Women According to JesusBy Kelly Granite Enck
Before Jesus, women had virtually no rights. In the first century, the Jewish law considered a woman property rather than a person. She either belonged to her father or her husband. Women were not allowed to speak with their husbands or strangers in public. They lived literally behind their veils. They were not allowed to study the Law, and at the Synagogue they were shut apart from the men so they could not be seen. When a woman gave birth to a male child she was viewed as unclean for one week, whereas, after giving birth to a female she was unclean for two weeks. Men had long put away their wives as they lost their beauty. Divorce was “only” permitted to men; women had no rights, not even to the inheritance of their home.
"When Jesus began teaching the “New Covenant” the Pharisees attempted to trick him, by asking this question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2) In his answer he develops two very important arguments. He takes them back first to Moses, and discusses divorce as Moses handled it: then, as we will see, he goes back even further to the time of creation. Let us look first at what he says about Moses. He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said, to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.” (Mark 10:5) Even in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that he came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. This is why he sent these Pharisees back to Moses for the answer. Jesus said, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10:6-9) “Jesus goes back now beyond the Pharisees, beyond Moses, beyond the Law, beyond the whole Hebrew economy, and takes us right back to the dawn of creation, the very beginning of the human race, and points out to us that what happened there is the determinative factor, not what happened with Moses and the Law. The Law came in only to show us the problem that existed." (1)
What was life like for women in Ancient Greece around 384 BC- 324BC? Demosthenes, the prominent statesman said, "We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day-to-day needs of the body; we keep wives for the begetting of children and for faithful guardianship of our homes." There were women priestesses in the Greek religions, but these women were most often sacred prostitutes. During this time one of the greatest philosophers of Ancient Greece taught, “The male is by nature superior, the female inferior; and the one rules, the other is ruled.” Aristotle’s theory was based on the animal kingdom, viewing males as more spirited than females, even having more teeth and a warmer body temperature, which was thought to promote a larger brain and therefore a more intelligent species. But, Aristotle was wrong, both men and women can have up to 32 teeth, and the size of a brain does not determined intelligence.
Aristotle was taught by Plato (437 BC – 347 BC) who stated, “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation." The degradation of the female began the moment she was born. To notify the neighbors of a birth of a child, a woolen strip was hung over the front door for a female baby, and an olive branch for a boy. It was a common practice to get rid of female babies by leaving them on a hillside. This was the preferred method of disposal, as that act in itself was not murder; moreover, the exposed child technically had a chance of being rescued by the gods or any passersby.
Compared to women in Greece, the Roman women were emancipated. They did not need to go veiled and they were not entirely isolated from their husband’s company. They could go out of the house to shop, and to attend public functions. In Roman families slaves and wives were brought into the family from outside and therefore they were both seen in the same light. The wives were viewed as “intimate strangers.” The Roman world was rampant with divorce. Women could not take any legal punitive action against an unfaithful husband, but a husband could against such a wife. In the days of Christ it was not uncommon to find houses of prostitution next to temples of worship. Men would enter one door to worship with their spirits and the other door to worship with their bodies.(1a) This helps explain Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy where he was trying to establish loyalty to “one wife” as a requirement for deacons. (1 Timothy 3:12) Jesus disliked the hypocrisy of the Religious Leaders sleeping with prostitutes. The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into stoning a prostitute. Jesus turned the judgment back on them, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone." (John 8:7) Christianity brought a new and wholesome view of women. In preparing individuals for membership, the church never discriminated against women. This boldly defied cultural practices of the Greco-Romans. In teaching both sexes, Christians took their cue from Jesus, who taught men and women alike. (2)
In Israel women were not allowed to be a witness in a court of Law, yet Jesus chose a “women” to witness his resurrection! Mary Magdalene was the astonished recipient of this privileged moment. (Luke 14:1-10.) He then commissioned her to testify to its truth. The rabbis did not believe women were reliable witnesses. Jesus thought otherwise.
