There are only three verses about the prophetess Anna: “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36–38).
Here we have a woman who was only married for seven years before her husband died, and she remained a widow for the rest of her life. We meet up with her at the age of eighty-four as she spends every moment of her life (“night and day”) at the Temple of Jerusalem. Baby Jesus is brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord, and a man named Simeon instantly recognizes the child as the Messiah. He gives his glorious blessing over the Holy Family, and then Anna enters the scene. She, too, immediately recognizes the Messiah and gives thanks to the Lord that the day of salvation has finally arrived.
It wasn’t uncommon that a reputable prophet or prophetess of the Lord would be given living quarters within the Temple. (A similar situation was set up for Huldah [2 Chronicles 34:22].) As Anna was a prophetess in Jerusalem, we can likely take the words “departed not from the temple” in a literal way, understanding that the Temple was probably her home. Like any other Jew of her generation and locality, Anna was waiting daily in anticipation for the promised Messiah to arrive. When He did, Anna tells everyone she meets, “all them…in Jerusalem,” that the Savior has arrived, and that anyone who wants to be saved can be through belief in the blessed Babe.
The Good News of Christ is meant to be shared, and Anna was not silent. In fact, she was one of the first to hit the information highways of her day and make sure that every soul she came into contact with who was “looking for redemption” had the answers he or she sought. The Word does not say that Jesus knew Anna personally in His youth, but it is probable that Mary and Joseph would have told Him about their trip to the Temple—and about the man and woman they met on that day who took one look at Him and knew precisely who He was.
One of the very earliest ministers of the Good News—just after the birth of the Savior—was a woman.
We may never know whether Jesus knew of Anna or conversed with her in His early years, but many souls in Jerusalem had her to thank for the acknowledgment of His arrival.
In His later years, however, He personally commissioned women to go and tell others about Him. It is to that supreme authority that we will now turn.
The Women Jesus Sent
Although there were exceptions to the rules regarding how women were treated in ancient times (especially in pagan cultures such as Ephesus and Corinth), women were frequently viewed as second-rate citizens. Their role in society—unless they were willing to exploit their sexuality and use seductive measures to socially overpower men in certain cultures—was unfortunate.
Despite the fact that the Old Testament is clear on how and why women were created to be the powerful ezer alongside man, patriarchal hierarchy within both the public and home settings proved to change how women were to be valued. They were given very few rights, and the closer one got to Jewish traditions and customs, the more women were, by the time of the New Testament era, reduced to the rank of lesser sex. Equality, within Judeo-Christian context, was not to be found from any aspect, and this kind of social arrangement influenced the imprinting of the woman’s role from thousands of years before Christ and onward.
Old Testament laws regarding women were set to protect the female gender, not to harm them or place them in uncomfortable positions. Just as one example, take Deuteronomy 24:1–2: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” This directive is for when the woman has committed some act that has made her “unclean” to her husband. It’s not a matter of her being uncomely, old, barren, or any other factor she can’t help or change. And even if she makes herself unclean, she is still eligible for remarriage. The law certainly protects the man from being unequally yoked, but the fact that the woman—despite being seen as “unclean”—can be married again actually shows the grace and provision that God is extending to the female population of His people. This law was never meant to be abused, but by the time of Christ, women were handed divorce papers for nearly any reason whatever. A man could grow weary of his dinner being five minutes late, the floor being too dirty in one corner, or his wife’s looks and claim that “she [found] no favour in his eyes,” and the marriage would be ended. The man was then free to take a younger, prettier bride and the woman was left hoping some kinsman redeemer would care for her. Marriage was viewed for centuries among the Hebrews as a business contract, the woman being property of the man: an object to own, not a person to be loved or valued.
