WORD
WOMEN
D. M. Scholer

All four Gospels contain information on Jesus relationship to women and the involvement of women in Jesus life and ministry. Jesus accepted and affirmed as persons of worth various women who were neglected or rejected within his society. Jesus taught women and included them among his disciples. Women also participated in the proclamation of the gospel. Many women associated with Jesus are known by name. Among the four Gospels Luke evidences the greatest interest in Jesus relationship with women and their involvement in his life and ministry. The contacts and involvements between Jesus and women need to be set within the social and cultural contexts of the first century A.D. The Gospel data on Jesus and women lead also to discussions about the significance of this data for women in ministry, leadership and authority within the church.

1. Women in the Social-Cultural Contexts of the First Century A.D.

2. Women As Persons of Dignity and Worth

3. Women As Disciples

4. Women As Proclaimers

5. Women Specifically Named

6. Women in the Perspective of Each Gospel

7. Conclusions and Significance

1. Women in the Social-Cultural Contexts of the First Century A.D.

In very general terms Jesus lived in social-cultural contexts (the Jewish context and the larger Greco-Roman society) in which the male view of women was usually negative and the place of women was under stood to be limited for the most part to the domestic roles of wife and mother. Women were perceived by extant male writers to be responsible for most (all?) sin, and especially for sexual temptation and sin. There are, on the other hand, clear indications both from literary and non-literary sources that there were positive roles for women as well.

The extant male literary sources of ancient Judaism, which reflect both a class and gender perspective, present a fairly consistent pattern of a negative view toward women (see Swidler 1976). For example, Josephus, the first-century A.D. Jewish historian, states that the Law holds women to be inferior in all matters and that, therefore, women should be submissive (Ag. Ap. 2.25 201). Philo, the first-century A.D. Alexandrian Jewish philosopher and biblical commentator, refers throughout his writings to women and female traits as examples of weakness (e.g., Op. Mund. 15152; Quaest. in Gen. 1.33). Philo argues that women ought to stay at home, desiring a life of seclusion (Spec. Leg. 3.16977; Flacc. 89). Sirach, a proto-Pharisaic work from about 180 B.C., presents women either as good wives or as problems. It even states that better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace (Sir 42:14 NRSV). According to the rabbinic Tosefta, which may well in this case reflect first-century A.D. tradition, a Jewish man prayed three benedictions each day, including one in which he thanked God that he was not made a woman (t. Ber. 7.18).

Such texts reflect social reality to some extent and set a framework of societal expectation for the behavior and relationships of men and women.

This negative picture within Judaism was greatly shaped and influenced by Greek and Greco-Roman androcentrism and misogynism. However, as some have argued (e.g., Meyers), womens place in Israel began to decline with the emergence of a bureaucratic monarchy, prior to Greek influence.

However, there are, in spite of the lack of literary evidence from women, substantial indications that positive roles did exist for women within Judaism, even if limited. Especially important is the evidence that some women held the office of ruler or president of synagogues in ancient Judaism (see Kraemer). Significant religious roles for women are also indicated by the portrayal of Jobs three daughters as those who speak the language of angels in the Testament of Job and in the traditions about Beruriah, a second century A.D. rabbi (see Swidler 1976). Women as strong leaders are portrayed in the Hellenistic Jewish story of Judith and in the rule of Salome Alexandra as Queen in Judea (approximately 7667 B.C.). There is also substantial non-literary evidence which shows that Jewish women often took initiative for their lives and activities in spite of the male orientation and domination prevalent in the culture (see Kraemer). These positive roles and opportunities constitute Jewish evidence for the significance of women in ancient Judaism.

Thus, it is important for Christians not to set a Christian Jesus over against his Judaism and Jewish context as the deliverer of women and thus engage in a subtle form of anti-Judaism. Christians can hardly deny that the history of the church shows that it, as much as any human social reality, has neglected and oppressed women over many centuries.

Yet, as a Jewish male in an androcentric, patriarchal society, Jesus respect for women as persons of dignity and worth and his inclusion of them as disciples and proclaimers in his life and ministry was very significant in its own first-century context for women and their place and activity in ministry in the earliest churches and is important as a heritage for both Jewish and Christian people today.