Jesus freed women from the age-old curse, like the stoning to death of woman on her wedding night, before the medical knowledge that not every woman bleeds even though she is a virgin. The Old Testament stated that a young-woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night was taken to her father’s door and the men of the city stoned her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) How many hundreds of women were innocently stoned to death?
But, Jesus comes and sits down with the Samaritan woman at the well, talking with her, a custom completely forbidden by the Jews. She represented "all nations," seen as an unclean woman having many husbands and an inferior creature in that culture. Jesus asks for a drink of water. When she asks how he speaks to her for she is unclean by the Jews, Jesus replies, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that says to you ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She is so honored that he is talking to her she misses what he is saying. That he has the “living water” and he calls it the “gift of God.” (John 4:1-42) Jesus gave her the role of missionary to bring the news of his visit into her village and many were saved.
Do you remember what Jesus said when he heard these words, “Your Mother and brother are here.” They want to talk to you.” Jesus replied, “My mother and my brother are those who hear God’s word and practice it.” Take note the depth of these words. Jesus made it clear that both females and males who believe on Him become His own kin (Luke 8:19-21)
A wonderful example of women being taught that learning scripture was more important than the drudgeries confined to their gender was when Mary was sitting at Jesus feet as a disciple learning and Martha protested to this action. Jesus replied,“Mary made the better choice.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus liberated women from their bleak repressive male-dominated societies. When this occurred, the most amazing transformation in history began. As women learned the Gospel, they were allowed to share it. Paul wrote of Phoebe, working along side him, as a “Deacon”. Later the King James, English translations, down played her role to “servant.” To be sure that Paul wanted her to be referred to as deacon we must study the original scripture in Greek. “Diakonos” in its masculine form was used to describe Phoebe. Paul used this same word to describe himself.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy Paul describes the office of a “deacon” to be a man with one wife. If you look at the context of the time, men had several wives and women had only “one husband,” therefore Paul would only need to address the men in this letter, as the women did not need to change in this area, they had only one husband. The fact that Phoebe was identified as a deacon of the church at Cenchrea clearly reveals that the early church, which started in homes, had female deacons. Paul told the Romans to receive deacon Phoebe for truly she was his sister in the Lord and co-laborer in the ministry. Paul wanted the Romans to treat Phoebe with respect and dignity. (3)
Then we have another famous missionary couple that is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament, with Priscilla’s name first, five of these times. (Romans 16:3-4) “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” They lived, worked, and traveled with the Apostle Paul, becoming his honored, much-loved friends and coworkers in Christ Jesus.
If you take the Apostle Paul’s letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus to heart you must note this amazing fact: Paul spoke of how women are to receive Gospel instruction. Women are being taught in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, this alone is liberating them! And if you study the letter in it’s original Greek you will see it was “situational based” on a “specific” domineering women in the Church that needed addressing, as we study the Greek word that was only used "once" in all the New Testament we can see this was situational by studying its meaning and in the context of the sentence structure.
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer [allow] not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." —1st Timothy 2:11-12
"The Greek word Paul used was “authenteo” the word means dominate or to…squash. One woman in Asia Minor was seeking to dominate men and Paul called for it to end. This is in the passage about women teaching men, so let us look at the two issues together. Paul says a woman is not permitted to teach a man. Some see this statement as permanent, everlasting. Is Paul saying, "A woman can "never" teach? Taking that view, teaching is not open to women. But Paul was not discussing an office or position. He was discussing an activity.
In the Greek, the verb "epitrepo" is written in the present active tense. Paul could have written this statement in the imperative mood, but he did not. Paul is not saying that women "are not to teach" in a timeless sense. Rather, Paul’s is referring to a temporary directive. This particular passage has reference to a specific problem in a specific church in Asia Minor.