A woman, on the other hand, could not divorce a man, and since men were behind the marital arrangements, women frequently found themselves bound to an unkind or disinterested husband and were trapped in that position until the man grew tired of the relationship and replaced her. This was not by any means how the original law was supposed to be implemented, and it was not how God designed relationships to be, but it was how the law eventually came to be abused. What began as an official law about how a woman was allowed to remarry and thus be cared for by another man became a law about how men could discard an inconvenient piece of property because ancient interpreters allowed their own “today’s culture” to produce the final interpretation of Scripture. (Some things never change within the realm of human nature…)
This scenario painted above was a harsh reality, but it should not be assumed that every man in the ancient world treated women poorly. Some women were held in high honor within the household as businesswomen and patronesses, and some even within the synagogue! In fact, Bernadette Brooten has uncovered nineteen inscriptions within the remains of ancient synagogues that prove women were priests and elders even in places of Jewish worship. One of these inscriptions assigns a woman as “ruler of the synagogue,” and another assigns “mother of the synagogue.”[i] Ross Kraemer, professor of religious studies at Brown University, adds six epitaphs to this list proving women as religious elders and officers of the day.[ii] One woman, Beruriah, was so profoundly respected as a correct scriptural interpreter that she is mentioned several times in the Talmud. So we have proof that women weren’t always in abusive or subordinate positions within Jewish society, but we have far more proof in existence that they were tossed away like old trash whenever a man wanted a change of pace—and that the overall cultural attitude toward women was overwhelmingly negative. And this situation was exacerbated by the time we reach the New Testament.
The Old Testament documents a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was overthrown by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom (Judea) fell to Babylon. The Israelites were exiled from their land, and during the Intertestamental Period (the span of years between the last events recorded in the final book of the Old Testament and the first events recorded in the first book of the New Testament), only a small portion of them returned. So by the time of Christ, the Jews were no longer in supreme control as they lived under the influences of Greco-Roman cultures. As the Jews lived among these peoples, eventually their original religion, Yahwism, became a legalistic and cold religion, Judaism. The Judaic oral traditions bypassed the laws until the “Word of Yahweh” became the “word of Pharisees/Sadducees.” Although the Pharisees and Sadducees have been given a terrible rap because of how Christ continuously denounced them (even going as far as to call them snakes and vipers), their intention was initially honorable. When Alexander the Great’s prized Hellenism slowly began to infiltrate and replace Yahweh’s divine orders with Greek philosophy, mythology, and pagan rituals, a stricter adherence to the Mosaic Law was a necessity. Pharisees and Sadducees reacted to the secularization by implementing new laws on top of the old ones, and over time, these became biasedly patriarchal and extremely exclusive of women. This warped revision of God’s intent and design again polarized women as baby-makers and bread-bakers among men, so when Christ entered the scene, women were frequently kept indoors and required to remain silent on social or political issues. Some Jews were hard on women because of the Pharisaic traditions, and others were equally hard on women because of the influence of Greco-Roman culture, so women were faced with oppressive circumstances from both inside and outside the social norms of their own people groups.
Rome was an aggressive influence, paving its ways of life through violence, war, and brute force. Greece, on the other hand, though it had its time of conquering the world via Alexander the Great’s leadership, had a greater longevity and wider spread in its influence over the ancient world due to the fact that the Greek ways of life were made via philosophy and intellect. The views the Greeks held about women in Greco-Roman times were largely that women, unless born into rich families who could afford to educate them (such as many of those in Ephesus), were inferior to men. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and hundreds of other Greek philosophers recorded such a view in their writing. If a mother delivered a female baby, it wasn’t uncommon that the baby would either be abandoned on the ground outside the home where it would perish, or given away as a future slave or prostitute. Women weren’t allowed to hold any kind of leadership positions in most mainstream religions, but as prostitutes in pagan cults, they thrived as oracles, diviners, mediums, and conduits of the gods. Roman culture was similar (unless the woman belonged to a noble or wealthy family), and many wives weren’t out of their teens before they were joined to a forty-something year-old man and expected to have a baby every two years.
By the time we arrive at AD 550, it is clear by the writings of the Talmud that women were disproportionately subservient and inferior to men in every aspect. Let’s look at a few examples from Jewish writings and sayings of the time.
