Women in Church Leadership
Women in the Gospels
Jesus and Women Women in the Gospels
Women in the Gentile World Women in the Earliest Churches
Women in Palestinian Judaism References

Jesus' behavior toward women, even viewed through the androcentric lens of the Gospel texts, is remarkable. Jesus welcomed women into his closest discipleship: “After this he journeyed through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve accompanied him, and also some women… Mary called the Magdalene,….Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who were assisting them out of their means.” (Lk 8:1-5). Women were not named in ancient texts unless they had social prominence.  Scholars believe the implication in this text is that wealthy Jewish women underwrote the Galilean mission. Jesus welcomed female disciples into his entourage to learn the ways of God, along with the male disciples. This was unusual since Jewish men did not normally speak in public to women outside their kinship circle, much less travel around the countryside with them.            

The story of Martha and Mary is illustrative. Luke shows us Mary at Jesus' feet. One interpretation is that Mary has taken the place traditionally reserved for male rabbinical students. Martha, as often happens even today among women when the rules of patriarchy are challenged, protests.  But Jesus praises Mary's thirst to learn more about God: “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”(Luke 10:38-42).  Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus challenge deep seated patriarchal assumptions: that only women bear the burden of sexual sin; that Samaritan and Canaanite women are to be shunned and discounted; and that prodigal sons are to be disowned. Instead, men are challenged to own their complicity in adultery; the Samaritan woman becomes a missionary bringing her whole town to belief in Jesus; the Canaanite woman's fierce love for her daughter succeeds in broadening Jesus' own understanding of to whom the Good News is sent; and the wayward son is welcomed home with a huge party thrown by a prodigal father.

Women's equal call to discipleship with their brothers is most evident in the Resurrection accounts, for it is upon the testimony of women that the proclamation of the Resurrection depends. All four Gospels show Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James and Joses, Salome and the other women disciples accompanying Jesus to his death; anointing and burying his body; viewing the empty tomb; and experiencing his risen presence. That the message of the Resurrection was first given to women is regarded by biblical scholars as compelling evidence for the historicity of the Resurrection accounts. Had these texts been fabricated by overzealous male disciples, they would not have included the witness of women in a society that rejected their legal witness.

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