that refer to her ecclesial status: she is “our sister,” “diakonos (“deacon/minister”) of the church at Cenchrea,” and “a prostatis (“patron”) of many” including Paul.

A patron—prostatis (feminine) or prostatēs (masculine)—was, without exception, an influential person in Roman society. Until recently, however, when translating or commenting on prostatis in Rom 16:2, mundane words such as helper have typically been used. Noted scholar James Dunn calls attention to the bias against recognising Phoebe as an influential woman: The unwillingness of commentators to give prostatis its most natural and obvious sense of patron is most striking.32 He adds that, unlike many modern readers, Pauls original readers were unlikely to think of Phoebe as other than a figure of significance whose wealth and influence had been put at the disposal of the church at Cenchrea.”33

The practice of patronage flourished in the early Roman Empire and was an essential part of Roman society. Seneca even described it as “the chief bond of human society” (De Beneficiis 1.4.2). Having a patron was often a necessary means of gaining access to goods, protection, or opportunities for employment and advancement.34 As well as being an important part of Roman society at all levels, patronage was also important in the church. Edwin Judge has remarked, Christianity was a movement sponsored by local patrons to their social dependents.35

Though the practice of patronage was informal and voluntary, certain social constraints and reciprocal obligations were integral to the client-patron relationship. And a wealthy man or woman who made a generous donation to his or her city, community, guild, or to an individual, etc., was able to exercise considerable influence and power.36 Forbes and Harrower write:

Because patronage was “in many ways gender-blind” women could deliberately, or as a by-product of their benefaction, increase their honour and presence in the public arena. . . . Women patrons thus won for themselves liberty to speak and act in political and religious affairs.37

It may be that the power of patrons was tempered in early Christian communities. Nevertheless, wealthy women who acted as patrons continued to be influential in the church even when other ministerial functions were increasingly denied to them. In many churches, male ministers “welcomed women as patrons and even offered them roles in which they could act as collaborators. By 200 AD, the role of women [as patrons and collaborators] in Christian churches was quite unmistakable.”38 Like the apostle Paul, some of the great men of early Christianity, such as Clement of Alexandria (b. 150), Origen (b. 184/5), and Jerome (b. 347) were supported by wealthy female friends and colleagues.39

Conclusion

The customs surrounding class distinctions and patronage gave high-status and wealthy women power and prominence in society. These customs also enabled high-status and wealthy women to have influence in the church: they were her patrons, protectors, house church leaders, and ministers. Unlike common stereotypes, these women were not housebound and sheltered, quiet or anonymous. However, much like other Christians, these wealthy women used their various resources and gifts to benefit their churches.40

Notes

1. Lynn H. Cohick writes, “Two jobs were restricted to women only: midwifery and wet-nursing, and two jobs were off-limits: soldiering and holding an imperial office.” Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 31

2. Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, 22.

3. “Patriarchy is the power of the fathers: a familial-social, ideological, political system in which men—by force, direct pressure, or through ritual, tradition, law and language, custom, etiquette, education and the division of labour—determine what part women shall or shall not play, and in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male.” Adrienne Rich, Of Women Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976), 57.

4. James wrote against preferential seating in his NT letter (James 2:1–9).

5. Wayne Meeks writes, “The ‘orders’ (ordines) or ‘estates’ of imperial Roman Society . . . were clear-cut, legally established categories. The two most important and enduring ones were the senators and the knights [or, equestrians]: the ordo senatorius and the ordo equester. In addition, the families whose members had served or were eligible to serve in the councils or senates of the provincial cities constituted a local order in those places.” Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 53.

6. Meeks, First Urban Christians, 53.

7. The early church was attractive to women, including women of high status, “because within the Christian subculture women enjoyed far higher status than did women in the Greco-Roman world at large.” Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 95.

8. Peter Lampe notes that we cannot even name forty people of the senatorial class who were Christians before the time of Constantine (who died in 337), but of these forty individuals two-thirds are women. Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 119. No doubt there were still other Christians of the senatorial class whose names we do not know.

9. See, for example, Tertullian, The Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage, trans. and annotated by William P. Le Saint, Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 13 (New York: Paulist, 1951).

10. See BDAG, εὐσχήμων. As examples, Joseph of Arimathea is described as euschēmōn (Mark 15:43), as are some women from Pisidian Antioch in Asia Minor (Acts 13:50). There is no doubt that wealthy women and men played important, leading roles in the church, but poorer people also made vital contributions and became leaders. Moreover, Paul speaks out strongly against bias towards honourable and elite men and women in the churches. In 1 Cor 12, Paul uses the body as a metaphor for the church and includes the word euschēmōn: “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more ‘honorable parts’ [ta euschēmona, from euschēmōn] do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other” (1 Cor 12:22–25 NLT).

11. Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 493; see also Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, SP (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1992), 293: “Luke’s usage is sufficiently flexible to make it impossible to know for certain whether . . . she was a Gentile attracted to the synagogue’s teachings, or whether she was in fact a pious Jew.”

12. Families of the senatorial class needed to have a net worth of more than 1,000,000 sestertii, and they did not engage in business. (As a very rough guide, one sestertius could buy two loaves of bread.) In the first century, some, but not all, of these senatorial families were of aristocratic descent.

13. Clothes dyed with Tyrian purple, also known as imperial or royal purple, were also worn by high-class prostitutes. See Bruce Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 42–43, 100, 105.

14. While it is likely Lydia ran her own business, it is also possible she was employed by someone else as a dealer of purple fabric.

