What follows are the overview and class notes to a class Ella Rozett taught at the Santa Rosa Junior College in 2004.
The problem: Women's roles in the religious history of the Old and New Testaments have been largely ignored, forgotten, and almost erased.
Examples: Paul cites Barak not Deborah as the Judge of Israel at her time. Where are the books of the female prophets? Why are the Books of Judith and Wisdom apocryphal?
Who remembers the woman in Mat 26:13 of whom Jesus says: "wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her."?
Are all generations calling the Virgin Mary "Blessed", as she expected?
The goal: To remember and honor women in the Bible; to affirm their religious roles of prophetesses, apostles, mothers of humanity and of God, saviors of men and nations. To cope with millennia of suppression of women. To honor our foremothers, who always struggled against it. To understand how oppression went through many cycles of improvements and backlashes, which means we have to closely guard the advances we have made.
The gender and numerical value of the one God in whose image humans were created as male and female. Can one God be mother and father? Were Adam and Eve equals? (Genesis 1:26-4:1)
A. Who saved Moses? The midwives, his mother, his sister Miriam, the daughter of Pharaoh and his wife Zipporah. (Exodus 1:15-22, 2:122, 4:24-26)
B. Who saved the Jewish people? Esther and Judith. (Books of Judith and Esther)
C. What did the prophetesses do? Miriam led the women, not only in song and dance. (Ex. 15:20-21, Numbers 12 + 20:1+12, Micah 6:4) Deborah judged, led into battle, liberated Israel from its oppressor, and reigned in peace. (Judges 4+5) Huldah counseled the king and decided what was holy scripture. (2 Kings 22:14) Anna lived her whole adult life in the temple and proclaimed the Messiah, as did Elizabeth. (Luke 2:36-38)
A. Mary, "Spouse of the Holy Spirit". What did she feel when "the Holy Spirit overshadowed her"? "Mother of God", who pushed Jesus into his mission when he thought he wasn't ready. "Queen of Heaven", clothed in the sun, standing on the moon, wearing a crown of stars. She becomes the successor of the dethroned goddesses.
B. Mary Magdalene, "the apostle to the apostles", most beloved disciple of Jesus.
C. Female apostles: Joanna (Lk. 8:3, 24:10), Martha and Mary of Bethany (Lk. 10:38-42; Jn. 11:1-44, 12:1-8), the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:24-30), the Samarian woman (Jn 4:4-42), Junia (Romans 16:7), etc.
D. Women in "the Acts of the Apostles": the missionaries Lydia (Acts 16:13-15+40) and Prisca, (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3-16; Corinthians 16:19) the deacon Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), the heads of church communities.
Women's roles in the religious history of the Old and New Testaments have been largely ignored, forgotten, and almost erased.
Examples: Paul cites Barak not Deborah as the Judge of Israel at her time.
Peter says Sarah obeyed Abraham (1 Pet 3:6) when in reality in was vice versa (Genesis 21:8-10) And where are the books of the female prophets?
The Book of Judith, the Book of Wisdom, and Sirach were never accepted into the "Palestinian Canon" which was established by Palestinian rabbis after the 70 C.E. destruction of the Temple. All of them honor the feminine and were included into the canon by the Alexandrian rabbis. (The Egyptians were the most egalitarian society in antiquity with regards to gender relations.) Catholic Bibles follow the Alexandrians, Protestant ones generally the Palestinians.
Who remembers the woman in Mat 26:13 of whom Jesus says: "wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her."?
Do all generations call Mother Mary "Blessed" like she expects in Lk 1:48
To remember and honor women in the Bible; to affirm their religious roles of prophetesses, apostles, mothers of humanity and of God, saviors of men and nations, to cope with millennia of suppression of women, and to honor our foremothers, who always struggled against it.
It's a myth that women's struggle for emancipation is a thing of the 1960's; actually it is as old as women's oppression. While they weren't always able to liberate themselves fully, at least they kept men on the edge of their seats, in terror of the possibility of women's takeover! See beginning of Book of Esther. (1:15-22) Also Sirach 9:2 "Give no woman power over you to trample upon your dignity."
