This podcast (13 mins) focuses on one of the minor characters in the NT, Phoebe. Yet there may still be some lessons for us to learn.

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Major text: Rom 16:1-2
Supporting texts: Acts 15:22-23; 30-32; Rom 12:3-8; 1 Tim 3:4; 1 Thess 5:12

Rom 16:1 Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and provide her with whatever help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to [a patron of] many, including me.


  • Phoebe means bright—connection with Phoebus Apollo, the sun god.
  • Cenchrea is one of Corinth's two seaports.
  • Phoebe is the first person named in Romans 16—where Paul greets at least 9 or 10 female colleagues, besides his male coworkers.
  • Most likely it was she who delivered the letter.
    • See the parallel in Acts 15:22-23, 30-32 (the commendation of Judas and Silas).
    • Romans is one of most important letters of Paul, dealing with a potentiality sensitive topic (the Jew-Gentile controversy, not unlike the racial issues of our own day).
    • If she bore the letter to the various house churches of Rome, she may also have been the one who read the letter aloud.
    • Even if others read Romans aloud, Phoebe would have been the one who clarified things if there were questions.

Female leadership?

  • Does this sound like too much responsibility for a first-century woman?
    • She is called diakonos (v.1). See Phil 1:1.
    • Diakonos = servant, minister.
    • See Acts 6 and 1 Tim 3.
  • She is also prostatis.
    • In classical times, prostatis (the feminine form of the noun) = leader, chief; guardian, protector.
    • In Roman times, the word could mean patron.
    • This is one of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 (see v.8). In the NT, there were women prophets, servants, teachers, leaders, etc….
    • Forms of the word also show up in 1 Tim 3:4 and 1 Thess 5:12.
  • Female teachers, prophets, and leaders in the Bible, Miriam (Exod 15:20; Mic 6:4), Deborah (Judg 4-5), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chron 34:11-33), Noahdiah (Neh 6:14), Isaiah's wife (Isa 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36), Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26; Rom 16:3-5, 1 Cor 16:19), Philip's daughters (Acts 21:8-9), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), and Junia (Rom 16:7).


  • Let’s be aware of our presuppositions when it comes to leadership in the ancient church.
  • Respect and honor Phoebe—and all who are like her!
  • As we read the New Testament, let's try to re-imagine their world, including those occasions when fresh letters or gospels were first read aloud!