First published on April 3, 2015,
Was Jesus of Nazareth a revolutionary feminist or was he simply restoring women to their proper place within Jewish society? If he was a radical, revolutionary feminist, who restored people to their proper place in the world, then, the burning question of the day is why do complementarians teach a theology which has nothing to do with what he taught. Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth was what we, today consider the fulfillment of the Covenant, the Messiah. There was a very good reason Jesus chose 12 disciples, to mirror the fulfillment of that Covenant, reflecting the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which were based on the twelve sons of Jacob. It was the Covenant made flesh. Therefore, the Gospel of Christ supersedes that of the Old Testament. In other words, contrary to the practices of complementarians who base their heresy on R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, and Bill Gothard, Christians are not required to integrate the ancient practices of the Old Testament into the way we live on a day by day basis.
Christ put an end to that, especially when he said that the greatest commandment was that we were to love the Lord God with all our heart, mind soul, an body, and the second greatest commandment was that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Nowhere in his teachings did he initiate 49 new commandments, as Bill Gothard teaches.
Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest revolutionary figure who ever lived. He literally rocked his world, turning it upside down, and inside out to the point where those who followed him, could no longer participate in the status quo. To understand how revolutionary and disruptive a figure he was – and still is, it is important to put his life in context for his times. It is also important to remember that he was as far removed from the faith of Moses as we are of him, today. Even thought the Romans ruled the Jewish world at the time of Christ, their world was more Hellenic than Roman. Those who were of the upper and ruling class were more Hellenic than Jewish. They adapted Hellenic fashions, literature, culture, and the horrible treatment of women. Women were literally nothing. This was completely contrary to Jewish history and tradition, where women were rulers, warriors and judges. Under Hellenic culture, they were far less important than slaves. According to Hellenic values, a good woman bore a man a son, then died. They were not to associate with men, have control over their homes, their lives, or to even be educated. Plato considered women to be repugnant and untrustworthy.
NOTE: The Apostle Paul was quite at home with the Stoic philosophy. He was also a bit of a Cynic. This is extremely important when understanding his views on the roll of women. Both Stoics and Cynics thought that women were the equal of men in dress, education, and their roles in society. Paul was also apparently friends with the philosopher, Seneca the Younger.
“…Contrary to these views, the Stoic philosophers argued for equality of the sexes, sexual inequality being in their view contrary to the laws of nature. In doing so, they followed the Cynics, who argued that men and women should wear the same clothing and receive the same kind of education. They also saw marriage as a moral companionship between equals rather than a biological or social necessity, and practiced these views in their lives as well as their teachings. The Stoics adopted the views of the Cynics and added them to their own theories of human nature, thus putting their sexual egalitarianism on a strong philosophical basis…”
The practices of Cynics and Stoics were completely different from those of the Hellenic view of life. There was such a difference in philosophies, including the fact that many Jews were completely separated from Jewish life, because of various wars, that they did not even speak Hebrew, nor even understood their religion. This caused tremendous problems in the early church.
“…Large numbers of Jews lived outside Palestine in the first century. These are the Jews of the Diaspora, the “scattering,” or “exile” of the Jews throughout the Greek world – first in 722 BC when the Assyrians declared war and conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, then in 588 BC the Chaldeans conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. The victors in both instances forced the Jews to be relocated, thus diluting their national and cultural strength. Over the next few centuries the Hebrew language was neglected and forgotten by these exiled Jews. Most diaspora Jews of the first century spoke Greek. In fact, sometime in the third century BC the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament, OT) were translated from Hebrew into Greek so that these Greek-speaking Jews could hear and understand the Law of Moses. This famous translation is known as the Septuagint (or LXX), a reference to the legendary story that 72 scribes translated the various texts in a 72 day period with a divinely inspired perfection of agreement.
These Jews of the diaspora were referred to as “Hellenized” (“Greek influenced”) by the politically important, Hebrew-speaking Jews of Palestine. Palestinian Jews despised this Hellenization and these Hellenized Jews, believing they had compromised their religion. They could not speak Hebrew, God’s language, nor could they understand the Law of Moses when read in Hebrew. When Hellenized Jews came to Jerusalem they were urged to attend Greek speaking synagogues so they could hear and understand Moses being read. They were not wanted in the Temple. We know that the Jews hated Samaritans, and were not fond of Gentiles. Luke tells us this prejudice found its way into the primitive church – Hellenized widows were being neglected….”
During the time of Christ upward of 30-40% of the Jewish population considered themselves more Greek than Jewish. They even went so far as to attempt plastic surgery to alter the appearance of their circumcision. Basically loathing the fact that they were Jewish the vast majority of the upper class of Judea, during the time of Christ, considered themselves Hellenized. Those who had the worst problems with this were women.
