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Should Women Preach and Teach? Argula Von Grumbach

Argula von Stauff von Grumbach 1492 – 1557 found it impossible to be silent when she read the Bible telling her she was required to speak. God has called women to preach in the early church, the middle ages, and today. God's gifting is not related to current feminism but to the Bible itself.

Argula von Stauff was a Bavarian noblewoman whose father ignored the custom of educating only sons, and she was well-educated. While the Catholic Church prohibited Bible translations into ordinary language, some clergy had translated it and when she was ten she began reading a German translation, the Koberger Bible. At sixteen, she became a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Bavaria, who encouraged Bible study, discussions, and guest speakers. After reading the works of Melanchthon, a supporter of Martin Luther, Argula von Stauff converted from Catholic to Lutheran.

After her parents both died of the plague in 1509, and her uncle was executed in 1516, she married Friedrich von Grumbach, a knight whom Duke Louis had appointed as a government administrator.

She strongly believed that Scriptures are the only criterion in matters of faith.


"Everyone who acknowledges me before people, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven. But everyone who denies me before people, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven." Matthew 10: 32-33

"When God made flesh comes into his glory, he will be ashamed of whoever is ashamed of me and my words." Luke 9:26

When men argued that she should not preach and teach, she argued with more Scripture, saying that St Paul wrote that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"

(1 Corinthians 6:19).

God's spirit is within you, read,

Is woman shut out, there, indeed?

While you oppress God's word,

Consign souls to the devil's game

I cannot and I will not cease

To speak at home and on the street.

It is estimated 30,000 copies of von Grumbach's pamphlets circulated, and read aloud to even larger audiences. She published eight public letters or pamphlets between 1523 and 1524.

In 1522, the Dukes of Bavaria decreed their subjects were forbidden to accept Luther's teachings, read or discuss them. A young University Instructor, Seehofer, taught about Melanchthon and Luther. In 1523, Argula Von Grumbach protested when Seehofer was dismissed and imprisoned for being a follower of Luther. In 1523, she addressed the University and appealed to Duke William IV to intervene. Faculty denounced her publicly in sermons as a 'shameless whore' and worse.

Male theologians told her to go home and spin wool, and accused her of lust for Luther. Luther did not publicly acknowledge a woman teaching men, even when Luther discussed the dismissal of the University Instructor. Male Reformers did not publicly acknowledge Von Grumbach or other women who advanced the Reformation.

Because of her, her husband lost his post. She was imprisoned in 1562 for disturbing the peace by "circulating Protestant books, holding private house services, and officiating at gravesite funerals." Von Grumbach maintained it was her right based on the concept of the priesthood of every believer, a doctrine that abolished ecclesiastical hierarchy and advocated that anyone with sincere Christian beliefs was equal to all others.

It seems that when it is convenient, "every believer" refers to "men and women", and when it is inconvenient, "every believer" or "you" refers to men alone.

My upcoming novel, Forgotten Followers: from Broken to Bold, tells the stories of two women eyewitnesses of Jesus who become disciples, patrons, and apostles. It shines the light on every woman who interacted with Jesus in the Gospels, many of whom have been maligned, belittled, or forgotten altogether.

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