2. Women As Persons of Dignity and Worth.

According to the Gospels Jesus clearly regarded women as persons of dignity and worth by his many healings of women, by his acceptance and forgiveness of undesirable and ritually unclean (see Clean and Unclean) women, and by his implicit challenges to male sexual devaluation of women.

2.1. Women Healed by Jesus. Jesus healed various unnamed women: Peters mother-in-law (Mt 8:1415; Mk 1:2931; Lk 4:3839); the daughter of Jairus and the woman with the twelve-year flow of blood (Mt 9:1826; Mk 5:2143; Lk 8:4056); and the eighteen-year crippled woman (Lk 13:1117) whom Jesus called a daughter of Abraham, probably an important status marker for a woman (see further the discussion of Lk 8:13 in 3.1. below). In addition, Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:1117). In most of these stories Jesus touched or was touched by the woman involved. This is particularly important in terms of the woman with the twelve-year flow of blood, since she would have been considered ritually unclean according to levitical law (Lev 18).

2.2. Womens Sexual Integrity Affirmed by Jesus. According to two Gospel stories Jesus accepted and forgave two women understood to be guilty of sexual sins. In Luke 7:3650 a woman, called a sinner, anoints (see Anointing) and kisses Jesus feet in the home of a Pharisee. Jesus accepted her actions as those of love and declared: Your faith has saved you; go in peace (7:50). In the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 7:538:11; although not found in any of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the NT, most scholars regard this as an authentic story about Jesus) Jesus said: Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no longer (Jn 8:11). This Jesus did in the presence of male critics who had brought only the woman, of the two involved, to Jesus.

Also to be noted in this connection is Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman (see 4.2. below), who is presented as one living in adultery. The male disciples are offended that Jesus is talking with a woman but dare not ask him why (Jn 4:27), indicating their negative sexual assumptions.

In fact, one saying of Jesus makes the general statement that tax collectors and sexually immoral women often translated prostitutes) will enter before you [religious leaders] into the kingdom of God (Mt 21:31; see Kingdom of God). Jesus notes that such persons had already responded to the preaching of John the Baptist (Mt 21:32; see John the Baptist).

In one saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:2730; see Sermon on the Mount) concerning adultery, Jesus places the blame for lust on men, something rather unusual in ancient Mediterranean cultures.

In the Matthean account of Jesus debate with the Pharisees on divorce (Mt 19:39), reference appears to be made to the dominant position that men could divorce their wives for virtually any reason (see for any cause in Mt 19:3; see Josephus Ant. 4.8.23 253; Life 76 426; m. ????? 9:10). Jesus responds by placing Deuteronomy 24:14 in a secondary position to Genesis 2:24 (Mt 19:56) which affirms the concept of one flesh, giving sexual equality to both women and men.

2.3. Women As Positive Examples in Jesus Teaching. Jesus often used women as positive examples in stories and events for those who have responded to God with appropriate faith. Such regard prepares the way for women as disciples and proclaimers (as described in 3. and 4. below).

Women are used, sometimes in parallel with men, to describe the faithful and faithless at the time of the arrival of the future kingdom (Mt 24:41; Lk 17:35; Mt 25:113). A woman and her leaven are central in a parable about Gods kingdom (Mt 13:33; Lk 13:2021).

More important are the instances in which women portray persons of faith: the widow of Zarephath (Lk 4:26; see 1 Kings 1718); the Syrophoenician (or Canaanite) woman (Mt 15:2128; Mk 7:2430); and the persistent widow (Lk 18:18). Faith is also an explicit feature of the women in the stories noted above (2.1. and 2.2.), of the woman who anoints Jesus feet (Lk 7:50) and of the woman with the twelve-year flow of blood (Mt 9:22; Mk 5:34; Lk 8:48). The story of the widows mite (Mk 12:4144; Lk 21:14) presents a woman as one who fulfills Jesus requirements, made especially clear in Luke, of discipleship with reference to material possessions.

The parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:810) presents a woman as the finder who rejoices with a party, the same role portrayed by the shepherd and the father in Luke 15. In all three cases this person images God who rejoices over repentant (see Repentance) sinners (see also Mt 23:37; Lk 13:34 in which Jesus likens his concern for Jerusalem to that of a mother hen for her chicks).

3. Women As Disciples.

The Gospels indicate that women were among the followers (= disciples) of Jesus and were taught by him with the understanding that they could respond with obedience and commitment to the word of God.

