7 Examples of Women Exercising Authority or Teaching in the Bible

Example 1: Queen Esther

So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance— to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records. (Esther 9:29-32, NIV)

Note: Esther’s position of authority as Queen significantly contributed to Israel’s salvation from Haman’s genocidal plot.  Her authority also instituted the celebration of Purim.

Example 2: Eve

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.” God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground. (Genesis 1:26-28, NET)

Note: Contrary to what some commentators say, Adam and Eve shared authority over the animals in the creation narrative found in the book of Genesis.

Example 3: Deborah

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. (Judges 4:4-5, NIV)

Note: Deborah was a prophetic leader and judge in Israel.  Her judgments carried authority over all of Israel, women and men alike.  She issued commands to men, including military leaders, as God’s spokesperson.

Example 4: Wisdom Personified

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.” (Proverbs 1:20-23, NIV)

Note: The Wisdom Literature found in the Greek Septuagint Bible frequently refers to Wisdom and the Holy Spirit of God as a woman.

Example 5: Phoebe

And I commend you to Phoebe our sister — being a ministrant of the assembly that [is] in Cenchrea — that ye may receive her in the Lord, as doth become saints, and may assist her in whatever matter she may have need of you — for she also became a leader of many, and of myself. (Romans 16:1-2, YLT)

Note: The words used of Phoebe in this passage are typically translated as “minister” “deacon” “leader” or “ruler” when they refer to men.

Example 6: Junia

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV)

Note: Centuries after Paul commended Junia for her outstanding apostolic ministry, scribes and translators in the church changed her name to the male form, Junias.  Now that it has been well established that Junia was in fact a woman, some attempt to say she was simply “well known by the apostles.”  Both modifications of the text attempt to squeeze these words of Paul into a patriarchal worldview.

Example 7: Priscilla

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26)

Note: Priscilla was teaching Apollos, a Jewish man, “the way of God more adequately.”  She was teaching a man spiritual things.  She was doing this in Ephesus.  This location was the evident destination of Paul’s first letter to Timothy.  This letter has been wrongly translated to suggest that women may not “teach” or “exercise authority” over men.  This translation occurs first in Erasmus’ 16th century Latin Bible.  It became the basis for traditional English translations from the King James to today’s ESV.

Does the Bible permit women to teach and exercise authority in the church and in the world?  Women are not merely permitted to lead, their leadership and teaching abilities are repeatedly celebrated.  They are gifts of God.  On International Women’s Day, I invite you join with me in celebrating alongside our Creator.