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Posts Tagged ‘Early Christian women’

Half of the “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) is female. Male-authored church history books have often left women out because they believe that women’s stories are irrelevant. This is especially noticeable for early Christian women. The fact is that women helped to build the Church, especially in the early years before the Church became institutionalized. When the Church organized herself she established a male-only priesthood despite the fact that all believers, male and female are priests (I Peter 2:9).

Women have made important contributions to history. On this blog we have posted nearly 300 stories of women. For the last few weeks we have concentrated on women who served Christ during the Patristic era. Some of these women were born poor, others renounced great wealth to follow in the steps of Christ. Martyrs, Mothers, Theologians, Writers, Disciples, Queens, Empresses, Pilgrims, and Monastery founders are among them. The world would not be the same without the influence of these women. They showed great scholarly achievement, piety, fortitude, and courage.

We began this series on Patristic women in our first post, February 5, 2019 with “Thecla – 1st Century Disciple and Missionary”. Thecla was a disciple of Christ and Paul and her life was to influence many men and women for the next few centuries.

We continued with the stories of women who gave their lives as martyrs rather than deny their Lord Jesus – Blandina (martyred 177 AD) and Perpetua (martyred 203 AD – along with her servant Felicitas).

We then recounted the stories of two famous Mothers – Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine and Monica the mother of Augustine. Besides martyrs, and mothers, there were many female disciples of Christ, such as Marcella of Rome. Then we related the stories of two educated, brilliant female scholars during the Patristic Age – Paula and Macrina the Younger.

Last week we looked at Pilgrimageas a Christian activity as modeled in the life of Egeria.

This week we will focus on the stories of the Desert Mothers. While early Desert Mothers went on pilgrimages to escape the persecution in Rome (30 to 311 AD), later women including Melania the Elder and Amma Sarah followed in their footsteps voluntarily for a life of prayer, celibacy, and ascetism.

There were dangers involved in traveling and living in a harsh desert, but the hardships actually served to test the women’s determination and commitment to Christ. The solitude was essential for meditation. In small communities of like-minded ascetics, Christians could support each other and encourage each other in the faith. This was essential especially in the days of persecution.

 

Melania the Elder (c. 350 to either 410 or 417)

Melania the Elder was born in Spain around 350 AD. She was born into a wealthy, noble family. When she turned fourteen Melania married and she and her husband moved into the suburbs of Rome as members of the highest echelon of the Roman aristocracy. Melania excelled in scholarship, rivalling Paula (see post April 2, 2019), Jerome, and Marcella in her biblical and theological knowledge.

Melania remained in Spain until her husband died eight years after their marriage,  becoming a widow at the age of 22. Two of her children also died. Following this tragedy she converted to Christianity. When her remaining son turned ten she found a family to take care of him and she set off for Alexandria. She would eventually be reunited with her son in Jerusalem many years later after he had married. His daughter, her granddaughter, Melania the Younger, came to Christ and followed in her grandmother’s footsteps.

Melania and some other Christians traveled to visit the monks at Nitria. She gave much of her wealth to the needy Christians in Egypt who were being persecuted by the Arians following the death of the orthodox champion Athanasius in 373 AD. It is said that nearly 5000 people were fed with the blessing of her gift. Some of those persecuted Christians fled to Jerusalem. Melania traveled there and founded a convent for virgins on the Mount of Olives. Nearly fifty young women found salvation in Christ through her ministry.

Melania went on to found more monasteries. She was put in prison for a time by the governor, but he had to release her when he found out that she was in the aristocracy. Eventually she entered a convent.

The Visigoths invaded Rome in 410 AD. (Some believe that Melania might have died in a Visigoth raid in 410 AD). Others believe that Melania, her daughter-in-law Albina, and her granddaughter Melania fled to Sicily. From Sicily they traveled to North Africa where they stayed for seven years. Then they returned to Jerusalem where Melania died around 417 SD.

Melania was a source of inspiration for many Christians. Believers followed her example in founding monasteries and other Christian communities. She is remembered as a pious saint, following in Christ’s footsteps, identifying with His poverty and compassion for others.

