Women’s Role in OT and NT

So, this is not a question as such but I’d like to know about women’s role in the Old Testament vs. the New

Whole books have been written on this and similar topics, and probably many still to be written too, so I can only give you an overview of some basics here.

1. There was much less difference between women’s role in the OT and the NT than, for example, women’s roles in Israel compared to the surrounding nations.

There were nations with powerful women, one thinks of Sheba, and, later, Cleopatra, but in most other nations the only powerful women were the cult prostitutes in their pagan temples. This was still the case in Ephesus in Paul’s day.

However in Israel, there were “Judges” who could be a woman as well as a man. “Judges” was a God-favoured method of government, as each godly ruler was appointed by him, and recognised by the nation. “Kings” involved the rulership going down family lines, and you never knew what sort of person you’d get next.

2. So Deborah (Judges 4) who was a prophet, was recognised as the authority over the Nation of Israel.

Miriam played a major role in the leadership of Israel.

Esther is honoured in scripture and tradition as the saviour of the nation.

Ruth is honoured, along with her mother-in-Law, Naomi, by having her own book, (like Esther) telling of her faithfulness to her adopted nation and her place in the ancestry of David, and ultimately, Jesus.

Samuel’s story starts with scripture honouring the faithfulness, not of his father, but of his mother, Hannah.

Look in Gen 27 45 and Gen 28 1 for the way in which “the great Patriarch”, Isaac, was given strict instructions by his wife, and obeyed them to the letter. He knew when she had heard from God!

Sarah, Rachel, Jael, and more, are all honoured by scripture as great formative influences on the nation of Israel. To this day, these women are recognised, formally, as indispensable to what Israel is.

Now call me dim-sighted, but I don’t see that in any other ancient nation, where men ruled by physical force.

3. So, what about the New Testament? Some of these things are well known now, but it does no harm to collect them together here:
Anna is recorded as the prophetess to whom Jesus was brought as a baby. Luke 2 36

Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. His disciples were astonished, because that wasn’t done at the time. Jesus ignored protocol for the sake of the woman. John 4 7

Mary was the first to see the resurrected Jesus.

Women were fully part of the meeting in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. They got baptised in the Spirit like the men did.

Lydia was an important figure in the church in Philippi which met in her house (Acts 16 14)

Nympha hosted a church in her house in Colossae (Col 4 15)

Women were prophets in the church. The church had a duty to take notice and to treat their prophecies exactly the same as men’s. Acts 21 9

Andronicus and Junia were apostles (Rom 16 7) . Although some Bible translators have tried to make Junia into a man’s name by adding an “s” at the end, “June” was never a man’s name then, just as it isn’t now. So the church had a female apostle – one who appointed elders of churches.

Paul says that maleness and femaleness are not significant in the Kingdom of God. Gal 3 27

Jesus implies that our resurrection bodies will be neither male nor female. Mk 12 25

4. Now I don’t mean to imply that there was total similarity between the position of men and women in the Bible. There wasn’t. But much of this was the culture of the surrounding nations creeping into the life of God’s people, and not initially the way God would have wanted it.

However, the position of Godly women in Scripture is a high and honoured one, and this is in stark contrast to what went on the ungodly nations of the time, and also what goes on in the ungodly nations of today.

Related Q & A