Watercolour and ink portrait of Joanna by Sarah Beth Baca.
Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.
Prints of this portrait and of other Bible women can be purchased here.
Women in Ancient Jewish Society
Life could be hard in first-century Israel but if you were a woman it could be even harder. Women had fewer social freedoms than men and women had fewer legal rights. Furthermore, many women, but certainly not all, were financially dependent on a male relative. Generally speaking, a woman was dependent on her father if she was unmarried, on her husband if she was married, or, if she outlived both her father and husband, which was not an uncommon situation, she was financially dependent on her son. (This made the widow of Nain’s situation particularly pitiful because she had even outlived her only son.) But most women did some kind of work that benefitted the economy of their household. That is, in the ancient world, most able-bodied women, and even children, worked. Only women from the higher classes didn’t work, but these ladies made up a small percentage of the population in Israel.
As well as having a lower profile in society, the average woman had a lower profile in Jewish religion. Women could be prophets, however. Prophets such as Anna, who is mentioned briefly in Luke’s Gospel, held a respected place in Jewish society. Philip’s four daughters were renowned as prophets. But there was no covenant symbol or ceremony, such as circumcision, that initiated girls or women into the Jewish religion. And women could not become Jewish priests. Women couldn’t even go beyond the court of women in the temple at Jerusalem, whereas Jewish men could have access more closely into the heart of the temple complex. And at that time, as far as we know, women couldn’t become rabbis, Jewish teachers of scripture.
It is true that a few ancient Jewish rabbis have said terrible things about women. Some even discouraged women from being taught the scriptures. But not all Jewish rabbis were anti-women. At least one Jewish rabbi had female disciples. Some of these female disciples even travelled with him and supported his mission from their own money. This rabbi treated women with respect. He taught both his male and female disciples the same theology—he didn’t have one version for men and another version for women—and he equipped them to tell others his message. This rabbi was known as Jesus of Nazareth. Our Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth
During his earthly ministry, Jesus’ status as a rabbi was not in doubt. Even his opponents acknowledged this and some debated scriptural interpretations with him. Unlike the teaching of some other rabbis, however, Jesus’ interpretations and his teaching were not demanding or complicated or “heavy.”
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
A yoke is a farming implement that joins two animals, such as oxen, together so they can share the workload evenly and become more productive. Sometimes, an older, more experienced animal is yoked with a younger, less experienced animal, so that the older animal can “train” the younger animal with its movements while they work together.
By using the illustration of a yoke, Jesus is asking people to share and be partners with him in his work, in his ministry. He is also saying that he will train them. As well as being an agricultural implement, “yoke” was a technical term used in the context of rabbinic teaching. Every rabbi had their own “yoke”, that is, their own interpretations of Old Testament scriptures which the rabbi would pass on to his students, his disciples.
Being a disciple of a rabbi was like being an apprentice. Disciples usually spent long hours with their rabbi. Some of Jesus’ disciples had spent three years with him, sometimes 24/7, being trained. Others spent less time with him. But for many disciples, the goal of this training was to become a rabbi themselves.
Let’s look at some of the women who spent time with Rabbi Jesus and were taught by him.
Mary of Bethany
Luke 10:38-42 NIV:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village [Bethany] where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
From this passage we can see that Martha was a good woman. Martha welcomed Jesus and his disciples into her home and appears to be preparing food for them. (Note that Martha does not seem to have a father or husband or son, and that she seems to be the one in charge of her own largish home.) Being hospitable and serving a meal to travellers was an almost sacred duty in the culture of that time. Martha was doing a very good thing, the expected thing, but Jesus says that Mary had chosen the better option, the one thing that was necessary. Exactly what was Mary doing that was so important? What could be more important than looking after Jesus and the other weary travellers?
Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him speak. She was probably sitting alongside Jesus’ other disciples who included men, or perhaps were all men. Moreover, sitting at someone’s feet was the usual posture of a disciple who was being taught; “sitting at one’s feet” was an idiom. We see the same idiom in Acts 22:3 where Paul describes his own rabbinic education and says, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel [a famous rabbi], educated strictly according to our ancestral law …” (NRSV). (See also Pirkei Avot 1.4 in the Mishnah.)
