Thanks to TC for the link to Wright’s sermon from which I draw this post.
and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. – Acts 9:2 NASB
He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them– both men and women— back to Jerusalem in chains. – Acts 9:2 NLT
The historical situation is that in that culture of the time, women were generally left unmolested in such cases. Wright cites the example that the women in the Gospels were seen at the crucifixion, although they were known to be followers of Christ, while the men feared punitive action. Yet, here Paul is given express permission to tackle the growing Way with brute force, imprisoning both men and women. Why? Wright speculates, citing Kenneth E. Baily, that it was because women in the early leadership positions along side men.
I’ve found it difficult to quickly substantiate Dr. Bailey’s assertions that women weren’t targeted by the opposing side, well, not for death anyway; however, while reading of some Josephus’ account in his Wars (3.300-) I noticed that many times, women and children were simply enslaved or left alone. If this is the case, then targeting women along side of men, especially by Saul of Tarsus wouldn’t be the culture norm.
Except for the Sicarri. They were a terrorist group which quickly shed Jewish blood, even Jonathan the high priest, for impiety or not resisting Roman rule, according to Josephus. They operated in the years before the destruction of the Temple, trying to expunge the Romans from Israel. They had no qualms about killing women and children, of which numbered 700 or so dead when the Sicarri invaded En Geddi. It is interesting, that before Josephus, the word can only be found in connection with the Apostle Paul,
“Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Acts 21:38
“Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?” Acts 21:38
For others who may interested in Sicarri in Josephus, you may wish to purchase this book.
But, if then-Saul of Tarsus was actually targeting women along side of men, then it is possible, given the culture surroundings, that he considering the women as leaders. The cement to this argument comes from the fact that Luke expressly mentioned ἄνδρας τε καὶ γυναῖκας in Acts 9 as well as in Acts 22, as Paul recounts the story.