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How Jesus viewed women

  • Reverend Martin Adhikary
  • 5 November, 2021 12:00 AM
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How Jesus viewed women

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In ancient world, women in general had an inferior place in every society. In the East-West South-North everywhere in general--in Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese societies the place of women was always inferior in the eyes of  ordinary people.

In ancient Hebrew society, women and children were not even counted. The Gospel narratives in the New Testament have Jesus miraculously feeding the hungry people using the phrase, “‘those who were fed were five thousand people’ excepting women and children’”. Women were not assimilated with men, who used to be treated as full human beings while women and children not (Matthew 14; Luke 6, etc.). Even Tertullian (160-230), an early Church father of great repute, castigating charged, “Women . . . do you not know that you are an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of your lives in this age the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway. You are the unsealer of that forbidden tree. You are the first deserted of the divine law, you who persuaded him who the devil was no valiant enough to attack. You so easily destroyed God’s image in man.

On account of your desert -- that is, death—the Son of God had to die”. Most men used to view women as chattel. Flavius Josephus the well-known first century Romano-Jewish historian too viewed women as inferior to men. He is known to have remarked: “Woman . . . is in all things inferior to man.”   It is said that Aristotle had thought that the leader in the beehive was a male bee before he came to learn that it was the queen bee, who was the leader there!

A very negative evaluation of man in general in ancient world was that women were considered as objects of sex and they were for procreation purpose primarily. Lutheran Bible scholar Joachim Jeremias said, “The world of Jesus set out to protect women by secluding them, believing that sexual desire was uncontrollable”.

There is a striking contrast between Jesus’ attitude to women and that of contemporary Jewish people in general during Jesus’ time. Jesus’ teaching and evaluation of women was radically different from that of other people. Jesus viewed that God created Man as both male and female in His ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ (Genesis 1:27). This means that both man and woman were created with equal dignity as human persons having all of God’s ethical and moral attributes of personality, spirituality, holiness, freedom of will, righteousness, justice, etc. Jesus valued woman just as he valued man. Man and woman have in some areas of life different roles to play, but they both have equal dignity and status in the eyes of the Creator. They both bear God’s image.

Jesus could not come into this world without a mother! Jesus treated women subjectively, not as people to be used as objects: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).Jesus’ emphasis was primarily on the purity of our heart and mind, not only on the externalities.

Jesus taught that marriage vows should be respected. Mark records in his gospel Jesus saying: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). Jesus valued women so much that he discussed deep theological matters with them as different gospels record. He highly valued their faith and trust in God, their devotion and service for God. Multiple incidences are recorded in the gospel narratives, such as, Matthew 15:11, Matthew 26: 6-13, Mark 7: 24-39, 14: 3-9, Luke 10: 38-42, John 11: 20-33 etc.

Jesus had always a loving concern and compassion for helpless women: Luke 13: 10-17, John 4. Luke records Jesus terming a disabled woman of great faith as a ‘daughter of Abraham’ (Luke 13: 16). This was rather unusual for a woman to be called as such. Jesus gave her that epithet. In Israelite society, it was a very great honour for a person to be called a ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ of Abraham.

It is noteworthy that it was a Samaritan woman who was so much blessed and amazed by the life-transforming talk of Jesus that she became the first missionary of Jesus Christ to her own people (John 4). It was a woman, named Mary Magdalene, who prepared Jesus for his burial. God granted that privilege to a woman because of her devotion and trust in Jesus. On the Cross the dying Jesus gave the responsibility of taking care of his mother Mary to his disciple, John. He had such great love and concern for his mother! Further, it was a woman (Mary Magdalene) who had the great privilege to see Jesus first of all after his resurrection. Jesus respected all to whom society neglected. He included people to whom society excluded.

In our societies still today there are people, who tend to have lower view or opinion about women. We can learn great things from the life and teaching of Jesus about the dignity and value of women that God created them with. Human civilisation cannot progress if we fail to pay heed to them.

 

The writer is a Christian Theology teacher and a Church leader