3.1. The Women Who Followed Jesus. All four Gospels attest to the fact that a group of women followed Jesus in Galilee and to Jerusalem where they were present as faithful and active at the crucifixion (see Death of Jesus), burial and resurrection of Jesus (Mt 27:5556; 27:6128:1; Mk 15:4041; 15:4716:1; Lk 23:49; 23:5524:1; Jn 19:2527; 20:1).

The verb used to designate their following of Jesus is (or its compounds), a term which occurs over seventy-five times in the Gospels and normally means following Jesus in the sense of being a disciple. This lexical evidence confirms the narrative presentation of women as disciples of Jesus, although some would argue that when this term is used of women it does not designate discipleship.

Luke describes these female disciples in the Galilean context (Lk 8:13). Luke notes that the women were traveling with Jesus and the Twelve and that they were providing for them as well, which is probably an indication of their upper-class status and comparative wealth. These women apparently became disciples of Jesus as a result of the healing they had received from him. Luke mentions three by name, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, and notes that there were also many others.

The mention of these women in the Jerusalem context repeats the name of Mary Magdalene and adds the names of Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses (Joseph), Salome and Mary the wife of Clopas (Jn 19:25), who may be the same person as Mary the mother of James and Joseph. Also noted are the mother of Jesus (Jn 2:5 and 19:2627 also attest to her discipleship), her sister and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (who may be the same person as Salome).

Luke, whose Gospel alone mentions these women in both the Galilean and Jerusalem contexts, also notes in Acts 1:14 that certain women, presumably those he has described in Luke 8:13 and in the passion narrative, are present in the upper room in Jerusalem, along with Mary the mother of Jesus. Presumably, then, these female disciples were among the one hundred twenty followers of Jesus (Acts 1:15) who waited for and received the Holy Spirit (see Holy Spirit) on the day of Pentecost, fulfilling the prophecy of Joel that in the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy (Acts 2:17; see Joel 2:2829). The mention by Luke of Tabitha (Acts 9:36), also known as Dorcas, designated as a disciple and Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12) as the one (leader?) in whose home believers were meeting, may indicate additional women by name who were followers of Jesus.

3.2. Mary of Bethany As a Disciple. According to Luke 10:3842 Mary assumed the posture of a disciple by sitting at Jesus feet (see Acts 22:3; ???????? 1:4), listening to Jesus word In spite of the objections of Marys sister Martha, based on the traditional female obligation to prepare the meal, Jesus affirmed Marys choice: Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken from her (Lk 10:42). Presumably, the better part refers to Jesus teaching on the kingdom which characterizes Lukes central section of the Gospel (Lk 9:5119:28) in which this story occurs.

Some interpreters have understood the story to present an image of women as silent learners rather than as active participants or speakers in the life of the church, indicating a redactional stage which reflects an alleged retreat from a more positive, egalitarian role for women in the very earliest years of the church. However, it is more likely that the story of Mary presents the image of women as disciples in equal partnership with men.

The presentation of Mary in John 11:2833, 45; 12:18 may also point to her role as a disciple of Jesus, although it is certainly not as clear as it is in the Lukan story. Marthas confession in John 11:27, parallel to Peters confession in John 6:69 and in the Synoptic tradition (see Mt 16:16), indicates her discipleship as well.

3.3. Motherhood and Obedience. Two Gospel pericopes contain a similar saying of Jesus in which response and obedience to Gods word (discipleship) appears to be placed above motherhood, the traditional role for women (Mt 12:4650 par. Mk 3:3135 and Lk 8:1921; Lk 11:2728). In the common Synoptic story Jesus says: My mother and my brothers and sisters are those who hear the word of God and do it (Lk 8:21; see Family). In the incident reported only in Luke, Jesus says in response to a womans affirmation of his mother: Blessed rather are the ones who hear and keep the word of God (Lk 11:28).

4. Women As Proclaimers.

The Gospels present three occasions in which women were proclaimers of Jesus, the Lukan infancy Narrative (Lk 12), the story of the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:442) and the accounts of the women at the tomb in the resurrection narratives.

4.1. The Women Who Interpreted Jesus Birth. In the Lukan infancy narrative (Lk 1:52:40) there are five persons, three of whom are women (Elizabeth; Mary, the mother of Jesus; and Anna; Zechariah and Simeon are also named), who speak by the power of the Holy Spirit or as a prophet in order to provide a divine interpretation of the meaning of Jesus birth for the history of Gods salvation (see Birth of Jesus).