Let us go further. There is no place in the Greek version of the Old Testament, nor anywhere in the New Testament, where the verb "epitrepo" is used in the present active, indicative, first-person singular, except here. This statement is not chiseled in stone. This unique verb structure speaks of something specific, timely and temporary.
In a specific situation, a woman was squashing a specific man while teaching and Timothy needed help to stop it and Paul's letter addressed this issue. No one, male nor female should dominate,(squash) over another person ever.
There is no gender restrictions in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16. And the word which Paul used (anthropos) also has no gender connotations.
When Paul spoke about a body of believers exhorting one another in the gathering, he could have used the word "aner", which would have had specific gender connotation. He did not.
If Paul had been making an absolute prohibition of women's teaching men, then how could we ever explain Priscilla's teaching a man (Apollos) who was himself a master of the Scripture.
Now let us look closely at this matter of women being instructed. In this passage are we looking at something unprecedented and revolutionary concerning women’s freedom?
Also in the scripture.....Paul wrote that women are to receive the gospel quietly (not silently) and receive it with mutual submission. He had directions because it was new for women to be taught scriptures."(3)
I found this extremely fascinating, did you know there was a woman Apostle?
"Junia is clearly a female name that was changed to the male "Junias"in the Latin translations of the New Testament. In Paul's identification of her as a relative, as being "in Christ" before him and "prominent among the apostles," Finlan finds it significant that Paul greeted her as an "apostle" in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way as if there is nothing unusual in a female apostle. In the Corinthian and Roman letters, Paul addressed a number of women as "leaders," but Junia is the only female apostle named in the New Testament. Junia and Andronicus are the only "apostles" associated with Rome that were greeted by Paul in his letter to the Romans. [Rom 16:7]
Romans 16:7 (King James Version)
7Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
That Junia was a woman is seldom contested today among Christian theologians. Considering the cultural climate of a time when women were treated as minor children with no legal or property rights, U.S. journalist Rena Pederson thinks it understandable that Junia's role was ignored or even hidden for centuries since medieval scholars changed her name to Junias to make it masculine. She opines that the growing acknowledgment of Junia's female apostleship will establish an important precedent for women preaching and teaching. "And since Paul often has been viewed as someone who wanted to keep women quiet, his praise for Junia seems to show that he was much more broadminded in practice."
(Galatians 3:28)“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.”
Paul did not mean when he wrote to Timothy, to add wine to his water for his particular stomach problem, that we were to always add wine to our water, nor should we take a situational letter about a woman’s outburst in a church and use it out of context. When Paul speaks of a male deacon having only “one wife,” this does not negate women from the role, for they never had more than one husband, so this was not an issue for Paul to address. No one will know for sure what Paul had in mind, with regards to the exact details of 1 and 2 Timothy; we are missing the corresponding letters that Paul was replying to. The fundamentalist view Paul’s letter to mean, that women are not to become Pastors, yet women are allowed to go "all alone" to foreign countries to minister to males and females alike, as missionaries. I find this paradox fascinating!
Jesus is our example in life and when he washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, he showed us the method in which we should minister, to one another.
Jesus said, “a servant is not greater than his master..” (John 13:1-17) Jesus taught the Gospel as a missionary, traveling to the people, therefore so will I.
Bibliography1. Stedman, Ray, What About Divorce, online article, March 9, 1975
http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/4082/3318.html (accessed 3/23/2011)
(1a)Cantelmo, Gregg, How Jesus Ministered To Women
http://bible.org/article/how-jesus-ministered-women (accessed 2/23/2011)
2. Mayhew, Robert. The Female in Aristotle’s Biology: Reason or Rationalization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,2004.
3. Edwards, Gene. The Christian Woman Set Free. Jacksonville, Florida: SeedSowers Publishing,2005.
4. (Finlan, Stephen. The Apostle Paul and The Pauline Tradition. Liturgical Press, 2008. ISBN 9780814652718, p. 134)
5. The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: American Bible Society: 1999;
Don't miss this story that I just read online!