Oppression went through many cycles of improvements and backlashes. Anytime Christianity came to new territory women's rights increased because this made them useful allies of the new faith. Women preached, heard confessions, ordained nuns. Some abbesses had their own courts, coined their own money, had their own knights, admonished emperors and popes. (E.g. Roswitha of Gandersheim (c.930 - c.990 A.D. and Hildegard of Bingen 1098-1179 A.D.) , see: Bonnie Anderson and Judith Zinsser, "A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present" Vol 1, Harper & Row, 1988, p.186-190)
Anytime the new religion became accepted by main stream society those rights were taken away again. Nuns were locked up in cloisters, mystics and any "problematic" women burned at the stake by the hundreds of thousands. This means we have to closely guard the advances we have made.
The gender of God:
The gender and numerical value of the one God in whose image humans were created as male and female. Can one God be mother and father? While Christian theologians are usually adamant about God having no gender, they are often just as adamant that HE should not be called "she", or "Goddess", or "Our Mother who art in heavenâ€¦" The fact is that the Abrahamitic God is far more often portrayed as male than female. God/dess is also portrayed as being ONE in a way that doesn't encourage much diversity within that unity. Nonetheless God certainly does display different moods as well as male and female traits. Read: Genesis 1:26+27.
The apocryphal Book of Wisdom depicts Lady Wisdom as feminine face of God, but she is not clearly defined theologically. Poetic descriptions of her are inconsistent, which shows the ambivalence of honoring the divine feminine in a patriarchal system. In chapters 6-10 she is described as a gift from God that leads to closeness with him. Wisdom is not something we create by studying but something that is given to us if we are righteous, pray and plead for wisdom, and love Her. The path to her is the same as the path to God. She is said to be "the mother of all good things" and the artificer of all. (7:22) ("Artificer", to avoid "creator".) She governs all things, yet she is said to be guided by God and to be the attendant at God's throne (just so she knows her place, I suppose). But then it also says in chapter 7:23-27, that in her is a spirit: "all-powerful, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits, â€¦ she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. For she is the aura of the might of God and a pure outpouring of the glory of the Almighty; â€¦ she is the brilliance of eternal light, â€¦ And she, who is one, can do all things â€¦, passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets." Like the Christ/Logos of John, she "was present when you made the world" (9:9), she saved it, and shows the way to the kingdom of God (10:10). In short she does everything the Holy Spirit does.
In Sirach she is more like a daughter of God, created before all else, but not God itself. (1:4+8; 24:3-4) Yet God pours her out upon all his works.
The only thing John's gospel adds to turn Lady Wisdom into the Christ-Logos is to affirm what others didn't dare: "And the Word was God."
The problem with monotheism:
For millennia the Sons of Israel struggled with finding a good way of being monotheists, a way which would honor a multiplicity within the One God. In this quest they often fell into the extremes of worshipping either one male God in whom there was no room for a feminine aspect, or the many gods of their neighbors, who included the feminine, but also gods of the sun, moon, signs of the zodiac, etc. Some of these demanded human sacrifice and temple prostitutes. (2 Kings 23)
Perhaps Indian theism is preferable to Middle Eastern monotheism, because it sees God as one in essence but many in appearance. God's true being is beyond the human categories of one and many. We need a new concept of oneness that allows for multiplicity. Oneness is not the same as sameness.
Were Adam and Eve created equal?
Yes, the earthling (Hebrew: ha adam) was male and female in one, like God. It was coupled with the earth, (Hebrew: ha adamah, the feminine ending added unto ha adam.) First all of creation was "very good" (end of Genesis, chapter 1) But in the second account it is different. The earthling is created first rather than last. Something is wrong with it. It is "not good alone". Some put the two accounts together as one, even though they are contradictory. Then the story can be interpreted like this: first all, including the earthling, was very good, but then something changed and it was no longer good that adam was alone. What happened? Katherine Bushnell makes an interesting argument in "God's Word to Women" (self-published in 1923, available on the www only). She suggests that the earthling stumbled and that Eve, which means "life" and which was its feminine half, was separated out in order to catch the earthling's fall.
