|Introduction and Background
Women in the Gentile World
Women in Palestinian Judaism
|Women in the Gospels
Women in the Earliest Churches
“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.” (Luke 8:1-5)
Scholars seeking to discover women's roles in late antiquity face formidable challenges. All history until the mid -20th century, was written by men with preconceived notions about women. Philosophic treatises viewed females as created subordinate to males. Since women's primary roles were believed to belong to the household and reproduction, they were often forbidden active roles in economic, cultural and religious life. In evaluating historical data, feminist biblical scholars and Church historians now recognize the importance of differentiating between “gender ideology” and “the reality of women's lives.”[Ute Eisen, p.3]
In seeking “the reality of women's lives,” care must be taken to avoid portraying Jesus as liberating women from a Judaism that restricted and subordinated them any more than was the lot of all women in late antiquity. Patriarchy restricted both Jewish and Gentile women, but the extent of that restriction depended more on a woman's socioeconomic status, cultural context and geography than her religious affiliation. Jesus was an observant Jew. His movement arose from faith that just as God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt, so God would act to remove Roman oppression and bring about a new time of justice and right relationship among nations and among people. Jesus’ inclusive practice should be viewed as emerging from his Judaism, not apart from it.
This brochure seeks to make available in an “at-a-glance” format materials that fill many books written by renowned scholars. The reader is encouraged to peruse these for a more comprehensive treatment of this fascinating topic.