Looking at the Bible in the New Testament, how would you characterize Paul's views of women and their roles in ministry?
Critics recognise that there is a massive difference between the Epistles in the New Testament that are recognised as being authentically Pauline and then those that are classified as being Deutero-Pauline, where Paul's authorship is in doubt. What is clear is that in the genuine Pauline Epistles, there are numerous references to women, most frequently in the personal salutations in the churches to whom Paul writes. One significant example comes at the end of Romans, 16:1-3:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconof the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Greet Priscillaand Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
It is important to recognise the language that Paul uses when talking about women such as Phoebe. She is recognised as a "benefactor" of Paul himself, just as Jesus was supported by women, and note that she is also a "deacon," clearly indicating she held a position of leadership in the church. Priscilla and Aquila are identified as "co-workers in Christ Jesus," having worked along Paul, and are singled out for massive praise. It is only in the Deutero-Pauline Epistles that women are portrayed as being silly or weak, and thus there are some critics that would argue that Paul does not present a negative image of women in his authentic Epistles at all, and that, on the contrary, he affirms and supports them through identifying and recognising the specific contribution that women have made in the various churches of the New Testament.