Paul’s letters provide insight into the social makeup of the small early Christian communities in the Greco-Roman world. In his letter to the Philippian church, the first two persons he mentions by name are women: Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2). When Paul describes them as “these women who labored with me in the gospel” and includes them in the category of “fellow workers” (4:3), he indicates that they joined with him as equal partners in his missionary and teaching activity.
The exact nature of their leadership roles in the church at Philippi is not certain. The authority of both women in the church was sufficient, however, for Paul to encourage them to seek harmony with one another (4:2). He even called on someone addressed as “true companion” to “help these women” (4:3). Perhaps he was concerned that competition between them for the Philippians’ loyalty and affection might fracture the young Philippian church. Perhaps the church met in the houses of these two women; competition between them, then, would have been a temptation.
Paul was concerned that Euodia and Syntyche “be of the same mind in the Lord” (4:2). His concern could not have run too deep, though. Along with Clement, he believed that both Euodia’s and Syntyche’s names were “in the Book of Life” (4:3). Nevertheless, both women needed to seek the mind of Christ, not their own.
Women played important leadership roles in Paul’s churches, two examples being Phoebe in the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1) and Priscilla in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19). Particularly in Macedonia, where women often assumed prominent roles in religious cults, it would be natural to find female leaders in a church. Paul supported women’s roles in the Christian communities and instructed believers: “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
Radmacher, E. D.