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'Women' in Luke's Gospel

'Women' in Luke's Gospel

Jesus Christ
Oral and written tradition
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
The meaning for today

From ‘Notes on the Formation of the Gospels’, by John Wijngaards;
published in Background to the Gospels (Bangalore & Ann Arbor 1981)
and Together in My Name (London 1991).

An important section in the Christian community were its women. Luke goes out of his way to include women in his Gospel. He carefully balances every mention of men with an equal mention of women.

  • In the infancy narrative Zechariah receives a promise of a child, but so does Mary (Luke 1,5-38). The people of Israel who welcome Jesus to the Temple are represented by Simeon and Anna (Luke 2,22-38).
  • Jesus heals the man possessed by a demon and he heals Peter's mother-in-law (Luke 4,31-39). He gives life to the centurion's slave and the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7,1-17). On the Sabbath he heals a woman and a man (Luke 13,10-17; 14,1-6).
  • Luke presents many parables in pairs: the man who plants a mustard seed matches the woman putting leaven into the dough (Luke 13,18-21); the shepherd looking for his lost sheep matches the woman sweeping her house for a lost coin (Luke 15,3-10); the man waking up his neighbour at night matches the widow pestering the judge for help (Luke 11,5-13 and 18,1-8).
  • On the last day, Jesus says, `two men will sleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will grind at the same mill stone; one will be taken, the other left.' (Luke 17,34-35).
  • Jesus is followed by twelve disciples whose names are known. Jesus is also followed by a number of women whom Luke mentions by name: `Mary from Magdala who had been freed from seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's courtier; Susanna, and many others who provided for Jesus and the apostles out of their own resources' (Luke 8,1-3).

Some authors maintain Luke uses these examples to restrict the roles of women in the community. See, for instance: E.TETLOW, Women and Ministry in the New Testament, New York 1980; E.MOLTMANN WENDEL, The Women around Jesus, New York 1982; E.SCHÜSSLER FIORENZA, In Memory of Her. A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, New York 1983.

Most authors, however, agree that Luke ascribed to women a role and a measure of equality well beyond the expectations of his time. Read about this in : B.WITHERINGTON, `On the Road with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and Other Disciples - Luke 8,1-3', Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 70 (1979) pp. 243-248; R.RYAN, `The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke', Biblical Theology Bulletin 15 (1985) pp. 56-59; J.BRUTSCHECK, Die Maria-Martha Erzählung, Frankfurt 1986; J.KOPAS, `Jesus and Women: Luke's Gospel', Theology Today 42 (1986) pp. 192-202.

The special position accorded to Mary, the mother of Jesus, confirms a positive assessment of Luke's theme of women. Mary is portrayed as the ideal disciple whose example all, men and women alike, should emulate. R.BROWN et al., Mary in the New Testament, New York 1978.

See also: Luke's portrait of Mary, Theology Digest, St.Louis Univ., Missouri. 36:1 (Spring, 1989) by Marie-Louise Gubler

John Wijngaards

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