Here is a quote from the Zohar, the great 13th century work of the Jewish mystical system called Kabbalah. It is a commentary on Genesis 5:1-2: "'Male and female He created them.' From here we learn: Any image that does not embrace male and female is not a high and true image. â€¦ Come and see: The Blessed One does not place His abode in any place where male and female are not found together. Blessings are found only in a place where male and female are found, as it is written: 'He blessed them and called their name Adam on the day they were created.' It is not written: 'He blessed him and called his name Adam.' A human being is only called Adam when male and female are as one." (Daniel Matt, "Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment", Paulist Press, 1983: p.55-56)
This is what Jews tried to do with their "sacred poles" (2 Kings 23:6) representing the feminine side of God next to altars of I Am, JHVH, the Source of Being, God. They had no name for the feminine face till later (Shekhinah) so they called her Asherah or Astarte like their neighbors did. In 2 Kings 23:13 King Salomon establishes an altar to her on a mountain pass near Jerusalem.
Wisdom literature was another attempt at honoring the female principle along with the male, but it wasn't accepted as canonical by all. Please read Wisdom 6:12-11:1 and Sirach 24. Nor is that feminine face of God equal. But to many patriarchs there is no contradiction in something being goddess and of essential importance, yet subordinate to God. To them the whole universe is hierarchical, including God/dess.
But God doesn't always agree with man's sense of hierarchy. Scripture often speaks of God turning human hierarchical systems upside down. E.g. Mary's Magnificat speaks of God throwing the mighty off their thrones, elevating the lowly, sending the rich away hungry and filling the hungry. Jesus is all about turning human ideas about power upside down. Judith of the Book of Judith talks about this as well.
Nowadays we take the value of equality for granted, but we haven't thought it through philosophically. Buddhists have; they acknowledge a "wisdom of equality and of discrimination." That is to say, in the Buddhist view all phenomena are equal at their deepest, most divine level. Nonetheless, at the functional level of daily life, we have to be able to perceive the relatively real differences between good and bad, real and unreal, superior and inferior, etc.
Hence, in God there is room for equality and hierarchy. There can be a division of labor, there can be queen bees and queen ants and alpha wolves. But nowhere in nature or in God is there a suppression of God's gifts. When women are not allowed to prophesy or preach or dance or write, it has nothing to do with God. (E.g. Teresa of Avila) No species in nature locks one gender up in a harem, or cloister, or home.
Back to Adam and Eve: All the animals are presented to the Earthling as a potential "help meet as before him", but none of them are good enough. (Good reminder at our time when many prefer to live with animals rather than struggle with human relationships.) Patriarchs like to interpret "help meet" as "servant" as in: "It's so hard to find good help these days!" But the expression is used 21 times in the Hebrew Bible, 5 times referring to vital human help, the rest of the time to divine help as in Psalm 121:2 "My help comes from the Lord." In Genesis the earthling can't be helped by an inferior animal or by a superior God. It needs an equal from whom it is separate yet with whom it is also one, "bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh".
So God operates on the earthling, taking part of it and making it into woman. What part did God take in Genesis 2: 21-24? Patriarchs translate "rib". They want it to be an expendable part with no brain. But the word actually means side. So one should translate: "He (God) took one of his (adam's) sides and closed the flesh instead of it." I.e. the female side of the androgynous earthling was separated out. From then on humans are called "husband and wife" (ish and isha) and are coupled with each other instead of with the earth. Read Katherine Bushnell, "God's Word to Women", lesson 5:40.