Amma Sarah (4th Century)

Little is known about some Desert Mothers except through the few accounts that have been preserved. There are three – Amma (Mother) Sarah, Amma Theodora, and Amma Syncletica – who stand out as women who were humble, insightful, and wise. Syncletica and Theodora became known as wise teachers. Amma Sarah especially engaged her wit and wisdom in dealing with the everyday life of Christians.

One problem that the female ascetics had that the men didn’t have was the reaction of the monks towards the women. Men expected the women to do things for them that the men would never do for the women. This inequality bothered Sarah, but it was more important to her to be Christlike and that meant being humble and showing a servant’s heart, even if the men did not.

Sarah desired to move beyond the gender issues and make every effort to show that serving Christ is what mattered. She still had to deal with the imbalance in power in that patriarchal society and so she responded to their discrimination in wise ways. Here is a story attributed to her:

On Male Injustice– “Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusium to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliate this old woman.’

So they said to her, ‘Be careful not to become conceited thinking of yourself: “Look how anchorites are coming to see me, a mere woman.”‘

But Amma Sarah said to them, ‘According to nature I am a woman, but not according to my thoughts.'”

Of course this last saying follows what the apostle Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). As children of God, every Christian, male and female, reads the Bible, studies, prays, and does works of charity. There is no gender in these inner characteristics of the heart and mind.

What few writings we have of Sarah are enough to show a woman of faith, devotion, and wisdom. She spoke on the Christian life:

On Charity– “It is good for us to do charity, even if to have the glory of men. For if, in the beginning, our charity rises from the desire to please men, there will afterwards come that moment when it will become true charity, since it will be pleasing to God.”

On the Spiritual Life– “I put out my foot to ascend the ladder, and I place death before my eyes before going up it.” Here Sarah recognizes that on the spiritual ladder of life, one needs to “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). This requires a keen sense of one’s own sinfulness and the need to constantly pray, seek forgiveness, and present “your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).

This is what the Desert Mothers sought to do. They believed that a life of celibacy, ascetism, contemplation, and charitable works was a way of pleasing God. They desired to be like Christ Who had “nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Christ did not marry and have children. Christ went about preaching and healing. Christ spent much time in prayer. All of these ways of emulating the Lord Jesus are open to women equally with men.

Women in the Patristic world left a great legacy. In our next post we will see that women were great leaders as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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The stories of women from the Patristic Age need to be told because women in all ages need to see that God has called and gifted them for service in His kingdom. Most people are only aware of the female martyrs that were thrown to the lions or beheaded, but the early Christian women encompassed all walks of life.

Some of these women were born poor, others renounced great wealth to follow in the steps of Christ. Martyrs, Mothers, Theologians, Writers, Disciples, Queens, Empresses, Pilgrims, and Monastery founders are among them. And though left out of most church history books, women were influential as colleagues of monks and male leaders in the early church. The world would not be the same without the influence of these women. They showed great scholarly achievement, piety, fortitude, and courage.

We began this series on Patristic women in our first post, February 5, 2019 “Thecla – 1st Century Disciple and Missionary”. Thecla was a disciple of Christ and Paul and her life was to influence many men and women for the next few centuries.

We continued with the stories of women who gave their lives as martyrs rather than deny their Lord Jesus. There were many men and women who suffered persecution and death, but 2 whose stories have come down to us thanks to the preservation of early manuscripts are Blandina (martyred 177 AD) and Perpetua (martyred 203 AD – along with her servant Felicitas).

We then continued with the stories of two famous Mothers – Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine and Monica the mother of Augustine. We could also tell the stories of godly grandmothers such as Macrina the Elder, grandmother of Macrina the Younger who features in this post. Besides martyrs, mothers and grandmothers there were many female disciples of Christ. In our post last time we look at the life of Marcella of Rome.

It may come as a surprise to many, but there were many educated, brilliant female scholars during the Patristic Age. Among the more famous were Paula and Macrina the Younger.