What Mary was doing was culturally inappropriate, something that was against society’s norms. She was neglecting the physical needs of her guests, ignoring the woman’s role, and sitting with men being taught. Yet according to Jesus, Mary had chosen the one thing that was really necessary: to be with Jesus and learn from him. And he promises that Mary’s choice to be among his disciples and learn will not be taken away from her.
Mary was not just a passive learner. Later, she would choose to do another fine thing when, in a room filled with disapproving onlookers, she lovingly anointed Jesus with her expensive perfume (John 12:1-8; cf. Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14: 3-9). Did she knowingly anoint Jesus as a prophetic act foretelling his death? (cf. John 12:7). Mary was criticised and misunderstood because of her extravagant act of ministry, but Jesus defended her actions and he told Judas, among others, “Leave her alone” (John 12:7). These are some of my favourite words in the Bible; Jesus did not want the men to harass Mary or hinder ministry.
We know that Mary’s sister Martha also became a disciple of Jesus. One of the strongest affirmations of faith in the Gospels comes from her mouth. In John 11:28 Martha refers to Jesus as “the teacher.” But in the previous verse, she acknowledges that Jesus is more than a teacher or rabbi and she tells Jesus, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27).
More about Mary and Martha here.
The Samaritan Woman
Another woman who knew Jesus’ identity was the Samaritan woman who we can read in chapter four of John’s Gospel. Again, cultural conventions were broken when Jesus struck up a conversation with her. A man speaking to a woman who was not related to him in a public setting was not the done thing. Plus, she was a Samaritan, and there was a centuries-old animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. But Jesus ignored this long-standing feud. He ignored the rules that said he couldn’t talk with a woman not related to him. Not only that, he asks to drink from her cup. This was truly astonishing and the biblical text points out that Jews do not “associate” with Samaritans. The Greek word for “associate” in this verse commonly means “the sharing of eating utensils and dishes.” And that’s exactly what Jesus wanted to do; he wants to drink from the Samaritan woman’s cup.
Jesus then begins talking with her about theology, a life-giving theology. The woman responds and asks genuine questions that Jesus answers. She is thirsty. The conversation between Jesus and this woman is the longest conversation recorded in the Gospels. As Jesus teaches her, she becomes increasingly aware of his spiritual stature and says, “I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus responds with, “That’s me,” or “I am him.” This is one of the few times in the Gospels where Jesus openly shares his true identity with someone.
Jesus had taught her theology. He had revealed who he was. The woman then acts on this knowledge and on the experience she has had with Jesus. When she realised who Jesus was, she left her water jar and ran into the village and told everyone about Jesus. Because of her, many Samaritans came to Jesus and became believers.
More about the Samaritan Woman here.
Galilean Women and Joanna
Most of the women who Jesus taught were not from Bethany (near Jerusalem) like Mary and Martha, or from Samaria; most of Jesus’ female followers were from Galilee a region further north. Luke 8:1-3 mentions that many women from Galilee travelled with Jesus and they provided for him out of their own resources. They used their own money. Here Luke identifies just three of the women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna—but adds that there were many other women in this group. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that many women from Galilee travelled all the way to Jerusalem with Jesus and witnessed his crucifixion (Matt. 27:55-56).
I’ve often pictured Jesus roaming around Galilee with just twelve male disciples, but on several occasions, at the very least, there were many women with him also. How many is many? Did the women outnumber the men? We can only speculate as to how many women were among Jesus’ followers (cf. Acts 1:13-14). Note also that there were more than twelve male disciples.
No one can quite figure out how Jesus could have had so many female disciples without causing a scandal, especially considering that they travelled with him. And how can we explain Joanna, who is mentioned in Luke 8:2-3 & 24:9-10? Joanna was used to palace life and was possibly an aristocratic woman. But she chose to travel the dusty streets with Jesus and (perhaps) stay in the homes of strangers in Galilean towns. Can you imagine the gossip this would have caused? And the strain on Joanna’s marriage? But Jesus’ words, his healing power, his love and acceptance, and the purpose he gave to both women and men were powerful and transformative. And both women and men responded.
More about Jesus’ many female followers here.
I briefly look at the idea that Joanna is Junia here.
Mary the Magdalene
One woman who was prominent in this group of female disciples is Mary Magdalene. We don’t know when she became a follower of Jesus, but we hear quite a bit about her in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Mark and John record in their Gospels that Mary Magdalene was the very first person to see Jesus alive after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:1ff, cf. Luke 24:1ff). A woman is the first witness of the resurrection.