Although Leviticus 15 discusses the cleanliness of both genders, the Talmud almost doesn’t address the topic of men’s uncleanness at all, though it devotes ten whole chapters to the subject of women’s uncleanness, suggesting that men are generally cleaner than women. Many Mishnah writings openly revile the idea that a woman would be allowed to know the Law; in fact, it was seen as such a corrupt notion that the Jews would have rather burned their sacred writings than to allow a woman to be taught from them: “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman” (Mishnah Sotah 3).[iii] One writing even goes as far as to say a woman shouldn’t hardly be spoken to under any circumstances, lest the man who converses with her be punished for it eternally: “Who speaks much with a woman draws down misfortune on himself, neglects the words of the law, and finally earns hell” (Mishnah Avot 1:5). A woman wasn’t even allowed to pray in some circumstances: “Let a curse come upon the man who [allows] his wife or children say grace for him” (Talmud bBerakhoth 20b), and even the birth of a baby girl was supposed to be seen as a mournful event: “At the birth of a boy all are joyful, but at the birth of a girl all are sad; When a boy comes into the world, peace comes into the world; when a girl comes, nothing comes” (Talmud bNiddah 31). No woman could celebrate her virtue amidst Jewish men, for “even the most virtuous of women is a witch” (Mishnah Terum 15). And some writings and sayings at the time were so derogatory against women that it’s hard to believe men claiming to belong to Yahweh would have ever uttered them, such as: “A woman is a pitcher of filth with its mouth full of blood, yet all run after her” (Talmud bShabbath 152a).
These postbiblical sayings, writings, and oral laws were so effectively implemented amidst the Jews that: “In the daily prayers prescribed for Jewish males there [was] a threefold thanksgiving which graphically illustrated where women stood in Rabbinic Judaism: ‘Praised be God that he has not created me a gentile; praised be God that he has not created me a woman; praised be God that he has not created me an ignorant man’” (Tosephta Berakhoth 7, 8).[iv] And this prayer is not simply the product of one misogynist Jew, as it is repeated in two other central rabbinic collections (Talmud pBerakhoth 13b and Talmud bMenakhoth 43b).
The Jewish men daily praised God for not making them a woman!
THEOLOGIAN: JESUS HIMSELF STARTED THE FIRST WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT
Some of the traditional beliefs were not just “add-to” laws birthed from the concern of Hellenism, but were completely invented imaginings of Judaizers—such as the idea that because Adam was the first lifeblood of humanity and Eve was the reason he fell, the curse of monthly menstruation blood was now upon women (Talmud pShabbath 2, 5b, 34). (Many statements in this section can be traced back to Ben Sira, circa 180 BC, author of the apocryphal Ecclesiasticus, who likely played a crucial role in influencing the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is from this document that we read: “Any iniquity is small compared to a woman’s iniquity; may a sinner’s lot befall her!” [Ecclesiasticus 25:19]. In other words, any man’s sin, no matter how bad, is insignificant when compared to any woman’s sin, no matter how small.)
These are only a few examples of how women were viewed in Jewish circles closer to the time of Christ. They rarely left home, they weren’t allowed to be educated, and they weren’t considered in any numbering when men were present, such as in the congregations of the synagogues or even in the Gospel account of the crowds who were fed by the loaves and fish: “And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21).
But then, along came Jesus…the Radical of radicals who challenged these cultural and societal norms, honoring women privately and publicly, even when doing so guaranteed controversy.
In Luke 7:36–50, we run across this beautiful narrative:
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answering said unto him, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.”
And he saith, “Master, say on.”
“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?”
Simon answered and said, “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.”
And he said unto him, “Thou hast rightly judged.” And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” And [Jesus continued] unto her, “Thy sins are forgiven.”
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?”
And [Jesus] said to the woman, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
Students of the Bible admire Jesus’ boldness when the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Christ (John 8:2–11). It is perhaps the second most controversial moment in His ministry involving women, just behind the woman at the well (which we will address later in this chapter). Again, the holy men attempted to trap Jesus in a public challenge. If Christ agreed to allow this woman to be stoned, He couldn’t be the loving rabbi He had painted Himself to be. If He opposed her stoning, He would be guilty of marginalizing the Jewish Law that elsewhere He claimed to fulfill to the letter. It was a lose-lose trap set by the same holy men that would go on to produce such dogmas about women as those found in the Mishnah. This woman was an adulteress.
