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How Many Women Are in the Bible?

Were there many women following Jesus in the Gospels? Were there many women leaders in the early church? Yes. This article outlines women in the New Testament.

Historical Records of Many Women in the Early Church

Secular historians have attested to the extraordinary number of women the early Christian church attracted. Celsus, in the 2nd century, mocked the church for attracting 'the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children." Bishop Cyprian of Carthage noticed that "Christian maidens were very numerous" and it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. Men of the senatorial class could lose their status if they converted to Christianity. That may explain why Peter addresses wives who are married to unbelievers (1 Peter 3:1-7), encouraging them that by their conversation and demeanour, their husbands may come to believe. Ignatius, another church father, greets women leaders in the faith including Alce and Tavia. Polycarp notes that a letter to Philippi is to be copied twice, one for the female leader, Grapte, and the other for the male leader, Clement. The 4th-century theologian Jerome referred to women in his circle of scholars to resolve problems for church elders (1)

Biblical Sources of Many Women in the Early Church

Biblical sources also give evidence to women who served as church planters, leaders of house churches, evangelists, deacons, elders and overseers. Men and women were often paired for missionary journeys, not in marriage, but as sisters, co-workers and ministry colleagues. In the 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria discussed these male/female teams saying it allowed the team to teach the word in the women's quarters without scandal.

I believe women were attracted to the early church partly because Jesus gave them freedoms greater than those available in the Greco-Roman culture. The pagan household codes said wives must submit; Paul instructed all believers to submit to one another, as wives of that culture submitted. In contrast to the secular world where veils indicated a woman's status and availability, Paul abolished status, saying a woman should have authority over her own head since the church had no policy on whether a woman wears a veil or not. While the secular world kept women largely uneducated, Paul said let a woman learn (click here for more about Paul and women). It was a scandal for women and men to be treated equally in the Greco-Roman world. And the women responded by participating fully in The Way.

As the Jesus movement became organized as the Christian religion, it acquired the Greco-Roman patriarchal hierarchy. When I began writing about women in the New Testament, I thought historians had simply forgotten or not noticed or valued them. However, I am finding that women's stories were intentionally suppressed or discredited. Dr. Ally Kateusz provides evidence that Mary, the mother of Jesus, acted as a priest or overseer after the resurrection (2). Few of the stories of women evangelists and apostles were canonized in the Bible, and ancient extra-biblical texts were criticized. When Christians gave examples from The Acts of Paul and Thecla to support women in ministry, church authorities contested the manuscript. There is ample evidence of women deacons working in ministry, often in women's quarters, providing pastoral care for the sick, evangelizing, instructing, baptizing women and officiating communion to women. Consequently, the office of deacon was demoted for a time to 'laity', allowing the office of the ministry to exclude women (3).

Many Women in the Gospels

My first novel,  Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, puts the reader in the shoes of female disciples, eyewitnesses, patrons, and apostles. It retells these events from the point of view of two main female characters, Mara, healing from trauma, and Joanna, grappling with racism. It includes every woman in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). I counted 35 of them! Who are the 35 women in the Gospels?

As I researched my novels, I came across articles by Marg Mowczko, and in 2023 I had the chance to ask her about the many women in the Bible. See my brief interview here.

Many Women in the New Testament

Because She Was Called, from Broken to Bold Book 2 covers the time period of Acts 2-11. I have planned a series covering the whole time period of the Gospels and Acts, set from approximately AD 30 - 70. My hope is to include all of the women of the New Testament. In addition to the 35 women in the Gospels, I found 36 more women in the New Testament!

Each scholar tends to highlight or identify different women, so I would like to credit several academic sources for my list of women and their biblical references below (4). Let's get to know the woman disciples, apostles, preachers and church planters that have been largely forgotten!

many women
Many women led in the early church

First, the groups of unnamed women:

  • gathered with the apostles in prayer and receiving the Holy Spirit Acts 1:14

  • New woman believers Acts 5:14

  • Widows who were neglected Acts 6:1

  • Women committed to prison and to death by Paul Acts 8:3, Acts 9:2, Acts 22:4

  • Samaritan women baptized by Philip Acts 8:12

  • God-fearing women of high standing of Pisidian Antioch Acts 13:50

  • Women at the place of prayer in Philippi Acts 16:13

  • Girl possessed by a Spirit in Philippi Acts 16:16-19

  • God-fearing, prominent women of Thessalonica Acts 17:4

  • Wives and children of Tyre Acts 21:4-6





Acts 5:1-11

Sapphira, wife of Ananias


Acts 8:27

Candace, Queen of Ethiopians


Acts 9:36-42

Tabitha (Dorcus), dressmaker in Joppa


Acts 12:12-15, Col 4:10

Mary, mother of John Mark, and Rhoda, her servant (already introduced in my novel set in the Gospels).


Acts 16:1, 2 Tim 1:15

Eunice, Timothy's mother


2 Tim 1:15

Lois, Timothy's grandmother


Acts 16:11-15, Acts 16:40

Lydia, church host in Philippi


Acts 17:34

Damaris at the Areopagus in Athens


Acts 18:2-3, 18-20, 24-26, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Cor. 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19

Prisca (Priscilla), tentmaker, teacher


Acts 21:9

Four prophesying daughters of Philip (traditional names: Hermione, Eutychis, Irais, Chariline)


Acts 23:16

Paul's sister


Acts 24:24

Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I and Cypros, wife of Felix (Governor of Judea).


Acts 25:13-14, 23, 26:30

Bernenice, sister of Agrippa II, last King of Judea


Romans 16:1-2

Phoebe, Deacon of Cenchreae, patron, overseer, letter carrier


Romans 16:6

Mary of Rome (same as Mary Magdalene in Orthodox tradition)


Romans 16:7

Junia, outstanding apostle


Romans 16:12



Romans 16:12



Romans 16:12



Romans 16:13

Mother of Rufus (wife of Simon the Cyrene)


Romans 16:15

Sister of Nereus


Romans 16:15

Julia, wife of Philologus


1 Corinthians 1:11

Chloe whose people report problems in Corinth to Paul


Philippians 4:2-3

Euodia, Paul's co-worker in Philippi


Philippians 4:2-3

Syntyche, Paul's co-worker in Philippi


Colossians 4:15

Nympha, host of a church in Laodicea


1 Timothy 2:11

A woman who is teaching false doctrine should be allowed to learn truth


1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:3

women elders and deacons


2 Timothy 4:21



Philemon 1:2

Apphia, ministry colleague in Colossae


2 John 1:1

The elect lady and her children


2 John 1:13

The elect lady's sister


1) Catherine Kroeger, Christian History Institute, originally published in Christin History Issue #17 in 1988.

2) Ally Kateusz, Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership, Palgr4ave Macmillan, 2019.

3) Darrell Pursiful, Priscilla Paters "Ordained Women of the Patristic Era", CBE International, July 31, 2001,

4) Sources for the list of women in the New Testament:


Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with historical fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor


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