My favourite Bible passage about Mary Magdalene is in John’s Gospel where we get to hear her speak (John 20:2, 11-18). John 20:16 is especially moving when Jesus simply calls her name “Mary,” and she responds with “Rabboni” which is an Aramaic word meaning “my master-teacher.” I am certain there was a strong, mutual affection between the two. But I don’t go as far as what some other people suggest: I don’t think they were married and there is no evidence she was ever a prostitute.
Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name in over a dozen verses in the Gospels and we should not downplay her role as one of Jesus’ foremost disciples. We should be especially careful that we don’t downplay the significance that she was the first person to see Jesus alive at the beginning of a new era, at the dawn of a new covenant, and that she was commissioned by Jesus to announce the message of his resurrection.
Mary indicates that Jesus had been her rabbi, her teacher. Jesus would have taught her theology, but she also had first-hand knowledge of the theology of Jesus’ resurrection. Following Jesus’ instructions, Mary went and told the other disciples the remarkable news, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
More about Mary Magdalene here.
Mary the Mother of Jesus
We don’t know whether Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the Samaritan woman or Mary and Martha of Bethany, had children. The fact that the biblical text doesn’t provide this information is interesting as being a mother was considered the primary role of women in the ancient world, including, or especially, in Jewish society.
On one occasion Jesus had the opportunity to affirm the virtue and importance of motherhood. A woman in the crowd cried out and said to him, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27). This was meant to be a huge compliment to Jesus and his mother Mary. How did Jesus respond? Did he accept the compliment?
Jesus replied with, “Blessed rather are those who are hearing the word of God and obeying it” (Luke 11:28 NIV). In no way did Jesus indicate that being a mother was necessary, or the only way, women can obey God’s word. I’m very grateful I could be a mother, and I love being a mother and grandmother. But nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus promote motherhood, or fatherhood, for that matter.
Yet Jesus’ mother was blessed. She was not only blessed because of her special role as the mother of the Messiah, she was also blessed because she had faith in the word of God and was willing to put her faith into action and comply with God’s will. The Bible says this about Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45 NIV). Furthermore, Mary was the mother of Jesus but later she also became his disciple (cf. Acts 1:13-14).
In Luke’s Gospel, in the parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus said that a wise person is someone,“… who comes to me and hears my words and does them” (Luke 6:47). Jesus wants both women and men, girls and boys, to be continually coming to him in a close relationship; he wants us to be continually hearing his words; he wants us to be continually putting those words into obedient practice. This kind of discipleship is our highest calling!
At a time when women were regarded as odd and inferior by men and were excluded from many aspects of society, Jesus was interested in the lives of women. He came into this world through the body of a woman. He allowed women to touch him and to talk to him. He had sympathy for them. He healed them. He treated them with respect and dignity, even if they were diseased or were outcasts. He engaged them in conversations. He asked them questions and he gave them answers. He called them by name. Moreover, he understood that women were interested in theology and that they needed to know theology for themselves. He accepted them as disciples. And he died so they could be redeemed and fully included in the new covenant community of God’s people, the church.
Jesus ignored social customs and taboos that placed women at a disadvantage. He was undeterred by the religious restrictions Judaism placed on women. And when Jesus extended the invitation, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” many women accepted his invitation.
Jesus had many female disciples, and he entrusted his teaching to them. And after their encounters with him, these women were equipped. They were equipped to talk about theology to others; they were equipped to worship him; they were equipped to serve him and serve others in his name; they were equipped to carry on his mission alongside the male disciples. Jesus is still calling women. He is still equipping women, as well as men, through his Spirit and his Word to be his agents and continue the work he started.
Jesus wants us to come to him and learn from him in a continuing relationship. He will teach us, guide us, and equip us to be effective in life and service, if we allow him. If we come to Jesus and do things his way, if we take on his yoke in partnership with him, he promises that we will find rest for our souls. In the process, we will become more like our rabbi Jesus and this is our highest goal.
From Dorothy Sayer’s essay, Are Women Human?
“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.”