Elizabeth (Lk 1:4145) is filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounces a blessing on Mary, including designating her as the mother of my Lord. Mary (Lk 1:2638, 4656), assuming her to be the speaker of the Magnificat (Lk 1:4655; see Marys Song), declares the saving work of God in language and structure similar to Hannahs prayer in 1 Samuel 2:110. Anna (Lk 2:3638) is a prophet who praises God and speaks about Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. In the structure of Lukes Gospel these three women, along with Zechariah, Simeon, the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:2638) and the angels who speak to the shepherds (Lk 2:815), proclaim Jesus place in Gods salvation, giving theological understanding and perspective to the event of his birth.

4.2. The Samaritan Woman. After Jesus discourse with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:726) she returns to her city and recounts her experience with Jesus: Many of the Samaritans from that city believed in him, because of the word (?????) of the woman that he told me all that I did (Jn 4:39). The Johannine account does go on to note that the Samaritans then have a direct encounter with Jesus word (?????), which they understand as the basis for their faith (Jn 4:4042).

4.3. The Women As Witnesses to Jesus Resurrection. All four Gospels report that the female disciples of Jesus were the first ones to receive the angelic account of Jesus resurrection and commission to go and tell the male disciples of this event (Mt 28:18; Mk 16:18; Lk 24:112; see Jn 20:113). According to Luke (Lk 24:1011, 2224) the men did not believe the report of the women (see also Mk 16:11 in the long addition to Mark).

Further, the Gospels of Matthew and John and the long ending of Mark report that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:1418; Mk 16:911; in Mt 28:910 the other Mary [see Mt 27:61; 28:1] is with Mary Magdalene; this other Mary is presumably Mary the mother of James the younger and Joseph, mentioned in Mt 27:56). In the Matthean and Johannine accounts Mary Magdalene is commissioned by Jesus to tell the male disciples what she has seen and heard.

It has often been noted that Paul, who provides the earliest written account of resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Cor 15:38), does not mention the role of the women. It is often assumed that this is due to a Jewish understanding of the inadmissibility of the testimony of women in legal contexts (see Josephus Ant. 4.8.15 219) and the argument Paul wishes to establish.

The first known pagan written critique of Christianity, that of the middle Platonist Celsus entitled The True Word (c. A.D. 175), builds on the Gospels report of women as the first witnesses and proclaimers of Jesus resurrection. Celsus, citing his alleged source, says that a hysterical female (and perhaps someone else) was the witness to Jesus resurrection, which Celsus then discounts (???? Origen Contra Celsum 2.55). Origen responds (c. A.D. 225) to Celsus by saying that there were other witnesses in addition to the woman and that the Gospels do not say that she was hysterical (Origen Contra Celsum 2.5960). Celsus attack on Christianity shows how clearly and firmly the role of the women as the first witnesses of Jesus resurrection was in the Gospel tradition and early church. It may be worth noting how important this theme is to the history of the discussion of the significance of Jesus relationship to women for the church. In what may be the first book published in English in defense of womens preaching, Margaret Fell refers to the role of Mary Magdalene in the title of her book: Womens Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, And how Women were the first that preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and were sent by Christs Own Command, before He ascended to the Father, John 20.17 (London, 1666).

4.4. Women in Non-Canonical Gospel Traditions. Women are frequently presented as disciples and leaders, especially in resurrection narratives, in various non-canonical apocryphal (see Gospels [Apocryphal]) and gnostic Gospels (e.g., Gos. Thom. 21, 61, 114; Dial. Sav.; see the comments on Mary Magdalene in 5.6. below).

This data is a witness to the strength of the Gospel tradition of the involvement of women as disciples and proclaimers of Jesus. It may also suggest, according to some scholars, that in some second-century A.D. circles women had more options for involvement among gnostic groups than in the orthodox church, which was increasingly excluding women from leadership. This understanding is, however, debatable and fraught with problems of social-historical analysis.

5. Women Specifically Named.

In the Gospels seventeen women are specifically named (some of them may, however, actually be the same person; see especially 5.7, 5.10 and 5.11). The amount and character of information concerning them varies as does their relationship to Jesus. What follows is an alphabetical list of these women with the Gospel references and basic information provided.