Comment on Genesis 2:24: Countless fables were invented to answer questions about our world that end with: "And that is why, to this day â€¦â€¦" So the whole purpose of the second creation account is to answer the question: "Why are men so attached to their wives, and why do they (as was Hebrew custom) move into the house and family of their wives rather than vice versa. This was a remnant from matriarchy. Once patriarchy had established itself more thoroughly, women moved into the houses of their husbands. The apparent weakness of men's attachment to women, fueled by desire, which led them to leave their beloved families had to be explained away somehow or counterbalanced with a story of woman's weakness and inferiority. The story does explain nicely why men and women become one, but it does not explain why the man moves in with the woman. It merely compensates with stories affirming that she has to be subordinate in spite of this initial position of superiority.
The Fall: Read and comment on chapter 3. Why does the serpent address the woman? Since, according to Katherine Bushnell, Eve caught Adam's first stumble and was made to help/protect him, her help must be eliminated so that this time the earthling can not just stumble but fall. Also woman is intelligent enough to recognize the truth in the snake's words and to value wisdom more than obedience. Both God and the devil give half truths.
After the fall: Life goes on or gets going. Eve becomes the mother of all the living. (Genesis 3:20) She's still on good terms with God and rejoices in their joint creation: "I have produced a man with the help of the Lord." (Genesis 4:1)
Many scholars say that it took humanity many millennia to figure out that men had anything to do with procreation. It seemed to be something that was accomplished between woman and the divine. Eve seems to agree with that view. Even the story of Mary conceiving Jesus without the help of a man speaks to this old sentiment. I think herein lies the key to the war between the sexes.
How patriarchs use this story: 1Timothy 2:12-15.
Who saved Moses?
The midwives, his mother, his sister Miriam, the daughter of Pharaoh and his wife Zipporah.
Read: Exodus 1:15-22, 2:1-10. He in turn defends women: Ex. 2:15-22 Zipporah: Ex 4:24-26. She saves Moses from God's wrath, presumably over his son not being circumcised. Zipporah was not Jewish and not inclined to circumcise her sons, except when forced in order to save her husband's life. Note that such an important decision was hers to make, not her husband's. She saved Moses by circumcising her son at the last minute and performing an obscure ritual, touching his foreskin to Moses' genitals and saying: "You are a bloody spouse to me."
Who saved the Jewish people?
Judith and Esther did. It is not surprising that the Palestinian rabbis excluded the book of Judith but not Esther from the canon. Judith acts independently of any man. She stays independent the whole way through and the story ends with her crowning herself and the other women and dancing in a parade before the men who follow the women.
In contrast Esther acts at the behest of her stepfather and is an obedient and therefore "worthy" queen. She does nothing of her own impulse. Still she is courageous and acknowledged as a "savior of Israel". By now women learned that they need a holiday like Purim to ensure that a woman will be remembered.
Why does God save his people through women?
Men think it's to shame them for not being manly enough. They live in constant fear of not proving to be real men. The ultimate nightmare is when a woman is more "manly" than they. This is true in Deborah (Judges 4:8-9). Here men are too weak.
Judith's opinion is different. Men are too stupid (8:13 "Will you never understand anything?") and too proud: God "crushes their pride by the hand of a woman". (9:10) But it's not all about men or women. Funny that nothing in the Bible or in patriarchal commentaries suggests that stories of women's strength are simply to show that women are as capable as men.
On a spiritual level women saving and slaying men is about the nature of God. Read Judith 9:11 + 14. When God acts through the weak and the poor he says: in me everything is completely different than in human thinking and systems. Judith says he is unfathomable, even more unfathomable than the human heart. In God everything is upside down and in order to get to know God you have to swim against the stream. E.g. you'll find peace and happiness in fasting, wearing sackcloth, and living in a tent. You'll find power without armies or chariots, tanks or smart bombs. In God weakness is strength and worldly strength is weakness.
What did the prophetesses do?
Not surprisingly, their books or sayings are lost.