 

Paula (May 5, 347 – January 26, 404)

 

In most history textbooks today the name Jerome is very prominent. His translation of the Bible into Latin is admired and his theology provides endless hours of study for Christian scholars. What has been ignored until recently is the fact that Jerome himself gave much credit to female scholars who helped him in his work. In our last post we saw that Marcella is remembered as a disciple of the famous bishop, Jerome. He admired her very much, but another Christian friend, Paula, was very special to Jerome as a source of help and inspiration.

Paula became Jerome’s closest companion while he was in Rome. The two maintained their friendship until Paula’s death in 404. After her death Jerome wrote in a letter to Paula’s daughter, Eustochium (pious scholar and disciple in her own right):

If all the members of my body were to be converted into tongues, and if each of my limbs were to be gifted with a human voice, I could still do no justice to the virtues of the holy and venerable Paula.

Paula was born on Mary 5, 347 in Rome. She was a member of a privileged, wealthy family. She married Julius Toxotius and had four daughters, Blaesilla, Pauline, Julia Eustochium, and Rufina, and a son, Toxotius. After her husband died, Paul committed to a life of celibacy, voluntary poverty, and good works. Jerome became Paula’s spiritual director during her new life of ascetism. She followed him to the Holy Land in 385. She landed first at Cyprus where they distributed alms to the local monasteries. From there they went to Antioch and eventually to Jerusalem. She stayed at the monastery run by Melania the Elder (look for a post in a few weeks on this “Desert Mother”) and then Paula went on an extensive pilgrimage enjoying visiting the many sites that were named in the Bible, from the Old and New Testaments.

Paula founded several monastic establishments where women could spend a life of devotion, chastity, and charity. This monastic life demonstrated Paula’s change from her aristocratic life filled with worldliness to a life of asceticism focused on heavenly things.

Paula was exemplary in her memorization of the Scriptures and Bible study. She was fluent in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Not only could Paula read the Bible in its original languages, but her exegetical skills placed her in a class of top biblical scholars. Jerome records that her life was always filled with quotations from the Bible even up until her death on January 26, 404 at the age of fifty-six. Paula died peacefully and was buried near a favorite pilgrimage tour. Her tomb became a popular site for pilgrims.

 

Macrina the Younger, also known as “The Teacher” (330 – 379 AD)

There are very few church history books that talk about the lives of the female saints. One might almost get the idea that women didn’t do anything but hide out in their houses and cook and clean. But you really don’t have to look very hard to find the stories of women who did much more than that. Just as Jerome praised Paula for her erudition and piety, the famous Saint Gregory published the story of his remarkable sister, Macrina so that she would be remembered for her piety and love of Christ and the Bible. And just like Paula, Macrina used her gift of godly intelligence to influence men who would influence the church to this day.

Macrina was born around 330 AD and lived to July 19, 379 AD. She is often called Macrina the Younger because her grandmother, St. Macrina the Elder was also renowned for her piety and courage. Grandmother Macrina and her husband lived during the time of one of the worst persecutions of the Christians. In 311 AD, they lost all of their estates by confiscation. They hid in the woods of Pontus for seven years. They had a son, St. Basil, who had ten children, the oldest of these being the Macrina of our story.

Macrina helped to raise her younger siblings. Three of these were three men who are renowned through the centuries –  Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebaste, all celebrated for their learning and all died as bishops of the Church. All owed much to their sister.

Macrina was taught the Scriptures as a child and loved them. She had an intelligent mind and she contemplated spiritual things all of her life. She desired to follow Christ only. She was given the opportunity to lead a pious and retired life after the deaths of both her father and the man she was betrothed to. She took her betrothal seriously, and did not wish to find another husband. She was a beautiful young woman and had many offers, but she declined them all. At this point she was more than content to see her situation as God’s will and decided to follow a different path.

She talked her mother Emmelia into helping her found two monasteries – one for men, the other for women. These were built on their own estate near Ibora in Pontus. The beautiful river Iris flowed between these homes, and the monasteries were surrounded by lovely plains, valleys, and hills. This was a perfect place for a life of solitude and prayer.

