A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry Part 5: Distinctive Roles for Women in the Second and Third Centuries -- By: H. Wayne House

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:581 (Jan 1989)
Article: A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry Part 5: Distinctive Roles for Women in the Second and Third Centuries
Author: H. Wayne House


A Biblical View of Women in the Ministry
Part 5:
Distinctive Roles for Women in the Second and Third Centuries

H. Wayne House

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Dallas Theological Seminary

The Role of Virgins

The question of virgins arose in the time of Paul, when the Corinthians, influenced by an incipient Gnosticism, appealed to him to settle their differences on virginity, marriage, second marriage, and widowhood. Paul stated clearly that marriage was honorable and not to be despised.1 Even with this teaching, some church fathers taught unorthodox views on marriage. Justin, Athenagoras, and Clement of Alexandria maintained a view of marriage similar to advocates of Stoicism, that the sole purpose of marriage was for the continuance of the race, procreatio prolis.2 Believers in the second and third centuries were preoccupied with the glories of martyrdom, but Christian asceticism was also prominent. Part of the value of virginity and the self-control it required was that it was viewed as a state of perfection that prepared one for martyrdom. The high ideal of virginity and its accompanying asceticism is found in an

alleged sermon of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, in which he was speaking about self-control and the resurrection:

Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God.

Blessed are they that have kept the flesh chaste
for they shall become a temple of God.

Blessed are they that control themselves
for God shall speak with them.

Blessed are they that have kept aloof from this world
for they shall be called upright.

Blessed are they that have wives as not having them
for they shall receive God for their portion.

Blessed are they that have the fear of God
for they shall become angels of God.

Blessed are they that have kept the baptism
for they shall rest beside the Father and the Son.

Blessed are the merciful
for they shall obtain mercy and shall not see the bitter day of judgment.

Blessed are the bodies of virgins
for they shall be well pleasing to God, and shall not lose the reward of their chastity.3

In this sermon self-control is seen in relation to virginity rather than to the biblical concept of moral purity. Howe rightly says, “The word ...

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