1. Miriam (around 1300-1200 B.C.E.) led the women, not only in song and dance.
Read: Exodus15:20+21, Numbers 12 and 20:1+12 God punished others (including Moses and Aaron) more severely than he punished Miriam. Micah 6:4
2. Deborah (somewhere around 1100 B.C.E.) judged, led into battle, liberated Israel from its oppressor, and reigned in peace. Read: Judges chapters 4 + 5. In Hebrews 11:32 she is left out, replaced by Barak, her general, in the introduction to the Book of Judges. In 5:1 Barak is added as a singer of what is clearly her song.
5:28-31: it seems she considers sympathy for her enemies' women, but then she falls into gloating/malicious glee. In this story women are not much better than men. They look forward to the booty stolen from their dead sisters. They hope their men are busy raping their spoil rather than dead.
3. Huldah counseled the king in 621 B.C.E. and decided what was holy scripture. 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22 She was the first ever to officially recognize a writing as the Word of God. Her power was instrumental in uprooting the last remnants of Goddess worship in Israel.
4. Noadiah and other unnamed prophets tried to dissuade Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but he prevailed.
5. Anna lived her whole adult life in the temple and proclaimed the Messiah, as did Elizabeth (proclaim the Messiah). (Luke 2:36-38)
Intermittently women always prophesied, but they were rarely listened to and there were probably long periods without any women prophets. That's when Joel (about 400 B.C.E.) prophesied: "Then afterward, I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids in those days, I will pour out my spirit." (Joel, 2:28-29 or 3:1-2) In Acts 2:17-18 Peter (of all!) quotes this passage and says this time is now here. Hence many women prophesied in the early church. E.g. Acts 21:9 "Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters gifted with prophecy." In 1 Corinthians 14:5 Paul says: "Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy." But then the churches appeared like madhouses to outsiders, with everybody speaking in tongues and prophesying simultaneously. So Paul changed his mind and shut women up, along with many men, in the name of order and "peace". Then again he felt people were suppressing the Spirit too much, so he said: "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophesying. Test everything; retain what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21) It seems he could not make up his mind.
New Testament Women
Mother Mary, "Spouse of the Holy Spirit". What did she feel when "the Holy Spirit overshadowed her"? "Mother of God", who pushed Jesus into his mission when he thought he was not ready. "Queen of Heaven", clothed in the sun, standing on the moon, wearing a crown of stars. She becomes the successor of the dethroned goddesses. For a detailed article on her position in the Bible, click here.
Elizabeth and Mary, the first 2 women mentioned in the Jesus story. Like John the Baptist prepares the way and ministers to Jesus, so Elizabeth prepares the way and ministers to Mary. (Lk 1:35-45+56) No one can do anything alone in this story, not even Jesus and Mary. It is essential to have the support of someone who sees the divine in us. Even God needs people. The Catholic Church traditionally says Mary went to Elizabeth to help her older cousin, but the text suggests the opposite.
Elizabeth is a prophet, i.e. a person through whom God speaks to us. She is the first to proclaim Jesus, along with John in her womb. Typical for patriarchy, most evangelists honor only John. Elizabeth gives us the first part of the Hail Mary and Mary's title: "Mother of my Lord", i.e. Mother of God.
Mary Magdalene, "the apostle to the apostles", most beloved disciple of Jesus. For a detailed articles on the two Marys, see other articles on my website.
The woman who anointed Jesus:
Only the evangelist John names this woman. According to him it is Mary of Bethany, one of the best friends of Jesus. She is the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the proto Christian contemplative. (see: Lk 11:38-42) Later taditions merge this Mary with Mary Magdalene in an effort to flesh out that beloved character, on which we have so little information.
In Mt 26:3-13 and Mk 14:1-9 an unnamed woman anoints Jesus' head and he says that this is in preparation for his burial, and: "What she has done will be told wherever this gospel will be preached, in memory of her". In Lk 7:36-50 and Jn 12:1-8 she anoints his feet, dries them with her hair, and is portrayed as "sinful". Luke is the only one who does not connect this anointing with the coming death of Jesus, but interprets it simply as a great act of love.