The world in which Jesus of Nazareth lived saw the role of women several ways. The Hellenic mind-set considered women absolutely nothing. They were only allowed outside the home when escorted by a male member of their family. When they did go out, they were to be completely covered. Their education was to be limited. Their lives were based on the whims of first their father, and then their husbands. During the time of Christ, upper class men were in the habit of marrying a woman for her dowry and fortune. If they were to divorce due to their infidelity, the women kept her money. But, if they could prove the woman was unfaithful, they could literally have her stoned to death. As widowers, they had control of her fortune. They could do what they wanted with her children. They could also damn her to a life of prostitution. They could then keep her fortune. In order to have a woman declared in adultery, two men had to witness the fact that she was doing the dirty deed. This is what was happening with Mary Magdalene. She had been declared an adulteress in order for her to be put to death. This is where we can make an assumption that her husband was out to divorce her and take her fortune. Her sister, Martha, was a very wealthy woman, with servants, a villa of her own, and enough money to support her brother. According to tradition she helped bank-roll the ministry of her very good friend.
“…Rabbi Eliezer wrote in the 1st century CE: “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman…Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity.” …”
Rabbi Eliezer reflected the traditional role of how women were to be viewed. According to the Old Testament, (and according to Bill Gothard) women were treated badly during the period of the second temple. It was bad, at first, but even worse during the Hellenic period.
- Unmarried women were not allowed to leave the home of their father without permission.
- Married women were not allowed to leave the home of their husband, without permission.
- They were normally restricted to roles of little or no authority.
- They could not testify in court.
- They could not appear in public venues.
- They were not allowed to talk to strangers.
- They had to be doubly veiled when they left their homes.
- They were considered inferior to men.
- The Ten Commandments consider women to be the property of men.
- A man could have numerous wives.
- A male slave could be freed, but a female was forced to remain a slave forever.
- If a man rapes a virgin, it is a property violation of her father.
- Women could not participate in the feast of unleavened bread.
- Women could not become priests.
- If a woman gave birth to a daughter, she must be ‘unclean’ for twice as long as a boy.
- During a census only males were counted.
- Women were not to inherit.
- Women suspected of adultery could be forced into having an abortion.
- A soldier can force a captive woman to marry him.
- If a woman was not a virgin when married, she was to be stoned to death.
- A raped woman must marry her attacker.
- During the Hellenic years they became second class Jews.
In the Roman world a woman was to be sheltered. Roman women had options in life, if they were capable of fighting for them. They could own property, slaves, and be educated. While their lives were still controlled by the men of their lives, they controlled the men. Traditional Jewish women were in much the same position, only, in keeping with the ancient traditions, they could rule countries, be judges, and prophets. There is a debate as to whether they were allowed into the temple, with men. They were excused from the daily prayers of men, because they had work to do. One can look at that two different ways. Either they weren’t good enough to be allowed in to worship, or they were the hand that not only rocked the cradle but ran the lives of men. A logical reading of Psalm 31 shows us that the Jewish woman was the boss. She was educated, knew how to grow crops, make wine, deal with her lazy husband’s flocks, handle his investments, make products to sell for household money to enrich the family, to deal in real estate, and raise the children. Her husband spent his days in prayer and contemplation. In other words, he was a lazy, good for nothing bum who let her do all the work. She was liberated.
Jesus of Nazareth recognized the role of women in the world. He went one step farther, literally thumbing his nose at tradition when he not only allowed Mary to sit with the men, while he taught them, but castigated Martha for doing the Psalm 31 thing. She needed to hang with the men and learn about things women were not traditionally to discuss. Not only that, but he referred to a woman as a Daughter of Abraham. Nowhere else in the Bible did this occur. Men were often referred to the Sons of Abraham, but women were never given such credit. He equalized women. According to Religious Tolerance, he:
- Ignored purity laws
- Talked to foreign women
- Allowed women to be students
- His used words making women the equal to men
- Women were part of his inner circle
- Women were first to see the Risen Christ
- When the men ran away, women remained with him during his crucifixion
- He told parallel men/women parables
- He was concerned about widows
- He overturns divorce laws
- Women were apostles
Jesus of Nazareth associated with the following women to the point where they were part of the greater unit of 70 additional disciples. “Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the mother of James the Just, Joses, Jude, and Simon, Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee who was the father of James the Greater and John the Apostle. Possibly both the daughter and sister-in-law of Mary and the sister of Jesus., Sisters Mary and Martha of Bethany, also the sisters of Lazarus
Mary of Clopas possibly Mary Salome the daughter or wife of Clopas, The Marys, Joanna, Susanna,
Priscilla, Tabitha/Dorcas, Lydia, Phoebe, Junia, Tryphena of Rome and Tryphosa, Julia, Nympha, and Apphia.
In other words, Jesus of Nazareth treated women like equals. The very actions of Bill Gothard and other godly patriarchs completely ignore this. They basically ignore Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth was/is the best thing that ever happened to women. There is a very good reason why women were among his earliest supporters, and why the early church was, contrary to what certain godly men might want us to believe, supported and grown by women. Those who are perverting his teachings by subjugating the role of women are spreading a false gospel.