5.1. Anna. Anna was a prophet mentioned only in Luke 2:3638. She spoke in the Temple of the infant Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. She was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher and a widow who spent most of her time in the Temple. It is not clear whether she was eighty-four at the time of the story or whether she had been a widow for eighty-four years (probably fourteen at marriage, plus seven years of marriage plus eighty-four years as a widow = one hundred five years of age, the age reached by Judith, a hero in Israel [Jdt 16:23]).

5.2. Elizabeth. Elizabeth, mentioned only in Luke 1, was of priestly descent (see Priest and Priesthood) and the wife of the priest Zechariah, mother of John the Baptist and a relative of Mary the mother of Jesus. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and greeted Mary as the mother of her Lord.

5.3. Herodias. Herodias, noted in Mark 6:1729; Matthew 14:312 and Luke 3:1920, was the grand daughter of Herod the Great (see Herodian Dynasty), the daughter of Aristobulus, the wife of Herod (called Philip in the Gospels), the mother of Salome and the mother-in-law of Philip the tetrarch (Josephus Ant. 18.5.1 11011, 136). She conspired to have Herod Antipas kill John the Baptist (Josephus Ant. 18.5.2 11619).

5.4. Joanna. Joanna is mentioned in Luke 8:3 and 24:10 as one of the female disciples of Jesus who followed him in Galilee and to Jerusalem, where she is mentioned as one of the women who first received the message of Jesus resurrection. She is identified as the wife of Chuza, a steward of Herod (Antipas), about whom nothing else is known.

5.5. Martha. Martha lived in Bethany and was the sister of Mary and Lazarus. She is described in Luke 10:3842 and in John 11:144 and 12:2. Martha, in contrast to Mary in both stories, was the one who prepared the meals for Jesus as a guest in their home. In the Lukan story Martha objects to Marys involvement as a disciple of Jesus. In the Johannine story Martha makes a disciples confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God (Jn 11:27; see Christ; Son of God).

5.6. Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene (from the Galilean town of Magdala; see Archeology and Geography) was a prominent disciple of Jesus who followed him in Galilee and to Jerusalem. She is always listed first in groups of named female disciples and was the first person to whom the resurrected Jesus made an appearance (Mt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk 15:40, 47; 16:1 [16:9]; Lk 8:2; 24:10; Jn 19:25; 20:1, 11, 16, 18). Her status is attested by the numerous references to her in early apocryphal and gnostic Christian literature (see Grassi; e.g., the Nag Hammadi Gos. Phil. 59, 69).

5.7. Mary the Mother of James [the Younger] and Joseph [Joses]. This Mary is mentioned as one of the female disciples of Jesus (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40, 47; 16:1; Lk 24:10) who was among those who received the first message of Jesus resurrection. She is probably to be identified with the other Mary of Matthew 27:61 and 28:1, based on the Markan and Lukan parallel texts (see 5.11. and also 5.10. below).

5.8. Mary the Mother of Jesus. Jesus mother is mentioned by name in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 12; 13:55; Mk 6:3; Lk 12). John refers to her as Jesus mother without ever noting her name (Jn 2:1, 3, 5, 12; 6:42; 19:2527). Mary is prominent in the birth narratives and functions as Gods obedient servant (see Lk 1:42 Blessed are you among women ) and as an interpreter of Gods saving work (the Magnificat in Lk 1:4655; see Marys Song). Jesus conversation with her in John 2 does not indicate disrespect, but rather shows Johns emphasis on Jesus own authority and responsibility for his mission and implies Marys discipleship. Mary is understood as a disciple (see Jn 19:2527; Acts 1:14).

5.9. Mary of Bethany. Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus and lived in Bethany (Lk 10:3842; Jn 11:1145; 12:18). She was a disciple of Jesus, com mended by him for choosing the better part (see 3.2. above). She, according to the Johannine story, anointed Jesus feet with costly perfume (the parallel stories in Mt 26:613 and Mk 14:39 do not name the woman; the story in Lk 7:3650 is set in a different time and place). Jesus defends her act of devotion as an act of discipleship.