Besides the obvious parallels in these stories, there is further evidence that these are variations on the same event/story: Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say this happened in the house of Simon, the first 2 and John say it happened in Bethany (but John says at Lazarus' house instead of Simon's). The first three gospels all mention the alabaster jar that contained the oil. All four gospels agree that men objected to the woman's act, but Jesus defended and honored her.
Why was the story changed from the anointing of the head to the anointing of the feet??? I think it's because men didn't want to remember a powerful woman anointing Jesus' head and this act being institutionalized with the same words with which he institutionalized the Eucharist: "Whenever you do this, remember me." Similarly: "Wherever you preach my gospel, you will remember her!" He never said: "wherever my gospel will be preached, remember the 12 male apostles" but he did say, remember this woman who anointed my head. It echoes the role of the prophets, who anoint the head of him who is to become king of Israel. That is to say a prophetic woman anointed Jesus the king of Israel and made him the Messiah, which means "the Anointed One". No ritual role or priestly function could be more important than this. By Jesus demanding that we remember at every church service that a woman performed this most important act, is he not de facto instating the priesthood of women?
How else would a congregation remember during every church service that Jesus was anointed by a woman? I suppose it could be part of the preparatory rites. Before celebrating the Eucharist a Catholic priest, who represents Christ, is prepared by being handed a bowl of water for washing his hands. After that a woman could anoint his head with oil.
In this story we can see the validity of what people say about powerful women being discredited by calling them whores. Men found it improper and outrageous that she would even dare to enter the dining room reserved for men. This alone marked her as "sinful" in the patriarchal mind and so they just expanded on that sense and portrayed her as letting down her hair in public (which was considered grounds for divorce) and generally acting improper as only a "whore" could. This is a warning to all "good women" that they will be called whores as soon as they transgress patriarchal boundaries even a little. The discreditation of this woman continues to this day: her passage is not listed in "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible" (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), neither under the list of words, nor under the list of "prophecies of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus Christ". There's a place for anointing, because the Messiah had to be anointed by someone, but it quotes Paul who quotes Psalm 45: "Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness." Many still can't bear the thought of a woman fulfilling such an essential task.
When the Bible speaks of "The children of Israel" the Hebrew text actually reads "the sons of Israel", i.e. the arms bearing men. Women, children, and the old did not count. E.g. Jesus fed "5000, not counting women and children". In the same way we should read: "There were 12 apostles, not counting the women." Especially since Luther translates Acts 1:14 as follows: "All these (i.e. the 12 apostles) were always together, praying with one accord, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." The King James Bible turns the "always" into "they continued", and the New American Bible finally drops the word completely. ' Another typical example of how women are written out of history!
Definitions of "apostle":
1. In the gospels: one of the 12 Jesus chose first. According to Mt 10:5+6 the 12 apostles were chosen only for the 12 tribes of Israel.
2. The word means "one who was sent". After the 12, Jesus sent 72 more, the number symbolic of all nations, in order to evangelize all. Mary Magdalene was sent by Jesus to proclaim the risen Christ to his disciples. Hippolytus of Rome and other Church fathers called her an apostle until the early 3rd century. In the 9th century her biographer Rabanus Maurus still called her apostle and to this day she is called "the apostle to the apostles".
3. Who else was sent? When he addresses his disciples, sending them out to bear fruit (e.g. in Jn 16) he promises to send the Holy Spirit to them. We don't know if there were women in the room when he spoke, but it is likely, and certainly the Holy Spirit was sent for women and men alike. Hence one can deduce that whoever is meant to receive the Spirit is also meant to be an apostle, i.e. to help "bring in the harvest". In Acts we see women helping with this. The first thing Peter does, after all the apostles, men and women, have received the Holy Spirit is to quote the prophet Joel: "God says that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit." (Acts 2:17-18)
4. In Acts 1:21-26: one who accompanied us the whole time from Jesus' baptism to his resurrection and who is chosen to be one of the 12. After the death of Judas Ischarioth, they chose another apostle from the male disciples.