15. Lydia’s hospitality in Philippi somewhat fits a pattern that Ben Witherington has observed: “prominent women are mentioned wherever house churches are mentioned in the New Testament. Women converts of some means who were offering occasional lodging and hospitality to fellow Christians became the Christian equivalent of a ‘mother of the synagogue’ as their homes, originally hostels for travelling Christians, became regular meeting places of the converts in their area. . . . the house was the center for the Church [in which] women quite naturally were in the forefront of providing for Christian life and growth, and the spread of the Gospel.” Witherington, Women and the Genesis of Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 212–13.

16. See further, Aída Besançon Spencer, “Leadership of Women in Crete and Macedonia as a Model for the Church,” Priscilla Papers 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2013): 5–15; Robert F. Hull Jr., “Constructing Euodia and Syntyche: Philippians 4:2–3 and the Informed Imagination,” Priscilla Papers 30, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 3–7.

17. W. Tarn and G. T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilisation, 3rd ed. (London: Methuen, 1952), 98–99.

18. Herod Agrippa I is mentioned in Acts 12. He had James, the brother of John, killed, and Peter imprisoned.

19. Herod V’s sister was Herodias, who was responsible for the death of John the Baptist (see Matt 14, Mark 6, Luke 3). Chalcis was a small kingdom situated in Lebanon.

20. “On a Latin inscription from Beirut she is called ‘Queen Berenice, daughter of the great king Agrippa’ (Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions (1927) pp. 243–44); on a Greek inscription she is called Julia Berenice, the great queen (IG III.556CIG 361). F. F. BruceThe Book of Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 457n27.

21. In parts of the ancient world, it was not an oddity for a woman to be a ruler, even in her own right. Egypt sometimes had women rulers, the most famous being Cleopatra VII, the last Egyptian pharaoh. And Kush (called Ethiopia in the Bible) sometimes had women rulers. Candace, mentioned in passing Acts 8:27, is one such ruler. “Candace” (Greek Kandake) was a dynastic name or title.

22. Women who were Roman citizens could easily divorce their husbands, and divorces were common in the upper classes as new political allegiances were formed and old ones broken.

23.The dress and behaviour of wealthy women in the Ephesian church, addressed in 1 Tim 2:9–10, may have been influenced by the dress and behaviour of elite women who were seen as roles models.

24. For example, a second-century AD inscription from Smyrna mentions a woman named Rufina who was synagogue ruler. The inscription reads: “Rufina, a Jewess synagogue ruler, built this tomb for her freed slaves and the slaves raised in her household. No one else has a right to bury anyone here” (CII 741; IGR IV. 1452). See Bernadette J. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background, BJS 36 (Atlanta: Scholars’, 1982).

25. The first five Roman emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—belonged to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. That is, their lineage came from both the Julian and Claudian families.

26. Amy Peeler notes, “Andronikos is a male Greek name, often given to slaves or freedman (manumitted slaves). Junia is . . . a common female Latin name, related to the esteemed Roman family the gens Junia, which could be taken by their slaves or the descendants of their slaves.” Peeler, “Junia/Joanna: Herald of the Good News,” in Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible, ed. Sandra Glahn (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2017), 273–85, 278. Richard Bauckham and Ben Witherington III argue instead that Junia is one and the same as Joanna, a disciple of Jesus who had been a member of the court of Herod Antipas with her husband Chuza. See Richard J. Bauckham, Gospel Women (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 109–202; and Ben Witherington III, Joanna: Apostle of the Lordor Jailbait?” BRev 21, no. 2 (Spring 2005): 12–14.

27. Philologus may well be the same man who is mentioned in several surviving inscriptions of the imperial household. See J. B. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians (London and Cambridge: MacMillan, 1869), 175.

28. Slaves and freedmen could not legally marry under Roman law; nevertheless, many couples belonging to these lower classes lived as husband and wife.

29. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians, 171–75, discusses Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, and Aristobulus.

30. Though they were not legally married, Commodus and Marcia lived as husband and wife. Marcia was regarded as the consort of Commodus and she was known for her acts of benefaction.

31. Scholarship is divided on whether “chosen lady” refers to a woman or to a congregation. For a defence of the view expressed above, see Margaret Mowczko, “The Elder and the Lady: A Look at the Language of 2 John,” Mutuality 23, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 12–13; William David Spencer, “Editor’s Reflections,” Priscilla Papers 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 2–4.

32. James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9–16, WBC 38B (Dallas: Word, 1988), 888.

33. Dunn, Romans 9–16, 889.

34. David deSilva, “Patronage and Reciprocity: The Context of Grace in the New Testament,” ATJ 31 (1999), 32.

35. Edwin A. Judge, The Early Christians as a Scholastic Community (London: Tyndale, 1960), 8.

36. Jesus referred to the practice of patronage in Luke 22:24–27 using the word “benefactors” (euergetai, cf. Matt 20:25–28). Jesus rejected this Greco-Roman leadership model “and the manner in which those in authority exercised power and authority over those under them.” Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), 244.

37. Greg W. Forbes and Scott D. Harrower, Raised from Obscurity: A Narratival and Theological Study of the Characterization of Women in Luke-Acts (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2015), 32.

38. Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 144–45.

39. Many of these women were well-educated. The education of girls in the first century is beyond the scope of this article.

40. In the first decades of the church, spiritual giftedness was one of the primary qualifications for ministry. Gifted people, regardless of wealth and status, participated in ministry in churches founded by Paul and others. There is ample evidence that women, whether rich or poor, were prophets in the early church. For example, the apocryphal 3 Corinthians mentions Theonoe, and Fragment 9 of the apocryphal Acts of Paul mentions Myrte, both prophetesses in the Corinthian Church (cf. 1 Cor 12:28, 14:26, 39). The prophesying daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) were well known in the early church, and Eusebius associates them with apostolic gifts, teaching, and foundational ministry (Hist. Eccl. 3.37.1; cf. 5.17.3).

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