|Volume 23 Number 9 September 2021
Someone desires an explanation of Joel’s prophecy about daughters prophesying. The biblical citation appears in Joel 2:28-32 and in Acts 2:16-21.
And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:28-32 NKJV)
But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. (Acts 2:16-21)
First, let’s establish when daughters, among others, were to prophesy. The prophet Joel cited when his prophecy was to be fulfilled as “in those days” (Joel 2:29), and the apostle Peter identified the first Pentecost following the Ascension of Jesus Christ as the beginning of the fulfillment of “those days” when he said, “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). The momentous occasion of the birthday of the Lord’s church marked the beginning of “those days.” This also marked the beginning of a period during which both selected Christian men and women were able to perform miracles – such as prophesying. However, this era was temporary – lasting about 70 years – in the infancy of the church and while the New Testament was in the process of being penned by inspired writers.
Miracles – including prophesying – were never intended to be a permanent facet of Christianity. The purpose of miracles in the early church was to receive and validate new revelation from God (Mark 16:20). Once that was sufficiently accomplished, miracles were to cease (1 Corinthians 13). Miracles, such as prophesying, were partial rather than complete, owing to the inability for any prophet on any given occasion to recite all the will of God for man under the New Covenant. Specifically, note 1 Corinthians 13:9-10, which reads, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The counterpart to prophesying in part is completed revelation – the New Testament. When the New Testament was complete – around the end of the first century or the start of the second century – miracles were no longer necessary and ended. Naturally, the ability to perform miracles by mortals would phase out upon the death of the last apostle and the last person to whom an apostle transmitted miraculous power.
The Old Testament records that there were female prophets under Judaism: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14). Likewise, the New Testament records there were female prophets in the early days of Christianity (1 Corinthians 11:5). “…the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven… Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:8-9).
To whom, though, did female prophets, mentioned in the New Testament, prophesy? First century culture – in the case of female roles – was the outgrowth of God-given religion going all the way back to the Garden of Eden. “To the woman He [God] said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you’” (Genesis 3:16). Wives were to be submissive to their husbands under Judaism, too, and the sequence of the roles of men and women continues under Christianity as well. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3; cf., Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6).
Consequently, female Christians are forbidden from speaking publicly in the Christian assembly. “Let your women keep silent in the churches [worship assemblies], for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church [the worship assembly]” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; cf., 1 Timothy 2:11-12).
The sphere, then, in which first century female prophets could prophesy was first – publicly or privately – to other women. Secondly, Christian women then and now can effectively teach men, too, in private settings (Acts 18:26), as long as they do not assume an authoritative disposition (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2).
More references in the New Testament refer to male prophets than to female prophets, but there were also Holy Spirit inspired female prophets in the first century. Like their male counterparts, they functioned within the span of time when miracles were operative during the infancy of the church and before the New Testament was completed. In addition, female prophets served within the God-assigned roles of men and women.
Was Mary Magdalene
a Church Leader?
“Was Mary Magdalene a church leader?” someone asked. The New Testament mentions Mary Magdalene by name 11 times combined in the four Gospel records. All of those references to her, therefore, were prior to the establishment of the church, about which one reads in Acts 2; the first mention of “the church” as existing is in Acts 2:47.
Since New Testament Scripture relegates leadership roles in the Lord’s church to qualified men, neither Mary Magdalene nor any other woman could be a leader in the church about which we read in the Bible. Leadership in the church is the responsibility of biblically qualified men (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) who have been appointed to the eldership over the congregation of which they are members.