Two Forgotten Women of the Bible
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel” (Phil. 4:2–3).
Got any friends who named their daughters Syntyche? Euodia? Me either. I know plenty who named their girls Joanna or Mary or Martha, and even a Lydia or two. But what about these New Testament women? Why do they get no respect?
Only two times in all my years as a Christian have I have heard anyone teach about Euodia and Syntyche. And both times these co-laborers of Paul got trash-talked. A female speaker nicknamed them “odious” and “soon touchy”; and a male speaker used them to make a misogynistic point about the tendency of women in the church to bicker.
Know any guys named Mark? Ever heard of someone named Barny? Yeah, me, too. I don’t recall anyone ever making an issue of Paul, Barnabas and John Mark’s gender when the former two disagreed over John Mark. Do we chalk that up to testosterone poisoning? Of course not! Nor should we.
So who were these women who get no respect? They were, in the words of Paul, among those who “struggled together in the gospel ministry along with me and Clement and my other coworkers, whose names are in the book of life.” In short, they were Paul’s co-workers.
In a recent blog post about them, Scot McKnight observed, “These women were gospel workers ‘with’ or alongside Paul … [and] gospel work is about preaching, teaching, evangelizing, and pastorally shaping. One cannot infer specifics of what Euodia and Syntyche did, but we know it was within this set of categories: they were gospelers.” He goes on to observe that Euodia and Syntyche were in good company, as others whom Paul called “co-workers” included Timothy, Apollos, Silas, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila, Urban, Philemon, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, and Justus.” Great company!
These women were mature in their faith, and Paul was convinced of their salvation. If we are going to make any generalization about gender here, it should be that Paul worked in partnership with women for the sake of the gospel, a revolutionary concept at the time.
A number of years ago a woman in our church and our pastor had a sharp disagreement over worship styles. Both had legitimate concerns. But their views differed so radically that the woman and her husband felt led to leave the church. Still, she and the pastor were committed to reconciliation before they parted ways. So along with their spouses they asked my husband and me to join them for a tough conversation. That evening both exhibited humility and grace. And as we closed our time together, we found the closest thing to communion food available—juice and tortillas—and shared the Lord’s Supper. Ultimately the pastor and that woman did not agree in the sense that they held the same opinion on the subject. Yet they agreed in the Lord.
That’s the kind of unity Paul believed these two gospel workers could exemplify. They had already contended at his side.
I doubt we’ll see a spike in girls named “Syntyche” anytime soon, but I hope we will pass on the legacy of these women. Who needs your ministry of “preaching, teaching, evangelizing, and pastorally shaping” in the name of Christ?
Adapted from Frappé with Philippians (AMG).