 I often hear people say that ancient Jewish rabbis said terrible things about women. But this generalisation is inaccurate. Some have said negative things, but others have said positive and honourable things about women. Here’s one of the better statements:
The Sages taught: One who loves his wife as he loves himself, and who honors her more than himself, and who instructs his sons and daughters in an upright path,… about him the verse states: And you shall know that your tent is in peace…. Yevamot 62b.19
Likewise, ancient Christian writers have said both bad things and good things about women. Thankfully, the Bible does not say negative things about women.
 Martha’s statement is similar to Peter’s statement in Matthew 16:15-17: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
 I write about these other disciples, male and female, in a postscript here.
© Margaret Mowczko 2019
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Partnering Together Series
(1) Agents of Jesus
(2) Jesus and Women
(3) Paul’s Female Coworkers
Comparing the Anointing Stories
3 things disciples can do to build unshakeable houses (Luke 6)
Male-Female Pairs and Parallelism in Luke’s Gospel
“Come to me”: A brief commentary on Matthew 11:28-30
Is motherhood the highest calling for women?
Beauty, Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry
Working Women in the New Testament
30 thoughts on “Partnering Together: Jesus and Women”
Jesus always shared God’s glory either directly or indirectly with the women with whom he picked up conversation or even encountered by allowing them to take part and receive that glory of the Father. Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this a glimpse of Eternal Life?
Jesus said to the Father, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23 NIV).
When all Jesus’ followers, men and women, boys and girls, live and worship together in unity with mutuality, then we see a glimpse of eternal life and God will be glorified. Where there is unity, true unity, “there the Lord bestows his blessing, even eternal life” (Psalm 133:1ff).
Because we live in a different culture with different cultural assumptions, it is easy to miss how scandalous some of Jesus’s actions were with women. In that culture, a man being alone with a woman meant it was assumed that she seduced you. It a woman let her hair down, this was assumed to be a very strong sexual come on. Jesus broke these cultural assumptions that worked to keep women in bondage and there is not even a hint of impropriety by Jesus or the women he was with.
I can’t begin to get my head around the fact that many women, including aristocratic women like Joanna, were part of Jesus’ entourage without causing a scandal.
Great piece on Jesus and Women. I echo the comments from the previous responders.
My journey started last year on Easter Saturday when I read an article in the UK Times “Half of Jesus’s Disciples were Women”. The journey has led me to develop a 14 week study on Women in Christianity.
My key sources have been:
Ian Paul, Dean of NT Studies at St John’s College, Nottingham, UK
Lynn Cohick – Women in the World of the Earliest Christians
Women in the NT – Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan
Marg Mowczko – various publications
as well as many other books, articles and papers.
The journey has enabled me and those in the classes to see women through a different lens.
A couple of quotes:
“It is almost sad to realize that in the third Millennium of Christianity we are still surprised at how positive, consistent and strong is the example of New Testament Women. We are surprised by the variety of their experiences and intrigued by the possibilities of knowing them for themselves. We owe them a “spiritual debt” for the power we can take from their example. Women stand out among the disciples, faithful to Jesus throughout his journey to the cross and beyond. They are the first witnesses to the resurrection and they distinguish themselves as worthy leaders in the early Christian communities.”
“women were not only witnesses but participants in all levels of the ministry of Jesus – they heard the Word, they believed, they bore witness, they made converts, they had authority.”
Women in the New Testament
Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan, 2001
What I found fascinating, is the way Luke and John compare the faithfulness of the women with the disbelieving male disciples. Ian Paul states that when the women announced the resurrection to the men, Luke describes their response using the Greek word “leros” meaning delirious talk of the very sick.
The treatment by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan of the Woman at the well is profound throughout as this woman becomes one of the first, if not the first evangelist (which occurs in a country hostile). I found a great rendition of a gospel song The Woman at the Well as an intro to this session by Peter, Paul and Mary which is powerful and can be found on U-Tube
Her treatment explaining why Luke placed the Raising of Jairus’s Daughter in juxtaposition with the Hemorrhaging Woman is inspirational.
The thoughts of Richard Bauckam at St Andrew’s that Junia might be Joanna (equivalent Latin and Hebrew names) I found intriguing as it is strange that we don’t hear more of Joanna in Acts.
My study is still a work in progress and I had no idea 1 year ago that my curiosity on women in the Bible would be directed in the way it has.
Keep up the great work and I look forward to your third piece from your recent talks
Thanks for this, David.
