Larry Hurtado wrote a post today on “References to Women Christians in Acts” where he lists a few examples of the author intentionally mentioning the involvement of men and women. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are the most egalitarian portions of the New Testament (not just between genders, but ethnic groups, socio-economic groups, and the like) so it is no surprise that women are mentioned. What I find quite interesting though are the references to women as relates to persecution.
The passages of interest are 8.3, 9.2 and 22.4 where Saul/Paul is discussed as a persecutor of the church.
I heard N.T. Wright briefly allude to these passages in a talk he was giving (though I cannot remember which talk now) and he said something to the extent that you wouldn’t round up every member of a movement but only the supposed leaders. He moved along to the main point of his talk leaving that statement without support. I have thought about it quite a few times since then. What does the author of Acts intend to say about the persecution of men and women? Is this is way of saying that women were part of the church’s leadership structure? If so, what do we make of it?
We should note in Luke-Acts women are given a prominent place in general. In Acts 16 Lydia is converted and her household follows her in coming to Christ. She seems to be the superior figure in this story and quite authoritative. In other words, I don’t see Paul saying, “Well, now you are a Christian, let the men take the lead from here.” In Acts 21 Philip’s daughters are prophetesses. On the Day of Pentecost women are present. We could say more. We know women are given an important role in the narrative. What do we say about the persecution narratives though?