Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What was Paul doing crashing a woman's worship service? Visiting early Christian sites can be enlightening, by Christine Schenk

https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/what-was-paul-doing-crashing-womans-worship-service

Philippi (2) c.jpMost Christians are completely unaware that women helped establish many of the earliest churches in Greece, Turkey and Rome. This is because church tradition always credits their founding to Pau"Early Christ-followers circulated and preserved Paul's undisputed letters (circa 51-62 A.D.) and later, Luke's Acts of the Apostles (circa 80-90 A.D.), both of which chronicle Paul's missionary journeys in considerable — if sometimes differing — detail.

..."For the past several days, I have been boning up on St. Paul's ministry in Greece as I prepare to lead a FutureChurch pilgrimage to early Christian sites where women had founding leadership roles.

Most Christians are completely unaware that women helped establish many of the earliest churches in Greece, Turkey and Rome. This is because church tradition always credits their founding to Paul. 

So it is understandable that later Christ followers thought Paul did it all. But he did not. In fact, Paul himself credits Prisca as his "coworker in Christ Jesus" (Romans 16: 3-5) and describes Euodia and Syntyche of Philippi as coworkers who "struggled beside me in the work of the gospel" (Philippians 4:3).
Paradoxically, no one would know about these early women leaders except for the patient piecing together of disparate facts by meticulous biblical scholars working with the very texts that chronicle (and sometimes lionize) Paul and other male leaders in the early church.
Acts identifies Lydia of Philippi as beginning the first house church in that city (Acts 16:6-40), and Paul's letter to the Philippians suggests that a disagreement between two women — Euodia and Syntyche — is threatening the unity of the church there (Philippians 4:2-3). According to well-known New Testament scholar, Sacred Heart Sr. Carolyn Osiek, Euodia and Syntyche were very likely among the episkopoi and diakonoi to whom Paul addresses his letter. (A reference, by the way, that Paul uses in no other greeting.)
In Thessaloniki and Berea, the Greek "leading women" supported Paul's mission even as the male synagogue members ran him out of town (see Acts 17:1-15).
Christianity seems to have held a special attraction for Gentile women. Women of status — whether from business (Lydia was a wealthy purple dye trader) or of societal prominence (Greek "leading women") — were especially drawn to the message of Jesus.
After all, what was Paul doing crashing a woman's worship service?
What we do know is that Lydia "opened her heart" to the Gospel, was baptized herself, had her whole household baptized, and then invited Paul and his companions to stay at her home. Several weeks later before leaving town, Paul "encouraged the brothers and sisters" who are now meeting at her house (Acts 16:40)...."
[St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years. She holds master's degrees in nursing and theology.]

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