Luke 8:1-3

MooMoo Kerygmania Host
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

This passage contradicts several ideas I had about how much freedom of action Jewish women had in Jesus' day. It surprised me that these women were free to travel around without male relatives. It is especially surprising that Joanna was free to be there without her husband.

The second surprising thing is that the had resources which they could use to provide for Jesus and the disciples.

What thoughts do you all have about this?

Comments

  • That passage and those like it are the reason I have a hard time with people saying that Jewish women led very restricted lives. This really, really doesn't sound like it. And even in the OT there are similar passages that show women acting along and engaging in the same practices (business, politics, etc.) as men. So I just don't buy the common idea that they lived in a kind of purdah.

    It seems to me that these women are similar to what armies call "camp followers" (in the non-sexual pejorative sense!). They probably handled the support needs such as cooking, laundry, shopping, etc. that would otherwise have eaten into preaching/teaching time for the disciples and Jesus. Anyone with common sense and experience understands how utterly necessary those things are! They might also have assisted with the ministry stuff as well, particularly where women were receiving healing, baptism, whatever. And since some of them were funding the ministry out of their own pockets, I conclude that some were wealthy--either from their own businesses or from family money.

    The Proverbs 31 woman is presented as a business woman who is apparently in charge of the bulk of her family's financial affairs, up to and including major land purchases. Her husband appears to be content to have her handle all that while he focuses on other things (apparently doing the equivalent of serving as a justice of the peace, it seems). And he praises her. So if this is one feminine ideal in the OT, I can totally see how the attitude might have carried over into NT times--and how people like Chuza might have had utter faith in their wives' ability to handle the logistics and finances of a major ministry outreach they themselves could not be much involved in, because of their own work.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Note: The women were providing financial support to Jesus and his disciples.
  • Yes, Moo said so.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    It’s also pretty clear from Luke.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    We might also reference the role of women in the early church, as mentioned in Acts and the epistles, who clearly performed much more than ancillary roles. It's most frustrating that their major contributions have remained hidden, but Christian women traders in modern Africa hint at how their sisters operated in biblical times.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Kwesi wrote: »
    We might also reference the role of women in the early church, as mentioned in Acts and the epistles, who clearly performed much more than ancillary roles. It's most frustrating that their major contributions have remained hidden, but Christian women traders in modern Africa hint at how their sisters operated in biblical times.

    This resonates for me, especially looking at the roles played in supporting the black urban churches in southern Africa by young professional black women and the older traditions of fund-raising and practical support from the manyanos or women's unions of the Methodist church. Many churchwomen organise together to hire taxis or buses and travel long distances to attend church meetings and celebrations as well as funerals.
  • Ray SunshineRay Sunshine Shipmate
    edited April 2
    Some Roman writers, though I don’t remember which ones, commented in a tone of surprise mingled with a degree of admiration that, among the barbarian tribes living in the forests on the far side of the Danube, there were some that were ruled by queens. Neither Rome itself nor any of the Greek states, as far as I know, ever accorded that kind of status to powerful women. But Judea did. Not all that long before Jesus’ earthly lifetime, one of the more successful Hasmonean monarchs had been a queen, Salome Alexandra (76-67 BC).
  • That doesn't make a lot of sense. Although the Romans considered northern European tribes to be "barbarians", they didn't think of Egyptians as barbarians, and would have had the example of Cleopatra as a powerful woman. And, Greek mythology included stories of the Amazons, also powerful women. It would seem strange if Roman writers were surprised by this.

    In Acts, there a women who are clearly in positions of power - Lydia (Acts 16:13-15) being the most obvious of these, but Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43) could also be a woman of some independent power (doing good works, presumably including spending money without needing permission from her husband). Given the small number of people in these churches, it would be logical to assume that these aren't the only women with such independence in Greek towns, rather that this was relatively common.
  • @Alan Cresswell , I don’t see any contradiction between your post and mine. In the first century BC there were queens in the East: Cleopatra in Egypt, as you point out, and, a generation earlier, Salome Alexandra in Judea. I think there were others, possibly including Berenice. In Greece and Rome there were certainly powerful women, but none of them ever succeeded to the throne as queen or empress, not even Livia, who features so prominently in I, Claudius. That would have been politically unthinkable. The Amazons were, of course, as you rightly point out, a mythical people, not a historical Greek state.
  • I suppose Martha and Mary could also be examples of women in the NT who seem to have had considerable freedom of action.

    One thing all the women mentioned so far have in common is that they are all relatively wealthy. Would things have been different at a lower social/financial level?
  • At the lowest levels, I would expect the need for labor and/or income to force a great deal of practical frmale autonomy, just as it did in my family growing up. Sequestered and non-working women are only affordable in wealthier families.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    This is one passage I've always wanted to spend more time studying.

    The key thing these women --Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna -- have in common is that Jesus had healed them of demonic afflictions and illness. That may be what had brought them and other women together, the good health, inner freedom and faith that was without price and meant they could never repay Jesus. I do wonder if their families and Joanna's husband were so grateful to have the women restored to health and well-being that they made over allowances and possessions, and gave permission (in a patriarchal society) for the women to follow Jesus.

    I wonder too if this shared experience of healing was the core of their ministry, telling those they met on the road what had been done for them, witnessing in public to the healing power of Jesus among them. These women will be among those who stand at the foot of the Cross and later bear witness to the Resurrection. I don't see any hierarchical distinction between the Twelve disciples named in this passage and the women who accompany Jesus.

    The household of Herod Antipas must have been an interesting place. If Chuza the house steward was, like Joanna, a follower of Christ, he might have had another reason to support his wife as she set out to serve Jesus on his journeys. There's an argument that Chuza might also be the 'royal official (basilikos)' referred to in John 4:46--54 who was converted with all his household when Jesus saved his son. I'm thinking too of Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch in his household) mentioned as prophet and teacher of the early church in Acts 13:1. Herod himself, Luke tells us later in 23:8, 'was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.' To follow Jesus at this time was to encounter all kinds of new shifts in kinship and patronage systems as well as the miraculous.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    This is one passage I've always wanted to spend more time studying.

    The key thing these women --Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna -- have in common is that Jesus had healed them of demonic afflictions and illness.

    That's not what the text says. It says that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalen. It does not mention anything specific that he had done for the others.

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Really, @Moo? I've always read this sentence differently, with the colon indicated a listing of women healed:

    'and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. '
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Really, @Moo? I've always read this sentence differently, with the colon indicated a listing of women healed:

    'and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. '
    It also says “some women,” indicating that Mary Magdalene wasn’t the only such woman.

  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    There is no punctuation in the Greek original, so both interpretations are possible.
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