Women Disciples and the Great Commission -- By: A. Boyd Luter, Jr.
TrinJ 16:2 (Fall 1995) p. 171
After a lull in interest during much of the 1980s, the subject of discipleship seems to be making something of a comeback in evangelical circles. If nothing else, the publication of Michael J. Wilkins’s ambitious, but readable, theology of discipleship, Following the Master: Discipleship in the Footsteps of Jesus,1 seems to have represented a significant step in that direction, including some brief, but helpful, discussions of women disciples.
Yet, for all that has been written on discipleship by evangelicals, very little has focused on women as disciples in the NT. If the subject comes up at all, it is usually as a virtual afterthought to treatment of the male disciples, usually the twelve apostles.
By this point in the mid-1990s, having debated the role of women in the church and ministry at length, it is high time to ask a focusing exegetical-theological question: Is there a special kind of discipleship related to women that is evident in the NT?
This article will seek to answer that question by: 1) suggesting several ways that women disciples can be recognized, beyond the obvious discipleship terminology; and 2) doing fresh structural study of the context of each of the Great Commission passages in the gospels and Acts 1. Because of the breadth of the material treatment, this is not intended as an in-depth study, but as a seminal and suggestive overview.
I. Discipleship in Other Words
The primary factor of confusion in studying NT discipleship as it relates to women is that only one woman is out-and-out called a
* A. Boyd Luter is Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern California Campus, Brea, California.
TrinJ 16:2 (Fall 1995) p. 172
“disciple.” That woman is Tabitha (or Dorcas) in Acts 9:36, who is described as a μαθήτρια (“female disciple”).
But, is such terminology the only way that a disciple is identified in the NT? At first glance, one might draw that conclusion. The “drought” of terminology is seen in that the focal words μαθητής (“disciple”) and μαθητεύω (“make a disciple of”) are both quite common in the gospels and Acts, but not found at all in the epistles and Revelation. Because of this yawning, unexpected absence, there has been a tendency to act as if the first five books of the NT are the only ones that really have anything to say...
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