 

During this time Macrina had much influence on her brothers. Her brother Basil had studied abroad for many years and came home with his head all swelled up with his own wisdom. Macrina told him bluntly that he had become vain and would do well to learn from humbler Christian men. At this point Basil ignored her.
Later though, the unexpected death of their brother, Naucratius, shook Basil to his core. He and Naucratius had been very close. This event caused Basil to do some soul searching. He not only resigned his prestigious teaching position, but he asked Macrina to teach him the secrets of religious life.
Basil followed Macrina’s advice and left for Egypt to learn more about the monastic life. He eventually became famous as the great teacher of monasticism in the Greek Chur

After her mother Emmelia died, Macrina sold off the rest of the estate and used the money to help the poor. She lived by the labor of her own hands. Some of the women who came to join her were freed slaves. Together they served the Lord with one mind, sharing all things. They prayed, ate, fasted, and worked together. This monastery would become a model for later ones.

Some years later, Basil became the bishop of Caesarea. Their brother Gregory, whom Macrina had also persuaded to abandon selfish pursuits in order to follow Christ, had become bishop of Nyssa. Their brother Peter became bishop of Sebaste. Basil, worn out in his fight against the heresy of Arianism and partly because of his own ascetism, died before the age of fifty and Macrina could not restrain her grief. Her brother Gregory visited her. They were saddened by their loss, but mourned more for the loss of a great man in the Church. They had some consolation in their belief in the immortality of the soul and knew they would see him again.

Nine months later Gregory decided to visit Macrina during one of his travels. Her fame had become so great that she was now known as “The Teacher”. He was saddened to find that she was so sick that she could barely sit up. She was in pain and it was evident that she was near death. In spite of this, she tried to cheer him up. They spent what few hours they had rejoicing in their faith and the hope of the resurrection.

Later after her death, Gregory wrote a story about this visit, On the Soul and the Resurrection; the main arguments of the discourse being attributed to Macrina. Her arguments were so skillfully presented that she even impressed convinced skeptics. She spoke of God’s love, providence, man’s purpose in this world, and the believer’s eventual departure to glory.

Gregory opened the work with, “Basil, great among the saints, had departed from this life and gone to God, and all the churches mourned his death. But his sister the Teacher still lived and therefore I visited her.” Gregory gave her high praise. He recorded her philosophical discourse so that others could benefit from her wisdom.

Macrina died in great peace. Gregory buried her in the grave of their parents in the family chapel in Annesi. She had lived such a selfless life of poverty that she had no burial clothes. Gregory used his own bishop’s cloak to cover her as her body was carried to the grave.
Besides the discourse on resurrection referred to above, Gregory also published a work entitled, Life of Macrina, in which he tells of her pious life.

What can we learn from the lives of Paul and Macrina? it is important for women to follow their callings even into areas that some say are only for men. Women are equally intelligent and gifted and we can be thankful for their example as so many unselfishly chose to follow Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it. And the young men arose and covered him up and after carrying him out they buried him.

ananias-sapphiraNow there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well.” And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:1-10)

Some might be wondering why I am including Sapphira in a series on early Christian women disciples. After all, if Sapphira and her husband Ananias did such a grievous thing that God punished them both with death, can they even be Christians? Should they be included in a series on disciples? I believe that they were Christians. They are really no different than other Christians. They just really blew it as they fell to the temptation of Satan. We all commit sin. Thankfully, God does not punish us as much as we deserve all of the time.

Why was Sapphira’s and Ananias’ punishment so severe?

First, we have no reason to believe that Sapphira was not a Christian. She was part of the community that “were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them” (Acts 4:32). This was the group that had just gathered to listen to Peter proclaim the Gospel. The new converts had believed Peter’s words and prayed and then “the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). This was a group of Spirit filled Christians whose desire to follow Jesus was so strong that they willingly gave up even their own possessions in order to do as Jesus did – preach and serve others. Sapphira and Ananias were part of this group.

At this time in the early church believers were on a spiritual high. But that did not mean that they were perfect. The joy they experienced in forgiveness of their sins and a relationship with Christ caused them to respond in extraordinary ways.

