Scholars have often explained discrepancies in evidence for women's participation in the early church by reference to the gendering of public and private spaces. Public spaces were coded male, and when churches moved into these spaces, women's leadership was disavowed. This article rejects the usefulness of the public/private dichotomy as an explanatory tool, arguing that the modern sense in which these terms are used was anachronistic to the New Testament period. The overlap between public functions and space that the modern concept of the ‘public sphere’ takes for granted did not exist in the ancient world. Public functions often occurred in household spaces, and functions considered private also took place outside homes. For these reasons, scholars should look for new language that better describes the ancient patterns.