I don’t have a strong opinion on Richard Bauckham’s Junia = Joanna idea, but I do have a few paragraphs on it here: https://margmowczko.com/junia-jewish-woman-imprisoned/
Marg, I always enjoy your posts. Question: Have you ever written anything about Tamar? If not, I would love to see your research and understanding of that most difficult Biblical history. With gratitude for your teaching.
I haven’t written much about Tamar, but I do mention her and her sad story in this article:
Even so, Christ did not invite any woman to become part of the Twelve specials.
If he had wanted to show the ‘equality’ of women and had approved of them teaching and preaching, would he not have included at least a couple to be with them?
“13 And when it was day, he called his disciples; and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor”
Luke 6:12-16 (ASV)
There are a few considerations about the 12 apostles (sent out ones) being all male.
1) The 12 were also all Jewish and also all free, not slaves, and all lived inside the boundary of ancient Israel.
2) The 12 apostles of Jesus were 12 to map to the 12 patriarchs/tribes of Israel. Later Jesus sent out 70 (or 72) and these may have included women.
3) One requirement to be a teacher (including being an apostle) is to know something by being a learner. Jewish boys were taught Scripture since they could learn, but not Jewish girls; Jesus worked to correct this, but his ministry was only for about 3 1/2 years.
4) Later, there were other apostles sent out by believing congregations. Junia was an apostle sent out by a believing congregation, although some translations obscure this.
It is a shame that you sweep aside the contents of this article with an “even so,” as though nothing in it is significant.
The word Jesus used most often to describe the ministry of the Twelve was “witnesses.” (For example, Luke 24:48; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 2:32; 4:20, 33ff; 5:32). The Twelve, and then the Eleven, were witnesses of Jesus’ entire ministry. Sadly, the witness of women was not regarded as credible in the first century.
Being witnesses is one of several reasons why Jesus chose men to be among the Twelve. Donald has already mentioned a few of these. I discuss these and other reasons in this article:
Importantly, Jesus never said only the Twelve, or only men, can be preachers, teachers or leaders. Not once. Ever.
I think I’ve given you a fair hearing, Norman. I’m sorry you were unable to hear what I have said on this page and others.
I share your passion for the word of God and for obedience, but you have misunderstood the apostle Paul’s intention in a few verses and you are working against what the Holy Spirit wants to achieve, mutuality and genuine unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. So I won’t be approving any more of your comments.
I wish you well but I hope you don’t pour your icy cold water (your graceless rhetoric and poor understandings of certain verses) on the ministries and faith of your other brothers and sisters in Christ. As for me, your ignorant comments only inspire me to work harder.
I always love your articles. Great post. God Bless
Question- What did Jesus mean “let the dead bury their dead” in verses Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60? Like are we not suppose to bury our loved ones? Can you not be considered a disciple of Jesus and care about other things like a burial?
My take on it is that it all just depends on the situation. It kind of reminds me of Martha and Mary… it’s not a bad thing to clean your house… but lets keep it in perspective here, Martha. Jesus is quite literally in your house.
Maybe that’s the same thing with the disciples who wanted to bury their loved ones? It’s not necessarily wrong to do that, but it’s not as big of a priority as what else was going on at that time, which was either literally following Jesus (Matthew 8:22) or evangelizing (Luke 9:60).
I’m sorry if this question doesn’t make sense… most of my questions don’t haha. The main thing I guess I’m asking is what those two verses mean.
In that 1st century culture, I have read that a dead person’s body was first put into a place where it decayed to leave just bones and then the bones were buried some time later. So Jesus is saying to come and join him and it is fine to make immediate preparations but do not put it off for as long a time that it takes a body to decay.
Jesus frequently uses hyperbole (exaggeration) in his teaching. We need to look beyond the detail to see his message which in these verses is that being a disciple is costly and you’re going to miss out on things, even important things.
The most likely explanation for these words are, I think, given by William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible. If that work is available to you, see his commentary on the passage in Matthew.
The expression «bury my father», used by the young man in the story, probably didn’t mean that his father was dead, or even on the death bed. It was an expression used to mean that one stayed at home and took care of one’s father as long as he was alive, which could be for many years to come. Jesus is saying that the young man couldn’t wait for that. There were others who could look after his father, but the young man should start there and then to follow Jesus. That was all the more relevant back then, since, of course, Jesus’ time on earth was limited.
