How God speaks through women

Initially enthusiastic about prophecy I started wondering what is true and how should I value it? This is the fifth and last blog in the series Prophets and Prophecy in which I search for an answer to this question. After the introduction blog I talk about what is prophecy, what kinds are there in the bible, does it still function now, in what form does it function in the church en what about prophecies of doom and prophetic ministries? And this blog deals with female prophets.

The bible shows in both Old and New Testament that women can be a prophet. In the Old Testament we see Miriam, the sister of Moses, is a prophet (Ex. 15:20, Num. 12:2), Deborah, the judge, is a prophet (Judges 4:3-10) and King Josiah goes for advice to the female prophet Huldah (2 Kings 22).

profetes-annaAlso in the New Testament we see female prophets. The most famous is Anna, she was in the temple when Jesus was presented (Luke 2:36-38). Also named are the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9).

Mary Magdalene isn’t called a prophet, but Jesus Himself tells her to tell His brothers that He is risen (John 20:16-18). According to Matthew two Mary’s got a mission from Jesus to bring a message (28:9,10), according to the other evangelists there were three of four women involved. This is the central, most important message in the entire bible and not to the men, but to the women closest to Jesus these words of God were entrusted. The men didn’t believe the women and Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. (Marc. 16:14)

At the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, both men and women were present in the upper room. Peter in his sermon (Acts 2: 16-18) refers to the fulfilling of what was spoken by the prophet Joel (2:28,29), that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people, both men and women, and they will prophesy.

Also Paul thinks it is normal for women to prophecy. In answer to questions from the church in Corinth, he tells there is a dress code elsewhere for men and women who (pray and) prophecy, but this doesn’t apply to the church. (1 Cor. 11:2-16). The question IF women are allowed to prophecy isn’t even raised. When it is about order in the church, he says no more than two or three prophets may speak on turns and the rest of the prophets should judge if the words are correct (1 Cor. 14: 26, 29).

After this one of the notorious passages follows about women having to be silent. In verse 34 Paul says women in the churches of Corinth should we silent. “They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says” Why that is, is not clear. The referralto the law is not the Jewishlaw, although some point at Gen. 3:16. But ‘your husband will rule over you’, is not a law, At the most it is law of nature. It is an undesired situation as result of the fall. As said before, in the Old Testament there were female prophets, women who lead the people or were consulted by the king. That then shouldn’t have been allowed.

The passages about women prophesying are submitted to the passages about silence, but what if in the history of the church the passages about silence would be submitted to the passages about women prophesying and verses like Acts 2, where is referred to Joel 2, that men and women will prophecy and 1 Corinth 14, where everybody is called upon to desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

If it would have stayed common practice for women to speak prophetic words in the church, how would we have explained the passages about silence? Maybe as exceptional of as a temporary measure in a situation out of control like in Ephesus? (1Tim.1:3-7; 2:11-15)

God doesn’t discriminate between men and women, we are all one in Christ. He speaks through men and women, old and young, slave and free. Everybody has gotten the Holy Spirit. Lets desire the gift of prophecy. Lets share what we receive from God, to strengthen, to comfort, encourage, build and advise each other, men and women alike.

Conclusion

It is strange that a phenomenon that played such an important role in the entire bible, almost completely vanished in the church. The reasons that are given for the disappearance are super thin and easy to to refute. It is extra strange because with the outpouring of the holy Spirit in principal everybody can prophecy, contrary to the practice in the Old Testament. That’s why it should be necessary to learn how to use it and how you can separate real from false. But in the past the church has chosen to to ignore this gift rather than to embed it in the faith practice. Especially within the charismatic movement you see prophecy getting a place again. That this goes with falling and stumbling may be obvious. But lets learn from our mistakes and acknowledge this edifying gift of God and give it space within the church.

Painting: An Old Woman Reading, Probably the Prophetess Hannah, by Rembrandt

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