Excerpt from Heralds of the Resurrection by Nikolai Ghe (1867)
Tretyakov Gallery (Wikimedia)
John the Gospel writer records a few encounters that Jesus had with various women. In these encounters, Jesus taught and demonstrated his theology, a life-giving and vital theology. And he responded to the women’s theological questions in ways that answered their deepest needs.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
In John 4:7–26, John relates a long conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. It is the longest conversation of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. In response to her questions and statements, Jesus tells the woman about his gift of “living water” and about true worship.
Jesus said to her:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24).
During the course of the conversation, the Samaritan woman began to realise who Jesus was, and she brings up the subject of the coming Messiah. She said, “I know that Messiah (called ‘Christ’])is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Jesus said to her:
“I, the one speaking to you, I am he” (John 4:25–26).
The Samaritan woman then goes and tells others about Jesus.
More about the Samaritan woman here.
Jesus and Martha of Bethany
In Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus taught Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:39–25). In John’s Gospel, we read that he also taught Mary’s sister Martha. Jesus took the opportunity to tell Martha about the resurrection when she brought up the subject after the death of her brother Lazarus. This conversation is recorded in John 11:20–28.
Jesus said to her:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26).
As well as teaching Martha about eternal life, Jesus had revealed that he was the Messiah (cf. Matt. 16:16–17; John 6:68). She told Jesus, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).
Martha recognised Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and she recognised him as the Teacher (didaskalos). She goes and tells her sister, “The Teacher is here and is calling you” (John 11:28).
More about Martha of Bethany here.
Jesus and Mary Magdalene
John records the first meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus after Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 20:14–18). Jesus begins the conversation with two questions.
Jesus said to her:
“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15).
Mary did not recognise him until Jesus said to her:
“Mary” (John 20:16).
Mary Magdalene had probably heard Jesus call her by name many times, and she now recognised the familiar voice of her master. Mary responds with “Rabboni” which means “my master-teacher”. By calling Jesus “Rabboni,” Mary indicates that Jesus had been her teacher. Jesus would have taught her theology, but now she had first-hand knowledge of the theology of Jesus’ resurrection.
Following Jesus’ instructions, Mary goes and tells the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
More about Mary Magdalene here and here.
Jesus, Women, and Theology
Jesus was interested in the lives of women. He engaged them in conversations. He asked them questions. He called them by name. Moreover, he assumed women were interested in theology, and that they needed to know theology for themselves.
Jesus had many female disciples and he entrusted his teaching to them. Jesus was their Lord, Messiah, and Teacher. And after their encounters with him, these women were equipped to go and talk about theology to others. Jesus is still equipping women, as well as men, through his Spirit and his Word, to speak up and talk about theology.
 There are several times in John’s Gospel where Jesus is recorded as speaking directly to a woman and calling her “woman.” In English, it is disrespectful to address a woman “woman,” but Jesus was not being disrespectful. Rather, he says “woman” to get their attention and signal that he is about to say something personal or weighty, or both.
Here is every instance where Jesus says “woman” (gynai) in direct address.
John 2:4: To his mother Mary
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
John 4:21: To the Samaritan Woman
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
John 8:10: To the woman caught in adultery
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
John 19: 26: While on the cross
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”
John 20:15: To Mary Magdalene
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?”
Angels also use the word “woman” to Mary Magdalene (John 20:13).
Jesus is also recorded using the word “woman” in direct address in Matthew 15:28 to the Canaanite woman: Then Jesus replied to her, “O woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And in Luke 13:12 to a woman disabled by a spirit for 18 years: “When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” More about this encounter here.
© Margaret Mowczko 2016
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All my articles on women in the Gospels are here.
12 thoughts on “Jesus, Women, and Theology: “Jesus said to her …””
Ooo – please tell me more about the word “Rabboni!” Is it used in the Bible anywhere else? Where did you get that wonderful definition!!! Can’t help but being a Berean, and I wanna know!!
As you know, rabbi is the usual Aramaic word for a Jewish teacher. A rabbon, however, is a Jewish master-teacher.
Rabbon is the highest title of honor for a teacher in the Jewish schools. Wesley Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990), 361.
The suffix equivalent to “-i” means “my”. Thus the Aramaic word rabboni (rabbouni in the Greek texts of John 20:16) literally means “my master-teacher”. 🙂
Thank you! Note is going into my Bible!!!
This was short and to the point with each of those women, Marg, and how Jesus loved them so much he wanted them to know exactly who he is. He’s a wonderful God who cares about his people. True grace to women and men both.
I love this, was thinking about some of these women the other day and how tradition ascribes to women a position that scripture necessarily doesn’t.
Hi Rosemary, the early Christians loved to embellish on the stories of the first Christians. Sometimes it’s hard to sort fact from fiction.
Luke’s Gospel also indicates that Jesus taught women and that he told them what was going to happen to him. For example, in Luke 24:6-7 the angels say to the women who were at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how [Jesus] told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” This is followed in Luke 24:8 with, “Then they remembered [Jesus’] words.”
Jesus had only told his disciples what would happen to him, and women were among this group (e.g., Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-29; Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 18:33-34). These women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women from Galilee (Luke 24:10).
One thing that can easily be missed because we live in a different culture is how counter-cultural Jesus was in each of these encounters. By his actions in the way he treated women he was setting people free from various cultural forms of bondage/human traditions that sought to “avoid the appearance of sin”.
And thank God for that!
Gary Manning asked the following questions on Facebook.
Is the idiomatic phrase τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί (“what do I have to do with you?”, Mk 5:7, John 2:4) primarily derived from the LXX? Something kind of interesting: this idiom (τί + dative pronoun + καὶ + dative noun / pn) occurs with some frequency in the LXX. But as far as I can tell, it doesn’t show up in secular Greek literature until the 2nd century AD, at least 3 centuries after the LXX.
Here are some of the 2nd-century uses.
Epictetus, Discourses 2.19.19 τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, ἄνθρωπε; what do I have to do with you, man?
1.27.14: τί ἐμοὶ καὶ αὐτοῖς, what do I have to do with them (the gods)?
3.18.8 τί σοὶ καὶ τῴ ἀλλοτρίῳ κακῷ; What do you have to do with the evil of another man?
Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 6.12.3 τί ἐμοὶ καὶ Θερσάνδρῳ κοινόν, what do I have in common with Thersander?
Aulus Gellius, 2nd century, also uses the idiom.
The Greek in the Septuagint closely follows the Hebrew here: Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chronicles 35:21.
I have a really weird question that no one seems to be able to answer for me. I have a Bible teacher who says that Jesus, as the Logos Ensarkos, exists forever in heaven today. That is, Jesus remains in this enfleshed form forever after the incarnation. But I don’t understand, Jesus, in his fleshly form, is literally male. Not like how we refer to God as male but He’s actually agender and stuff. Like, Jesus IS male. So… how does God remain agender if the Son is male? How can we still say that God is agender? I’m super confused.
Hi Elaina, Some of your questions are difficult to answer.
Is Jesus’s resurrected, glorified body male? I don’t really know. Will our resurrected and glorified bodies be male or female? I don’t really know. However, Jesus seems to indicate that procreation will not be part of our experience as resurrected beings, so my best guess is that we also won’t be gendered beings and Jesus may not be male anymore. But it’s only a guess
See Matthew 22:30//Mark 12:25 and Philippians 3:20-21.
However, even if Jesus is still male, this does not mean that God or the Holy Spirit has gender. God the Father and the Holy Spirit are spirits. They are not male or female. God has no gender.
I’ve written about this here. https://margmowczko.com/is-god-male-or-masculine/