Honor meant everything at the time of Christ. Seminary professor of New Testament and Greek studies, David deSilva, wrote the amazing book, Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture. This book stands alone as one of the most well-researched resources I have read regarding what the world was like in the days of the early Church, but it also happens to be used as a textbook for many religious universities. DeSilva begins his first chapter with the statement: “The culture of the first-century world was built on the foundational social values of honor and dishonor.”[v] He goes on to say: “Honor…is viewed as the first and foremost consideration.… [W]hile honor with pleasure was a great good, pleasure without honor was the worst evil. Those who put pleasure ahead of honor were considered to be more animal-like than human…. In the first century B.C. a teacher of public speakers held up honor and security as the two primary considerations when trying to win an audience over to support the course of action the speaker promoted…[and] successful orators were the ones who could demonstrate that the course of action they advocated led to the greatest honor.”[vi]
Again, honor meant everything to the people groups of the New Testament culture, and one of the biggest slams on honor fathomable was a woman who desecrated her own body in pursuit of the most illicit of worldly pleasures whilst potentially wrecking the marriage of another man! To the Pharisees who stood there holding stones, it didn’t appear to matter where the man was who held equal shame in the act of adultery. The woman would have been seen as the seductress, the home-wrecker, and the man would have been viewed as the victim of her wily desires, regardless of whether it had been the man who initiated the immoral rendezvous (which we have no way of knowing). Mosaic Law, culture, social standards, ethics, politics, the constant striving toward purity—all of these standards would have justified Christ’s approval of this woman’s death. He could have easily shown love repeatedly throughout His ministry and in this one moment made an exception. It certainly would have made the Pharisees happy… Instead, however, He met their challenge with another: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7).
What an unbelievable response! We skim straight past it today, but when I close my eyes and imagine this moment in history, I can almost hear the murmuring of the crowd; I can see the quick exchange of desperate glances; I can appreciate the blast of Christ’s words as they settled in the stomachs of the bloodthirsty crowd while hands released stones to the ground and sandaled feet meandered away in defeat.
They—the crowd—saw a harlot. A dog. A “pitcher of filth” whose blood on the temple floor would have hardly been worth cleaning up after.
Christ saw a person. He took her side over the leaders of the “Church” of that day.
And it was a radical move that changed history forever.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
WAIT… A WOMAN PREACHING IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH… WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT THAT?!
Those who oppose women being leaders in the Body of Christ frequently ask the following: “If Christ was all for women, then why didn’t He choose a woman to be among His disciples?” In conversations I’ve witnessed in person wherein the recipients haven’t done their research, the question falls in the air as a final-word stamp, for who can argue with such a statement? However, in response, I ask a question of my own: Why do so many people think there weren’t women disciples? Haven’t they read the Word? Don’t they see all the verses that straightforwardly list women as disciples (for example, Luke 8:1–3, 10:38–42; Mark 15:40–42)?
Jesus taught His ways to both men and women. Our English word “disciple” comes from the Latin discipulus, “pupil, learner, student, follower.” Prior to that, the word was from the Greek mathetes: “pupil, apprentice to master craftsman, student, learner.” Our current understanding of the word “disciple” is that it was a title given to the twelve men who followed Christ in His ministry travels and who later became the Twelve Apostles. This is an errant understanding of the original Greek that would have applied to anyone, male or female, who learned from Christ in person (or, as it applies today, those who followed His teachings after His earthly departure). In His day, women weren’t allowed in the inner court of Israel at the temple, so what did Christ do? He took his teaching to the women’s court![vii] He didn’t just “allow them” to learn from Him if they happened to be standing around; He specifically sought them out and went to them to ensure that they were included in His teaching—despite that His contemporaries believed teaching a woman the Law or anything religious was like training them in the ways of “lechery” (Mishnah Sotah 3:4), or that speaking “much” with a woman would cause a man to “earn hell” (Mishnah Avot 1:5)! (These writings are postbiblical, but they represent the mentality of the Palestinian social customs that existed in Christ’s day.) We cannot board a time machine and experience in person how intensely the holy men of this era reviled the idea of engaging women in conversation, especially as that related to theological discourse, but Jesus did so regularly, and even when such women were despised (Matthew 9:18–26; Luke 10:38–42; John 4:7, 27).
