When Women Were Priests
In order to understand the role of women in the early church, it is necessary to consider and review the possibility that women occupied positions of leadership. The church at Philippi was not only founded by women but its leadership continued in the hands of women. In Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church, he addressed three women leaders. Priscilla instructed Apollos, a new arrival in Corinth, in the Christian interpretation of the prophets.
The women prophets in Corinth were part of the leadership of the Corinthian community. The four daughters of Philip who were prophets were no doubt part of the leadership of the Christian community in Caesarea. When Prisca and Aquila returned to Rome, they organized and supervised a house church. Phoebe, the minister of the congregation at Cenchreae, carried Paul’s letter to the Romans. Among the leadership of the Roman Christian community were many women. In fact of the 28 prominent persons Paul greeted in his letter, 10 were women. Paul identified Junia as “foremost among the apostles.” Apphia presided with two others as leaders of a house church in Colossae, Nympha in Laodicea, Lydia in Thyatira and Phoebe in Cenchreae.
Women in positions of leadership were a widespread phenomenon in the early Christian churches.