Sapphira was not so different from other human beings; she wanted to be well thought of by the rest of her group. Sapphira and her husband had brought only a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their land to give to Peter but they lied and said they brought the whole amount. They did not need to lie; the money was theirs and they could have given only a part if they wanted to. The community would have been grateful for that.

But Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. Sapphira’s sin was “to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test” (Acts 5:9). Why did she an Ananias lie?

One commentator suggested that Sapphira was covetous and that her sin was that she loved money. But the Bible doesn’t really say that. Instead we have other clues as to what the trouble probably was – she wanted recognition.

Other disciples, such as Barnabas, had sold their land and brought the money to Peter to share with the community (Acts 4:36). No doubt Barnabas was seen as someone special because he was probably very wealthy. Ananias and Sapphira wanted this esteem for themselves. They wanted to appear very generous and receive the approbation of the entire community; hence the great show with which they brought the money to Peter and laid it at his feet.

Peter himself was filled with the Spirit and gifted as an apostle. The Holy Spirit prompted Peter as to the disingenuousness of the couple’s actions. Peter gave the opportunity to Ananias and Sapphira to confess. They both continued in their lie. Ananias was the first to drop dead. Luke tells us that great fear came on everyone who heard about it. This is one of our clues as to why God inflicted such a severe punishment on them. Lying to the Holy Spirit is very serious.

Perhaps in the new community made up of mostly Jewish believers a testimony that the Holy Spirit is God was needed. The Jewish converts were just getting used to the idea that Jesus is God; now they will see that the Holy Spirit has all of the authority of the triune Godhead as well. As Jews they were monotheists and thinking of God as a Trinity would take some getting used to. Luke presents to us the fact that the promised Holy Spirit has come. The evidence is that the community loves God and each other. And they show this with their actions. What Ananias and Sapphira did ran counter to everything the new church was experiencing.

Sapphira did not know what had happened to her husband when she came along three hours later. Peter gave her an Sapphiraopportunity to tell the truth. Sapphira told the same lie that she and her husband had agreed on. She immediately fell down dead. Again, we are told that great fear came on all of the church when they heard about this.

What can we learn from this story about Sapphira?

This sign to the whole church, that it is a grievous offense to lie to God, is one reason why Sapphira’s punishment was so severe. The new community in Christ would see that God takes sin seriously, especially when those who have been granted many blessings fall to sin. To whom much is given; much is required. Christians are held to a higher standard. Since Sapphira and Ananias wanted to be held up as examples in their community, God held them to a higher standard. Since we are held to a high standard our lives should show it. We should look different from the rest of the world – we should serve because we love Jesus and others, not because we are looking for a reward or the congratulations of others.

The new community was also committed to sharing with one another. Our commitments to each other should be sincere and honest. Our fellow believers should be able to trust us. The early church was doing so well as they started on the road to serving Jesus. They did not need a couple of rotten apples in their barrel. God rooted them out as an example to all that He takes our words and our commitments seriously. By taking the lives of Ananias and Sapphire, God showed that He allows believers to suffer the consequences of their actions. God still loves us and wants the best for us; we receive forgiveness after our wrong actions. We are grateful that He does not always exact such a severe punishment as He did on Sapphira. In gratitude, we move on towards being even more faithful in our lives.

 

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On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. (Acts 21:8,9).

In the last few weeks we have noticed that Luke the evangelist includes the stories of many women in his Gospel and in the book of Acts. In this story Luke makes a special mention of women, even though at first glance it seems so unnecessary to the story. But Luke has wider purposes in all of his narratives. He packs a lot of truth in each one.

In this part of the book of Acts, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. Paul has taken the Gospel to many cities and preached many times about Jesus and salvation to both Jew and Gentile. He hopes to go to Rome some day.

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told the disciples that they would take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). The remotest part of the known earth at that time was Rome. Paul would eventually get there. God would take him to Rome in an unexpected way. Paul would be arrested and tried unfairly. He would ask as a Roman citizen to present his case to Caesar. The Roman officials would send him to Rome as he requested. You can read all about this in the last 10 chapters of the book of Acts.