Jesus included women and men equally in His deliverance, healing, and miracles (Matthew 8:14–15, 9:18–26, 15:21–28; Mark 5:25–34; Luke 13:10–17, 8:40–56), and even defied social and cultural mores when He touched not only a woman, but a woman’s corpse to raise her from the dead (Mark 5:41). Women were “unclean” during their menstrual cycle or during postpartum bleeding, and the Law said that anyone who touched them during those times would also be unclean. But when the woman who had been bleeding for twelve straight years reached out and touched Christ’s clothing (considered at that time to still be “contact”), the taboo issue of blood wasn’t even mentioned. Instead, Christ said “thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (Luke 8:43–48). He frequently told women to “go in peace.” He cared about the peacefulness within a woman’s soul. Instead of praising the men for the heaps of money they were donating to the temple’s treasury, to His disciples He commended the one poor woman who only contributed two coins because it was all she had (Mark 12:41–44). Whereas the men around Jesus treated women as marginal or worse, expecting them to maintain their place in the kitchen, He treated them as people and loved on them even when His own standing with the holy men was at stake. Consider when Martha wanted her sister, Mary, to help her serve the men rather than sitting at Christ’s feet to learn from His teaching. After Martha said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me,” Christ’s radically countercultural answer was, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38–42).
Jesus actually preferred Mary to sit and be taught than to serve the men.
The Bible makes it perfectly clear that women were present while Christ taught, and that makes them disciples. If we consider the thousands of people who were in the company of Christ at any given time (such as during the loaves and fish event), we can assume that at least hundreds of those crowd members were women. For that matter, hundreds or thousands were children disciples as well. So why do so many people mistakenly assume there were no women disciples? Furthermore, why do so many people use this false claim to suggest that Christ only chose men because He believed only men could be leaders in the future Church of Christianity?
This is not to say that the Twelve were not distinct in role and purpose, however. Even Peter acknowledged that it was important to bring the number of the chief disciples (apostles) back to twelve after the suicide of Judas (Acts 1:15–26). So why weren’t there any women within the chief Twelve?
Linda Belleville, author of Women Leaders and the Church: Three Crucial Questions, suggests that it was Christ’s fulfillment of symbolism:
Twelve Jewish males…represent the twelve tribes and their patriarchal heads. It is the twelve apostles who will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30). The new Jerusalem will have twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles (Rev. 21:12, 14). It is important not to make a leap from the twelve apostles to male leadership in the church. The leap, instead, should be from twelve apostles to the [entire] church of Jesus Christ. It is not male leaders who will serve as judges in the future, nor, for that matter, is it female leaders. “Do you not know,” Paul says, “that the saints will judge the world?… Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2–3).[viii] (Emphasis in original)
This view has been adopted by many scholars and remains a mainstream explanation of why Christ didn’t choose a woman to be one of the Twelve. However, even if this is only a theory, scores of Jewish cultural reasons also support why women wouldn’t have been among the Twelve:
- Women were given in marriage or engaged at an early age and, once promised to a man, would have likely been forbidden by their betrothed to even hold conversation with a man, let alone keep company with men as they traveled around and slept in groups. The very thought of that would have been seen as an illicit act for a married woman. Christ might have been a radical, but He wouldn’t have ordered any woman to defy her husband, so we can rule out any Jewish matrons.
- Likewise, any woman who had children would be needed at home to care for them, and Christ would not have wanted any mother to abandon her children, so we can rule out any mothers.
