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The Ministry of Women in the New Testament

Reclaiming the Biblical Vision for Church Leadership

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In this book, Dorothy Lee considers evidence from the New Testament and early church to show that women's ministry is confirmed by the biblical witness. Her comprehensive examination explores the roles women play in the Gospels and the Pauline corpus, with a particular focus on passages that have been used in the past to limit women's ministry.

Lee argues that women in the New Testament are not only valued as disciples but also given leadership roles, which has implications for the contemporary church. In addition, she points to evidence from early church history that reveals women's participation in ministry and outlines key theological arguments for women as full and equal partners with men in the life of the church.

The Ministry of Women in the New Testament will be a valuable resource for professors, students, and scholars of the New Testament, ministry, and women's studies.

Part 1: Women's Ministry in the New Testament
1. Gospels of Matthew and Mark
2. Writings of Luke: Gospel
3. Writings of Luke: Acts of the Apostles
4. John's Gospel
5. Paul's Letters: Historical and Thematic Issues
6. Paul's Letters: Key Texts
7. Later New Testament Writings
Part 2: Women's Ministry in the Tradition
8. History and Texts
9. Theology


"Although the ministries of women, ordained and otherwise, have been acknowledged by great segments of the church, rejection and resistance persist. In this fine volume, Dorothy Lee presents a comprehensive and engaging case for the ordained ministry of women, drawing on evidence from Scripture, history, and the theological tradition. Her work challenges the idolatry of masculinity that continues to cripple men and women alike within the Christian community. A most welcome contribution."

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Baylor University

"It is unfortunate that a thoroughly biblical and theological case still needs to be made for the full participation of women in leadership and ministry (whether ordained or lay), but the experience of many demonstrates this necessity. Dorothy Lee brings together a knowledge of the scriptural and theological sources and a sensitive engagement with the many facets of the debate in this accessible and persuasive volume. She takes her readers through the varying voices of the New Testament as well as the lesser-known early church evidence for women's participation in the work of the gospel, and she tackles these questions with confidence from a theological and social perspective. This book will surely encourage respectful discussion among all who look to Scripture and tradition as they wrestle with contemporary challenges."

Judith M. Lieu, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity Emerita, University of Cambridge

"Professor Dorothy Lee's study of the Christian traditions surrounding the ministry of women makes a major contribution to an important debate. This crucial discussion is too often marred by shrill dogmatism from both sides. Professor Lee's balanced starting point is that 'there is no single, unanimous voice on women's ministry throughout the history and experience of the church.' Her data from the New Testament, early church teaching, liturgical practices, and iconography articulates significant biblical and theological strands too long ignored or misinterpreted. Her analysis leads her to affirm convincingly that 'baptism is the primary symbol that draws women and men into a relationship with Christ that transcends all human barriers. . . . All Christians have the capacity to communicate Christ to others and to share his life in multiple forms of ministry.'"

Francis J. Moloney, SDB, Senior Professorial Fellow, Catholic Theological College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia

"The Ministry of Women in the New Testament could not be more pertinent in an age where, despite some advances, the struggle for female participation in church leadership and ministry is far from over. Dorothy Lee's expertise as a biblical scholar shines as she walks us through passages and profiles of women, who in both the New Testament and church tradition encountered the Lord and engaged in his mission at different levels. Lee has skillfully honed exegetical and historical rationales for the place of women at the altars and pulpits of their Lord."

Adesola Joan Akala, New Testament fellow, St. John's College, Durham University

"Without apology, Lee clearly and comprehensively presents the case for the ministry of women. She invites readers to consider the arguments and investigate the rich array of sources. I look forward to recommending this to students as they enter the weighty and challenging, yet rewarding, process of discerning God's call."

Amy Peeler, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College; associate rector, St. Mark's Episcopal Church

"In this timely and much-needed study, Professor Lee offers a balanced, scholarly, and accessible foray into New Testament and early church understandings and presentations of ministerial roles for women. Her holistic approach makes sense of both these often-difficult writings and their treatment in developing Christian traditions. Her powerful conclusion leaves no doubt about proper contextualization and paths forward in our continual interpretation of Scripture and tradition for the vocational calls of all people. As the apostle Paul says, 'No longer Jew or Greek, . . . slave or free, . . . male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise' (Gal. 3:28-29 NRSV)."

Sherri Brown, associate professor of New Testament, Creighton University

"Scholar Dorothy A. Lee strongly urges the church to go beyond the biblical texts usually cited as obstacles to the full acceptance of women in the ministry and leadership of the church. Instead, she urges the church to turn to the deeper currents of Jesus's own example and to the New Testament vision of a church in which all women and men are recognized as equal sharers in the mission of the Risen Christ for the renewal of the world. Her study engages key New Testament texts and motifs and traces their evolving interpretations across time and cultures."

Donald Senior, CP, president emeritus and professor of New Testament, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago

"Dorothy Lee offers a fresh review of the relevant New Testament texts related to women and ministry. Lee looks at women not only in the Gospels and in Paul's letters but also in important passages in Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and Revelation, and she includes reflections on early Christian tradition and systematic theology. Newcomers to this conversation will find this book a great place to begin. Others will benefit from her discussions of the latest scholarship. Lee makes a well-rounded and compelling case for women in ministry."

Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"Dorothy Lee is a biblical theologian, and this is evident in her outstanding study of women's ministry in the New Testament. Her biblical analysis is thorough as she carefully examines key texts. Her discussion of the 'household codes' helps readers to understand this particular genre, how it developed, and its purpose within a society where the gospel was preached in the face of hostility and persecution. Such codes had a place in their time but did not express universal principles for all times and places. She also moves beyond the biblical texts to other writings in the early church to examine how the canonical texts were received and interpreted in later centuries. She gives examples of 'the need for dynamic reinterpretation in the light of new knowledge and new contexts.' To be faithful to the tradition requires the ongoing reappropriation of these ancient texts. Lee then moves into the theology of interpretation and reveals the deliberate suppression of women's leadership. Her later chapters develop two key faith professions of Christianity: 'The Word became flesh' (John 1:14) and 'He has risen' (Matt. 28:6). With theological expertise, she studies the need for symbolic language to speak of the divine and yet also the inadequacy of language. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all who seek to expand their knowledge of the Scriptures, the tradition, and theological thinking. Bravo, Dorothy."

Mary Coloe, associate professor of theology, Australian Catholic University

"In her deeply researched yet accessible new book, Dorothy Lee provides a much-needed antidote to the misperception that women in early communities of Christ followers were not community and church leaders. She aptly demonstrates from a variety of evidence and perspectives that the ministry of women flourished during the early Christian era."

Ally Kateusz, senior research associate, Wijngaards Institute of Catholic Research, Rickmansworth, London

The Author

  1. Dorothy A. Lee
    © Kit Haselden Photography courtesy of Trinity College, University of Melbourne

    Dorothy A. Lee

    Dorothy A. Lee (PhD, University of Sydney) is the Stewart Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity College, University of Divinity, and is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Melbourne. She is the author of numerous books, including Flesh and Glory:...

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