On the way to Jerusalem, a prophet named Agabus told Paul that he would be arrested and he begged Paul not to go there. Paul and AgabusAgabus gave his prophesy at the home of Philip the evangelist. Luke tells us that Philip had four virgin daughters who were living with him who also prophesied. We are not told exactly what they prophesied, or even if they also cautioned Paul about going to Jerusalem. We only know that Luke thought it was important to mention them.

Let’s give a little background to the story. Philip is said to have been “one of the seven”. This means that he was one of the original deacons that we read about in Acts 6. At that time there was a problem in the new young church. The Gentile widows were not given the same amount of care as the Jewish widows and some were complaining. The leaders of the church came up with a solution – men of good reputation, wise, and honest would be chosen to take care of the widows. These men were the first deacons, and Philip was one of them. We know then that he was a good disciple and must have had some leadership ability to have been chosen for such a responsibility.

Philip was also given credit for helping to start the evangelistic effort in Samaria. As Philip spoke to the citizens of Samaria many came to believe and “there was much rejoicing in that city” (Acts 8:8).

As usual in Luke’s writings, though we are not told much, we can infer a lot. Luke has a way of really telling so much more if we read all of the Gospels and Acts. Other examples of women that Luke has included in his writings are Anna, another prophetess, and Mary the mother of John Mark. If you read the stories about these women, posted on this blog, you will see what I mean. Careful study reveals much information. You must also pay attention to every word that Luke uses; each word is a description of a large portrait.

So there are some things we can deduce about Philip’s daughters thanks to Dr. Luke’s careful research and gifted writing.

If you had read Acts 2:17 for example, you would have learned that Peter told his Jewish hearers that a prophesy in Joel had just been fulfilled at Pentecost:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. (Joel 2:28,29)

When you read the passage about Philip’s daughters you will recall that Peter said this, and will see that Luke is assuring you that indeed it came to pass that “daughters shall prophecy”.

An interesting fact to note is that these women are already second-generation Christians. Their father was a devout, well-known disciple and he must have been a godly father too. These girls desired to worship and serve God as their father did.
Why did Luke make a point to mention that these girls were virgins? There is much speculation, but perhaps Luke wanted to show that God might call women to other tasks besides the traditional ones of marriage and motherhood. We do not know that these young women didn’t get married later. On the other hand, like Paul and other male disciples, they might have chosen to remain single in order to devote their lives to serving God.

New Testament WomenWe don’t know how many children Philip had, but these four daughters were following the Lord using the gifts that the Holy Spirit had given them.

What kind of prophesies were the daughters giving?

In its most basic meaning prophecy is giving the Word of God. In the Old Testament times, the prophets heard from God and delivered the message to the Israelites and sometimes to the nations around Israel. These prophecies were not only God’s current teachings but they also contained predictions about the future. The prophets reminded the Israelites that there were blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience.

In the transition time for the new Church that we read about in the book of Acts, there are some predictions, such as the one by Agabus who warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Many of the references about prophecy are to prophecies that have been fulfilled. For example, all through Luke’s Gospel we read that the coming of Jesus was in fulfillment of God’s promises to save His people. The apostles and other writers spent much time showing how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies.

Prophecy today is still seen as “giving the Word of God”. However, we have the Word of God in the Bible. We don’t need any more special audible revelation from God. Today’s prophets are those who can take the Word of God and teach it clearly to others. In a way they can also “predict”. By that I mean that they can certainly still tell God’s people, as did the prophets of old, that there are blessings for obeying God and there will be big trouble if they don’t.

Philip’s daughters were at the very least encouraging the Church with their wisdom from God’s Word. These women were examples given to us by Luke that there were some changes in the new religion known as “the way”. Christian disciples will be made up of men and women. Women will be allowed to do many things that they were denied in Judaism. When the Holy Spirit came He gave gifts, including prophesy, to men and women. The Gospel will transform lives – religiously and socially. Women will no longer be second-class citizens. They will do their part in the life of the Church.

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