This makes good sense, Knut AK, and I read what William Barclay wrote. (I have an almost full set of his commentaries.)
I also did a tiny bit of research. Other writers of commentaries don’t mention that expressions or idioms are used in this conversation. Still, there may well be some cultural element that is lost on us.
This article is interesting: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/03/20/Let-the-Dead-Bury-Their-Own-Dead.aspx#Article
It refers to the secondary burial Don refers to. Though other commentators are not convinced that Jesus had the secondary burial in view.
At this point in time, I’m inclined to believe that Jesus used hyperbole to drive home his point. Perhaps these verses use both hyperbole (in Jesus’ statement) and idiomatic language (in the would-be disciple’s statement.) It would be great if we could have more evidence that “bury my father” is a common idiom, and not just the one conversation that Barclay refers to. Though, I have a faint memory that I have heard “bury my father” used as an idiom in the way Barclay suggests.
Megan, the important thing is to get the overall sense of all three of Jesus’s statements in Luke 9:57-62, rather than the particulars. Jesus wants his disciples to know that following him requires sacrifice. His kingdom comes first.
Thank you all for your responses! They have helped a lot!
I once again have a question hahaha.
In 1 Timothy 5:9, one-man woman obviously is talking about women only having been married once/faithfulness.
So how do we know if the term “one-woman man” in 1 Titus: 6 is talking about men OR women only being married once, or if it was ONLY men being talked about being married once/faithfulness?
Are there any passages in the Bible where it says “one-woman man” where it is clearly talking about only men being faithful? That way I could see the comparison between the one that was gender inclusive vs. the one that only is referring to men?
The moral qualification of being a “one-woman man” was probably written with men in mind. Men were more likely to be overseers and elders (1 Tim 3:1ff NIV; Tit. 1:6ff NIV). However, the phrase doesn’t positively rule out being applied to a wife.
I’ve written about this phrase here: https://margmowczko.com/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/ See also footnotes 3 and 5.
I’ve written about the roles of overseers in first-century house churches, and why most, but not all, of them were men, here: https://margmowczko.com/manage-household-1-timothy-34/
So the saying “one-women man” could also be referring to a monogamous woman if she desired this position?
Or he just used that term “one-woman man” in 1 Timothy 5:9 because it was more likely for a male to be an overseer/elder?
I guess here is another way to phrase my question. In the verses 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6, is the word “man” in “one-woman man” gender neutral in Ancient Greek? Or is it not gender neutral and it’s only referring to men, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that women are excluded and the only reason why he would address men specifically is because they were more likely to be an elder/overseer during that time?
If that idiom in those two verses are gender neutral, what would the term “one-woman man” look like in Ancient Greek if it were specifying only men?
Hi Megan, I can’t add much more than what I’ve written and quoted in the articles. The idiom is not gender neutral, but it doesn’t necessarily exclude women. 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Titus 1:5ff assumes that overseers will be male, married, have their own house, and have children. But it doesn’t mean that people who are not male, married, etc, are disqualified.
ok that makes sense. Plus, wasn’t Paul the one who wrote this? Because he was considered an elder, and he himself didn’t have a wife and kids… right? Sorry for so many questions I just find interpreting scripture really, really hard.
The Greek word for “elder” (presbyteros) is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament. The only constant is that it always refers to a person from the older generation.
Paul did not hold the church office of elder, and he is never referred to as an elder in the New Testament. Yet, he was an elder in a couple of senses of the word.
I have a somewhat complicated article on “elder” here: https://margmowczko.com/elders-in-new-testament/
This might be an odd question, but I recently heard someone (not a Christian) claim that men shouldn’t shake women’s hands or touch them at all in a friendly way because Jesus never did. That he only touched women when healing them, like a doctor would in a professional way. Of course their claim is nonsense, but I can’t think of an instance when Jesus touched a woman/girl besides Peter’s mother and Jairus’ daughter. Do any come to mind?
The women took hold of Jesus’ feet at his Resurrection, but it doesn’t say Jesus touched them back. He told Mary Magdalene, “Don’t cling to me,” but it doesn’t say he touched her back.
Hi Jenna, It’s an interesting question. I think that person is arguing from silence. Is there a Bible verse where Jesus greets a grown man by physical contact in a friendly way? Kisses were a customary greeting, but there’s no verse (I can think of) where Jesus kisses someone (cf. Judas in Matt. 26:49//Mark 14:45).