5.10. Mary the Wife of Clopas. This disciple of Jesus is mentioned only in John (Jn 19:25), along with Mary the mother of Jesus, her sister and Mary Magdalene at the cross of Jesus (see Death of Jesus). Due to the names in the parallel texts in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40, there is some possibility that this Mary is to be identified with the Mary the mother of James and Joseph (see 5.7. above; see also 5.11. below).

5.11. The Other Mary. The other Mary is a designation which appears only in Matthew 27:61 and 28:1. She is one of Jesus disciples at the cross and the resurrection. The parallel texts in Mark 15:47 and 16:1 and the data of Matthew 27:56 and Luke 24:10 suggest that the other Mary is probably to be identified with Mary the mother of James and Joseph (see 5.7. and also 5.10. above).

5.12. Rahab. Rahab is mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (1:5; see Josh 2 and 6). She was considered an important woman in the Jewish and early church traditions, as suggested here and attested in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. She is one of four women mentioned in Matthews genealogy (see 5.13., 5.16. and 5.17. below). All of these women are Gentiles; their mention here may signify Gods mercy and point to the Gentile mission (cf. Mt 28:1820). They may also point to Mary as indicative of Gods choice of unexpected women in the history of salvation.

5.13. Ruth. Ruth is mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:5; see 5.12. above).

5.14. Salome. Salome is mentioned in Mark 15:40 and 16:1 as one of Jesus disciples at the cross and the resurrection. Due to the parallel to Mark 15:40 in Matthew 27:56, it is possible that Salome is the wife of Zebedee and, thus, the mother of James and John, two of Jesus twelve disciples.

5.15. Susanna. Susanna is one of Jesus disciples mentioned only in Luke 8:3. Nothing else is known of her.

5.16. Tamar. Tamar is mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:3; see Gen 38; Ruth 4; 1 Chron 2:4; see 5.12. above).

5.17. The Wife of Uriah. Uriahs wife, Bathsheba, is mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:6; see 2 Sam 11; 12:24; 1 Chron 3:5; see 5.12. above).

6. Women in the Perspective of Each Gospel.

Another way of viewing the data on Jesus and women is to look at the individual approach of each of the four Gospels. Among the four, Luke evidences the greatest interest in material that relates to women in the life and ministry of Jesus.

6.1. Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew contains stories about the healing (Mt 8:1415; 9:1826) and faith (Mt 9:22; 15:2122) of women, as well as stories in which women are involved which define the kingdom (Mt 13:33; 24:41; 25:113). Four Gentile women are included in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:3, 56). The sexual integrity of women is upheld in the discussions of lust (Mt 5:2730) and divorce (Mt 19:39), and the inclusion of sexually immoral women in the kingdom is noted for the preaching of both John the Baptist and Jesus (Mt 21:3132).

The discipleship of women, including their involvement in proclamation, is noted both in a general saying of Jesus (Mt 12:4950) and in the passion (see Death of Jesus) and resurrection narratives (Mt 27:5556; 27:6128:10).

Matthew is the only Gospel which tells the story (Mt 27:19) of Pilates wife who, because of a dream, attempts to dissuade Pilate from being involved with Jesus (see Pontius Pilate).

6.2. Mark. The Gospel of Mark probably has the least amount of data about Jesus and women, yet Mark, with the rest of the Gospels, presents women as among the disciples of Jesus. Mark contains stories about the healing (Mk 1:2931; 5:2143) and faith (Mk 5:34; 7:2430) of women.

The discipleship of women is noted in a general saying of Jesus (Mk 3:3135), in the story of the widow who gave all her money (Mk 12:4144) and in the passion and resurrection narratives (Mk 15:4041; 15:4716:8; see also 16:911).

6.3. Luke. The Gospel of Luke shows the greatest interest in women in the life and ministry of Jesus, including numerous accounts and stories about women unique to its presentation. Luke also gives the specific names of more women in Jesus life than do the other Gospels. This interest is continued in Acts (for Jesus female disciples see Acts 1:14).

Luke relates stories about the healing (Lk 4:3839; 8:13, 4056; 13:1117; 17:1117) and faith (Lk 4:26; 7:3650; 8:48; 18:18; 21:14) of women, many of which are unique to Luke. Women are important in two parables unique to Luke (Lk 15:810; 18:18) and are mentioned in two stories about the kingdom of God (Lk 13:2021; 17:35).

