In a recent study of women in the Bible, I was struck by how many women Paul knew personally who were stalwart behind-the-scenes stabilizers of the early church.
Men seem to get most of the limelight for building the early church–and I do NOT want to take anything away from them for they certainly deserve credit where credit is due–but let’s never forget that women were important too.
The first European Christian church began with a women’s Bible study. Praying, serving, loving ladies not only helped established what became the modern church; they were the invisible glue that held it together through the centuries.
And I’m totally stoked that Paul recognized that. Three of the nine women he gave shout-outs to in Romans, chapter 16, really stood out.
In verse one, Paul commends Phoebe, “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.” First of all, that city, Cenchrea–where have I heard that before? Ah, yes, it was the port near Corinth where Paul got a haircut (Acts 18:18). Must have been a humdinger of a stylist for Paul to document the occasion in the Holy Scriptures. That and this are the only two times it’s ever mentioned in the Bible. Feel free to add that to your list of interesting Bible trivia.
Secondly, that word ‘servant’ just begged for a deeper look. After all, don’t we all feel like servants to our churches when we commit to a ministry? Yet it does go deeper than that. The NASB interprets the Greek word ‘prostatis’ as servant, but other translations use the word ‘helper’ or ‘protectress.’ I LOVE THAT.
Protectress. Roll it across your tongue with me. Kinda makes you want to roar, doesn’t it?
Then ‘Phoebe’ rang a bell. I recalled that Phoebe is the name of the Moon Goddess from ancient Greek mythology (I’ve been fascinated by Greek mythology since childhood). Sure enough, a little research revealed that Paul’s Phoebe was likely named after the Greek Goddess Phoebe, indicating that she was probably a Greek/Gentile Christian; as opposed to being a Jew like many of the early believers.
Phoebe was a non-Jewish convert to loving Jesus. Like me. Like you. I like her already.
But my point here is that we ARE gals. Women who love and serve Jesus just as much as men folk. And because of that, we’re important. Jesus knew that when he appeared first to his women followers after the resurrection. The very ones who didn’t run for their lives and desert him like his disciples did.