- If a woman or young girl was not married, she was still under the authority of her fatherly figure. Fathers of unmarried Jewish girls would have never allowed their daughters to travel around with men who a) stayed together in groups even overnight and b) talked about theology. Remember, Jewish girls weren’t allowed to learn, because it was believed to be immoral. Christ would not have ordered any young Jewish female to defy her father, so we can rule out most young Jewish girls or unmarried young women.
- Lastly, following eons of sociocultural and ethical imprinting that the Jews held so firmly, calling a woman to follow Christ would have placed her in a vulnerable position, because she would have had to defy her entire community and deal with the backlash.
Once we consider the culture, the reason women were not called to be part of the Twelve disciples is clear based on the disobedience it would have required her to demonstrate in order to participate in Christ’s mobile and theologically rich ministry. Any woman who followed Him and learned from Him would have had to do so at her own will, not because she was called to or told to by Christ (as were the men who followed Him), since that would put her under the authority of a man other than her patriarch. As for whether women who were free from the authority of a male figure at home decided to hold company with these men and their Savior, we already know several of them did. The most widely referenced is the female disciple Mary Magdalene.
People can continue to argue that Christ opting for twelve men equates His preference for men as Church leaders, but that doesn’t make it true. And these people are ignoring—either innocently or deliberately—that it wasn’t only women Christ excluded in the Twelve… He also excluded anyone who was not a Jewish man. He did not choose Gentiles, even though His ministry was at the cusp of breaking down the social and religious barriers between Jew and Gentile, and there isn’t a range of ethnicities, either. Yet, today, we do not deny leadership in our churches to those who would fit the description of a modern Gentile (anyone belonging to a different religion prior to conversion), nor do we prohibit as leaders anyone who isn’t of a Jewish bloodline. If we use the men Christ chose for the Twelve as a model for leaders today, we would have to exclude these men. But sadly, the standard is only applied to women. Such a narrow approach to the subject refuses to consider the culture at the time of Christ—as well as the mainstream “symbolism” interpretation discussed prior—and it also makes a blatantly unfounded assumption that just because women weren’t in the Twelve, Christ was setting a new rule: Jesus didn’t choose women, so women can’t be Church leaders. The absence of women in the group does not prove this, no matter how hard one tries to arm-wrestle that dogma into the picture. This logic is, at best, grasping.
Dr. James B. Hurley, professor of marriage and family therapy and author of Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, wrote: “The most striking thing about the role of women in the life and teaching of Jesus is the simple fact that they are there. Although the gospel texts contain no special sayings repudiating the views of the day about women, their uniform testimony to the presence of women among the followers of Jesus and to his serious teaching of them constitutes a break with tradition which has been described as being ‘without precedent in [then] contemporary Judaism.’”[ix] The ministry of Christ, as extended through Paul, was to form a new community of believers that broke tradition: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
If we begin down the trail of omitting anyone or anything from ministry based on what method or who Christ did not choose to use, then all we would be allowed to do now is travel on foot from city to city, sleeping in tents or patron houses. For example: Christ didn’t use dogs, horses, or any other animals in His primary strategies for ministry, either, so all ministries that use animals have to go. Why? Because Jesus didn’t choose them. This list could go on perpetually. We can’t simply “pick” that Christ stood against women leaders based only on the fact that He didn’t choose them for the Twelve, especially if there is evidence that He personally inspired them to go and preach.
But is there evidence of such a thing?
UP NEXT: The Woman at the Well (John 4)
[i] Bernadette Brooten, Women Leaders of the Ancient Synagogue (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982), 11.
[ii] Ross Kraemer, Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1988), 219.
[iii] The quotations in this section are taken from: Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1979), 154–157.
[iv] Ibid., 155.
[v] David deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (InterVarsity Press, Downer’s Grove, IL: 2000), 23.
[vi] Ibid., 24.
[vii] Dr. Deborah M. Gill and Dr. Barbara L. Cavaness Parks, The Biblical Role of Women, 73.
[viii] Linda Belleville, Women Leaders and the Church: Three Crucial Questions (Baker, 1999), 149.
[ix] Dr. James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 82–23.