The place of women in discipleship is particularly stressed by Luke, both in general statements (Lk 8:1921; 11:2728), in the story of Mary and Martha (Lk 10:3842) and in the reports of the female disciples who traveled with Jesus (Lk 8:13) and are described in the passion and resurrection narratives (Lk 23:49; 23:5524:12). Again, some of these accounts are unique to Luke (Lk 8:13; 10:3842; 11:2728).

Woman are prominent as proclaimers in the infancy narratives (Elizabeth, Mary the mother of Jesus, Anna; Lk 12) and in the resurrection narratives (Lk 24:1011, 2224).

6.4. John. The Gospel of John portrays in particular the discipleship of the mother of Jesus (Jn 2:112; 19:2527), the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:742), Mary and Martha (Jn 11:145; 12:18) and Mary Magdalene (Jn 19:25; 20:118). Both the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene are proclaimers of Jesus in John, and both receive extended attention in the Johannine Narratives.

7. Conclusions and Significance.

Jesus respect for and inclusion of women as disciples and proclaimers provided the foundation for the positive place of women in the earliest churches and their ministry.

In fact the baptismal formula reflected in Galatians 3:28 and its statement that in Christ there is neither male nor female is probably rooted in the traditions of Jesus (see MacDonald). This indicates the formative role of Jesus in Pauls theological vision for the churchs inclusive character.

The fact that there were no women among the Twelve is often cited as evidence that Jesus did not intend women to exercise leadership or authority in the church. However, it would not have been culturally possible to have included women in that most intimate group of Jesus followers. It is remarkable and significant enough that many women, at least eight of whom are known by name and often with as much or more data as some of the Twelve, were included as disciples and proclaimers during Jesus ministry (not to mention Elizabeth and Anna in Luke 12). It has often been observed that all of the Twelve were Jews, yet the early church, as it developed in other social contexts, included Gentiles in leader ship. Thus, the precise composition of the Twelve should not be pressed too far.

More significant is the fact that the Twelve did not constitute or provide the model or framework for leadership or authority in the early church, apart from the very earliest days in the Jerusalem church. Rather, what was significant for the character of leadership in the early church was Jesus call to discipleship and its definition in terms of service and the fact that both men and women were among Jesus followers as disciples and proclaimers.

It sometimes is noted that Jesus did not appoint any women to office. Neither did Jesus appoint any men to office (apart from the case of Peter, and that did not determine church structure apart from initial leader ship in the Jerusalem church). The structures of leadership and authority in the early churches, especially those of Paul, for which the best evidence is available, were somewhat fluid and unstructured. In such contexts women did exercise leadership and authority (twelve women are known by name among Pauls coworkers in ministry; see Rom 16:116; Phil 4:23; 1 Cor 1:11; Col 4:15; Acts 16:1415, 40).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY. S. S. Bartchy, Jesus, Power and Gender Roles, TSFBul 7.3 (1984) 24; R. E. Brown, Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel, TS 36 (1975) 68899 [reprinted in The Community of the Beloved Disciple (New York: Paulist, 1979) 18398]; E. S. Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983); K. Giles, Jesus and Women, Interchange 19 (1976) 13136; A. Gill, Women Ministers in the Gospel of Mark, AusBR 35 (1987) 1421; C. M. Grassi and J. A. Grassi, Mary Magdalene and the Women in Jesus Life (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1986); J. B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981); W. Klassen, The Role of Jesus in the Transformation of Feminine Consciousness, JCSR 7 (1980) 182210; J. Kopas, Jesus and Women: Lukes Gospel, TToday 43 (1986) 192202; R. S. Kraemer, Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics: A Sourcebook on Womens Religions in the Greco-Roman World (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988); D. R. MacDonald, There Is No Male and Female: The Fate of a Dominical Saying in Paul and Gnosticism (HDR 20; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987); C. Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (New York: Oxford University, 1988); G. R. Osborne, Women in Jesus Ministry, WTJ 51 (1989) 25991; L. Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Woman (Philadelphia: West minster, 1979); idem, Women in Judaism: The Status of Women in Formative Judaism (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1976); R. A. Tucker and W. Liefeld, Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987); B. Witherington III, Women in the Ministry of Jesus: A Study of Jesus Attitudes to Women and Their Roles As Reflected in His Earthly Life (SNTSMS 51; Cambridge: University Press, 1984).

 
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