I think it would have been unusual for any first-century Jewish man to touch a woman who he was not directly related to. And yet there is an unusual degree of closeness between Jesus and various women. I still can’t quite work out how Jesus could have many Galilean women following him around without causing controversy.
In most recorded instances, it seems Jesus accepted the touch of women, even the kisses of a sinful woman.
Here are all verses that mention Jesus touching (ἅπτομαι-haptomai) a person, and vice versa. (It’s the same Greek verb used in John 20:17.) Perhaps apart from the small children episode, some kind of healing or help is the theme in all these verses. I’ve highlighted the verses where women are plainly mentioned, but women would have been in the crowds of people being healed.
Jesus touched a man with leprosy: Matthew 8:2-3
Jesus touched Peter’s mother in law: Matthew 8:14-15
The bleeding woman touched the fringe/ edge of Jesus’s garment: Matthew 9:20-21, Mark 5:27-31, Luke 8:43-47,
Jesus touched the eyes of two blind men (it’s by no means certain they were both men): Matthew 9:28-29
Numerous sick people (presumably male and female) touched the fringe/ edge of Jesus’s garment: Matthew 14:36, Mark 6:56
Jesus touched Peter, James and John when they were overwhelmed with terror at the Transfiguration: Matthew 17:6-7.
Jesus touched two more blind men (though again, one might have been female): Matthew 20:34
Jesus touched a man with leprosy: Mark 1:40, Luke 5:13
Many people tried to touch Jesus so that they might be healed: Mark 3:10, Luke 6:19
Jesus touched the ears and tongue of a deaf-mute: Mark 7:32-33ff
Jesus took the hand of a blind man, spat on his eyes, and laid hands on him: Mark 8:22-23
Jesus hugged children and laid hands on them: Mark 10:13, 16, Luke 18:15ff
A sinful woman anointed Jesus, touched him, and even kissed his feet: Luke 7:37-39, 45
Jesus touched the severed ear of the servant of the high priest: Luke 22:51
Laying on Hands
If we look for verses without “touch” (haptomai), and just search for the word “hand,” there are a few more instances of Jesus healing people using physical contact: Mark 3:5, Mark 6:5, Luke 4:40, and Jairus’s daughter in Matthew 9:25, Mark 5:41, Luke 8:54, and the bent-over woman in Luke 13:13.
Verses that include “feet” and where there is physical touch between Jesus and people include Matthew 28:9 where women held the feet of the resurrected Jesus, Luke 7:37-46 again (the sinful woman), John 11:2 where Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, John 13:3-14 where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. John doesn’t identify these disciples as the Twelve so it’s possible some women disciples were present and had their feet washed by Jesus too. (See a new comment at the bottom of this page.) There are also many people who fell at Jesus’s feet, but it’s not stated that they touched his feet.
People touching or being near someone’s feet was a demonstration of obeisance. There is a marked difference of status or honour between the people or person near the feet (a humble position) and the someone whose feet are being anointed, washed, held, sat at, or honoured in some other way.
No doubt there are a few other verses too that don’t use either “touch”, “hands,” or “feet.” John 13:23 (about the disciple Jesus loved) may or may not indicate touch, but it does indicate closeness. It’s not clear in the Greek if there is touch.
All in all, I don’t think that person’s claim holds any water. As far as I can tell, it’s baseless.
I’ve written about “Don’t cling to me” here: https://margmowczko.com/mary-magdalene-ascension-cling/
Thank you so much! I truly appreciate you putting all this together and debunking the nonsense 🙂
To make sure I understood correctly, could there have been female disciples partaking in the Last Supper? (I’ve heard people say women weren’t even present; and if they were, they were servants serving the food, not reclining and eating. I’m no expert on 1st century dining, so I didn’t know how to respond.)
Hi Jenna, I looked into the idea that women were present at the Last Supper a few years ago. I can’t remember the details, but I remember that a couple of Gospels make it sounds like only men were at the last supper, but others leave the question open. I’ll see if I can find my notes somewhere.
Update: See the new note here: https://margmowczko.com/the-passover-meal-the-seder-and-the-eucharist/#comment-71324
Another solid, succinct summary on the topic. And I appreciate your graciousness in responding to the comments. Don’t let up. You are making a difference.