5. In Paul: One who has seen the risen Lord (even if "only" in a vision) and was commissioned to proclaim him. Hence St. Faustina is called "the apostle of the Divine Mercy", St. Margaret Mary Alacoque "the apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus".
6. In the messages of Our Lady of Medjugorje:
October 1993: "I invite you to be apostles of love and goodness."
March 1997: "â€¦only through prayer you too can become true apostles of f aith."
November 1999: "Only through prayer will you become my apostles of peace in this world without peace."
March 18, 200: "I am calling you to be my apostles."
Is it possible that Jesus commissioned a crowd including women, but they weren't counted? Yes, it happened all the time. E.g. Paul in 1 Cor 15:4-6 omits Mary Magdalene as the disciples to whom Jesus appeared first and puts Peter (also called Kephas) in her place, just as he replaces Deborah with Barak and Sarah with Abraham.
Women in "the Acts of the Apostles":
There were the missionaries Lydia and Prisca, the deacon Phoebe, the heads of church communities, etc. For centuries men have resisted translating Phoebe's title: Deacon. The King James Bible calls her a "servant of the church" but translates the same word as "deacons" in the case of Timothy and changes "the women" to "their women" to eradicate the evidence for women deacons. The New American Bible calls Phoebe a "minister of the church" but admits that women were deacons in Timothy 3:11
Other important women:
1. "Serving women". Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22 mention women serving at the entrance to the Tabernacle, but only indirectly, because of what men did with them. We don't know what their service was meant to be originally but eventually they became temple prostitutes, which certainly wasn't the original idea. King James and other patriarchs long before him, refused to acknowledge "serving women" in the temple and translated instead "fasting women". The Septuagint completely omits the sentence in Samuel that mentions them. Other ancient translations purposely mistranslated, saying the women prayed, assembled, or thronged there. Luther set us on the right path again.
2. Hannah, mother of Samuel whose song is mold for Magnificat. (1Sam 1-2)
3. Prophets Elijah and Elisha have intimate relationships with women, like Jesus.
Read: 1 Kings 17:8-24; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6
4. Honor father and mother equally: Sirach 3:1-9
5. Women who expanded Jesus' horizon and pushed him when he resisted: his mother and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:24-30). He shows his appreciation in the parable of the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-5). Jesus supports women in "unwomanly" behavior. E.g. Martha and Mary of Bethany in Lk 10:38-42 and the women who anoint Jesus. Other men have many objections to this, but Jesus not only says: "Leave them alone." He also honors them, wants them remembered always. I.e. wants their rights to self expression through ritual, center stage institutionalized.
6. Martha and Mary of Bethany, friends of Jesus. (Lk. 10:38-42; Jn. 11:1-44, 12:1-8), Mary, Mother of Contemplatives, is an appropriate title not only for the Mother of Jesus who "kept all these things in her heart", but also for Mary of Bethany. In Jn 11:25-26 Jesus reveals deep truths about himself to Martha and she responds with a profession of her faith in Jesus as the Son of God. In Mt 16:13-20 a similar profession by Peters is described as the reason why Jesus gives supreme power to Peter. But John puts such professions into the mouths of several men and Martha, as if to distribute power to more disciples, including women.
7. The Samaritan woman (Jn 4:4-42) evangelizes her entire town, leads many to Jesus, though the men feel it important to negate her importance right away. An other good record of what usually happens without getting recorded: a woman's major contribution is negated, in direct contradiction to Jesus' word in verse 38: the apostles reap the work of others (often women); they should acknowledge this sharing of "the fruits of their work".
In the Bible there are many "well stories" where future husbands and wives who will be important to history meet. Jesus having an intimate conversation with a woman at a well would echo with this romance of the foremothers and fathers. Hence the Samaritan woman represents the gentiles who will marry Jesus, the Jewish bridegroom.
8. Joanna (Luke 8:1-3, 24:10), wife of Herod's steward, followed and financed Jesus, was at tomb.
9. Junia, (Romans 16:7): For centuries men took this to be a man's name, including Luther.