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Bible Q

Why can’t females be apostles and ministers? Can we change that?

“Apostle” means an ambassador or messenger. In the New Testament it is only used of a select few ambassadors for Christ. Jesus chose the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). When Judas died, he was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:26). The only other people to be called an “apostle” in scripture are Paul (Romans 1:1), Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). All these are men, and all had some very specific tasks they were called to do by the Lord. There is no instruction in the scriptures to appoint other apostles in the church — the appointing of apostles seems to be a matter for the Lord himself. He always chose men to do this job.

There is a disputed passage in Romans 16:7 which some people think may refer to a female apostle:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. (Rom 16:7 ESV)

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Rom 16:7 TNIV)

Notice that in the TNIV, both Andronicus and Junia appear to be called apostles themselves, whereas in the ESV, they are simply known to the apostles. Junia is a female name, and following the TNIV reading, she appears to be a female apostle. However, the translation is hotly disputed, and most Bible translations have something more like the ESV. As these people are not known anywhere else in scripture, and there are no other indications of a female apostle, it seems unlikely that this would be an exception.

“Ministers” are different as there is no specific office of “minister” or “pastor” mentioned in the Bible. These are modern inventions. The original church leaders were “elders” or “overseers”. These were always male as indicated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9. Also, in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;

For these reasons, most churches will only have males in positions of leadership.

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